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Which is better Sri Lanka or Maldives?

Discussion in 'Maldives' started by Kaashi, Dec 22, 2016.

  1. Kaashi

    Kaashi New Member

    My husband and I will be celebrating our first anniversary by going on a holiday abroad. The two destinations we are thinking of are Sri Lanka and Maldives, but we can only go to one and need to know which one.
    Both destinations look amazing and perfect places to spend some couple time.

    We need to know which is better Sri Lanka or Maldives?

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, @Kaashi, welcome to the forum!



    Ah, comparing Sri Lanka and Maldives can be quite difficult. On the one hand, we have Sri Lanka, a very diverse country, located to the south of India, just kilometres a few kilometres away from each other. In fact, the border towns of Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu and Talai Mannar in Mannar Island are just 32 kilometres away from each other. Despite being a small country, Sri Lanka has very varied landscapes, ranging from tropical and evergreen forests, to hill stations, even cities and of course, beaches. It can take weeks to fully explore the country, even if it's quite small in size as compared to other Asian countries like India or China. And finally, Sri Lanka is also blessed when it comes to the heritage sites and culture, that truly every traveller has nothing but praises for when talked about these aspects of the country.

    Sri Lanka (Image from Asela Jayarathne)

    On the other hand, we have the Maldives. Oh, sweet, glorious Maldives, which has captivated the hearts of many travellers. Located off the Arabian sea, this is Asia's smallest country which has over 1,000 scattered islands, some of which are inhabited, some are not while others are owned by resorts. It is a premier luxury destination, as staying here usually means renting a room out in a high end resort. Over the past few years, the Maldives has opened up for more affordable tourism through the concept of guest houses. This has made the island country even more popular than it already is. When in the Maldives, there's really not much you can do but laze on the beach, snorkel or dive, maybe do a few water sports. As such, it is popular amongst honeymoon couples, who truly want a relaxing getaway, far from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

    Maldives (Image from Alberto Ziveri)

    Sri Lanka and Maldives - A Comparison

    1. Accessibility
    • Sri Lanka - Prior to entering Sri Lanka, travellers are urged to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) from the nearest respective Sri Lanka Diplomatic Mission branch in their country. They can also apply for the Electronic Travel Authorisation online via the official website of the Sri Lankan government. Once you are approved, you can easily get visa on your arrival at the Colombo International Airport. You can also opt to obtain this ETA in the Colombo International Airport, but then, you would need to queue and pay a higher fee for it. Those travellers coming in from the Maldives, Seychelles and Singapore are not required to get the ETA as they are allowed visa on arrival upon entry, even without the mentioned document. For travellers coming in from India, though the distance of the two countries isn't that much, it cannot be covered by ferry or boat. For a while, ferry services between Thoothukudi (Indian side) and Talai Mannar (Sri Lankan side) were resumed back in 2011 but it was stopped again due to some bankruptcy issues. Thus, the only way of reaching Sri Lanka, from any other country, is by air. There are direct flights from Mumbai to Colombo, which cost around Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 13,000 per passenger. Aside from India, the Colombo International Airport is also directly connected to cities of other countries like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Male, Singapore and many more.
    • Maldives - Maldives doesn't require anyone to obtain a visa prior to entering their country. However, travellers need to present a valid passport, a return ticket plus proof of funds for the trip, which should be at least 150 USD per day. If you have reserved a room in one of the higher end resorts, that can serve as proof of funds too. Once you have shown these necessary items, you are given a visa on arrival that is valid for 30 days. Just like Sri Lanka, the only way of reaching Maldives is by air. The Male International Airport is the main airport of the country, located in the Hulhule Island, in the northern part of Maldives. There are also direct flights from Mumbai to Male, which costs around Rs. 13,000 to Rs. 27,000 per passenger. The airport also has direct flights to and from cities of other countries like Beijing, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Riyadh, Singapore and many more.
    2. Transportation Options
    • Sri Lanka - Since Sri Lanka is mainly one big island surrounded by water on its sides, transport is usually by land, in order to reach the different points in the country. The Sri Lanka Railways connects the city of Colombo to surrounding tourist destinations like Nuwara Eliya and Kandy. There are different types of trains as well catering to the different localities and tourists, like overnight trains and suburban trains. The scenic journey from Kandy to Ella is rated as one of the best train routes in the world, passing through many waterfalls, plantations, lush jungles and bridges along the way. For travelling short distances, your best bet would be the three-wheelers, also known as tuk-tuks. These tuk-tuks usually don't run on metres so make sure you bargain a fare beforehand. If you're adventurous, you can also try out travelling backpacker style via buses. That's how the locals do it so you get to experience the authentic Sri Lankan life by doing so. Some buses are operated by the Sri Lankan government while others by private companies. Not all have air-conditioning though so you might need to sweat it out for a few hours when you choose such buses. But if you do have the money to spare, there are many taxi services and car rental services around different areas of Sri Lanka too. This is the most expensive but also most convenient option for travelling.
    Bus in Sri Lanka (Image from Lanil Marasinghe)
    • Maldives - Because the islands of Maldives are separated from one another via water, there are only two ways of traversing them, either by air or by boat. If you are coming from Male and need to be transferred to a resort island, you can utilise of the air journey, which is via sea plane. Beware though as costs for this average between 450 USD to 600 USD per passenger for a one-way ride. However, this is also the most reliable and the fastest way of reaching your desired island. If you want to save a bit of money, you can opt for boat transfers. There are public ferries that have schedules a few days in a week that can transfer you from one inhabited island to the other, though still not to high end resorts. Though cheaper, they can be subjected to postponements due to difficult weather conditions and they are also slower. There are also scheduled speedboats that run from one island to the other but their timings are not fixed. Last option are the private speedboats, usually run by resorts, that can take you to another island if the need arises.
    Boat in Maldives (Image from DD)

