Sri Lanka is a hidden gem in South Asia, waiting to be explored by adventurous road trippers. A road trip in Sri Lanka promises a blend of stunning landscapes, rich cultural experiences, and mouth-watering cuisine. The island's compact size makes it easy to navigate, while its diverse attractions offer something for every type of traveler.
Firstly, Sri Lanka's natural beauty is unparalleled. From the rolling hills of tea country to the pristine beaches along the coast, the island offers a plethora of landscapes to explore. The winding roads that cut through the countryside offer breathtaking views of waterfalls, rice paddies, and national parks teeming with wildlife.
Secondly, Sri Lanka's history and culture are equally impressive. The island has a rich cultural heritage spanning over 2,500 years, evident in its ancient temples, colonial-era architecture, and traditional festivals. A road trip in Sri Lanka allows travelers to visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Anuradhapura or the fortress of Sigiriya.
Finally, Sri Lanka's cuisine is a highlight of any road trip. The island's food is a blend of spices, herbs, and tropical fruits, influenced by its history of colonization and trade. From fiery curries to sweet desserts, Sri Lankan cuisine is a treat for the taste buds.
A road trip in Sri Lanka offers endless opportunities for adventure and discovery. It allows travelers to get off the beaten path and explore the island at their own pace. With friendly locals, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, Sri Lanka is truly a destination that should not be missed.
What city comes first to travellers minds when they think of Sri Lanka? Probably its capital – Colombo. This sprawling city will provide you with an interesting insight into the country’s past and cultural heritage. Interesting temples, intriguing museums, and plenty of dining spots are the quintessence of this lively capital.
North of Colombo, you can also visit Negombo, a vibrant resort popular among backpackers. Thanks to its convenient location nearby the airport, it is an ideal starting point for the regional tourist sites. Travel to the Kalpitiya Peninsula to soak up idyllic atmosphere and visit one of the deserted beaches on the coast. Among the most popular local activities, you’ll have dolphin-watching and surfing at your disposal.
Travellers seeking more intimate environments can also direct their steps to the Wilpattu National Park, an ideal place for those who charge their batteries through close encounters with Mother Nature. Let’s not forget about Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka’s hippy hangout from the past.
Are you interested in pristine beaches and long hours spent in the sweltering sun? Try one of the southern resorts of Galle and Tissamaharama. These areas have managed to retain their rural character, owing to which they offer pretty relaxing panoramas and charming landscapes. Among the most interesting highlights of this region, you’ll find the sacred shrine of Kataragama.
You’re a love of cultural immersion? Well, don’t worry, Sri Lanka offers a plethora of interesting small settlements that will show you everyday life and traditions of indigenous people. Try Anuradhapura, the island’s capital until 993 AD, Polonnaruwa, where you’ll explore Sri Lanka’s second capital, and Sigiriya, where you’ll be enthralled by the towering rock citadel. Direct your steps to Arankele or Ritigala sites if you are into forest monasteries or try some of the national parks, for example, Wasgamuwa, Kaudulla, or Minneriya.
Sri Lanka is dwelt by open-minded people who make travelling around this country a truly great experience. It is an ideal place for cyclists, especially those who enjoy riding against the background of rice plantations, tropical forests, and rugged hills. Yet, there exist more possibilities of sightseeing around Sri Lanka.
A network of buses covers as much as 80% of all roads in the country. There are two types of buses that you can use: Central Transport Board buses and private buses. However, you’ll be always bound by various timetables. Another wonderful way to explore Sri Lanka is trains. They are pretty slow but are a very reliable means of transport.
However, holidaymakers who enjoy staying totally independent of the public transportation and rigid schedules should definitely consider renting a vehicle. There is a wide choice of car rental companies in the capital and at the international airport. They offer an interesting selection of vehicles that will live up to your most demanding expectations.
Just like many Asian countries, Sri Lanka follows left-hand traffic. Therefore, it’s advisable to try your hand at driving around the island in less frequented places. Especially that native motorists are known for pretty hectic behaviour and breaking even the most basic traffic regulations. The roads aren’t too well-maintained and many sections are unpaved. That’s why you should consider renting a 4x4 vehicle that will make your travelling experience more pleasant.
In order to drive a vehicle in Sri Lanka, the drivers have to be 18; however renting a car is possible when you are 21. It’s important to carry your driver’s licence, an International Driving Permit, registration documents, insurance documents, and your passport.
There are many restrictions to follow and breaking them may result in high penalties that can be easily avoided. Remember that passengers sitting in the front and in the rear seats must wear seatbelts. When it comes to blood alcohol level the allowed amount is 0.06% in Sri Lanka. You can only use hands-free sets for talking on the phone while driving; otherwise, you may face high fines.
Sri Lanka imposes the following speed limits: 120 km/h on highways, 72 km/h outside built-up areas, and 56 km/h in built-up areas. Interestingly, you can use speed camera warning devices and you won’t be charged any additional fines if a police officer spots such a device in your vehicle.
