Sri Lanka with kids: Our first impressions
Good morning and welcome to the second instalment of our Sri Lanka travel blog! I am writing this from our rental apartment in the small coastal resort of Unawatuna.
Before coming to Sri Lanka we’d never heard of Unawatuna, but it’s a pretty good starting point for families travelling to Sri Lanka with kids.
Our apartment is 30 seconds’ walk from the beach, which is ideal when travelling with young kids. We loved being close-ish to the beach in Bali but even a 5 minute walk when you’re hot, sandy and trying to help three kids carry shells they’ve collected that are apparently more precious than a baby unicorn’s pure soul, can be trying.
We had a palaver with our journey from Thailand to Sri Lanka; read about it here. It involves cancelled accommodation on Christmas Eve, the world’s least helpful airport staff and flying to the wrong airport. What can I say, we do things whole-heartedly.
Sri Lanka travel blog: Our accommodation
When we finally got to our accommodation in southern Sri Lanka, we found that there were people living there, it was full of mosquitos and cockroaches (in Thailand, a cockroach ate my toothbrush bristles) and there was no water. Woohoo!
And that is how we came to be here, in a three-bed apartment (£130 per week, win!) by the beach. (If you’d like to see posts on our budget and our travel costs, let me know in the comments).
We don’t have a set daily routine but often we’ll try and get a workout in after breakfast; the kids join in and are already putting me to shame with their pull-ups from the tree in the front yard. Then I’ll work until the afternoon while the kids do art, reading, playing and watching zombies eat plants or something on their iPads. (Read more about home education here). Then we’ll head to the beach until dinner where we’ll grab curry or pasta and watch the sun set. When the mozzies and sandflies make an appearance it’s time to head back to the apartment where we do more reading, work, yoga, listen to podcasts and watch movies.
We have really enjoyed visiting the colonial city of Galle; with Dutch and Portuguese influence it makes for a very pretty and history-rich trip, perfect for Sri Lanka travel blog inspiration. Check out what we’ve been up to in Galle here.
Unawatuna beach is a great option when visiting Sri Lanka with kids. It’s got loads of restaurants and cafes along the edge, fine sand that is perfect for castle-building, and really fun waves. It’s turned out great for the kids as the sea sucks them out a little way and then dumps them back to shore. All three of them have grown in water confidence and Esmae is positively morphing into a surfer-mermaid… thing!
We’ve also visited Jungle Beach a couple of times; a gorgeous little secret cove near Unawatuna beach. It’s got the postcard-perfect soft sand, clear blue water and palm fringes that we were hoping to find on this lovely island.
We plan to be around this area of the coast for the next couple of weeks, doing day-trips to other beaches like Mirissa, Kogalla and Tangalle. The kids are really looking forward to doing a whale-watching trip before we head north to stay in a national park and then catch the famous train from Ella to Kandy, riding through the beautiful tea plantations.
We have been surprised by Sri Lanka- we weren’t expecting so many issues with infrastructure (there are frequent power cuts and water supply only gets turned on for part of the day) but we have been very pleasantly surprised by the food here. There are plenty of western options for kids who like familiar food, as well as abundant good local roti stalls and little curry houses. Being vegan has been a total breeze too, which was blissful relief from Thailand (read my guide to vegan Thailand here). We’ve tried clay pot buffets, aubergine/potato/jackfruit/mango/soybean curries, various dhaals, loads of different rices, breakfast sambols, the lot.
The best places to eat are simply the little houses with husband-and-wife teams, maybe a small chalkboard sign and a couple of plastic chairs outside. That’s a good indicator that you’ll find proper, local, authentic Sri Lankan food instead of a watered-down western version.
Tuk-tuks are a part of daily life here. In Thailand they are slightly more of a tourist attractions; here they are the main way that people get around. We must have taken 20 tuk-tuk rides since we got here; all six of us, plus bags, in a tiny tin thing.
The power just went off as I was writing that sentence. Again!
Sri Lanka family travel: Little challenges
It’s interesting, visiting a country where getting the basics done is a challenge. Our water tank is shared with our neighbours so when it’s gone it’s gone, and we’ve got used to washing with the ‘butt hose’ or a bucket or having an extra dip in the sea (salt water is THE ONE for hair, by the way).
It’s made us really appreciate how easy things are in the UK- we knew this, but there’s something about trying to get a mixture of sand, suncream and poo off a baby when nothing’s coming out of the taps that makes you appreciate it even more, y’know?
We are looking forward to the rest of our first month on the island and adding plenty more to our Sri Lanka travel blog- we leave for India late February, which will surely be even more of a challenge- and, of course, even more adventure.