Sri Lanka with kids

Traveling in Sri Lanka with kids

What does Responsible Travel recommend?

From wild elephant safaris to whale watching, rainforest to rafting, paddy fields to pristine beaches, Sri Lanka brings children not only close to nature but also to local young people. Bring a cricket ball and cricket shirt with you and youíll make best friends for life. The beaches are superb but donít just hide in a multinational resort. To go this far and not engage with real people, incredible food, mountains and monuments, is the modern day version of going to the seaside and staying in your car with a flask and a newspaper. Sri Lanka has a culture that celebrates family. So get out and join the party.

Health & safety in Sri Lanka

Travel safely in Sri Lanka with kids


  • The National Emergency telephone number is 119 and 110 if you want an emergency ambulance.
  • During the rainy season use mosquito repellent, with Dengue fever being the predominant problem and no vaccination available.
  • Malaria is a risk, although Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Matara and Nuwara considered safe. But do take precautions, covering up in the evenings, using repellents and sleeping under a mosquito net. See NHS site Fit for Travel for more details, and it is always good to keep an eye on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for up to date details or risks.
  • Many medications may not be widely available in Sri Lanka so bring a basic medical kit, plus any prescription medicines along with a copy of your prescription.
  • Health care in the major towns is adequate for minor injuries and illnesses, but you may need to travel to receive more specialised care. Ensure your travel insurance covers medical evacuation and emergency repatriation, as well as any adventure activities you may be taking part in on your trip.
  • To avoid stomach upsets, look out for under-cooked fish or meat, salads which have been washed in unclean water, already peeled fruit if you donít know who has peeled it, and sometimes ice cream from street vendors.
  • Although snake bites are extremely rare among tourists, always seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten.
  • Altitude sickness can occur in certain regions, so let your bodies adjust to the elevation slowly, and drink plenty of water.
  • Tap water is unsafe to drink - also be wary of ice in drinks, as well as fruit and veg unless you are peeling them yourself.


All kids will want a ride in a tuk tuk, a three-wheeled vehicle which works a bit like a taxi. Just be warned that they donít have seat belts. For longer journeys taxis are often cheaper anyway.

Although the north is opening up since the end of the war, it is still developing its infrastructure, so unless you are used to roughing it as a family, or going with an experienced tour operator, maybe watch this space for a while.

For water activities, make sure the provider is accredited, and that there are helmets and buoyancy aids available.

When you are on the south and southwest coast, be aware that there is a very strong rip, and so best to keep to the small, enclosed bays when swimming.

Buses donít have a great reputation for safe driving in Sri Lanka, so stick with the train or taxi if you are a nervous passenger.

Unexploded landmines still sadly exist in some parts of the north, so do not stray from paths and marked trails in these regions, ideally with a local guide.

Activities for families in Sri Lanka

What to do with little ones

With all that serene white in Sri Lankaís temples,
there is one white place where it is OK to scream Ė the white water rapids on the Kelani River at Kitulgala, where you can go rafting, canyoning and jumping into rock pools. The minimum age is usually ten and safety gear, modern rafts and experienced instructors are all a must.
Climb Little Adamís Peak
The baby of one of the islandís highest peaks, Adamís Peak, itís like a kidsí menu only with real ingredients. A 4km gentle climb up through tea plantations with the most rewarding views, including that of Ravana Falls. Accessible from Ella Station, which you could come to the night before, on one of the most stunning train journeys from Kandy.
The Big Blue
There is no better cure for sea sickness than when children spot their first whale. Especially if it is a blue whale. You can see up to ten different species between late November and mid-March, with trips going from Mirissa and Galle in the south but also on the Kalpitiya peninsula in the north. See our guide to responsible whale watching for more details.

Traveling in Sri Lanka with kids asks the experts

Ishara De Silva, Managing Director of one of our suppliers, Srimal Plantation and Ayurveda Hotel:
"Be wary of street food vendors, especially with younger children. Eating in peopleís homes is generally the best way to eat out on a low budget and you can pretty much guarantee hygiene standards there."
Liddy Pleasants is Managing Director (and a Mum who loves to bring her kids to Sri Lanka) at our supplier Stubborn Mule Travel.
ďThe 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 havenít heard of before.Ē
John Beswetherick, Managing Director of our supplier Tikalanka (UK) Limited:

ďI think Sri Lanka is a very safe place to take children because the Sri Lankans are very family orientated, and so the children get very well looked after wherever they are. In terms of water activities, the places we go always have the necessary safety equipment and are licensed, as people do need to be careful around water. When you are on the south and southwest coast, for example, be aware that there is an incredibly strong rip, and so for children it is only really safe in protected bays. ď
Photo credits: [Top box - child watching elephants: The Family Adventure Company] [White is not just for peace: Rich Bowen] [Climb Little Adam's Peak: Gerald Pereira] [The Big Blue: kwan kwan] [Tips - Liddy Pleasants fruit: Hafiz Issadeen]
Written by Catherine Mack
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