If there is something you will hear from travelers in SriLanka is how costly visiting some of the sites are. Dreamy hotels and impressive heritage with and equally impressive(read expensive) price tag can intimidate the budget traveler. While there are some must visit sites in Srilanka like the cultural triangle and beautiful national parks you need to be cautious if you are on a tight budget.
We being cash strapped as always worked towards keeping our costs low. We looked around for free things to do in the country along with not so expensive ones. These are as awesome as the cultural triangle and let you experience the SriLankan way of life. For people who think SriLanka’s attractions is too expensive for their pockets these should be high on your list.
SriLanka has a huge coastline and beautiful beaches. The waters of the Indian Ocean are well suited for swimming and the quiet beaches are best to laze around. Many visit the famous beaches of Mount lavinia and Weligama studded with high end resorts. Costa can go a bit higher around these. Over past few years Mirissa has become a favorite. Do not restrict yourself within these few options try smaller and quieter beaches of Polhena and Nilwella.
Buses are easily available all around the country and you will find direct buses to Matra and Tangalle from Colombo. Another option is to take a train to Matra and a bus or taxi to your beach.
There are wide choices of accommodation available from the pricey ones to dorm rooms. On our visit in February we found you can easily get a room after reaching the beach. If you like to plan book rooms at the hostel we stayed here or go through all the places here.
|Tea Plantations near Hatton|
2. The Tea plantations
Srilanka produces some really good tea. The hill country is covered with tea plantations and they open their doors to visitors. You can expect a tour of the estate covering the plantations, tea processing techniques along with tea tasting. Most of these are free though you might be offered some paid refreshments.
You can take a train or bus to get to one of the towns. Most of these plantations will be around if you are in the hills. A few plantations can also be found near the coast. These produce spices, coconut and rubber along with tea. Most of the visits are usually day tours but you can ask for accommodation in the estate. These are quite expensive and may defeat the free purpose.
|View from top of Sigiriya|
3. The Alternate Sigiriya
Sigiriya or the lion mountian fascinates most of the travelers who come to srilanka. Entry priced at 3900 for foreigners (SAARC countries get 50% discount as of feb 2014) it is by no means cheap. Next to Sigiriya is the Pidurangala rock you can climb for- FREE. You might not have the bragging rights of Sigiriya but you will have an equally stunning view and definitely better view of Sigiriya than those who climb it.
The rock houses monks who used to occupy the area near Sigiriya. It has a temple and an impressive Budhdha statue.
Buses to sigiriya run at regular intervals from Dambull a which is then connected to Kandy through regular bus service. You can either stay at Dambulla or Sigiriya itself. In case you plan to climb both Sigiriya and Pidurangala rock it is better that you stay in Sigiriya.
We stayed at Kandy and visited Dambulla and Sigiriya in a day. If you are short on time you might want to do the same.
4. Walk around Galle fort
This is perhaps one of the well known free things that the country has to offer. Fort which is maintained in collaboration with The Netherlands is a delight to walk around. It is studded wit old houses and hotels along with small shops and museums. Though walking around the fort is free everything else can be quite expensive. We blew up 3500 LKR on a meal so think twice and ask for a menu before you sit down in one of those cute places.
There is a historical mansion museum which is free to visit. A collection by one man it is quite impressive. Though the entry is free you will be asked to have a look at their jewelry store. If you have been budget travelling for a while you should have no problem in walking out with a smile. We made Galle a day tour as we moved on to Colombo to catch our flight. It can be really humid so carry water along.
|Adam’s Peak shrouded in clouds|
5. Climb Adam’s Peak
Though we had awesome time every single day this was perhaps the most defining thing of the whole trip for me. Not just because of he 5500 odd steps we climbed that night but also for the aching legs which reminded me of them every step. The mountain is said to have a footprint which every religion attributes to someone according to their legends.
The climb is attempted by many during the pilgrimage season. The route is well lit and there is no chance you will miss the steps. During the monsoon the steps can get slippery and individual attempt is not recommended. If you plan on climbing the peak get to Nalathaniya (Dalhousie) from Hatton by bus (1.5 hours) try to stay as close to the base as you can. Doubles can be find for 1000 LKR a night just be ready to negotiate. Even in the peak season we were able to get room easily without any bookings. I would not suggest staying anywhere else except Nalathaniya.
Did we do them all?
We actually managed most of these in our eight day trip. We climbed actual Sigiriya rock instead of Pidurangala. The most defining of all was the climb to Adam’s peak. Though the most enjoyable were the beaches.
Srilanka is way more than just these five things but if you have a job it might be difficult for you to take four weeks off and travel. Sign up below to keep on receiving travel updates and tips.
Get Travel Updates in your inbox