Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

Sri Lanka tips

I really wanted to call this post Serendip Tips, but I didn't.

Tips for your next trip to Sri Lanka!

1. Hire a driver. I was hesitant to do this because, well, we've never done this, but I am so glad we did! I only wish we would have hired him earlier in the planning process. I didn't want to outsource our itinerary to someone else - I wanted to see what WE wanted to see, not what some guy thought was good enough for tourists. But with the driver we ended up hiring, turns out I could have told him we wanted x, y, and z, and he would have delivered. Now we know. (And I can recommend a great driver if you need one.)

1a. Overestimate driving times. Relevant to the above: Google Maps is worthless for itinerary feasibility studies. Driving times in reality were two to three times what Google Maps estimated. So when I sent our original itinerary to our driver a few weeks before the trip, he probably laughed out loud for a while. Then he wrote me back a very nice email saying, tactfully, that 17 hours of driving in one day might be tough on the kids.

1b. Be prepared to haggle. Section b relevant to the above: if you do not hire a driver, then have fun haggling every little ride to and from the train/bus station, and to every attraction. In a country where we didn't speak the language and where the currency is one of those with too many zeroes, it was a blessing to have negotiated the price ONCE, and have done with it. We did want a token tuk-tuk ride, and our driver arranged one for us at no extra cost. I have dreams of seeing Sri Lanka by train someday, but today is not that day.

2. Baby backpack or stroller? The eternal question, am I right? Ideally you'd bring both, but come on. We chose backpack and it was for the best. Of course there were times we wished we had the stroller. But the infrastructure in Sri Lanka is at a level where a stroller would often be unusable.

2a. Baby crib or no baby crib? Jeremy and I went back and forth on this one. It turned out that all the hotels could have provided cribs, thus sparing us the hassle of bringing our portacrib. However, they were not really age-appropriate for Sterling (he could have climbed out easily). So in the end, I was glad we had our own that we knew was safe for him. Even if it was a pain to lug around. If he were a year younger, I think we would have been fine with the ones offered by the hotels.

3. Socks and long sleeves/pants. Please to be bringing these. You can't get into the religious sites unless you're covered, and you will burn off the soles of your feet if you don't wear socks in the places where you must remove your shoes.

4. Mosquito netting/repellent/bug bite cream. There are a lot of mosquitoes in Sri Lanka. We outfitted our girls with those citronella bracelets and applied repellent as well. We also packed itch relief cream for the errant bite. Jeremy is awesome so he packed two mosquito nets - I'm so glad he did because one of our hotels did not provide them.

5. Baby food. I already talked about this but if you have a baby or young toddler, consider bringing along a lot of food for them. We were often on the road, hours away from any semblance of a hot meal, and it would have been a nightmare to deal with a hungry baby in that situation. Even when we stopped at roadside stands, sometimes all that was on offer were stale wafer crackers and chips. That said, bananas were fairly easy to find, as were coconuts.

April 24th, outsourced

Goodbye, Gil