Hindi or Modern Standard Hindi is a standardised and Sanskritised register of the Hindustani language. Along with the English language, Hindi written in the Devanagari script is the official language of India.
It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of the Republic of India. However, it is not the national language of India because no language was given such a status in the Indian constitution.
Hindi is the fourth most-spoken first language in the world, after Mandarin, Spanish and English.
It is the third most-spoken language in the world, after Mandarin and English.
As you can see below, Hindi is written in the Devanagari script. Devanagari consists of 11 vowels and 33 consonants and is written from left to right. Unlike for Sanskrit, Devanagari is not entirely phonetic for Hindi. (source)
10 basic words to get you started in Hindi
What is your name? Aapka naam kyaa hai
My name is… Mera naam hai…
How much? Kitana?
(Do you speak)English? (Kyaa aap) English (bolte hain)?
Sri Lanka was the first Asian country we’ve ever visited together. Hence we saw a lot of things that were quite uncommon to us. Below is a list of the 27 things we thought were odd enough to be in this list 🙂
When someone in Sri Lanka shakes his head from left to right it doesn’t mean he’s not agreeing with you. The same gesture we see as no, means they’re okay with your thoughts. it’s a little wiggle they do, not really left to right.
2. Holy cow!
Most people in Sri Lanka are Buddhistic, hence they see cows as sacred. So sacred that some Sri Lankans keep a cow in their front garden and walk with the animal a few times a day! We haven’t been in the north, but they told us that in the northern part of Sri Lanka there are more cows than cars.
3. Sri Lankans are super friendly
One of the nicknames of Sri Lanka is ‘nation of smiling people’. Says enough, doesn’t it? At least 9 out of 10 people you see on the street will show you their white teeth, surrounded by a big smile!
4. Passing vehicles on the street is a national sport
Honking whilst doing so too. They literally honk every time they pass a bike, motorcycle, tuk-tuk or car and that’s at least six times every minute.
Up until 1972, Sri Lanka was called Ceylon. That’s why you’ll see the word Ceylon all over Sri Lanka. Some Sri Lankans still call themselves Ceylonese.
Sorry, we’re 90’s kids and didn’t know it before we arrived.. 🙂
6. Sinhala and Tamil
As much as Sri Lanka is one united country, it’s also divided into different ethnic groups. The 2 largest groups are the Sinhala and Tamil. Sinhala is the largest group, most of them living in the southern part of the country (74.90% of the population in 2011). Tamil 11.15%, closely followed by the Sri Lankan Moors (9.30%).
PS. you can call anyone in Sri Lanka a Sri Lankan, but don’t offend them by saying Tamil if they’re Sinhala and vice versa. 😉
7. Tea for two!
Sri Lankans will have tea for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’re the 2nd largest producer of tea in the world. Did we mention the amazing train ride between Kandy & Ella where you’ll pass astonishing tea plantations?
8. Prices in the shop are printed on the items
When you go to the supermarket the prices won’t be on the shelves, but on the items themselves. A bottle of coca-cola or a pack of biscuits will cost the same everywhere you go! We’ve bought lots of Marie cookies and they cost 30 LKR (€0,16) every time we bought them… 🙂
9. Smart kiddos
Year on year, the literacy rate among each gender here is always over 90%. You’ll also notice that all kids try to talk to you in English to ‘train their English’, however, the little toddlers mostly only know hello & goodbye. And some of them add an unpleasant “money?”.
10. A hotel is not always a hotel
It’s not because you see ‘hotel’ on a building that it actually is a hotel. A lot of times it is a supermarket or a restaurant. Our favourite ‘hotel’ was Ambaal’s, the vegetarian hotel, where they had delicious food, but not a single bed!
11. Stay local, wherever you are
There are guesthouses all around Sri Lanka. It’s our preferred way of travelling as we really meet the locals. You’re staying in their house and sometimes eat with them. You’ll have a clean and private room, and it’s not another hotel or hostel chain. Another advantage is that you have the wifi all by yourself (and the locals) so you won’t be bothered by other kids eating up all of the data with their youtube videos.
12. Act local, wherever you go
We don’t like going to touristic places as they’ll just serve you a pizza or whatever food from home you want and you’ll have to pay even more than you would at home.
We prefer tasting the real local life. Not only teaches it you a lot about their food culture, it’s also a lot cheaper (and most of the time more delicious).
Same goes for transport. Don’t take a taxi everywhere. Live at the pace of the locals. Use their forms of transportation: a tuk-tuk, a bus, a train,… not only is it an incredible experience, but it’s also once again way cheaper. We paid 1-3€/$ for every bus we took. Some of the bus rides were more than 4 hours!
13. Tuk Tuk Tuk Tuk
Tuk-tuks are amazing vehicles (we want one in Belgium when we go back!). The only two disadvantages are the crazy drivers and the negotiation for the price.
As a rule of thumb, the drivers will ask double the price. So if they ask 1000, you should say half of that price: 500. If you stick to that price you’ll end up somewhere around 600 which would be a fair price.
If you have a local sim card you can use the app ‘Pick Me Sri Lanka’ which has been of great use to us as you can book a tuk-tuk through the app or just use it for reference prices.
14. Personal space is something they might’ve heard off…
But probably not. You won’t have much of a personal bubble if you’re standing or sitting on a bus or train.
Not that we care so much about personal space, but the thing is that in Sri Lanka temperatures of 30-40 degrees are common and thus people sweat. And if there are 2 things I hate about sweat:
The smell of sweat.
Not knowing if I am the one who smells or my neighbour.
15. Buffers around national parks
The government of Sri Lanka has announced a buffer zone around every national park of 2 kilometres a couple years ago to preserve the nature!
Not only does this forbid new buildings, it also makes it possible for animals to roam around the parks so you can meet them on the streets.
