Sri Lanka Travel Tips – 13 Things You Need To Know

Sri Lanka Travel Tips – 13 Things You Need To Know

Sri Lanka Travel Tips article is a must read for your Sri Lankan adventure.

If someone asks me to describe Sri Lanka in just one word, I’d say “green”. It doesn’t matter where you go but you will surely see a lot of green. The entire country feels like one massive national park and you’re guaranteed to see a wild elephant or two if you spend more than a few weeks here.

You must have noticed a lot of “green” pictures from Sri Lanka on our Instagram account, now it’s time we share more details with you. We spent close to a month here and we have some useful tips to share with you. If you’re wondering where to go for your next vacation, you must consider visiting this beautiful island country. If you end up booking your tickets, here are 13 important travel tips that you should keep in mind before visiting Sri Lanka.

Travel Tips for Sri Lanka –

01 | Visa for Sri Lanka

Unlike many other Asian countries, Sri Lanka doesn’t offer a visa on arrival. However, you can apply for an electronic visa or eVisa. An eVisa is a double entry visa for 30 days, which is usually enough for most of the travelers. The fee for an eVisa is $35 for all the countries but is only $20 for SAARC countries. Yes, India is a part of SAARC so I had to pay only $20 while San paid $35. I’d recommend you apply at least a week in advance. You can click here to apply for your eVisa to enter Sri Lanka.

Please be very careful in filling up the eVisa application because even a single wrong digit will impact your entry and you will be forced to apply again at the airport. I highly recommend you apply for your visa through iVisa to make things simple. If you’re a citizen of Maldives, Singapore or Seychelles, you don’t need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. For a longer stay visa, you can apply directly at the embassy.

 

02 | Do you have a Buddha Tattoo? Hide it!

Sri Lanka has a zero tolerance for tourists with Buddha tattoos. In fact, there have been cases in the past wherein tourists with Buddha tattoos have been arrested and deported. A few weeks back, a friend of mine was stopped by the police at Kandy railway station for carrying a bag with Buddha face but luckily she escaped trouble. Oh, and also, one of the pop musicians Akon was also barred an entry to Sri Lanka because one of his music videos featured a Buddha statue next to skimpily clad women. Back in 2012, three French tourists were sentenced to 6 months in jail for clicking pictures of them kissing a Buddha statue.

I’m not religious but it makes sense to me because some countries regard the usage of religious objects and symbols in ornaments or fashion as disrespectful. Don’t be an asshole while traveling and respect Sri Lanka’s culture. In fact, don’t disrespect any country’s culture and religion. If you have a Buddha tattoo, please hide it while you’re in Sri Lanka.

Read: 13 Unique Experiences in Sri Lanka

03 | Negambo vs Colombo

Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Negombo Beach – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Wondering why this point is even on the list? Well, because when you book your flight to Sri Lanka, your ticket will say that you’re flying to Colombo. In reality, it’s not Colombo but the suburb area of Negombo, which is a different place entirely and is an hour away from Colombo. Maybe it’s good this way because I didn’t particularly like Colombo but I definitely enjoyed Negombo. It is less stressful and has a massive strip of uninterrupted beach. Moreover, for your journey to other parts of Sri Lanka, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re in Negombo or Colombo because they are both well connected by a network of trains and buses.

On a side note, it was pretty funny because San booked our hotel in Negombo and for the first few hours that I was in Negombo, I thought I was in Colombo. It happened because I suffer from a selective hearing disorder and assumed that Colombo is massive and Negombo is a part of it.

 

04 | Tuk Tuk Scams

Living in India, I have faced more scams than most of the people and because of this, I am not easily “scammable”. Despite a lot of pre warnings, we were scammed on our very first day. Every tuk tuk driver quoted 5x the rate as we landed in Sri Lanka. How do we know it was 5x? Well, because we asked a few locals what should be the normal price for reaching our hotel. At last we finally found a tuk tuk driver who agreed to a lower cost, which was still double of what the locals told us. However, within a few minutes he stopped the tuk tuk mid way even though, he had agreed that he would drop us at our hotel. He started yelling and after a while, we gave up and ended up paying extra because we were very tired and just wanted to reach our room.

Don’t get me wrong, Sri Lankans are very nice, humble and honest but many tuk tuk drivers are not. Another scam that I encountered was how the drivers tried to convince us at many bus stops that there was no bus that was going to our destination in an attempt to get us to spend on a tuk tuk instead. By then, I had done enough research to know that they were fooling us. These scams are highly prevalent if you travel to touristy places.

05 | The Best way to travel internally is by Train

Picture this – you’re sitting in a cute train coach and everywhere you look, you see tea estates, forests, waterfalls, hills, monkeys.. and maybe even an elephant if you’re lucky. From time to time, you can walk around and even sit by the door and get lost in the beauty (but please hold the door handle firmly if you do).

Me enjoying a scenic train journey - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Me enjoying a scenic train journey – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

San and I sat by the door all the time and didn’t want to leave. We even bought a few snacks on the train and ate them as we sat by the door. I was such a “tourists” here and couldn’t stop clicking and making videos for my Instagram. Trust me when I say this, but this was the BEST thing we did in this beautiful country. Oh, and I must tell you that it was dirt-cheap. We traveled on a third class coach, which was comfortable and clean.

Nothing can match the experience of riding a slow moving train through Sri Lanka’s scenic hill countryside. It may not be the fastest way, but it is the most beautiful way to travel internally. Alternatively, you can travel by buses too, but you will not be as comfortable as compared to the train because the bus seats in Sri Lanka are very small. Oh and you should know that the train ride from Kandy to Ella is supposed to be the most scenic one.