    3. Beaches
    • Sri Lanka - Travellers usually throng to the southern and western coasts of Sri Lanka. You can still find a few gems in these areas though. In the south, for the couples, one of the best beaches to reach is the Mirissa Beach. Although lively, it isn't overly crowded nor noisy. It has a nice assortment of restaurants, beach shacks and hotels close to the shore too. Nothing can be more romantic than a boat ride in the water trying to spot the giant blue whales that reside in the waters of this beach. The water of the beach itself is very clean and it has pure golden sands that you can enjoy strolling in. Another good option is the Hikkaduwa Beach, renowned for its rich marine life suitable for snorkelling. It even has a turtle point where you can spot giant turtles swimming along with you. The western beaches are generally more crowded and less scenic, if you may, but are very vibrant on the other hand. You can try out Mount Lavinia Beach, just under an hour away from Colombo. Though not that suitable for swimming, this beach would do if you are only staying in Colombo and cannot venture into the further beaches of Sri Lanka. On the eastern side, the white shores of the Passikudah Beach has been attracting travellers as well. It isn't very busy as the southern or western beaches though. It has very mild waves so you can enjoy swimming, especially as the water is crystal clear, enough to see the sea bed. The Nilaveli Beach is another good option for the couples, it is mildly developed, has white sandy shores and clear blue waters. We can't forget the northern part, often overlooked by travellers, as this is where the Casuarina Beach is located, specifically in Jaffna. Since the region was just opened for tourism, the beach is largely deserted by tourists and so you can enjoy serenity here. Lined with white sandy shores and shallow waters, this is another good option for those who enjoy frolicking in the water.
    Mirissa Beach in Sri Lanka (Image from Amila Tennakoon)
    • Maldives - You really can't visit as many beaches in the Maldives as you'd like as most are occupied by high end resorts. You can, however, choose one resort and spend the rest of your vacation there, guiltlessly. For the luxurious travellers, all-in packages by resorts are your best friends. You simply pay the required amount and the resort would take care of everything, from the accommodation, to the meals, to the sightseeing and up to the activities. You don't need to worry as every beach in the Maldives has white sands and clear, turquoise waters. Even islands like the Maafushi Island and Gulhi Island have beautiful beaches, despite being designated as budget beach destinations in the country. If you do have the money to spare, you can reach the Kandolhu Island or Kuramathi Island, wherein you can stay in water villas. Complete with restaurants, bars, water sports and even spas, you can enjoy every bit of your stay here.
    Vakarufalhi Island Resort in Maldives (Image from Marcus)

