Find Your Sri Lanka Gap Year!

Sri Lanka Overview and Highlights

Elephants, tigers, tea, cricket, Buddhist stupas, beaches and delicious foods. Whilst these may be the outstanding stereotypical trademarks of this Indian Ocean island, scratch the surface and you’ll find a lot more; a fascinating and still evolving history, a plethora of religions, a beautifully flowing Sinhalese alphabet, gems, jewels and festivals that packed with colour and energy.

Situated in the tropics, Sri Lanka is just approximately 35 miles from India across the Palk Strait. It shares a similar climate to that of southern India making the best time to visit, (assuming you prefer dry and less humid weather) is December to March, actually ideal for escaping the worst of the UK weather back home.

Gap Year Opportunities in Sri Lanka

Conservation and volunteer projects abound in Sri Lanka. In particular the care and protection of elephants is a popular gap year placement in Sri Lanka. Over the last 100 years, the elephant population of Sri Lanka has fallen by 75%, there are now just 5,000 in the wild. The work includes carefully monitoring the human vs elephant conflict, watching and logging the elephant’s movements across national parks such as Wasgamuwa.

Sri Lanka has a population of 22m people with limited access to decent healthcare. Medical internships are welcomed by the Sri Lankan authorities, filling gaps in the nation’s health system and bringing much needed expertise. Future doctors can gain invaluable experience in the areas of general ward work, obstetrics, maternity and paediatrics. Medical and Health care placements in Sri Lanka are run in the main cities of Colombo, Moratuwa and Kandy, plus outreach workshops that venture out in to the rural communities that are in desperate need of medical services.

Volunteering to teach disadvantaged children is a rewarding gap programme based in Sri Lanka, schools can have in excess of 30 children to a class, plus they may include older members of rural communities who are keen to further their education. It’s not just teaching placements that will offer very rewarding experiences, our gap year providers offer general volunteering placements simply giving care in the community everyone from babies to the elderly.

Do I need a visa for Sri Lanka?

Yes you will need a visa for Sri Lanka, regardless of the purpose of your journey. For a short trip you can get a short stay visa for 30 days. Although the gapify provider can help advise on Sri Lankan visa requirements, you will need a special type of visa if you are partaking in any paid or unpaid work in Sri Lanka. Have a look at the Foreign Office page for Sri Lanka and do the research for yourself: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sri-lanka/entry-requirements

Health & Safety

  • Tap water is unsafe to drink, buy bottled water and watch out for ice and salads!
  • The north of Sri Lanka still remains a little sensitive to political troubles, be super vigilant and ask around for the latest developments if you must go there at all.
  • Tuk tuks are cool but they don’t have seat belts, plus a car taxi is cheaper and more comfortable for longer journeys across Sri Lanka anyway. Likewise, bus drivers can be a little lacklustre, however the train journeys in and around Sri Lanka are breathtaking and safer than overpacked buses.
  • Take mozzie repellent, especially in the rainy season monsoon period, Dengue fever is present in Sri Lanka, nasty.

When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has two distinct monsoon seasons and they affect different parts of the island. From May to August, the Yala monsoon drenches the south west and hill country in the hinterland. Either side of the Yala monsoon (so April and Sept/Oct) is the best time to visit for long periods and explore the whole country in relatively calm conditions. The Maha monsoon affects the north east from mid October to January and is best avoided.

In the south and west from December to March, you’ll hit peak time on the beach resorts and things get expensive. Stick to late March, April and September/early October and you’ll have the best climate without the throngs of tourists spoiling the experience, particularly on the beaches.

Best Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka

So, Sri Lanka has traditionally been a mecca for architects and Indiana Jones types looking for obscure temples and Sinhalese palaces. You’ll scratch your itch for this at the three main attractions of the Anuradhapura ruins, the ruins of Polonnaruwa and the citadel at Sigiriya. However there are so many things to see and do in Sri Lanka, it’s a little bit overwhelming.

Sri Lanka has 8 designated UNESCO world heritage sites. The Central Highlands, comprises of several UNESCO sites including the Horton Plains, the Knuckles Range and Adam’s Peak/Sri Pada.

A trip to Uda Walawe National Park will satisfy the nature lovers. Elephants roam, whilst wild buffalo, sambar, deer and huge squirrels also join the party.

Beach lovers will not be disappointed either. Here’s gapify’s top 5 beach recommendations which vary according to who they’ll appeal to:

  1. Hikkaduwa Beach for Party-goers - this beach was dessimated by the 2004 Tsunami but it’s had a full makeover as have the shoreline bars and clubs. It’s cool and trendy dude.
  2. Unawatuna Beach for Sunset Romance - by all means visit this incredible beach during the day and soak up some Sri Lankan sunshine but get the cameras at the ready for the evening spectacle as this west facing beach hosts amazing sunsets night after night.
  3. Yala National Park for Hikers - not technically a beach but the hiking around these parts is sublime, the swimming less so, strong currents rule the waves here.
  4. Nilaveli Beach for the Unspoilt Crowd - don’t like your beaches too full. This vast expanse of beach is going to be yours, all yours. There may be the odd fishing boat hauling in an early morning catch but this is true Sri Lanka.
  5. Mirissa Beach for Whalewatching Surfers Types - is that a type? Probably not but you can see whales migrating north for the winter and you can also surf. It’s super chilled and lined with relaxing beach bars and restaurants serving the daily catch each evening.

Find Your Sri Lanka Gap Year