Afraid of Traveling in India? Go to Sri Lanka First!

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on March 24, 2022.

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We get it. The idea of traveling in India can be daunting. 

The country is a constant assault on your senses and many long-term travelers have had to cut their travels in this country short because they just couldn't handle the never-ending sensory overload that is India.

While I hope our previous articles about India have encouraged otherwise, we now have a foolproof alternative to propose if you are still nervous about visiting this amazing country.

Go to Sri Lanka first.

Sri Lanka is “India Light”

Coastline at Galle, Sri Lanka

When you think of all of the scary things travelers are worried about when visiting India, you can come up with an incredibly long list.  For those who have thought about it, you may have come up with items like:

  • Getting sick for days on end.
  • Enduring horrible pollution.
  • Over-crowded everything
  • Run down infrastructure.
  • Scammy travel agents.
  • ..and a whole lot more.

These are just a few that you will be almost guaranteed to encounter during a trip to India, especially if you are traveling in the north.  (By comparison, the South is a much friendlier place for travelers who have the above fears.)

When I was invited to attend a blogger's tour and conference about Sri Lanka tourism, an island nation located off the coast of India, I was a bit worried about what I was going to find. 

I knew that there were some similarities in culture between the two, but other than a few facts here or there the knowledge I had on the country was quite minimal.  

Was it going to give me the same experience as traveling in India did? 

If you have this same thought as I did, rest easy.  You'll find none of those issues in Sri Lanka. 

We Saw About 200 Elephants at Kandulla National Park in Sri Lanka

It took me a while to figure this out, but after a few days touring the country, I kept getting the feeling like I had been there before. 

With rickshaws everywhere, friendly local people giving smiles and asking how I was liking the country, incredible scenery, and more delicious coconut curry-based meals than I could eat in a single visit, my trip to Sri Lanka truly felt like I was returning to places in India Angie and I explored earlier this year.

Except something was a bit off- all of those issues I mentioned above were not thereNot even in the slightest.

Sri Lanka ended up being this magical destination that had all of the good of India, and none of the bad.

I Hate To Say It – Why Bother Traveling in India?

Gorgeous Sri Lankan Serving DishesAmazing Sri Lankan Food

By the end of exploring the many places to visit in Sri Lanka, the group of bloggers I was with had the joke of Sri Lanka being “India Light.” 

Upon reflection on this I had to go one step deeper and pose the question: “why go to India at all?”

If Sri Lanka has all of the good things of India in a more compact and visitor-friendly environment, why not just cancel your trip to India and spend a full month in Sri Lanka rather than splitting time between the two?

This, of course, should be taken with a bit of humor because it is obvious why you should visit both countries.

While you can see gorgeous nature, tea plantations, and beaches in both destinations, there are still many things you can only see and do in India (and likewise others you can only experience in Sri Lanka).

Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

No matter what, you will never get to see the Taj Mahal, forts of Rajasthan, or the backwaters of Kerala if you do not take a trip to India. 

And even though the Sri Lankan food is incredibly delicious, and in my opinion the more flavorful of the two, the sheer size of India lends itself to having dozens of cuisines you'll never get to try if you go to Sri Lanka alone.

Likewise, Sri Lanka is home to amazing Buddhist temples, elephant and leopard sanctuaries, as well as incredibly unique marine wildlife viewing opportunities found nowhere else in the world, not even just India, making both destinations unique spots that we highly recommend visiting.

But for those who have their reservations about all of those subtle nuances about India that make foreign travelers fearful (many of which are justified), we highly encourage you to schedule a trip to Sri Lanka first. 

This wonderful country will give a great introduction to the region and encourage you to explore more- a valuable feeling needed before tackling the beast that is India.

Just don't be surprised if you find you do not want to leave.   

I didn't want to either.

I'd like to thank Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts for organizing the TBC Asia conference and tour in November 2014 along with the Professional Travel Bloggers Association (of which we are members).  They provided me with a wonderful introductory experience to the country and I look forward to returning again soon.  As always, all opinions are our own.

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About Jeremy

Jeremy from Living the Dream

About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.

12 thoughts on “Afraid of Traveling in India? Go to Sri Lanka First!”

  1. I have lived in India for fifteen years. I’m an American expat with an Indian wife..
    My advice to fellow American travelers (medical tourism excepted) is to spend a week in Rastaban, do a day trip to the Taj Mahal and leave. The air quality alone will drive you out after a day, but honestly there is nothing to see after that in Delhi/New Delhi. A trip to Dharmasala would be nice, Ladac if you feel adventurous and perhaps even Kashmir if you are REALLY adventurous.
    If not India where to? Bhutan would be a great choice albeit expensive, and of course the jewel of a country I recommend is Sri Lanka.
    I’ve been there twice, and am aching to go back. The ecological diversity, the beautiful Buddhist culture, and the food (and the beer) are great.
    The roads are good and they are CLEAN. The people can be greedy at times in the metros that service tourist but nothing that is over the top.
    Tourist are treated well for the most part since the civil war ended the tourist came flooding back.
    Go hike Adam’s Peak, pilgrimage to the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy (the mountain kingdom), see the colonial architecture in Galle, the wildlife in the northern savanna.

  2. I’m inviting all those ppl who already visited to Sri Lanka, to came back our country once again. Also those ppl who never visited before come and enjoy my country. Al of you are more than welcome to the “Pearl of Indian Ocean”…..


  3. This article is a great example of why your blog is one of the very few I follow regularly. This is just the kind of honest insights we need to expand our horizons. We have spent the last two years living around the world (Italy, Ecuador, Peru, Spain, Morocco, Dominican Republic, Norway, and Scotland so far).

    We’re heading to Southeast Asia next and trying to decide where to go, so I’m browsing through all your articles. So far my choices are Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, and Penang for a six month trip (we like to settle down for a while in each place we visit.) Any other advice you have would be welcome, but your articles have already helped me a lot. Thanks.

    Sri Lanka will probably wait until another trip. But now you’ve got me thinking, wny not just go home the other way around and stay in Sri Lanka for a month, too?

    • I love that idea! Sri Lanka would be the perfect country for a month-long visit if you are able. I think you would have no problem finding things to do in any of those three cities for up to six months, although I’d have to imagine Hong Kong is probably the most expensive of the three if that is a concern!

      • Thanks, Jeremy. Yes, Hong Kong is very expensive. We are balancing that off by housesitting in Scotland and England for 3 1/2 months. We’re in Peebles, Scotland right now.


  4. I am Indian & live in South India.
    I love my country a lot. I have never seen world outside India & would love to know if there is no population & pollution.there ?

  5. We went to Sri Lanka earlier this year and after a few weeks then went to India. We originally thought Sri Lanka would ;get our feet wet’ in preparation for India but they are completely different! I must say though, Sri Lanka is now one of my favourite countries – it is SO beautiful!

    • Thanks for the comment! I’d love to know what parts of India you went to after hitting Sri Lanka? Perhaps I’ll keep my recommendation that even those who go to Sri Lanka should hit southern India first and save Northern India for later as a means to baby-step into it (which I didn’t mention in this article as much as I could have).

      • Thank you SO much.
        I am planning a two week trip to Sri Lanka the beginning of March and was seriously thinking of skipping it and going straight to India.
        I am a solo female but well traveled. Now I am thinking I should still go to Sri Lanka as well as India.
        I am thinking of Varanassi, the Taj of course and Rajasthan. Any tips or itinerary advice are greatly appreciated…especially things I can miss!
        Lisa ?


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