Going travelling? Here’s advice on efficient packing
When you’re packing a small bag for a long trip, it can feel like the hardest level on Tetris! You want to make sure you have everything you’ll need, but without over-packing and ending up having to pay, either in extra charges from the airline or in back pain!
It’s so easy to pack too much, too little, or in some cases, just things you’ll never end up wearing. Make sure you check the weather forecast so you know what sort of things you should be packing, and also consider your itinerary.
If you’re planning lots of hikes, make sure you have the correct equipment, but if you’re also planning a fancy dinner or two, you’ll need dressier clothes as well. Make a list and tick off as you go so you can be sure you’ve got everything you need.
Travel-sized versions of your toiletries will save a lot of space in your suitcase and will ensure you can take them in hand luggage. For those that can’t be bought in those sizes, you can invest in some reusable travel bottles and decant your larger bottles into them. Make sure you put them in zip-top bags to avoid the devastating shampoo explosion! You should also be able to buy things such as a mini hair dryer or flat iron if you need to take those along with you.
If space is tight you don’t want to be packing one full outfit (or more!) per day. Think about things that can be re-worn and styled differently. For example, you could layer things for a different look, or dress something up or down depending on the shoes and accessories. This is even better if you have washing facilities where you’re staying as you can make a few items last a lot longer.
Cover your gadgets!
Good travel insurance will cover your gadgets, so if you’re planning on taking your tablets, cameras or laptops with you, it’s a good idea to look into what cover you can get. A trip will cost you a whole lot more if you end up losing your expensive bits of technology on the first day!
It’s best to limit the number of gadgets you take with you; consider what tech can be utilised in different ways, such as using your phone as a camera. Make sure you wrap up anything fragile in your clothes when packing, too.
So these are just some of our top tips on how to pack efficiently! Whether you are backpacking around the world or just going on a business trip, you can apply these and make the most of your space. We’ve certainly found that it’s a skill we get better at each time we do it! If you’ve got any tips for packing, please leave them in the comments.
Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara near Tangalle, in south Sri Lanka is a unique Buddhist temple built ascending a 205 meter (673 foot) natural rock formation. The temple consists of many caves containing reclining Buddhas and painted ceilings, along with a Stupa at the summit. From the top you can hike around the back to a gigantic rock cliff with fantastic views of the lush surrounding area.
We rode a tuk tuk from Hiriketiya for about 40 min to reach the Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara rock temple. The entrance fee is 500 rupees for foreigners. There are many monkeys to greet you and encourage you, hooting and hollering at you as you are sweating your way up the long staircases.
The temple was constructed in the 3rd century and contains a tree germinated from the Bodhi tree in which Buddha supposedly gain enlightenment under. We didn’t see the tree, unfortunately, because we only read about it after. So take a picture for us when you go! 😉 We did make a video though. The video shows our journey starting in Hiriketiya and ending at this temple. Check it out!
On the way up to Mulkirigala’s highest stupa there are four or five caves, each containing a reclining Buddha statue and beautifully painted ceilings. Don’t forget to buy some flowers at the bottom to leave as an offering for Buddha in one of the caves!
Along the way there are several guys who will give you a blessing and put a bracelet on you. You can recognize which people go to temple because of the string around their wrists. They give the blessing mostly in Sinhalese but do their best to translate a bit to English. We know it means something like “Buddha and the monks bless you. Have a long and happy life!”
The highlight of Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara rock temple for us is the overlook at the top. Sitting on top of a giant rock, it feels like you can see all of Sri Lanka. It’s a great place to meditate for a minute or two.
When in Sri Lanka don’t miss Mulkirigala Rock Temple. It was our favorite temple in Sri Lanka and one of the most unique we’ve been to anywhere.
Traveling to Sri Lanka? Landing in Colombo can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be. Travel in Sri Lanka can be stress free if you know how to get around. Whether you are headed for your next big surf trip or just to soak up the beach sun, study our ultimate Sri Lanka transportation guide to best enjoy this Indian Ocean island paradise.
Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island
The Sri Lanka train system is old-school and can range from dreamy rides through the mountains with a whole car to yourself, to being packed in like sweaty sardines, unable to sit for hours. The most iconic ride is between Ella and Kandy, which takes you through incredible mountain and tea plantations views and Horton Plains National Park. It is perhaps the most beautiful train ride in the world. You can start east of Ella if you want to ride over the Nine Arch Bridge, or just hike there from Ella town to get your picture. Trains are separated into first, second, and third classes. First class tickets can be bought online and you get a guaranteed seat. Second and third class are similar and you can purchase them at the ticket office no more than 15 minutes before the train arrives. You might get a seat, you might not. Once on a packed train we sat in the doorway with our legs out the side of the train the whole journey. Despite sore butts from sitting on the floor the whole way, it was a great way to enjoy the scenery!
Local buses go everywhere in Sri Lanka. If you are traveling for a long time and/or on a budget, this is your best bet. Find the blue signs along the road which signify stopping points; they are every few hundred meters. Be prepared to jump on while the bus is still moving! The ticket sellers will sometimes try to over-charge you. Once inside hold on for dear life, as the drivers are notoriously psychotic and get paid by the trip, not by the hour. Bus fare in Sri Lanka are around 20 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) for a short trip or near 200 LKR from Colombo to the south coast (~5hrs). For busing to/from Colombo, check out the special section in the bottom of the page. Throw your backpacks in front by the driver or in the storage space in the rear, depending on how helpful/hurried the ticket guys are at the moment. Buses are by far the most popular form of Sri Lanka transportation with the locals, so ride them at least once for the experience.
These three-wheeled motorized rickshaws are a Sri Lankan transportation staple and you will find them all over the island. They are fun to zoom around in, but the drivers are pushy and you always have to ask the price up front and negotiate; just please don’t be a dick because the price is 50 LKR higher than you’d like. A good tourist’s tuk tuk fare is 75 LKR per kilometer, but expect to pay more late at night. They have room for three people but will sometimes let you take more (for a tip) and generally have room for your luggage. Check out the Tuk Tuk Safari that we did, which featured the nicest tuk tuk we’ve ever seen! In Colombo there is a great app called Pick Me that you can use to summon your tuk tuk rides.
Buses and tuk tuks get old fast, and sometimes you just want t stop and get a coconut (or an ice cream). Renting a motorbike is a nice change of pace and lets you explore more remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Prices range from 800-1200 LKR per day. In our opinion, this is the most fun type of Sri Lanka transportation. Technically you need an international drivers license, along with your home country’s ID, and a special permit only obtainable in Colombo. Most tourists who rent motorbikes do not have all or any of these documents, so just expect to pay a fine if you are stopped by the police. Watch out for police roadblocks in every town. We generally see them coming and hide behind the car in front of us. The police aren’t trying to work too hard, and won’t chase you.
Taxis are useful in Colombo, or if you are on a quick trip/higher budget. A trip from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to the south can cost between 7,000 and 12,000 LKR so be sure to do some negotiating. If you have a hotel reserved, have them arrange a taxi for you, as they will get a better price and your ride will be waiting on your arrival. If you need a ride to/from specific places, post sometime on one of the Sri Lanka traveler Facebook groups and many taxis will message you with deals. Uber is a good option, but only works in Colombo. Taxis don’t normally have signs in Sri Lanka, because they are usually are just some dude with a Prius.
Getting to/from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport:
Keep in mind that Sri Lanka only has one international airport, located in Colombo. Most travelers choose to skip Colombo or leave it until the end of their trip, after getting more comfortable with the country. Leaving the airport is one of the most expensive parts of travel in Sri Lanka. There are several options to get you where you need to be:
Bus – When walking out the main exit during daytime hours, you will see a blue bus directly in front of the exit. This takes you to the main bus station (150 LKR – 1hr) near the Colombo Fort and train station. This main bus station is for local buses which depart to all parts of the island for a very cheap price. However, if you’re headed to the south we’d recommend taking the highway bus to Matara (500 LKR – 2hrs) which is air conditioned and gets you there in half the time of the local bus. These nicer buses leave from a different bus station called Maharagama in south Colombo. They depart every 15 min or so when full. There are also highway buses directly to Galle, although they leave less often than the Matara buses. To get to Maharagama either take a bus from the local bus station, or taxi/Uber straight from the airport (45 min, recommended).
