Are you bored with life in a gray and stuffy city? Have you thought about changing your location radically? Or having the opportunity to work…
Are you bored with life in a gray and stuffy city? Have you thought about changing your location radically? Or having the opportunity to work remotely? Maybe you’ve heard stories about wintering on tropical islands and a life of travel. Perhaps you already have experience of remote or freelance work and realize that its meaning is not just to change one box in the office to another in own house. Do you want to act, but do not know where to start? Do you have questions but are tired of collecting conflicting and insufficient answers from different sites? Well, you’ve finally got to the right place! In this article, we will try to cover everything you need to know about living and working on a tropical island.
There many interesting and suitable places to pursue this; they are diverse in climate, comfort and price. Southeast Asia is still one of the most popular destinations offering a low cost of living, eternal summer, luxurious beaches with warm oceans along with an abundance of greenery, flowers and fresh fruits all year round. Goa in India, Bali in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have long been popular with down-shifters, freelancers and remote workers from around the world. After seeing them all, often one will return and settle, living in a certain favourite place. There are many options, but we will not focus on them in this article. Instead, this article is a kind of guide on how to take the leap and move to the heat, based on one concrete example: Sri Lanka. The aim of the article is to remove as many questions as possible, rather than multiply them (as many bloggers often do, arguing about everything and not giving any specifics or conclusions). We will tell you about realities of life in Sri Lanka in summer, spring and autumn, and in particular about life in Hikkaduwa, with actual prices and real examples. Most importantly, we will include detailed descriptions of all stages from preparation, buying tickets and issuing visas to the best options to use your free time. In the end we will equate the total budget and answer the main question - how much to earn to live near the ocean?
For example, we quote the price of a ticket from London, Berlin, Warsaw. The price may vary significantly depending on the dates and the route option you have chosen. In the example, we present the most economical version of the flight to Sri Lanka. It is worth looking for tickets far in advance of the trip. The easiest way is to use one of the online services to assess all your options: momondo, skyscanner, aviasales. It is also worth visiting the sites of airlines that have regular flights to Sri Lanka: AirArabia, Qatar Airways, Fly Dubai, Gulf Air.
You can stay on a tourist visa in Sri Lanka for up to 6 months without leaving the island. The first visa is issued for a period of 1 month and you can get this on arrival at the airport of Colombo, but it is better to arrange it in advance on the official website http://eta.gov.lk. The site is partially translated into various languages but you will need to fill out the form in English. The cost (also listed on the website) of the online visa is $ 35, on arrival - $ 40. As a result, you will have a tourist visa with a double entry for 30 days, i.e. during these 30 days you can fly for example to the Maldives without having to make a new visa upon return.
The ETA website says: "It is advisable to have a copy of the ERP approval with you to show at the point of entry to Sri Lanka. ERP holders must fulfill the following requirements at the point of entry:
In reality, financial resources are not often checked, but you can be asked to provide evidence of a return ticket (though this is also rare). More often it is required at departure and may not even put you on a flight without it, so if you do not know when and where to fly further, you will need to make a ticket with deferred payment of the reservation the day before the departure. Also it should be noted that it is necessary to issue an online visa no earlier than 30 days before the expected date of departure.
You can extend the visa for another 60 days immediately upon arrival, if you know for sure that you will stay here for a long time or you already have a return ticket for a certain date. To extend the visa, you need to go to an immigration service center or the immigration department in Colombo. It is best to arrive early in the morning as the process usually takes 3-4 hours. If you do not want to spend time doing this process yourself, you can always use the services of agencies specializing in this (of course, the price tag will be higher).
Sometimes the extension will not be given for the requested 60 days, but only for 30. So it is advisable to have a printout of the reservation (can be unpaid), then the visa will be extended at least until your departure date. The cost of the first extension of a tourist visa in the department (in the service center is likely more expensive) depends on your citizenship. You can check the price on website of Department of immigration and emigration of Sri Lanka, for most european countries it is between 10 to 50 EUR.
To extend the visa for another 3 months (up to 6 in the total amount) independently is possible, provided you have any reason for this. This can be training surfing, diving, treatment in Ayurvedic clinics, and possibly other options. Documentation of this is required and if you do not have such confirmation, you will have to use the services of agencies (their price includes "providing the necessary confirmation"), the cost of such a service is $ 65-100 per month of renewal depending on your citizenship.