16. Arrack attack!
The national alcoholic drink of Sri Lanka is Arrack. We only tried it once in a cocktail, but it seems a nice drink. We drank lots and lots of water to stay hydrated. 😉
17. Northern provinces
Some blogs state that you cannot visit the northern provinces without some kind of approval letter (like a mini visa). But every local we asked about it, said that you can easily visit the northern provinces.
18. Need a new fridge when you arrive?
When you arrive at Colombo airport (CMB) there are a lot of tax-free shops. Odd thing: almost every shop there sells fridges, microwaves, ovens,…
Not enough checked luggage?
19. Banknotes of all sizes
Just like American dollars, the Sri Lankan rupees should all be of the same size. But when you compare the bills closely, you’ll see that they’re not all the same. The reason: different banks have made the money in the past and they all had different machines. So don’t worry if your 2 rupee bills with the same value are not identical.
20. Hearing ice cream vans in the street?
The first time we heard the ice cream sound on the street we were like “ooooh ice cream”. When we arrived we saw a tuk-tuk driver selling bread.
Jup, whenever you hear the ice cream sound it’ll be a local trying to sell bread, samosa and other delicious food. But no ice cream.
21. It’s a dog life!
There are stray dogs everywhere in Sri Lanka. Literally everywhere.
Other wild animals you’ll see a lot: cats, crows and monkeys. Watch out for the latter, they seem cute, but they’re real thieves.
Fishing is not only one of the main income streams for a lot of Sri Lankans.
Sri Lankans are also a bit superstitious when it comes to fish. In every railway station, there is a tank with fish inside, which guarantees safe travels.
23. Rice for breakfast
Sri Lankans love breakfast. They have many possibilities like hoppers (Coconut milk, hardened in some kind of a bowl so they end up like bowls and are eaten like pancakes. They top them off with onions, tomato and spices), string hoppers (almost the same, but small pieces with dip sauces), pancakes, but also rice with curry.
Trust us, you need a strong stomach to handle it in the morning…
Another type of food they love is pastry.
Some of our favourites are wade (fried vegetables in the shape of a cookie, sometimes with prawns or dale), samosa (spicy triangle) and roti (a wrap with different fillings: egg, vegetables, chicken,…).
Remember number 20? Jup, that guy sells them all!
The national sports in Sri Lanka are cricket and volleyball.
We haven’t seen anyone play volleyball, but we’ve seen lots of cricket! We’ve only seen one official match, but when kids are playing around about half of them are practising their cricket skills.
Sri Lanka is famous for their spices.
Rice and curry? Check!
Cinnamon? About 80% of all cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka.
27. The flag
‘The lion flag’ is considered one of the oldest flags in the world! It also has a unique design, it’s the only flag in the world to recognize different religious groups.
As you could read in 6, there are lots of ethnic groups. In the flag, the Buddhists are symbolized by the yellow border and the Bo Leaves (peepal tree). The green represents the Muslims and the saffron represents the Hindu communities.
During our 1-year-honeymoon we decided to visit the Maldives because we wanted one real honeymoon experience in a hotel, with a white beach and beautiful blue water. But since we are travelling for 1 year, we didn’t want to spend all our money on this one special trip. We went to the Maldives with a tight budget, below you can find 10 tips to do exactly the same. Enjoy!
Try to visit the Maldives when you are in a country nearby. If we would’ve booked a flight from Belgium, it would be super expensive. We did our trip to the Maldives in between Sri Lanka and India. A flight from Colombo to Malé cost 52 dollars. Without taxes. With taxes, it was about 10 dollar per person. About 70% of our ticket price was taxes/fees because MLE is kind of a privately owned airport.
If you want to enter the Maldives, it’s free! No expensive VISA here.
On the downside, you do have to pay 8 dollars per person per night tourist tax.
Public ferry to Malé and islands
You can easily take a speedboat in the Maldives, to everywhere you like (starting at $50). However, a cheaper option would be the public ferries ($2).
You can take a ferry from the airport to Malé city (the airport is located on a separate island) and from Malé, you can take a ferry to one of the (local) islands.
Local islands, no resorts
If you think of the Maldives, you probably think about the beautiful resorts. That’s correct but way too touristic (and expensive) for us. We prefer visiting local islands, like Maafushi and Gulhi. It’s not only way cheaper, but you also get to know the real Maldivians (which are super friendly people).
If you want to go to different local islands in the Maldives, you should definitely plan your trip before you leave. You have to book your flight first, then you look for the islands you would like to visit and last, of course, the timetables from the public ferries. You can easily plan your accommodation with the ferry timetables in mind. That’s why we stayed one night in Malé city as we couldn’t take the public ferry to Maafushi the day we arrived.
Like we do on any trip, we eat locally. It’s always cheaper and it tastes better! We always had a continental breakfast included in our hotel so we chose to eat locally for lunch and dinner. The best option is to ask for some tips in your hotel, most of them are local people and they know the best spots.
Buy snacks/drinks at the supermarket
The Maldives is a beach destination, obviously. So when you’re laying at the beach chances are you’ll get hot and sweaty. You will probably be craving for a delicious mocktail (no alcohol allowed on local islands) with a (healthy?) snack.
You could buy them at a beach bar, but it’s way cheaper to go to a local supermarket. They have some great non-alcoholic fruity beers for less than 2 dollars. Instead of the 8-10 dollar mocktails…
When you are staying at a local island, there are always a few guesthouses or hotels you can choose from (sometimes only three). Try to pick the cheapest accommodation, you’ll only sleep there so you don’t need to stay in that 5-star hotel.
There are many activities to choose from on every island. Snorkelling, surfing, diving, jet ski, kayak,…
Always try to book your activity through your hotel, this is way cheaper and they always give you the correct price and information.
