Like a good rice and curry, Sri Lanka offers a dazzling array of choices. This is obviously not a first-world country, so the child who expects a packaged Disneyland experience won’t be happy, but the love of Sri Lankans for children helps compensate for bumps along the way.
Best Regions for Kids
- The West
It’s beaches all along this sandy coast. There are all manner of child-friendly resorts where you can relax and maybe build a castle or two. Overall, this is probably the most child-friendly area.
- The South
More beaches, lots of water-based activities and in the east there are elephants.
- The Hill Country
Many of the attractions here are more adult orientated, but the mild temperatures are a good respite from the heat elsewhere. Tea plantations and trains are an unbeatable day out.
- The Ancient Cities
Ancient temples, forts, ruins, jungles and elephants. Hello, Indiana Jones!
- The East
Outside of surfing high season (May to October), the surf on these beautiful beaches can be mild. Kids love the snorkelling at Pigeon Island National Park.
Sri Lanka for Kids
Sri Lankans have a special affinity for children, and visitors travelling with children will find the young ones are sure-fire icebreakers.
Sri Lanka is an easy-going place for children, even if it lacks kid-targeted sights such as amusement parks and similar attractions. The beaches, historical sites, national parks with elephants can all fascinate and entertain kids. However, the lack of special facilities means that kids will benefit from the same sense of adventure in exploring the country that serves adults well.
With preparation and mindfulness of a few things while in country, travel with children in Sri Lanka can be great fun.
There aren’t many attractions dedicated solely to children in Sri Lanka, but there are a lot of sights they’ll love.
- Uda Walawe One of the best national parks for wildlife-spotting safaris.
- Elephant Transit Home Not far from Uda Walawe, this is a well-regarded halfway house for injured and orphaned elephants.
- Minneriya A national park renowned for its herds of elephants.
- Pigeon Island National Park Off beautiful Nilaveli beach, this island has great snorkeling that kids love.
- Turtle hatcheries On the west coast, these are popular.
- Unawatuna Fringing reefs mean the beach here is safe and shallow for little ones.
- Polonnaruwa Kids can run themselves silly at the vast and car-free ancient heritage sites such as this one, with its very cool ruins.
- Three-wheelers Buzzing, blowing and completely unlike a ride anyplace else, these ubiquitous transport options are good for a thrill.
- Hill Country Train Rides Kids will love hanging out the doors of chugging trains (and giving their parents heart attacks!).
- Sri Lankan hotels and guesthouses often have triple and family rooms, plus extra beds can be supplied on demand.
- Baby beds are in short supply.
- Don't expect to find 'kids clubs' or the like, which are common in first-world luxury resorts.
What to Pack
- Bring an extra mosquito net, as hotels rarely have spares if you get an extra bed.
- Bring sunscreen and children’s mosquito repellent with you; you won’t find it in Sri Lanka.
- Entertainment for long car rides, especially video downloads, as trying to download in Sri Lanka can take a long time.
- For very young children, either a backpack or some other form of carrier. Prams are tough going on uneven or nonexistent footpaths.
- Car seats are uncommon; if you want to use one, bring it from home.
- For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
- Buy pharmaceutical supplies, imported baby food and disposable nappies/diapers at Cargills Food City and Keells supermarkets throughout the country.
- Nappie/diaper sizes run small in Sri Lanka.
- Breastfeeding in public is accepted, but parents will struggle to find dedicated baby-changing rooms. It’s not a major problem, as it’s acceptable for toddlers to be naked in public.
- Rabies and animal-borne parasites are present in Sri Lanka, so keep children away from stray animals, including cats, dogs and monkeys.
- Bring kid-friendly snacks for car and train trips in case vendor offerings don't suit young tastes.
Eating with Kids
- Sri Lankan hospitality means that people will go to any length to please young and finicky eaters, and most places offer at least a few Western-style dishes, though child-specific menus are rare.
- To ease children into Sri Lankan food, try a breakfast of pittu. The combination of coconut and rice will be kind to their palates. Also try hoppers (bowl-shaped pancakes), especially the string variety, or nice and mild rotti flatbreads with a filling.
- The profusion of fresh and exciting fruit varieties means that everybody will find something they like, even if it's never been tried before.
- Highchairs (in restaurants) are uncommon.