06 | Where to go in Sri Lanka

Most of the people think that Sri Lanka is mostly about the beaches, but no they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, my favorite places here were very far from the beaches. Broadly speaking, Sri Lanka can be divided into four zones – the beaches, the hill country, forests and historical places. The beaches are pretty but it is the middle area that made us fall in love with Sri Lanka. Our favorite was the hill country, (Nuwara Eliya, Haputale, Elle, etc.) where everything was greener than the color green. We also enjoyed the forest area around Sigiriya and Pottuvil, where we saw a lot of elephants and a few crocodiles at a safe distance. Lonely Planet markets Sri Lanka as a “beach lovers paradise” but I think it is more of a nature lovers’ / forest freak’s haven. Anyway, I will soon write a post about a suggested itinerary which can help you plan your trip.

07 | Tap Water in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the locals were mostly drinking tap water but we stuck to bottled water. Although it is safe for them, but it may not be for you because it may contain micro-organisms that your body is not used to. Don’t take a health risk while traveling and please stick to bottled water. In my experience, the cost of bottled water was a little higher if you compare it to most of the Asian countries.

08 | Costs can be extreme (Low and High both)

Travel costs in Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Travel costs in Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

When we first arrived in Sri Lanka, we got a shock because everything was expensive in Negombo. Maybe it was because we were comparing it to India but even basic things at supermarkets were expensive. We did eventually find a few affordable eating options but there were not too many. Beach Towns like Arugam Bay, Negombo were definitely more expensive than the hill towns. On our train to Ella, we spotted a cute village called Haputale with breathtaking views, and decided to jump off here. It ended up being our favorite and the most affordable place in Sri Lanka for us. If you’re traveling on a budget, then you should consider spending more time away from the beach towns.

Read: 20 Travel Mistakes that can ruin your trip

09 | ATMs and Banks

After traveling to many countries, Sri Lanka was the first country where my ATM card refused to work in most of the ATMs. I tried many, but the only ATM where my card worked was at Bank of Ceylon ATM. I met a few people who faced the same issue, even after alerting their banks that they were going to Sri Lanka.

I suggest you carry a few US Dollars or Euros to be safe if such a situation arises.You can always head to a bank to exchange currency in case your card doesn’t work. Another important point to note is that most of the banks in Sri Lanka shut at 3 pm, which is quite early as compared to international standards.

 

10 | About Sri Lankan Food.. and restaurants are called Hotels

Sri Lankan Rice and Curry - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Sri Lankan Rice and Curry – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

One word: delicious! Sri Lankan food is similar to South Indian food but with very a mild difference. I fell in love with Rice and Curry meal combos, which were usually served with more than one curry, daal, beetroot salad and “Sambal”. Sambal (or sambhal) is a dry preparation of shredded coconut with red chilies, curry leaves, and a few herbs that Sri Lankans eat with their food. Sri Lankan roti is like India’s Malabari Parotta, which is my favorite kind of Indian bread. This roti can be shredded and mixed with spices, egg, meat or fish to form a delicious meal called “Kothu”. In fact, Kothu (or Kottu) is what Pad Thai is for Thailand – an affordable meal that is popular with backpackers. I also enjoyed egg samosas in Sri Lanka, which are very spicy and way different than Indian’s samosas. In smaller towns, a meal can cost around 100 LKR (less than $1), but can go as high as 500 LKR in bigger towns. I experimented a lot with Sri Lankan food and will try to write a full blog post about it.

 

11 | Drinking Sri Lanka’s Local Brew – Arrack & Lion lager

San and I always make it a point to try a new country’s local brew, so Sri Lanka was no exception. If you compare the costs with the neighboring countries, drinking in Sri Lanka is expensive. Arrack is Sri Lanka’s local spirit, which is like rum and is made with coconut flowers. (I didn’t even know that coconut trees had flowers!). We saw a lot of price and quality variations when we bought Arrack. At one time we spent 1200 LKR (around $7) but 2000 LKR (around $13) on another occasion.

The most popular local beer in Sri Lanka is Lion Lager and it costs 250 LKR ($1.5) if you buy it from alcohol shops. Of course it costs double or even triple when you buy it in bars and restaurants.

 

12 | Plug Points and electrical sockets in Sri Lanka

In most of the hotels in Sri Lanka, I saw two kinds of plug sockets – one with round holes (type D / M) and the other with rectangular prongs, which can easily fit UK plugs (type G socket). We didn’t carry a universal adapter and didn’t even need one in Sri Lanka. We were able to use our Indian as well as European plugs (both plug type C) in Sri Lanka without a problem. Yes, our Indian and European plugs had two spikes but could fit the Sri Lankan plugs without a problem. It is obviously recommended that you carry a good quality universal adapter so that you don’t end up harming your gadgets.

 

13 | Is Sri Lanka safe for solo women travelers?

Is Sri Lanka safe for solo female travelers - Sri Lanka travel tips

Is Sri Lanka safe for solo female travelers – Sri Lanka travel tips

I don’t have a one-word-answer for this. Although I traveled with San but I often met women who were traveling solo and didn’t face any issues. Sri Lankan people are polite and extremely helpful but I did see several instances of local men persistently trying to befriend international women tourists. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being friends but please be careful when they invite you for parties because there are enough horror stories on the Internet. Just like India, you will need to appear confident and at times intimidating to ward off trouble. As a rule of thumb, dressing sensibly, befriending other travelers for company and trusting your sixth sense will go a long way in keeping you safe.

 

Is Sri Lanka safe for Solo Female Travelers - Sri Lanka travel tips by Drifter Planet
Train Ride in Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka Travel Tips
Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Travel Tips by Drifter Planet
Do you have any points to add in this post about Sri Lanka travel tips? Let me know in the comments.
Shwedagon Pagoda of Yangon – fables, facts and tips

Shwedagon Pagoda of Yangon – fables, facts and tips

“Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple-spire.”

