The ultimate solo travel guide to Sri Lanka: Everything you need to know

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With an abundance of sights, it’s easy to see why thousands of people choose to experience solo travel in Sri Lanka each year. Ancient cities, misty hills, tropical beaches, lush mountains and dense jungle – despite its size, the country really does pack a lot in. Biodiversity is incredibly rich, with iconic train journeys passing abundant flora and wildlife, and there are stunning relics from the coast to the central heartlands. 

Where to start? The Cultural Triangle – encompassing the relics of the Sinhalese Kingdom from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa and the revered cave temples of Dambulla – in the north-central plains might be one of the most popular spots, but it’d be amiss to not branch beyond. Immerse yourself in the day-to-day life of the tea estates, the history of temples and sights and the wildlife, from leopards to whales.

And you can’t visit Sri Lanka without tasting the local cuisine, such as kottu (meat, vegetables and flatbread), kukul (a creamy curry with coconut and spices) and lamprais (a rice dish folded within a banana leaf). With so much to see and do, solo travel with a group of other like-minded people means you can reap all the benefits of traveling solo while having the comfort of friends around you. And, of course, the trickier logistics are all taken care of. Here’s what you need to know about a group solo trip to Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka travel facts

The teardrop island off the southern tip of India may be small in size but it’s mighty in stature, from wildlife to waterfalls and striking landmarks. Rich in biodiversity, there’s over 120 species of mammals, over 400 types of birdslife, and more than 350 waterfalls, many with natural pools you can swim in. Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea exporters in the world with black, green and white tea widely grown. There are also eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Sacred City of Kandy, the Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications and Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple.

Is Sri Lanka good for solo travel?

The tourism infrastructure in Sri Lanka regathered pace following the end of the 26-year-long Civil War in 2009, with hotels, tours and transport links all invested in, making it a strong lure for the solo traveler. While Sinhala and Tamil are the official spoken languages, in the main hubs of Colombo and Kandy English is widely recognized, too. If you don’t want to travel alone, joining a group solo trip to Sri Lanka is a great way to explore the coast and verdant interior with other like-minded travelers, without having to arrange any of the logistics yourself.

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Best places to visit in Sri Lanka

Its ancient cities, rolling hills, elevated railways, tea plantations, beautiful coastline and mountain pilgrimages make Sri Lanka perfectly set up for immersive adventures. Most journeys begin in the capital Colombo. From here, it’s south to the port city of Galle, with its fortifications and glorious stretch of coastline, and ​​leopard-spotting in Yala National Park. You’ll need to head inland to the Cultural Triangle for ancient temples at Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, and then take the onward train for tea plantation views to Ella. 

In the small coastal town of Kosgoda in the southern province, there’s an opportunity to unwind on the beach, catch a glimpse of birdlife on the lagoon and learn about the area’s turtle conservation projects. Haputale in the southern Uva Province has rich biodiversity and is a great spot for white water rafting, caving and jungle hikes (in the dry season, of course).

Where to stay as a solo traveler in Sri Lanka

What are the hotels like for solo travel in Sri Lanka? In the likes of Arugam Bay on the southeast coast, you’ll find beach huts, treehouses and boutique villas. Elsewhere, there’s spa hotels, villas and inns in most popular spots for visitors. Guesthouses are a great way to immerse yourself in local life, staying with a welcoming family. 

As always with solo travel, some of the more unique and luxury accommodations can become less accessible with the additional cost of the single supplement. Traveling on a solo group trip to Sri Lanka with Flash Pack removes this by offering an option to share a room to keep the costs down. Want to have your own room still? That’s also fine.

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How to get to Sri Lanka

As a small island, Sri Lanka isn’t accessible by road or train. The easiest way to reach it is by flying. The main hub is Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, just north of the city on the country’s west coast. It can be reached directly from the UK or via a London stopover if traveling from the US. From here, it’s a short hop into the city centre via bus or taxi.

