Why Sri Lanka Is The New Thailand

Sri Lanka, island jewel of the Indian Ocean. Think ice-cream flavoured sunsets, wild elephants, ancient temples and tasty food. Lately it’s been getting a lot of press as the new must-visit destination for 2018. Travelstart is here to tell you why this island dream should be top of your list.

Lanka was the classical name bestowed on the island by the ancient Indian epic poem the Ramayana. Another possible meaning is derived from the Tamil word “ilanku” (இலங்கு), which means “to shine” or “to glitter” making Sri Lanka the land that glitters.

Find amazing flights to Sri Lanka here

Image courtesy of @jacksongroves

Reasons to go…

It’s really easy to apply for a visa online and it’s free for kids under 12

Find out more about the straight-forward online visa process here.

Just remember your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.

You’ll need:

  • A round trip ticket to show at the port of entry in Sri Lanka (only if you are traveling by air).
  • Evidence of sufficient funds to cover your expenses in Sri Lanka.

Visas are only $35 for adults (around R480) and free for kids under the age of 12.

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Catch a test match in Galle

Image courtesy of @sunainasphotography

Arguably the most cricket-crazy country in the world, Sri Lankans know how to appreciate a test-match. Make time in historical seaside Galle for the beautiful game.

1,340 km of pristine coastline

If it’s an inexpensive beach holiday you’re after, Sri Lanka’s southern coast has the wavy palmtrees, the balmy ocean, pristine sand beaches and unforgettable sunsets you’re after.

Image courtesy of @needaplacetohide

It’s safe

This is a country where it is a major incident when two bicycles are stolen. Plus the people are incredibly kind and friendly.

It’s insanely cheap

Image courtesy of lavenderandlovage

Like Thailand’s baht, Sri Lanka’s rupees are especially kind on the South African rand. An inexpensive meal is just R22, it’s less than R2 for a one-way trip on local transport and R132 for a midrange meal for two people with three courses each. Hoppers (see pictured) are an amazing any-time snack which cost next to nothing. Curries and seafood salads are as abundant as fragrant teas and fruit juices.

Good to know

Groceries are comparatively expensive in Sri Lanka, so instead of worrying about self-catering take advantage of all the excellent restaurants and tasty street-food available.

Image courtesy of lavenderandlovage

It’s friendly on every budget

Image courtesy of @jennyronalds via Instagram

Treat yourself to a stay at a 5-star hotel on the sea, in the green rolling hills of a tea plantation, or find cheap, clean and easy-on-the-wallet backpacker accommodation at all the tourist hot spots.

Image courtesy of @ceylonteatrails via Instagram

It’s just 14 hours by air

Most flights from Johannesburg to Colombo involve a short layover in the UAE. This means cheaper flights and an opportunity to experience two destinations for the price of one.

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Uncrowded line-ups and superb swells

Surf’s up! Sri Lanka has amazing surf spots in the South at Arugam Bay and Hikkaduwa.
Surf season is from October to early May and there are loads of inexpensive surf schools for beginners.

The history

Sri Lanka is a mythical landscape teeming with ancient temples, from the 5th century rock citadel Sigiriya to the 2000 year old city of Anuradhapura replete with brick stupas and ancient pools. The above picture was taken on the top of  top of Ella Rock. Dambulla Cave temple (a UNESCO World Heritage site) is another famous site.

The wildlife

Image courtesy of @camersally via Instagram

It’s well-worth going to a game park while you’re in Sri Lanka. the diverse Sri lankan landscapes are home to sloth bears, leopards and the Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus).
Yala West (Ruhuna) National Park is best to spot leopards, Uda Walawe National Park is best for elephants, Wasgomuwa National Park and Wilpattu National Park for the elusive and shy sloth bear. Plus Sri Lanka is a bird-watchers paradise.


“I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.” – Theroux

Train travel is an inexpensive pleasure in Sri Lanka, and a great way to get a sense of the diverse landscapes. The below image was taken on the scenic journey from Colombo to Badulla.

Image courtesy of @tastemytravel via Instagram

We’d love to hear about your favourite travel experiences in tropical Sri Lanka in the comments below.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi Miguel,

    Thanks for the feedback. This is what we love to hear from other travelling gurus, who’ve been to both countries and able to compare.

    We appreciate you taking the time to share this with us.

  2. I am finishing up my 2 week trip to Sri Lanka and have been to Thailand 5 times.
    Let me tell you, Sri Lanka is NOT the new Thailand.
    Why? Thailand has a lot more to offer.
    Thailand has far superior beaches and you can still find quiet islands which feel like paradise on Earth – I never felt that on any beach in Sri Lanka and the snorkeling is also superior in Thailand’s National Park islands. The Thai people are much more graceful and know what they are doing in terms of customer service, Sri Lankans are more aloof and although friendly many are clueless in terms of customer service standards.
    Both countries have amazing temples, but Thailand offers many more, a lot more variety of Buddhist temples – cave temples, hill temples, as it is a bigger country… even the temples in Chiang Mai ALONE were more impressive to me than any Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.
    All in all, Thailand beats Sri Lanka any day. Much easier to travel around in Thailand, as well, and you can get a lot more value for the money.

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