'We took our 3 kids to Sri Lanka. Here are all the things we wish we knew before we went.'

When you're travelling with kids, there are some holiday spots that perfectly cater to families

With my three kids aged seven, five and two, we absolutely adore visiting the islands of Fiji

My partner and I have also been to Bali a few times sans kids, but with a two-year-old in tow and knowing there are no pavements for a pram, we thought we’d cast the net a bit wider and head to Sri Lanka for a more ambitious adventure. 

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With friends raving about their trips there, we rounded up their advice and put an itinerary together for a 14-day holiday in April. 

So I've done the hard work for you and pulled together all the things to keep in mind if you're wanting to visit with kids. 

Get some advice from a travel agent. 

It felt like we were going on a path less travelled as there wasn’t much information out there about where to go and what to see with the kids. 

Normally on holiday, I try not to move around too much as the packing and unpacking gets too much with kids and I’d rather be enjoying a cocktail or three. But after spending way too much time deliberating and researching (we should have used a travel agent) we booked five different accommodation options for our trip.


The weather was going to be hot, so we didn’t need that much. I packed all the clothes we needed in one-and-a-half suitcases with the other half a case filled with nappies, snacks and snorkels. 

The trip itinerary looked like this. 

We spent two nights in Colombo, four in Ahanghama, four in Hiriketiya, three in Yala and booked a basic hotel in Negombo so we could hang out, eat, shower and change before a late night flight departed.  

The Colombo stop was to get the kids acclimatised before travelling on further. 

We chose Ahangama as it was a good base for exploring other areas nearby like Galle, Welligama (which I'd personally swerve if we did it again), Mirissa and Unatwatuna.  

We chose Hiriketiya as everyone said it was a cool hippy vibe and Yala, because we wanted to take the kids on safari. 

Image: Supplied


When we arrived, it was Sri Lankan New Year (April 13 and 14) the shops, restaurants and bars were closed and the streets were much quieter than usual. 

Flight times are tricky. 

To fly direct, our only option was with Sri Lanka Airlines. It was fine and the food was good but the flight times weren’t ideal —  we landed at 11pm and the return flight departed at midnight but we weren’t going to let that get in the way of a good time. 

The kids managed it better than we expected, and it's worth it for an adventure. 

Jetlag might be better than you expect. 

Sydney is four-and-a-half hours ahead of Sri Lanka so the kids didn’t seem to get much/if any jetlag on the way there or on the return.  

Know which side of Sri Lanka to visit and when.  

Even though it’s a small country, different parts of Sri Lanka are best to visit at different times of year. 

If you're heading to the west, south coast or the hills, then it’s best between December and March. The east coast and north are best weather-wise from May to September.


We were visiting in April, shoulder season, and decided to do a trip along the south coast. The weather was good but the surf was big as the seasons were changing.


There wasn’t loads to see and do here but it was a good pit stop on the journey when we arrived.  

We took the kids to a temple, there were loads of giant statues to look at and we went to see the Sunset at Galle Face Green. It was a great family environment with lots of kids were playing on the grass and there were light up toys for sale and street food. 

We missed out on a dinner at Ministry of Crab though as it was fully booked, but it's meant to be amazing. 

Colombo doesn’t see the high volume of western tourists that other Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia do, so outside of the hotel and around the city, the locals wanted to take pictures of the children and say hello which we found friendly and welcoming. 

If I were to visit again, I’d stop in Negombo rather than Colombo as it’s more of a beachside destination with restaurants and bars dotted along the beach. 

Getting around. 

Tuk tuks are the main mode of transport. They fit two adults and one child comfortably. Five is a sweaty squeeze and was only possible with two kids on our lap. 

For longer journeys we hired a driver — generally a two-hour drive was about $120 AUD for a maxi taxi with air-con. Make sure you have a map of where you are going, as some drivers don’t have GPS on their phones, we learnt that the hard way. 


