Sri Lanka Route Guide: a 3-week travel itinerary

Sri Lanka Route Guide: a 3-week travel itinerary

Sri Lanka Route Guide: a 3-week travel itinerary

Sri Lanka is a great country that owns countless beautiful sights. Three weeks is an ideal length for a Sri Lanka route. The island is easy to travel although getting from A to B can be time-consuming due to traffic conditions. Get around by bus, train, tuk-tuk, motorbike, taxi or Uber. We created a 3-week Sri Lanka route guide and give you some additional options to add if you have more time during your route through Sri Lanka.

Quickly jump into the guide:

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Sri lanka 3 week route map

Sri Lanka Route Guide

This 3-week itinerary through Sri Lanka is a day by day Sri Lanka route. Note that most days contain links to much larger articles about that specific location. (Photo below is in Mirissa) ➳ Order your Visa online here

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sri lanka route guide secret beach

Day 1 – 2: Relaxing in Negombo or Colombo

Colombo is Sri Lanka’s capital city. This city is not the closest to the airport. Negombo is usually a better and more laid back city to stay. Take about one or two days to relax from your flight.

Get tickets from Colombo to Kandy

Day 3: Sightseeing in Kandy

Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second largest city. On your way to the city, make sure to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens. In Kandy, walk around the lake or do visit one of the temples in the city.

Read: Things to do in Kandy

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sri lanka route guide kandy

Day 4: Sigiriya

Lion Rock in Sigiriya is one of the country’s most famous landmarks. Climb up the enormous 200m square shaped rock. Lion Rock is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sights in Sri Lanka, and a must visit.

Read: Climb up Lion Rock in Sigiriya

Day 5: Back to Kandy

Head back to Kandy to catch the most beautiful train ride of Sri Lanka. It takes you on an unforgettable 5-7 hour ride through the beautiful hilltops filled with tea plantations. Get Kandy Train Tickets here

Read: Most Beautiful Train Ride from Kandy to Ella

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sri lanka route guide kandy ella train

Day 6 – 7: Nuwara Eliya

Get off the train in Nuwara Eliya and see little England in Sri Lanka. Visit the beautiful tea plantations and factories.

Read: Explore the Tea Plantations of Nuwara Eliya

Day 8 – 10: Ella

Visit one of the most chilled out places in Sri Lanka; Ella. Climb to higher levels on Mini Adams Peak or Ella Rock, explore the tea plantation and visit the nine arch bridge. Ella is a must do in Sri Lanka!

Read: Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka route guide Ella

Day 11 – 13: Arugam Bay

Ready to catch some waves or fully relax? Arugam Bay has the best surfing points in Sri Lanka. Many surfers make this their home from April to October. It is one of those areas in the world you have to visit at least once in a lifetime.

Read: 7 Things to do in Arugam Bay

Day 14: Visit one of the National Parks in Sri Lanka

Go and find vast groups of wild elephants and other wildlife in Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park or one of the other many beautiful national parks in Sri Lanka.

Read: Best places to see Elephants in Sri Lanka

Day 15 – 16: Mirissa

Mirissa is all about the beach, relaxing and great restaurants. This part of the country has some of the best Sri Lankan sunsets! Tip: Are you the person that likes to escape busy beaches? Find your perfect beach in the list of 10 x Best Beaches in Sri Lanka.

Read: 9 Great Things to do in Mirissa

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Things To Do Mirissa Sri Lanka coconut tree header

Day 17 – 19: Unawatuna

The Unawatuna area has the most famous beaches in Sri Lanka. The town itself is small, has excellent shopping, guesthouses, trendy restaurants and a quite some activities and sightseeing nearby. From there you can easily visit Galle Fort, Koggala Lake, and many other towns.

Read: Mini-Guide: Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

Day 20: Back to Colombo

Finish your trip and stay close to the airport in Colombo. If you have a little extra time, visit Barefoot handicraft and its fantastic restaurant.

Day 21: Return home

Optional places

Do you have even more time than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka? Extend the route and visit the northern part of Sri Lanka. These are other popular places to visit.