— Rudyard Kipling

Shwedagon Pagoda or Paya is the biggest and the grandest Pagoda in Myanmar. You will see many pictures of this famous landmark that has religious, historical and cultural significance. However, no picture can ever do justice to the real beauty of this golden stupa. It’s incredible that something like this exists on earth.

To help you make the most of your visit to this beautiful temple, we have divided this post into four parts:

  1. Interesting Facts and Fables
  2. Practical Information and Tips
  3. Features
  4. Area Around Shwedagon
The top part of the pagoda

The top part of the pagoda

Interesting Facts and Fables

It is built on a hill

Shwedagon Pagoda is called the pride of Myanmar and totally deserves that title. As you arrive in Yangon, you can’t help but notice the magnificence of this pagoda as it glimmers in the backdrop in the heart of the city. It is built on an elevated hill so you will notice it from a distance as you move around within Yangon.

The legend and a little bit of history

Legend has it that it was built more than 2600 years back and is the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. The Pagoda stores significant holy relics of four previous Buddhas. The relics contain a few strands of hair of Gautama Buddha, water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and the staff of Kakusandha.

As per the fable, two brothers from ancient city Balkh (present day Afghanistan) got the opportunity to meet Lord Gautama Buddha when he was alive and received eight of the Buddha’s hairs. The brothers traveled to Myanmar (then known as Burma) and found Singuttara Hill with the help of the King Okkalapa of Burma. This is where the relics of other Buddhas previous to Gautama Buddha had been preserved.

Destruction, Damages and Restoration

Several kings and queens of Burma had a role to play in raising the height of the stupa. The pagoda survived many earthquakes but the biggest damage was caused by an earthquake in 1768 that brought down the top of the pagoda. King Hsinbyushin later raised it to its current height of 99 m (325 ft).

Golden Shwedagon Pagoda at Night - Things to do in Yangon by DrifterPlanet.Com

Golden Shwedagon Pagoda at Night

About All that glitters

This 325ft (99 meters) stupa that’s plated with 8688 sheets of gold, shimmers in the day light and sparkles when it’s dark – is indeed a sight to behold!  Oh and by the way, it is studded with more than 7000 diamonds and precious gems like rubies, sapphires, topaz along with a massive piece of emerald. It is said that the emerald bounces of the last rays of the sun as it sets. The crown is topped by a diamond bud called ‘sein bu’ which carries a 74-carat diamond.

 

Practical Information and Tips

How to reach

The best way to reach is by a local bus. Stand on one of the bus terminals and ask the bus driver. Even if they don’t know English, they will be able to understand the words “Shwedagon Pagoda” and will nod so that you can enter. The bus ticket was only MMK 100.

You can also hire a taxi from anywhere in the city.

What to wear

It is an unwritten rule about not wearing shorts while visiting a temple in South East Asia, but to my surprise, I saw a few tourists who appeared to be unaware. Well, no problem! At the entry area, if they notice that a visitor is wearing shorts, they don’t let them enter till they buy the traditional Burmese sarong like dress – longyi.

San was wearing long shorts that covered his knees but even he had to buy a longyi. It was funny that it happened right after we exchanged meaningful looks when some other tourists got stopped by the guards for wearing really short shorts.

Sandro buying his longyi outside Shwedagon Pagoda

Sandro buying his longyi outside Shwedagon Pagoda

Opening Hours and Best Time to Visit

The opening hours are 6 am to 10 pm. If you’re an early riser, then do visit when it’s still dark so that you can see a magnificent sunrise. However, for lazy people like me, the best time to visit this is 4 pm so that you can enjoy it in daylight, watch the sunset and see how it glitters when the darkness descends.

Shwedagon Pagoda Complex Night - Things to do in Yangon by DrifterPlanet.com

Shwedagon Pagoda Complex Night

Entry Fee

The entry charge for this pagoda is MMK 8000 for a day for per international visitor.

Shoes

Me carrying my flipflops with me in a bag at Shwedagon Pagoda

Me carrying my flipflops with me in a bag at Shwedagon Pagoda

Wear shoes that are “pagoda ready”, i.e., easy to remove. Do what the locals do and bring a carry bag with you for your shoes.

Toilets

There are no toilets in the main temple area. We asked a few guards and they told us to climb down the stair case till mid-way. We saw a few arrows that led us to the toilet area. However, we were not allowed to wear our flip flops inside the toilets, but to my surprise, the floor was sparkling clean.

Features

Entrances:

There are four entrances with stairs that lead to Singuttara Hill where the temple is built. Two giant mythical lion like creatures (leogryphs) guard each entrance. These stair cases are full of vendors that sell Buddha idols, tiny paper unbrellas, flowers, good luck charms and many other souvenirs.

Planetary Posts and Day Shrines

The Shrine at Wednesday or Rahu Corner at Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shrine at Wednesday or Rahu Corner at Shwedagon Pagoda

This octagonal base of this Pagoda has a post on each corner depicting the day of the week. Wednesday is divided into two shrines for am and pm. Most of the visitors pray at the shrine that represents the day of their birth.

Bells

Bell Inside Shwedagon Pagoda

Bell Inside Shwedagon Pagoda

There are 1485 bells inside this pagoda – ranging from different sizes and weights. It’s beautiful when so many of them chime together in the evening as the sun begins to set. Shwedagon once had the Great Bell of Dhammazedi – the largest bell to have existed in the recorded history. However, it was stolen by a Portuguese warlord. However, his ship sank due to the weight of the bell.

Bodhi Tree

Bodhi Tree of Shwedagon Pagoda

Bodhi Tree of Shwedagon Pagoda

There is a 150 year old Bodhi tree which is said to be a descendant from a seedling from the original Bodhi tree under which Gauram Buddha gained enlightenment. The original one was in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India.

