10 Reasons why Sri Lanka is Great for Travelling with Kids. And One Reason Why It Isn’t.
This July, we spent three weeks wandering around Sri Lanka with our three-year-old kid. We changed our accommodation 11 times, switched a number of transportation devices and saw a multitude of animals living in their natural habitat.
We would like to share 10 reasons why Sri Lanka is great for a trip with a kid. And you must also be curious about the one reason why it is not.
One of the conditions for our family vacation to ‘work’ is the closeness of the beach. No matter how many attractions and activities we plan with my husband, the first place on the list is always the one where the whole family can get some rest, playtime, and possibly surf time. After all, our three-year-old does not care much about the sights on the way to the beach. His main interest is the seasideJ. Sri Lanka fit his needs perfectly.
No matter how big your travel plans are, you will have the opportunity to enjoy peace and quiet under a coconut palm with your fingers dipped in the sea in every season of the year. Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, so pick your beach wisely. Choose the beaches on the south and west coast in the winter, and on the east and north coast in the summer.
At the time of our trip, we spent 3 days on the beach in a little village called Kudawe, Kalpitiya situated on the west coast, 8 days in Arugam Bay on the east coast, and 2 days in Tangalle, on the south coast. During the time of our visit, the sea was most beautiful on the east coast. The south and west coast had high waves and murky water. Do not expect to see white sands and clear, turquoise water at the time of the monsoon. Despite the imperfect conditions, we (including our kid) went swimming on all three locations. You can expect just the opposite weather in the winter.
- Animals in their natural habitat
Before we reached the first national park on our to-do list, we already saw elephants, monkeys, crocodiles, snakes, and different species of lizards … all in their natural habitat. Our three-year-old loves watching animals, so this was an especially rewarding experience. Altogether, Sri Lanka has 22 national parks, differing from one another in their size and attractiveness. We visited two: Kumana or Yala East, inhabited mostly by crocodiles, monkeys, bears and leopards, and Uda Walawe, most known for its elephants. The visit to both parks was a priceless experience that does not come even close to an ordinary visit to the Zoo. The island has quite a few elephant shelters and orphanages (the most known being Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage) which are notorious for their bad conditions in which the elephants live. Check the opinions of travellers that have been here before you decide to pay a visit.
- Picturesque train rides
The Sri Lankan traffic is a chapter in its own right. The picturesque train rides, however, are one of the best ways to travel between places. A train ride can be a great adventure on its own for kids, but if the train rushes past such colourful landscapes as the one between Nuwara Eliya and Ella, the ride gets even more interesting; tea plantations, waterfalls and countless tunnels when it gets pitch-dark and the local children scream from the top of their lungs
We also took a longer train ride from Matara to Colombo. Coconut palms, coastal town and verdant rice hills make a 4-hour drive in a crowded coach more tolerable. We were lucky that none of the coaches were fully packed and we always got our seats. Our three-year-old could fall asleep on his seat(s). Check for possible booking of tickets. This was not possible in our case since we travelled in the 2nd and 3rd class.
- Any time of the year is the right time to travel
Regardless of the season, you will (most certainly) be able to visit all the major tourist attractions. Rain falling for the entire day is rare even in the rainy season. Usually, there are only 10-minute showers. In three weeks we experienced four 10-minute showers and one stronger downpour that lasted for an hour.
- Travelling across Sri Lanka is safe
The Sri Lankan tourism was greatly affected by the civil war that lasted for over more than 30 years, ending in 2009. Just a few years later, even the country’s most damaged areas on the north and east are safe to travel. Tourism is once again developing rapidly with a correspondingly increasing number of service providers. Travelling across the country is safe and does not cause any unnecessary problems. None of the families we met on our journey has had any bad experiences with stealing or with locals in general.
