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Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

San Diego, CA
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2 posts
105 reviews
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Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

I had a bad experience with Rail Tours, operating out of the "Tourist Information Office" in front of the main train station in Colombo. The travel agent's name is Prasanna, and he proved to be a persistent and capable liar. I had made most of my travel arrangements on my own, but I had a five-day gap in the middle of my journey, and in a moment of weakness, I made the mistake of allowing Rail Tours to fill it in for me. Prasanna told me that I would be getting the "government rate" on the hotels. Well, government employees must pay a much higher rate than tourists, because after leaving Rail Tours' office, I found way cheaper rates on the Internet for the hotels I was assigned. When I called Prasanna and told him this, he said my rooms were in a "new wing" and/or were "suites." This wasn't true; they were just ordinary (sub)standard rooms in junky hotels that work with this unscrupulous tourist information office. In addition, Prasanna sold me a wrong train ticket. The main reason I agreed to his services was that I wanted to secure an observation car reservation for the scenic route between Ella and Nanu Oya (near Nuwara Eliya). But on the day of the train ride, I found that my ticket was not for the observation car but a regular, cheaper car in the middle of the train, with an inferior view. This was very disappointing. On top of all this, Prasanna doled out the needed travel funds to my driver a little bit each day via banks and partner hotels, so we were constantly detouring here and there to get money for a quarter tank of gas at a time. Crazy! I don't know about other Sri Lankan tour operators, but I can't imagine they are any worse than Prasanna and his cronies at Rail Tours (or whatever name the "tourist information office" at the Fort Railway Station in Colombo, Sri Lanka, decides to call itself in the future). Avoid! You've been warned.

38 replies to this topic
1. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

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Cairo, Egypt
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2. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

why do all sri lankans say Mr. before mentioning a name? Try to improve yourself Rail Tours, no need to lie.

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
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53,083 posts
191 reviews
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3. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Yes, I am afraid original posting is genuine and reply #1 is a fake. Not only recognisable by the Lankan English used but also by details like 'What more did this poster expect for the excellent value price that was paid?', because poster did not mention prices and category AT ALL just mentioned he did feel cheated by higher-prices-then-when-booking-over-Internet...

Rail Tours has a horrible reputation for many years, with overpriced last minute offers and bad customer advice. But have to admit we have no direct experience (except their agressive proppers outside their office trying to draw me in even if I tell I have tickets and accomodation long booked and am just waiting for friends), it's all indirect but too many stories to ignore. But hopefully for them a real poster, regular TA contributor, comes up and has direct positive experiences....

Tnx,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

Galway, Ireland
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1 post
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4. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

In order to bolster my post seeing the fact that some members are unhappy with it here is the deal we received:

Colombo to Kandy Train (Observation Car)

Overnight stay in a guesthouse in Kandy x 2 nights

Overnight stay in a guesthouse in Sigiriya x 2 nights

Overnight stay in a hotel in Nuera Ella 1 night

Nuera Ella to Ella Train (Observation Car)

Car and driver

This came to €150 per person. We were very pleased with this deal and with the level of service we received. As I am new to TA this is one of my first contributions, We traveled around Sri Lanka and I have posted reviews of the other places we stayed also,

We did not encounter any aggression and were left to make up our own minds as to whether we were happy with this deal. We had the option to walk away and not avail of this service but we are glad we availed of it.

The man called himself Mr as did his drivers so I felt it appropriate to refer to him in my post by this.

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
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10,116 posts
95 reviews
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5. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

I saw the sign Tourist Information on the window and walked in to ask a few questions. This same man was very gracious and helpful, and I never even realized it was a tour company.

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
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53,083 posts
191 reviews
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6. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Seems we have another smoking gun, ripping off tourists with a 100% overcharged asking price (Rs 35000 where 17000 is appropiate) and having it bargained down a little. See area around 17-19 (2nd screen) of this

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293961-i8983-k592…

thread...

Tnx,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

San Diego, CA
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2 posts
105 reviews
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7. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Teresa C.:

If you are a genuine customer of Rail Tours and had a positive experience with Prasanna, I'm happy for you. But your positive experience does not erase my negative one. I never said where I stayed or how much I paid, so how can you call my remarks about the hotels "insulting" or honestly comment on "the excellent value paid"? (Your subsequent post makes your case murkier since you did not name the guesthouses where you stayed nor the number of people you shared the car/drivers with, so the named price of 150 Euros per person means very little.) I stand by the facts of my original post. When I told Prasanna that I was a veteran traveler used to making my own arrangements, he assured me I was getting a cheaper "government rate." When I later told him by phone (before departing on the tour) that I had found lower rates on the Internet, he told me that that was because my rooms were "suites" or in "the new wing"--a second lie. When I sat in the train's observation car, I was ejected because Prasanna had sold me the wrong ticket. And the way he doled out gas money to his driver in multiple, tiny ATM deposits was absurd, not to mention inconvenient to me. I gave Rail Tours/Prasanna every opportunity to provide the excellent service you claim they gave you; instead, they chose to provide something else.