The backside

The backside of Shwedagon Pagoda

The backside of Shwedagon Pagoda

The pagoda looks beautiful from every angle. However, we spent the maximum time at the back area where it was pretty much empty and it proved to be an excellent corner for photos. We also noticed a massive gong here.

The Base of the Pagoda

The base is made with bricks and we saw a monk walking on it. Do you see that little dot in the picture? Yup that’s a monk. It kind of tells you about the size of this pagoda in comparison.

Monk Walking on Shwedagon Pagoda's Base

Monk Walking on Shwedagon Pagoda’s Base

 

Candles at night

Candles around Shwedagon Pagoda

Candles around Shwedagon Pagoda

As the darkness descends, many devotees light up thousands of lamps and candles all around this pagoda. It is a sight to behold.

 

The Area Around Shwedagon

Outside Shwedagon Pagoda

Outside Shwedagon Pagoda – can you see the lion guards at the entry?

The streets around Shwedagon are full of color with many roadside eating places, tea shops, temples, flower shops, fruit shops, carpenters and Dagon Beer stations.

Where to go before Shwedagon

If you arrive early, we suggest you explore the small streets around Shwedagon and spend time eating, drinking tea and clicking some memorable pictures. Moreover, there are many parks around this temple where you can relax in the shade of trees to escape from Yangon’s heat. You can also visit Kyay Thone Pagoda on Gyar Tawya Street and check out the artifacts on display inside.

Where to go after Shwedagon

Kandawgyi Lake is walking distance from Shwedagon Pagoda and it offers stunning views of this glittering stupa at night. Alternatively, you can take a taxi and head to Inya lake. You will find many lakeside restaurants in both these places where you can go for dinner and drinks. I found the restaurants in the Kandawgyi Lake complex to be a little pricier as compared to the ones on Inya Lake banks.

You might also like:

Things to do in Yangon

Myanmar Travel Tips – 15 Things you need to know

Ngwe Saung Beach – white sand beach destination near Yangon with pagodas on the beach

Pin to save the post for later

Shwedagon Pagoda at night by DrifterPlanet.com

Shwedagon Pagoda – everything you need to know before visiting

Have you visited Shwedagon Pagoda and have some of your own tips to add? Let us know in the comments section!

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

20 Travel Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Trip

20 Travel Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Trip

Whether you’re a full time traveler or a weekend tripper – at one point or the other, you are bound to make a travel mistake. We all do! While some mistakes can teach you what not to do, the others can seriously f*uck up your trip. Here is a list of travel mistakes that you should definitely avoid, so that you don’t end up ruining your trip:

1) Planning Too Many Things

While it’s good to have a general idea about what you want to do but planning your schedule from breakfast to nightcap can end up limiting your experience. Moreover, you risk missing out on places that no one wrote about on the internet.

Xam - Travel Mistakes by Drifter Planet

A packed itinerary can end up restricting you – Photo by Xam Julliarde

2) No Proper Research

Are you aware that there are many people that are denied to board their flights or are turned away from immigration because of things like passport expiry date in less than six months or not having booked a return ticket?  Even if you hold a passport that doesn’t require a visa for your destination country, you NEED to do some basic level research. Reaching the wrong airport terminal or not knowing about the scarcity of ATMs – these are situations that can be avoided if you read a few destination specific travel tips such as these travel tips about Myanmar or these tips about visiting New Delhi.

3) Not Buying Travel Insurance

While on the road, you never know what may happen.  Invest in a good travel insurance plan to guard you against thefts, lost baggage or medical emergencies.

4) Not Taking Vaccinations Seriously

There’s no better way to ruin your trip than getting a bout of flu on the road. Do take your vaccinations seriously to avoid such situations. Do you know that there are a few countries that you can’t enter without getting vaccinated?

5) Not Being Careful About Shampoo Caps

Let’s face it – this has happened to all of us at least once. This little “accident” can mess up your trip if your gadgets are in the same bag as your toiletries! This can be prevented by letting out extra air in the bottle, covering the bottle opening with two plastic bags and putting each product in its own zip lock bag.

Nomadic Boys - Travel Mistakes by Drifter Planet

A shampoo bottle leak can totally destroy your gadgets and your mood. Photo by Nomadic Boys

6) Over packing

I know it’s difficult to not pack all your favorite clothes but think about how much weight you will have to carry around if you don’t do this smartly. Additionally, your heavy luggage will restrict you from doing a few things, like what happened with me in Railay!

7) Not Alerting Your Bank before You Travel

If you try to use an ATM located in a new country without alerting your bank, it may appear to them as suspicious activity and they may just block your card. A few minutes of prework can save you hours of pain if you get stranded without money.

8) Not keeping enough time between connections (Flights / Buses / Trains / Boats, etc.)

Back in December 2014, I barely made it to Don Muang Airport from Suvarnabhumi Airport for my next flight because of a bad traffic situation. As I fidgeted nervously on my shuttle seat on the way, I cursed myself for not keeping enough time between these two flights. I was lucky that I made it on time but I promised myself not to take such risks going forward. It’s uncertain because of immigration delays, traffic jams or arriving at the wrong terminal. Don’t do it.

Keep Enough Time Between Connections - Travel Mistakes by Drifter Planet

Not keeping enough time between connections can sometimes go wrong

9) Keeping all your money in one place

If you keep all your money together, then you’re making things easy for the thieves. Do keep some emergency funds in a few secret spots in your hand luggage.

10) Drinking Tap Water

The fastest way to fall sick is by drinking unsafe water. In many countries, tap water may suit some locals because their stomach is immune to it but not you. Be safe and drink bottled water. Check out this infographic that will guide you where it’s safe to drink tap water.

Tap Water Travel Mistakes by Drifter Planet

Not all countries can guarantee clean, safe tap water.

