Safe travel recommendations are often exaggerated, as no one wants to mislead a person into oblivion…That’s when you realise that ignorance is bliss.
I wouldn’t want you to feel the way I did as my initial enthusiasm for a trip, that I’ve been waiting for 2 years to happen, faded to an unknown somber feeling in my gut as I landed in Colombo’s airport.
Travelling with a group lead by a guide in a confined bus within certain limitations is not for me, I like to wander around the streets on my own, melt with the crowd and share food, thoughts and stories…
Travelling Solo is awesome; I may be vulnerable, alone but not lonely. My senses are wide awake and willing to absorb the environment, the culture. Sensitive to the local vibes, surrounded by a flood of emotions. Solos are travellers, they eat local, ride local and live local…
I come from a third world country myself, one that has a huge issue when it comes to sexual harassment and unreported rapes. Despite that, the reviews were disturbing to me, the amount of things I shouldn’t do felt like a tight chain around my neck… I thought to myself that it’s probably exaggerated and if it would be the same as it was in India then I will be perfectly fine but there were only one way to find out…
The “men” may try to exploit your vulnerability whether it’s personal or for business purposes. Beware of shop keepers, tuktuk drivers and “faux” tour guides. They will ask an endless amount of questions; what’s your name, where are you staying, why are you are you alone, why not take you to some place God knows where, why not have a drink, have a meal, and it goes on and on…Some will try and take advantage of your friendliness when you shake hands with them, as if it was a consent to their services whatever that means.
Kandy was the ugly town in terms of sexual harassment. Tuktuk drivers were mean touts who would do anything to cash in your rupees, they might circle around town for a countless number of times to make you feel that the distance is long. If you resist, they would be mean and try to scare you into submission.
The ultimate tip
Be you, dressed up a little bit more conservative. It’s not heaven nor hell, it’s just a cultural difference that you need to adapt with if you’d like to penetrate the local life without stirring unwanted curiosity. Always wear a smile; primarily because calm attitude always wins, secondly because you are in a beautiful place inhabited by kind people and being there is just worth it.
1- Do not look people in the eye to the extent they feel you have an ulterior motive.
2- Please smile and don’t be weary, no need to be rude. Being polite works…
3- Dress the way Sri Lankans do. It’s fine to wear simple skirts over the knee or below, jeans,sleeveless tops but not revealing shoulders and sometimes sundresses. If you pack light pants and t-shirts, that will do.
4- Do not give away your destination or accommodation address to anyone.
5- Many towns are small villages, Sri Lankans are not party people and do not have a nightlife, they are all home latest by 7 afterwork. A single lady wandering around the streets after dark may seem like an easy prey to the drunkards and dopes. Galle fort for example is lively at all times, yet in town it’s all quiet so use your common sense.
6- You may as well want to avoid lake sides and beaches beyond sunset.
7- If you go out at night; have your stay pre-arrange with a trustworthy tuktuk or taxi.
1- Arm yourself with information regarding; cost of transportation, tickets, distances, opening times…etc
2- Don’t listen to people trying to guide you, cause they will make you pay for it.
3- If someone follows you for money you should not pay; smile and say no. If they start acting aggressive, yell and threaten to call the police, they will immediately back off.
4- Don’t let it be known that you are alone.
Remember: You are not in Sri Lanka to change how people think and act, you are there to explore how they think and act. So be mindful…
All photos are taken by myself; Racha Rachad and I reserve all copyrights.