We wanted to go kayaking one day, the people on the beach said it was only 10 dollar per kayak and a lot cheaper than in our hotel. So we asked again in our hotel and they offered it for free!
The other thing we did was a half day snorkelling trip. The trip included snorkelling at 2 places, watching the dolphins and lunch on a sandbank. Price: 25$. Swimming with turtles? Priceless!
Pay in local currency
If you don’t have the correct amount in dollars, try to pay in local currency. They’ll always ask for more. We once had to pay 23,02 dollars and he insisted on giving 24…
If you pay in MVR however (which is the most beautiful money we’ve ever seen by the way) you’ll pay the correct prices.
We were on our honeymoon and told the hotels so via booking.com. Some of them give you free upgrades if they have better rooms available, so don’t forget to mention it (even if you’re not on a honeymoon you could try it, but we didn’t say that ????)
Do you have another tip for us?
Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re only visiting the big cities in Sri Lanka, chances are you won’t need to know Sinhala or Tamil. Most people will speak English fluently. If you go to more rural areas you might need to know a word or 2 to get around.
Secondly, Sri Lanka is an amazing country, with super friendly people. They will almost always greet you, if you’re able to respond in Sinhala or Tamil they’ll show you an ever bigger smile than usual!
The 2 biggest ethnic groups in Sri Lanka are the Sinhala and the Tamil. They both have their own language and they both don’t like it if they’re mistaken for the other.
How to know who’s Sinhala and who’s Tamil? Not so easy.
The best way: once you get to know the language a bit you’ll see the difference in the words on buildings.
The easiest way, but not always correct. Most people in Sri Lanka are Sinhala (about 75%). There are 2 main regions for the Tamil (the other 25%), being the Northern provinces and the Eastern provinces. So depending on your location you could guess what to say.
Some people say there is a difference in skin colour, but that’s not correct.
Sinhala is the most used language in Sri Lanka. For 75% of the Sri Lankans, it’s their mother tong. According to the people we’ve met, 90% should be able to understand you.
10 basic phrases and words in Sinhala
Hello / goodbye Ayubowan
Thank you (very much) (Bohoma) istuti
What is your name? Nama mokadhdha?
My name is…. Mage nama….
Delicious Hari rasai / rasavat
How much? kiyadha?
7 Days of the Week in Sinhala
10 extra words in Sinhala
(no) spices (naa) kulubadu
restaurant apana sala
20 numbers in Sinhala
The language mostly used in North and East Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was the first stop when we left on our 1-year honeymoon in 2018. We’ve tried to see as much as possible in this amazing country in 3 weeks. Below you can find our journey with a detailed day by day itinerary of Sri Lanka.
You can follow our journey in both ways. You’ll start and end with lovely beach views. The way we did it, we had some more beaches at the end and a bit more culture in the beginning.
We spend € 596.50 for the 2 of us, €817.93 if we add the activities. That is €13,56 per person per day (€18.59 with activities). This is without flights, as these prices will depend on where you leave.
We only stayed one night in a hostel, all of the other stays were in guesthouses or hotels.
Length of stay: 2 days. Only if you don’t like to travel with a jetlag and want to lay by the swimming pool/sea. Otherwise, 1 day is enough for Negombo. Where we stayed:Winston beach hotel. A nice hotel, you can use the (very clean) pool of the hotel next door if you drink something whilst enjoying the sun & swimming pool. How we got there: Tuktuk from the airport (700 LKR, should’ve been around 500). If you want to have good tuk-tuk prices all the time you should install the app PickMe Sri Lanka!
What to do in Negombo:
Negombo fish market (free entrance)
Amazing to see. The smell is horrible though…
Stroll through the city centre or at the beach.
Get a local sim card (the ones at the airport are data & calling if you want data only buy one outside of the airport)
Where to eat in Negombo:
Nowhere special, it’s very touristic when it comes to restaurants. Lots of western food (and western prices). If you want something local, try one of the seafood restaurants in the southern part of the city (near the fish market) for amazing fresh fish.
Length of stay: 3 days (2 should be enough) Where we stayed:Lak View Family Resort. Yes Lak.. the lake was not in sight, but the owner is very friendly and helpful ???? How we got there: Bus from Negombo bus terminal (Google maps) to Kurunegala (100 LKR pp) and Kurunegala to Dambulla (95 LKR pp). Blog post.
What to do in Dambulla:
Dambulla caves (1500 LKR pp)
The big golden Buddha statue in front of the caves. (free)
Dambulla dedicated economic centre (Google maps) – The largest vegetables & fruits wholesalemarket in Sri Lanka. (free)
Pidurangala rock or lion rock.
The owner of Lak View drove us all the way to the rocks in Sigiriya (for 2300 LKR). It will be cheaper if you go from Polonnaruwa. Pidurangala costs 500 LKR pp, lion rock is 30 dollar pp (4500 LKR) or 15 dollar/2250 LKR pp if you’re from a SAARC country.
Where to eat in Dambulla:
A cheap & local place with nice rice and curry etc. (Google maps)
Length of stay: 1 day Where we stayed:Udesh Guest house. Probably the cleanest place we stayed at during the 3 weeks. Highly recommend! There are also 20-30 little parrots in his garden in the morning as he feeds them every day. How we got there: The owner of Lak view drove us for free (from and) to the bus station, from there we took the bus to Polonnaruwa. Jumped off the bus somewhere along the road, as close to Udesh as possible and then walked another kilometre.
What to do in Polonnaruwa:
The Polonnaruwa ruins. (25 USD pp.)
Make sure your legs and shoulders are covered or you won’t get in.
We rented a bike from Udesh for 400 LKR pp. The ruins are too big to walk around. You could also rent a tuk-tuk with a guide, but you should be fine without a guide too.