11) Picking a Wrong Travel Companion

Traveling with someone who has a habit of cribbing, whining and being judgmental can turn your experience into hell. I recommend you check out this post about picking the right travel buddy, or just travel solo.

12) Not Carrying Comfortable Shoes

Your feet will hate you if you don’t carry at least ONE pair of comfortable shoes. Make them happy, because they have to take you everywhere! Even if you’re going for a bachelorette trip to a resort, you need comfortable shoes. I usually carry only one pair of flip flops and one pair of super comfortable flat sandals. I add on a pair of trekking shoes / ninja boots depending on the destination.

13) Being Clueless About the Local Laws

Yes, you may be from a country where it’s walk around with a can of beer in public and drink it, but in several other countries, you can get arrested for this! Do you want to spend a night (or more) behind the bars for this lack of knowledge about the local laws?

Travel Mistakes by Drifter Planet

Being clueless about the local laws can sometimes lead you into trouble. Photo – Santosh Kumar

14) Getting into a Fight with the Locals

This is common sense but I see it happening very often, especially when people get drunk. Do not ever get into a fight with a local wherever you are. You don’t want that local to bring a group of his friends to gang up against you.

15) Indulging in Unprotected Sex

This will cause you a lot of stress afterwards that will ruin your mood. You don’t want unwanted sexually transmitted infections or a pregnancy. Carry protection! You never know when you need it.

16) Getting Extremely Drunk and Overdosing on “YOLO”

Who doesn’t like a good party? I definitely do! I like drinking too! However, too much of anything is never good. I have seen many travelers that seriously injure themselves or do something stupid after getting drunk in a new country. Remember my post about the Full Moon Party of Koh Phangan where I wrote about people getting drunk and injuring themselves doing fire tricks? You don’t want to be that person.

Travel Mistakes Fire Dance when drunk

Playing with fire when you’re drunk is a bad idea !

17) Being on Your Smartphone Most of the Time

Not only do I see many people who see the beauty of their surrounding mostly through the lenses of their smart phones, but also people that spend a lot of time checking their social media accounts while their partner enjoys their meal or the view alone. Your Instagram or Facebook will still be there when you’re home but this view won’t be. Do click some good photos for memories but try not to be an obsessive photographer.

18) Not Backing Up Your Photos

How many times have you heard of incidents where people lose all their travel photos ? Well, carry a pen drive to back them up. Or better, save them on cloud! Nowadays, most of the gadgets have this option. Unless you have an unlimited 3G plan, I recommend you select the option of auto backup only when there’s a WiFi connection.

 19) Not Setting a Realistic Travel Budget

Traveling costs money. You may run out of money in the middle of your holiday if you don’t set a correct budget for your trip. Airfare, buses and hostels are obvious, but you must consider smaller expenses such as ATM surcharges, camp ground fee, etc., to set an accurate travel budget. Set a correct budget so that you know how much to spend per day on an average.

20) Traveling With a Bad Attitude

Even if you’re not making any of the above mentioned mistakes, you WILL end up ruining your trip if you travel with a bad attitude. Don’t let little things bother you. Travel with the right attitude, enjoy the local culture, different food and even long queues on a day with bad weather. You’re lucky if you’re traveling. Smile!

Have you ever made a travel mistake? Let us know in the comments section.

20 Travel Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Trip by Drifter Planet

20 Travel Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Trip

Pin to save the post for later

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Myanmar Travel Tips – 15 Things to Know Before Visiting Burma

Myanmar Travel Tips – 15 Things to Know Before Visiting Burma

Breathtaking temples, mysterious ruins, virgin beaches, river deltas and exotic culture – Myanmar has it all! Yet, it is one of the least visited countries in South East Asia – which is why it is usually tough for travelers to find sufficient Myanmar Travel Tips prior to their visit.

Myanmar (formally known as Burma) has been somewhat isolated under a military dictatorship until recently but is now undergoing political changes and opening up to tourism. If you’re planning on visiting South East Asia, I urge you to give Myanmar a chance. To help you plan your trip, I am sharing Myanmar travel tips consisting of things I learned before and during my trip.

1) Embassy Visa vs eVisa

Myanmar Travel Tips - Myanmar visa

Myanmar Travel Tips – Myanmar visa

An eVisa for Myanmar costs around USD 50, whereas a direct visa application to the Myanmar Embassy will cost you around USD 17-25. Of course, we chose the latter! We applied from New Delhi and had to visit the embassy THREE times because of some confusion. At one point, I also printed a page from their website to show them one particular paragraph. It made me wonder if I would have saved myself many precious hours by applying for an eVisa? Anyway, you can check iVisa for visa requirements, info and more details for obtaining a visa for Myanmar. We did use their service for applying for an eVisa for India (for San) after wasting many painful hours on Indian government’s visa website. Yes, they charged a little fee but we ended up saving our precious time while we were island hopping in the Philippines.

2) Research about the permits

Many areas in Myanmar are restricted to tourism and you need a government permit to enter them. These permits can usually be arranged by a travel agent for an expensive fee. Research well in advance and look for the most updated information because the situation is changing very fast.

3) Book your hotel beforehand

Myanmar has only a limited budget accommodation options that sell out months in advance. We booked the cheapest room we could find in Yangon a month in advance. It was a basic room with a shared toilet for which we paid USD 20. However, we arrived at Ngwe Saung without a booking. The cheapest we found was USD 55 per night for a tent on the beach.

Our fancy tent for USD 55 per night in Ngwe Saung

Our fancy tent for USD 55 per night in Ngwe Saung

4) Carry crisp US Dollar Bills in various denominations

Legally, it is not possible to buy Myanmar’s currency overseas. Carry USDs since it is the most preferred currency there and is easy to exchange almost everywhere. Make sure you carry clean bills because many people refuse to accept the ones that look slightly old. Higher denomination bills with fetch you a better exchange rate.

