Asia

Female travel in Sri Lanka: Is it safe?

It’s official. Sri Lanka is one of our favourite travel destinations of 2017, and if you make the pilgrimage, it’ll no doubt be one of yours too.
Still up and coming, still untouched, Sri Lanka is well and truly open for business for backpackers. Think beach huts and hammock-clad hostels on unspoiled tropical beaches, misty villages high in the hills, gorgeous temples, authentic interactions with some of the warmest locals Asia has to offer, and all the wildlife you’d ever dreamt of.
We don’t like blanket statements, but it is true that what makes Sri Lanka such an intriguing destination, is that it’s like a more chilled out and polite version of its big, brash brother, India. And it pulls this off without losing any charm, culture, or eye popping colour.
Think gorgeous Hindu and Buddhist temples… without hoards people outside to battle through. Think, relaxed market strolling… without that weird skinny bloke following you for an hour and a half trying to take photos of you on his Nokia 7650. And think much, much more comfortable public transport.
It’s reasons like this, that makes us female travellers especially fall head over heels in love with this country: it’s every bit ‘authentic Asia’, without the gnarly bits we sadly have to deal with so frequently as female travellers.
But wait. What is it like for a female traveller, venturing to Sri Lanka alone?

 

So enter, me. I’m an STA Travel exec, who travelled for a month in Sri Lanka recently. The short answer, is, it’s amazing.
But we know that if you’re still reading this, you’re probably after some proper first-hand advice, so I’ll try and make myself useful by sharing some tips and observations about what it’s really like to travel in Sri Lanka…

Don’t be scared

We’ve all been there; had a funny rash and diagnosed ourselves with a terminal illness on WebMD. Google ‘female safety’ in whatever country you’re heading to alone, and you’ll end up honing in on dramatic first-hand accounts from women who had been in some way harassed, or worse… even if there are glowing reviews of the locals from others to balance it out.

Make friends

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Spoiler: Sri Lanka may not have as many hostels, or dorm rooms, as Southeast Asia, but what it does have, is heaps of other female solo travellers just like you.

Check into the Kandy City Monkey, Colombo Downtown Monkey, or Hikkaduwa Beach Monkey hostels, and you’ll find your tribe in no time. The Folly in Arugam Bay is another awesome place to hang out with a book and a beer if you’re hoping to meet other travellers.

Relax – it might take a bit of practice.

 

How safe someone feels whilst travelling anywhere, is completely relative to the individual.

For example, a girl who has travelled extensively would be 100 per cent at home on a public bus rattling through the Sri Lankan countryside. Yet it’s natural for a first-timer to mistake innocent, curious looks from locals as something threatening. I promise you, they’re not.

A local’s arm unavoidably rubbing against a rib in a crowded space could be interpreted by someone new to the situation, as an attempted robbery. By all means, check it isn’t, but they probably can’t help it. A genuine invitation from a tuk tuk driver who wants to give you a lift home for free, to some girls would be a godsend for their tired legs (i.e. me, in 40-degree heat, every time), and to others, something to illicit their scepticism.

Stay alert, stay aware, always use your judgement. But remember to relax too.

Smile.

You’ll be amazed at how far it can get you.

Practice saying ‘is tu ti!’

Taking the time to understand a beautiful culture @igworld_global . . . #awesomelifestyle #awesomepix #srilanka #exploreasia #exploresrilanka #fisherman #sunset #goldenhour #igdaily #instago #instadaily #instatravel #traveldeeper #earthpix #bestoftheday #picoftheday #beautifuldestinations #amazingshot #amazingdestination #traveling #travelgoals

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This is ‘thank you’ in Sinhalese. One thing you’ll learn very quickly in Sri Lanka, is that the locals absolutely love helping a backpack-clad damsel in distress in any way they can. You’re much more likely to be invited back to someone’s house for a bowl of curry and a round of charades with the kids, than be pickpocketed.

Lay off the booze

 

Sri Lanka’s beaches do have some unreal nightlife, and the potency of their arak is wicked, but Full Moon party, this ain’t.

Leave your weekend-loving, blackout drunk self at home, and keep your wits about you whilst you’re out enjoying the fresh night air. Sri Lanka is not the place for waking up in your hostel bed, lacking belongings and full of regret.

Don’t be alone at night

Serious hats on now. Whereas female travellers are safe to roam as they wish in daylight, like anywhere, it’s not wise to be out on your own at night. Under no circumstances should you ever walk home alone after dinner, or get yourself into a position where you’ll have to grab a tuk tuk back to your accommodation alone late at night.

Tell your hostel owner what time you can be expected back, and be the first to get dropped off if a group of you are off to hit the hay.

Cover up

Don’t attract unwanted attention by flashing the flesh. As in any religious Asian country, you should cover your arms and legs, both inside and outside of temples.

Just remember one thing:

The same rules on staying safe as a female, apply to Sri Lanka as they do anywhere else in the world.

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So to summarise? Sri Lankans are some of the friendliest, most helpful and most accommodating people you’re likely to meet. And depending on how you spend your leisure time, you’re likely to experience less bum grabs and gropes than you’d encounter in most nightclubs at home.

So ladies, rejoice. 99{67e156e4ee2ef9246962f65a4f1efdaee88fb3c7951f538c2a80b1896ec79ca1} of men respect women, 99{67e156e4ee2ef9246962f65a4f1efdaee88fb3c7951f538c2a80b1896ec79ca1} of drivers respect the roads, and just remember, everyone is absolutely thrilled to have you.

After a month travelling as a solo female in Sri Lanka, I left unable to believe I’d worried so much about my safety in the first place.

 

Falling in love with Sri Lanka? Take a look here for more inspiration.