Watch out for monkeys, they try to steal stuff in exchange for food. We saw a monkey snitch an iPhone and walk away with it until all of his friends had gotten enough food.. and then he returned it with a broken screen.
Other than that there’s not much to see in Polonnaruwa.
Where to eat in Polonnaruwa:
We’ve eaten local Kotthu and rice at Udesh, it was delicious and cheap!
Length of stay: 2 days Where we stayed:Kandy city house How we got there: The owner of Udesh arranged us a tuk-tuk to the bus station of Polonnaruwa (500 LKR) and there we took a direct bus to Kandy (200 LKR).
What to do in Kandy:
Visit a tea factory and tea fields (free, but they expect you to buy some tea or make a donation)
The Golden Tooth Temple (1000 LKR pp)
Botanical Gardens (1500 LKR pp)
Elephant orphanage [Pinawalla] (1000-5000 LKR pp) Please don’t ride on elephants or support orphanages that allow it!
The Buddha statue on top of the hill (250 LKR pp)
A day trip to do all of the above (blog post coming soon ????)
You can get fresh ingredients at the central market if you’re allowed to use the kitchen of your hostel/guesthouse (Google maps)
Length of stay: 1 day Where we stayed:The Galways Edge Homestay. They are the nicest people, ever. Their English is not that good, but they were soooo nice to us! They even gave us flowers when we arrived as it’s our honeymoon. How we got there: The train from Kandy to Ella (Nanu Oya is a stop of that train near Nuwara Eliya).
What to do in Nuwara Eliya:
Visit the tea fields (free)
The Royal Turf Club (a horse ranch – Google maps).
The horses are just freely roaming around (even on the streets)!
World’s end. An 850m high cliff, the walk there is about 1 hour and 30 mins. Go before 9 am, otherwise, you’ll see mostly clouds. (Google maps)
Where to eat in Nuwara Eliya:
The vegetarian hotel. No, we kid you not. It’s a restaurant, not a hotel, and has amazing food. This is 1 of the 27 things we found that were odd in Sri Lanka.
Length of stay: 2 days Where we stayed:ASK homestay How we got there: The second part of the Kandy – Ella train ride. Even more amazing views!
What to do in Ella:
Ella is a beautiful mixture between touristic and local.
The centre is very touristic and has a vibrant nightlife. Competitive prizes with happy hours etc.
Tea plantations (free, sometimes they’ll ask you some money for a picture)
Ravana waterfall (free, take bus 998 for around 50 LKR pp back and forth – Google maps)
The nine arches bridge is stunning. Wait for a train to pass to get those nice pictures. Don’t fly your drone. Apparently, it’s not allowed as there are bees under the bridge who’ll attack your drone first and the people afterwards!
Where to eat in Ella:
The chill café looks incredible, it resembles a huge hut and has delicious food and drinks (Try a cocktail with Arrack, the local spirit ????).
Length of stay: 2 days + we booked 1 day extra for the safari Where we stayed:20 House Arugam. It’s not really located in Arugam Bay but in Pottuvil. The main beach in Arugam Bay is only 800 meters away though. How we got there: We took a bus from Ella to Monaragala and from there another one to A’Bay.
What to do in Arugam Bay:
Surfing! It’s one of the best surfing spots in the world, so don’t miss out on this one like we did.. (check the current prices at the surf shops).
Chill at the beach.
Walk through the streets in Pottuvil, the kids here are amazingly friendly and want to play soccer all the time. Oddly enough it seems like they never see white people as they always yell at their siblings and everyone comes out to see and say hello (or bye, not sure who taught them that ????)
Visit Muhudu Maha Viharaya if you’re staying in Pottuvil. Very nice ruins and there’s an amazing abandoned beach in front. (free)
Where to eat in Arugam Bay:
If you want local food you should go to the neighbouring city of Pottuvil. It’s very good food and super cheap. The best place we ate was Sbarro next to the supermarket (right in front of the second gas station if you come from Arugam Bay).
Length of stay: 1 day Where we stayed:Green Paradise Hotel How we got there: We didn’t want to take the bus from Arugam Bay all the way to the south coast in one go, so we decided to stay 1 night in the middle of both cities. Wellawaya is where we should’ve switched busses, so that seemed the logical place to stay.
There’s not much to do here, but that’s when you really meet the locals (and their delicious food)! ????
What to do in Wellawaya:
There are some ancient rock carvings in the neighbouring city Buduruwagala. They’re called Buduruwagala Raja Maha Viharaya (Google maps)
You could take a tuk-tuk or bus to the Diyaluma waterfalls. (Google maps)
Where to eat in Wellawaya:
There’s a delicious bakery not far from the bus stop. You’ll notice it when you pass, as there will be locals eating in. If you don’t like spicy food, then don’t order the salmon pizza bread… (Google maps)
Length of stay: 4 days Where we stayed:
Suriya Guest Mirissa, best stay we had in Sri Lanka: super clean, friendly staff, good breakfast,… No wonder they have a score of 9.9 on booking.com
There are lots of buses going to Galle from Wellawaya. Mirissa is one of the stops on this journey. Don’t listen to the tuk-tuk drivers as they’ll say there’s no place on the bus. This is true when people are leaving for work, but if you just wait until noon and you’ll be able to sit.
What to do in Mirissa:
Let’s go to the beach, each, let’s go get away.
Snorkelling (free at the beach, check prices for boat trips to nicer places)
Surfing (check the current prices at the surf shops)
Secret beach, not so secret anymore but not too many tourists. Swimming is a bit too dangerous there because of the rocks and sea urchins (Google maps)
There are some great local places to eat in the street parallel to the beach. Restaurants at the beach are nice if you want to have dinner near the ocean, but we didn’t like the quality of the food there. We’ll prefer local food over touristic places. With pizza being the only exception. Because pizza is heaven.
