There are so many reasons to love Sri Lanka and thinking back on our time there our memories are all ones of full of colour and life. However, the one thing that really stood out for us was the Sri Lankan people and their unbeatable hospitality.
Now, we like to think we’ve travelled quite far through South East Asia and although most countries there are known for their hospitality we felt that Sri Lanka was on another level. We didn’t stay in one place where we weren’t greeted by a huge, warm smile and genuine care over our being settled in. Now this may have been very lucky or it may have been due to the fact that we always chose to stay in homestays or family guesthouses.
The hostel scene is yet to take off in Sri Lanka and due to it recently becoming a big package holiday destination a lot of the accommodation was way over our budget! So, the most affordable option was basic double rooms within homestays or small family guesthouses and we were so glad it was! Staying with local families made our experience all the more special; we met some lovely people and families and were treated to some real home-cooked Sri Lankan cuisine!
Apart from being the obvious cheap choice for budget backpackers, here are 6 more reasons why every backpacker should go local and experience the magic of Sri Lanka’s homestays;
1. Becoming Part of the Family
From the moment you arrive at your selected homestay you will be welcomed with big smiles and open arms. Staying in a homestay is almost like becoming part of the family, the hosts will go out of their way to make you feel welcome – we were even shown wedding pictures and family albums on a number of occasions! Be open to this and you will truly make some good friends.
We stayed in an apartment (one room) above a family house for 8 nights in Weligama and spent time playing with and practicing English with their two sweet children, speaking to the family about their life and business and playing with their two cute little puppies Tommy and Dougie. They even showed us around their family business of ice cream cone making and of course we were treated daily to testing these with a big dollop of ice cream! By the time it came for us to leave we felt a part of the family and wouldn’t hesitate to return!
Throughout our stays we were always made to feel that nothing was too much trouble. The families have a genuine kindness and wish to make your stay as comfortable as possible!
2. The Welcome Drinks
Okay, so it may be us but we’ve never experienced this anywhere else but in Sri Lanka! Arriving hot and sweaty at a homestay only to be greeted by an ice cold fruity beverage is an absolute life-saver! We’ve had everything from freshly squeezed lime juice to watermelon juice and my personal favourite – mango smoothies! Amazing! This starts the stay so well and is an instant winner in our eyes!
3. The Beds
Like all budget backpackers we are used to slumming it in bunk beds so whilst we admit that what we are comparing the beds to here aren’t much we still think they are pretty amazing! Every bed we stayed in was soooo comfortable and laden with soft marshmallowy pillows! The hosts here take comfort seriously and we’ve never stayed in so many comfy beds consecutively! In a month we even had the pleasure of staying in three four poster beds – dreamy!!
4. The Cleanliness
As clear from the name, homestays are often part of a hosts own home or if a guesthouse are usually always family run and so they pride these places as if they were their own home. They were all spotlessly clean – we even waited a good half an hour (whilst happily sipping on our welcome drink!) waiting for a room to be re-cleaned before we could check in. Safe to say it was beautifully pristine and was kept this way throughout our whole stay!
5. The Breakfasts
Sounds kind of sad but Sri Lankan breakfasts were most definitely one of our favourite things about travelling this country! Ask anyone who has been and guaranteed they love the breakfasts here too! Whilst surely available in all accommodation types we found that the breakfasts in the homestays and guesthouses were exceptional!
This is what you get in an average breakfast; string hoppers, dahl, coconut sambal, toast (like an actual mountain of the stuff!) with butter and jam, an absolutely huge plate of fruit including pineapple, watermelon, mango, apples – you name it, a fruit juice AND the biggest pot of fresh, delicious Sri Lankan tea!! Sometimes on top of this we got pancakes too – safe to say we were usually full until dinner time and put on about a stone after our months stay!We can’t wait to go back and feast on these again!
6. The Advice
The hosts are of course native to the area and so have a wealth of knowledge about what to do and see and where to eat! We had some amazing advice which led us to change our original plans but made our trip that much more memorable because of it! One host even took our number and kept in contact for the next two weeks to ensure we were okay and to help out in anyway he could – we still text him now and are hoping to meet him for a beer when we go back to Sri Lanka in May!
Where else would you get hospitality like this and in such an utterly genuine way?
We’ve stayed in hundreds of places since the beginning of our trip and whilst you sometimes get a really great place here and there we were really surprised at how nearly every (of course there are always a few dud ones!) place we stayed in Sri Lanka was a treat in itself!
So, if you’re headed over to Sri Lanka please take a moment to consider these Homestay/Guesthouse options! We promise they will provide an experience you won’t forget and you may even make some great friends along the way! In addition, you are paying only a small amount of money which goes directly into the pocket of the generous and welcoming families you’ve stayed with as opposed to a big chain or hotel and so you really see how it will help them and their small livelihood!
Weligama – Grindlays Villa
Hikkaduwa – Travellers Hostel
Tangalle – Jaya Homestay
Dambulla – Casa Dambulla Boutiq Villa
Polonnoruwa – Nature Park Guesthouse
We hope you’re experiences are as memorable as ours!
C & J