Necessities to always have in your bag when exploring Sri Lanka are: Baby wipes and toilet paper, a sarong or long skirt for visiting temples, a reusable water bottle, an emergency supply of feminine products and cash in small bills. You can refill your water bottle in your hotel or in any restaurant instead of buying plastic bottles. Baby wipes and toilet paper will be handy for places that will not have anything more than a hand shower or a bucket. Always have your preferred feminine products in your bag as finding some quickly might not be easy if you’re not in the city. And don’t forget cash in small bills for tuk tuks and buses!
The best way to really get to know any country is to make friends with the locals. As a female, you are better off making friends with women first and foremost. Sri Lankan women are some of the friendliest in the world and will happily offer you a seat at their dinner table. A lot of people will be surprised that you are travelling on your own but will also offer you advice on the best places to visit and where to stay. If you are nice and courteous, you will get the same treatment in return.
The Barefoot Garden Cafe is great for many reasons. The shopping is wonderful, with so many beautiful things to look at and get for yourself or friends back home and the cafe area on the garden patio is perfect for sending emails from your laptop. It’s also a great place for meeting other travellers. Sundays are especially fun!
If you have been travelling around Asia or southeast Asia, this might already be a known fact, but it’s best to prevent any unfortunate circumstances. There are two instances in which a woman travelling alone needs to dress modestly in Sri Lanka. First is when visiting temples; legs and shoulders must always be covered, no matter what. You will not be able to go inside otherwise. The other unfortunate circumstance is that Sri Lankan men (and also women if they are uncomfortable seeing you) will stare. Better to just cover up!
When the sun goes down, the city, and the towns especially, become very quiet. Going out alone after dark is not something a woman does in Sri Lanka, traveller or local. If you plan to go out on the town for a drink and a good time, best to find someone to go with. Getting a tuk tuk on your own at night will definitely turn into an uncomfortable conversation with the driver, no matter what you are wearing.
Sri Lankans tend to stare at other people. It doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you look a bit non-Sri Lankan, you will be stared at. Ironically enough, they also stare at each other sometimes. If you are travelling alone on the bus, on the train or if you are alone on the beach, on the street or in a restaurant, you will be stared at. The women will smile at you and might come over to chat. The men will not only stare, they will ask for your name, your phone number and your Facebook ID. They will be pushy. Dressing modestly helps these situations but the more skin you show, the pushier they will be. It is unfortunate, but it is so.
As a solo female traveller you probably already have your wits about you. Either way, it’s not overkill to mention that you need to keep your eyes open and follow your gut. The experiences you can have in Sri Lanka are pretty special so getting affected by some stares and pushy men will only put a sour note on your travels. Keep your head up, be confident and have the time of your life in Sri Lanka!