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5 Things to Expect When You Travel to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a feast for the senses – and your heart

By Lea Ernst | 31st March, 2020

Planning to volunteer in Sri Lanka, or gain work experience through an internship? Or do you just want to travel this lush, evergreen island in the Indian Ocean? Read on to learn what treasures await you as you travel to Sri Lanka where you can explore a wealth of natural beauty and fascinating culture.


Welcome to Sri Lanka, Ayubowan!

1. Sri Lanka: Where smiles are abundant

Imagine you received 50 cents for every smile you receive. After a trip to Sri Lanka, you'd easily be a millionaire.

For the curious locals, their kindness and friendliness are part of their life philosophy and they want to give you a positive welcome. There's a reason why Sri Lanka is also known as the "Country of Smiles". 

Positivity is one of the most important life lessons in Buddhism, as well as the willingness to help others.

Even if you’re not religious, there are many attitudes towards life that you can learn from Sri Lankans. Encounter a minor problem? Relax and say "Hari, hari", which is Sinhala for "Cool, cool". And your problem will seem a little bit smaller!

2. Using Umbrellas - with no cloud in sight!

Due to the number of umbrellas in the streets of Sri Lanka, one would think it rained constantly.

However, many Sri Lankan use umbrellas year-round, even outside of the rainy season. It helps to protect them from the sun.

While the tourists are working hard on their summer tans, you'll find the locals trading sun for the shadows.

3. Life on three wheels

They rattle and honk through the teeming streets of Sri Lanka; flexible, simple, and a cheap form of transport: tuk-tuks.

These moped-like vehicles help you get around easily, and they’re perfect for travelling short distances. Take a (back) seat and enjoy the swift rush of colours, sounds, and impressions on your journey. The perfect way to observe Sri Lankan city life!

Every ride is a little adventure:

Almost every driver decorates the tuk-tuk in his or her individual taste. You'll see drawings, photos, or little statues of Buddha; some drivers have even installed loudspeakers to give their passengers the full experience.

In Colombo, we recommend ordering your tuk-tuk via Uber. You simply enter your destination and you'll be picked up from wherever you are.

Why do we recommend using Uber in Sri Lanka?

  • Drivers are listed and rated
  • The price is set before the ride, so you’re unlikely to get taken advantage of
  • No need to search for a tuk-tuk on the hot streets

The drivers can see the route on their phones so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride without giving directions!

4. Shaking heads in agreement

When someone shakes his or her head, it usually means "no". Not in Sri Lanka – when someone smoothly bobs their head from side to side, it’s a demonstration of positive attention.  

What does it actually mean when a Sri Lankan shakes their head?

  • The person agrees somewhat, for example, you could see this when you bargain at a market.
  • It can mean "maybe" or "I don't know", but it can also mean "yes". This can be confusing when you ask for directions!
  • The intensity and context of the bobbing demonstrate its meaning, but this is very difficult for visitors to figure out.

Don't worry. You can be sure that the head bobbing is always a good thing!

5. Where food is love

How about a delicious kotu roti, a steaming potato curry, or a refreshing drink straight out of a coconut? Say no more: Sri Lanka is heaven for foodies and the cuisine introduces your taste buds to a symphony of intense flavours and fresh herbs.

It’s common to eat with your hands in Sri Lanka, or rather just with the fingers of your right hand. Why do Sri Lankans eat with their hands? There are whispers that the food tastes better when you do so, but it's hard to say for certain because every bite is delicious!

Five dishes you must try in Sri Lanka:

  • Cheese kottu roti
  • Dhal-curry
  • Coconut-pancakes mit Honig und Cardamom
  • Kiribath with chilli paste
  • Biriyani

Learn more about our Sri Lanka programmes

We offer the gold standard in volunteer abroad programmes and internships, and each of our projects is ethical, safe, and hassle-free. Interested in doing volunteer work in Sri Lanka, or getting practical work experience? Check out several of our most popular Sri Lanka trips:

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Want to know more about volunteering in Sri Lanka?

Get in touch with our Project Experts. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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