Sri Lanka is truly a gem on the Asian continent and has become quite popular in the backpacking world. This country faced its fair share of problems but has emerged victorious despite all these obstacles which is truly remarkable. Filled with an invigorating history and exploding with culture, this place is a paradise for all the history buffs and travel enthusiasts.
And you don’t have to worry about the food and accommodation too, there are a plethora of options to choose from. Now, I know that traveling as a solo female traveler can be slightly intimidating, but there is no need to worry really.
Is Sri Lanka safe?
Sri Lanka is a relatively safe country and after having experienced it solo first-hand as a solo female traveler, I can assure you that there is nothing to worry about. Yes, it is better to be careful and prepared in a foreign country but there is no reason for you to not have fun while exploring this amazing location. So, here are a few tips to help you out on your own solo journey through this exotic land.
Top Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers in Sri Lanka
1. Don’t Hesitate to Ask For Help
When you are in a new country, you often find it hard to understand the directions or how to reach the place. In such situations, it is always better to ask for help from the locals. Well, you can do the same in Sri Lanka because the locals here are quite helpful and friendly.
Although you might meet a lot of people who speak only Sinhalese or Malayali, there will be a few who can converse in English too. So, don’t hesitate to ask for help whenever you feel stuck while traveling in Sri Lanka. Trust me, the people here are the friendliest bunch ever and would certainly go out of their way to guide you on your way.
2. Opt for Buses or Trains While Traveling
When you are traveling here, make sure you always go for buses and trains to get an authentic feel of this place. Yes, you would find taxis and auto-rickshaws here but they would be expensive. So, if you are on a budget trip, then it would be advisable to stick to the local transport.
You will easily find many local buses going towards your desired destination and you might also make a local friend on the way. For Colombo, you can download a bus app called Bus Routes Colombo which will show you the bus number and route that you would need to take to reach a location. I swear this app was a lifesaver for me when I was exploring the streets of Colombo.
Apart from the readily available buses, you will also get British colonial trains to travel from one city to another. And these trains are super cheap and comfortable, making an excellent transportation choice. You will be able to witness some really amazing views from these train routes, especially when traveling to Ella/Nuwara Eliya.
Avoid taking tuk-tuks or taxis as they will try to scam you. And if you do, then make sure you ask around and compare the prices before hiring one for your journey.
3. Try To Adorn Conservative Clothing When Not on the Beach
Now, although Sri Lanka sees a lot of tourists every year, people here are still not used to Western clothing. Forget Western clothing, they would stare at me when I would roam around in a knee-length skirt which was quite uncomfortable. So, make sure that you don’t expose too much skin here and adhere to their conservative dressing style.
Avoid wearing shorts, crop tops, bikinis, etc. in the villages and towns and dress modestly. You can loosen up a little on the beach but not when you are exploring the cities and the towns here. If you do, then you would be subjected to a lot of uncomfortable stares wherever you go.
4. Avoid Divulging to People That You Are Traveling Alone
Sri Lanka is a safe country but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few creepy people here. Sometimes, you might not know if a person is being curious or overly interested, so stay careful and never divulge that you are traveling alone. If you are exploring the area alone, lie and say that you are visiting a relative/friend or that your travel buddy is sick today.
This way, people won’t try anything funny and would know that you have someone to look for you in case you go missing.
5. Avoid Exploring Secluded Places after Nightfall
While we would love to explore without any inhibition, it is just not possible to do that, especially in Sri Lanka. Know when it is safe to go out and when it isn’t and be careful while going out during the nighttime. This is not true just for travelers but for local Sri Lankan women as well.
I, myself, had a bad experience while roaming out late at night in this city. Thankfully, I exuded a confident and ‘no-fuck-given’ vibe and quickly made my way back to the cottage where I was staying. But, in all honesty, it was a terrifying moment for me and a lesson that I would remember for life.
6. Avoid Going Off With Strangers to Unknown Locations
Make sure that you don’t go with any stranger to a location that you have no idea about. More so, if you feel uncomfortable around this person. There will be a few guys who would want to join you on the way, be firm and tell them no and leave from there quickly.
While it is good to be polite and friendly, never ignore your intuition. It will help you a lot and will keep you out of trouble throughout your journey.
7. Always Inform Your Friends/Family and Accommodation Staff about your Whereabouts
One of the best ways to stay careful while traveling here is by keeping everyone informed about your whereabouts. Keep your mobile phone location always ON or let your friends and family know about the places to visit in Sri Lanka that you are going to next.
Also, let your host or the accommodation staff know where you are headed and when you will be back. This will keep them at ease and will help them call officials in case you are later than usual. While keeping your close ones at home is important, letting your host know your plan is even more so. After all, if something happens to you in Sri Lanka, it will be your host who would be able to help you out, not your friends and family.
8. Walk Fast into a Crowded Place When You are Being Stalked
I know this is a scary tip but it is undoubtedly the most useful one as well. When I was in Kandy, I faced this issue and I was absolutely terrified by what to do. A guy kept following me around the lake and tried to talk to me and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t lose him.
So, after a few minutes, I started walking really fast and entered a crowded location. Then, I quickly made my way, far away from the lake. It took me around 10-15 minutes but I had finally lost the guy. If you find yourself in the same situation, do what I did. Start walking quickly and entered a crowded spot and then carefully walk away.
9. Avoid Staying in Hotels or Secluded Hostels/Guest Houses
If you are traveling alone to Sri Lanka, then make sure that you choose accommodation in a lively place. Don’t go for a stay that is secluded or in a questionable neighborhood. I actually chose Couchsurfing for my stay here but made sure that all my hosts were in a good neighborhood.
Also, I read a lot of reviews before choosing them and always kept my friends informed about where I was staying. Luckily, I met the most wonderful people on Couchsurfing so I didn’t feel uncomfortable or scared for even a moment.
10. Be Open to Meeting Locals and Travelers
Trust me, you are going to find the most amazing bunch of people here on your vacation (one of the reasons why you should definitely visit Sri Lanka). Most locals are friendly and would welcome you like friends and would be ever-ready to help you out. Some would even have interesting stories to tell and might even become great friends to you. So, be careful but don’t close off yourself to interacting with new people.
The same goes for the travelers too, here you would come across several other solo travelers while traveling. You might click with a few and you might not but until you open yourself to this possibility, you won’t truly know.
11. Don’t Forget to Relax and Enjoy
Finally, just relax and enjoy yourself. Yes, Sri Lanka could be a little terrifying for a solo female traveler but it is slowly progressing. After a few years, I am sure that these tips won’t even be needed anymore. So, don’t let this dissuade you from coming to this beautiful place.
Go and enjoy the cultural city of Sigiriya or the beautiful highlands of Nuwara Eliya. Roam around the famous Kandy Lake, walk on the Nine Arches Bridge in Ella, and just relax on some of the best Sri Lankan beaches. Also, don’t forget to try scuba diving in Sri Lanka, it is pretty cheap and safe and is a perfect location to introduce yourself to marine life.
Becoming confident as a solo female traveler
As female travelers, we always need to be careful and vigilant but that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy traveling. Yes, Sri Lanka is a little conservative and one has to be careful here. But if you follow the above-mentioned tips then you have nothing to worry about. And by the end of your trip, you would have a wonderful story to tell your friends and family at home about this beautiful island.
Exploring Sri Lanka solo requires taking certain precautions and sacrificing small freedoms. But it’s so worth it!
Contributing members are responsible for the accuracy of content contributed to A World to Travel.