So, what is best to take to Sri Lanka, and what is best to leave home, so as not to carry excess things in vain?
Clothing. It is worth taking swimsuits/swimming trunks (there is a limited selection to buy here which can only be found in tourist zones as local people usually swim in their clothes), basic clothes (shorts, T-shirt, dress), perhaps underwear. In Sri Lanka, clothing made from natural fabrics is cheaper however there is less variety than you might be used to. Having said that, everything you need can be bought here, so it is not worth bringing too many clothes.
Cosmetics and hygiene. Bring a small amount of any makeup and other cosmetics you feel are essential; remember it is a hot and humid climate so makeup won’t stay on the same way it does at home! In Hikkaduwa in the supermarket a good selection of sunscreen products (with protection up to SPF+50). For burns, there is cream with aloe, but we recommend taking panthenol with you. We advise that you bring pumice (useful if you are going to stay for a long time as it is not sold here), a sponge (you cannot find the usual sponges here), a towel (50/50 not always essential for example if you stay with us at the villa we will provide), antiperspirant, comb, manicure set. You should take necessary mosquito repellent, Deet is not available and local remedies do not help much, but fumigators for premises work well.
You can easily buy toothpaste, a brush, hygiene products (shampoos, shower gels, soap and cream.
First Aid Kit. In local pharmacies, you can theoretically buy something without a prescription, but it may be difficult to explain what you need. Therefore, it is better to take the essentials with you. Sorbent (enterosgel, activated carbon), diarrhea remedies, nurofen / ibuprofen, special drugs (if there are chronic problems, allergies, cardiac agents, etc.), medical glue, plaster, bandage, iodine, ear /eye drops.
Useful things for travelers and for those who travel for a long time to Sri Lanka: lighter, boiler, silica gel (wet climate and metal very quickly rusts, and the skin and other clothes mold), razor, needle and thread, universal knife, multitool , a flashlight, a pen, a notebook, a tee or an extension, glasses, bowls with a lid, a spoon-fork, a proven mosquito repellent, an adhesive tape, a small padlock. All this can be bought here, but can sometimes be difficult to find so much easier to have them at hand!
The most important things!
Insurance. Make sure you have medical insurance for the period of stay in Sri Lanka. We did not have insurance, simply because there was no option for a long-term stay abroad. It is worth it to pass a physical examination/ check your teeth. Reception in a private clinic costs $ 15-20, and treatment is likely to be more expensive than at home. Though, it is possible to be treated practically free of charge in the state clinic (yes, even for tourists!), but there are long queues and uncomfortable conditions. We cannot comment on the quality of care as we have not tried it.
With a direct flight, everything is simple, but it is more likely that you will have a flight with a transfer. This is often in Dubai, Sharjah or Doha - depending on what airlines you fly. It is worth checking how long you have to stay at the transfer point and take enough food with you as food can be expensive. If your budget is not tightly limited, you can buy something to eat everywhere. As you know, it's impossible to carry water on flights, but in our airports it is very expensive, it may even be cheaper to buy it on the plane. But keep the bottle empty - in the interchange areas there is free drinking water, which you can take with you on the second leg of the journey.
So you have finally landed in Colombo; what’s next? Since most likely you here to work or for a long time, you will need a local SIM card for the internet. If you fly just for a month, you can take sim card with a tourist package, but there will not be much internet allowance included. If you’re staying for a long time, it is sometimes better to get a sim card outside the airport, as many sold there are only for tourists for one month.
It’s best to change money whilst at the airport, the rate is the same as everywhere, and more currencies are accepted here.
How to get to Hikkaduwa and to our home?
You have two options: with sufficient funds you can use the transfer (taxi), if you want to save - public (bus or train from Colombo to Hikkaduwa, go often and fairly comfortably). We advise you to use gps to directly locate our house on the map.
