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First time visit - Package or Independant?

Leeds, UK
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for Bali
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First time visit - Package or Independant?

Hi folks - just kicking around the idea of Sri Lanka for a holiday; I'm normally an independant traveller, booking flights on the net, hotels via booking sites or direct with hotels, and just getting taxis or hiring drivers to get around.

Can I do something like this easily in Sri Lanka, or is a package holiday from the UK a better option (although not particularly an appealing option in my mind)?

Thanks in advance for any advice and I appreciate this a vague question.

Fredericia, Denmark
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1. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Hi,

You can do your usual routine when going to Sri Lanka, but you may get some very cheap packages from UK operators, e.g. Mercury Direct or Dreamticket.

Hans

Colombo, Sri Lanka
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for Sri Lanka
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2. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Hi there,

It's not that difficult. Though the general approach is to have the driver for the whole inland part of the trip; one-way rides means that the car has an empty return and this makes the model costly. Also drivers stay and eat for free at the tourist hotels.

Never book the hotels directly, always use an independent booking site; price upto 50% lower than what they offer directly.

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

Leeds, UK
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3. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Wow, thanks for the quick and excellent advice guys.

Cheers.

St Austell
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4. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Do it independently! No question. The whole country is well geared up to tourism and you will get more offers of tours and drivers once there than you want. Follow the previously given advice about booking the hotels, but if you want to leave some of your holiday free and are prepared to look at guesthouses, these can be booked very cheaply as you go along and are of a good standard.

The other way is to book your flights and get in touch with an independent driver/guide before your stay, arranging a few days on tour to suit. Many of these will also suggest and book accommodation for you if you require it. Contact a few and see what is offered and get competitive quotes if necessary. Any of the Destination Experts on this forum can give you the names of reliable and trusted drivers if you message them and ask for details.

I always book my own flights through someone like Dial-a-Flight and maybe a few nights with a driver, plus some of my accommodation if I want a few nights in hotels, but leave the rest of it completely open to be able to pick and choose when and where I want to go. Public transport is also something to consider if you are comfortable with it and do not have a lot of luggage. Sri Lanka is well served with buses and, in some areas, has good train links too, especially through the hillcountry and down the west coast and linking main towns. It makes for a very cheap and interesting way of getting around.

Sue

Znojmo, Czech...
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5. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

agree with sue as i usually do. when i go i just wing it and use a combination of drivers and public transport and a lonely planet guide.

tell us what month you are considering and what you like to do and we can advise further.

there are plenty of good guest houses which are much cheaper than hotels.

Edited: 30 June 2010, 21:40
Leeds, UK
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for Bali
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6. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Thanks guys, and I've already had 2 PMs offering tour services around the island ;)

I'll openly admit to not having done much research at all, so I'm happy to go research then come back. But since you're offering....

Thinking of the start of February, looking firstly for a relaxing beach holiday, not too busy but with restaurants to visit and a few shops; I can't stand the idea of the All Inclusives that a lot of UK tour operators offer as the idea of all the food in different places appeals. Was thinking of Mount Lavinia, but it's had some not so good reviews. Budget probably around £1500 each (2 people for 2 weeks), but willing to stretch to £2000 if I stumble on a really nice hotel. Boutique hotels are preferable, which is another reason I've gone off Mount Lovinia, although the colonial charm appeals. Would like a 2 centre holiday, and probably a bit of touring for a couple of days which I'm confident in being able to organise when I'm there. If there are some nice inland places to stay which are interesting, I'm up for doing this for a couple of nights. Don't want the holiday to be too busy, its my relax time, but I don't want to visit without not having seen anything.

Colombo, Sri Lanka
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for Sri Lanka
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7. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Hi again,

The beach areas with an 'ecosystem' of restaurants and bars near, and lots of boutique hotels too, are Bentota, Hikkaduwa and Unuwatuna. So if I were you I'd focus on those areas.

For the other centre of your stay, Kandy or the Cultural Triangle seem good options. In CT Sigiriya Village hotel is more or less our favourite due to the brilliant garden, and near Kandy Hunas Falls hotel is a nature lover's favourite and still within an hour from Kandy town. Just as suggestions...

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

St Austell
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8. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Hi again Happynoodleboy_uk

Yes, the two hotels suggested by Erik are firm favourites of mine too, although Hunas Falls Hotel is rather too remote for general touring. It is a fabulous base for mountain walking and wildlife, but about an hour's drive from Kandy along a very minor and twisting road. Kandy town itself would be a better base from which to do general touring if you are trying to restrict your hotel bases, as from here you could see several different types of inland scenery within a relatively short distance. Oh, and the beginning of February is definitely the very best time of year to see all that Sri Lanka has to offer in what should be perfect weather everywhere.

The best way to experience inland Sri Lanka though, is to have several different bases, ie one in the Cultural Triangle, one at Kandy, maybe another in the hill country south of that and then hit the beaches, either on the south coast for the best ones, or the west coast for the bigger hotels with more facilities. I think you should take a look at the website of Red Dot Tours too, as they have the most comprehensive list of hotels, guesthouses and whatever in Sri Lanka, all backed up by hundreds of photos. It's great research material to get you started.

Sorry you're already being plagued with spam e-mails. It seems to be a particular problem with this forum right now. I wonder if the Bali ones are the same?! Going to be in Ubud in less than a couple of months so might well be looking for some advice from you in the near future too.

All the best

Sue

Ahungalla, Sri Lanka
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for Sri Lanka, Kalutara, Ahungalla
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9. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Hi Sue...

Hunas Falls "may" be in my book of favourites soon, my good friend has just taken over as GM there :-)

Regards

Dave

St Austell
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10. Re: First time visit - Package or Independant?

Well, he will be amongst some very good people there Dave. The Hunas Falls Hotel has the most wonderful staff who cannot do enough to make anyone's stay simply perfect. It was the thing which most stood out when we went there, not to mention the fabulous views, walks, wildlife etc. The freezing water in the swimming pool was a bit bracing to say the least, but apart from that, we simply loved the place. When will you be paying it a visit then?! Planned the next trip yet? ;-)

Sue