We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Help for First timers

Edinburgh
Level Contributor
704 posts
16 reviews
Save Topic
Help for First timers

Hi

My husband would like to visit Sri Lanka for his 40th Birthday Feb 2012. We will be doing this trip without our kids and will possibly have 7/8 days. I don't know where to start, I have read lots of post on this site but I am now even more confused.

We would ideally like to experience the cultural sites inlancd and maybe end up with two days on the coast. Just to get a taster without spening most of out time on the road - we would then plan to go back for longer with the children

Any suggestions would be gratefully received. I have travelled extensively in India and Thailand but it seems that its more difficult to travel around Sri Lanka with a lot of chat about drivers.

Thanks

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
Level Contributor
50,546 posts
174 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Help for First timers

Hi there,

In your case it's probably best to contact an operator who can organise both acco and car/driver. E.g. Red Dot, Jetwing, Walkers or Diethelm.

In order to avoid too extensive travel, it's probably best to have only 2 inland bases: Cultural Triangle and Kandy. CT could be Sigiriya or Giritale or Dambulla. From these you can see most sights, with the exception of part of the hill/tea country but from Kandy at least you can get a taster for it. The beach place could be e.g. Bentota/Beruwala or Kalutara/Wadduwa, these have decent beaches and are not too far out from the rest of your route.

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

UK
Level Contributor
2,319 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Help for First timers

Hi Wanderlust,

I'd suggest, as you're using it as a holiday / birthday celebration and as a Recce for a future trip a route and itinery a little different to the one Erik has proposed.

First the use of drivers to get around..

Most places in Sri Lanka there's plenty of public transport.. A mix of trains and buses covers just about everywhere and is very cheap. BUT, buses and trains can get very crowded and often uncomfortable as well as being dificult to negotiate with luggage. On buses, anything more than a back pack is often impossible.

The Cultural triangle, rightly, one of the most visited areas in Sri Lanka can be very slow to get around using buses so it's usually recommended to use a car and driver for that area and if you're short of time, as you'd be in a 7 / 8 day trip, then a car and driver is much better for the whole trip.

Travelling in an air con car , stopping where ever and whenever you want and having everything arranged for you is a relaxing way of getting around without any travel related stress.

So, in your case, I'd definitely recommend a car and driver.

That doesn't have to be from one of the big companies although several do come highly reccommended.

Personally, I think , that if you get the right, independant, Ceylon Tourist Board licenced driver / guide then you're getting someone who is usually better and with more knowledge of the history, flora and fauna, culture, etc. than a company driver.

An independant driver can pre-book accomodation around your route to suit your tastes the same as ther bigger companies.

The drivers accommodation and food are taken care of so no extra cost to you.

I don't mean the beach boys or touts, they are a different group altogether.

So assuming that you've got yourself a car and driver, I'd go,,

Day 1.

From the airport , drive to the Sigirya . ( If you still felt really fresh and ready to go you could even do a safari trip in the evening,at one of the parks around there. Probably Mineriya for the elephant herds.

Day 2

Climb Sigirya Lion Rock first thing in the morning before the sun gets over the rock and starts shinning on the side where the steps are.

After Sigirya visit Polonorua ancient city ruins.

Overnight again, in that area.

Day 3

Drive to Kandy, visiting Dambulla cave temples en-route. Arrive Kandy sometime early afternoon. In the evening, visit the cultural dance show, ( a mix of Kandian costume and mask dancers as well as firewalking ). and also the Temple of the Tooth.

Day 4

Drive south through the hill country. Stop off at a tea factory for a free tour and also for a mid morning cuppa at the Ramboda falls Hotel . Sitting on their restaurant terrace you have fantastic views of the tea plantations, mountains and water falls.

If you felt that way inclined, many drivers will drop their customers at Nanu Oya train station where they can get on the afternoon train to Ella where the driver will meet them. Nanu Oya is the station that serves Newara Eliya.

Overnight in Ella.

Day 5

Ella is a little sleepy mountain village surrounded on all sides by amazing scenery. There's a short walk out of the village, through a tea plantation and to the top of Little Adams peak. At the Peak you have mountains all around you except for the mountain pass ( Ella Gap ) which leads down to the southern plains far below.

The walk takes about 2 1/2 hours. although , when I go up there I can spend many hours sitting on the top gazing at the view even after visiting the place many times.

After the walk drive down through the Ella gap to the coast.

Days 6 & 7.

Relaxing on a beach of your choice. The best beaches are on the south coast, around Dikwella and Tangalle but they are quieter and further from the airport. They also don't have the big star rated hotels that you'll find on the west coast in the areas that Erik mentioned. The south coast is served more by guest houses , than big hotels. I much prefer the guest houses but thats a personal thing.

