Looks beautiful but beware.
The beaches of Sri Lanka are undoubtedly beautiful and on a hot day it may seem like a good idea to just dive into the surf of the Indian Ocean but beware as it is not as benign as it appears and there have been a number of drownings on various beaches all over the country. The most recent figures I can find, which are admittedly a little old, are that no less than 791 people lost their lives to drowning here in 2012 which is a fairly horrendous figure (see the attached webpage for fuller details). Apparently, the problem is very strong rip-tides and very quickly changing conditions.
I saw occasional beaches with lifeguard huts but none actually being actively patrolled by lifeguards and the advice is to always ask local advice before venturing into the water. Anybody in the hotels or restaurants will be able to assist. I genuinely don't want to spoil anyone's trip but it really is not worth the risk given the dangers involved.
This advice is also applicable to many individual beaches in Sri Lanka and I shall be re-posting this tip accordingly on various pages and make no apology for doing so as casual browsers may only look at one particular page.
- Budget Travel
Beware the serpent!
I realise that I live in a very cossetted environment. I come from Northern Ireland and I believe there are no indigenous snakes on the island of Ireland. The legend would have it that they were banished by St. Patrick but a more likely explanation is something to do with the last Ice Age and the fact that they just didn't get that far. I now live in England and the chances of running into a snake are remote except in very specific areas where we have adders and vipers, mostly on the South coast of the country. However, in Sri Lanka, like most Asian countries, they are a fact of life and, often, of death regrettably.
I should say at this point that in the three months I spent in that wonderful country, I only saw one snake, and here is an image of the creature. I was walking along the beach road (for which read track) in Tangalle one day and very nearly trod on the poor animal. The fact that I was wearing flip-flops (thongs) at the time did nothing for my peace of mind. He, or she, I am no herpetologist, scared the living daylights out of me. Fortunately, I had the wit to remember what I had read and remained totally silent, moving very slowly and deliberately away from it. I believe that snakes are actually very private creatures and will not attack unless cornered or provoked. Well, at least that is what I was hoping against hope! Looking at it now from thousands of miles away it is a wonderful creature but I would rather look at it behind very strong glass.
The image might look reasonably close but, believe me, it was at a great remove and using the extreme zoom function of my compact camera, I really am no Bear Grylls. OK, this is a fairly jokey tip here on VT but snakes are a major problem in Sri Lanka. I quote this from a reputable website, "More people die of snakebite in Sri Lanka than in any other comparable area", and the website is attached to this tip. I have no idea what this particualr beast was, and if any VT member could assist me as to it's species I would be most obliged and provide suitable adknowledgement here.
All I can say is that it was a, shall we say, "interesting" experience but on a serious note do have a read of what to do in the case of snakebite in Sri Lanka, you may be some time away from medical facilities. Snakes are a very real problem here and, although, as I stated, they are generally fairly secretive creatures, you need to know what to do if you encounter one. No point looking up the guidebook when you have been bitten!
- Budget Travel
Although there is a fair amount of emphasis about malaria being in the Northern parts I can't say I have come across a malaria area in Trincomalee. Howvever dengue fever is a real problem and that is rife in very urban areas like Colombo. Some areas have more mosquitos then others I have been given tips by other travels that a mix of garlic & vitamin B tablets are highly effective against mosquitos.
It begins with a high fever then a rash, vomiting, headaches, joint aches complete dehydration it is unfortunately a killer and there is no real treatment for it although you should avoid asprin. There is no vaccine against dengue fever so prevention is the ultimate protection.
In Europe 50% Deet Products are recommended although I have found these to be highly toxic in smell and taste. It is far better to buy some non chemical stuff locally like Soffell or Citronella Oil. Some Mosquito coils in Sri Lanka are generally cheap but your room should be well ventilated the smell is a bit nasty. Sleep under a mosquito net at night time, there are definite mosquito breeding seasons so check with your hotel and stay safe.
Most decent hotels should have mosquito nets a good idea is to take some plasters or duck tape to patch any holes also do let the staff know sometimes these are hard to spot. You can buy these mosquito nets that look like tents and fit most beds. I also have an electric mosquito trap bat which is quite fun.
Do bring your antihistamine after bite cream as it hard to find in Sri Lanka you may be sold some steroid creams.
- Family Travel
Ladies please do not fall for the moves of the Sri Lankan beach boy who appears to be madly in love with you he would have slept with another girl the week before. Unfortunately I speak from personal experience seeing this with my own eyes luckily I was no longer intimately involved with him but I must have counted 15 women in 2 months.
Anyway saying that if you do wish to have a holiday fling do take care also know mostly the man will have a wife but they really don't seem to care and if you don't that's ok. I have heard tales that will make your hair stand up on end seriously they believe if a girl is a virgin then no condom is required. Sri Lankans do not seem to have any sex education I think I have heard it is taught in private schools but not in government schools. I suspect they learn whatever from watching porn and think European woman are easy targets.
