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Advice Please!

London, United...
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Advice Please!

Just booked flights for my girlfriend and I to go in mid-august. Got the bare bones of a tour planned with 'Vacations Sri Lanka ' who have said "no money now, pay in cash when you get here". Is this usual practice?

I also would appreciate someone with an expert eye running the rule over the proposed itinerary. If a DE is willing to help, please PM me and I'll email the itinerary.

Finally, what is a 'good' rate of exchange for Rupees to GBP please? I know we're a long way off going, but for instance if the rate hits a certain level between now and then, I'll buy some at that price.

St Austell
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11. Re: Advice Please!

Hi again

If you are prepared for the extra driving and are keen to do a wildlife safari, Yala in the south east is the one to go to instead of Minneriya. Due to its open landscape as opposed to Minneriya's scrubby forest (with just a lake in the middle where you tend to see the elephants and only possibly anything else if you are lucky ...) at Yala you stand the chance of seeing much more, including leopards, crocs, many birds, etc. etc. The weather in August is particularly good in the south east of Sri Lanka too. Combine Yala with a night or two in or around Kataragama, an important pilgrimage town with colourful daily poojas. Can give you more information if you wish.

If you make Ella your hilllcountry base, it is an easy drive to the Kataragama/Yala area for your next stop, and from here, it is another easy hop to the south coast where THE best beaches are. Look at places like Tangalle or Mirissa.

If you do not want to cover quite as much ground, or are limited for time: once you leave the hillcountry, maybe head for the west coast resort of Bentota which has a lovely beach and lots of accommodation choice. Or .. if you prefer more of a backpacker style resort with lots of cheap guesthouses, beachfront cafes and a choice of either a surfing beach or a reef protected sheltered cove for swimming ... Hikkaduwa is the one I'd go for. Give yourself a final night at Negombo to be close to the airport for your flight home.

Sue

London, United...
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12. Re: Advice Please!

Thanks Sue.

Does this sound plausible? Would it be very expensive or roughly the same sort of budget ($1750 for the two of us)? Are the distances too great to travel? Our flights are booked already so we're hamstrung in that respect.

1st day - arrive 0845. either negambo or somewhere similar where we can acclimatise (maybe a small excursion too)

2nd day - anuradhapura OR polonnaruwa & Mihintale (which is better?)

3rd Day - Sigiriya Rock fortress and Elephant ride in habarana

4th day - Dambulla cave temple (and spice garden?) Kandy cultural show and Tooth relic temple

5th day - elephant orphanage and botanical gardens

6th day - ramboda waterfall and tea plantations

7th day - ella

8th day - down to yala and kataragama

9th day - same

10th day - tangalle

11th day - travel to negambo for final night and day

12th day - depart 2010

St Austell
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13. Re: Advice Please!

Hi again

Yes, much better. The itinerary is good. You will get to see all the most interesting things and at a pace which allows you to take it all in. I am all for packing in as much as possible, but not at the expense of finding time to stand back and enjoy it too. The distances are not too great. You will have a good many hours on the road because travel is slow in Sri Lanka, but the scenery is varied and beautiful and any good driver will allow you to stop whenever you want to, whether it is to take a photograph or have a refreshment stop.

I absolutely love Mihintale so would opt for that plus Anuradhapura and leave out Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa is set in pretty parkland but does not feel "alive" to me. Anuradhapura is still a centre of active Buddhism, along with Mihintale and although the ruins are more spread out than at Polonnaruwa, you have the added interest of seeing the monks and people who are coming to worship, more than at Polonnaruwa.

On day 4 I'd opt out of the spice garden, because I loathe them and the hard sell that follows the tour. You can buy the same products much cheaper in Kandy. However, if you fancy seeing one of the spice gardens and can resist the sale at the end, you might actually find it interesting. Most of the spice gardens are on the road between Dambulla and Kandy (near Matale) so you would not be going off route to see one and as your tour pace is reasonably leisurely on that day, you would have time to stop on the way. Me ... I'd skip it and have a bit of free time in Kandy town in the afternoon instead. The cultural show isn't until around 5.30pm and you'd no doubt visit the Temple of the Tooth right after that, to coincide with the evening ceremony at around 7.15pm.

You could easily do the evening pooja at Kataragama on the day that you arrive there, followed by an early safari at Yala on the following morning, which means you could then continue to Tangalle the same day and have a little more relaxing time on the beach at the end of your intensive tour.

I am absolutely hopeless at pricing up tours, as I usually go for the cheaper option of travelling independently for much of my holidays there using public transport and basic guesthouses along the way. I will let someone else comment on the price of yours! It will depend so much on the accommodation that you use along the way. There will be an increased mileage but certainly, you should be able to do it for the budget you mention.

Sue

St Austell
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14. Re: Advice Please!