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sri lanka route guide trincomalee

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a year-round destination. There isn’t a perfect period to visit because each side of the island has it’s own “best time to visit.” ☀️

  • North – May to September
  • Center – January to April
  • South – December – March

Sri Lanka Visa

You need a Sri Lanka visa to be allowed into the country. Arranging a visa isn’t difficult at all. Just make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months. You have several options for obtaining a visa for Sri Lanka.

Order your Visa online here

Online visa to Sri Lanka

The first option is applying for your Sri Lanka visa online. It’s wise to apply at least a few days before your arrival. Usually, the applications are approved within a few hours and you will receive your ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation). This 30-day visa will cost you $30 and can only be paid by credit card.

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Sri Lanka Route Guide street

Visa Bureau

If you don’t have a credit card then head over to a visa bureau. You will pay a little extra but they will arrange this for you without having to own a credit card.

Visa on Arrival

Even if you have not applied for ETA can get a Visa on Arrival on arrival for Sri Lanka. There is a counter at the airport in Colombo where you can go to. For this service, you will pay $5 extra and you have to wait long.

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sri lanka route guide galle dutch fort

Costs of traveling through Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, they pay in Rupee. The Sri Lankan Rupee is not the same as in India. At this time, 150 rupees is equal to 1 dollar.

Cost of a room in Sri Lanka

It is quite difficult to find a room for under $10 per night. If you’re looking for a pretty good room in a nice guesthouse go quickly towards the $15 to $20 per night for a double room. Dorms are hardly in Sri Lanka and those that do exist are quite expensive.

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Sri Lanka route guide accommodation

This was our view in Ella.

Costs of transportation

It’s not typical in Sri Lanka, but to hire a car + driver will usually cost about $50 per day. Buses are a very cheap option. It’s just a few dollars for a full day of traveling by bus, most of the time they are packed and you will have to stand. Don’t expect an air conditioning but luckily there’s a TV with Sri Lankan music videos on it.

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sri lanka route guide public transport

Taking the train is a must in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka owns some of the most beautiful train rides in the world. The price for a second-class cabin varies from $1.50 to $4. Sometimes they run out of seats, meaning you have to stand or sit on the floor. But this a beautiful experience itself.

Costs of food & drinks

Sri Lanka has a delicious kitchen. A local rice and curry cost about 100-400 Rupee which is $1 – $3. Alcohol can be hard to get in some parts of Sri Lanka because of their religions. The price of a Tiger beer is around $2.

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sri lanka route guide smoothie

Vaccinations Sri Lanka

Whatever the length of your trip is, it’s recommended to get two vaccines:

  1. DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Polio)
  2. Hepatitis A

Staying away for several months? Then you probably should get vaccinations against Hepatitis B and rabies. Malaria occurs in the north of Sri Lanka. It is wise to always use DEET.

We got you a $15 discount at Booking.com if you book via this link, you’re welcome!

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11/06/2019 https://www.saltinourhair.com/sri-lanka/sri-lanka-route-guide/
Blog comments (102)

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  • Hello. Great blog and helpful post too. I’m going to Sri Lanka for ten nights over Christmas. Was looking at going Negombo then sigiriya then onto Kandy and Ella. Finishing off in south of Sri Lanka by the beaches of Tangelle and Mirissa and Benota? Is there a best route in how to do this or quickest route you may know of by any chance? I’m going to hire out a driver and stop over at hotels on the way through.

    Thanks again for the great blog.

    • Salt in our Hair

      Hi Joe,

      This route sounds great and good to start with the north and central parts as there is more hiking to do there. Then you can end relaxing on the beach in the south.

      Having a driver is useful to get around more quickly but some of the train journeys ( particularly Kandy to Ella) are spectacular! From Ella to the south there is no train service so you can either take the bus or in your case use your private driver. Enjoy your christmas travels!

  • Great blog! Am looking for some advice on dress code as am off solo for 3 weeks next week. Have cover ups for temples but it’s going to be super hot and want to pack as little as possible. What’s your experience on walking around town / public transport / vest tops / shorter shorts etc. Don’t want to offend! Any tips appreciated thanks.

