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Sri Lanka

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Suisse Hotel Kandy
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Sri Lanka (Sinhalese: ????? ???? ?r? La?k?; Tamil: ?????? Ila?kai), formerly known as Ceylon, is in Southern Asia. It is an island country in the Indian Ocean, south of India.

Regions

Sri Lanka is divided into 9 administrative provinces:

Cities

  • 1 Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte (Sinhalese: ????? ?????????? ??????; Tamil: ???? ????????????? ??????) — also simply known as Kotte, new capital of Sri Lanka
  • Anuradhapura (Sinhalese: ??????????; Tamil: ???????????) — ruins of ancient capitals (partially restored). UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Batticaloa (Sinhalese: ???????; Tamil: ????????????) — called land of singing fish. Beautiful shallow beaches, paddy fields, historical places.
  • Colombo (Sinhala: ????; Tamil: ????????) — commercial capital and the largest city of Sri Lanka. Hotels, cafés, restaurants, night clubs and shopping.
  • Galle (Sinhalese: ?????; Tamil: ????) — famous Dutch fort. Host city of the Galle Literary Festival. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Jaffna (Sinhalese: ?????; Tamil: ???????????) — northern capital. On display is the rich heritage of the Tamil-speaking community.
  • Kandy (Sinhalese: ??????; Tamil: ?????) — spiritual heart of the country, home to a tooth of the Buddha. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Negombo (Sinhalese: ??????; Tamil: ????????????) — beautiful landscape and great blue oceans.
  • Nuwara Eliya (Sinhalese: ???? ????; Tamil: ?????????) — Little England. Cool climes, Victorian architecture, top hats, tails and fascinators on race days.

Other destinations

  • 1 Arugam Bay (Sinhalese: ?????? ?????; Tamil: ?????? ????) – southeast-coast beach town with several top surfing spots
  • Dambulla (Sinhalese: ??????; Tamil: ?????????) – A city of historic importance with fabulous hotels, close to Sigiriya. Both UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • 3 Horton Plains (Sinhalese: ??????? ????? ????? ??????????; Tamil: ?????? ??????) – A cloud forest in the central highlands with many endangered fauna and flora and endless hikes
  • Kitulgala (Sinhalese: ????????; Tamil: ???????????) – known for pristine nature & adventure seekers and white-water rafting - 4 hours from Colombo
  • Mirissa (Sinhalese: ???????) – beach village on the south coast close to Matara with two good surfing spots
  • 6 Pasikudah (Sinhalese: ????????; Tamil: ??????????) – Famous beach resort in Sri Lanka's east region with white beaches and upscale hotels
  • 7 Sinharaja Forest Reserve (Sinhalese: ??????? ????????; Tamil: ????????? ????) – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Unawatuna (Sinhalese: ??????) – beach resort on the south coast very close to Galle
  • Yala National Park (Sinahalese: ??? ????? ??????????; Tamil: ??? ????? ????) – wildlife safari

Understand

Located in the Indian Ocean just south of India, Sri Lanka is an island that is a popular holiday destination. Well known for its natural beauty, Sri Lanka has stunning beaches all along its coastline, great wildlife and biodiversity and a rich culture and heritage dating back several millennia.

Sri Lanka was engulfed in a bitter civil war for 30 years between the government and the Tamil Tigers, who were fighting for an independent state for the Tamil speaking minority. The war ended in May 2009 when the Tamil Tigers were bloodily defeated, and heavy emigration is still slowing Sri Lanka's population growth.

History

Sri Lanka has more than 2,500 years of continuous written history by means of the Mahawansha, and was also mentioned in several ancient Indian texts. One of the most famous is the Ramayana, in which the island, which was referred to as Lanka, was the island fortress of the king Ravana, who captured the wife of Rama, an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. Legend has it that Hanuman the monkey flew over to Lanka and destroyed the capital by setting it on fire, while Rama and his remaining troops later crossed over from the mainland by building a land bridge across the sea.

There is however a school of thought, though largely unsupported, that Sita the wife of Rama, eloped with Ravana while Rama was away. It is argued by those who support this view that, this is why Rama subjected Sita to undergo an "agni pariksha" (test of fire) to prove her purity. Nevertheless, this theory is widely criticized by believers of Valmiki's version of the episode.

The Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century BC, probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced starting from the mid-3rd century BC, and a great civilization developed in cities like Anuradhapura (kingdom from c. 200 BCE to c. 1000 CE) and Polonnaruwa (c. 1070 to 1200). Other later notable kingdoms are the DambadeniyaYapahuwa, Gampola, Kandy and Jaffna Kingdoms.

Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1796, and became a crown colony in 1802. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972.

Climate

Since Sri Lanka is a tropical country, you can expect the rain anytime of the year in most parts. However, the two major rainy seasons are the North-East monsoon (October to January) and the South-West monsoon (May to July).

Being an island, the climate of Sri Lanka changes dramatically from one part of the country to another. For example at Nuwara Eliya, in the hills of Central Sri Lanka, has a temperature around -5 to 20°C throughout the year, whereas Hambantota, located in the dry zone, has a temperature consistently around 30-35°C.

In general, Sri Lanka also has very hot temperatures all year long, which is why most Sri Lankan men wear sarongs while Sri Lankan women dress lightly with a long dress.

Terrain

Mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior.

  • Highest point: Pidurutalagala, 2,524m.
  • Second highest peak: Kirigalpoththa (Horton Plains) 2,388m.
  • Third highest peak: Thotupola Kanda (Horton Plains) 2,357m.

Get in

Visa rules

Online tourist visa can be obtained by all countries nationals, except Maldives and Singapore. It allows to stay in the country for 30 days and is valid for six months since it was approved. Application should be lodged in advance before entering the country and shall be done online. After this applicant will receive an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) which should be present at the port of entry in Sri Lanka and exchanged for a tourist visa. Visa charges are US$20 for SAARC countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan) and US$35 for others (2016). Officially ETA gets ready in 2 days, however, they usually send it in 10-20 minutes after the payment is done.

Besides, tourist visa can be obtained without getting a prearranged ETA right at the Bandaranaike International Airport (at a visa desk in the arrival zone before customs), US$40. Therefore online visa is not a pre-condition to board a flight/vessel to Sri Lanka.

Important: immigration authorities at Colombo airport are very demanding with respect to the accuracy of the passport number on your electronic travel authorization obtained online. A single digit mistake is taken as a reason to force you to buy a new visa and refer you to some obscure government office in Colombo for refunds of your online payments. Be careful about 1 vs. I and zero vs. O. The number should exactly match the machine-readable section of your passport, and not anything else (for example, Russian passports have a non-alphanumeric number sign that should be completely excluded).

Visa extension

Extensions can be made at the Department of Immigration, +94 11 532-9300; M-F 09:00-16:30, 41 Ananda Rajakaruna Mw, Col 10, Punchi Borella, Colombo.

A visa extension gives you an additional 2 months in the country beyond the initial 30-day entry visa (so in total, you can stay in the country for 3 months). You can apply any time from immediately after entering the country until the expiry of your visa. An additional 3-month extension is possible (so in total, 6 months), but you must again pay the extension fee plus another Rs10,000. Extensions beyond this are at the discretion of the department, and incur a Rs15,000 fee plus the extension fee. See above for fees for the first 90-day extension.

The department sets the cost in US dollars, but you pay in Sri Lankan rupees. To process the extension, the immigration office requires your passport and an onward ticket. Your proposed stay in Sri Lanka must end at least two months before the expiry date of your passport.

The immigration office begins processing visa extensions Monday through Friday a bit before 08:30 in the morning. However, a worker usually starts to give out queue numbers and forms some time between 07:00 and 07:30, so arrive early to be among the first processed.

Based on several extensions done in summer 2015, total time is about 2.5 hours if you arrive by 07:00: get ticket around 07:15, submit documents at 08:30, make payment at 09:00, get passport back around 09:30. If you arrive at 08:30, the room usually has started to fill and it could be around 3-4 hours. Arriving after 09:30, it'll be full and total time can be at least 4 hours. Arriving after 11:30 is usually not worth it, because the payment counter closes at 14:30; if they haven't finished the pre-processing necessary to get you to the payment stage before 14:30, you'll have to return the next day.

Note that you can leave the room to go outside for a break, but if you miss your number being called, it could add more time to your wait.

Agents can do the visa extension for you: they take your passport and documents, wait in line, pay the fees, etc, then return the passport to you. Larger tour groups often use these agents for extensions. The agents know the system: they arrive early and get the first queue numbers. Because of this, being behind one local agent representing a group of 25 foreigners needing extensions could make your wait time significantly longer. Best advice as an independent traveller is to get your queue number before the local agents: arrive before 07:00, immediately stand waiting at the wooden desk which is on the left just after the entrance, and don't let the agents cut in front of you.

By plane

The first and the biggest Sri Lankan airport is Colombo-Bandaranaike International Airport (IATA: CMB), the journey to Colombo (35 km) will take about an hour by taxi. Besides, there is one more international airport opened in 2013 — Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (Hambantota International Airport, IATA: HRI), located in the southern part of the country, approximately 250 km away from Colombo.

SriLankan Airlines is the national flagship carrier, operating flights from the cities throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. SriLankan Air also flies to the nearby destinations such as Chennai, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Delhi, Cochin, Bangalore and the Maldives.

Emirates Airlines connects many major European cities and others worldwide to Colombo with several flights daily from Dubai and Singapore to Colombo. The airline operates 777-300ER wide body aircraft on these routes.

Indian carrier Jet Airways or its offshoot Jetlite flies to Sri Lanka.

FlyDubai Airlines connects Dubai to Colombo at least since 2016.

Qatar Airways has 3 daily non-stop flights from Doha to Colombo.

Jet Airways has many flights a day to Colombo from Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.

Tiger Airways, the Singapore-based LCC, flies three times a week between Colombo and Singapore, increasing to four times a week starting November 2012.

The budget airline Air Asia now operates from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Colombo, Sri Lanka. This opens ups cheap flight for visitors from South East Asia as well as those who are visiting South Asia and then heading to South-East Asia (or vice-versa).

Oman Air has announced flights to Colombo via Muscat and Male, they seem to have special prices for their new destinations' start (Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Male, Colombo)

Royal Jordanian has a daily flight from Amman to Colombo.

Ukrainian International Airlines now has a flight from Kiev to Colombo via Dubai.

Other airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai International Airways, Cathay Pacific, Saudi Arabian, Condor (Germany), Spicejet (India), Meridiana (Italy), and JetAirFly (Belgium) operate to Colombo-Bandaranaike from their respective home bases.

From America

There are no direct flights that reach Sri Lanka from cities outside Asia, the Middle East and Europe. From the American West Coast, the distance is almost half the globe. Depending on your preferences and how much spare time you have, you can consider a stopover in Europe or SE Asia or take a non-stop flight over the North Pole to New Delhi or Mumbai from Chicago, Newark, New York City (JFK), or Toronto. In many cases, this may be the fastest route, but check if an Indian transit visa is required. Another fast and easy idea is to use Middle Eastern airlines from the US with stopovers in either Qatar, Bahrain, or the UAE (no transit visa required). For example the Dubai-based Emirates offers daily flights from SFO, LAX, Houston Hobby (IAH), and Toronto (YYZ) with a very short stopover before the short flight to Colombo. Emirates Airlines offer non-stop service to Colombo two to three times daily from Dubai. SriLankan Airlines is part of the Oneworld alliance which allows through ticketing with American Airlines, and several Asian, European, and Middle Eastern airlines.

By ship

The Tuticorin (India)—Colombo passenger ferry service has been suspended and will commence once the requisite infrastructure is put in place on both sides, which might take years (2016).

According to the customs office in Tuticorin it is illegal for a cargo ship to transport passengers from the Tuticorin Port to Sri Lanka.

Get around

Sri Lanka is rapidly expanding its infrastructure and public transport services, making independent travel easier over time. As of now, however, many roads are still thoroughly potholed and at times terrifying due to local driving traditions. Together with occasional massive crowds (especially on holidays), often lacking luggage space and occasional harassment of women travelling alone, buses may not seem like the most appealing way of travel for some. Yet, they offer great opportunities for interaction with locals, are cheap, plentiful and come in different qualities.

By plane

Sri Lankan Airlines operates seaplane service to destinations such as Nuwara EliyaKandyGalle and elsewhere. This is perfect for photography trips because you can get a bird's eye view of the island and takes less time to get to a destination than using the road. Also the seaplanes land on picturesque lakes and tanks around the island.

Aero Lanka operates domestic flights between Colombo City Airport - Ratmalana, Jaffna and Trincomalee

  • Cinnamon Air (air taxi), No 11, York Street, Colombo 01, ? +94 11 2 475 451. A Domestic Airline offering daily scheduled flights from Bandaranaike International Airport to Sri Lanka's most popular destinations.

Ratmalana Airport (IATA: RML, ICAO: VCCC) is a major domestic airport in Colombo.

By bus

For those on a budget buses are everywhere. They're sometimes crowded and uncomfortable, but they get you around for almost nothing; it costs about a dollar to get half-way across the island. If you're planning on splashing out, AC buses run most routes for twice the price, which offer air-conditioning and a guaranteed seat. However, they're still uncomfortable. Bus stations are confusing places, especially the big ones, but almost everyone will be delighted to practise their English and help you. Also, when travelling by bus, it is local etiquette in most buses to provide or give up the very front passenger seats to members of the clergy such as monks or priests if they are present. You may be overcharged as a foreigner from the bus attendant, ask for a printed ticket if available to see the correct fare. If a ticket machine isn't available try to ask a female passenger for the fare price as they are usually honest.

If you're on a very tight budget, the standard public buses (CTB) lack air-con and are regularly pretty overcrowded, but they're dirt-cheap for western standards and run everywhere all the time. As a foreigner you maybe be overcharged, simply ask for a ticket to your destination to get the correct fare. Private buses charge about double but are still cheap and often do have air-conditioning and often guaranteed seats. Your best bet is to inform upon arrival in a destination about your way out, and if possible secure a seat already. In all cases, arrive early and preferably travel light. If you're carrying a lot of luggage, you might have to purchase a seat for your backpack if you don't want to keep it on you lap or under your feet.

