“Ayubowan” in Sri Lanka – get the trip started!

Now there we were, my backpack and I, in Colombo, tired but happy to have made it to Sri Lanka in one piece. It felt great to be back at an airport where I knew where things can be found and how procedures work. So it didn`t take me long to fill in the form at the immigration and to make the rather skeptical officer at the counter believe that I really only came back to see more of the country (“But Mam, you have already been here earlier this year!”, Hmm well Yes Sir, I have indeed, but I am back again and you know what? I might even come a third, fourth, fifth time, believe it or not!). Now as this was settled, I only needed to install my Sri Lankan SIM card, which I still had from the last trip, change some Euros into Sri Lankan Rupees and off we go to hunt a cab! Well no, that’s wrong, I would rather say the cab(drivers) hunted me and so I found myself in a taxi just a few minutes and a tenacious price discussion later. (Never EVER pay the price they ask of you at first, its waaaay to much, always!) I told the driver where I needed to go and we drove through the busy morning traffic towards Negombo just north of the airport. At that point it needs to be said that the use of the GPS, as we know it, is not very widespread here, in fact I have never seen one in action. GPS in Sri Lanka could rather be translated as “Great People in the Streets” – a system that works perfectly fine, and this is how: Mr. Taxi (for TukTuk applicable as well) just drives towards the area you need to go and ones he (thinks) to be close, he starts to ask around for street XY and follows the given instructions until the destination is being reached. I have never experienced anyone refusing to help- instead the consulted locals tend to ask their neighbors, other pedestrians or TukTuk drivers for help if they don’t know the street themselves. Pretty interesting, mostly effective and, more than anything, a much more personal and friendy version of the normal GPS!

Now this time it took us some extra turns to find the Coco Cabanas in Negombo where I should be staying the first night. These cabanas belong to Anita, a Sri Lankan woman who lives in Switzerland and with whom I have been in contact before the trip. She offered me to stay at her place for a night and also made sure her employees where there to help and support whenever I needed something. Exhausted as I was (it was around 7 in the morning local time, meaning around 3 at night Swiss time and I didn’t really sleep during the flights) I decided to take a nap first. Soon however, the heat in the room woke me up and so I went out to find some people to talk to. I met the very welcoming and helpful employees and was served tea as it is typical for Sri Lanka. Denzil, one of the staff, offered to drive me around the neighborhood and to buy some fresh fruit (not the barely ripe Mangos, Pineapples, Bananas or Papayas we get at home, No No the good stuff!) So we went out, got a big, ready-to-eat papaya and some baby-bananas and moved on to the Beach to have a Coconut-Pineapple smoothie. Pretty good start right?

Later at the Cabanas, I was getting some “office work” done but soon strolled back to the beach again to enjoy the sunset. After that I called it a day and went to sleep. Well no, it would be more accurate to say I tried to sleep – with not much success. Not only did some neighbors seem to have a frolic party going on but also did I end up in a room without AC and it was hot, belive me, freaking hot. So what to do against stuffy hot air? Sure, opening the windows and let some fresh, or lets say a little bit less hot, air in – very much to the delight of a myriad of mosquitos who entered my room instead and decided to spend the night with me – jackpot!

That’s it from the first day of this trip. The next morning I was off to Kandy, situated in the Highlands of the island (where it is supposed to be somewhat cooler – yeey!). More to Kandy and what I did there in my next blog – coming soon!

Oh by the way – may I introduce the new DO’s and DONT’s box? In this section, I am gonna list some things I think are useful to know when travelling to Sri Lanka. It is all just based on my own experiences. Others who have visited Sri Lanka before might have perceived situations differently – so no right or wrong here, just very personal impressions.

DO’s

  • Have the address of your first Hotel/Guesthouse ready when you arrive – it’s needed for the immigration form
  • Get a Sri Lankan SIM card at the airport – it really is not expensive and comes in handy when you need to arrange things during your travels
  • It is not allowed to bring more than RS 1000 (=  ca. EUR 6) into the country. Since this will not get you far, it is best to bring cash in either Euros or US-Dollars and change it into Sri Lankan Rupees ones you arrive.

DONT’s

  • Never agree on a price for a TukTuk- or Taxiride without negotiating
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