In Sri Lanka, you won’t find any fixed speed cameras, yet it’s better to stick to the speed limits as police officers use regular mobile speed traps.
The expressways in Sri Lanka are mostly toll roads; however, they are still rather affordable. They offer well-maintained and impeccable road sections that will make your driving experience smooth and comfortable.
When taking a road trip in Sri Lanka, there are a few things to be aware of to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
Driving conditions: Sri Lanka's roads can be narrow and winding, with some mountain roads having steep drops. It is important to be cautious when driving and take breaks if needed. Additionally, road signage may not be as comprehensive as in other countries, so it's important to have a good map or GPS system.
Traffic: Traffic in cities like Colombo can be congested and chaotic, so it's important to be patient and aware of other drivers. Drivers in Sri Lanka may also be more aggressive than in other countries, so it's important to be alert and defensive.
Wildlife: Sri Lanka is home to many wild animals, including elephants, monkeys, and peacocks, which can sometimes stray onto roads. Drivers should be cautious when driving through national parks or areas with wildlife, and follow any instructions or warnings from park rangers.
Cultural sensitivity: Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country, and it's important to be respectful of local customs and beliefs. For example, when visiting temples or religious sites, it's important to dress modestly and remove shoes before entering.
Weather: Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, and weather conditions can be unpredictable. The monsoon season occurs from May to September, so it's important to check weather forecasts and road conditions before embarking on a road trip.
By being aware of these factors and taking necessary precautions, a road trip in Sri Lanka can be a safe and memorable experience.
The best time to take a road trip in Sri Lanka depends on the region and activities you plan on doing. Generally, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is from December to March, when the weather is dry and sunny throughout the country. This is an ideal time for a road trip, as the roads are generally in good condition and you can enjoy the beautiful landscapes without worrying about rainfall.
However, if you plan on exploring the hill country, which includes popular destinations like Nuwara Eliya and Ella, the best time to visit is from April to June and September to November. During these months, the weather is cooler and there is less rainfall, making it easier to navigate the winding mountain roads.
If you're interested in wildlife, the best time to visit national parks like Yala or Udawalawe is from February to July, when the dry season attracts animals to watering holes and riverbanks. However, be aware that temperatures can get very hot during this time.
Overall, Sri Lanka is a year-round destination and there are plenty of activities to enjoy throughout the year. It's important to check the weather and road conditions before embarking on a road trip, especially during monsoon season from May to September.
When packing for a road trip in Sri Lanka, it's important to consider the weather and activities you plan on doing. Here are some essential items to bring:
Lightweight clothing: Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, so lightweight and breathable clothing is essential. Pack light, loose-fitting clothing that will keep you cool and comfortable in hot and humid weather.
Sun protection: The sun can be intense in Sri Lanka, so pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from UV rays.
Insect repellent: Mosquitoes and other insects can be a nuisance in Sri Lanka, especially during the evenings. Bring insect repellent to keep them at bay.
Comfortable shoes: Sri Lanka's roads and sidewalks can be uneven, so comfortable shoes that provide good support are important. Sneakers or hiking boots are ideal if you plan on doing any trekking or hiking.
Water bottle: It's important to stay hydrated, especially in the hot weather. Bring a refillable water bottle and refill it with filtered water, which is widely available in Sri Lanka.
First aid kit: Pack a small first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic cream, and pain relief medication.
Cash and cards: Sri Lanka is still largely a cash-based economy, so it's important to carry enough cash with you. However, major credit cards are accepted in most cities and tourist areas.
Travel adapter: Sri Lanka uses Type D and Type G electrical plugs, so bring a travel adapter if needed.
Camera: Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with stunning landscapes and cultural landmarks, so don't forget to bring a camera to capture your memories.
By packing these essentials, you'll be well-prepared for a comfortable and enjoyable road trip in Sri Lanka.
Here are some guidebooks and road maps that are helpful for a road trip in Sri Lanka:
Lonely Planet Sri Lanka: This comprehensive guidebook covers all aspects of travel in Sri Lanka, including history, culture, and practical information. It also includes detailed maps and suggested itineraries.
Sri Lanka Road Map: This detailed map from Periplus Editions shows all major roads and highways in Sri Lanka, as well as popular tourist destinations and landmarks.
Sri Lanka Travel Map: This foldable map from National Geographic Maps is perfect for on-the-go navigation. It includes detailed maps of Colombo, Kandy, and Galle, as well as information on national parks and other tourist attractions.
Sri Lanka Insight Guide: This guidebook from Insight Guides offers in-depth information on the history, culture, and people of Sri Lanka. It also includes suggested itineraries, detailed maps, and practical travel advice.
Sri Lanka Adventure Map: This waterproof and tear-resistant map from National Geographic Maps is ideal for outdoor adventures, with detailed topographic information and marked trails for hiking and biking.
These guidebooks and maps are great resources for planning a road trip in Sri Lanka and ensuring that you don't miss any of the country's highlights.