Sri Lanka family travel advice


Itinerary tips

Liddy Pleasants is Managing Director (and a mum who loves to bring her kids to Sri Lanka) at our supplier, Stubborn Mule Travel: “The main thing for families is to not overdo it. I would advise them to spend three or four nights in one place and then move on to the next. So, for example, go to the Cultural Triangle, and just stay put for a few days seeing everything from there. We give our guests a local driver to take them around, who will do things like stop at lovely fruit stalls along the way and you can try all sorts of tropical fruits you haven’t heard of before.”
Helene Cooper from Stubborn Mule: “You aren’t ‘templed out ‘in Sri Lanka. It’s not like Vietnam or Cambodia with so many temples and ruins that kids whatever age might just think ‘yawn’. You’ve got the Lion’s Rock or Sigiriya – kids love that, because they take one look and say, ‘how on earth do we climb that?’ So, it’s temples with a twist here, if you know what I mean. We bike around Polonnaruwa too, so you are not going to get bored following a guide around another temple.”

Culture tips

John Beswetherick, Managing Director of our supplier Tikalanka (UK) Limited: “Everyone knows about the Esala Perahera Festival in Kandy, but the Navam Perahera in Colombo at the full moon February is not so touristy. The other one is the big Hindu Kataragama Festival in July and August, near Yala National Park, which is a great experience.”

When to go to Sri Lanka

Helene Cooper, Stubborn Mule: “Travelers should listen to the advice about the seasons. They should not go to the northeast coast during the winter because of the monsoon. Seas will be rough and they won’t be able to go in. For anyone who doesn’t like humidity, it isn’t for them. It is really humid all year around, and unless you have been to the tropics yourself, you cannot imagine what it feels like. You just can’t replicate that feeling here or in the rest of Europe.”

Wildlife safaris with kids

Helene Cooper from Stubborn Mule: “Anyone under the age of about five or six just isn’t going to appreciate either watching a kill, or sitting quietly. And teenagers don’t like the early dawn starts. So maybe do one morning or afternoon safari but not much more than that. The camp at Wilpattu National Park is magical and it is much quieter than Yala. You have your classic safari tent which is a bit like glamping, but the most exciting is that you have supper by the camp fire at night and then go on a walking night safari. Not to see any of the big elephants or anything like that, because that would be scary, but just to see gorgeous things like luminous frogs, snakes, insects or other magical things.”

Food tips

Helene Cooper from Stubborn Mule: “I have a very fussy eater so I can definitely speak with authority for parents who are worried about this. Of course you can get Western food in Sri Lanka. But slowly slowly, what I did with my son was that I just started with plain rice, and then just added a bit of chicken without the curry sauce here and there. By the end of the vacation he was eating chicken curry and so many other things. Eating in Sri Lanka is also fun, which really helps. So stop at a roadside street stall where local people eat, and where for 50p you will have the most humungous curry and rice, and you eat it with your hands. Bring your anti bac, of course! Your kids will either think yuck, or that it is quite fun. Anyway, fussy eaters find that a good reason to try it out. “
John Beswetherick, Managing Director of our supplier Tikalanka (UK) Limited: “People don’t appreciate that when they have rice and curry in Sri Lanka, it isn’t like going to an Indian restaurant back home, with one big portion of pasanda or something. A traditional Sri Lankan curry is like six different curries, with a sambal or chutney, rice and bread. The choice of curries is myriad. Wherever you are there will be local differences, depending on the vegetables, meat or fish they are using. It’s a stunning place to do a cookery course in fact, because of the amazing variety”.

Tips from our family travelers in Sri Lanka


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Sri Lanka family travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
“White water rafting on Kelani River was great fun. Exciting without being frightening. Sigiriya was superb and not to be missed but I would recommend getting there as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Later on, 4ish, I would highly recommend climbing the adjacent rock, Pidurangala, far less touristy with phenomenal views and more of an untamed feel. Descend to the white Buddha to enjoy the sun set at about 6pm (July) Also we went round Polonnaruwa which, for us, was the only mistake. The ruins are impressive but with 2 teenagers, very hot weather and a woeful ignorance of history it didn't go down well.” – Katy Lee

“Take tissues, hand gel and wipes as public toilets aren’t always clean.” – Laura Yell

“Take protection from the heat. Make sure you cover up your shoulders as a woman in the temples to avoid any stares or the wrath of the locals. Always take the time to say hello to those helping you as they are very friendly people and try to tip well in local restaurants. You should not be too worried about crime, but remember to be firm to those who are trying to sell you trinkets if you do not want them to. Once you have made it clear, they will leave you alone unlike other countries.” – Alastair Francis

“Journeys by road are interesting but distances can be long, be prepared for this.” - Alex Buck

“Don't overdo site-seeing in the heat (we saw 3 temples in one day and then I got sunstroke).” – Kate Mills

“We stayed at the Elephant Freedom Project which was absolutely marvelous. You join in as part of the family, clean out the 2 elephants, walk them to the river and wash them. You could see the elephants loving it. They only allow 6 people in during the day so you have to book in advance.” – Katy Lee
Photo credits: [Itinerary tips - fruit stalls: Patty Ho] [Culture tips: Amila Tennakoon] [Wildlife safaris with kids: gailhampshire] [Food tips - cooking lessons: Patty Ho] [Review 1 - Alastair Francis: Department of Foreign Affairs ] [Review 2 - Kelly Geoghegan: Patty Ho]
Written by Catherine Mack
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