Now is the best time to visit Sri Lanka. This beautiful little island – the pearl of Asia, as it’s affectionally known – will likely be one of the most incredible places you ever experience in your life. When I decided to visit Sri Lanka, undeterred by April’s tragic terrorist attack, I didn’t particularly have any expectations. I’ve been travelling long enough that I often tend not to think ahead to the next country, but rather just arrive and see what happens. Well, reader, I fell in love!
Sri Lanka is without a doubt the most magnificent place I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. It’s got everything; leopards on safari, beautiful beaches, wild elephants. Fragrant curries in the living room of generous local families, whale watching, the rainforest. Visit exquisite temples, hike Sigiriya’s Lion Rock, ride a few waves or dive down into the ocean. Alternatively, just lie back somewhere delightful and relish the kindness of Sri Lankan hospitality. It’s got everything. So why is now the best time to visit Sri Lanka?
Visiting Sri Lanka post-terrorism
After almost a decade of peace following the civil war and the acclaimed title of destination of 2019 by the Lonely Planet, Sri Lankan was the victim of a terrible, tragic and ultimately devastating terrorist attack on Easter Sunday of this year. If the death toll and destruction alone wasn’t harrowing enough, the subsequent crash in tourism would do its best to destroy businesses and livelihoods. Within a week, tens of thousands of jobs were lost. Small businesses, like Epic Ocean Adventures dive shop who I went out with off of Trincomalee, lost 94% of all bookings, leaving them without a foot through the door for months on end. Hotels and resorts, drivers and tour operators faced the same bleak figures. The trickle down affect doesn’t stop there because suddenly it’s the fruit sellers, the fishermen and the food stalls with no customers to cater to.
Now is the best time to visit Sri Lanka first and foremost because it is the best possible way to demonstrate your support. Your plane ticket says I’m not scared, it says that hatred will not win. If you’re concerned about security, I can only give my firsthand opinion; I have not felt unsafe for even a second in Sri Lanka. Not only have I not feared further attacks – security, police presence and airport vigilance are at their peak – but I have also found the Sri Lankan people to be nothing but warm and welcoming. Their joy in your presence is truly genuine and they will do anything to make you feel at home, whether you’re in a £200 a night luxury villa or a £5 homestay.
In viewing now as the best time to visit Sri Lanka, you’re able to demonstrate to your network of family and friends that it is still very much a safe and inviting place to visit; you’ll be a part of bringing tourism back to Sri Lanka in the wake of tragedy.
If you want a financial incentive, travelling here is currently incredibly good value. This was already a cheap (by European, Australian, American etc standards) country to visit and right now hotels are offering heavily discounted rates in light of the low tourist numbers. The Sri Lankan government has made the $35 a head visa free for 58 countries and airlines are offering incredibly competitive flight rates. So let’s not beat around the bush, now is the best time to visit Sri Lanka not just so that you can demonstrate support but because frankly, you’re going to experience an incredible holiday for less.
I find it painfully ironic when countries like the UK or USA dish out travel advice that deters their citizens from visiting somewhere like Sri Lanka right now. Do you know what? I feel unsafe at the prospect of visiting the US. I don’t want to go to a country, rife with mass-shooting after mass-shooting. I have lived in London for the past 5 years; I lived on Westminster Bridge Road at the time of the attack there. I walked along the Thames and cried in London Bridge at the piles and piles of flowers laid out for the victims of that attack. We do our absolute best to hold our heads high and to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we are not scared; we continue our trips to London, to Paris, to the USA. I can only think that it’s some form of institutionalised fear of the unknown – dare I say it, racism? – that allows us to continue travelling in the west whilst fearing the east.
Well, Sri Lanka, you’ve got my vote. Thank you for an incredible three weeks, I’ve got no doubt I’ll be back time and time again.