It’s undeniable that driving a tuk tuk around Sri Lanka is likely to be an experience that you’ll never forget. But what about this island country off the Indian subcontinent? It’s a destination with so much to offer, it’s worth taking a closer look at the place and what you might expect to find when you get there. Read on for more Sri Lanka travel information about the incredible Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Currency: Sri Lankan rupee (100 rupees is around 50p)
Population: 21.2 million people
Area: 25,332 square miles (that’s a long way by tuk tuk!)
Religions: A mix of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, leading to many fascinating sights and a diverse culture.
Languages: Sinhala and Tamil, although English is fairly widely spoken.
Flag: It’s not difficult to spot the Sri Lankan flag, as it’s pretty distinctive with its resplendent golden lion right at the centre. The beast is surrounded by four golden leaves to represent Buddhism, but Islam and Hinduism are not left out, as the green stripes to the left signify the two religions respectively.
Famous for: Sri Lanka is known for its tea, stunning beaches, majestic elephants and Buddhist ruins, all of which you are likely to encounter during your stay.
Good to know: A little shake of the head from side to side actually means yes in Sri Lanka.
What’s that sound? A specific type of music that was born of the Sri Lankan kaffirs and has been adopted into popular culture can often be heard all over the country. Baila as its known, is particularly played at weddings and parties.
Standout experience: Kandy’s Temple of the Sacred Tooth is where the most important Buddhist relic in Sri Lanka can be found. While the tooth is tucked away in a series of six caskets Russian doll style, the complex is fascinating to explore, with its beautiful shrines and temples and even museums. Be respectful of this sacred place and you’ll be rewarded with seeing Buddhism up close.
Where to meet locals: A trip to the Pettah Market in Colombo is a great opportunity to mingle with local people and see how everyday life is lived in Sri Lanka. It remains one of the most important trading places in the city and Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim merchants sell everything from dried fish and spices to textiles within its walls.
What to order: Hoppers – these cheap snacks are made with a batter similar to pancakes, but are given extra exotic flavour with the addition of coconut milk and spices. Some genius realised that if you mould them into the shape of a bowl they can hold a couple of fried eggs. You can buy them everywhere and they are great if you’re hungover.
And to wash it down? If you want an alternative to tea, then coconut water is really refreshing and best enjoyed straight from the nut. It’s full of nutrients and will hydrate you for the next leg of your journey. For something a bit stronger, try toddy, which comes from the coconut flower and is fermented to make a potent drink – just be sure you’re not planning to drive the tuk tuk after trying it, as it’s highly alcoholic.