Forget car seats, there aren't any. Trains and buses are also a good option. 

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The food can be spicy, but there's something for everyone. 

There is a lot of spice on the menu, including the ketchup but there was enough 'beige food' available everywhere we went to keep even our fussiest of eaters fed — often it was a bowl of plain rice. The egg hoppers — a classic Sri Lankan street food where eggs are cooked with coconut milk — were my personal favourite.

Cash is king. 

Rather than plastic, cash is king and there aren't lots of ATMs around, particularly in more rural areas so you need to plan ahead and have enough cash with you to pay for any eventuality. 


Image: Supplied

There's extreme wildlife. 

Sri Lanka gives Australia a run for its money when it comes to wildlife. I got stung by a scorpion (I was fine, apparently it’s only the white ones which are deadly), my husband was bitten by a wild dog and our toddler was nibbled on by a turtle... there are animals everywhere from monkeys, to crocs and giant iguanas.  


Our budding Steve Irwin of the family loved it! 

We saw 500 baby turtles being released into the sea in Hirketiya which was pretty special and we swam and fed giant turtles at Wijaya Beach and Turtle Point in Bathigama

Image: Supplied

On safari we saw leopards, elephants, peacocks and crocodiles. We used Black Leopard Safari as it was a third of the price of the one being offered by the hotel. It was a sunrise start to catch the action and we were back at the hotel by 10am to enjoy the breakfast buffet — the kids loved it.  


As we were staying on the edge of the national park, we weren’t allowed to walk around the resort past 6pm without being accompanied by a ranger because of all the wildlife in the area and saw crocodiles underneath the lodgings at night. Monkeys were jumping on the roof at sunrise. 

Image: Supplied

Hotels and kids clubs. 

Although big name hotels can be found in some of the larger cities, Kids Clubs are in limited supply. Predominantly, Sri Lanka offers guest house-style accommodation from basic to blowout. Most places come with a team of staff to help lighten the load, from cleaning to cooking and general hospitality. 


Recommended stays. 

In Hiriketiya we LOVED our stay at Ginger Palm Villa. They had a great setup for kids with bunk bed style accommodation, delicious food from the in-house chef, inflatables for the kids, games room and monkeys jumping around in the trees by the pool. 

In Ahanghama we stayed at a beautiful Airbnb property called Villa Noumi

Image: Supplied


There are some incredible options in Yala from the newly opened Hilton with the warmest pool I’ve ever swam in, to Cinnamon — a really wild option with a watering hole next to the swimming pool complete with 300 crocs. I’m glad we didn’t stay here as I was worried our wayward toddler would be next on the menu after they finished off the deer they were eating, but it would be good with older children. 

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For a super luxe offering, check out Wild Coast Tented Lodge complete with private pools, amazing food and cocktails. 

Medical services. 

If you find yourself in Emergency most weekends with an accident prone-child or are a family with general health concerns, there were limited healthcare facilities outside of the major cities and pharmacies were limited too. Luckily we didn’t have any emergencies but it could be a consideration for others. 

The verdict. 

All in all, it was an unforgettable holiday and we enjoyed the quality time together as a family and the food and wildlife encounters. 

Despite moving around so much, we felt relaxed and all the travelling made the trip feel longer than it was. There was not one point in the holiday where we felt unsafe — the Sri Lankan people were lovely and the food was amazing.

Would I go back? Potentially, to tick off some of the other areas of the Emerald Isle that we didn’t get to explore this time like Trincomalee, Ella, Kandy and the tea plantations. 

Next year, I’m hoping we’ll head to one of our favourite places Castaway Island in Fiji, a place we can’t help but keep coming back to.

But Sri Lanka will always have a special place in our hearts and made for a memorable family holiday. 

Celia Harding is the founder of PR Shed — a new publicity subscription service giving businesses all the tools they need to do PR. You can find out more here. 

Feature image: Supplied.

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