    4. Other Attractions
    • Sri Lanka - You can explore Sri Lanka in a week or two and still not get enough of it. Starting with its capital, Colombo, you can enjoy the modern Sri Lankan life here. While most tourists prefer to skip this city, you can spend at least a day exploring it. Just a stroll around the Old Dutch Hospital, which has been converted into a shopping and entertainment area, can rejuvenate you. The Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple is also one of the city's prime attraction. It is dedicated to the Lord Buddha and has intricately carved ceilings which attracts the devotees. If you are a history buff, make sure you visit the city of Polonnaruwa. This ancient city was once conquered by the Cholas and was also the home of the Sinhalese dynasty. Once a seven-storey palace, the Weijantha Prasada now stands in ruins but still has that grace of the royal era. This palace was built by Parakramabahu I, but it was destroyed by the invading forces which lead to its destruction. The Shiva Devalaya is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It's very interesting to visit a Hindu site in a largely Buddhist area. There are also many hill stations around Sri Lanka, which are always good options for couples. Ella is one such hill station, known for its trekking trails like the Little Adam's Peak trek and Ella Rock trek. Surrounded by views of tea plantations, Ella is picturesque in any season that you visit. Another must visit hill station is Kandy, filled with heritage sites along with lush greenery. Buddhists flock to the Sri Dalada Maligawa, a monastery holding a tooth relic of the Buddha, hence its other name is the Temple of the Tooth. But aside from the holy relic, the temple has fascinating architecture and other artefacts that makes it a worthwhile visit. Nearby is the Kandy Lake, bustling with activity, yet still remains quite pristine, not only in its water, but also in its wildlife. There are many more cities and villages that you can explore around Sri Lanka, so don't be limited by this short list.
    • Maldives - In contrast, Maldives has very little attractions as it was mainly built as a relaxing getaway. Still, in the capital Male, you can visit a few historical sites. Regarded as the oldest mosque in the Maldives, the Hukuru Miskiy, also known as the Old Friday Mosque can give you a glimpse of the religious side of the region. Although the present structure was built in the 16th century, there was an old mosque in the site built as early as the 11th century. Intricate carvings line the wooden panels of the mosque, giving it a very rustic appearance. Next is the Grand Friday Mosque, the largest mosque in the country. It has a very modern appearance, with a pure white facade and a golden dome. It is the main mosque of the city and it can accommodate as many as 5,000 devotees at one time. Although fairly small, the National Museum of Maldives, is also worth exploring. It has a few collection from the monarchy regimen of the country. Thus, if your main goal for a vacation is to enrich your mind culturally and historically, Maldives might not cater to that side. It does have a few attractions but they are not enough for the history buffs or even the nature lovers.
    5. Activities
    • Sri Lanka - You won't really run out of things to do in Sri Lanka. If you're into water sports, the main activity done here is surfing. The best beaches for that are Arugam Bay and even Midigama. With their rough waves, the seasoned surfers can enjoy this thrilling activity to their heart's content. With their rich marine life, the beaches of Sri Lanka are perfect for snorkelling and diving as well. Top rated ones for these activities are the beaches of Weligama and Kirinda. For fun water sports such as jet skiing, boating, banana boat riding and many more, Negombo Beach is your best bet for these. Activities around Sri Lanka aren't just centred on the water because you can also indulge in thrilling activities beyond the beaches. One of which is trekking, which you can do in the hill stations around Sri Lanka, like Ella and Kandy. They have numerous trails that can take you around the lush greenery of the region. How about wildlife spotting? Well, you can enjoy that in Sri Lanka too and chances are, you can easily spot elephants in sanctuaries such as the Uda Walawe National Park and Yala National Park. The sky's the limit when in Sri Lanka and no matter where you go, you can find activities that can make your stay even more memorable.
    Yala National Park in Sri Lanka (Image from Amila Tennakoon)
    • Maldives - Maldives is mainly an idyllic destination, meant for just lazing and relaxing. There are a few activities based around the water that you can do here though. Snorkelling and diving are the best activities to do here, because the water is not just clear, it has an abundance of marine life to explore. You can simply rent out equipments for snorkelling from your resort or guest house or bring yours if you have them. Most beaches are suitable for snorkelling so you don't need to venture too far out. For scuba diving, you usually need to book a boat in advance from your resort or guest house. Surfing is yet another water activity that you can enjoy here, but you need to reach the surfing spots of Villingilimathi Huraa and Thaburudhoo for better waves. As with other water sports, there are usually equipments that you can rent from the resort you're staying in for them.
    Paradise Island Resort and Spa in Maldives (Image from Nattu)

