Family Travel in Sri Lanka

Apr 14, 2020

We have some great news! You are spoilt for choice when travelling with children in Sri Lanka, one of our top words for describing this beautiful island is variety. Family travel is very easy, especially if you have a driver, this is our first & top travel tip when travelling with young people. 

The locals are friendly, accommodation is varied with luxury villas through to tree houses. Throw an exciting trip on the old local train into the mix, a few tuk tuk rides, safari jeeps & boats. Locals are friendly, food for younger palettes is easy to come by & there is an abundance of wildlife to entertain children all day long. 

As we all know, young children love to swim, it’s a perfect family time activity. Swimming in Sri Lanka can easily be a daily activity with cool creeks, accessible waterfalls, safe beaches & clean pools. The beaches are some of the best in the world, they are safe, easily accessible and uncrowded. You’ll easily find clean, shady places, perfect for building sandcastles and digging holes. One of our favourite little spots is the shady bay of Mirissa. 

The clear shallow waters where the turtles swim in Hikkaduwa is a hit with the kids, as is Weligama for the beginner surfers in the family. The waves are consistent & the water isn’t deep. Older children will love Midigama for the shore dumping waves & of course the rope swing as well as snorkelling & the protected waters at Wijaya Beach.

You are pretty much guaranteed to see a wild elephant when you take your children on safari in one of Sri Lanka’s incredible national parks.  While on safari the open jeeps & bouncy roads add to the adventure! It’s likely you’ll also spot crocodiles, buffalo, plenty of colourful peacocks, and if you’re extremely lucky and look very very hard, a leopard! Book a private jeep and do your own family tour. 

Teenagers will be fine on full day safari, however we would still choose to do a morning or afternoon trip into the national park with a rest and cooling swim in the middle of the day while the wildlife is also less active.

The elephant sanctuary in Udawalawe is a fantastic experience. You will see the baby elephants up close, no touching or feeding is allowed. You will find a really in depth learning facility here to teach us all about these giants of the jungle.

For more family adventures put on a snorkelling set or even just some goggles and swim out in one of  the calm bays for another wildlife highlight. In Sri Lanka are the wild turtles that swim around the shallow waters near Mirissa, Hikkaduwa and Nilaveli beaches. These are easy waters to snorkel in and if it’s the right time of year & day (mornings usually) then you will catch a close up glimpse of these impressive sea creatures.

For more turtle conservation education there are various places along the coastline that will allow you to see turtles in rehabilitation and a close up look at how they lay their eggs. Great for teaching & learning.

Picking tea in the highlands should also be on your list of experiences. The whole family can use the cane baskets at many of the tea plantations and head out into the plantation to pick a few leaves before coming inside the factory to watch the processing. The train ride through the tea country is awesome.

You will never be short of entertainment! There are even apes & monkeys running around for entertainment at the ruins in the UNESCO sites.

You can buy a lot of what you want for Sri Lankan family travel once you arrive. There are supermarkets in all the main centres. That said, there are a few things that you might want to pack before you head to the airport like sunscreen.

Sunscreen & mosquito repellant

Sunburn and mosquito bites can put a serious drag on family fun in Sri Lanka with kids & your favorite brands of both are probably not for sale in this part of the world. If they are, they’re sold at a huge markup. Instead, you’ll find sunscreen at low SPF levels, and mosquito repellant that may work very poorly.

Pocket tissue

Yes, you can find tissues in the shops, but you’ll want to keep some with you from day one. Why? Because some toilets don’t have toilet paper.

Your favorite brand of nappies/diapers

If you have a particular brand of nappy/diaper you like, you might consider bringing some with you. There are brands available but it may pay to be prepared in advance.

Water

We always recommend carrying a reusable water bottle with you that can be filled with filtered water. Stick to filtered water throughout your travels as a general rule in Sri Lanka.  Many hotels provide filtered water that is fine to drink & better than throwing away plastic bottles daily. We even recommend filtered water for teeth cleaning.

Snacks 

Fresh fruit is abundant, as are nuts. We do find that it’s best to stock up on a few packets of biscuits from a local shop, especially if you head off into a national park where you won’t see a shop for a few hours. Bakeries are easy to come by & again it is a good time to stock up on things the children will eat.

Strollers & Buggies 

In general, the roads and sidewalks of Sri Lanka are not designed for strollers or wheelchairs. They are inconsistent & you will find many potholes & local busses flying past very close to the paths. Walkways can suddenly end.

Carry a stroller if you want, but we recommend a baby carrier in most situations.

Street Food

Sri Lanka has delicious street food but if you are not used to it then your stomach may rebel.  Make sure to bring meds for diarrhea and digestive problems as it’s easier to carry than trying to find a trusted brand when you’re on the move. Hoppers & string hoppers are easy on children’s stomachs, as is rice. 

You will find most places are happy to make a dish with low or no spice for the children. It is customary to eat with your hands, some kids will love this idea! However cutlery is readily available.

Clothes & Shoes

You really don’t need many clothes if you plan on doing laundry fairly regularly. Laundromats are accessible & most hotels offer a laundry service.  A long sleeve top is useful in the hill country around Ella & Nuwara Eliya where the temperatures drop. Pack your swimmers of course!

As far as shoes we would usually say that one pair of shoes is sufficient for kids. Something like keens that they can walk in off the beaten track with some protection & that will keep their feet cool. A pair of flip flops are always handy for the beaches.

Some extra tips

Our hot tip is to carry an umbrella! It will be used more for instant shade than for the rain.

Another hot tip is to bring a pair of socks in your day bag each day, you will thank us when you need to take your shoes off for temples & the ground is scorching.

Also remember a sarong to cover up with for temples. Children are fine if they are wearing respectful clothes & generally can get away with knees showing until the age of around 10. Shoulders & knees should be covered for temple visits.

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