Length of stay: 1 day Where we stayed:Hansa Villa How we got there: just take any bus going to Galle. Unawatuna is one of the stops between Mirissa and Galle.
What to do in Unawatuna:
The main beach is clean, the waves are not too strong and the water is clear. When we were there, there was a playful turtle swimming at the coast.
Jungle beach. It’s quite a walk, but it’s definitely worth the visit. There will be a few locals and probably no tourists around you if you go early in the morning.
There are a lot of cosy bars in Unawatuna. Chill atmosphere, not too expensive and lots of healthy food options.
Where to eat in Unawatuna:
The pink elephant! Delicious food at cheap prices.
Do try the wraps, they’re awesome! We met a Polish girl who was staying in Unawatuna for 2 weeks already and tried everything on their menu… ????
Length of stay: 1 day Where we stayed:Jungle Guesthouse How we got there: Just take any bus from Unawatuna to Galle.
What to do:
Visit the Galle fort, you feel like you’re in another country. Pretty houses and a lot of cute shops and restaurants. (free)
Go to the marketplace.
In Sri Lanka, people celebrate the full moon every month by going to the temple. Most non-governmental places will be closed as people are praying! It is called ‘Poya day’.
In Galle however, people are celebrating Poya day with a ‘colour festival’ named Holi.
Where to eat:
We cooked some pasta at our guesthouse in Galle, but there are lots of nice restaurants in the fort!
Length of stay: 1 day Where we stayed:Downtown Monkey Hostel. A clean hostel with 6 person rooms, close to the train & bus station. How we got there: We took the train from Galle to Colombo for 180 LKR pp, which is about €1 for a 2-hour train ride. Unfortunately, we hopped on a train with a cricket team on it already, so there was no more place to sit for us. 2 hours of standing in the aisle..
What to do in Colombo:
Sri Lanka is doing great efforts in upgrading their capital, Colombo. Unfortunately, that means lots of skyscrapers are rising along the coast too. Streets are remarkably cleaner than in the rest of the country.
The red mosque is very beautiful, it made us think of the Saint Basil Cathedral in Moscow. Go to the food stall around the corner there, delicious handmade chips & potato wedges! (the mosque is free, but entrance for men only!)
The national museum is an enormous, white building. We didn’t visit it as we lacked the time. (500 LKR pp, 25 LKR for locals)
The cinnamon gardens is a public park. There are tons of locals and there are even a few horses grazing in the park! (free)
There is a famous temple in the middle of the Beira Lake, Seema Malakaya. (300 LKR pp – Google maps)
The market in Colombo 2 (Colombo is divided into different districts) is very nice to walk through. (free, if you’re able to not buy anything ????)
Where to eat in Colombo:
There are some great food stalls around the city (like the one near the red mosque). We have to admit we’ve also eaten a burger at Burger King, as Katrijn couldn’t resist..
The south coast of Sri Lanka is known for the beautiful beaches and crystal blue water with lots of wonderful sea life like whales, dolphins, and turtles. Between the 2 most famous cities in the south (Galle & Mirissa/Matara) you can find the much smaller city Habaraduwa. A cosy city with just a few hundred inhabitants and more than half of them are fishermen.
You’ve probably seen a picture of the fishermen on sticks already. Of course, they do no harm to the turtles. But their colleagues on the boats are very dangerous to these amazing sea creatures. Sea turtles are very curious animals and tend to approach the boats passing by. They then use these boats to scratch their back.
There’s just 1 problem with these boats. Most of them are motorboats and the sea turtles don’t see any danger in these propellers. Normally they shouldn’t fear them, because there should be a guard system around the propeller. But when the guard system breaks, most people don’t (or can’t afford to) fix them and turtles get hurt by them.
The most common injury in the hatchery: a missing wing…
Sea Turtle hatchery in Habaraduwa
Here comes the Sea Turtle hatchery in Habaraduwa into play. Whenever a turtle gets injured, the people from Habaraduwa – but also neighbouring cities like Mirissa, Pelena, Walliwela and Unawatuna – bring the wounded animals to the Sea Turtle Hatchery. They heal their wounds and let them revalidate and put them back into the ocean when they are fully recovered.
Cute little turtle babies
When a turtle is carrying eggs, she is said to be gravid, not pregnant. Well, every female turtle is carrying eggs, but they’re infertile until a male turtle passes by and does his thing. The female turtles then search for a nice place on the beach and lay their eggs under the sand.
The people from the sea turtle hatchery pay close attention to the beach and when they see a turtles nest, they dig up the eggs and take them home. That’s why the name says hatchery. They have an area in their garden with around 1000 eggs at any given time.
Why do they dig up the eggs? Turtle eggs are a precious good for animals and humans. Apparently, it’s a delicacy and some people tend to eat the eggs or sell them for a lot of money.
When the eggs hatch in the hatchery they put the baby turtles immediately in the sea so they can have the free life they deserve. If they see some weaker baby turtles they let them strengthen in the hatchery for a while until they’re ready to go.
If you want to visit the hatchery, the entrance is 500 LKR (around 3 dollars/euros). It’s located at the A2, Habaraduwa in Sri Lanka (Google maps).
At the hatchery they have 5 different species of turtles:
Olive ridley turtle
If you’re really lucky and some eggs hatch while you’re at the hatchery you can help them put the little ones in the sea.
You’re always free to give them some donations so they can keep the turtles near Mirissa & Unawatuna safe. Or you can buy something in their super cute souvenir shop.
A lovely warm Sunday in Belgium. As we’re driving towards Brussels Airport a mixture of excitement and sad feelings is running through our veins. We’re super excited to leave on this huge adventure but we also know that we’ll miss all of our family and friends.
