Sri Lanka, what a beautiful, exotic, tiny country in the Indian Ocean. It is a place where paradise is captured and a place where you can get a real sense of culture. Sri Lanka is one of those countries that has opened my eyes to many things, it challenged me beyond belief, it made me question why I am travelling, it made me curious about the not so popular word “Feminism.” It opened my eyes to the divide between men and women that are right in front of us daily. Being two women travelling solo, we were greeted by several difficult and uncomfortable obstacles throughout our journey. Here are some tips, that helped us on our trip around this fascinating country.
1. ALWAYS go with your gut feeling. Trust me, it will always lead you down the right path. It helped us one night when we found ourselves in a rather unsettling situation with some local men.
2. Make sure you are comfortable in your place of stay. It is very important, that you feel safe and that you can trust the staff, considering most of the hotel staff in Sri Lanka are men. If you don’t, and again it is all down to your gut feeling, then simply move hotels. Lonely Planet’s recommendations saved us on so many occasions, and we ended up loving some of the places, which resulted in us staying longer than we intended.
3. It’s OK to lie. I was asked by numerous tuk-tuk drivers if I was married. In the end, I started to reply with, “Yes” and I told them that my husband was back home in England. The driver soon backed off. They have more respect for married women than single. So if a local man makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s OK to tell a little white lie.
4. Try not to go far at night. Simply because it’s not safe, this isn’t only for travelling Sri Lanka, this is common sense for any female travelling solo in a foreign country, Go with a large group and people you can trust.
5. Don’t expect personal space. Buses and trains can get full. You will have people pressed up against you, people will push past you and hands will slip, but all I am saying is, expect it. It is the way the culture is and the way the world runs in the Sub-Continent and Asia. Remember that the local women are also subjected to uncomfortable situations too.
6. Watch your personal belongings. Pretty much a rule anyone should follow when travelling any country in the world, petty theft can occur anywhere. Practice common sense, don’t leave expensive belongings out in sight as you are just attracting unwanted attention. If you have large quantities of money, spread it out in numerous locations. When travelling on public transport, invest in a money belt, which you wear under your clothes. I usually keep this on me when travelling on trains and buses and have the usual important things such as money, passport and cards in there.
7. Cover-up. In the tourist places, the local people are more accustomed to seeing foreign girls in bikinis and shorts, etc. Bare in mind, if you are going to venture out, then remember to cover up. Legs and shoulders are usually what is expected to be covered. It simply shows respect. Even when you are covered up fully, sometimes the attention just comes unwillingly, it’s something you learn to live with on the road.
8. Keep an open mind. The country will challenge you in so many ways but remember that they live in a completely different culture. Don’t be afraid to get involved, after all the country is a strong Buddhist country, so there is so much more good than bad. If you keep an open mind and follow your gut instinct, you will get tangled into the wonderful awe that is Sri Lanka.