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Plan My Gap year - Sri Lanka

Page history last edited by Laura Townson 8 years, 12 months ago


Partner institution: Plan My Gap year - Sri Lanka

Website: http://www.planmygapyear.co.uk/sri-lanka


Contributors (2014):

Connie Wooltorton

Bethany Farrow

Molly Steeds

Katie Clarke

Shauna Baxter

Laura Noonan

Hannah Orchard

Sarah Price

Hannah Leake


Contributors (2015):

Sophie Broadhurst 

Annabelle Collingwood 

Laura Townson 

Molly McCormick 

Sophie Ames 

Bethany Thomas 

Megan Gresty 



Contributors: for details on what is required in each section, please look at the Guidance Notes


Placement Information



Social life


Things to do, things not to do 

Useful Contacts

Before you go


Placement Information

Plan My Gap Year Sri Lanka, provide many different programmes ranging from the elephant project, the turtle project, the tsunami school, the orphanage, teaching English to the monks and finally they provide a medical programme. All of these programmes are very rewarding and whatever you decide to do whilst being in Sri Lanka will be unbelievably worthwhile.

On the PGMY website you are able to choose which project you would like to do. Although if you aren't able to complete all your placement hours, you are able to pick more than one (just speak to the PGMY team). This also allows you to get a taste for more of the volunteering programs on offer. However, this doesn't apply for the elephant and turtle projects due to the fact that they cost a bit more compared to the teaching programmes; this is because PMGY have to provide the elephant project and turtle project with specific things for example they have to buy a lot of food for the elephant project. 

Usually the day consists of working one project in the morning, returning home for lunch and go to another program in the afternoon if you wanted to. The coordinators are very accommodating in making sure you're happy with what you're doing. If you want to change your plans for one afternoon, they will try their best to re-organise so you can do as you wish, such as going to the beach or going shopping.


(Molly and Sophie A); We worked at the Orphanage for 2 weeks and then we worked at the Tsunami School for our last week. We both found the projects different, but both opened our eyes to how different the culture is in Sri Lanka compared to what we have in the UK. In the Orphanage we planned English based activities which we taught the children for the first hour and a half that we were there. Some examples of what we taught them were days of the week, seasons, the human body and basic English language and Maths for the older children. The children at the Orphanage ranged from 7-15 years old. For the last hour and a half at the Orphanage we split in half where some of us would play sports with the children and the others would help the older children with their homework. One of the biggest eye openers we found was that in Sri Lanka, if they feel a child is behind with their education or they find education difficult, they are left to their own devices and somewhat pushed to the bottom of the pile. The children that were excelling in their education, however, were encouraged by getting tutors to teach them extra curriculum work outside of their school hours. In the UK, obviously, it is much different as we allow children who find education difficult to have one-on-one sessions with academic tutors to encourage them and help them with their work. We did pretty much the same kind of work in the Tsunami School, however, it was more teacher based and we all taught our own class. We both loved each project and didn't want to come home!!!




(Sophie B); I worked at the tsunami school for the 4 weeks I was there and had the most amazing time.I found this experience extremely eye opening due to the fact that the children all really appreciate everything you did for them and they were all so willing to learn English.




(Laura Townson) I also volunteered in the tsunami school for 4 weeks. Everyone morning you are expected to plan a lesson, although it only takes about an hour and if you are organised you can do it the night before. Its best to teach the children one topic each day, but at the start of each lesson recap what you have already done. The children love work sheets that help aid the topic being taught. All of the children love it when you praise them and encourage them to expand their knowledge. Everyday they are excited to see you, making you more motivated and happy to go to the project. Coordinators are there to help you with ideas, communicating and helping you to relax. At first its a little daunting (just like it is standing up into front of any group of people) because they just want to know everything about you, but after the first day its easier to become more relaxed. When I was first looking at different type of placements, I remember saying to the others that I didn't want to teach because I didn't like the idea of it, but im so glad that I did it, and will definitely be returning. I didn't take any gifts or anything over with me because I was unsure what to take and on the PMGY website it advises not to take anything. I would recommend raising some money not £100's, honestly even if you only raised £30 it would make a big difference, because then you can go into the local town (where everything is cheaper than the UK anyway!) and buy loads of plain paper, rubbers, pencils, paints, stickers, colours, tennis balls, footballs- just simple things that they don't have. This allows you to see what they need and saves space in your bag, rather than bring over things from the UK which might not be as beneficial and reduce the amount of space and weight in your bag. This is a life changing experience and I would recommend it to anyone in a heart beat!! 