- The main attractions in Sri Lanka are easily accessible even for younger kids
Travels with kids do have certain limitations. Treks lasting for several days and sleeping in the wilderness, especially with younger kids, are a no-go, wherever you are. Most of the main attractions (temples, ancient cities, national parks, tea tree plantations …) are still easily accessible if you are travelling with a kid. We warmly recommend Sri Lanka for a first family trip because you can combine sightseeing with a typical seaside vacation.
- No extra vaccines
On parts of the island (especially the north and east) there is still a danger of getting malaria and other tropical diseases. There is a higher probability of getting infected with the dengue virus and catching the dengue fever (which can develop into hemorrhagic fever), usually in the monsoon season (from May to September in the southwest and from November to April in the northeast).
So, we paid special attention to mosquitoes. Wherever we stayed, we asked for mosquito nets (and got them without any problems) and used repellents in the evenings. Our three-year-old got three mosquito bites during our three week stay. Heath care is well organized in tourist places and some hotels even have house doctors who can treat you in the comfort of your own room.
We visited a doctor only once in Arugam Bay because we suspected our little one got an ear infection. Fortunately, we were wrong. The doctor’s room was in a terrible condition.
- You will rarely get charged an extra bed for a kid up to six years of age
The accommodation costs (room for two, including a bathroom) were from 15 to 30$. They never charged an extra bed for the kid. However, we mostly slept on the same king-sized bed. A baby cot was rarely offered to us; the room itself was usually too small to have one. No extra meals were charged for our little one, if they were already included in the accommodation costs.
9. The locals in Sri Lanka are crazy about kids
The locals simply ADORE kids. They like touching, talking and taking pictures with them. This can be a bit stressful for kids that are shy, but it will also make it easier for you to make contact with the locals.
Sadly, our little is not that fond of extra spicy Sri Lankan curry and other specialties me and my husband loved to eat :). He does, however, love fresh fruits, vegetable soups and fish, which were available everywhere. The Sri Lankan breakfast is really tasty and consists of an omelet, fresh fruits and special pancakes filled with honey and coconut. Eggs, jam, fresh mango, papaya, passion fruit and other fruit juices were also available everywhere.
We often ate street food for lunch because we could choose from a number of different vegetable rolls. We ate dinner at restaurants where we always reminded the waiter in advance not to bring spicy food for our little one. Our kid also liked koththu roti – type of a pancake filled with vegetables and/or meat, grilled and chopped to pieces. Bigger tourist places offer French fries, which our kid loved since he does not get it that often at home. The locals will (almost) always try their best to please your child. Smaller shops also offer a variety of snacks, so there is no fear your kid should go hungry at any time.
And why NOT visit Sri Lanka with a kid?
The biggest problem is traffic safety. The traffic is chaotic and goes by the rule ‘the bigger, the stronger’. Buses and trucks overtake other vehicles as they please and try to cut in. The chaos is escorted by loud hooting and sudden braking. After what we have seen, we were surprised to witness only two accidents. This probably has to do with the fact that most people drive at an average of 35 miles/hour.
Taking our friends’ advice, we chose to take longer drives with cabs, but they can be quite expensive. We usually lowered the rate by sharing the cab with other tourists. Mostly, you get a van with no seat belts so you have no choice but to take your kid in your lap. For shorter drives, lasting up to an hour, we hired tuk-tuks; the drivers are more skillful on the road. The least stressful was the train ride at the end, but the railroad does not cover all the places we have visited. It is also possible to rent a car but, after everything that we have seen, I would not recommend it to inexperienced drivers without nerves of steel.
It will be difficult to find a baby car seat, so we recommend you take one with you. We took BubbleBum, an inflatable baby seat that has worked really well for us. Unfortunately, we could use it only once when the car had a real seat belt. It was useless in all other rides since the cars had only one seat belt to put around the waist, or none at all.
Would the catastrophic state of Sri Lankan traffic discourage us from taking a similar trip? No! We think Sri Lanka is still a wonderful country for a first-time visit with a kid since the whole family can enjoy the trip with smaller adjustments.
The above descriptions are based on personal impressions and experiences gained while travelling with my family. For more information, please contact us at: email@example.com