5) The Thing About Withdrawing Cash from ATMs

Although there are many ATMs in big cities, they are not very reliable due to power shortages. Carry cash while visiting smaller areas. Moreover, there’s a transaction fee of USD 3-5 per ATM withdrawal on international cards. Make sure you alert your bank beforehand so that your card doesn’t get blocked when you try to withdraw cash in Myanmar. A few high end establishments accept credit cards but get ready to pay a 3-5% transaction fee.

6) Phone and Internet

My Telenor microsim in Mynmar with good 3G - costed me only 12k MMK

My Telenor microsim in Mynmar with good 3G – costed me only 12k MMK

Do yourself a favor and buy a Telenor SIM card with 3G at the airport. I bought one for MMK 12,000 kyats (Roughly USD 9) that lasted my entire trip without a single recharge. The 3G speed was pretty good and was faster than the WiFi that we experienced in an internet cafe in Yangon.

7) No need to carry a lot of toiletries

Our basic toilet supplies in our budget hotel

Our basic toilet supplies in our budget hotel

Unless you have specific needs, I’d advise you against carrying too many toiletries. Even our most simple hostels provided us with toothbrushes, toothpastes, super clean towels, shampoo, soap, etc. Moreover the supermarkets in Myanmar had most of the common brands such as Nivea and Vaseline at half the prices.

8) Wear shoes that are easy to remove

Myanmar is full of beautiful pagodas that are everywhere – even on beaches! Visit as many as you can because they are lovely. Even if you’re not into temples – you WILL want to visit them to admire their stunning architecture. Wear shoes that are “pagoda ready” and are easy to remove because you will need to enter barefoot.

9) Carry a plastic bag for your shoes

Myanmar Travel Tips - Me carrying my shoes in a pag at Shwedagon Pagoda

Myanmar Travel Tips – Me carrying my shoes in a bag at Shwedagon Pagoda

Do what the locals do – bring a few plastic bags in your bag pack to carry your shoes with you when you visit the pagodas. Many pagodas have multiple entries and exits so carrying your shoes with you will save you a lot of time. This is something I had to learn the hard way.

10) Dress Sensibly

Longyi clad Burmese Locals - men and women both

Longyi clad Burmese Locals – men and women both

Do not wear hot pants, crop tops and sleeveless vests while you’re here. Burmese people don’t show a lot of skin (even on the beach) and it’s a good idea to respect their culture. Moreover, if you wear shorts, you can’t enter the beautiful pagodas. A typical Myanmar local male wears a checkered longyi (similar to lungi in India) with a knot in front paired with a collared shirt. A typical local woman wears a longyi with a side knot (kinda looks like a cute wrap around skirt) that shows a very tiny bit of leg along with a matching blouse. It’s a good idea to buy a longyi – it’s super comfortable to wear!

11) Carry noise canceling headphones and eye masks for overnight buses

We traveled extensively by overnight buses between destinations because Burmese trains don’t have the best reputation. Each time, we were woken up a few times during the night by strong lights and loud music. In one case, our bus conductor had a microphone and LOVED announcing things after every one hour.

12) Carry a torch for blackouts

The first black out that I experienced in Myanmar was just a few minutes after landing at Yangon airport. We heard from people that black outs are common in Myanmar. Carry a torch so that you can move around easily in case there’s one in your hotel.

13) Drink Bottled water and start slow with street food

Typical Burmese Streetfood in Yangon

Typical Burmese Streetfood in Yangon

As with most of the Asian countries, drink bottled water to avoid getting seriously ill. If you love Indian and Thai street food, you’re gonna LOVE the street food in Myanmar. Take it slow and let your stomach prepare itself. My stomach has toughened after years of eating Indian street food but Sandro suffered from an upset stomach after the first night.

14) Get ready to squat in a toilet

A little hut with a tiny toilet which I used in Dala village

A little hut with a tiny toilet which I used in Dala village

If you have traveled to Asia then you probably know the drill. Myanmar is no exception. If you decide to visit villages, you may not find WCs but will have to use traditional toilets where you need to squat to pee in a hole.

15) Respect and learn about the culture

Burmese people are polite and helpful. Please respect their culture and familiarize yourself with the local etiquette. Burmese people hand over things, especially money with right hand with their left hand touching the elbow. I found it to be very respectful and started doing it while I was there. If you have a Buddha head tee shirt, tattoo or jewelry – please hide them when you’re here. Don’t be shocked if you smile at a local and you see a “red smile” flashing back at you. That’s not blood but betel stains since many locals chew betel leaves. Oh, and if they make a loud kissing sound – they are probably calling out someone, not sending you flying kisses.

Have you visited Myanmar already and have a few tips to add? Let me know in the comments section. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it on Facebook.

You might also like:

Shwedagon Pagoda – Facts, Fables and Tips

Things to do in Yangon

Ngwe Saung Beach – white sand beach destination near Yangon with pagodas on the beach

Visa to Myanmar by Amy on the road

Myanmar Travel Tips by DrifterPlanet.com - Everything you need to know before you visit this golden land.

Pin it – Myanmar Travel Tips by DrifterPlanet.com

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Delhi Travel Tips: 21 Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting Delhi

Delhi Travel Tips: 21 Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting Delhi

If you’re visiting India, most likely your flight will land in Delhi. It is a massive city and can confuse anyone that’s not familiar with it. It is divided into 6 main zones – North, South, East, West, Central and Old Delhi. It has an interesting history – it was destroyed and rebuilt many times, a fact that’s evident in many landmarks all over the city.