    6. Accommodation Options
    • Sri Lanka - If you choose to stay at the southern part of Sri Lanka, there are many accommodation options there, ranging from budget ones to luxury ones. For as little as Rs. 2,500 per night, you can secure yourself a good room in a hotel. Around the Galle area is the Millennium Resorts and Spa which won't cost you more than Rs. 2,200 per night. Villa Bird Lake in Hikkaduwa is another good choice, with room rates ranging between Rs. 2,100 to Rs. 2,500 per night, at the cheapest. If you want to truly indulge, five-star resorts are also available with the likes of Vivanta by Taj Bentota and The Fortress Koggala, with room rates not lower than Rs. 18,000 per night. There are good accommodation options in the west, with the cheapest hotels priced at Rs. 2,200 and above, like the Great Southern Hotel and Sai Sea City Hotel. Galle Face Hotel Colombo is a luxury hotel in the capital with room rates around Rs. 17,000 per night. On the eastern and northern part of Sri Lanka, there are only a few mid-range and luxury hotels. Especially with the lesser known villages, you need to stay in guest houses.
    • Maldives - While some think that staying in the Maldives is a luxury that they can't afford, with the opening of the guest houses around its several islands, this isn't necessarily true nowadays. Of course, Maldives is still touted as a luxury destination. With the advent of resorts like the Angsana Ihuru and Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, where you need to spend over Rs. 50,000 for their all-in packages, it's no wonder the Maldives still scares most budget travellers. Mid-range resorts like the Canareef Resort and Biyadhoo Island Resort have rates less than Rs. 15,000 per night which are heaps less than the formerly mentioned resorts. Still, if that's way out of your budget, try out the Vilu Rest in Hulhumale or Water Breeze in Maafushi, both won't cost you more than Rs. 4,000 per night!
    7. Local Cuisine
    • Sri Lanka - Those who have tasted Sri Lankan cuisine just can't get enough of it, often relishing that it is one of the most flavourful and delicious cuisines in the world. Sri Lankan cuisine is enticing to the taste buds, with a unique blend of Dutch, French and even South Indian influences. The use of coconut is prevalent in the cuisine, which is a feature of most South Indian dishes, especially those from Kerala. Curries, prevalent in India, are also important parts of the Sri Lankan cuisine. However, what sets the Sri Lankan cuisine apart is the wide array of flavours that their meals have. It's inevitable having been conquered by different rulers over time. Rice is a staple and so are rice products such as pancakes and rice noodles. The flavours pack a punch too because they're not just flavourful, they're full of intense flavour. If they're spicy, they're ultimately spicy and if they're sour, they are face-twistingly sour. Seafood is also a major part of the cuisine, not surprising at all because the country is surrounded by water. Common seafoods consumed here are the Maldive fishes, crabs, prawns and squids. Both vegetables and meats find their way into the cuisine too.
    • Maldives - The Maldivian cuisine is a mixture of various influences of Indian, Sri Lankan and even Arabic cuisines. While it can be difficult to taste authentic Maldivian cuisine when staying in resorts, you can opt to have some authentic food experiences in the capital Male or in the smaller inhabited islands. Look for small eateries that serve authentic Maldivian cuisine, also known as hotaus. You can identify Maldivian cuisine by its primary use of coconut for its many dishes. Most dishes are mainly of the seafood kind because meats are generally harder to come by in the islands. Tunas and mackerels are some of the favourite fishes of the Maldivians. Even snacks are usually made from fishes like the Keemia, which are deep-fried fish rolls, and Kulhiboakibaa, which are spicy fish cakes. Rice and vegetables are also important parts of the cuisine of the Maldives.
    8. Affordability
    • Sri Lanka - There's no doubt that Sri Lanka is the more affordable of the two destinations. From the air fare, up to the accommodations and even the transport around the country, you can stretch your money here. It's not just affordable, you have a myriad of options when in here. You can go as lavish as you'd like or as backpacker as you'd like. You can dine in budget restaurants but still feel satisfied. You can even enjoy street foods and not worry about your pocket. You don't have to limit your vacation just because you don't want to go over the budget because chances are, you won't ever need to. But beyond all these things, Sri Lanka does not feel like a compromised or second choice destination because it offers pristine wildlife, beautiful beaches, heritage sites and most of all, the people are always welcoming.
    • Maldives - Maldives is not really for the backpackers. Sure, you can always try out guest houses and stretch your money. But you would certainly end up spending more here despite all your efforts to save some money. Even budget guest houses cost a bit more here as compared to budget hotels in Sri Lanka. Further, the cost of transportation is very high especially if you don't want to rely on inaccurate timings of the public ferries. Even food and drinks are on the higher side, especially if you stay in a resort or maybe a guest house. Despite all these downsides, Maldives is the ultimate honeymoon destination and rightfully so. Its beaches are unparalleled when it comes to their picturesque beauty and marine life.

    So which one would you choose, Sri Lanka or Maldives? Sri Lanka is a varied destination, much like India, but on a smaller scale. Think of it as a mini India, where there are beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, heritage sites and cities that you can visit. It can be chaotic in the central part but the further you go to the north or the east, the more that it becomes rural. The southern and western parts are the main tourist destinations primarily because of their beaches. Sri Lanka is not just all about beaches, although they are considered the best ones in Asia. So if you're someone who easily gets tired of one kind of landscape, fret not, because Sri Lanka can satisfy you with its naturally diverse sceneries.

    Maldives is mainly a beach destination, that is about it. If you love the beach, the activities that are related to it, then Maldives it is for you. You need to shell out more money though because this is not just a beach destination, it is an expensive one. Island resorts are primarily the main accommodation options and once you're there, it's kind of hard to do island hopping, not to mention it costs quite a lot. As such, if you're okay with just lazing around for a few days, then Maldives might work well to your advantage. It has some of the most beautiful beaches in Asia, which is also why it's a luxurious destination.

    I hope this helps you!