Women travelling alone may experience uncomfortable levels of male attention. Outside Colombo, it is a good idea to cover your legs and shoulders, though you’ll be stared at no matter what you wear. Tight tops are a bad idea. And away from the popular tourist beaches of the South, East and West, consider swimming in a T-shirt and shorts.
In Colombo and popular tourist areas you can relax the dress code. ‘Are you married?’ could be the snappy conversation starter you hear most often, so if you are single consider wearing a fake wedding ring and carrying a few pics of your imaginary partner back home.
Women travelling alone may be hassled while walking around day and night, or while exploring isolated places. Physical harassment (grabbing and groping) can occur anywhere. Single women may be followed, so try to be connected with larger groups of people. There have also been cases of solo women being attacked by guides at heritage sites; again, don’t go alone.
However, travelling in Sri Lanka is not one long hassle. Unpleasant incidents are the exception, not the rule. But remember there are many social environments that are almost exclusively male in character – local bars, for example.
Stock up on tampons as they can be very hard to find.
Women travelling solo will find buses and trains trying at times. In Colombo ordinary buses are so packed that sometimes it’s impossible to avoid bodily contact with other passengers. Stray hands on crowded buses and trains happen; this is something that local women are also subjected to. Change your seat or sit with a local woman. If you gesture to a local woman to sit next to you, she’ll understand.
Women travelling solo should avoid night trains.