By rail

Sri Lanka has an extensive railway system serving all major towns and cities in the island except for the North. The railway system in Sri Lanka is picturesque when entering the hill country because of the winding tracks along the mountains especially on the Badullu-Nanu Oya line. Make sure, if you can, to sit on the right side of the train, as it offers the better view. Travel by train is itself a journey to remember, be it travelling to Central Sri Lanka or travelling on the coastal line is just amazing. Highly recommended to travel by train outside Colombo. The Hill train to Badulla is an amazing journey. Preferably choose the express trains, and try to get a reservation beforehand, if you can. There are special Observation cars for tourists to take in the scenery. Trains can be slower than buses, depending if you are on a line that offers an express train or not, but more comfortable and even less expensive than buses.

You can look up train schedules on the official site: or using one of the two Android apps available: [1] [2]. Be advised, however, that these will only give you results for direct connections between stations.

There are three classes of railway cars, although 1st and 2nd class are only available on some Intercity and Express trains. Travelling 3rd class is not as bad as it may sound. Often the difference between 3rd and 2nd class is only a missing armrest between seats.

Trains are sometimes crowded, especially in the morning and late afternoon. Also, observation car seats for the lines popular with tourists (like the Colombo-Kandy line) are often booked out several days in advance in the high season. So whenever possible you should get a reservation beforehand: see [3] and [4] for more information

Privately owned train services such as Exporail and Rajadhani Express operates air-conditioned and serviced first-class railway cars to major destinations daily. While this is costlier than travelling by air-conditioned bus, it is much cheaper than hiring a car and offers facilities such as online reservations, friendly on-board services, spacious seating, on-board meals and wireless internet.

Trains offer good alternatives when they are available, and the standard trains are only slightly more expensive than the private buses, if at all. One of the advantages is that 1st and 2nd class train tickets can be reserved several days in advance. Sri Lankan Railways has a useful website in English. There are also more expensive private trains with 1st class wagons and good service to some of the destinations. These obviously come at higher prices, but are still a reasonable and convenient option for travellers on a mid-range or higher budget, with a trip from Colombo to Kandy costing around Rs1700.

By three-wheeler

The most common mode of transport in Sri Lanka is via a three-wheeled automobile appropriately referred to as a three-wheeler (tri-Shaw). Also known as tuk-tuks from the noise of their motors. These operate in a manner similar to taxis, and in many situations are a convenient and highly cost-efficient way to get around. Safety is a concern however, as none of them have seat belts and they are open to the sides. Three-wheelers are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka. On any given street, you'll hardly have to wait more than a couple of minutes without one going by that you can wave down. If you're travelling with luggage, there are slightly larger three-wheelers with more space for your bags that you can look for. While it may be the most novel way to get around, it may not be the most cost efficient in every situation. Public transport is cheaper by far, and most Three-wheel drivers tend to over-price foreigners, so never agree to the first estimate. The best price you can get is about Rs50-75 per km for short journeys and about Rs30-50 for long journeys (more than 15 km). If you do come across a metered tri-shaw make sure the meter is switched on. Taxis are slightly more expensive but surely a lot safer. Having said that, you probably have not experienced everything Sri Lanka has to offer until you travel in one.

By car

Rented cars usually turn out cheaper than three-wheelers, and are less prone to road accidents--and are recommended by most hotels. Rented cars often come with their own drivers. Often the automobile itself is free, whereas the driver will charge a fee for his services. Some drivers/guides are government-licensed; some are extremely knowledgeable and multi-lingual, specializing in historical and cultural knowledge, and environment/natural history for your visits to the ancient sites and the natural reserves. Driving yourself is very adventurous as the driving style is very different from wealthier countries. Of course, if you're not on a budget and especially if you're pressed for time, renting a car with driver for the whole or part of the route can offer a convenient way to follow this itinerary, and will in some cases allow to see two sites on one day. Daily rates vary between Rs5000 and 10,000 per day excluding fuel, depending on the kind of car you want and whether you book via a hotel or travel agency that will take a commission.

You can also rent a car without driver but you will need to bring your international driving license and get it validated by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka in order to be able to drive by your own. You can opt to pay an agency to do this for you in advance; otherwise, you must do it in Colombo, and it will take a day. You will find international car hire agencies in Colombo Airport and some local companies in Negombo's beach area.

Tour operators

Tour operators are happy to get you a van and a driver who will take you all over the island but beware, the roads are bumpy and slow. If you book off-the-cuff when you arrive, ask to be shown on a map where you are going before agreeing to any 'tour' of the island and research before you arrive so that you have a clear idea of where you might like to travel. Senseless backtracking to lengthen the trip and increase the cost is a real danger, as is a driver's wish to take you on unwanted shopping expeditions in an effort to gain commission. Travel websites specialising in Sri Lanka are easily found and have greatly increased the choice that is readily available to independent travellers seeking tailor-made tours. The best of them will produce clearly-stated travel itineraries and some are flexible enough to make late changes to itineraries. Ask to see their booking conditions and anti-fraud policies.

Taxi companies

Taxis are a better way of getting around Colombo than three wheelers as, due to the metering, they often turn out to be cheaper. Rates are about US$0.55 and they have full day packages (approx 8 hours and 80km) for around US$40. They will also take you outstation for around US$0.30-0.35 per km with no waiting charges. You can also set up your own itenary and travel around that way as opposed to whatever the tour operator tells you.

Talk

See also: Sinhala phrasebook, Tamil phrasebook

Sinhala, spoken by the majority Sinhalese, and Tamil, spoken by the minority Tamil and Muslim groups, are Sri Lanka's two official languages. English is commonly used in most cities, especially ColomboKandy and Galle, and by government and tourism officials. But while most of the people in Colombo can speak English, don't expect everyone, everywhere to be able to speak it fluently. In the beach and tourist areas you will have no problem with English. Most people in rural villages, however, cannot speak any English, beyond a few simple words.

  • Sinhala language The greeting in Sinhala is "ayubowan". It means "May you live longer"; 'Thank you' is "bohoma sthuthi" and "how are you" is "kohomada", pronounced "Ko homede""
  • Tamil language: The greeting in Tamil is "vanakkam"; 'Thank you' is "nandri"

Sinhala writing is much more curved than Tamil. After a while, you'll learn how to distinguish between the two.

See

Please be aware that to get into many of the tourist sites in Sri Lanka, you, as a foreigner will be charged up to ten times more than locals.

Some popular sights in Sri Lanka are:

  • Sri Dhalada Maligawa and Peradeniya Gardens in Kandy.
  • The ancient temples in AnuradhapuraDambulla and Polonnaruwa which are very beautiful.
  • Ancient City of Sigiriya.
  • Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
  • Beautiful villages which look like England in Nuwara Eliya. There are many tea estates and Hakgala gardens too.
  • The beaches of UnawatunaGalle and northern areas.
  • Whales in Mirissa and Kalpitiya.
  • Wildlife in Yala National Park & Wilpattu for the best wildlife Safari experience. Go to Udawalawe to see elephants and Kumana National Park (Yala East) for birdwatching.
  • The unexplored Sri Lanka in Jaffna and the islands in the Northern Province (Delft).
  • See Negombo's beaches, all sandy and blue.

With a recorded history of more than 2,500 years, Sri Lanka has a rich cultural and natural heritage and its World Heritage Sites are among the absolute highlights in the country. With eight recognized entries, Sri Lanka currently has the second greatest number of listed World Heritage Sites in South Asia (only India, with 30, has more). The most recent addition however are the vast Central Highlands (including three highland parks: Horton Plains National Park, Knuckles Mountain Range and the Peak Wilderness Protected Area), which were inscribed in 2010. Other than these, Sri Lanka has identified two prospective World Heritage Sites: Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara and Seruwila to Sri Pada (Sacred Foot Print Shrine), an ancient pilgrim route along the Mahaweli river in Sri Lanka.

Itineraries

See also: Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent
  • World Heritage Sites Tour in Sri Lanka

Do

There are a variety of things that you can do depending on your preference.

Surfing - from November to April you can surf on the western and southern coast. Best place for the beginners is Weligama on the southern coast. You can rent a board for Rs1,500 per day or Rs400 per hour. Lessons cost Rs2,500 per hour, but bargain.

Kitesurfing - from April to September you can kitesurf eastern coast. Best place for the beginners is Kalpitiya (Sethawadi and Kappaladi lagoons), where you can find kite schools and the best conditions in Asia.

White water rafting is also available.

Snorkeling - off the coral a sanctuary near Hikkaduwa is a popular spot to see turtles.

Hiking - Horton Plains National Park offers a nice hiking opportunity to the spectacular view at World's End.

Buy

Money

The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee, denoted by the symbol "??" or " Rs" (ISO code: LKR). There are coins for 25 and 50 cents (bronze), 1 rupee (old version is big and silver, new version is small and gold), 2 rupees (silver), and 5 rupees (gold). Banknotes range from Rs. 10 to Rs. 5000. Coins that are more than a few years old are typically in quite bad condition.

Credit cards and ATMs, banking services

ATMs are located in many places (especially at bank branches) in the cities and suburbs, less so in the countryside. Be careful of using credit cards, as fraud is on the rise in Sri Lanka. You can withdraw from debit cards too (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa Electron, etc.) where the logos are displayed. Mostly your card will be replaced by your bank once you go back to your country. Not every ATM accepts international cards, try Commercial Bank they accept international cards. You can't send money by Western Union or Money Gram from Sri Lanka abroad. One can only receive money via international money transfer while in Sri Lanka.

Costs

Sri Lanka is a little more expensive than Southeast Asia for accommodation. However, food is comparable: local street food costs around €1, a meal in a local restaurant, €2-5, and a bottle of the local Lion beer is €1. All across the country there are simple accommodations, hostels and homestays. The prices vary depending on the equipment at €10-20. On the coast many small boutique hotels opened up in the last years with prices of €20-30 per night in a double room. For more comfort expect to pay more than €40.

Shopping

Handicrafts of Sri Lanka. For reed, cane, cotton, paper, leather, wood, clay, metal, and gemstones have been transformed and re-expressed in an array of batiks, toys, curios and jewelery, all exquisite hand made treasures.

Eat

Sri Lanka and South Indian food share a lot in common, and many local restaurants describe their menus as Sri Lankan & South Indian. There are a number of regional variations, though, the different types of hopper, devilled prawns, cuttlefish, chicken, etc., and the common fiery addition to any curry, pol sambol made of grated coconut, red chilli powder and lime juice.

Sri Lankan food is generally spicy, but you can always ask for less spicy options if you prefer. Note that Sri Lankans eat with their right hands - this isn't a major problem, because every eatery can provide cutlery if you can't eat otherwise. But try the Sri Lankan way (tips of fingers only!); it's harder than it looks but strangely liberating.

Food is generally very cheap, with a cheap meal costing about a US dollar. The most expensive tourist-orientated places seldom charge more than US$10. The staple food of Sri Lankans is rice and curry - a massive mound of rice surrounded by various curries and delicacies. If you want to eat a cheap lunch you can follow the Sri Lankan crowds and duck into any of a million small cafes, confusingly called 'hotels'. These normally sell a rice and curry packet, as well as 'short eats', a collection of spicy rolls. This is ideal for backpackers and those who want to get past the touristy hotels selling burnt chicken and chips - you're charged by how much you eat, and unless you're absolutely ravenous it probably won't cost over a US dollar.

If you are taking road trips outside Colombo, there are endless options for places to stop on the road for lunch. Rest houses and hotels along major roads throughout Sri Lanka have good restaurants that offer both Sri Lankan and Western menus. If you are less adventurous, you can easily get good sandwiches and soups at these restaurants. These places have excellent rice and curry plates, and you will be served many different types of curries over an extremely generous portion of rice. These meals are extremely delicious and will leave you full and happy at the end of the meal. Eating is definitely a memorable experience in Sri Lanka.

Kottu (Kothu) Roti (a medley of chopped roti, vegetables and your choice of meat) is a must-have for anyone - tourist or otherwise - in Sri Lanka. It is uniquely Sri Lankan and tastes best when made fresh by street vendors. However, several kottu roti restaurants have been closed down due to their use of stale and old roti, which made some patrons sick. Use caution, and even better, talk with the locals to figure out where the best kottu roti restaurants are.

Other foods that you should try include String Hoppers, Hoppers, Pittu and Kiribath.

There are many upscale restaurants to choose from in the city of Colombo. There are several fine dining restaurants at the 5-star hotels which offer both local and international cuisine. These establishments are found largely in western Colombo (along Galle Road), though more are located around Colombo and other major cities.

Fast-food outlets such as KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Subway and Burger King can be found in major cities.

Drink

In Sri Lanka water from the tap is not considered to be safe to drink in the country. However if you are using bottled water (1.5 litre for Rs60-70 in March 2012) always make sure SLS (Sri Lanka Standard Institute) label is present. Also in some parts of the country you'll find hard water due to the high presence of lime in the soil.

Fresh milk, due to the climate, spoils easily, and so is often very expensive. Powdered milk, however, is safe and is often substituted.

Thambili the juice from king coconut, is very refreshing. It's sold at the side of streets throughout the island, you know it's clean as the coconut is cut open in front of you and it's cheaper than bottled drinks at about Rs30/- each. Soft drinks are available almost everywhere, normally in dusty-looking glass bottles. The local producer, Elephant, make a range of interesting drinks - try the ginger beer and cream soda. "Coca Cola" and "Pepsi" also available in large and small sizes (plastic bottles) including several local soft drink brands - all available at rapidly multiplying supermarkets all across the country and grocery shops.

The most common local beer is Lion Lager (Rs140 in "wine shops" or Rs200-300 in restaurants in March 2012). For something a bit different try Lion Stout. It is characterized by its tar-like oiliness of body and chocolate finish. Other brews include Three Coins, which is brewed by the Mt Lavinia hotel chain, allegedly to a Belgian recipe.