Taxi – If you are only in Sri Lanka for a short time and your first stop is outside Colombo, we recommend just taking a taxi straight from the airport to your destination. Set it up with your hotel in advance to save money and have someone waiting for you. Keep in mind that if you are arriving late at night or early in the morning, taxi or Uber might be your only option for getting anywhere.
Tuk tuk – if you are spending the night in nearby Negombo, you can take a tuk tuk to your destination. The tuk tuks are not allowed into the airport pickup area but you just need to walk across the street to flag one down.
Sri Lanka transportation is easy, however sometimes it can be crowded and hot. We call it “character building” as my favorite athlete Alex Honnold would say. Just keep your cool and everything will be fine! What’s to worry, if all else fails while traveling Sri Lanka, you’ve still got your Chevrolegs and your thumb!
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What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka? The party is over. After the infamous assault of Dutch tourists on Mirissa Beach in April, 13 locals were arrested and parties and party places were closed across the south coast of Sri Lanka. Several bars tried to organize events but were shut down by the police. However, travelers were still coming and expected something to do, being surprised at the lack of party scene and moving on quickly once they realized it was not what they had read about. Soon the situation escalated even more, as most of the Mirissa beach bars have been destroyed by government bulldozers.
***Don’t forget to read to the bottom for a more recent update***
The newest development happened quickly. On May 11th government bulldozers rolled into Mirissa town, along with more than 100 police officers, heavily armed soldiers, and a water cannon to fight back riots. The government proceeded to knock down 21 structures deemed “illegal”. This included nearly all the bars and restaurants leaving a big mess of mental, concrete, and other industrial waste along the beach. Check out this article to read more from a local news report.
This might be another case of a story which goes a little deeper. Only a few bars in Mirissa actually had a license to sell alcohol. These places are still standing after the bulldozing. Most beach bars in Sri Lanka choose to operate illegally, paying bribes over the obnoxiously priced and hard to get liquor licenses. These licenses have a price tag of near one million Sri Lankan Rupees and take years of dedication through the proper channels to obtain.
There is also the factor that several large hotel chains have recently been “banging on the doors” of Mirissa. It will be interesting to see if these large corporate companies are awarded the licensing that the local people were so long denied.
The government’s official reasons for the deconstruction was that A) the structures are illegal, and B) they are causing an environmental impact along the coast. After the buildings were knocked down, there was no plan in place to clean up the destroyed structures. These are still lining the beach, slowly getting picked though by the locals, hazardous asbestos roofing sheets thrown about in the sand. Was this really the most environmentally safe solution, or did the authorities start a plan without a real finish in mind?
With the beach party scene being the reason most people came to Mirissa, Sri Lanka, we suspect it will take years for the town to recover. Many honest and hardworking locals will be without work, not to mention the tremendous economic loss to the hundreds of local hotels and tourism businesses.
We still recommend people go to Mirissa for the surf and awesome beachfront. And don’t forget the sunsets! Whatever ends up happening with all of this, hopefully in a few years Mirissa Beach will be in a better place because of the changes, however drastic that they were. What do you think? Did the government make the right decision? Will you help us to have a clean up day, making the beach beautiful again? Comment below!
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UPDATE October 2018:
We recently went to Mirissa to see if anything has changed. The season is starting and tourists are beginning to flood to the area. The beach is still a mess, lots of the debris has never been cleaned up. Also, several of the bars/restaurants have reopened in the structures that were not eliminated. All the rubble just makes the beach not seem as nice as it used to be. Not sure if the parties will start again, supposedly we will see in the September season kick-off.