Make sure you pack condoms and insist they wear one or no hanky panky. Condoms like Rough Rider, Stamina or better choice Lifestyles are only available on request at the pharmacy, that's right you have to go through the embarrassment of asking for them. Do bring your durex brands the quality is sure to be far better then local brands. There is a morning after pill Prostinor available also over the counter.
- Budget Travel
Sad but true.
I should preface this tip by saying that I am in no way trying to denigrate the beautiful country of Sri Lanka nor it's most hospitable people. I have been here for just over three weeks at time of writing and have been treated with the greatest kindness and friendliness everywhere I have been. I most certainly do not want to deter anyone from coming here, indeed I would positively encourage any traveller to visit this amazing country, they certainly will not regret it. Moreover, I would hate for any of my ever-growing list of Sri Lankan friends (you should see my list of mobile (cell) 'phone numbers!) to think that I was doing their country a disservice as that is simply not the case.
Sadly though, history is what it is and there is no escaping the fact that this country was, until relatively recently, in the grip of a brutal and bloody civil war. I am not going to go into the reasons for nor the history of this conflict, the reader can find plenty of information on it if they so desire. This tip is designed as a gentle reminder to the traveller that, whilst I have found Sri Lanka an extremely safe country, they should be vigilant at all times.
I had read in my guidebook whilst flying here that Sri Lanka is approximately the size of the island of Ireland and I could not help but think about the parallels between where I spent the first 28 years of my life in Northern Ireland. A fairly small country torn apart by a civil war in relatively recent times and now hopefully enjoying a more peaceful time.
I am told that much of the (mainly conscript) Army has been stood down but I also read on the internet that there are things still "bubbling beneath". I personally have seen no evidence of violence but the security apparatus still seems to be fairly well in place. You will see policemen or soldiers carrying the ubiquitous AK47 assault rifle or the AKM (folded butt version) but it is not oppressive at all. A smile and a nod at an armed policeman will always be met in kind.
I merely offer this tip in order to alert the traveller to be alert for suspicious packages etc., although it can be difficult to tell here what is suspicious and what is not.
The first image is a sign I saw outside Fort station in Colombo, the second is a memorial to someone shot dead by Government forces not so long ago. Despite an extensive internet search I can find nothing about this man or the circumstances of his death. The third image is of one of the many war memorials I have seen commemorating the deaths of servicemen in the all too recent carnage here.
Again, I re-iterate that I am not trying to put anyone off visiting Sri Lanka, quite the reverse, but just be aware as you would anywhere.
Police for those danger times
Here we see the friendly policeman beaming away is it because Carolyn (carolondon) is such a charmer? Policeman have various roles in sri lanka beach pratrol where they sign the hotel books everyday and check safety on the beach as well as in fact taking bribes from those restaurants who do not have a liquor licence and are indeed selling.
Other police are traffic police you can usually spot them as they continuously where their white motorbike helmet. They too are corrupt and often your driver gives them a bribe so they don’t get ticketed which means they need to go to court. In fact there was so much bribery and pocketing by the traffic police that now a daily ticket quota is expected presumably the rest is kept as bribes.
There are police directing traffic everywhere if the country installed traffic lights there would be more control but how many people out of a job. They seem to love playing with pedestrians making hoards of people wait while really only a few cars go through is a pedestrian crossing not supposed to be mandatory obeyed for cars to stop the moment I step foot onto it yes not here in sri lanka.
Things to be aware of make sure your driver does not cross solid white lines they seem to leap out at these points. Also each town has one speed gun so once you pass that you can speed until the next town.
The police points these used to be set up during the unrest time of the Tamil tigers however many have been abandoned. Those that do remain love to check licences and id cards so if you are hiring a motorbike or scooter make sure you carry these with you. Also if you are travelling to the north and east coast do still take your passport with you as you may be asked for it. Also if you are a lorry driver you can be pulled over and your contents searched.
I have to admit that when it comes to tourist crime maybe a mobile disappears, bag snatching or some other crime they are very hot to trot. It does not give the station a good image to deal with these cases in a mediocre way. Usually though reporting the crime takes a great deal of time do take someone with you that can speak Sinhala especially if you are a lady men are taken more seriously.
And for the rest well they can be seen on the side of a steet corner swinging a club trimming the lawn.
The police emergency number is 119
Don't support illegal liquor trading
Obtaining a liquor licence to serve outside customers in Sri Lanka is hard to get and expensive. Please bear in mind that if you purchase alcohol from a business who does not have a genuine liquor licence you are supporting an illegal operation. These people purchase the alcohol from the store and are making a substantial profit as they do not pay taxes or vat.
There is enough corruption in Sri Lanka so tourists can make a stand by only supporting genuine places to purchase alcohol and stop haggling about the Rs40 difference in price.
These places often do not have their alcohol on show & certaintly are not allowed to have the benefit of alcohol company promotions or fridges so you may be served warm beer.
- Budget Travel
- Beer Tasting