The traditional spirit is Arrack, which costs about US$4 for a bottle, and is often drunk with club soda. The quality can vary depending on how much you want to pay. However, widely recommended brand would be "Old Reserve" and worth paying US$7.50 for it.

Sleep

Accommodation in Sri Lanka has been transformed in recent years. What would be recognized as the modern tourist industry began in the 1960s with traditional beach hotels built on the west coast which were aimed primarily at the package holiday crowd and traditional travel operators. But the past decade has brought a major change, with the growth of villas, boutique hotels, and small independent and individualistic properties offering a huge array of choice.

With the end of the civil war and the defeat of the Tamil forces in May 2009, tourist arrivals have been going up,and as there still aren't a great many decent hotels it's probably better to book early.

Learn

  • Buddhist Studies and Pali Language. The universities of Peradeniya and Kelaniya offer a variety of Buddhist studies and Pali language courses in English.
  • Meditation. You may find monasteries and meditation centres that offer meditation courses (generally free of charge) in the Lanka_monasteries_2008_jan.pdf Buddhist Publication Society guide .
  • Mahamevnawa Meditation Monastery is a good place to learn true Buddhism.
  • Dancing There are many foreign enthusiasts to learn Sri Lankan traditional dance under three categories which are Udarata, Pahatharata and Sabaragamu. And there are distinguished drumming for those categories.

Stay safe

In June 2009, the Sri Lankan government lifted travel alerts after the military defeat of rebel insurgents in the north of the country, though it is advisable to check with the local travel advisory bureau in your country if there is any doubt. Sri Lanka's lengthy and bloody civil war was ended one month earlier, when the government forces finally wiped out the Tamil Tigers. However, there might be land mines left, which can be troublesome, and the facilities in northern (and some parts of the east) cities and towns are war torn. These were the areas where the Tamils lived. The UN, NGOs and the Sri Lankan authorities are currently engaged in rapidly clearing landmines laid out by the warring parties. It's a long and difficult process.

Bombings and assassinations were a firm part of both sides in the conflict, and there is heavy security in all sensitive locations. While the separatists have never targeted tourists there have been deaths, notably in a landmine explosion at Wilpattu National Wild Park in 2006, and some have been wounded by terrorist actions. War is, after all, dangerous. In general, though, traffic accidents kill more people than terrorism. It's quite safe to travel in Sri Lanka and many tourists from all over the world started to come to the country after the end of the civil war. You'll see many foreign tourists at the tourists sites, mostly Westerners. Locals will greet foreigners with a smile and are generally helpful. It is recommended to avoid going alone after dark. Pickpocketing on public transport is uncommon, but take precaution.

Violent crime is not usually any more serious a problem for tourists in Sri Lanka than it is anywhere. There has been an increase in violent crimes involving tourists in the past few years, but it is still very rare. Tourists should exercise the same care and attention as they would at home.

Under colonial-era laws which are still in place, homosexual activity between consenting adults are punishable by fines and whipping. LGBT travellers should exercise discretion.

Con artists and touts

Con artists and touts are a serious problem throughout all tourist areas. Using the services of a tout for accommodation, local travel, etc. will most likely increase the price. First time travelers to Sri Lanka may find themselves the victim of scams, however seasoned travelers to Sri Lanka are very rarely scammed and it is simple to avoid becoming a victim of scammers by taking precautions:

  • Do not believe anyone who claims to be a professional (e.g., airline pilot), or in charge of a location (like a bus terminal) without proof.
  • Scams involving gemstones are common. Do not buy with the intention of selling them in your home country for a profit.
  • Be on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice. Take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, especially if they tell you the place you want to go to is closed, dangerous, non-existent, etc. If you are unsure, check a map.
  • If you have been told your hotel is closed or full, give them a call. If you are a first time visitor to Sri Lanka, don't admit it as it will make you a target for the scam artists.
  • Unless you absolutely have to, do not agree to hire the same driver for more than a day at a time. They are a dime a dozen at each city and the whole country is so small that you will not have trouble getting between towns via bus, train, tuk-tuk or another driver if you have to. Even though you agree on a daily or hourly rate, the drivers will all generally attempt to make more commission out of you by forcing you to visit one of their friends businesses (e.g., spice, carving or gem shops). Calmly and firmly say you are not interested and if they continue to force you to go then find another driver - they are very common and you will have no problem finding another one.

Stay healthy

  • Vaccinations are recommended for Hepatitis A+B and Tetanus. Also, obtain the Typhus vaccination outside of tourist areas especially in the wet season. The CDC also recommends vaccination against Japanese encephalitis.
  • Dengue fever: During the rainy season use mosquito repellent. When head and joint aches occur get a blood check. There is no vaccination yet.
  • Malaria : since 2016 Sri Lanka is declared malaria free zone by WHO
  • Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 1 year of age coming from infected areas.
  • Visitors should avoid drinking water from the tap. It is best to stick to bottled water for both drinking and tooth-brushing.
  • Although snake bites are extremely rare among tourists (comparable to being struck by lightning), anyone bitten should seek prompt medical care. This is true even if the bite doesn't result in any pain and swelling. The National Emergency number is 119. In Colombo, dial either 119 or if you want an emergency ambulance - 110.
  • There are tiny little flies that live in the sand (inland only, not on the beaches). Any contact with the dry sand usually results in bites and subsequent painful scratches. So avoid even a little sand on your skin, including legs.

Respect

There are several customs that, specially for Western travellers, would take a bit of getting used to.

  • It is customary to remove shoes and wear respectful attire (i.e., no miniskirts, tank tops, short pants) when visiting temples. It is also the custom to remove shoes before entering a home, though this is not as strictly followed as in places such as Japan.
  • Never touch or pat Buddhist monks, including younger monks and children who practice at a temple.
  • Do not display tattoos that depict the Buddha. This can be regarded as highly insulting in Sri Lanka, even if acceptable in other Buddhist countries and regions. Arrest and deportation are realistic scenarios.
  • Do not turn your back to a Buddha statue while within a reasonable distance. This includes posing for photos, where you should not make arm or body contact with the statue. It is advisable to photograph a Buddha statue with all persons facing towards it (as observing it), rather than posing alongside.
  • Public nudity is illegal in Sri Lanka - nude/topless sunbathing and skinny dipping should be avoided, except in the private beach resorts which allow it.
  • Although much latitude is given to tourists, it is more polite to use your right hand when handing money and small objects, etc... Of course you can use both hands for something big and/or heavy.
  • Be respectful to monks. There's no particular etiquette for Westerners - just be polite. Always give them a seat on a crowded bus (unless you're disabled or very elderly).
  • It is highly controversial to discuss politics, particularly the Sinhalese/Tamil divide or the LTTE. The 26-year civil war which ended in 2009 saw thousands of attacks throughout the country, including suicide bombings and massacres which have killed scores of politicians and civilians on both sides alike.
  • No photography of sensitive locations (inside and outside), and inside of shopping malls and tea factories (outside OK). Be especially careful in Fort, Colombo (except on the beach). If soldiers are guarding something, it probably shouldn't be photographed. Don't rely on signs alone, as sometimes they are old or missing. For example, one end of a bridge may have a "No Photography" sign, but not the other.
  • Seemingly innocuous public displays of affection between lovers such as kissing and/or hugging may be culturally frowned upon as it is considered to be private behaviour but it is acceptable in functions and establishments designated for adults such as nightclubs, casinos and beach parties. Much lenience is given to foreigners and holding hands and public affection between parents and their children is not frowned upon.

Connect

Phone

The country code for Sri Lanka is 94. Remove the intercity prefix (0) before the area code when dialling internationally into the country (i.e., 0112 688 688 becomes +94 112 688 688) when dialling from abroad). The two next numbers after 94 represents the area code, they are different for every district for more information see Telephone numbers in Sri Lanka.

Mobile

The use of GSM cellphones is widespread and the coverage is good.

Dialog and Mobitel are two operators that have sales offices at the airport inside the arrivals lounge. Dialog Mobile has the widest coverage in the country including rural areas and has the best quality GSM / 3G / HSPA +/4G network. Mobitel also has a 3G/HSPA+ network. All the mobile operators are having same call rates due to floor rate tariffs. Therefore it is advisable to go to the network which offers you the best quality. All Mobile Operators offers cheap IDD Call rates.

If you want to surf internet, best way is to buy a HSPA dongle and a Mobile Broadband connection. Dialog Mobile, Mobitel, hutch, Etisalat and Airtel offers prepaid Mobile Broadband services which can be activated and used immediately.

Dialog is the Vodafone Roaming Network in Sri Lanka and offers the best range of Value added services for Roamers and the rates are cheaper. Etisalat and Airtel also provide cheap roaming rates specially to India.

Mobile phones are cheaper and widely available.

The Amateur Traveler talks to Karl Anders who has traveled to Sri Lanka 8 times after striking up a friendship with the late author Arthur C. Clarke who settled there. Karl takes us on a vital tour of Sri Lanka from the capital of Colombo to the beautiful beaches to some of the archeological ruins at DambullaSigiriyaAnuradhapura and PolonnaruwaDambulla is notable for some of the cave murals. Sigiriya is particularly notable for the rock fortress, ruins of a palace high on this rock outcropping and again some of the cave murals. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa both also have numerous stupas (a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics). The inland high mountains are home to the tea country, plentiful tea fields and numerous tea factories. Karl recommends the Galle Face Hotel and some of the other inexpensive hotels left over from the British era. He also recommends hiring a car and driver/interpreter and avoiding the traffic and public transportation. We also talk about the recent civil war.

Wat Arun

The first time I landed in Bangkok back in 2010, I did everything wrong.

I was so excited, I didn’t get myself close to the schedule before I arrived.

Even though I was arriving close to midnight, I slept on the final flight there.

I gave my guesthouse address written in Thai to my driver, but he couldn’t find it and had to keep stopping and asking people where it was.

I chose a guesthouse with a windowless room that was essentially a twin bed with an extra two feet of space around it. No outlets. No wifi. No A/C. Not even a top sheet.

I didn’t sleep a wink the entire first night and basically twiddled my thumbs until 6:00 AM, when I figured it was a socially acceptable time to visit some temples.

I slept a few hours in the afternoon the first day — and didn’t sleep a wink the second night, either. I then got a nasty cold due to sleep deprivation and missed out on some social gatherings.

Kate in Bangkok

Here I am on my first day in Bangkok in 2010. I was a mess, but I was so happy just to be there.

Kate in Bangkok

Here I am on my first day in Bangkok in 2015. By this time, my tenth visit to Bangkok, I had my arrival down to a science.

Here’s how to do the same when you touch down in Bangkok:

Adjust yourself to the time zone ahead of time.

Granted, this is most difficult from the East Coast of the U.S., where we’re usually on a 12-hour time difference. But anything you can do to get yourself slightly closer to Thailand’s time zone will have you in much better shape, even if it means you’ll be sleeping fewer hours.

Hit up the ATM.

You don’t need to get cash before your trip — just hit up the ATM in the airport as soon as you land.

You also might want to visit a 7-11 and buy a bottle of water so you can break a large bills.

Get a taxi from the airport.

When you arrive in Bangkok, chances are you’re going to be exhausted and ready to just fall into bed. This is an occasion that warrants paying for a taxi, even if you’re backpacking and trying to save money.

Airport taxis have rates set, so you will be charged a meter rate. Keep in mind that depending on where you’re going, some drivers will offer to take you via highway, which will cost you extra toll fees that you will need to pay when you go through the toll booth.

Have your accommodation’s name and address ready, and pinpoint it on Google Maps.

When I first got to Bangkok, I was shocked at how often taxi drivers would have no idea where my destination was. It’s a far cry from London, where taxi drivers are required to memorize every street in the city!

It’s a good idea to have the address written in Thai as well as English — but it’s even better to have it saved on Google Maps.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

Check into an extremely comfortable hotel or guesthouse.

Why a comfortable place? Because you’ll be exhausted and sleeping at odd hours for the next few days. Having a nice place to stay can make such a huge difference. I stayed at the Amari Watergate — more on that below.

Take melatonin right before you go to bed.

I first started bought melatonin when I flew from Boston to Sri Lanka last year, knowing that I’d have a busy schedule and wouldn’t have the luxury of going at my own pace.

Melatonin is a natural supplement that helps your body realize that it’s bedtime. It’s best to take it about an hour before you go to bed, but I find that it affects me within around 30 minutes.

For the first several days, take melatonin at night — it will help you beat jet lag faster. You can get it on Amazon.

Get on a normal schedule as soon as you can.

Avoid napping! Believe me, it’s better to go to bed at 9:00 PM and sleep until 4:30 AM than to take a midday nap. Because as soon as you start midday napping, you’ll be falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon every day.

Bangkok Skyline

Pick up a SIM card. 

I always go to Siam Paragon, a luxury shopping mall near Siam Square, and visit the AIS store. AIS provides some of the best coverage in Thailand, has great data plans, and they’re used to assisting foreigners in this store.

Don’t forget to bring your passport! It’s required to get a SIM card.

Go easy on the food if you have a sensitive stomach.

When I first arrived in Asia, I went vegetarian for the first few days and gradually eased into eating meat. You might want to do the same if you’re nervous about the food. Always stick to bottled water, too!

Indulge in massages.

One of my favorite things about Thailand is that Thais consider massage a normal, frequent part of staying healthy. As a result, massage is available for cheap in Bangkok — think around 250 baht ($7) for one hour.

Traditional Thai massage is done with your clothes on (they may give you loose pajama-like garments to wear). It’s a lot like assisted yoga. Personally, I’m a big fan of foot massages and get them almost every day.

Silk Weaver, Bangkok

Give yourself at least a few days in Bangkok.

Bangkok is one of my top five favorite cities in the world. You could spend weeks here discovering all that the city has to offer. If you’re a returning Thailand visitor, you probably know what you want to do, but if you’re new to Thailand, please don’t listen to people telling you to skip Bangkok. This city is beautifully chaotic and I love it for that reason.