'This is a picture of a part of temple that we had the opportunity to renovate during our stay. it protects a sacred tree that is very important to the Buddhist religion. The locals really appreciate what you are doing for them and although the language difference can be a barrier, they showed their gratitude in other ways, by bringing us tea and snacks.' ( Sarah.) 





There are two houses that you may be placed in during your stay.  One is the main coordinator Ashika's family home; where his family and himself are very welcoming in making you feel at home. Ashika's mum and dad, Ranji & Thomali, work between both houses in making sure everyone is alright. You can have the option to move if you aren't enjoying it where you are or if you have friends in the other house and would rather be there for the rest of your stay; as long as there is room available. The other house called the 'Lion House' which is only round the corner from the family home, it is about a 5 minute tuktuk ride or a 20 minute walk. It's a little bigger than Ashika's house and has a roof on which you can sunbathe if you wish. Each house can cater for around 10 volunteers in each, there is plenty of room for everyone.

The price you pay for accommodation with PGMY includes breakfast, lunch and dinner although if you would rather eat out then just let one of the coordinators know. We had a few extra days once we had finished at our projects during which we were planning on going to a hotel to relax for our last few days, however, upon our stay we decided to stay with the family as we enjoyed it there that much; we just couldn't bring ourselves to leave! It just shows how welcoming and friendly everyone is! It feels a lot like home!


                                                 Lion House 



We were picked up from the airport in a tiny minibus and taken to the house we were going to stay in, this takes around 3 hours depending on which airport you arrive at.


Although transportation from the airport to the volunteer’s house is included with the initial cost of the trip, the transport from the house to the airport (for your return flight) is NOT, so you need to ensure that you have enough money left over at the end of your trip in order to pay for that. A taxi to the airport is around 8,000 rupees, which is equivalent to around £40. 


For long journeys Ashika can help you arrange a taxi although, they can become quite expensive depending on where you want to travel to. Other than long journeys you will probably travel in a TukTuk, we really enjoyed travelling in these! However, they can only fit around 2-3 people in them, so you may need a few if a lot of you are going somewhere!

If you wish, you can also have the opportunity to travel by bus from place to place, this works out a lot cheaper than using a Tuk Tuk, for example it would only cost us 80 rupees there and back from Ambalangoda to Hikkaduwa which is about a 20-30 minute journey there and a 20-30 minute journey back. 

When you go to placement to work you don't need to pay for tuktuks, if you are going to do something for yourself, the tuktuk drivers need to be paid. When you get to where your going just ask them how much you owe them and they will tell you, for a general trip from home to the shop it will cost about 150LKR, that's less than a pound so it's still really cheap!

Tuktuks are the main form of transport for families in Sri Lanka but there are also cars, motorbikes and bikes. you can also commute by bus or train depending on where you want to get to. The bus runs quite regularly but it can be very busy and you might end up standing on a packed bus for quite a long time depending on where you are going. The train is  less regular but is another cost effective way of travelling around Sri Lanka. Traffic can be rather heavy in Ambalagoda, when we first arrived we were shocked as to how they drive and the amount of cars on the roads. You also have to be careful when crossing and walking alongside the roads, just to make sure you're not in the way and when crossing. It is better not to hesitate and just go for it when crossing as there are no traffic lights for you to cross with. However, there are some crossings which make it safer for you to cross on, other than that the roads are fine to walk on.




Social life

The social life can be absolutely amazing! There are lots of places you can go out to in Ambalangoda. Shopping can be fun if you want to haggle but for the more faint-hearted there are shops with set prices. If you fancy having dinner out one night you can get a TukTuk there, Ashika can tell you the best places to go and what to have in order to get the best taste of Sri Lankan food. However, his mum Thomali cooks the best dinners! We only ate out once, it was nice but we preferred staying at home and eating with the other volunteers.

