Month: October 2023

5 Must Do activities with children in Ella, Sri Lanka

5 Must Do activities with children in Ella, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country of thousands waterfalls, spectacular countryside, lush jungle, beautiful beaches, humble and kind people. While the country is becoming a go to destination to more and more travelers, it also has retained its unique cultural spirit. While exploring Negombo, Dambulla, Sigiriya READ MORE

Going to Sri Lanka? – VISA requirements for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Going to Sri Lanka? – VISA requirements for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Traveling the world has become more and more accessible to more people. While some countries require to get a physical VISA in your passport via the embassy, other countries may require only your passport to be stamped and give you Visa on arrival for a READ MORE

Need DATA coverage in Sri Lanka? A guide for tourists on  getting the right SIM card and what it costs in Ceylon

Need DATA coverage in Sri Lanka? A guide for tourists on getting the right SIM card and what it costs in Ceylon

When coming to a foreign country especially for longer period of time to explore, we used to miss out on sharing the moments on social media because of the lack of the internet. Roaming would cost a fortune, we could only rely on the wi-fi of the places we rented, and just until recent years we started exploring other options. That is where we found eSIM (to keep our current number and receive important notices if needed and our phones support only one physical SIM card) and local SIM cards that became vastly available for tourists. We did it in Mexico, Guatemala, Lithuania and currently doing it in Sri Lanka, and I have to say – very successfully.

How to use eSIM and SIM card at the same time?

If you have a phone that only has a slot for one SIM card- you can arrange with your provider to make it an eSIM so you would always have the ~slot available for a physical SIM card to use together. In Europe, there are a lot of phones on the market that have slots for 2 SIM cards, for this reason- so you may not even need to get an eSIM. Once you have 2 physical SIM cards or an eSIM and a physical card in your phone, you have to adjust the data usage settings- adjust it so the phone would be using the data from the foreign country’s network. Enable wi-fi calling on your primary number. This way you will not be using roaming at any point and will not incur any astronomical charges from the primary provider.

What is the best network to use in Sri Lanka?

There are three major cellular providers in Sri Lanka- Hutch, Airtel and Dialog. I did a lot of research what to get, asked locals once we landed – and all of them said to get Dialog. So we did. Dialog is so far the biggest and most reliable network and GSM provider in Sri Lanka.

Where to get a SIM card in Sri Lanka?

Do NOT get it at the airport. It seems that they are scamming tourists with this one: they charge just for a physical SIM card in between 2000-6000 rupees while it is free everywhere else, you just need to pay for your DATA plan you choose. SIM cards, especially Dialog ones, are widely available even in a small shops, but it is best to get at the Dialog network store or service agent store, that are also widely spread. It is best to do so in Colombo, after landing, you will only need your passport to get the SIM card and get it activated. It starts working within 30- 60 minutes after activation.

How much DATA plans cost for 30 days?

There are various plans to choose from, but the most popular ones are:

10 GB- 695 Rs (a little over 2$ US)

15 GB- 995 Rs ( ~3.11$ US )

20 GB – 1195 Rs (~3.68 $ US)

30 GB – 1595 Rs (~ 4.92 $ US)

50 GB – 1995 Rs (~ 6.15$ US)

100 GB – 2995 Rs (~9.24 $ US)

We chose 50 GB plan for our work requirements and it is more than enough.

Here is a link to their official website and their rates for the Data plans: DIALOG

While traveling in Sri Lanka, this network has a great coverage- even in the mountain region, beach, and everywhere on the roads. We heavily rely on the GPS to get off of the beaten path and it worked out for us brilliantly.

Hope this guide is of value for your travels in Sri Lanka!

Renting a car in Sri Lanka

Renting a car in Sri Lanka

As we have traveled Mexico, Guatemala and Belize with car, we decided to do the same in Sri Lanka. Well, we wanted to rent a tuk tuk, but we would not fit in one 🙂 Here are a few things that we gone through when READ MORE

1 Day in United Arab Emirates with kids

1 Day in United Arab Emirates with kids

As we were headed to Sri Lanka, we had a layover for 22 hours in Dubai, which I chose for a reason- to spend the whole day in United Arab Emirates. Our flight was a night flight and we landed at around 6:30 am in READ MORE

CUBA with kids- a 10 day itinerary

CUBA with kids- a 10 day itinerary

Cuba was the jewel of my travels, it was a second big trip with kids. But it was so fantastic, I fell in love with Cuba for its culture, people and beautiful heritage. It is so mysterious and rich in history, full of American muscle cars, tobacco farms and crystal clear beaches. Cuba seems to be frozen in the 60s I would say, the Western culture has not changed all of it. Not yet, at least.

Here I am sharing a 10 day itinerary that you can use and/ or adjust it as You need.

