Liam's guide to surfing in Sri Lanka
Why were you there?
I was there travelling with a friend. We went to the South coast around Midigama and Mirissa, and then went on to the East, where we stayed in Arugam Bay.
What activities did you do?
You can see whales and other marine life on the Raja and the Whales boat trip from Mirissa – book directly. In Arugam Bay, Dylan’s Surf shop offer beginner’s lessons for people who want to try their hand at surfing. Their coaches are super knowledgeable and helpful. Again, book directly. If you take a day trip to Kumana national park from Arugam Bay, you will see elephants, leopards and a range of other animals. To save money, get a group of people to go as a lot of the agencies that run the trips to the national park charge a flat rate. The more, the merrier.
What hostels do you recommend?
JJ’s hostel is in Mirissa. The owner, James, is a really friendly and helpful Australian who is very knowledgeable about the area and how things work. If you’re looking to relax and experience local culture, this is the place for you. If you want to party and meet lots of people, perhaps look elsewhere.
Surfing Wombats is in Midigama. It’s owned by two surfers who not only have lots of knowledge about the waves but who also host open mic nights and lots of parties where you can meet lots of fellow travellers. This place is about 15 minutes away from Mirissa.
Bamboo Grove is just off the main strip of Arugam Bay and should definitely be booked in advance because hostels fill up quickly in here. It’s Sri Lankan-owned, does a great breakfast, has both private and dorm rooms, and is close to the beach and the main strip.
Cheeky Monkey Hostel in Midigama is known amongst locals for causing trouble such as violence, noise and drug dealing, so be warned.
Mambo’s beachfront party in Arugam Bay has free entry every Saturday night. Whiskey Point beachfront party also has free entry every Friday night. It’s just outside of Arugam Bay but they provide a free shuttle service from the main strip. Get there early so you don’t miss out! They have a dance floor, a beach fire and an awesome bar. Though, there is no shuttle bus for the way back, so try to avoid being ripped off by Tuk Tuk drivers charging inflated prices. Mama’s all-you-can-eat restaurant in Arugam Bay is awesome for a budget meal when you need replenishing.
Taxis: here is a Facebook page called ‘Sri Lanka Taxi Share’ that people use to split the cost of taxis. It’s really useful for saving a couple of rupees on an airport transfer.
Bus: this is definitely the cheapest means of travel, and tickets can only be bought at stations or onboard. The bus drivers in Sri Lanka act like they have a death wish, so be prepared for some hair-raising moments if you are going to travel on one.
Tuk Tuks: these are a great way to get around no matter where you are in Sri Lanka. Top tip! Always haggle with the driver, because the first price is always a rip off…my friend and I learnt this the hard way!
Train: make sure you take a train in Sri Lanka – the views are amazing and it’s definitely a very different experience to the Great Western Railway. It was actually built and engineered by the British when Sri Lanka was a part of the British empire, and all the conductors and workers still wear elaborate uniforms and its like taking a step back in time.
In Sri Lanka, they have Rupees. Personally, I had a Revolut card and withdrew cash the second I arrived there as that had the best value for money in terms of transfer rates. The country almost exclusively uses cash, and it’s rare that a business will accept card payment. When withdrawing money in big amounts, be sure to keep it safe and secure in a good place and preferably on your person. Beware of ATM withdrawal fees: if you can’t find one that’s free to use, take out enough for the week so you get your money’s worth.