Everything You Must Know About Gap Year In Sri Lanka

aastha | Thu, 04/04/2019 - 14:54 | | Sri Lanka, Gap Year Abroad, Travel Abroad,

Sri Lanka, one of the most beautiful countries to travel in the entire world, has rightfully come to the center stage of the backpacking in South Asia. It is a rich and fascinating country that seems to have everything a traveler could possibly desire for a gap year. There are verdant rainforests, misty hills amid fertile tea plantations and miles upon miles of dazzling beaches. You’ve got a perfect holiday destination squeezed into an island that’s a quarter of the size of the UK!

What’s more interesting is that the country is affordable and full of delicious cuisine as well as intriguing history. The people have dealt with war, disaster and all the challenges of a developing south-Asian country – and they have done it with grace and compassion.

In short, it’s the perfect destination to spend your gap year abroad.

10 Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka That You Must Know Before Setting Out For A Gap Year:

  • Sri Lanka used to be called Ceylon which is a transliteration of Ceilao, the name of the country under the island’s first colonial rulers, Portugal. It changed its name to Sri Lanka when it became a republic in 1972.
  • The oldest living tree known to be planted by man is in Sri Lanka. Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura has been tended continuously for over 2,000 years. It was grown from a cutting brought from Bodh Gaya in India, the tree under which Buddha is said to have found enlightenment.

    Sri Maha Bodhi in Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka may once have been physically connected to India. Hindu devotees believe the area between India and Sri Lanka – now known as Adam’s Bridge – was built millions of years ago by Lord Ram and an army of monkeys. Instead, scientists and archaeologists believe it to be a natural formation of sand and stone.
  • Did you know that Sri Lanka is nicknamed as Pearl of the Indian Ocean and teardrop of India?

    Map of Sri Lanka

    The name, Pearl of the Indian Ocean, is given to this small island nation probably due to its incredible natural beauty, extraordinary biodiversity as well as its precious gemstones. Besides, the island has a teardrop shape and is off the coast of India, which is easier to see from the map. That’s why it is also called teardrop of India. Below is a Google map snapshot of Sri Lanka to give you an idea of its location and shape.
  • The colourful Sri Lankan flag is rather complicated:

    Sri Lankan Flag
  1. The lion represents Sinhalese ethnicity, the strength of the nation, and bravery
  2. The sword demonstrates the sovereignty of the nation
  3. The four bo leaves – symbolising Buddhism and its influence on the country – stands for the four virtues of kindness, friendliness, happiness, and equanimity
  4. Orange signifies Sri Lankan Tamils
  5. Green signifies Sri Lankan Moors
  6. Maroon signifies the Sinhalese majority
  7. And the yellow denotes other ethnic groups
  • Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest tea producer (after China, India and Kenya) and third largest exporter. The country produces three main varieties: Ceylon black, Ceylon green, and Ceylon white tea.

    Tea Plantations In Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka was the ancient world’s leading producer and exporter of cinnamon, shipping the spice as far as Rome. Today, it remains the third largest producer behind Indonesia and China.
  • For its size, Sri Lanka is home to incredibly diverse animal life: 125 species of mammal, 433 birds, 245 butterflies, 96 snakes, 97 lizards and 383 spiders (which includes 15 tarantula species!).
  • Sri Lanka is said to be the only country in the world where you can see the world’s largest land mammal, the elephant, and the largest marine mammal, the blue whale, in a single day.
    Elephants in Sri Lanka
    Source: Volunteering Solutions
  • A very popular destination for tourists is The Cultural Triangle. It is anchored by the three historic Sinhalese capitals of Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, and Kandy. There are numerous historical sights in the area such as cave temples, Buddhist shrines, and impressive ruins of the capitals.

Best Gap Year Tours That You Can Choose To Be A Part Of:

Turtle Conservation in Sri Lanka
Source: Volunteering Solutions

1. Backpacking Trip Across Sri Lanka
If you have the zeal to go for an unconventional trip during your gap year, then discovering Sri Lanka on a shoestring budget would be the best option for you. In a span of 12 days, you'll get to explore the beautiful ruins in Anuradhapura and Sigiriya, hike through tea plantations and trek to Little Adam's Peak, take a tour of the spice garden, and then relax on the peaceful beaches of Hikkaduwa.

2. Sea Turtle Conservation Project in Sri Lanka
This project is all about protecting endangered sea turtles and taking care of them. An interesting volunteering abroad opportunity for students looking for a unique gap year experience, this is perfect for those who have an innate desire to spend time on the beaches! Time away in the wilderness, being close to the ocean, doing something meaningful for mother nature, living with the locals, taking long walks far away from the car honks, this is the ideal experience for all those who want to get away from cities and head to the countryside. 

3. Kerala and Sri Lanka On A Shoestring
Explore Kerala, the southernmost state of India, before heading off to the tiny island nation, Sri Lanka. Experience the local lifestyle of the people living in the coastal towns of Kerala, go for ferry rides on the backwaters, soak in the freshness and witness the cultural grandeur of Kathakali dance shows. Fly off to Lanka, discover beautiful ruins, hike through tea plantations, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, take a tour of the spice gardens and explore the offbeat tracks. Meet some amazing travelers from different parts of the world and return home with an experience worth cherishing forever.

