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7 Authentically Lankan Group Experiences You Can’t Miss Out On

Every country can safely call its own a plethora of ‘local experiences’—activities that are so unique to the country that most foreigners aren’t even aware they exist or have never tried them before.

If you’re new to Sri Lanka and don’t know much about the locals and their way of life, here’s a short handy guide of a few Lankan experiences you and your friends must definitely try out.

1. Drive a tuk-tuk

Three-wheelers, also known as tuk-tuks, are one of the most common modes of transport in Sri Lanka. They’re so popular that there are services available for foreigners who wish to book a local tuk-tuk to drive! This is especially fun when you go outstation, as the empty roads make for a great first driving the contraption.

2. Spend a day in Pettah

Pettah is Sri Lanka’s trade hub. Think flea market meets bazaar. Here you can little outlets selling various bizarre items, as well as all the useful appliances you’re looking for. It’s usually quite crowded as many locals visit the market every day, but with mindful navigation, it’s completely safe.

3. Tea by the roadside

This may just be one of the most Sri Lankan things you could do. Whenever Sri Lankans go on a long road trip, we always have a tea stop at a the kade (tea shop). The teamakers use two metal jugs, pouring the tea from one into the other repeatedly to make it frothy and to cool it a little. It’s customary to have ‘short eats’ (what locals refer to baked or fried snacks) with the tea.

4. River baths in a sarong

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka’s rivers and waterfalls, don’t forget to pack sarongs! Keep an eye out for natural secluded bathing areas, like Kahanawita Ella (Dehiowita), where you can bathe safely. It’s common for villagers to throw on a sarong before bathing in the river, with the men tying it at their waste and the women, around their chest. All in all, it’s a freeing and relaxing activity.

5. Watch a perahera/procession

‘Perahera is the name given to Sri Lankan processions, which are usually grand parades that involve elephants, monkeys, Kandyan dancers, and firedancers. It’s a night full of music and dancing, and only takes place on certain days annually. The dates on which the perahera takes place vary with every year, so if this is on your bucket list, you may have to plan your trip accordingly. The grandest perahera in Sri Lanka is the Kandy Esala Perahera, which takes place during the mid months of the lunar year.

6. Make a ‘mango friend’

Not to worry. This doesn’t mean you must now befriend a fruit. In Sinhala, ‘amba yahaluwa’ means best friend—which directly translates to ‘mango friend’. Sri Lankans are generally friendly people, and are quite eager to befriend those of other nationalities. So, don’t be afraid to approach somebody and have a chat (as long as they don’t seem busy, of course!) and in no time, you could have yourself a mango friend, too!

7. Have a glass of arrack

Coconut arrack is to Sri Lanka what whiskey is to Scotland. Sri Lanka is the largest producer of this alcoholic beverage, which is quite strong but also excellent for cocktails. At the end of a long, tiring day, ask for arrack sours (or if you prefer your drinks neat, that works too!) and kick back with a glass to enjoy the sunset.

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