  • Wat hebben jullie een super fijne en handige blog met veel informatie! Mijn vriend en ik gaan 3,5 week door Sri Lanka reizen en hebben dus aardig wat tijd. Ik vraag me alleen af of onze planning die we hebben gemaakt, te strak gepland is? Dit is onze planning:

    Negombo 20/07 – 21/07
    Nuwara Eliya 21/07 – 23/07
    Ella 23/07 – 26/07
    Kandy 26/07 – 28/07
    Sigiriya 28/07 – 29/07
    Anuradhapura 29/07 – 30/07
    Jaffna 30/07 – 02/08
    Trincomalee 02/08 – 04/08
    Touren langs oostkust 04/08 – 05/08
    Arugam Bay 05/08 – 08/08
    Yala National Park 08/08 – 09/08
    Mirissa 09/08 – 11/08
    Unuwatuna 11/08 – 13/08
    Colombo 13/08 – 14/08

    Bij voorbaat dank! :-)

    Groetjes,
    Cindy

    • Hi Cindy! Leuk dat jullie zo lang door Sri Lanka gaan reizen.
      Je planning ziet er goed uit! Wij hebben alleen geen ervaring met van Negombo in éen keer naar Nuwara Eliya gaan, maar dat zou moeten kunnen denk ik.
      Heel veel plezier!

  • Hi,
    Just gad a few questions, Love the blog and its sounds like the perfect trip.
    Would you recommend for a family doing this trip to book with an agent or is it easy enough to book hotels and travel yourself?

    Thanks

  • Hi, we’re planning a 10-14 day family trip in the last week of June to first week of July. I understand some parts of Sri Lanka would be experiencing monsoon with heavy rains then. Are there any areas with good weather? Or would mid July be a better time to travel?

    Thanks!

  • Hi, I’m heading to Sri Lanka from 31 March to 13 April and thinking of doing a similar itinerary but missing much of the alitude / hiking due to time restrictions. I saw you’ve been in April, does it get chilly at any points? I think Kandy & Ella are at slightly higher altitudes? I’m planning to take a waterproof but being warm is my main concern. I’m a big softy! Many thanks for any advice :)

  • Hi – I tried to reply to your reply but it’s not working. Can I urge you to change that photo that implies it’s taken in Negombo? The beaches in Nogombo look nothing like that, nowhere near as nice, so I think it’s a bit misleading. BTW – would you recommend staying in Negombo on arrival in Sri Kanka? It’s been suggested we go on a canal tour and stay for a couple of nights after we land in the country but from what I’ve read and seen about Nogombo it’s not hugely appealing.

    • It depends on how you read the blog. The photos below the chapter suit the heading :-) I will add the information to the mirissa photo since we want to give people the feeling of Sri Lanka.

      Yes, we recommend staying in Negombo for one night and follow your way to Kandy.

  • Hi, Im traveling for a wedding in March to Sri Lanka and then planning to do tourism from the 10th-17th. When we arrive we go directly to the wedding, without doing any sight-seeing. On the 10th we will start our travels at mid-day or afternoon from Kalutara and we have our flight departing from Colombo at 9am on the 17th. In our to-do’s we wanted to do a hike, see elephants, do at least a bit of the famous train ride and some beach. We were looking at going to Mirissa directly from Kalutara.. Your web looks amazing with great recommendations, that’s why I ask.. What would you recommend we do in the time we have?

    Thank you in advance!!!!!!

  • Hi – the photograph immediately above the heading “Day 1 – 2: Relaxing in Negombo or Colombo” – is that lovely looking cove in Negombo or Colombo? It doesn’t look like other pictures of beaches in Negombo that I have seen and we’re trying to work out whether it worth staying for a night or 2 in Negombo.

  • Dear, How did you travel between the cities ? Do you have a driver to recommend ? Thank you ;-)

  • one of the best blog.. i read… :)
    thanks alot guys for all those information…..

    i am going to explore srilanka in month of Feb 2019… mostly planning to visit central and south part of srilanka…
    is it good time to visit all the place u have mentioned in blog?

  • Hi guys Sup ? Which month were you there ? Nice blog btw Thanks ;-)

  • Great post on the Sri Lanka travel enjoy reading.