A few of my favorite activities:

Visit Chatuchak Market. Held on Saturday and Sunday, this is the largest market in the world and they sell everything from unique clothing to fancy furniture to tiny puppies.

Hang out in Siam Square. This is where young Thais hang out and where you’ll find lots of cool shops, along with several high-end malls. Keep in mind that Asian sizes tend to be tiny, but accessories are universal!

Go to a luxury movie theater. I love SF World Cinema on top of the Central World mall, where around 700 baht ($20) buys you a pre-movie buffet with a mocktail and tons of food, a plush leather recliner, a blanket (!!), a waitress, and your choice of flavored popcorn and soda. (If you don’t want to spend the cash, you can see new releases for around 100 baht ($3)!)

Visit Jim Thompson’s house. If you love architecture, luxury, and mystery, make this a priority. Jim Thompson was an American CIA agent turned silk merchant who ended up disappearing in Malaysia. His house is near Siam Square and is like a time capsule.

Explore and chow down in Chinatown. Chinatown is one of the most distinctive neighborhoods in the city, and you can easily get lost in the mazes here. The food is excellent, too.

Visit Buddhist temples. Some good ones for first-timers are Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and Wat Arun, which are close together and close to the Khao San Road area.

See Muay Thai at Lumpinee Stadium. Not just a sports experience, but a cultural experience unlike any other.

Enjoy Khao San Road. The backpacker center of Southeast Asia, if not the world. Fun for a wild night out, but keep in mind merchandise here costs a lot more than on surrounding streets.

Chill out on Soi Rambuttri. Close to Khao San Road but much quieter and calmer, this is actually my favorite street in Bangkok. I love getting a foot massage while having a cocktail from the mobile VW van bar.

This is just scratching the surface — there is far more to do in Bangkok than I could include in a single post!

Amari Watergate Bangkok

Staying at the Amari Watergate Bangkok

I always tell people that Bangkok and Las Vegas are the two best cities in the world for luxury hotels — there are tons to choose from and the prices are excellent.

Well, to be honest, I’ve never stayed in a luxury hotel in Bangkok until my most recent visit! A few months back, the Amari Watergate Bangkok offered me a complimentary three-night stay in exchange for some social media coverage, and I accepted it.

I really loved this hotel. And to be honest, having SUCH a nice place to stay made adjusting to Bangkok a far more pleasant experience than in recent years.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

I stayed in an Executive Suite — one of the top suites in the hotel. Executive Suites are enormous with a king-sized bed, plenty of seating, a separate sitting room with an office section, and a giant bathroom with a tub you could practically do laps in.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

Hello, New Best Friend.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

The room, as you can see, is nothing short of glorious. Some of the other room amenities include multiple TVs, fruit upon arrival (so needed!), coffee and tea, lots of bottled water, and a view over downtown Bangkok.

But what I actually enjoyed most was being on an executive floor and having access to the executive lounge, which was airy, quiet, and luxurious. Just being there made me feel like I was part of an exclusive club. They also have happy hours in the executive suite each night!

Amari Watergate Bangkok

November in Bangkok can be a bit of a mixed bag weather-wise, and there were mostly stormy skies — but that didn’t keep some people from jumping into the pool.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

Getting a nice massage is the perfect way to settle into a new time zone, and the Breeze Spa at the Amari Watergate is excellent. You can choose a massage to reflect your mood — I went with invigorated (dreamy, serene, rejuvenated, and energized are other options). Because when you can get a massage on the street anywhere in Thailand, getting a high-end massage makes you feel pampered. I found it blissful, especially with the tea and macaron served at the end.

As for other benefits of the hotel, the location was ideal — walking distance from Siam Square and my favorite malls, making it a perfect hub for my first-day-in-Bangkok errands. You’re near the BTS, which will get you all over most of the city, and if you want to head to Khao San Road, you can take a nearby canal boat!

There’s a nice-looking gym, if you’re into that sort of thing. I wasn’t quite motivated enough to go inside!

And on my first night, I was able to experience a brand new event at the hotel — a Thai street market-inspired dining experience around the pool! I spent my time hanging out with new Thai friends and pretending not to cry from the spicier dishes. (I think they caught on when they saw how many Thai iced teas I was drinking.)

So basically, my first luxury hotel stay in Bangkok was a really wonderful experience. If you want to dip your toes into luxury travel in Asia, the Amari Watergate is a high value choice. I couldn’t have found a better way to land in my favorite Asian city.

Essential Info: Rates at the Amari Watergate Bangkok start at 2,635 baht ($73). Executive suites start at 8,325 baht ($229). While these are luxury rates, this is very good value for money, both in Bangkok and throughout the world.

I recommend taking a taxi to and from the airport, but you can also take the BTS (Skytrain) from nearby Ratchathewi Station.

Many thanks to the Amari Watergate Bangkok for providing me with a complimentary three-night stay, including breakfast and a massage. All opinions, as always, are my own.

What’s your favorite way to arrive in a new city?

Kate in Senggigi

What does budget travel mean to you?

For some of my friends, it means downgrading to a three-star hotel instead of a luxury property. For others, it’s giving up their private rooms for hostel dorms.

Budget travel is unique to everyone. The broadest definition of budget travel is being financially conscious during your travels.

I asked my Facebook fans a question: how low-budget would you go? Hostel dorms? Couchsurfing? Never eating in a restaurant, ever? They had a lot of great answers and I’ve included them throughout this post.

Leon Nicaragua

Extreme Budget Travel

I define extreme budget travel — or what I like to call traveling “on the hobo” — as traveling while spending the least amount of money possible.

“I had some Couchsurfers come stay with me that are doing a long term trip with a $0 budget for accommodation. If they can’t find CS hosts they camp. One was sleeping in temples in Myanmar. He said his average is $5/day but oftentimes only spends $3. They also only hitchhike everywhere.” –Nathan

Accommodation? Free only. Couchsurfing or camping in their own tent or van. Possibly sleeping in churches, temples or mosques. Free lodging via working gigs. Hostel dorms if there’s no other option.

Transportation? Free or very cheap only. Hitchhiking or traveling in their own vehicle. If anything, an occasional bus ride or public transit.

Food? Cheap only. Supermarket fare or cheap street food. No restaurants, ever. Maybe an occasional takeaway kebab.

Attractions? Free only. In cities, walking around and taking photos, enjoying free museums and attractions. In the countryside, hiking and exploring. Forget about paying for a ticket.

How to get by? Working from time to time. WWOOFing, Workaway gigs, working in hostels or bars, busking, random gigs along the way.

And while there are occasional exceptions, the above is largely how extreme budget travelers spend their time on the road.

Here are some examples:

We Visited Over 50 Countries In Our Van Spending Just $8 Per Day

This is How a Guy Traveled Through Southeast Asia On Just $10 Per Day

I just came back from a 5-months travel. I’ve done hitch-hiked over 15 000km, and have been living as a homeless for pretty much 4 months.

Amman Skyline

The Pros of Extreme Budget Travel

Travel longer. See more. The less you spend, the more time you have to see everything the world has to offer. The price you would pay for a midrange two-week trip could grow into a multi-month extravaganza when traveling on the hobo.

Enjoying the same sights at a fraction of the price. Nobody charges you to walk through the piazzas of Florence, nor do you pay anything to enjoy the white sand beaches of Boracay. It feels awesome to look around and know that you paid far less than everyone else!

Expensive destinations aren’t off-limits. One thing I noticed was that extreme budget travelers don’t shy away from expensive countries. You find just as many extreme budget travelers in Norway and Australia as you do in Laos and India.

“Curiously enough it’s easier to spend less in expensive countries. It’s easier to say no to a $25 hotel room and camp, than to say no to a $5 hotel room and camp. In Europe I’d go camping and couchsurfing all the time out of necessity, but here in Asia I’d happily pay for accommodation, because it’s cheaper. But of course that adds up and in the end I pay more. I remember spending 6 months in the US and Canada and I spend $0 on accommodation. :D” –Meph248 on Reddit

Having more local experience. You’ll get to know locals more intimately, whether it means couchsurfing in locals’ homes, working with locals, hitchhiking with locals, or shopping at the local markets. Plenty of travelers will pass through the same town without having a conversation with someone who wasn’t a waiter or hostel employee.

The time of your life — on very little cash. You’ll have great stories to tell your kids someday!

“I did $5 a day while touring the Balkans for a month. I managed! -Free lodging and food by volunteering at a hostel (even had my own room at the top floor) -Free private beach access through a guy I was seeing -Free drinks every night at the bar across the street because the owner swore I was Serena Williams

That about covers all bases! Lol” –Gloria, The Blog Abroad

The possibility of extending your trip indefinitely. If you pick up enough paid gigs in between, you can keep on traveling forever. This especially works well if you pick up gigs, either officially or under the table, in high-paying countries like Australia.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

The Pitfalls of Extreme Budget Travel

Reduced safety. If you don’t have funds allocated for accommodation or private transportation, what happens when none of the Couchsurfing hosts in town appeal to you? What happens if your bus is delayed, you show up in Tegucigalpa late at night, and you can’t afford a cab to your accommodation?

Not having money for instances like these sacrifices your safety.

“I would never want to absolutely rely on couchsurfing for the whole of my trip. I couchsurf where I can but when I can’t find a decent host I book a hostel. I think when you get too desperate to couchsurf you end up pushing the safety limit a bit and staying with dubious people.” –Britt, Adventure Lies in Front

Just how bad can the result be? Read this heartbreaking post by Trish on Free Candie.

Missing cool activities and social events. You meet a cool group of fellow travelers and they’re all going whitewater rafting. They want you to join — but you can’t do that. And sure, you can walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge if the $300 Bridgeclimb is out of your price range, but would you go to Leon, Nicaragua, and skip $30 volcano boarding? What about a $5 wine tasting in a Tuscan town? And even if it’s just a $4 hostel shuttle to the beach, which all your friends from the hostel are taking, you’re stuck on the much longer 25-cent local bus.

Less exposure to local cuisine. Yes, there’s fresh produce and markets and supermarkets can be their own adventure, but if you’re making pasta in the hostel every night, you’re missing out on one of the best parts of traveling — the food.

“As a student in EU having a long-term schengen visa on a third-world passport, I think I have hit the bottom after sleeping at airports, night buses, railway stations, common areas of hostels. taking pictures of food in local markets and then coming back to cook pasta in hostel kitchen :-(” –Anshul

No backup savings. In the event of an emergency — say, you need to fly home for the funeral of a dear friend — you don’t have the cash to do so. Most of the time, travel insurance will only reimburse you if it’s a member of your immediate family.

Isolation and discomfort. If you’re not comfortable in your accommodation, you have fewer options and may be far from the city center or tourist zone. If you’re limited with money, you can’t just pick up and leave — you might need to stick it out for at least a night.

“Ive couchsurfed once and they tried to convert me to their religion so i just left.” –Christipede

No alone time. If you’re a natural extrovert, this probably won’t be an issue, but traveling on the hobo requires you to socialize with lots of people on a daily basis, especially if you’re couchsurfing. If you’re an introvert, you’ll have difficulties carving out alone time to relax your mind. (Camping solo is one way around this, however.)

Mooching off others. Conversely, depending on others day after day can wear away at you. Sure, you can help cook and clean, or play music, and you know you’ll pay it back to other travelers someday, but you might get uncomfortable having strangers host and feed you for free on a regular basis.

“It’s funny. I’m open to going extremely low budget. As long as I can be self-reliant about it. Meaning I’d rather sleep (legally or semi-legally) on an abandoned beach or in a corner of a park than ask for someone’s couch. This is strange, I know, since the spirit of travel is tied so intrinsically into the good will of others. I guess I’d rather rely on others for their company (and their rum!) and then slip off to my tent for the night.” –Bring Limes

Resentment. Is this the trip you had in mind? Is this even the kind of trip you’d want? Wouldn’t you rather be in a nice hotel room, eating in restaurants, doing cool activities, and not having to work every now and then? After weeks of depriving yourself, over and over, you could end up feeling resentful. It might not be worth the savings.

“I feel like [extreme budget travel] would detract from the travel experience itself. If I was wrapped up in my head worrying about money and a budget the whole time it would take away from experiences. I certainly don’t travel luxuriously, but I choose to travel within my means without missing out on things.” –Megan, Forks and Footprints

Blue Night Shadows

A Lot of People Think They Can Do This

I’m an avid Redditor but don’t comment often. What makes me comments are posts like these:

“Me and my cousin are going on a trip in 2015 for 16 months around SE Asia. we plan on visiting 19 countries in that time: Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri lanka, Tawain, Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan

We dont really know what months to go to the different countries and theres not much info online about it, so im asking you we kind of want summer all the time around. Also what places should we see in different countries? Im thinking that 12k USD will be enough for this trip? no including air fare, is that close to accurate?”

Oh God.

First of all, no, $12K will not be nearly enough. I really hope he meant $12K each, because even $24k for two would not be enough for a trip like that, especially with countries like Bhutan and Japan on the list. The only way it would be possible would be through extreme budget travel, and just the idea of traveling that way for 16 months makes me want to curl into a ball and hide.

I get emails all the time from travelers who want to travel as long and as much as possible, so they squish their budget down to the bare minimum. They tell me that yeah, they really want to see as much as possible, so they’re going to couchsurf and camp and they’ll be able to stretch their trip to as long as possible. I give them advice, wish them luck, tell them to buy travel insurance.

Some of them end up traveling this way — and have a fabulous, life-changing trip. Others end up miserable and return home much sooner than planned.

My worry about these travelers is that they won’t end up enjoying themselves on what should be the trip of a lifetime. I believe that far more people think they can handle long-term extreme budget travel than can actually handle this style of travel on a long-term basis.

It doesn’t help that traveling on the hobo is romanticized in popular culture, complete with scenes of waking up on a farm in Provence, harvesting olives all day, then having huge dinners with wine every night before hopping on a train to the next idyllic destination.

In short, it’s fun to travel on the hobo if you’re doing it for fun. It’s not so fun if you’re doing it because you can’t afford anything else.