How to get around Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a network of major highways running throughout but driving here can be a little nerve-wracking if you’re not a confident driver – overtaking and car horns are commonplace. One of the most popular ways to get around is hiring a car with a driver for your stay, or by using local taxis. A combination of government and private buses run in the cities and in more rural areas, as well as air conditioned coaches which take fewer passengers than the buses (which can get crowded). If you’re heading more to the coast, taxis are a good shout, while, for example, in the Cultural Triangle, a driver and car work best as buses are less frequent. 

For covering longer distances on your solo travels in Sri Lanka, trains are ideal. Colombo Fort Train Station is the main hub, which can take you to places like central Kandy. From here, the train ride southeast to Ella, through lush greenery, is incredibly beautiful (sit on the right hand side). If you want to save yourself the logistics, consider joining a group of other solo travelers with Flash Pack, where all internal travel is included.

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Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a tropical country sitting close to the equator, so it tends to have warm weather all year. The temperature doesn’t typically vary much, and you can expect an average of around 27-29°C most days. The main factor impacting the temperature in Sri Lanka is altitude – the south-central mountain ranges can get quite cold, for example. However, there’s also the monsoon season to consider. On the south and west coast, the best months to travel are between December and April, and for the east coast, it’s at its finest from May to October. For traveling around the country as a whole, your best bet is in the shoulder seasons of September, October and April.

Sri Lanka travel itineraries

On Flash Pack’s 12-day Inside Sri Lanka trip, you’ll get to experience a mix of immersive adventure, culture and unique experiences. Start your trip in a local restaurant in Colombo before heading to the fishing village of Negombo to explore the local fish market. You’ll also cycle to the temples of Polonnaruwa before travelling inwards to the sacred city of Kandy. Meditate with a master and take a train ride through the incredible rolling hills in Tea Country, where you’ll also learn the art of making the perfect brew. 

The next stop will be Yala National Park for a game drive to spot leopards and other wildlife. For the final few days, you’ll have the chance to relax into beach life, with seafood barbecues by candlelight along the shoreline  – the ultimate way to cap off a solo trip to Sri Lanka.

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What to pack for solo travel in Sri Lanka

You’ll definitely need a good mosquito repellent for solo travel in Sri Lanka – ideally a natural one as they are kinder to the environment and feel nicer on the skin. Sunscreen is another essential. If you can, use a backpack rather than a suitcase as it’s easier to carry on public transport, and always take a day bag with you on explorations. A sarong can come in handy in a multitude of ways, teeming up as a towel, a pillow on long journeys and a way of covering up when needed at Buddhist temples. Paradoxically, you’ll need to pack items for the beach and any rainy weather. Modesty is valued in Sri Lanka, so opt for loose, lightweight clothes.

Solo travel advice for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is well known for being a hugely welcoming and friendly country and its important to follow local rules of etiquette to respect the culture and traditions. When visiting Buddhist temples, cover your shoulders and legs (if you’re traveling as a solo woman, it’s best to follow this advice as a whole). When greeting people, shake hands and eat with your right hand. And, do your research before visiting any wildlife sanctuaries.

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Is it safe to travel solo in Sri Lanka

Many visitors experience solo travel to Sri Lanka every year and most trips are trouble-free. However, do check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK), the Department of State Travel Advisories (US) or your country’s local government guidelines for the latest advice before traveling. 

Once there, follow local advice and be aware of your surroundings at all times, while keeping an eye on your belongings. Be careful of taking trekking routes during the monsoon season as they can become unsafe with trails washed away in the rain. For extra peace of mind, consider traveling with a group of other solo travelers. 

Ready for your next adventure? Try group solo travel to Sri Lanka with Flash Pack – designed exclusively for people in their 30s and 40s, seeking the independence of solo travel within the safety of a group.

A cool 98% of Flashpackers arrive solo to join our group adventures. So, you’ll be in good company – whether a first time solo traveler or a seasoned pro looking for like-minded new friends.

Images: Flash Pack and Unsplash

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