  • Hey guys, thanks for your blog! I think you make the most beautiful travel blog I’ve seen. We’re going to be in Sri Lanka for just 6 days. We’re going with our 4 kids, and we’ll likely rent a car. What would you suggest? Negombo, then Kandy? many thanks,

    erik

  • Hey guys!
    Just want to say that I love your blog. I just came back from 3 weeks in Sri lanka and your blog has been very helpful in creating the perfect itinerary. Thanks so much and keep doing what you’re doing :) much love

  • Hey guys!
    Your blog is amazing! I’m gonna go next year february to Sri Lanka following your route. Thanks for thall the informationen!
    Crazy questions:
    Which app to you use for your beautiful pictures?

    Many thanks xx

  • Great post! I plan to visit Sri Lanka this year as well and your blog is very helpful to plan this trip, thanks!

  • carly duchemin

    Hi guys, what an amazing post – to echo what everyone else has said!

    We are shortly going to be traveling over, arriving 30th September. We have 13 nights, and a little 18 month old (he is very versatile, but just means we are more likely to taxi it and not want to do massively long journeys).

    What would you recommend as doing on a 13 day trip? I want to do everything, of course, but know that we can’t. We don’t want to moving all the time but still want to see as much as we can – so any advice you could suggest would be gratefully received!

    Thanks in advance
    Carly ;-)

    • Hi Carly! Thank you :D

      Sri Lanka is pretty easy to get around especially by Taxi. Most journeys don’t take any longer than 3 hours when following this route. (Expect the Ella -> Kandy train ride)
      We assume you guys want to keep a little slower pace, for a two-week trip we would suggest;

      day 1-2 : Negombo
      day 2-3 : Kandy
      day 4-6 : Ella (small easy beautiful hikes and tea plantations nearby)
      day 7: Yala National Park or Uduwalawe
      day 8-10: Mirissa
      day 11-12: Unawatuna
      day 13: Colombo

      We’re currently working on a Sri Lanka ebook but it will probably be a little too late for you haha.

      Have a beautiful trip!

      Nick

  • Thanks for posting this. Thinking of 1 month tour maybe Jan ’19 backpacking, Anything else you would add? Your guide is a good starting point. We use double ensuite with AC ideally. Are rooms easy to book the previous day via email, or do they need to prebook? Normally in SE asia its easy the day before.
    So is internet/wifi easy to get?
    Thanks

    • Both questions; Yes, it’s all easy to book! High season gives you fewer options, but there are still some around if you prefer to book one night in advance.

  • Rebecca Lund

    Hey guys! We are going for 2 weeks-14 days…are there any places that you’d stay longer or shorter? We are just trying to work out the best possible itinerary for 2 weeks. Help!

  • Hey guys,

    Amazing blog, I am heading there in July. I seen that a few of your photos are used from a drone. How did you go getting it into the country with the laws? Im deciding whether to take mine or not.

    Thanks heaps.

  • Yayo Punzalan

    Hi guys! Do you have any idea how to get to Mirissa from Nuwara Eliya? I read online it is easier to stopby at Ella, is this true? And then Mirissa to Hikkaduwa?

    I would love to copy your route only if I have 3 weeks.

    Thank you!

  • Headed to Sri Lanka with our two kids on March 24th and following your route- we love it!! How did you guys get from Negombo to Kandy? Bus? Train? Private car hire? Thank you!!!

    • ahh so nice you’re following our route!
      We went with a private car. It costs about $60,- for a 3/4 hour drive.
      It’s also possible to go by local bus, which is a good experience but it is a very long drive.

  • Hi,

    We love your itinerary for Sri Lanka! We are heading there in September and we shall definitely be using this!

    Orla & Serena

  • “Visa Bureau
    If you don’t have a credit card then head over to a visa bureau. You will pay a little extra but they will arrange this for you without having to own a credit card.”

    do they really ask if you have a credit card? i have my tickets and evisa already. but i dont have credit card.

  • Hoi!

    Super leuke posts over Sri Lanka! Wij willen jullie route in de zomer gaan doen.
    Vraagje, op wat voor manier zijn jullie van Ella naar Arugam Bay gereisd?