Bike Lady in Ferrara

Special Concerns for Women Travelers

I feel like there needs to be an asterisk when talking about extreme budget travel as a woman. Just like there needs to be an asterisk with almost every kind of travel.

If you haven’t read Why Travel Safety Is Different For Women, please read it now.

In that piece, I talk about how women are attuned to the risk of sexual assault every minute of every day. It never leaves our minds, and each day we make dozens of micro-decisions for the sake of self-protection. For that reason, we need to be extra careful when it comes to extreme budget travel.

“extreme budget travel is a luxury that men can have I think. as a woman, I always need to have a little extra to get myself out of a bad guesthouse or take taxis rather than walk. I’m sure some women have managed it, but i wouldn’t feel safe on a low low budget. I usually budget $50/day with an extra $500/month of travel, although I rarely use it all. it gives me enough cushion to get a single room rather than share a dorm with just one man, etc.” –Lily

Camping alone or sleeping outside leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Staying in a sketchy guesthouse with a badly locking door leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Hitchhiking with strangers leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Taking public transportation in a rough city at night leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Accepting food and drinks prepared by Couchsurfing hosts leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

That doesn’t mean that women can’t do extreme budget travel — I know women who do it and love it. I know that some take extra precautions, like carrying pepper spray and a knife. And even then, many of them have done so safely; most of them have only had a few scary but ultimately non-dangerous incidents, like I have.

But it doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t there. You need to evaluate that risk closely.

Kyoto Apartment

It’s Not For Everyone

If you want to try out extreme budget travel and you think you would enjoy it, go for it! I’m happy for people to travel in any way they’d like, as long as it’s not harmful to others.

There are plenty of people for whom extreme budget travel is a great choice. And they’re a surprisingly diverse group of people.

My issue with it is that I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to live this way on a long-term basis. In short, it’s not for as many people who think it’s for them. So many people attempt it, burn out, and leave their trip with regrets.

Costa Brava Mountains

Short-Term Extreme Budget Travel

What if you only did the extreme budget travel thing for a shorter time? Say, for a two-week trip or just for a month or two out of a yearlong RTW trip? What if you just did it when you traveled in Australia and went back to spending more money in Southeast Asia?

I think that’s actually a very smart idea. This way, you get to try it out, reduce costs in the most expensive destinations, and see if you are interested in doing it long-term.

“I don’t mind dorms for cheap travel, although a few weeks is the max I could do that without at least a few nights in a private. I’m planning to couch surf and WWOOFing a lot in Japan, since I want to go for a while without spending thousands and thousands. I can’t live on that low though- it’s boring to only have enough to eat and stay in the hostel!” –Alexandria

Marigolds in Pienza

How to Maintain Your Sanity While Traveling on the Hobo

Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Walking a mile out of the way for loaves of bread that cost 20 cents less is the definition of insanity. Instead, reduce your big expenses like accommodation and transportation, or stick to cheap countries.

Travel slower. Spending more time in fewer destinations will majorly cut down your costs. When you spend longer in a destination, you’ll get to know the cheaper places, you’ll spend less time sightseeing, and your transportation costs will be lower.

Stick to cheaper regions — not just cheaper countries. Most people consider Thailand a cheap country but don’t take into account that the beach resorts in the south are MUCH more expensive than the rest of the country. Stick to rural, less-visited areas for lower costs. In Thailand, you’ll find the cheapest prices in the north.

Set up a separate bank account for splurges. Use it for special activities like seeing Angkor Wat, getting scuba certified, or having a restaurant meal in a fabulous food region.

Plan on getting private accommodation every few weeks or so. Just a few days in a room to yourself will make you feel so much better, especially if you’re an introvert.

Have a re-entry fund saved up and don’t touch it. This is money to cushion your return home. How much do you need? Depends on your situation. Some people like to have enough to secure a new apartment and pay for a few months of frugal expenses; others just need a thousand dollars or so. The choice is yours.

Don’t scrimp on travel insurance. Even if you’re committed to spending as little as possible, you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you weigh your health against saving money. Not to mention that it will save your ass financially in the event that you get severely injured and need an air ambulance to another country. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Leaving the Generalife

One Last Tip: Check Your Privilege

When you’ve been traveling on the hobo for awhile, there will be dark days. You’ll be down to your last few dollars and unable to eat anything but rice and pasta. You’ll be tired. You’ll be lonely. You’ll be treading water and you won’t know when you’ll earn enough to leave town.

This happens to all travelers. We all go through tough times, but extreme budget travelers are additionally vulnerable because of their lack of money.

Even when you’re at your lowest, it’s important to remember that you hold enormous privilege. You’re living this lifestyle by choice, and you’ve experienced far more than the vast majority of the world will ever be able to.

Don’t refer to yourself as poor. Don’t take food donations meant for the needy. And for the love of God, don’t compare yourself to the homeless.

Instead, practice gratitude each day. Be kind. Use what you’ve learned to create a better life for everyone you meet, both on the road and at home.

And if you choose to settle down for some time — whether it’s just for a few weeks or something more permanent — open up your home to vagabonds like yourself. Feed them, give them a place to sleep, show them your favorite spots in town. It’s time to repay the kindness that you’ve been gifted on your journey.

Have you ever tried extreme budget travel? Did you enjoy it?The truth about extreme budget travel

Laptop in Malta

There’s a question that I’ve been asked more and more often lately:

“There are so many travel blogs out there today. If I start, I’m going to be so far behind. Do I have any chance of making it a career? Is it even possible?”

A lot of people would say no — but I disagree.

I think now is actually a good time to start a travel blog. There’s more money to be had in the industry. Blogs and personalities become popular much faster. New social networks becoming progressively more prominent. In short, you’re open to a lot of opportunities that I didn’t have.

 

RELATED: How to Start a Travel Blog The Right Way

 

Here are a few tips from 2016 that did not apply to the space until fairly recently.

Chiang Mai Travel Bloggers

Know you don’t have to be the biggest travel blogger of all.

Just a few years ago, only the top tier of bloggers were making a full-time living from their blog, and only a few were making enough money to live anywhere more expensive than Southeast Asia.

That has changed. More people are making decent livings. You still see plenty of bloggers living in Southeast Asia, but an increasing number are living in pricey cities in North America and Europe.

A lot of new bloggers start with the goal of being one of the biggest travel bloggers of all. (Quite frankly, that was my motivation in the early days.) If you do that, you’re going to be chasing it forever. But if you don’t let fame motivate you — if you instead want to have a quality working career — you can absolutely make it happen.

Think of it this way: every TV actor dreams of having Viola Davis or Kerry Washington’s career, headlining a popular Thursday night drama. But you could also be a working actor appearing in small guest roles on everything from Law & Order to Brooklyn Nine-Nine to random commercials and the latest Judd Apatow flick, the kind of person where people say, “I know that face! What’s she been in?”

Those actors still make money from their craft. Many of them have a pretty good work/life balance as well. That’s something to keep in mind.

Kate Quaker Oats Murder

That said — most of the big names have slowed down their travels.

There was a time when the people behind the biggest travel blogs were on the road at least 80% of the time. That’s not the case anymore. We’re very tired.

I’m not going to name names because some people are keeping it quieter than others, but a great many popular travel bloggers have chosen to get year-round apartments with leases and travel far less often. (Most of you know that I am one of these bloggers, having moved to New York seven weeks ago.)

That means that if you have the opportunity to travel long-term, you’re going to be doing so in a way that not a lot of others are doing at the moment. That’s especially good for real-time platforms like Snapchat. More on Snapchat below.

Kate in Albania

Niche is good; personality plus specialty is better.

Niche is always a big discussion — people always talk about how important it is to HAVE A NICHE. You need to open that proverbial fly-fishing blog!

But in this day and age, I see it differently. I think the most important thing is to have a well-developed voice and personality along with a few specialties on which you can become an expert.

Alex in Wanderland, for example, has a specialty in diving.

Young Adventuress has a specialty in New Zealand travel.

Flora the Explorer has a specialty in sustainable volunteering.

These specialties are not the only subjects that these bloggers write about, so I wouldn’t go so far as to call them their niches. But they are areas that differentiate them and give them expertise and credibility. If I needed help with any of those subjects, I would go to their sites in a heartbeat. (Also, it’s worth adding that Liz didn’t even visit New Zealand until she had already been blogging, so yes, it is possible to develop a specialty on the road!)

This is especially important for all the women trying to differentiate themselves as a solo female travel blogger. There are a million of you now, ladies. Work on diversifying.

The most difficult part is developing your voice and personality, and that can only be done by writing, writing, writing.

Smartphone Challenge

Social media is more important than ever.

We’ve entered a time where social media can often eclipse the value of your blog. That was never the case early in my blogging years, but I’m seeing it more and more today, especially with Instagram.

At this point in time, Instagram is by far the most important social network. It’s widely consumed by “real people,” it’s prioritized by brands (translation: this is where the money is), and it allows you to show your strengths. A company may be more interested in advertising on Instagram than anywhere on your blog.

But this means you’re going to throw a lot of time and effort into creating a beautiful, engaging Instagram profile.

Snapchat is another big network on which I recommend getting started. It’s huge among “real people” and it’s still early enough that you can be an early adopter, like me.

Another place that can become a game-changer is Pinterest. Pinterest now regularly drives traffic to lots of my pages that don’t necessarily do well in search.

Other social networks are important. Some people swear by Facebook (and I do quite a bit with it); others live and die by Twitter. And by all means, yes, work on growing your Facebook audience in particular. But if I were you, I’d throw your time and resources into focusing on Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

Kate and Brenna in Koh Lanta

The time to get into video is now. Or yesterday.

Video is projected to grow more and more — a year and a half ago, Mark Zuckerberg said that he expected video to be the dominant content on Facebook within five years. I’ve said before that not doing enough on YouTube keeps me up at night. I just feel like I haven’t had to learn all the skills.

There is plenty of room to grow on YouTube — I’d argue that you can grow faster and far more effectively as a travel YouTuber than as a travel blogger. The time is definitely now.

FYI — Travel Blog Success is having a sale on their videography course this week. It’s 35% off. See below for more.

I actually bought the course last year but I need to make creating better videos a priority for this summer.

Angkor Wat at Dawn

I still mean it — get out of Southeast Asia.

This is one of the most controversial pieces of advice I’ve given, and I stand by it. Southeast Asia is tremendously oversaturated in the travel blogosphere at this point in time.

Is it possible to focus on Southeast Asia and still become a prominent travel blogger? Of course it is. You can stand out if you consistently create genuinely original content.

But most people who spend time in Southeast Asia don’t do that. They write “this is what it’s like to cruise Halong Bay” and “here are photos from my day at Angkor Wat” and “the best things to do in Ubud are these” and “this is how awesome Koh Lanta is.”

It’s good stuff, sure, and it will be useful to your readers who aren’t familiar with those destinations, but posts like those will not allow you to gain traction as a travel blogger. Major influencers will not be sharing these posts because they’ve been seen a thousand times before.

If you want to spend extended time in a cheap region, consider parts of Mexico and Central America (inland Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, inland Nicaragua), parts of South America (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia), parts of Central and Eastern Europe (Balkans excluding Croatia and Slovenia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, former USSR), and/or parts of South Asia (India, Nepal, Sri Lanka).

Because while plenty of people have written about those destinations, they are nowhere near the saturation level of Southeast Asia.

Bloghouse Mentors: Kate, Lisa, Cailin, Mike, Steph

Travel Blog Success Will Help You Grow Fast, Well, and Efficiently.

I push Travel Blog Success because it’s the best product out there. Why?

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  3. The Facebook community is the best travel blogging group on the web. Forget the giant groups on Facebook — the private Travel Blog Success group is the only place where I give out advice to bloggers publicly, and lots of other experts do, too.

And yes, I earn an affiliate commission if you purchase through that link. 26% on the main course, 15% on the others. But I only link to products that I actually use, like, and recommend. Always have, always will.

What do I always tell people? Wait until the course on sale. Because even though that means I’ll be making a much smaller commission, I’d still rather have you get the maximum discount.

Well, it’s on sale now. 35% off all courses. And since I last wrote about it, more courses have been added in addition to the main Travel Blog Success course:

  • Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards — A course on getting partnerships, both comped and paid
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The sale ends Friday, March 25, 2016, at 11:00 PM ET.

San Juan del Sur Sunset

Because yes: It’s still possible to make it if you start today.

I know some people will disagree with me, but I think that in many ways, it’s a lot easier to get started now than it was when I did in 2010. The market may be crowded, but there is always — always — room for excellent content.

And whether you’re watching a brilliant sunset on a beach in Nicaragua or sitting on your purple couch in your Harlem apartment (which I may be as I write this), the life of a travel blogger is incredibly rewarding. Each day, I feel so grateful that this is what I do for a living.

Note: the links to Travel Blog Success are affiliate links. I only use affiliate links on products that I actually use, like, and recommend. This course is worth every penny and then some!I think now is actually a good time to start a travel blog. There's more money to be had in the industry. Blogs and personalities become popular much faster. New social networks becoming progressively more prominent. In short, you're open to a lot of opportunities that I didn't have.

TURKEY CARVES KATE

This is a hard recap to write. This was a hard month in a hard year. I finally feel like joining everyone in declaring that 2016 was THE WORST, THE WORST, THE ABSOLUTE WORST.

That and I took almost no photographs this month. Oh, and the fact that this is a week late, when I am usually ON IT with the monthly recaps.

But as bad as this month was, there was a lot of good, too. Perhaps even some life-changing good. We shall see how it all pans out.

I’m going to be brief this month so we can put this nightmare behind us.

Iced Coffee Broome

Destinations Visited

Broome and Perth, Australia

Reading and Lynn, Massachusetts

New York, New York

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Stamford, Connecticut

Favorite Destinations

Perth is a really cool city — and getting time to wander on my own made it better.

Kate and Beth Canvasing in Allentown

Highlights

Honestly, I had a hard time finding joy this month. But there were a few moments that I really enjoyed: going to Parks and Rec trivia at Videology in Williamsburg (my team came in fourth, no thanks to me who was THE WOOOOOOOOOOORST), going out in Chinatown with my buds Jessie and Anna, and experiencing early voting in Massachusetts (where I’m still registered but won’t be for much longer) for the first time ever.