Reading through the itinerary again, the only day which involves a seriously long drive would be the one from Tangalle to Negombo. You either need to prepare yourself for a complete day on the road, or, if it was me, I'd alter the tour a little bit, to allow for another one night stop-off on the coast before you reach Negombo, possibly at Hikkaduwa where there is lots to see and do, plus lots of guesthouse accommodation.

To give yourself this extra day, you could do Dambulla on the same day as Sigiriya and the 1 hour elephant ride at Habarana. Then, do the elephant orphanage on the day that you transfer to Kandy. It is also perfectly feasible to visit the Botanical Gardens on the morning that you leave Kandy and before heading to Ramboda-tea plantations-Ella.

Sue

Fredericia, Denmark
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15. Re: Advice Please!

If your flight is arriving at 8.45 am I would head straight to Dambulla/Sigiriya/Habarana and not wasting a day in Negombo. The drive is about 4 hours, so you will be there about 1.30pm and can rest all afternoon and be fit to explore the next morning.

Hans

London, United...
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16. Re: Advice Please!

Wow, thanks Sue, that's amazing advice. And Hans, will Dambulla be our base for the Anuradhapura/Mihintale leg as well as the Sigiriya/Dambulla/Habarana leg? If not, will it be better to swap the days around?

As it stands I now have this...are we close to a workable, varied trip?

1st day - arrive 0845. Travel to dambulla

2nd day - anuradhapura & Mihintale

3rd Day - Sigiriya Rock fortress and Elephant ride in habarana, Dambulla cave temple

4th day - elephant orphanage, Kandy cultural show and Tooth relic temple

5th day - botanical gardens, ramboda waterfall and tea plantations

6th day - ella

7th day - down to yala and evening pooja at kataragama

8th day – Yala safari. Travel to Tangalle

9th day - tangalle

10th day - Hikkaduwa

11th day - travel to negambo for final night and day

12th day - depart 2010

Wakefield...
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17. Re: Advice Please!

negombo is not such agoode place to stay as far as beaches go the only advantage is that you are near the airport your itinary seems too much for afirst visit to srilanka and i agree with the destination expert about the overkill i have visited sri lanka 5times and would suggest a visit to pinnewella amust kandy and the botanical gardens and the temple of the tooth will leave you with amemorable experience perssonally the futher south you travel the more beautiful sri lanka becomes go to galle se3e the fantastic beach in the famous unawatuna visit yala national park i would not persnally have anything to do with gem s only if you know the true cost srilanka is a truely wonderful place have a lovely holiday

St Austell
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18. Re: Advice Please!

Hello again arclam

Yep, nearly there I think!

Agree with Hans that if you are prepared to skip the first day in Negombo, you are arriving in plenty of time to begin your tour on the first day. As you are visiting Anuradhapura, I would head directly here for your first night. You could decide whether to see Mihintale on your first day, or do it with Anuradhapura on the next one. I would then drive to Habarana or Sigiriya for your second night, to be close to where your next day's touring will be. Sigiriya requires an early start to avoid climbing in the heat of the day. Both Habarana or Sigiriya would be ideal bases for this.

Apart from that, I think you now have a workable and very good tour planned!

All the best

Sue

London, United...
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19. Re: Advice Please!

Amber, thanks for that, our trip is certainly heading more into the south now than it was previously. Sue, that makes perfect sense now it's been pointed out to me, thanks!

Had an email from a tour operator who I asked to quote for me, Elephant Island, who said that our original planner Vacations Sri Lanka isn't known at all in SL and that "All of the hotels featured are aimed squarely at backpackers and local tourists and would in no way be recommended by our company – unless you intend to backpack of course". Obviously he has a vested interest but this is certainly interesting information to say the least (especially when coupled with the advice from Hans that said the quote was possibly $300 too high).

St Austell
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20. Re: Advice Please!

It certainly pays to do your homework .. which you are doing, and to get a number of quotes before deciding who to book with. You have done a lot of the work which many people leave to the tour companies, so another alternative for you would be to do your tour with an independent licenced driver/guide which would certainly work out cheaper, as well as being possible for you to actually choose the person who will be with you throughout your tour. I prefer this option, having not much liked some of the drivers we have been allocated in the past by the tour companies. All of the DE's have their favourites and can give you details if you require them.

I wouldn't rule out hotels recommended for backpackers and local tourists. We use them much of the time and prefer them, as you get to mix with local people as well as other tourists and save a lot of money in the process. Again, there are many excellent guesthouses which I and the other DE's can recommend if you are interested in this option.

I suggested Tangalle as a nice beach base on the south coast, but before making your final decision, you could also take a look at places like Mirissa which has a very lovely beach too and is considered by many to be the most beautiful on the south coast. If you choose Mirissa, it means a longer drive from Yala, but a shorter drive to Hikkaduwa afterwards.

I am glad you are now thinking of staying in Hikkaduwa for a night before reaching Negombo. As you do not fly out until the following evening, you can afford to take your time reaching Negombo on the previous day too. I think you will find more to enjoy at Hikkaduwa.

Sue