Day 1- Landed in Havana and were driven to our Casa Particulare that we rented via Airbnb (we rented a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment in the heart of Old Havana so everything would be within walking distance). The host was kind enough to arrange a taxi to pick us up from the airport and drive us to the apartment (the cost for the taxi drive – 20$ US). The host also suggested that he could change us the money and he also gave us a great rate too.

For the rest of the afternoon we were recuperating from the jet lag and just had a walk around to get familiar with the surroundings. The kids were happy to get outside after the flight. We went to the Malecon, stopped at a restaurant to have a bite to eat (lobster tail with rice and beans and small fresh salad at a restaurant was 6$ US in the heart of Old Havana). The kids also had french fries that was 2$ US each.

Note: a great helper is App- that works without internet (it is very common in Cuba to not have wifi or internet).

I also asked the host where is the local market – it was right around the corner and had everything we needed for dinner- fresh fruits and vegetables (whatever was in season) (I brought some things to make simple breakfast or dinner as I have heard there may be a problem to find certain items in the stores). So for dinner I made pancakes with market bought baby bananas and oat flour that I brought with us along with plant based milk. Some fresh pineapple on the side and it was superb and sweet and it was great ending of the evening.

Day 2- we arrange an antique car half day Havana tour with a guide, that spoke English very well. The cost for the tour was 80$ US and that included fee for the taxi, taxi driver and the guide.

The taxi with the guide came at 8 AM sharp. We chose a convertible Oldsmobile, that was amazing for our tour.

We started our trip around Old Havana, visited all the main attractions (Capitolio, Plaza De La Revolucion, Malecon, Central Park, Plaza De La Catedral, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Grand Theatre of Havana, Plaza De Armas; the guide also took us to the river where locals perform ancient ceremonies). The guide was very knowledgeable about all the famousbuilding and main attractions as well as about the history of Cuba. After the tour we went to a local restaurant, where almost every table has its own waiter (Los Nardos; we had seafood platter which was terrific and fresh). For the rest of the afternoon we walked around in Old Havana, went to have their local coconut ice cream in the main square which was a short walk from our apartment- it was splendid and bursting with local coconut flavor.

Day 3- Havana – spend another day in Havana, explore the surroundings, immerse in local culture, dance with people here, let them show you insider spots. There is a vast number of architectural buildings to see, and they are walking distance if you are staying in Old Havana.

Day 4-5- we asked our guide if she could arrange a car to go to Viñales Valley. And she did. We left early, at 7 am from Havana. The Journey took 3.5 hours to get to Viñales. We visited local tobacco farm, that did a tour of how the tobacco is grown, dried and how cigars are made. The tobacco farm also grows coffee. At the same farm we had a great adventure while horse back riding to a nearby lake. Had splendid interactions with the locals, the local village kids came out and played with the kiddos even though none of them spoke the same language. On the way to main attractions the taxi stopped at the Viñales Valley scenic point by the Hotel Los Jazmines.

While you can do it in one day – I would do it in 2 days preferably, with kids getting tired and all. The second day in Viñales – visit Indian Cave and stop to see the mural de La Prehistoria. Go to a local village to have some breakfast/ lunch.

Day 6-9 – Varadero is the place to be. At least to the ones that like the beach. We love the beach so we stayed a few days here. It took about an hour and a half to get to Varadero and it cost 100$ US. There were 5 of us traveling at the time. So it is 20$ US per person. Varadero has a wonderful beach – we went twice per day. In the morning it was quite nice and very few people, got to go kayaking straight from the beach and also we went in the afternoon to watch the sunset- local people would gather with music and dances every day just to finish their day. We also got to the docks in the marina to get fish from local fisherman, tat we could cook at home. And we found a local market for fruits and veggies. We got to ride a coco taxi which is a must once you are in Varadero. Other places to explore while in Varadero: Varadero open bus tour; Al Capone’s House.

Day 10 – getting back to Havana for the flight.

A few tips for Cuba:

It is SAFE. Very SAFE if you are wondering about safety of your kids.

Bring cash (euros or US dollars were the best currency in 2019)- there are a few places that take cards, if any.

The best exchange rate is through your host of the casa particulare that you will rent.

Buy local. Support local people.

Buy water in the store (you will be offered to buy from your host – and they charge 1$ per bottle typically).

Drive a coco taxi.

Go dancing to a local restaurant/ club (there are couple in Varadero where people dance in the middle of the street).

Download app for map access with no internet (the internet was very scarce and was available only at certain locations when you buy an internet card).

If you have some type of allergies, I suggest you bring some products as it is hard to find any non standard goods.

I hope you have a great time.

Best beaches in Mexico (for families with kids)

Best beaches in Mexico (for families with kids)

We extensively traveled in Mexico via car. From Texas to the very east coast of Mexico; from east coast to Oaxaca; from Oaxaca to Texas and then to Jalisco, Hidalgo, Chiapas, Oaxaca again. As we love the beach, wherever we visited – and if that READ MORE