From a travel perspective, I enjoyed my last days in Broome and Perth before embarking on a very long economy class journey home (Broome-Perth-Singapore-London-Boston — and I do not recommend flying for that long!). And I had three seats in a row free from London to Boston, so I actually got to lie flat and slept FIVE AND A HALF HOURS on a flight!

I was home for my first Thanksgiving since 2009! I spent 2010 in Koh Lanta, 2011 in Istanbul, 2012 in Glasgow and London, 2013 in Chiang Mai, 2014 in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, and 2015 in Koh Lanta again. Turns out I actually do like Thanksgiving food after all.

Pretty much every conversation I had at home this month somehow came back to the topic of newly legalized marijuana in my home state of Massachusetts, which goes into effect December 15. I’m about to know a LOT of newbie pot farmers.

I Voted

Challenges

The election. I went into it with such high hopes. I worked so hard for Hillary — donating and calling and volunteering, even more than I did for Obama in 2008. My friend Beth and I went canvassing in Allentown on the day of the election and we ended up working with the local community mostly in Spanish (a huge thrill and one I’m happy to say we pulled off!).

Jet lag from Australia hit me on a severe delay, so I had slept from 5:30-11:30 PM the night before the election and just stayed up all night into morning, then went out to canvas. We had tickets to Hillary’s event at the Javits Center, but the crowds were so crazy we left and went to a bar decked out in Hillary signs in Hell’s Kitchen.

And Hell’s Kitchen quickly turned into Hell on Earth.

I couldn’t take it. Feeling like a zombie, I went home and fell into bed at 11, missing the worst of it. Then woke up at 4:30. I didn’t leave my bed for the next ten hours. Later that day, my heart raced for several minutes and I panicked, gulping air as hard as I could and feeling like I was drowning. I’m fairly certain this was the first panic attack I’ve ever experienced. Another followed a day later.

I didn’t eat anything for three days. Then spent the next three days eating nothing but junk: Easy Mac topped with crushed tortilla chips and Frank’s Red Hot. Triple chocolate donuts from Dunkin Donuts. Those so-bad-for-you soft sugar cookies with pink frosting and sprinkles from C-Town.

Then the recovery began. I wrote this post. I donated money to the ACLU and NAACP (I donate monthly to Planned Parenthood). I joined an anti-racism group in my neighborhood. I started following my local politicians, made call after call to Congress, and planned for political action privately.

For the record — my reaction was not just because my candidate lost. My reaction was borne out of genuine fear for our country’s most vulnerable: for blacks, for Muslims, for Latinos, for LGBT individuals, for women, for immigrants. For the wave of hate crimes that has hit our country. For our environment. For having a reckless president who doesn’t understand the job requirements and has already put our safety and security at risk.

I watched Bush get reelected in 2004 while studying in Florence, a pit in my stomach. Four more years of frustration and anger. But I didn’t feel a fraction of the fear I feel today.

This election was not normal.

Kate Wardrobe Text

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Rottnest Island

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Look at that amazing beach on Rottnest Island in Western Australia! Even more amazing? That was taken through a window. (Don’t take the bus tour on Rottnest Island like I did. It killed me that we had to take almost all of our photos through glass.)

Reading in the Fall

What I Read This Month

Narrative of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass — I haven’t read about Frederick Douglass since I was a kid, and today I live in a neighborhood where one of the main streets bears his name. It was time to dive into this memoir. To my surprise, this memoir is solely about his years in slavery; he didn’t write about his post-freedom life until much later.

And the accounts are heartbreaking. This is probably the single best account of enslavement, not least because Douglass lived slavery in so many different forms and different environments, all of them evil. From the mistress who taught him how to read then disowned him to him getting caught building a plan for escape as an adult, I found this to be one of the most difficult to read yet important accounts of this year.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson — I love Mark Manson’s writing (my favorite essay of his: Love is Not Enough), so I was looking forward to his book. This collection of essays is like an anti-self-help book, going against much conventional advice. The contrarian in me enjoyed that and much of the book had me thinking differently.

That said, like a lot of books I’ve read by celebrities and internet personalities this year, I found the book to be quite uneven. (As an internet personality myself, this is something that scares me about my own writing.) Some chapters were very good, especially the one about accepting death; others fell flat and the book took a long time to find its rhythm. I loved the vivid stories about actual people that illustrated some chapters; I wish there were more of them. Overall? Not life-changing, but thought-provoking and definitely worth the read.

Palm Trees in Broome

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance — This was my first book from the “trying to understand Trump voters” collection. Vance grew up a self-described hillbilly (a term he uses with pride) in Ohio with family roots in Kentucky. This memoir is a searing account of growing up in poverty amid substance abuse, physical abuse, and a rotating series of father figures, set in a mostly white working class town in decline. Vance escaped and went on to the Marines, Ohio State, and Yale Law, an anomaly to his peers.

I knew nothing about this segment of Americans, who are too often ignored, and reading about them gave me so much empathy for their struggles. That alone made it worth a read, and I’m grateful I understand more. It’s not a hardcore political read, so don’t go in expecting to read what explicitly drove people to vote for Trump.

Vance himself is a Republican. His conclusion is that the government can’t do much of anything to help people like his family because so much of their problems originate in the family structure. I don’t completely agree with him. I’ve heard of Family Intervention Projects in the UK where case workers regularly visit a family on a long-term basis, teaching everything from from how to cook simple meals to getting kids bathed, to bed, and to school on time. Years later, kids in this program had lower rates of anti-social behavior, truancy and substance abuse. There aren’t enough resources to provide this to every needy family in America, but I think a program like this would be worth exploring.

Hillbilly Elegy is a good companion to Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, one of my all-time favorite memoirs, which also tells the story of growing up poor in America. It’s becoming a movie soon.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — Even though this book got so much buzz, I admit I had subdued expectations for another slavery read, thinking it couldn’t compare to Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Was I ever wrong. Homegoing is one of the most epic novels I’ve read in quite some time, and I can’t believe something this rich was written by a first-time author in her twenties.

Two half-sisters in what is now Ghana are torn apart: one is captured and sold into slavery, and the other is married to a British slaver, remaining in Africa. Seven generations on each side of the family have their stories told in vignettes, one side in Africa and one side in America, bringing in topics from British colonialism and mental illness to living as an escaped slave and heroin addiction. The stories end in the present day.

More than any other novel I’ve read, Homegoing encapsulates how slavery may have technically ended but whites have found different ways to keep African-Americans enslaved in various horrifying forms ever since. Sadly, the people who need to realize this are the ones who won’t pick this book up in the first place.

What I Listened To This Month

Back in 2008, I went on my first solo trip ever — to Buenos Aires. While there, I hung out with an American guy named Louis. And while I always knew he was into music, Louis now is Kind Of A Big Deal in the music world — he’s part of the band Autograf. (Oh, and fun fact, loyal readers, he’s in one of those ten stories you loved so much…)

I hadn’t checked out his music until this month, but I watched the above video and fell in love with that song “Dream.” I kept listening — and now I seriously love all of their music. What a find!

Nuremberg Christmas Markets

Image: charley1965

Coming Up in December 2016

German Christmas markets, here I come! I’ve visited Germany around ten times or so, but I’ve actually never been during the Christmas season!

I’ll be spending just over a week in the Bavaria region, visiting Munich, Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Passau. (I’m now in Munich as this is being published.)

That’s it for travel this month. I still feel exhausted from my six-week adventure this fall and I need to seriously stick to my goal of cutting travel down to 25% of the time! I’ll be spending Christmas with my family in Massachusetts and I hope to spend New Year’s in New York.

What are your plans for December? Share away!

Solo travel has taught me about various cultures, people, and myself. It’s made me realize my capabilities and limits, and that people are innately kind, sometimes just misunderstood. I’ve gained many new friends along the way, most with interesting stories. It’s when I’m alone that the human need to connect comes out. Solo travel has taught me to be more open and spontaneous.

My favorite subjects to shoot are people and places. I walk a lot and sit and watch, and because I’m alone my schedule is completely flexible. It’s by traveling slowly that I get to interact with people in candid, more honest situations. 1

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda, which is believed to contain relics of four enlightened Buddhas, is in Yangon. At 99 meters, the tip of the gold-plated stupa is designed with thousands of hanging diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. The complex is huge with numerous satellite temples and Buddha statues. Just before sunset, I was surprised as volunteer sweepers lined up in two rows to clean around the stupa. At dusk, Shwedagon gleamed at its brightest, its light undisturbed against the dark blue sky amidst the busy shadows of people.

2

Interesting religious practices

Myanmar has quite a few interesting religious practices which I've never seen in other temples. In this picture, a lady reached for a cup of water and poured it on the mosaic-covered animal statue in front of a seated Buddha (and sometimes poured on the Buddha statue itself) which signifies good luck and good karma. In the background, the main Buddha appeared with lights of red, green, and blue emanating from its head, which is sometimes animated.

3

View from Pyathaya Pagoda

Probably the most famous town in Burma is Bagan. Divided into Old and New Bagan, it's most famous for its 11 AD ancient temples, and stunning sunset and sunrise view of these 3000 temples scattered in luscious forests and grasslands. This view was from the top of Pyathaya Pagoda and it offered a good spot with lesser tourists and more space. The sun touched the tips of the temples, their silhouettes of triangular forms became more prominent, their varying sizes and distances gave a stunning gradation of hues of orange. Everything else in the horizon appeared soft.

Intermission

33 places to swim in the world’s clearest water

9 places to visit before they change forever

17 images that will make you want to explore Iceland right now

4

Kakusanda Buddha

Considered the "grace" of Bagan, the Ananda Temple houses four standing Buddhas, the tallest and the most sophisticated I've seen in Bagan. Reaching up to the ceiling, these gold-colored Buddhas were carved in a shapely manner rather than angular. Here, the Kakusanda Buddha had a wall mosaic of intricate vine patterns made of glass which shimmered like diamonds inside a dusty old treasure chest. Devotees pay their reverence by kneeling and bending their heads to the floor, a common sight at every Buddha statue.

5

Thanaka 'makeup'

A mom smiled holding her “busy” son with wooden statues of deities and Buddhas in the background. These souvenirs are sold at the entrances of a few famous temples in Bagan. The flesh-colored smear-like paint on her cheeks is called Thanaka 'makeup', a popular and effective sunscreen (also considered beautiful) for girls made from the bark of Thanaka tree. I tried it, and it was more effective than the chemically produced sunscreens.

6

Sunrise in Bagan

A morning visit to the temples. We watched the sunrise in Bagan and headed to nearby temples afterward. Temples in Bagan are dim but the light from the sun is always interesting. Here, a boy who had probably just finished worship holds a rolled-up mat and looks at the day ahead.

7

Mt. Popa

Close to Bagan is Mt. Popa, a 1518-meter volcanic rock on top of which sits a white monastery with gold stupa. From afar, it looked rectangular and cut like a cliff, and appeared similar to Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka. Climbing to the top was made convenient by the roofed staircase, but the numerous souvenir stalls on the way up made the vibe very touristy. The monastery was not much of a beauty, but the 360° view of the lush forest from the top was the highlight of the day -- so were the menacing monkeys playing on the stairs.

8

Fisherman on Inle Lake

Another "must-see" for cultural education is Inle Lake. Stretching 11 miles, the lake is made of Intha villages composed of stilt houses. As we traversed from one village to another, we witnessed the unique way of local fishing: Fishermen stood at the edge of the boat on one foot, the other directed the paddle as one hand supported it, and the other hand held the bell-shaped bamboo net.

9

Market at Inle Lake

The village markets at Inle Lake sold various products like parasols, weaved materials from lotus plant, silver wares and rice wines. We took the lake tour for a whole day, which took us to the vibrant market where Pao people, in traditional red turbans and black tops, were selling cabbages, dried fish, beans and tea leaves -- among other items -- weighing them manually by balancing two rusty saucers tied by a string. This woman was putting tea leaves in a container when I approached and, as she probably noticed me taking photographs of her neighbors, she proudly held out her tea leaves to the camera.

Intermission

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10

School lunch

Further south on the lake, we visited a matchstick-like school beside a monastery for novice monks. Childhood memories filled me as we watched a kid reciting in front of the class, and kids with their tin lunchboxes hurriedly gathered at the terrace and ate together. It was heartwarming, the highlight of the lake tour for me. I would have joined them if I had brought lunch with me!

11

Back to school

After their lunch, we went to the wooden monastery where novice monks resumed classes. The kids referred to their books, some already worn out, and the room was filled with soft chanting.

12

Kids playing soccer

Outside the monastery, the kids and the novices were playing soccer. Hearing the chanting while watching this simple slice of life was peacefully enjoyable. We were the only visitors.

13

Gold neck coils

One particular village at Inle was unpleasantly memorable because of the controversial ‘human zoo’ practice of using long neck ladies from the Karen tribe for photo ops in the souvenir shop. Their necks wrapped with layers of thick gold coils were a unique beauty, but using them for attraction isn’t empowering. There were three Karen ladies on standby, and one of them instantly went for a scripted weaving activity when we arrived. These are the gold coils used by the ladies on display.

14

Lotus scarf making

Never have I heard of a scarf made 100% from lotus stems which, when broken, releases fibrous material. We went into a room full of weavers, watched as their hands and feet moved so fast that the clacks of wood and bamboo they used was like a symphony. The final product, the lotus scarf, looked rustic and beautiful in its natural light brown color.

15

Local hospitality

After the educational boat tour on the lake, we trekked for 20km in the mountains of Kalaw using a GPS. We had not planned where to have lunch when we passed by a big house where a grandmother was outside. Most people don’t speak English in this part of the town so I mimicked eating, hands to my mouth, and touched my tummy. She seemed to understand, smiled at me, and pointed up to her house. They cooked noodles with leafy vegetables for us and sipping the hot soup with tea was very satisfying. We were recharged.