Our flight is at 13.55. When we arrive at the airport around 11 am the huge screen in the welcome hall tells us we need to go to desk 6. After queuing for about an hour the lovely lady at the front desk gives us some great news. Our flight is overbooked and we are on the waiting list.
Awesome start of our adventure.
We say goodbye to our parents, turn around and walk towards whatever is ahead of us.
We go through security, buy some water and walk towards the B gates. Gate B.06 is waiting for us. We are the second last couple to board. Another nice lady with great news. Our boarding pass isn’t scanning. “Seating issue”. She calls her manager and after a few (long) minutes he finally tells her to ‘manually seat us in the system’.
Next, she tells us that we need to go to the information desk as soon as we land if we want to get on that plane.
Brussels – Kiev
After a pleasant flight of 2 hours and 50 minutes, we landed in Kiev, Ukraine. We went straight to the information desk. This time a little less nice lady points towards her male partner after we show her our boarding passes. The guy is on the phone, barely gives us a good day and just keeps talking to the other end of his line.
He takes our boarding pass with his other hand, types something on his computer and 2 boarding passes roll out of his printer.
He said something in Ukrainian we obviously didn’t understand but when he saw our faces he said: “free upgrade”, with a slight smile. And yes indeed, our boarding pass said “premium economy” instead of the usual economy.
So instead of hearing that we needed to stay the night at the airport, he gave us better seats than what we paid for.
Now that is what we call a great start! ????
I’m not sure if it’s because of the excitement of business class or just plain stupidity, but something strange happened. The guy behind his computer pointed us towards some queues, so that’s where we went. We gave our passport and they put a Ukrainian stamp in it. We walked ahead and we arrived in the luggage hall, which was followed by the exit of the airport.
Not really what should’ve happened as we needed to get on our connecting flight. We tried to retrace our steps, but we couldn’t get through ‘because of security issues’.
We still had a little over 2 hours before our flight so we went out of the airport. While we took a stroll outside, Yentl checked Instagram for a minute or 2 and got a lovely text message from Mobile Vikings “You’ve used 48 euros on roaming”. Seems that Ukraine is not part of Europe according to them…
Our rule of thumb is that we can only tick off a country of our Where have we been-list when we’ve exited the airport, so it had one advantage… ????
We went through security again and got some weird faces from the migration officers. Why on earth is your arrival stamp August 5th too?
Kiev – Colombo
Our second plane left half an hour late, but at least we had extra legroom space.
After about 90 mins our first meal was brought: a salad with bread, chicken with mashed potatoes and some chocolate dessert with lots of whipped cream. As we had no individual tv screens, the meal was followed by a movie on the big screen.
We bought a zoo. A classic movie we both saw already but it killed the time. After that, we started writing this blog posts as we couldn’t sleep because of the not-so-quiet Russians behind us.
I think we both slept for about 2 hours (out of 9) when they woke us for breakfast: we could choose between an omelet or something with macaroni and cheese. We both picked the latter.
We arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka
The plane made a nice landing at around 9 o’clock, local time. We set foot on Asian soil, bought a local sim card for 9 dollars from Mobitel and went through migration once again. Another stamp, this time Sri Lanka, shining next to the Brazil stamp.
Something odd struck us: at the airport in Colombo, there are at least 10 stores selling washing machines, fridges, ovens… Why on earth would you buy a fridge at the airport? Is it because of tax-free? If anyone knows, please enlighten us in the comments. ????
After we got some Sri Lankan Rupees we took a tuk-tuk to our hotel. He wanted to charge us 1000 Rupees, but we bargained to 700 (which we know was still too much, but is actually only 4 euros for 35 minutes of driving).
If you’ve never been to Asia, you have to take a tuk-tuk. The drivers are crazy, but the experience is great and cheap (around 45 rupees (€ 0,25) /km). I think our driver drove more on the wrong side of the road than on the correct one.
Sri Lanka used to be a colony of the Dutch, but because the UK feared that Napoleon might take the Netherlands (and thus Sri Lanka) they conquered Sri Lanka in 1815, making it a crown colony until 1948. That’s why in Sri Lanka cars drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Winston beach guest house
When we arrived at our hotel we dropped off our luggage and jumped into the swimming pool. Ice cold water never felt so good!
We fell asleep next to the pool and woke up a few hours later. We agreed to stroll a bit through Negombo and have a small snack somewhere. Crispy fried cheese balls. Heaven. We decided to return to the hotel via the beach (as our hotel was just in front of the ocean).
Negombo isn’t the clean city Katrijn hoped for, although our hotel and swimming pool were clean. The beach was full of garbage at most places and the water of the sea wasn’t that clean & clear either.
When we arrived at our hotel once again it started to darken already and we decided it was time for a decent night rest. Sunset is around 7 pm and looks like this:
So where do you take that bus to Kurunegala? At the Negombo bus station. We had some difficulties figuring out which bus station we should go to, but people in Sri Lanka are very friendly and helpful. On Google maps, it’s called Negombo bus terminal.
Once you’re there (either by tuk-tuk, taxi or another bus) search for the sign which says Kurunegala. It should be bus number 34.
Make sure you buy something to drinkbefore you hop on as these busses have no airconditioning. At some bus stops, people will hop on the bus and sell some food, yet we haven’t seen anyone sell drinks.
Bus 34 will take you in 2 to 3 hours from Negombo to Kurunegala bus terminal, depending on traffic.
Kurunegala bus terminal
Kurunegala bus terminal is big and chaotic, once you see the signage above the vehicles it gets easy to find your bus. People are always ready to help you so don’t hesitate to ask something. Keep in mind, always check with the bus driver before you hop on the bus to double check the information given.