Everyone has their own opinion about Sri Lanka; for some it is too wild and the lack of familiar infrastructure can be daunting, for others it is a happy escape from civilization and a plunge into nature and almost rural life. We are some of those who like it here. We feel there is a special paradise atmosphere, where people are friendly and smiling, the intoxicatingly clean air is flavoured with exotic flowers, everything is buried in verdure, and the ocean is a stone's throw away. The most surprising thing is that this small island is home to the same variety of culture, landscape, climate as in several countries at the same time. Deserts and mountains, waterfalls, beaches, reserves, ancient temples and palaces, mines of precious stones and boundless tea plantations. Each region is different from the last, even in the smallest town you can find something interesting (which is exactly what you will see in our blog).
We are often asked about the weather in Sri Lanka. And it is not surprising as there is a lot of conflicting information on the internet. According to the forecast, the rains do not stop here all year round (having lived here for 3 years we are continually perplexed by this..). We even planned to install a weather webcam in to make it easier for people to navigate in the weather. We postponed this due to the high cost of the internet but we often put out sunny photos on our instagram!)
So what's the weather like here?
Almost the same year round; we have 10 sunny months and 2 rainy months (usually this is May and October, but can be shifted in any direction for a whole month). The temperature during the day is from 27-31, at night 25-29. The hottest time of day is 12-3pm when it is better to be in the shade. In general, it is much more comfortable here than in the SE Asian countries – for example Thailand or Vietnam as there is no sticky moisture. But most importantly – there is no depressive dullness, slush and cold, never ever!)
This is the first and largest resort town in Sri Lanka, which means there is everything necessary for a comfortable life and, because of the abundance of options, some of the lowest prices for accommodation. There is a full range of options from the town to the beach and even then the long beach is more crowded at one end and almost deserted at the other.
Hikkaduwa has all the necessities: a large supermarket and three smaller ones, a market with vegetables, fruits and fish, numerous shops with clothes and groceries. Cafes, restaurants, beach bars; scooter and bicycle rental, diving centers, snorkeling and of course, surfing. In the center there is a bus and railway station, post office and many banks. Good private hospitals are located in the nearby town of Galle, which is only 30 minutes away by bus.
Prices for rooms in guest houses in Sri Lanka, even in low season, are usually 2-3 times higher than the price we offer you now. Why do we offer such a low price? It's simple – it does not make sense to keep the big house empty and pay completely independently for the rent over the summer. And you, our guests, will feel as comfortable at out villa as at home. We are sure you will debunk the stereotype of the off-season and understand that Sri Lanka is no less attractive in summer for rest, living and working remotely than in the winter.
You have a great choice as all our rooms are different and we now also have our hostel as well. Our prices from May to October are as follows:
The price includes payments for water and electricity, internet with limited speed (so that everyone has enough), clean bed linen and towels, which change once a week. Cleaning of your room is done either on your own or for a small fee.
What else do you get in bundle with living in a cozy room in the villa for such a low price?
In our house there is a large living room divided into a dining area with a kitchenette and a sitting area with sofas and a TV, where we all usually watch films in the evenings. There are board games and a small library. There is also a hookah, only take tobacco and take coals with you. There is a spacious veranda with a table and chairs which is great for work. Open kitchen with gas stove in the garden, barbeque, hammocks, horizontal bar, fitball and yoga mats. We will quickly get you settled in and show you the most effective and comfortable ways of living in Sri Lanka.
P.S. If you want to come just for the winter, and have already noticed that house prices are many times higher - write to us, maybe we will be able to offer special conditions. We also we recommend that you read our article "Wintering in Sri Lanka"
I've heard references to bad Internet in Sri Lanka. Maybe earlier it was, but now it is not true, or at least it is not an accurate reflection of the situation. Yes, there is no gigabit internet, and even 100 Mbit is a rarity, but 10-15 Mbit/s has long been the norm. But there are absolutely no unlimited options, and the cost of gigabytes, even in large packages, is very high if compared with Russian or Ukrainian prices. Moreover, data is divided into day and night packages. Having said that, you can easily get used to all this and not feel any discomfort. For almost any work there will be enough, and at night you can use the nighttime data allowance to download a new movie.
In most hotels wifi can be slow and unreliable so we recommend purchasing a local SIM card if you need fast and a lot of calls. Tariffs for mobile and wire internet are not different here.