Please don’t believe everything that you read on the internet.  I have lived in Delhi for many years and some so called “facts” about the city just make me laugh. This is the first post for Delhi Travel Tips in  Backpacker’s Guide to Delhi. Here’s a list of 21 things that you need to keep in mind while visiting Delhi:

  1. Visit Delhi in the months of February, March, October or November. Delhi has unbearable summers and foggy winters so please avoid those seasons. Although Delhi rains are unpredictable, but it usually rains around the months of July and August. Delhi does look beautiful when it rains but the already slow traffic comes to a standstill.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Delhi is at it's best in February, March, October & November - Drifter Planet

    Delhi is at it’s best in February, March, October & November (Delhi Travel Tips)

  2. You will not face any language barrier in most of the parts of Delhi. Hindi is the most commonly spoken language in Delhi but most of the locals speak really good English. Learning a few Hindi words will definitely be an added advantage.
  3. Get used to the crowds. Delhi is one of the most populated cities in India. The people of Delhi are called Delhi-ites. It is a melting pot of many different cultures due to a heavy inflow of migrants from all over the country. You can experience many different cultures from all over India in this city.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Get Ready for the Crowd

    Crowded Delhi – Image by Telegraph.co.uk (Delhi Travel Tips)

  4. Delhi has a culture of an “early nightlife” because most bars don’t have the permit to remain open post 12:30 am. If you’re planning on buying your own alcohol to drink in your room, ask your Hotel or Hostel staff to guide you to the nearest “Wine and Beer shop”. These shops shut at 10:00 pm.
  5. Try to celebrate at least one major North Indian festival in Delhi – either Holi (February or March) or Diwali (October or November). You will cherish these memories for life.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Diwali in Delhi by Drifter Planet

    Delhi Travel Tips: Diwali in Delhi

  6. Eat as much different variety food as you can.  Delhi has many awesome restaurants with a variety of cuisines.  Make some local friends and get them to take you to their favorite places. Vegetarians and vegans will LOVE Delhi food. Drifter Planet strongly recommends Kebab Gali and Biryani Inc.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Delhi's Tandoori Chicken by Drifter Planet

    Delhi Travel Tips: Delhi’s Famous Tandoori Chicken in Biryani Inc. Restaurant

  7. ONLY drink bottled water, unless you’re invited to a local resident’s home where they have their own filter system. This also applies to ice because tap water ice cubes can make you sick.
  8. Have you heard of Delhi Belly? If you’re not from India, most likely you WILL develop a case of “Delhi Belly” in the first week of your visit to Delhi so please carry your diarrhea medicine. It usually lasts for just a day but can last for 2 or 3 in total. Don’t eat melons or papaya if you develop a “Delhi Belly” but bananas will help.
  9. Carry toilet paper.  Although most of the hotels have them but some don’t.  Urban India’s method of sanitation is a “water gun” kind of a jet sprinkler that cleans bums efficiently – better than using just a toilet paper. This is called a toilet jet.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Typical Toilet with a Jet of Urban India by Drifter Planet

    Delhi Travel Tips: Typical Toilet with a Jet of Urban India

  10. Prepare to be shocked. Some aspects of Delhi, such as the beggars on the road, dirty sidewalks, etc will shock you on your first visit but wear your smile and enjoy the different experience. Keep your mind open to accept the different culture.
  11. Public Display of Affection is not the best idea in many parts of Delhi. However as per my personal experience, holding hands is cool. Location matters, so be mindful of where you are.
  12. Bargain everywhere. The simplest way is to cut the quoted price in half and then negotiate your way to a middle figure. Bargaining works even in big designer showrooms – I did this while buying my wedding attire.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Sarojini Market in Delhi - ALWAYS Negotiate for a better price here

    Delhi Travel Tips: Sarojini Market in Delhi – ALWAYS Negotiate for a better price here

  13. Be careful of touts. They’re everywhere!  If you land in Delhi’s international airport, please directly head to the pre-paid taxi booth. If you arrive by train, please be prepared of many touts that will harass you to go to the hotel or hostel that they recommend. Many of them will try to send you to a dingy hostel in Paharganj – don’t! Delhi has a lot of affordable hostels in better areas that are easily connected via Delhi metro. I get to witness this on many occasions when I travel with my husband. He’s from Germany and it’s hilarious how the touts always surround him.
  14. The most useful resource to eating out is a website called Zomato where you can find information about almost every restaurant, read their menus, check reviews, get an idea about the prices and location coordinates. This is also available as an app and is very useful to get a sense of where to eat and what to order for your budget. Click here to access this awesome website.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Zomato App for Eating out in Delhi by Drifter Planet

    Delhi Travel Tips: Zomato App for Eating out in Delhi by Drifter Planet

  15. The Best way to get around is Delhi Metro which connects most parts of Delhi really well.  It has a separate dedicated coach for female passengers, which is usually the first coach. Click here for more information. Additionally, Delhi has a massive fleet of tuk-tuks which are more commonly known as auto rickshaws or just autos for short. Don’t forget to negotiate if you decide to ride one.  For traveling at night, I recommend you avail an app-based taxi service by Ola which is tracked by GPS.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Delhi Metro is awesome

    Delhi Travel Tips: Delhi Metro, Image from Wikipedia

  16. People in North India tend to stare a lot.  Please don’t be offended because most of them do this out of curiosity. Get used to it and don’t let this make you uncomfortable.
  17. The concept of personal space is almost nonexistent, not just in Delhi but all over India. Whether you’re standing in a queue or traveling in the metro, get used to moving shoulder-to-shoulder.
    Delhi Travel Tips: No "personal space" in Delhi queues