Once you’re out of the city centre of Kurunegala, you’ll pass through the beautiful landscape of Sri Lanka. You’ll see fewer houses and more fields with palm trees and other local vegetation.
After a 2 hour bumpy ride, you’ll arrive in Dambulla. The bus driver dropped us off at the first bus stop in Dambulla (near a bank/atm), but according to our tuk-tuk driver there is a big bus terminal in Dambulla too.
Bus from Negombo to Kurunegala: 100 RS per person
Bus from Kurunegala: 95 RS per person
>> 195 RS is 1,05 EUR or 1,22 USD.
Negombo – Kurunegala: 2-3 hours
Kurunegala – Dambulla: 2 hours
Busses should be every 20 mins in the morning. Don’t take the bus too late as it’ll get warm in the busses if there’s a lot of traffic and thus air is not coming in through the windows.
Heavy backpacks have to be stowed in front of the bus. We took the second bus to Dambulla because there was no place left to put our luggage on the first one we saw.
Accomodation deals on Booking.com
*By booking any accommodation via the links below we get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
A visitor wishing to stay more than 30 days in Sri Lanka, may apply for an extension. The Short Visit visa may be extended up to 90 days from the date of arrival at the first instance and further 90 days at the second instance.
Application for an extension should be submitted to the Visa Section of the Department of Immigration (head office) by visiting the Department or through an Authorized Agent.
For more details visit. www.immigration.gov.lk.
How do you start your own (travel) blog? It is actually quite easy to start blogging. The hardest part is maintaining it. In this blog post, we’ll explain to you how to get started and which pitfalls to avoid. This will be a huge post, so don’t forget to bookmark it or save it to your Pinterest 😉
Buy them quickly. There are lots of ‘domain resellers’ on the market. They buy domain names and try to sell them for thousands of euros/dollars.
2. Choose a web hosting company
I’ve worked with lots and lots of hosting companies in the past. Some of them are GoDaddy, Versio, Combell, Hostgator, one.com, Siteground, A2, Google Hosting and Bluehost. As of today, I’m still using 3 of the above hosting companies.
Choosing a bad hosting company will lower your page speed and thus lower your rankings in Google. Google hates slow websites. and so do you.
Versio is my cheap hosting provider. I use them to buy domains and redirect these to my main websites (prices starting at €1/domain). Their servers suck, but they give me the option to buy domains cheap.
Combell is my go to hosting company for professional websites in Belgium as they have some of the best servers and services around in Belgium.
Bluehost* is my favourite international hosting company (thus for travel blogs with a broad audience). They are recommended by the company behind WordPress itself ever since 2005. They have a 24/7 service and offer free refunds. My favourite thing about Bluehost is that they work together with Cloudflare CDN. More info later in this post about that (optimize your blog).
Another big plus of Bluehost* is that they have 1-click installs for the most popular blogging platforms. It’s not a plus for me personally, but if you’ve never set up a website it’ll be a huge time saver.
I do recommend Bluehost when you’re just starting out and don’t have an audience yet, it’s easy and cheap. We started this blog on Bluehost ourselves, but as I’m a web developer I love to play around with our own site and after a year I’ve chosen for another hosting option for ourselves. This site is now hosted by Google Cloud Computing, which has great servers but is (way too) hard to set up..
*This link is a referral link. If you click it you’ll get a reduction in your hosting plan (3.95/month, including a free domain name) and Bluehost will reward us for referring them to you.
3. Choose a blogging platform and install it
I’ve tested out many blogging platforms myself. Blogger, Drupal, Squarespace, Wix, WordPress.com, WordPress.org…
The reason why I love self-hosted WordPress.org (not .com!) websites are that they have so many possibilities to customize, and yet are so easy to use for the average Joe.
On one hand, you can customize your layout with themes, on the other hand, you can customize all functionality with plugins. And most important of all: you’re the owner of your own website and thus you’re allowed to put advertisements on your content.
In this post, I’ll be using WordPress.org self-hosted websites as an example, but feel free to ask me anything in the comments below! 🙂
4. Install your website on your hosting
Depending on your hosting this will be easy or hard. If you chose for Bluehost, all you have to do is click install and your website will be up and running within 5 minutes. If you’re using another hosting company, you’ll have to
Make sure you use safe & unique passwords. You don’t want to see your site hacked and/or deleted!
5. Pick a theme
A WordPress theme can make or break your website. The theme is either super customizable or rock solid. A lot of the features will depend on this theme. Don’t be scared to pay some money for a theme, it’ll pay off in the end.
My two favourite themes for WordPress are Enfold and Newspaper. Enfold is my go-to theme for corporate websites due to its flexibility and demo import, Newspaper is my blogging theme because of it’s optimized for blogs.
6. Build a site structure
The most simple setup for your site is:
a homepage with your blog posts
individual blog and category posts
a contact page (don’t miss out on this one if you’re looking for partnerships etc!)
You can get as creative as you want, as long as you have a theme that is easily customizable.
7. Create some content
As long as your website is not the next Facebook or Instagram, people won’t come to your website and scroll around for hours.
Make some great content so your visitors have a reason the click around and read.
Be unique. Don’t copy. Don’t steal.
Of course, you can search for inspiration on other travel sites (like this one 😉 ), but make sure the content is yours. Two reasons:
Google doesn’t like duplicate content, so they won’t index your page.
It’s just not nice to steal other people’s intellectual property.
Try to develop your own style. Whether it’s your way of writing or the type of content you provide. Give your visitors a reason to return!
8. Customize your website
Make sure your visitors can easily navigate on your website. If someone wants to contact you, they should be able to do so in 2 seconds. If they want to search for something, make sure there is a search bar on your menu…
In WordPress, you can adjust your menu via Dashboard > Appearance > Menu.
