Work and Travel in Sri Lanka
VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN SRI LANKA FOR TRAVELLERS
Sri Lanka is located just off the coast of India and can make an excellent addition to a backpacking trip in the area. Often known for the war against the Tamil Tigers, this is a nation in recovery. As such, volunteering opportunities in Sri Lanka are plentiful and you should have few problems finding a way in which to help the people of this tiny Asian nation.
The travel guides for Sri Lanka may not tell you about the challenges you can face in Sri Lanka and the life changing experiences you’ll have here. But we will, so take a look at what you can experience as you work and travel in Sri Lanka.
1. Work as a Teacher in Gale
Teachers are always needed in this country. It helps if you have some prior qualifications, but if you want to do things like teach English in Sri Lanka you don’t need to have any prior experience. Just being a native English speaker is enough for most organisations that have a shortage of teachers.
Gale is one area where organisations are operating right now. You may be teaching in schools, in orphanages, or in day care facilities.
You’ll be making a real difference by choosing this type of work in Sri Lanka.
2. Keep the Elderly Company in Badulla
Badulla is a place that has a lot of elderly people with nobody to care for them. The elderly need help with company to fight off the feeling of loneliness. From a more practical standpoint they require help with housekeeping and other tasks at home that they struggle to do themselves.
Remember that this is a war torn country and a lot of people lost the ones who would have taken care of them in their old age.
This is a great way to connect with local people whilst helping them in their daily lives as you travel in Sri Lanka.
3. Help the Deaf and the Blind in Northern Province
The Northern Province part of the country, particularly in the rural areas, has little support for the deaf and the blind. Domestic and foreign NGOs have stepped in to alleviate the problem through providing services via volunteers. You could be helping them in schools and giving them a hand with their homework.
These people have little to no support from the government, so your help is much needed. It can be a challenging role, but it’s one of the most rewarding volunteer opportunities in Sri Lanka you’re likely to come across.
VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR SRI LANKA
For travellers intending to spend less than 30 days in Sri Lanka, the visa process is very straightforward.
A short-term visa (30 days or less) can be obtained online prior to arrival for a cost of about USD 35 here:
One can also obtain a short-term visa upon arrival in Sri Lanka. There is a kiosk between the arriving gates and the customs desk.
While the government website says a departing flight is required, I did not have any trouble entering Sri Lanka without first booking a departing flight.
I simply declared I was in Sri Lanka for "tourism" and received no scrutiny from any officials.
Sri Lanka is a country that has visa-free access without charge for only three countries in the world. Everyone else, except a number of third-world African nations, must apply for the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA).
The country has an online system for getting your visa and is, in reality, no more than a way to charge travellers a modest amount to enter the country for 30 days. To show this, you can actually get your ETA when you arrive in Sri Lanka.
This option is not advised as it can take hours to receive the authorization you need. And you don’t want to be one of the rare unlucky people who actually get rejected (although it’s hard for this to happen).
SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN SRI LANKA
The place to be in Sri Lanka in the springtime is anywhere but the south and west coasts of the country. This is when the Yale Monsoon country hits and it becomes extremely difficult to get around. The exception is April when the whole country is relatively calm and hot.
Springtime in Sri Lanka is the best time to head to the east coast and participate in the various surf camps and guesthouses. This is the least developed area of Sri Lanka and work is easy to find here as a volunteer. If you like more remote hostels and guesthouses to work in, this is the place to come.
The summertime continues to deliver the monsoon season, so there are no real additional seasonal backpacker skills needed at this time of year. Refer back to the ‘Spring’ section for the seasonal backpacker skills needed at this time of year as you work and travel in Sri Lanka.
Autumn brings the best weather of the year across the country. You should venture to the west coast and head to the capital of Colombo. This is a great time to start joining English teaching programmes and helping with community development projects.
A lot of organisations need volunteers at this time of year as it’s just after the main tourist season for Westerners.
The wintertime brings the Maha monsoon season to the east and north. It’s also the time when the west and south receives a heavy influx of tourists. The hotels and guesthouses in these areas usually want some extra hands to help out with the additional work.
Some of these places pay, but the majority of them will only provide free accommodation and perhaps free food. Outside of these areas the monsoon season will make it extremely difficult to travel around.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN SRI LANKA
You have to understand that Sri Lanka has received significant influxes of tourists in recent years. But white people are still considered something of an anomaly. This is especially the case in the areas worst hit by the destructive civil war that swept the country. Expect some looks and expect to be bothered by the touts in the tourist area.
The scammers and the annoyances aside, Sri Lankan people are traditionally welcoming and friendly. As you interact with the locals you’ll realise that they’re simply grateful for the help you’re providing to them and they’ll be eager to learn some of your language.
But there’s no denying that Sri Lanka still comes with many problems, obstacles, and challenges. Work and travel in Sri Lanka is only for travellers who’re tough enough.
Are you tough enough for work in Sri Lanka?