Price of Travel have put together a “Backpacker Index” which breaks down the costs of visiting cities around the world. This research was formulated via the following elements;

  • One night in the cheapest bunk at the least expensive hostel with a good location and good reviews.
  • Two public transportation rides per day.
  • One paid/famous attraction per day (Every city is loaded with free things to do for budget-conscious travelers, but here we take the average cost of a major attraction in each city for each day.).
  • Three “budget” meals per day.
  • Three cheap, local beers each day as an “entertainment fund.” Non-drinkers might have dessert and coffee or attend a local music performance instead, so this is a general benchmark that should be proportional for each city.

While this data is meant for backpackers and budget travelers, the proportions will be nearly identical, so the list should also be useful to those with more money to spend. Here are the top 50 cheapest cities to visit in 2017.

1. Pokhara, Nepal

$17.95 per day

 Hotel Middle Path & SpaPokhara, NepalPeaceful place

2. Hanoi, Vietnam

$18.22 p/d

 Turtle TowerHanoi, Vietnam#history

3. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

$18.33 p/d

 pho chay nhuHo Chi Minh City, VietnamSmall, family-owned, dive restaurant. Vegan pho was delicious! #cheap-eats

4. Chiang Mai, Thailand

$18.74 p/d

 ศูนย์การค้าเทศบาลตำบลหางดง Hangdong MarketTambon Hang Dong, ThailandWhile most tourists flock to the big markets in Chiang Mai city, locals go to the small markets that are basically in every neighborhood in Thailand. In our area in Hang Dong we have at least 5! This covered market is near the police station and close to Baan Tawai, and the stalls sell local veg and spices, as well as excellent nam prik. #cheap-eats

5. Cairo, Egypt

$18.82 p/d

 Cairo EgyptAl Fagalah, EgyptOne of Thé most unforgetable times having an hour long trip on camel at desert near Pyramids was excellent #history#ancienttimes

6. Goa, India

$20.23 p/d

 Agonda BeachAgonda, IndiaLocated in the south (more mellow side) of Goa. Escape the cities, relax and recharge before you head back out to explore the rest of India and all it has to offer

7. Vientiane, Lao

$20.44 p/d

 Patuxay MonumentVientiane, LaosCool war monument dedicated to the people who fought for independence from France. You can go to the top and have a great view of the city. #history

8. Quito, Ecuador

$20.90 p/d

 San Francisco marketQuito, EcuadorThis is a local market where you can buy all the fruits you need. they also sell meats and other quick meals. If you are looking for flowers, you can purchase at this place as well. very close to San Francisco church and worth a visit. Very cheap eats

9. Manila, Philippines

$21.48 p/d

 Sofitel Philippine Plaza ManilaManila, PhilippinesEnjoy a day at the pool that overlooks Manila bay.

10. Yangon, Myanmar

$21.90 p/d

 China TownYangon, MyanmarNon stop Burmese Street market.

11. Kathmandu, Nepal

$22.23 p/d

 BouddhatanathKathmandu, Nepal#temple #buddhism

12. Hoi An, Vietnam

$22.29 p/d

 Hoi An Markettp. Hội An, Vietnamwalk the market and learn the locals way of life #markstravelingfeet #vietnam

13. New Delhi, India

$22.29 p/d

 Saravana BhavanNew Delhi, IndiaBest paneer dosa! Amazing South Indian cuisine. Don’t forget to try the thali.

14. Colombo, Sri Lanka

$22.45 p/d

 Seema MalakaColombo, Sri Lanka

15. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

$22.50 p/d

 Phnom PenhPhnom Penh, Cambodia#cheap-eats #free-wifi

16. Bucharest, Romania

$22.87 p/d

Romanian Athenaeum de Doru Negrea en 500px.com

Photo: negreavdoru

17. Sofia, Bulgaria

$23.78 p/d

 Former Communist Party HouseSofia, BulgariaDowntown Sofia is incredible during summer! Can’t wait for those sunny days 🙂

18. La Paz, Bolivia

$24.13 p/d

on the edge de Thomas Heinze en 500px.com

Photo: thomasheinze

19. Luang Prabang, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

$24.21 p/d

 Alms givingLuang Prabang, LaosThe daily ritual dating back to the 14th Century where Buddhist monks walk the streets every morning to collect their alms (food) for the day. Please observe from afar and don’t be like the ignorant tourists who flash cameras in their faces and disrupt the procession. #history

20. Bangkok, Thailand

$24.45 p/d

 Bang Khu Wiang Floating MarketBangkok, Thailand#newexperience #greatfood

21. Krakow, Poland

$26.13 p/d

You might assume that traveling to Asia during our summer months would be a perfect option for a beach holiday, but that actually not the case. June is rainy season in Asia. The website Price of Travel put together this informative list breaking down the best places to visit in Asia during the summer months. The top 11 destinations are pretty amazing. Check it out, and start rethinking that next trip.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. Bali, Indonesia

 Thomas BeachPecatu, IndonesiaUluwatu is home to loads of beautiful beaches. Thomas beach is a little quieter than most. You have to take the thigh burning stairs in order to get there, but it’s definitely worth the trek. One night a week they throw an epic beach party with live music. And you can also stay at the guesthouse overlooking the beach, if you’re ok with a shitty room. In my opinion, the broken sink and lack of pillows and blankets was worth the epic view. #beach

  • June avg high: 85F/29C
  • June avg low: 77F/25C
  • June avg precip: 2.8″/7.0cm
  • June is actually one of the cooler and dryer months here. One downside is that June is also one of the busier months of the year in Bali, as it’s a very popular destination for Australians on a winter break. Still, the nicer weather is worth it, and it’s still pretty easy to avoid the crowds in Bali if you avoid the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak beach area in general.

    2. Tokyo, Japan

     Shinjuku Gyoen National GardenShinjuku-ku, JapanIf you’ve ever thought of going to Japan, experience the ultimate in Japanese culture. Sakura season was an acci-coincidence for my first trip to Japan. And the people and country leftnits mark in such a beautiful way. #japan #tokyo #sakura #cherryblossom

    Don’t think, just travel!!

  • June avg high: 77F/25C
  • June avg low: 66F/19C
  • June avg precip: 6.5″/16.3cm
  • July and August are very hot and steamy in Tokyo, but June is still rather pleasant so it’s an ideal time to visit not only Tokyo but Japan in general. You’ll notice that on Price of Travel’s Global Backpacker Index, Tokyo ranks near Rome and Vienna, and is much cheaper than London or Amsterdam.

    3. Seoul, South Korea

     Bukchon Hanok VillageSeoul, South KoreaBukchon Hanok Village is one of the few areas in Seoul that transports visitors back in time to see what the city must have looked like during the Joseon Dynasty. This hilly district that flanks Changdeokgung Palace is made up of traditional Korean homes called “hanoks” that are now used as a mixture of residences, local businesses and cultura learning centers. I stopped to pick up a map by the small tourism office about a block from exit 2 from Anguk Station. It plots some scenic walks and the best spots to snap pictures of the ancient village with stretches of modern metropolis looming in the background.

    #history #architecture #views #walks

  • June avg high: 80F/27C
  • June avg low: 64F/18C
  • June avg precip: 5.2″/13.0cm
  • Since Seoul is even farther north than Tokyo, its winters are pretty brutal and even the springs and autumns can be a bit chilly. May, June, September, and October are by far the best months to visit Korea.

    4. Luang Prabang, Laos

     Royal PalaceLuang Prabang, Laos#history #travel #traveling #travelphotography

  • June avg high: 91F/33C
  • June avg low: 76F/24C
  • June avg precip: 7.0″/17.5cm
  • While the eastern parts of southeast Asia can get very rainy in June, Laos and most of Thailand is still reasonably dry. Actually, it’s more that the rainstorms are very quick and are usually over in less than 30 minutes, and they can actually provide some welcome temporary relief from the heat in the process.

    5. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

     Perdana Botanical GardensKuala Lumpur, MalaysiaPetrona Towers, impressive skyscraper.

  • June avg high: 91F/33C
  • June avg low: 75F/24C
  • June avg precip: 4.9″/12.3cm
  • Kuala Lumpur and nearby Singapore are not far from the equator and thus hot every day of the year. Still, June through August is the driest period of the year, so it’s also a bit less humid and more pleasant in general.

    6. Singapore

     EsplanadeSingapore, SingaporeA great place to chill and enjoy the laser show of Marina Bay Sand in the evening.

  • June avg high: 88F/31C
  • June avg low: 78F/26C
  • June avg precip: 6.8″/17.0cm
  • Singapore is small enough to see in 3 days or so, and that’s good because hotels and alcohol are quite expensive, but it all feels worthwhile. June is one of the better months to visit because it rains less than the rest of the year. If you are coming all this way it’s probably wise to also visit Malaysia on the same trip, since they are separated by only a bridge.

    7. Colombo, Sri Lanka

     Seema MalakaColombo, Sri Lanka

  • June avg high: 87F/31C
  • June avg low: 78F/26C
  • June avg precip: 7.3″/18.3cm
  • Unlike most of India to its north, the rains in Sri Lanka usually end in early June, so this begins one of the better times of year to visit. The beach towns along the southern coast are worth a look, but the national parks and nature sights of the interior hills are even better for a first visit.

    8. Bangkok, Thailand

     Bang Khu Wiang Floating MarketBangkok, Thailand#newexperience #greatfood

  • June avg high: 92F/33C
  • June avg low: 78F/26C
  • June avg precip: 5.9″/14.8cm
  • It’s definitely very hot in June in Bangkok, but it’s actually nicer than it is in the hotter months of April and May, so this is still a good time to visit. Interestingly, it’s the quick rainstorms that happen a few afternoons each week that bring temperatures here down and into a more pleasant range. You’ll notice the skies getting gray in plenty of time to seek shelter, so avoiding them is surprisingly easy.

    9. Chiang Mai, Thailand

     ศูนย์การค้าเทศบาลตำบลหางดง Hangdong MarketTambon Hang Dong, ThailandWhile most tourists flock to the big markets in Chiang Mai city, locals go to the small markets that are basically in every neighborhood in Thailand. In our area in Hang Dong we have at least 5! This covered market is near the police station and close to Baan Tawai, and the stalls sell local veg and spices, as well as excellent nam prik. #cheap-eats

  • June avg high: 90F/32C
  • June avg low: 75F/24C
  • June avg precip: 5.2″/13.0cm
  • You will get more June rainstorms on Thailand’s islands and beach towns of the south, so June is a good month to head north to its second city of Chiang Mai. It’s almost as hot as Bangkok during the summer, but it doesn’t rain much and most hotels here have swimming pools.

    10. Beijing, China

     Great WallBeijing, ChinaIt’s a drive to Jinshanling but well worth the experience of solitude with the remarkable 2,300 year old wall.

  • June avg high: 86F/30C
  • June avg low: 66F/19C
  • June avg precip: 3.0″/7.5cm
  • The air quality in June in Beijing can be quite bad, so you really don’t want to linger here more than a few days to see the highlights.

    11. Shanghai, China

     West LakeHangzhou Shi, ChinaHangzhou is my favorite places, amazing landscape and so peacefull. Typical ancient China garden. When you do your trip in early morning, you feel step into the past. Amazing experience. #gallery #free #history #statue

  • June avg high: 82F/28C
  • June avg low: 69F/21C
  • June avg precip: 6.7″/16.8cm
  • Even though June is quite warm, at least the June air quality is much better than in Beijing. This is a far more modern city with striking architecture and an extremely impressive infrastructure.

    Hotel developers are capitalizing on Sri Lanka’s beaches and jungles. Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle, one of the first, has amenities to spare.

    The World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism and Competitiveness Report was recently published. It shows the most expensive and cheapest places to travel in the world. The report covers the role travel and tourism plays in economies, an analysis of the industry’s sustained growth, work being done to preserve and protect local communities and the environment, and more. One of the most interesting sections of the report was the information on the top countries in the world for price competitiveness.

    Here are the 20 cheapest places to travel to right now, according to the WEF Report.

    Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

    1. Iran

     Zoroastrian Towers of SilenceYazd, Iran#Zoroastrian #dakhma or Tower of Silence on the outskirts of #Yazd in #Iran. Believing a dead body was unclean and would pollute the soil, the Zoroastrians placed bodies at the top of this tower and exposed to the sun and vultures instead of being buried in the ground.

    2. Egypt

     Cairo EgyptAl Fagalah, EgyptOne of Thé most unforgetable times having an hour long trip on camel at desert near Pyramids was excellent #history#ancienttimes

    3. Malaysia

     Perdana Botanical GardensKuala Lumpur, MalaysiaPetrona Towers, impressive skyscraper.

    4. Algeria

    Sahara Desert, Tassili N

    Photo: Dmitry Pichugin

    5. Indonesia

     Dusun BambuCihanjuang Rahayu, IndonesiaWonderful nature

    6. Bhutan

     Uma ParoParo, BhutanThey will take a little rice to clean their eating hand and put it on the ground . Then will proceed to eat . All ending eating at the same time . Great to watch . Ceremony like ! # lunch time # Bhutan # outdoors # travel photography

    7. Yemen

    Rock Palace de Csilla Zelko en 500px.com

    Photo: Csilla Zelko

    8. Kazakhstan

    Big Almaty lake on december. Water, ice, mountains and snow. de Roman Barelko en 500px.com

    Photo: Roman Barelko

    9. Tunisia

    Shades of White. Sidi Bou Saïd. de Bérenger Zyla en 500px.com

    Photo: Berenger Zyla

    10. India

     CHANDNI CHOWKGhaziabad, IndiaThis is my favorite #market . So life you can get all you need. This market design by Jahannara, princesses of mugal empire, daughter of shah Jahan . #clothes #souvenirs #bargins #cheap-eats #coffee

    11. Russia

     Moscow MetroMoskva, RussiaCheck out some metro stations of 1930s – 1950s for the bronze statues, mosaics and marble colonnades.