The real power of WordPress lies in the plugins. Do you want social share buttons on your blog posts? Just install a plugin. (We’re using Social Warfare for that.)
Go to Dashboard > Plugins > Install new and you’re able to install thousands of plugins.
Do some research before you install plugins. I don’t recommend you to install plugins you find anywhere on the internet that’s not https://wordpress.org/plugins/ unless you’re certain it’s trustworthy.
Don’t just install plugins for the sake of it. Because plugins will slow down your blog and, again, Google doesn’t like slow sites. You’ll have to find a balance between online marketing, user experience, and site speed.
Some plugins we do recommend you to install:
Accelerated Mobile Pages for AMP
Akismet for SPAM
Contact form 7
Glue for Yoast and AMP
Really simple SSL
Shortpixel for image optimization
Social Warfare for social share
WPS hide login for security reasons
Yoast for SEO
One of the most important settings for your SEO is your URL structure or your ‘permalinks’.
You can edit them via Dashboard > Settings > Permalinks. We recommend you to use /%category%/%postname%/ as seen below. It’s the best option for Google as it’s readable and gives a nice structure to your site.
If you’re editing your site or you are moving your site to a new platform (for example blogger.com > self-hosted WordPress) make sure to make 301 redirects from your old posts to your new posts. Otherwise, you’ll use all of Google’s history for those posts.
Depending on your theme you can hide or show your user details below a post. We’ve chosen not to (by the time you read this we might have changed our thoughts though ;)). Anyways it’s a good idea to edit your user details as you can put a CTA (call to action) in it.
For example, you can show people where to find your social media channels and to subscribe to your YouTube channel.
Dashboard > Users > Your Profile
9. Create even more content
We cannot stress this enough: content is super important.
Without good, unique and relevant content your site is worthless. You can invest 1000’s of dollars into online marketing, but you will never gain any profit. Unless you’re Justin Bieber and have a fanbase of millions of groupies that is.
Fresh content keeps readers coming back and gives Google an alert that you have an updated site. Google will crawl your site more often and show your pages higher in the rankings.
10. (online) marketing
If the content is your engine, online marketing (paid or not) is the gasoline that keeps it going.
Social media accounts
If you’re just starting your online blogging journey, make sure to claim all of your social media channels. Try to get them as identical as possible.
Probably the most important, but at the same time the most forgotten way of driving traffic to your blog.
I know some bloggers with a 300k email list. That is 300 000 people who have proven to like your content and that are likely to read your content again. All you have to do is send them an email with your fresh content.
We are using MailChimp to automate some emails. If you subscribe to our blog you’ll get an automatic mail on the first day of every month with an overview of every new blog post, published in the last month.
We don’t forget to send updates, as they’re automatic.
Your followers get a reminder to read your content and visit your blog.
MailChimp is free if you have less than 2000 subscribers 🙂
Link building & commenting on other blogs for traffic
I won’t be going into too much detail about SEO. Of course, your website has to be ‘SEO-proof’. More on that later in this post.
Link building is one of the most important aspects to get a high ranking in Google. You can create awesome content and hope that someone links to it. But it might be a better idea to have a strategy about it. Reach out to other websites and ask them to link to your content.
Then again, make sure you have great content that people are looking for and they will write about it. Create lame content and no one wants to link.
Keep in mind that it’s not only website owners, but also social media shares. They have a bit less power in Google’s eyes, but they’ll help.
So if you like this post, be sure to pin, share or tweet this post 😉
Guest posting is one easiest way to gain links, but it takes time. You’ll have to write quality content for other blogs. In return, you may post a link back to your website.
Forum links are most of the time no-follow links, so they don’t really matter for Google. If you provide valuable comments on a forum, people might take a look at your website to see what else you’ve got to say.
11. Monetize your blog
If you’re a blogger, you want to provide value to your audience. Without asking for anything in return. You can, however, earn a few bucks whilst doing what you love.
You’ve probably seen ads more than you’d like. They’re annoying for the user (as they’ll slow down your site and hide content), but they will earn you some money. If you have a lot of traffic on your website you might consider placing ads on your website.
As a reference: if we place ads on our site we earn €1.5 per 1000 views. If someone clicks on your ads you’ll get some more.
If you’re getting 1 000 000 pageviews per month you’d get around €1500.
Affiliate marketing is one of the more subtle ways of earning some money for your hard work. In the beginning of this post, we’ve mentioned BlueHost to get your hosting. If you click that link you’ll get a reduced price for your hosting and we get some credits too.
Same if we refer someone to Airbnb or Booking.com. That person gets a price reduction for his/her stay and we get some credits.
If you want to help us you can check out our support page! 🙂
Just as we’ve got sponsored posts (#sp) on Instagram, you can partner up with companies (hotels, hostels, brands or activity companies).
In exchange for an honest review, you’re getting paid, either with goods, a stay or even cash.
12. Optimize your blog
I won’t go too deep into details about SEO. There are 1000’s of good blog posts out there that’ll teach you all of the ins and outs of SEO.
I’ll list some of the most important things to start with.
Pick an SEO optimised theme. A solid base makes it easier to work with afterwards.
Install the Yoast SEO plugin. You’ll be able to adjust your metadata etc.
Start building links to your blog. A good start is to install a social sharing plugin.
If you have any question about SEO let us know in the comments below and Yentl’ll help you out 😉
Normally a website is hosted on 1 server. A CDN (Content Delivery Network) “copies” your website to multiple servers. That way a user is able to connect to the closest server. This way the loading time of your website is lower.
Another plus of a CDN is that they have built-in security.
We’re using CloudFlare, which is an official partner of Bluehost.
See what I did there 😉
Good luck with you blog! If you have any question, let us know in the comments below.