We discovered the amazing Surf & Yoga Mirissa during our second visit to Sri Lanka when we were looking for a place on the south coast to chill, get some work done, and live close to nature. Surf & Yoga Mirissa’s property is right in the jungle just 1km down the road from Mirissa’s main beach. The retreat features clean spacious rooms with super-comfy beds, hammocks to lounge around in all over the property, a surf shop and yoga studio, all the activities you could possibly want to do in south Sri Lanka, and the amazing Ahimsa Vegan Cafe!
There’s also breakfast and dinner available (vegan and non-vegan options) for guests, three yoga classes per day, and surf lessons available for all levels with awesome, experienced instructors.
The yoga instruction is also top-notch, with a variety of styles being taught and teachers who can cater to all levels! Honestly, it’s the perfect place to jump headfirst into the yoga+surf life!
Ahimsa Vegan Cafe, the super-cool shipping container restaurant on site, has amazing healthy plant-based offerings! It’s open every day except Sunday from 11-3:30! Be sure to try the signature Ahimsa Bowl – a mix of roasted veggies, salad, veggie protein, and delicious homemade peanut sauce!
Mirissa Surf & Yoga also strives to be as eco-friendly as possible, with composting, recycling, and regular “karma yoga” beach cleanups! The owner, Priyal, and staff of Surf & Yoga Mirissa can guide you to all the best sites and activities in the area! They’re a super-friendly crew of surfers who will be sure to make you feel at home in Sri Lanka! There’s also no less than FOUR cute, friendly doggies who call this place home. So there are lots of furry friends for those of you who miss your pets so much, like us!
Check out their awesome video for more of a taste of this amazing place!
We had a very wet, exhilarating blast of a time during our first Songkran Thai New Year celebration! In Chiang Mai, people converge around the Old City‘s moat with water guns, hoses, buckets, and refill barrels! Our friends from the USA picked Songkran week to visit us in Thailand so they could join in on the madness! We had tons of fun acting like kids, dueling with Thai families, dodging water gun fire all around us and sneak-attacking unsuspecting tourists! Who’s coming to Thailand for Songkran next year?
Bunkyard Hostel in Colombo, Sri Lanka is a place that is doing things right. With its “junkyard” up-cycled decor, the hostel is a photographer’s dream with Instagramable objects in nearly every room. The owners and managers are extremely friendly and you can tell that they really want you to have a good time! Trying to find the best word to describe Bunkyard was hard, but eventually I chose “FUN!” because it’s true!
The rooms are super clean, and we really enjoyed the thick, soft mattresses. Many hostels unfortunately skimp on the beds, leaving you tossing and turning. Bunkyard remembered that the main reason you are at their hostel is to sleep, and stocked the ‘yard with cozy beds. There is A/C in all the rooms and the dorm beds also have reading lights and USB charging hubs.
The top floor’s dorms have an awesome, big patio overlooking the street. The bottom floor features the reception area and a nice hangout space. As you walk farther into the building you walk past a small shop that sells cool board shorts, hats, yoga pants, and our favorite super-colorful, traditional Sri Lankan shirts made by Gitano (Instagram @gitanoshirts). The back of the first floor has two kitchens, one for the restaurant and a shared one for guests. There is also a refrigerator for your leftovers and hot water with free tea and coffee!!!!
Also included in your stay at Bunkyard Hostel in Colombo is free breakfast. Free is a word you almost never hear in Sri Lanka, so this added huge value to our stay. You get the choice of omelette or fruit + yogurt. They have a few more options as well if you want to add on for a small price.
Bunkyard Hostel was a breath of fresh air in the busy city of Colombo. It was refreshing to stay someplace so funky but clean, and well managed. The owners treated us super kindly and we wish them lots of success on their future projects. Definitely check this place out whenever you’re headed in or out of Colombo!
Games and books
Kombucha and soda for sale
Special breakfasts and smoothies
Homemade lunch for sale every day, occasional dinner specials