Somewhere like Mirissa , a lovely beach with more people but not crowded. Unawatuna or Hikkaduwa probably will be crowded in feb as will most of the south west resort areas.

Or the areas that Erik mentioned are good at that time of the year and are closer to the airport when it's time to return.

I know this is a busier schedule but you'll see more of the country and that will help a lot when you are planning that return trip with the family.

Rod.

Edinburgh
Level Contributor
704 posts
16 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Help for First timers

Guys thanks for your quick responses, we do like to travel as independently as possible and usually don't use a tour company. We would probably opt for a driver, would it feel like he's on holiday with us, what usually happens do they drop you at your hotel and reappear in the morning? Where do I obtain a list of certified drivers recommendations. Its seem that they are not allowed to be named on this site - is this unusual as the Thailand forums allow recommendation of tour guides and drivers. Could I book my own accommodation and still hire a driver, where do they stay? Sorry for so many questions?

Thanks

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
Level Contributor
50,546 posts
174 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Help for First timers

Hi again,

1) Too many bogus drivers advertise themselves in the forum or are advertised through (also often bogus) 'tourists' hence we prefer to have names through Personal Messages. The Destination Experts are candidate people to ask this by PM though some other messages in the forum also mention that travellers can be contacted for name details etc.

2) Any hotel and any more upmarket guesthouse has a 'drivers quarter' where the eat and stay. Indeed he drops you at the hotel and reappears after B'fast at the time you agree with him...

3) Make sure NOT to book hotels directly with them or their HQ, by Lankan cartel agreement then they have to offer you the 'rack rate' which is 40-60% too high. To get the better 'block rate' one must use an operator or an independent website like asiarooms, agoda, srilanka.com (note that TA also links to such sites from many hotel reviews); freelance drivers often also can act as operator.

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

UK
Level Contributor
2,319 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: Help for First timers

Hello again,

The questions are no problem.

The reason for not allowing driver info directly on the main page is that many of the resulting posts are not from members with a true recommendation but from drivers. usually, the not so reputable ones, pretending to be members.

To get recommendations, you can send a PM to any of ther DE,s listed on the right and also to any members that are obviously praising their driver / guide that they've used.

Al the DE,s have been travelling to Sri Lanka regulalrly over a long period of time so they've got to know a few peopole they absolutely trust.

When you hire a driver, he'll take you to your hotel / guest house and make sure tghat you are comfortable and happy withn the arrangements.; He'll then ,probably take himself off to the drivers quarters supplied by ther hotel. He'll clean the car / van and prepare it for the next day, shower, have a meal and chat with the other drivers in the room (s).

He'll appear again around breakfast time maybe chat about the coming day's trip and make sure that you are Ok with everything.

When you're on sites, such as one of the ancient cities, Sigirya, etc.. if you don't want the driver to accompany you, then just say so, in a nice way of course. He'll then wait near the vehicle.

On most sites, if you have a tourist board licenced guide, he'll wander around with you showing you lots of stuff that you'd probably miss , explaining the history, myths etc . associated with the site.

You could book your own accommodation, thats no problem but you may find it to be a retrograde step.

A / If you have a good licenced guide, he can almost certainly get the accomodation cheaper than you can get it yourself.

B / If you choose somewhere that doesn't cater for the drivers, then you'd have the extra cost of paying for a room and food for your driver somewhere.

I'll send you a PM, with contact info for a couple of licenced driver guides that I've known for many years.

Ask any of the other DE,s for their recommendations . It's best to get a few and try to get a feel for someone who speaks good English, has good knowledge and helps you to put your trip together in a way that you are happy with.

Money is important but better to pay someone £5 a day more and have an excellent driver / guide,, than to take the cheapest and not get along together so don't let money be your only criteria.

Rod.

somerset uk
Level Contributor
321 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: Help for First timers

Rod B didn't mention Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage or Peradeniya Botantical Gardens as places to go when in Kandy. Both well worth it if you have time.

Richard

Znojmo, Czech...
Level Contributor
3,124 posts
23 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Help for First timers

i find sri lanka very easy to get around using public transport i will also add that i carry a reasonable size pack or suitcase on wheels which i have never had trouble getting on a private bus though i pay a little extra, its very cheap anyway.

but in your case with limited time a driver is the only way.

my beach of choice to finish on would be narigama , hikkaduwa which is a south goaish type of beach.

Beruwala,sri lanka
Level Contributor
94 posts
Save Reply
8. Re: Help for First timers

Hi less,

you have got the plenty of times up 2012.when you are going to be here in that time.sri lanka is going to be big difference.i mean road,proba you can use that highways,which is going to be finish in next year.even all the hotels are going to be increase the prices.but keep touch .u can get more informations

Thanks lot

SYD

9. Re: Help for First timers

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 28 April 2011, 06:18