On a few days we enjoyed going to a place called Hikkaduwa, the beach here is amazing and the night life is also really good! We enjoyed going to a place called 'Funky De Bar' for a cocktail or two! We also had a few nights where we went to have dinner at a restaurant with the other volunteers, then onto the bar for a party on the beach. All of the locals are very welcoming and enjoy the parties too! The tuktuks take you there and wait for you until your ready to go home. It's better if there are a few of you going to Hikkaduwa, it is about 20 minutes away from Ambalagoda so then a few tuktuks will be going to take you all there.

(Sophie A and Molly) The social life is absolutely amazing! There are loads of places in which you can go. Plan My Gap year also plan weekend trips in which you can go on, so as going to Yala and Kandy, were you will experience the elephant project Yala national park and lots more amazing views and sites. Hikkaduwa, has the most amazing beach where you can go snorkelling and shopping and Hikkaduwa also has great night life.



There are lots of shops in Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa so there's always something to do, from shopping to going to the beach, it's a really good experience!

There is also a hotel you can go to, a short tuktuk ride away, they will let you use their pool and sun loungers for 250LKR, for the whole day. You can also buy food and drink here too! 


(Laura Townson) I spent the last week travelling round Sri Lanka with a few girls from University. We did the coast line for a few days, just chilling on beaches, eating lots of food and surfing! We travelling from place to place using public transport (mostly bus) which was very cheap and fairly easy. We managed to get a seat every time and it was eventful trying on get on and off them with a huge backpack on your back! We didn't stop laughing the whole way, although I would make sure you have plenty of water and some snacks because we did a few long journeys (6 hours) and you get thirsty and hungry. We then did things like worlds end, different temples and made our way up to Colombo by train. You don't need an extra week to do things like this because you get weekends free which you can either join onto one of PMGY's organised trips or go off on your own for the weekend. Bare in mind that there is so much to do, so you might have to priorities the things you want to do the most, but at least it gives you an excuse to go back next year!!





At your house in the morning you would have fried egg and toast with fruit. For lunch there was either rice/noodles with usually three other dishes you could have with it and the same for dinner with different dishes. It is all placed in bowls and you can help yourself to try what you wish. we would suggest you to have a go at everything, its always good to try something new, and some of the foods were actually really nice!





While out in Hikkaduwa there are lots of nice places to eat. There was a restaurant that had real homemade chips! These are really important if you are missing food from home!

They also made really good burgers and chicken strip sandwiches.




The food at the hotel wasn't bad either.



Things to do, things not to do

My advice is too look after your valuables, obviously don't leave anything valuable on show and to make sure you shut your doors and windows. We had a thunder and lightning storm one day and the other girls left their window open, their room flooded! Luckily nothing too important was damaged however it could have been much worse!

Be to be polite, locals may talk to you and want money so be careful when doing what your doing, be polite but just say no thank you and they should leave you alone.

We would also advise to buy a mobile phone out there, its so much cheaper and it make things easier when ringing Ashika or for a tuktuk. After the induction, someone will take you to get anything you might need such as buying a phone and changing your money as well as showing you around.

Make sure you drink lots of water and eat some food, it's easy to lose your appetite out there because of the heat. Try to at least eat a bit each dinner time and take water out with you as its easy to get dehydrated.

Finally remember your insect repellent 50%DEET and sun lotion! Take lots of sun cream and insect repellent of at least 50% deet if not higher!

Read the PMGY handbook as its very helpful!!



Useful Contacts

Ashika is always on the other end of the phone if you need him, if you have gone out for the day and need a tuktuk home, if you ring him he will send one out to pick you up.








MOBILE (94) 75 95 82005

                    75 21 37730 


For more information visit the PGMY website: www.planmygapyear.co.uk



Before you go

Before you go, check your flight details and let someone at PGMY know of any changes.

Pack enough suitable clothes for your placement, long over the knee trousers or shorts for when your working and sleeved tops to cover your chest and your shoulders if you are visiting any temples. When your not working you can wear what you like. Also make sure you take things like shorts and tops for if you go out into Hikka or to the beach.

Take enough spending money, We took £500 for 3 weeks and that was more than enough. Although it is cheap out there, we liked to buy lots of souvenirs and trips, so it is easy for it all to go, especially when going out for dinner and partying on the beach!





Registration Fee £149

Programme Fee £240

Travel Insurance £48

Flights £530

A weekend trip £110

Spending Money £500 (although you really don't need that much)






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