    Delhi Travel Tips: No “personal space”. Image by Reddit

  18. This is for women travelers – Dress sensibly and don’t walk around alone at night.  As a thumb rule, try to blend in with the locals and wear what you see them wearing. It’s completely okay to wear a pair of shorts and walk around in places that are popular among the youth such as Hauz Khas Village, Khan Market, etc. However, wearing the same thing in conservative areas such as old Delhi or train stations will attract unnecessary attention and is almost as good as inviting trouble.
  19. Transport to and from Delhi Airport – Delhi airport (Indira Gandhi International Airport) is around one hour away from the main city. If you are a woman traveler and your flight lands in the middle of the night, it’s a good idea to stay in the airport till early morning (5 am) and then move on to your hostel or hotel. Delhi Metro has a station right outside Gate 4. Alternatively, for safe Delhi airport transfer, you can pre book your ride with Blacklane and have one of their professional drivers pick you up in a luxurious car.
  20. Carry a bug spray or insect repellent. Although a lot of mosquito bites will only cause you irritation, but some may cause Dengue or Malaria. I have suffered from Dengue once and it was horrible.  If you end up catching any sickness like this – just write to me, I will do the best to help you.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Apply Mosquito Repellent in Delhi to avoid diseases like Dengue, Malaria, etc - Drifter Planet

    Delhi Travel Tips: Apply Mosquito Repellent in Delhi to avoid diseases like Dengue, Malaria, etc.

  21. Attend a Delhi wedding. Of course, you’ve heard that Indian weddings are big. But you must keep in mind that Delhi weddings are massive. Try to get yourself invited for one while you’re there. Indian weddings don’t really have a major restriction on the guest counts. I had a “small” wedding by Delhi standards and it had close to 300 people. Attending a Delhi wedding is a “must do” experience. If you get to make some local friends, express your desire to attend a local wedding – most likely they will make this possible.
    Delhi Travel Tips: Arrend A Typical Delhi Wedding by Drifter Planet

    Delhi Travel Tips: Try to Attend a Typical Delhi Wedding

Emergency Numbers: 100 for police, 101 for the fire department and 102 for an ambulance.

It is possible to love and hate Delhi at the same time. I recommend you carry your camera around – who knows, you may spot a lazy cow chilling on the road while the rest of the traffic comes to a standstill or a monkey enjoying a motorbike ride with his human friend. Delhi has a lot of interesting sights and it never fails to surprise me even after living here for many years. Stay tuned for more Delhi Travel Tips in the “Backpacker’s guide to Delhi” series for information about where to stay, what not to miss, what to eat and where to drink.

Recommended reading:

Offbeat Things to do in Delhi

Where to visit after Delhi:

Kasol and Parvati valley in the Himalayas

Varanasi – the spiritual capital of India

Jaisalmer in Rajasthan

Kheerganga in the Himalayas

Dharamkot in the Himalayas

Or, you can get on a flight to Goa to enjoy beaches.

For more destinations, check out my India Travel page.

You may also like:

Why Holi is the Most Awesome Festival EVER

51 Reasons Why Life in India is too much fun!

11 Reasons Why I love Goa and Keep Going Back

Delhi Travel Tips - Drifter Planet
The best of EVERYTHING in Havelock on a Low Budget

The best of EVERYTHING in Havelock on a Low Budget

Want to do Havelock Island on a low budget? My Havelock Island post was very detailed, hence I am sharing a list of best of everything on the island for a backpacker’s budget:

1) Best Place to Eat: Welcome Dhaba (crab curry, prawn curry, fish curry, steamed fish, daal, etc). They have pancakes as well! It’s on beach #3 intersection road.

Fish at Welcome Dhaba

Fish at Welcome Dhaba

 

2) Best place to drink beer: BareFoot (Beach #7) or Wild Orchid (Beach #5). When we visited, there were very few places that had the liquor licence.

Barefoot Resort on Beach #7

Barefoot Resort on Beach #7

3) Best Spots to Chill: Beach #5, Neil’s Cove and KalaPathar beach (pics below)

Beach #5 THIS spot! Perfect for chilling on the hammock

Beach #5 THIS spot! Perfect for chilling on the hammock

 

Neil's Cove, Havelock (Behind Beach #7)

Neil’s Cove, Havelock (Behind Beach #7)

Kalapathar Beach in the middle of the forest. Pitch a tent here to stay overnight if you dare ;)

Kalapathar Beach next to the forest. Pitch a tent here to stay overnight if you dare 😉

4) Best way to get around: Hire a scooter. Havelock is bug and you will need a bike if you want to explore it.

Hire a Scooter and explore

Hire a Scooter and explore

5) Best area to stay: Beach 3 and 5 have affordable beach huts.

This is where I stayed - Emerald Gecko, beach #5

This is where I stayed – Emerald Gecko, beach #5

5) Best Dive Shop: Barefoot Scuba. Although the main Barefoot resort is on Beach #7, they have a dive shop on beach #3 and cottages for divers.

Barefoot Scuba (Dive Andamans)

Barefoot Scuba (Dive Andamans)

(Image Source Link)

6) The Best ONLY Place to Party: Havelock is not a party island, but if you can’t live without a party, then The Wild Orchid is the only option.  They organize parties once in a while.

The Wild Orchid on Beach #5

The Wild Orchid on Beach #5

7) Best way to reach: Government operated Ferry from Port Blair. Tip: Stay on the front side of the deck and spot the flying fishes and enjoy this view. Click here for more details.

Sunset view from the front deck of the ferry

Sunset view from the front deck of the ferry

Want more details about this offbeat Paradise Island called Havelock? Read my post here. Oh and do check out Neil Island as well, it’s right next to Havelock.

Do let us know about your experience and leave us a comment. Subscribe for our monthly newsletter and join the party!

Pin It on Pinterest

Want More Fun? Join Our Travel Madness!

Want More Fun? Join Our Travel Madness!

Our occassional emails will make you smile even on your dullest day. Feel free to unsubscribe if we bore you. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

badge