At our villa is an adless connection, which gives us more stable performance and a total speed of up to 16 MB. But since we need to distribute this speed and the monthly traffic volume among all the guests, the speed for each is limited. Our internet is enough for you to communicate with voice and even video calls and work that does not require high speed or large amounts of traffic. Otherwise, you can use your personal mobile internet, which is already up to 4G standard and provides a very high speed.
Tariffs for 4G-no on the example of the mobile: 10 GB (5 in the afternoon + 5 at night) - 999 rupees ($ 6.7), 24 GB (12 + 12) - 1999 rupees ($ 13.4).
You have a choice of 3 options - cook yourself, eat in cafes and restaurants or combine. Naturally, the most economical option is self-cooking, we have an average of $ 80 per person per month for food. Eating in an inexpensive cafe costs about 4-5 dollars, in a restaurant - from $ 10. The cheapest option for ready meals is a serving of rice and curry for $ 1 from local cafes.
In addition to the above, and not including imports, you can also buy mangoes, avocados, pomegranates, guavas, rambutans, jackfruit, durian, mangosteen, cocoa fruits, local oranges and several other kinds of fruits in Sri Lanka at different times of the year. And also vegetables: beets, cauliflower, onions, carrots, peppers, green beans, green onions, pumpkin, eggplants and very exotic local vegetables.
If, in addition to work, you want to see the island, then the best option is to rent a scooter (if of course, you have experience of driving). Under the law of Sri Lanka, you will need local driver licence, since international law does not apply here. But in fact, in most cases, the police will let you go, if you have international driver licence with the appropriate category. The low season rental price is Rs 800 ($ 5.3) per day, if taken for a long time - it will be cheaper, it is possible find rental for $ 100 for a month. If you do not have experience in driving, and you want to drive comfortably, it's just an option to take a car with a driver ($ 55 per day, included 100 km) for long trips or tuk-tuk for short journeys.
Tuk-tuks are another story; we do not like them, because in tourist areas they always overcharge and even refuse to bargain when you know the real cost. And yet they everywhere and at every step yell to you "Hello Tuk-tuk", "Where are you going", "Local Price" (which is normally a blatant lie). For an average price, the price per kilometer on a tuk-tuk should not exceed 50 rupees.
The most economical option without distance limitation will be a bus or train. For many, this is an exciting and sometimes scary experience, but some people really enjoy it. In any case, for cheap, and we mean really cheap transport to get anywhere on the island you can by bus and to most places on the train.
Sri Lanka can offer much more entertainment and leisure in addition to the luxury beaches and historical and cultural monuments. We provide a list of possible options, and more detailed information about each of them can be found online or on our site.
And these are only the options nearby. Though the island is small it is densely packed with things to do and see. To visit the main sites of interest would take at least two weeks, and that would be if you did not stay anywhere more than one day. The ancient ruins and temples in Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, the caves of Dambulla, the city on the rock in Sigiriya, the walking monuments of Sri Lanka, the European architecture and the English climate in Nuwara Eliya, the Temple of the Tooth of the Buddha and Adam's Peak are the most famous sights for lovers of history and religion and culture. Several national parks (and they are all different!) with many animals and birds including endemics, the royal botanical garden in Kandy, rainforests, waterfalls, rivers, wild jungles, mountains, coral reefs, whales and dolphins, deserted beaches with breathtaking dawns and sunsets for connoisseurs of nature. Rafting, kiting, hiking in the mountains for those who want a bit of excitement.
Now you have a general idea of what it's like to live on a tropical island and most importantly you know how much you need to earn to live by the ocean. The article is aimed at those for whom this is the first experience of remote work, so we tried to cover everything in sufficient detail, at the same time, perhaps without noticing the nuances well-known to experienced travelers. But anyway, you may find that living and working at the ocean is not such a fantastic dream. Yes, of course, provided that your income is from freelancing or you can work remotely, or maybe you have saved and want a well earned break from work.
Over the years we have lived here we have forgotten about illnesses, stress, gloomy weather and sadness. We work no less and live in a more modest life than we lived in our country, but we are happier and more full of joy. Do you want to change your life in this way? Perhaps not permanently, but most cannot refuse the chance to relax their soul and body in this way for some time. And really, how many places do you know where it is possible to spend a fantastic summer much cheaper than stay at home?
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