    Liefs,
    Stephanie

    • Hi Stephanie,
      Dankjewel! Superleuk dat jullie onze route gaan doen!
      Wij zijn zelf helaas niet naar Arugam Bay geweest (begin April dit jaar gaan we er wel heen!)
      Maar er waren veel mensen die gewoon de local bus vanuit Ella pakte. Je kan ook makkelijk een soort tourtje regelen vanuit Ella. :)

  • Very Stunning pictures. Love the Sri Lanka the way see it,

  • Hey guys, great blog! I can’t seem to get the booking.com discount to come through though.?
    Thanks,
    Dave

  • Ferenc Simon

    Hi guys,

    it is great post! ;)
    we are going to discover Sri Lanka. I read many prices in USD, that means should we take USD or can we pay also Rupeas (may EUR) for accommodations, entrants… ?

  • Planned and went for our Sri Lanka trip. Thanks to your blog, it really helped from planning to accommodation to where to go etc. Love your photos as well. Tried to copy it haha :D but not as good. Planning for my Bali trip and have been taking your Bali blog as a reference. Continue to do what you guys do! Cheers! :)

  • Kara San Miguel

    Hi! i follow your travels in ig! totally love your photos and adventures! Just gonna ask about a route. An advice for approximately 8-10 days in sri lanka. ive plotted some route while following yours: (Colombo-Kandy-Nuwara Eliya-Ella…then back to Nuwara Eliya to Mirissa? this part gets me confused. After Mirissa will be back to Colombo for our flight home. I need help! thank you! hope you could reply for some advice. rough plans for March 2018. cheers for more travels for you guys!

    • We haven’t been to the rock but we’ve heard that the mornings are best and it was a good hike.

    • Hi Kara! That’s so sweet of you, thanks!

      After Nuwara Eliya, go to Ella and go down to Mirissa. Don’t go back to Nuwara Eliya, from Mirissa you can go back to Colombo. Since you’re on a pretty tight schedule we even would recommend dropping Nuwara Eliya. Have a beautiful time in SL ! <3

  • Akanksha Rai

    great post guys! planning to backpack around sri lanka for 3 weeks. Do you think a budget of 500USD would be enough tho?

    • Thanks! Food and transportations aren’t expensive at all but accommodation isn’t the cheapest in Sri Lanka. If you’ll like to sleep in dorms 500 USD will be just enough for 3 weeks. :)

  • Really wonderful complete tour guide to Sri Lanka. This article will be a guide book for future travelers. Thank you for sharing this amazing article with us. And also all the photos looks great but the Ella rock one is my favorite. Keep traveling mate. Cheers.

  • Beautiful article and pictures and also completed itinerary. This will definitely help to the future travelers. And also I would like to add you something to the your route, Colombo. The capital of Sri Lanka is home to the lot of ancient sites and also to some beautiful parks and etc. Must vist places in the island in my opinion.

  • We loved your sri lanka story – great blog all round! We’ll be visiting srilanka for 4 weeks and looking forward to using some of your tips!

  • Great article. Looks like a very nice itinerary! Wonderful images too!

  • Rosemary Doyle

    Is it possible to get a visa for longer than 30 days?

  • Henrik Hansen

    Hi

    Wonderful video. Inspired by you guys I have ordered a DJI phantom 4 pro. But I was wondering what video editing software you use?

    Regards

    Henrik

  • Tamara Hewitt

    Love the video and the map, really helpful guide and stunning photos! Sorry if i missed it, but i can’t seem to see what time of year your traveled this trip? And what year? (to see if costs are still relevant).

    My partner and i are planning a three week trip to Sri Lanka in August – I can’t wait!

    Also can i ask if you pre booked accommodation and transport before? Or did you just wing it while there?

    Thanks in advance :)

    • Hi Tamara,

      We visited Sri Lanka in September 2016 so prices should be the same in that period. We did not pre book our stays, only the trip in Udawalawe National Park. https://saltinourhair.com/sri-lanka/elephants-sri-lanka/

      Have a beautiful trip together!