    12. Qatar

    City Center de Jurics Caba en 500px.com

    Photo: Jurics Caba

    13. Botswana

    Elephant Herd close-up on Chobe river de Vincent Andrews en 500px.com

    Photo: Vincent Andrews

    14. Laos

     Patuxay MonumentVientiane, LaosCool war monument dedicated to the people who fought for independence from France. You can go to the top and have a great view of the city. #history

    15. Mongolia

    the Camel Centipede de Coolbiere. A. en 500px.com

    Photo: Coolbiere

    16. Guatemala

     AntiguaAntigua Guatemala, GuatemalaStreet vendors on their way to set up at the Market

    17. Saudi Arabia

    Infinite de Kareem Alahdab en 500px.com

    Photo: Kareem Alahdad

    18. Thailand

     Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)Bangkok, ThailandThis #temple build by porselen. Beautiful and shine temple. Must visit

    19. Nepal

     BouddhatanathKathmandu, Nepal#temple #buddhism

    20. Sri Lanka

     Seema MalakaColombo, Sri Lanka

    Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)

    Lonely Planet

    Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

    Lonely Planet Sri Lanka is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Follow in the footsteps of Buddha and modern-day pilgrims to the summit of Adam's Peak, wander the crumbling ruins and lost cities of the cultural triangle in the heart of the island or explore undiscovered beaches on the recently reopened east coast; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Sri Lanka and begin your journey now!

    Inside Lonely Planet's Sri Lanka Travel Guide:

    Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - tea, cuisine, wildlife, history More than 50 maps Covers ColomboGalle, South, West and East coasts, the hill country, Jaffna, the ancient cities and more

    Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Stuart Butler, Iain Stewart.

    About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

    Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka (Vintage Departures)

    John Gimlette

    “Brilliant.” —The Daily Telegraph   No one sees the world quite like John Gimlette. In Elephant Complex, he ventures into Sri Lanka, a country only now emerging from twenty-six years of civil war. Beginning in the exuberant capital, Colombo, Gimlette ventures out in all directions: to the dry zones where the island’s 5,800 wild elephants congregate around ancient reservoirs; through cinnamon country with its Portuguese forts; to the “Bible Belt” of Buddhism; then up into Kandy, the country’s eccentric, aristocratic Shangri-la. In the course of his journey, Gimlette meets farmers, war heroes, cricketers, terrorists, a former president, survivors of great massacres—and perhaps some of their perpetrators. That’s to say nothing of the island’s beguiling fauna: elephants, crocodiles, snakes, storks, and the greatest concentration of leopards on Earth. Here is a land of beauty and devastation, a place at once heavenly and hellish—all brought to vibrant, fascinating life here on the page.

    DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sri Lanka

    DK

    DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sri Lanka is your in-depth guide to the very best of this beautiful and diverse country.

    Explore Sri Lanka region-by-region, from Colombo and the beaches on its idyllic west coast to Kandy and the Hill Country to Jaffna and the north. Visit Yala National Park to see wildlife, play a game of cricket, and take a pilgrimage to Adam's Peak.

    Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sri Lanka.

       • Detailed itineraries and "don't-miss" destination highlights at a glance.    • Illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights.    • Floor plans and guided visitor information for major museums.    • Guided walking tours, local drink and dining specialties to try, things to do, and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.    • Area maps marked with sights.    • Detailed city maps include street finder indexes for easy navigation.    • Insights into history and culture to help you understand the stories behind the sights.    • Hotel and restaurant listings highlight DK Choice special recommendations.

    With hundreds of full-color photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, and custom maps that illuminate every page, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sri Lanka truly shows you this country as no one else can.

    Series Overview: For more than two decades, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides have helped travelers experience the world through the history, art, architecture, and culture of their destinations. Expert travel writers and researchers provide independent editorial advice, recommendations, and reviews. With guidebooks to hundreds of places around the globe available in print and digital formats, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides show travelers how they can discover more.

    DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: the most maps, photographs, and illustrations of any guide.

    Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka Travel Guide: 101 Coolest Things to Do in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka Travel, Sri Lanka Holidays, Colombo, Kandy, Galle)

    101 Coolest Things

    Congratulations! You've Found the Ultimate Guide to Sri Lanka Travel!You are super lucky to be going to Sri Lanka, and this guide will let you know all of the coolest things to do, see, and eat around the country, in places like ColomboKandyGalleElla, Tangalla, Mirissa, Utuwatuna, Jaffna, and more.Why You Need 101 Coolest Things to Do in Sri LankaThis Sri Lanka guide will give you the lowdown on:the very best things to shove in your pie hole, from comfort food like Sri Lankan chicken curry through to the best seafood restaurants to get a taste of the Indian oceanincredible festivals, whether you would like to party on the beach or discover Colombo’s burgeoning arts scenethe coolest historical and cultural sights that you simply cannot afford to miss like monasteries hidden away in caves or museums that can teach you about the history of Buddhism in the country the most incredible outdoor adventures, whether you want to have a canyoning adventure on the Kelani river or you’d like to try deep sea fishingand tonnes more coolness besides!GET Your Copy NOW!Tags: Sri Lanka Travel Guide, Sri Lanka, Colombo Travel Guide, Sri Lanka Beaches, Budget Travel Sri Lanka, Backpacking Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka & South IndiaGalleKandyElla, Sri Lanka Holidays, Sri Lankan Food, Sri Lanka Festivals, Sri Lanka History, Sri Lanka Temples, Buddhism in Sri Lanka, UnawatunaNegomboMirissaTangalle, Aguram Bay, Sri Lanka Surfing

    The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka

    Rough Guides

    The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka is the most comprehensive and user-friendly guide to exploring this fascinating island country. Each chapter includes thoroughly researched travel information, hotel and restaurant listings, and thoughtful background on the environment, politics, culture, music and history, and a practical language guide ensures you can interact with locals. The full-color design combines glorious images to whet your appetite with a practical layout and dozens of accessible and accurate maps to guide you from the urban centers to the jungle, beaches and mountains.

    Make the most of your time with The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka.

    SRI LANKA Country Studies: A brief, comprehensive study of Sri Lanka

    CIA

    A brief yet detailed report on the country of Sri Lanka with updated information on the map, flag, history, people, economics, political conditions in government, foreign affairs, and U.S. relations.

    The Sri Lanka Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The World Readers)

    John Clifford Holt

    The Sri Lanka Reader is a sweeping introduction to the epic history of the island nation located just off the southern tip of India. The island’s recorded history of more than two and a half millennia encompasses waves of immigration from the South Asian subcontinent, the formation of Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Hindu civilizations, the arrival of Arab Muslim traders, and European colonization by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British. Selected texts depict perceptions of the country’s multiple linguistic and religious communities, as well as its political travails after independence in 1948, especially the ethnic violence that recurred from the 1950s until 2009, when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were defeated by the Sri Lankan government’s armed forces. This wide-ranging anthology covers the aboriginal Veddhas, the earliest known inhabitants of the island; the Kings of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s last indigenous dynasty; twenty-first-century women who leave the island to work as housemaids in the Middle East; the forty thousand Sri Lankans killed by the tsunami in December 2004; and, through cutting-edge journalism and heart-wrenching poetry, the protracted violence that has scarred the country’s contemporary political history. Along with fifty-four images of paintings, sculptures, and architecture, The Sri Lanka Reader includes more than ninety classic and contemporary texts written by Sri Lankans and foreigners.

    Top 12 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka - Top 12 Sri Lanka Travel Guide (Includes Sigiriya, Kandy, Yala National Park, Galle, Colombo, & More)

    Atsons

    Are You Ready to Discover & Explore Sri Lanka?

    “Top 12 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka” is an easy to use, no-nonsense travel guide showing you the 12 best destinations Sri Lanka has to offer. Packed full of interesting and useful information for each place, this Sri Lanka travel guide is the ultimate travel accessory for discovering this iconic country!

    Inside Atsons “Top 12 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka”:Sri Lanka’s top 12 best places to visit listed in order of importance.High quality photos of the top 12 places. Easy to digest descriptions of every place. Essential historical information to provide you with a better understanding of each destination.Recommendations of attractions and activities to give you a better visiting experience. The best places to visit include SigiriyaKandyYala National Park, Galle, & Colombo. “Top 12 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka” Travel Guide features:Easy Navigation: Effortlessly jump from one attraction to another using the interactive contents. Add notes to the guide for a more personal guidebook. Use bookmarks to save your favourite pages. A Map of Sri Lanka showing the location of every destination. FAQsThere are lots of travel guides for Sri Lanka, why should I get this one?If you are looking for an easy-to-read and straight-to-the-point Sri Lanka travel guide, then this is for you. All the destinations listed contain high quality pictures, historical and background information, attractions and activities, and are listed in order of importance ensuring you’ll know exactly which place you want to visit when discovering Sri Lanka!I’ve never been to Sri Lanka, will this guide help me?If you’ve never visited Sri Lanka or plan on visiting but don’t know where to go then this Sri Lanka travel guide is the perfect starting point. Sri Lanka has so many interesting and unique places that it can often be difficult to decide where you want to go. This guide is here to help you with that decision by giving you 12 breathtaking destinations to choose from, with the added bonus of the guide being a top 12 list so you'll know exactly where to start your journey.

    Exercise a high degree of caution

    The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

    Security situation

    The conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan army ended in May 2009. The island is now entirely under the control of the Sri Lankan government. The security situation has improved significantly since the end of the conflict. There have not been any recorded incidents of terrorist violence since the end of the war.

    The Sri Lankan government has lifted restrictions on travel, but identification is required at some checkpoints. The nationwide state of emergency was lifted on August 25, 2011. However, the Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act permits prolonged detention without charge or trial. Roadblocks and searches are occasionally conducted without warrant. Carry personal identification at all times and comply with government and security force instructions.

    In some areas, particularly in the North and East, there is a security force presence as well as a few checkpoints. Roads may be closed on short notice. Expect traffic disruptions due to security checks.

    Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times, monitor local developments via local news reports and follow the advice of local authorities.

    East and North

    Special security measures remain in place in the East and the North, including in the Jaffna Peninsula. Demining operations are ongoing; however, unmarked landmines remain. Pay attention to signs warning of mines and avoid travelling off the main A-9 road. Caches of weapons continue to be found.

    The resettlement of internally displaced persons is also ongoing. Reports of increased criminal activities and land disputes have been more frequent recently.

    Some Canadians of Tamil origin report difficulties, including arrest or detention, during screening and security operations. Ensure that you carry proper identification at all times.

    Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

    The 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be held in Colombo from November 15 to 17. Expect an increased security presence throughout the city and delays at the airport. Avoid all demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities. It may be difficult to find accommodation in Colombo during this period.

    Crime

    Violent crime occurs. There has been an increase in the number of violent incidents (assaults) in remote areas of the country since August 2011, primarily in the northern, eastern and central provinces. There has also been a substantial increase in harassment and assault cases aimed at Western foreigners. Petty crime such as purse snatching and pickpocketing is on the rise, especially on public transportation. Theft has occurred in hotels and guesthouses. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and travel documents are secure at all times. Credit card fraud is common. Pay very close attention when your credit card is being handled. Cash transactions are recommended.

    Women’s safety

    Women are often the target for unwanted attention. They should exercise caution when travelling alone. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.

    Demonstrations

    Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, as they have the potential to suddenly turn violent, and follow the advice of local authorities.

    Transportation

    Traffic drives on the left. Road conditions are usually poor outside major cities. Road accidents, often causing death and injuries, are common due to poorly maintained vehicles and erratic driving practices. Travel by bus is generally unsafe due to aggressive drivers and the risk of theft.

    Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

    Piracy

    Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

    Swimming

    Swimming conditions may be unsafe. Follow the advice and warnings of local authorities.

    Tourist facilities

    Tourist facilities are widely available but quality varies, especially inland. Travel to remote areas should be arranged through a reputable travel agency.

    Emergency services

    Dial 119 to reach police and 011 2691111 for an ambulance.

    Health

    Related Travel Health Notices
    Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
    Vaccines

    Routine Vaccines

    Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

    Vaccines to Consider

    You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

    Hepatitis A

    Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

    Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

    Influenza

    Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

    Japanese encephalitis

    Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.

    Measles

    Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
     

    Rabies

    Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

    Typhoid

    Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

    Yellow Fever Vaccination

    Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

    Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

    * It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
    Risk
    • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
    Country Entry Requirement*
    • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
    Recommendation
    • Vaccination is not recommended.
    • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
    Food/Water

    Food and Water-borne Diseases

    Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

    In some areas in South Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

    Travellers' diarrhea
    • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
    • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
    • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

    Insects

    Insects and Illness

    In some areas in Southern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, and malaria.

    Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

    Dengue fever
    • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
    • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
    • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

    Malaria

    Malaria

    • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
    • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
    • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
    • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

    Animals

    Animals and Illness

    Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Southern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


    Person-to-Person

    Person-to-Person Infections

    Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

    Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


    Medical services and facilities

    Medical services and facilities

    Medical services are below Western standards. Medical facilities in certain areas outside of Colombo are limited, particularly in the North. In the event of a major accident or illness, medical evacuation is often necessary. Medical transport is very expensive, and payment up front is often required.

    Keep in Mind...

    The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

    Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

    You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

    Laws

    Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict.

    Smoking and alcohol consumption in public places are prohibited.

    Homosexual activity is illegal.

    Exporting antiques without a proper license is also illegal.

    Photography and videotaping of government and military installations as well as in any designated high security zone is prohibited.

    Respect religious traditions and artefacts. Posing for a photograph next to a statue of Buddha is a serious offence, punishable by a fine or an arrest. Tattoos, jewellery and clothing associated with Buddhism may be considered offensive. 

    Carry official identification at all times.

    An international driving permit is required.

    Money

    The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). Most major banks will change U.S. dollar traveller’s cheques as well as permit Visa and MasterCard cash withdrawals. Credit cards are widely accepted in major urban and tourist centres. There are automated banking machines (ABMs) in major cities, but some do not accept international cards.

    Climate

    The monsoon season extends from December to March in the northeast and June to October in the southwest. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides. Typhoons usually occur between April and December. These storms can result in loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and can hamper the provision of essential services. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities. Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.

    The Department of Meteorology provides local weather forecasts.