Panadura, Sri Lanka
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589 posts
57 reviews
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8. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

It's unfortunate to hear the story of Mikxe. I know these type of incidents happen but I must say not with all tour operators. All places, prices should be discussed prior to confirming the tour, I always recommend anyone to sort things out prior to arrival in SL. And I do agree with others, the reply number 1 does not seem to be genuine!

As per reply #1, the rooms had hot shower and mosquito net - Looks like a 30$ room for me. 30 x 5 = total room cost = 150$, observation cars for 2 = 40$ let's say, total cost should be less than 250$ for 2 but you seem to have paid more than 380$ which is too much and a rip off.

Ireland
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1 post
50 reviews
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9. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

We are just back from 16 days in Sri Lanka and arrived with nothing booked aside from a hotel for 2 nights in Colombo. We went to the train station to inquire about times etc and popped into what we thought was a tourist office only to discover it was a tour company. We had an idea of what we wanted to do which was a typical tour of SL - Colombo, Kandy, Sigiriya (via Dambulla), Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Thissa, beach drop off, with a private driver. We spoke with Prasanna and were shown photos of the hotel we would stay in Kandy & Sigiriya which looked basic but nice - clean, en suite, pool & a/c, along with numerous 'recommendations' from other tourists from all over the world. The total cost for 6 nights, 7 days was 78000 rupees which was almost half what we had been quoted for the same tour prior to arriving in SL so we were quite happy to go ahead with this. Our driver - Ravi - met us off the train from Colombo to Kandy and was professional and friendly throughout. He advised us of the price of the various places - entrance to Sigiriya, temples, Spice garden, dance show, botanical gardens etc and also whether we should get a guide or not, and was a very competent and careful driver. We had absolutely no issue at all with Ravi and would recommend him. We got to see and do everything we had hoped on the trip. However in hindsight we most likely overpaid for the places we stayed as they did not reflect the photos we had been shown by Prasanna. The hotels were most likely 1 star and where we stayed in Sigiriya was owned by Prasanna which we only discovered when we arrived there (the only spot we stayed 2 nights! Convenient?!). To give some further detail, most double rooms in SL seems to be 2 singles pushed together - hotel in Kandy - Ancient Lanka - staff were friendly and we were greeted well on arrival, food was good but hotel was run down, pool had a layer of grease. Hotel in Sigiriya - Green Palace - owned by Prasanna - friendly staff, remote location, food was ok but cold, sheets and mosquito net didn't cover bed. Hotel in Nuwara Eliya - Sun Hill - this place was special and not in a good way!! There was a strong smell in reception on arrival that seemed to be cat wee, but who were we to complain! ;) Our room was up a couple of flights and part of the hotel seemed to be open to the elements or have some sort of flimsy corrugated iron roof which let the cold & rain in so the stairs were a little dangerous. We also had another 'pleasant' smell in our bathroom - so pleasant that we couldn't bare to wash there! This seemed to be the theme of this hotel as there was yet another interesting smell in the tv room which I think was mould. When we arrived downstairs for breakfast (i'm cringing at the memory) there was a lovely furry friend running into the kitchen - I can't tell if it was a big mouse or a rat but lets just say I was very happy to leave! The previous night we had heard a German man very irate at having to wait more than 30 mins for 3 beers. Next stop Soorya Guesthouse in Ella which was basic but nice. Last stop Lakeside Inn in Thissa which was ok. Again the pool wasn't very clean but the rooms were fine and the food was good. There was a lady who owned a shop at the hotel who seemed friendly but a little too pushy. All in all if you're happy to do things on the cheap with poor quality hotels then Prasanna is the man but he'll most likely overcharge you. One thing I must mention is that hotels in Sri Lanka are quite expensive for what you get. We stayed in a guesthouse in Unawatuna that cost $50-60 per night - it was comfortable and very clean but we were still surprised that it's what you'd pay in Ireland for the same thing.

Sao Paulo, SP
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2 posts
15 reviews
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10. Re: Warning on tour operator in Colombo, Sri Lanka

My girlfriend and I just returned from a tour organized by the Railway tourist information. We are still in Sri Lanka, but now enjoying the beach in Hikkiduwa. We read this post before you hire them, so we were a little worried, but everything was perfect. Our contact was always with Mr. Sampath, which gave full attention to our needs.

I heard Prasanna no longer works there.

I hope this information will help future travelers and what happened to Mikxe not repeat more.

Pablo and Karina - from Brazil

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