Australia snake

Fear and Snakes in Sri Lanka

I’ve never been particularly afraid of snakes, so when I learned a few years ago that Sri Lanka was home to nearly three dozen species of venomous snakes, more than half of which are deadly, I was relatively unfazed. (Disclaimer: One of my best friends is a hobby herpetologist, and has been performing anti-snake-fear hypnosis on me for the better part of a decade.)

Unfortunately, my then-boyfriend and travel companion was less confident in the known fact that snakes are generally much more afraid of humans than we are of them. “I’m not going to Sri Lanka,” he insisted, just days before we were to depart.

As luck (from his perspective) would have it, AirAsia cancelled its Bangkok-Colombo route just days before we were to fly, which gave him an easy out and me few options, other than to appease his wishes to take a trip to Bali instead. (Click here if you don’t remember how that went down.)

A year later, I finally made my way to Sri Lanka for two weeks. Thankfully, none of these feisty critters slithered up my leg when I was there!

Need help planning your trip to Sri Lanka? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

What is the Risk of a Snake Bite in Sri Lanka?

I only saw one snake in Sri Lanka, and I barely even noticed it. I’d just scaled Sigiriya rock between Kandy and Anuradhapura, and noticed a small serpent slithering out from behind a smaller rock atop the monolith. It wasn’t aggressive and disappeared as fast as it showed up on my proverbial radar.

This speaks to a more global and general truth about snakes: They’re more afraid of us than we are of them! Even though the Sri Lankan venomous snakes I’m about to share with you could be deadly if they bite you, chances are you won’t even see them—and they’ll head for the hills if they happen to see you!

Common Venomous Snakes in Sri Lanka

Cobra

 

The first of the three main classes of venomous Sri Lanka snakes is the cobra. Cobras are not only extremely venomous and potentially deadly snakes, but also one of the most common snakes you’ll find in Sri Lanka. Tip: Stay away from these critters, unless you see one being charmed on the streets of Colombo.

Krait

Common Krait in Sri Lanka
 

The good news about the Sri Lankan krait is that they typically only come out at night, which means you aren’t likely to encounter them if you go to sleep at a normal hour. The bad news, for me, is that krait like to hide inside human dwellings at night during the rainy season.

Viper

A Green Pit viper in Sri Lanka
 

Several species of Sri Lankan viper are venomous, including the Saw Scale viper, the Hump nose viper and the Green pit viper. Although many Sri Lankan vipers are confined to extremely rural areas, some—namely, Russel’s Viper—live and hunt in urban areas, i.e. places where you are likely to be during your trip. Eek!

What to Do in Sri Lanka (Besides Be Afraid of Snakes)

As I hope I’ve hammered home by this point, you’re unlikely to encounter any snakes in Sri Lanka, let alone to be bitten by one—that’s the good news. The better news? Sri Lanka is an amazing and largely safe place to visit, the tragic bombings of Easter 2019 notwithstanding.

Go for two weeks like I did, following up a weekend in Colombo with a loop around the country, from spiritual Kandy, to historical Anuradhapura, to lush Nuwara Eliya to idyllic Arugam Bay. Or take a shorter trip that’s more distilled and refined, or a long one that’s freeform and wild. A third option would be to hire me as you Travel Coaching to plan a custom Sri Lanka itinerary for you.

The Bottom Line

I’m not gonna lie: Processing and typing out all this information has me a tiny bit scared about snakes in Sri Lanka, even if years of Catholic serpent-hating didn’t make me detest the slithery creatures. I’ve heard through the grapevine, however, that if one is unlucky enough to be bitten by a snake, hospitals in Sri Lanka are good at dealing with snake bites. Let’s just hope you can get to one in time if need be!

(NOTE: The images in this article are not mine, but I am using them legally via Creative Commons licenses from Flickr. Click any image to be taken to the Flick homepage of the person who owns rights to it.) 

About The Author

is the author of 1030 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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{ 15 comments }

Annette | Bucket List Journey June 12, 2013 at 10:03 am

Just looking at the photos kind of freaks me out, but what an experience it will be!

Robert Schrader June 13, 2013 at 8:32 am

Yes, no snakes so far though!

Alcatel One Touch M’Pop GPS June 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm

I personally is afraid of snakes and will not even try to face this kind of fear. Reading your blog makes me shiver. I gave you my two thumbs up. http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/

Denis April 14, 2014 at 4:24 am

I saw 2 snakes during my 2 week’s vacation in Sri-Lanka. One in a grass on a public beach, where we spent most of time. And one time we visited wild beach where we met another one snake 🙂
PS: in Bali I saw only one snake during 1,5 month of staying in the country. Hate this creatures.

Robert Schrader April 15, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Eeek! I don’t mind them.

Ella July 16, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Did you see any? I’m going to Sri Lanka in a month and, I admit, I have a bit of an aversion. Though – I’m kind of keen to go in to the wilderness where they’re likely to be. Any tips and tricks now that the trip is over? (I assume it is over…)

Kim | TheWanderlist.net July 26, 2015 at 4:16 am

Why? WHY?!

Robert Schrader July 26, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Don’t worry: I only saw one during my whole trip 😛

Robert Schrader July 26, 2015 at 4:44 pm

I just saw one!

Harsha Vithanage April 7, 2016 at 11:42 pm

I caught a krait in my house yesterday! lovely little thing could give such a calm death when bitten during deep sleep!!! just left it in the jungle after catching it in a jar. Love the snakes…. 🙂 they are nowhere worse than humans. Thanks for the site, i just recognized the species very easily.

Bozo April 21, 2016 at 8:17 am

this is a sucky sight bro pump up your attitude about these hyenas and hippos the poor chunky things can neigther move or kill anything on their own they can only HIT THE QUAN HIT THE QUAN

Bozo April 21, 2016 at 8:23 am

Don’t let them bite your hair other wise the venom will get to you faster

Robert Schrader May 2, 2016 at 6:59 am

Really?

Robert Schrader May 2, 2016 at 7:00 am

what lol

Wandering Jock September 26, 2017 at 12:23 am

I live in Sri Lanka in a forested area and we get snakes in the house every now and again. Luckily there are plenty of passionate wildlife experts here to let you know what you’re looking at and why you shouldn’t get too worried.

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