      • Tamara Hewitt

        Thanks so much for that. I am just planning our route now and we actually only have 16 full days, not including the arrival and departure days (mis-calculation among other travel plans). Is there anything you would recommend cutting out? And did you do a day trip to Sigiriya from Kandy or did you stay the night there? Thanks so much :)

        • Hi Tamara!

          It’s best to stay a night in Sigiriya. Maybe skip Mirissa or Unawatuna to have one beach destination. Also, don’t spend any night in Colombo. :D

  • Robert Chimne

    Nice place to visit specially on Summer. Good and helpful people. Also the tour operator we hired provided us with best accommodation and travel experience. Was a sweet trip.Actually its the best thing during a tour to get accompanied by someone who know the place exactly.

  • Hi, I noticed that from Ella, your next destination was Arugam Bay… I was thinking of the same, but is having a hard time planning how to reach Arugam Bay from Ella (actually I will come from Nuwara Eliya, but i am thinking maybe I should just choose Ella over NE).

    I would love to hear how you reached Arugam Bay. Thank youuuu!

    • Hi! Yes if you have to choose, please choose Ella over Nuwara Elia. You can only get to Arugam with bus or taxi from Ella. But it’s good to find a few other travelers in town to share a taxi to Arugam Bay.

      Have a great time!

      • A lot of people had been suggesting the same (to choose Ella over Nuwara Eliya), and I am now reconsidering changing my plans to skip NE, mainly coz I need to go Arugam afterwards.

        OK, here’s another question. You said I can get to Arugam by bus (taxi would be my last option as it is expensive).
        1) Is there direct bus to Arugam Bay? If not, kindly advice how to go about (what did you do?).
        2) Is the bus frequently leaves Ella to Arugam? Meaning, do I have to wake up very early to catch a bus, or i can go anytime as it’s frequent enough?

        Thank you again, you are wonderful!

        • Hi Ib,

          We shared a taxi so I’m not sure how to get there by bus.
          What I do know is that as bus leaves every 10 minutes to Monaragala but you’ll have to ask or search for the times somewhere. From Monaragala you can take the bus to Pottuvil or Panama. Borth near Arugam.

          Good luck and enjoy!!

          Nick

  • Guys Awesome post for sure…The picture are out of the world guys….Really enjoyed the post….guys you should visit Meemure village on your next trip…Situated with the range of knuckle mountains…Kandy…Between Kandy and Matale….A lovely remote village…..Can have more adventure there…..

  • This is so useful! Bloody love your little map graphic – Did you use something like Adobe Sketch to make it?!

  • I absolutely adore that map!

    Looks like you did only a couple of extra places than our trip although we only had two weeks.

    For anyone interested, our 2 week itinerary, check our website.

  • So excited about this, as my husband and I are going there in March for our honeymoon!
    We got very lucky and found tickets at 475euros from Hanover with a short layover in Amsterdam and one in Abu Dhabi. It’s gonna be a long journey, but without a doubt worth it!!
    I have lots of reading to do! :D

    • Hi Aryane! First of all, congratulations with your marriage! :D Sri Lanka is the perfect country for your honeymoon, it has everything. Thats a great ticket price btw! Hope you’ll have a great time!

  • Ah zo leuk! Ik vertrek vrijdag en heb echt zoveel aan aan jullie blogs gehad :)

    Weten jullie toevallig ook welke wereldstekker ik moet gebruiken? Ik ging even googlen maar ik lees zoveel verschillende dingen. Thanks!!

    • Hi Lidianne,

      Super leuk, we zouden graag met je mee gaan :) De wereldstekker was voor ons ook een raadsel omdat degene die Nederland te koop zijn allemaal niet passen. Uiteindelijk hebben we op de eerste dag direct 2 kleine stekkers gekocht. Ze hebben die echt bij iedere mini supermarkt liggen.

      Heel veel plezier!

  • Awesome post, and we can vouch for a lot of it as we did such a similar trip to you guys! Our top tips would be Mirissa, Sigiriya and Ella!

    Mark and Mim x

  • Awesome post, guys! Beautiful pictures too! I’ll definitely use this if/when I head to Sri Lanka. I pinned it to save it for later. :)

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