4. Elephant Camp & Community Volunteering Project in Sri Lanka
Essentially designed for animal lovers and those who wish to get the taste of rural life in a Southeast Asian country, the Elephant Camp & Community Volunteering Project will certainly be a perfect choice for a gap year abroad. Engage yourself in the daily works of the mahout and know what it takes to look after these friendly giants. You'll also get to share some love and happiness with the kids at the community orphanage. Spend adequate time with the locals and get to know more about the Sinhalese culture and lifestyle. 

DOs & DON’Ts To Keep In Mind While Exploring Sri Lanka:

While you may know what to do and what not do in bits and pieces, we’ll help you clear all the confusion and tell you what you should actually do and what you should not on our gap year in Sri Lanka.


1. Do try the ‘short eats’ and know that the places selling them are called ‘hotels’
Short eats are fried snacks sold on trains and little street shops in Sri Lanka. They are almost always fried and range from Chinese egg rolls, to prawn cakes, and corn fritters. Eateries selling snacks and pastries are often confusingly called ‘hotels’. In small villages when looking for a place to stay, it's better to use the term ‘guesthouse’. So Hotels are actually restaurants in Sri Lanka and what may be a hotel for us is called a Guesthouse there.

2. Do take the train through Sri Lanka’s beautiful hill country
Sri Lanka’s hill country is one of the favorite regions of most travelers. With miles of hiking trails and endless tea plantations covered hills, it’s one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the country and a must visit for all trekkers and hikers. Though it may take a bit longer, but then it’s worth it.

travel in a train in sri lanka
Source: Indiatravelspecialists

3. Do try rice and curry because it’s cheap, delicious and their staple food!
Sri Lanka’s national dish is called ‘rice and curry’.  It packs a lot of spices with just the right amount of heat. Rice and curry is also the cheapest meal option in Sri Lanka: street eateries would have signs advertising buffets. They usually serve different types of curry. Most are vegetarians and you have to pay a little more for the meat options.

4. Do plan your trip in the right season
Regardless of the way that the climate in Sri Lanka remains truly relentless year-round, most Sri Lanka tourism cautioning would recommend you travel between the times of December and May to avoid impacting temperatures. One can moreover visit in the midst of the tempest. The dazzling atmosphere, the fresh greenery, and no gathering make it an impeccable Sri Lanka travel season.

5. Do cover up when required & dress appropriately
Sri Lankans are incredibly friendly and welcoming of tourists in their country. However it is a very conservative nation and you would be expected to dress a certain way as such in public, and sacred, sites. For women, it’s a good idea to keep a scarf in your handbag to cover up your shoulder when sightseeing and visiting temples. Men should wear a shirt or t-shirt in public areas, and would sometimes be required to wear trousers. You may have to remove your shoes at certain sacred sites too.


1. Do not let the Tuk-Tuk walas con you
The tuk-tuk drivers in Sri Lanka may cheat you seeing that you are a vacationer. Guarantee you assert the entry from your territory to the objective by no less than three neighborhood individuals beforehand getting into a tuk-tuk. You can manage the tuk-tuk drivers, without losing your cool. Sri Lankans happen to be to a great degree humble and veritable individuals, yet various tuk-tuk drivers may not be since this is their selective techniques for occupation.

2. Don’t ride the elephants
Elephant riding isn’t the most humane thing to do. You can definitely see up to 200 elephants around watering holes, in Kaudulla National Park.

3. Don’t underestimate the Sri Lankan Rupee
You may feel you won’t have to spend a ton in Sri Lanka considering 1 US Dollar starting at now parallels 176.49 Sri Lankan Rupee. Impacts you to feel wealthier, isn’t that right? Everything considered, set yourselves up. Shopping? Mementos? Turtle Hatchery? Watersports? Haven visits? Get ready to overpay at every objective where nearby individuals know you’re an explorer. Nevertheless, not everything is costly.

4. Don’t take a selfie with Buddha
It is considered highly offensive in Sri Lanka to have a picture taken with your back facing towards Buddha, so leave the selfie stick at home and pay your respects to Sri Lanka’s holiest icon face-to-face. A number of temples and cultural sites forbid photography in certain indoor areas. Do look out for any warning signs.

5. Don’t forget to pack insect repellent
Sri Lanka is a tropical country with a hot and humid climate that attracts plenty of insect life, including a few with a taste for tourists! Make sure you pack a tropical strength (ideally DEET-based) repellent, and exercise the standard bite avoidance precautions – wear trousers and long sleeves in the evenings, avoid wearing perfume and order a G&T at the bar!

Explore the land of serendipity, Sri Lanka, a great country that owns countless beautiful sights which is also voted as the top destination of 2019!

Send us a mail at [email protected] or drop in a comment to find out more about the various affordable Sri Lanka trips offered by Team Go Discover Abroad.

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