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Sri Lanka Itinerary: comments welcome

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My husband and I are planning a trip to Sri Lanka in March 2015 and have developed a tentative itinerary. We had planned to visit two years ago but life got in the way and our trip was postponed. This will be our fourth trip to SE Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar) and the many wonderful trip report on this forum have always helped us tremendously in the planning process. We have also used some of the accommodations and guides that have been suggested.

We will have 14 nights in Sri Lanka and have identified hotels/guest houses in each area. A quote has been requested from Boutique Sri Lanka but think that there will be at least 3 of our choices* that BSL may not be associated with. The services of a driver for 12 nights has also been requested.

Would you please comment and/or make suggestions on the following:

2 Days Airport: Wallawwa Resort (Having travelled for 36 hours we'd like to relax.)

3 Days Cultural Triangle: Kandalama Hotel

2 Days Kandy: Baramba Guesthouse*

4 Days Hill Country: Tea Trails - Castlereigh Bungalow

2 Days Galle: Indika's Guesthouse *

1 Day Geoffrey Bawa's Country Estate Lunagonga *, Bentota

Last day: leave Lunagonga after lunch and make our way to the airport for a 2:00 a.m. flight home.

Questions:

1. Will we get better rates by contacting the hotels ourselves or will Boutique Sri Lanka give a better rate depending on how much we book through them? Eg. I noticed that the Kandalama will give a 15% early booking discount.

2. We'd like a driver from days 3 to 7. However it's unlikely we'll need one while we're at Tea Trails from days 8 to 11. Should we hire another driver on day 12 to travel south for the remainder of the trip? If so, should we hire drivers privately or use BSL for both?

Many thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate any comments and/or suggestions you may have.

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    I believe you can find BSL rates on their website - you may have to register to view them but there is no obligation. It never hurts to contact hotels directly for pricing. I don't think your rates will depend on how much (or how little) you book through BSL. The driver normally stays with you for the entire trip, whether you use him or not. However you could inquire directly with Tea Trails about pricing for a driver for the remainder of the trip and ask BSL for pricing for days 3-7 and also for the entire trip. You could then pick whichever costs less. I would book an extra day or a later check-out (if available) from Lunagonga so that you have a place to stay up until you leave for the airport. Bentota is not that far and you don't want to hang out at the airport for half of a day.

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    Are the "days" you list above actually nights? I.e., are you spending 3 nights at Kandalama?

    BSL did get better rates on hotels than I could get myself at the time. Of course, that was a strange time for Sri Lankan tourism as the war was still going on. BSL could get excellent rates at the places I stayed. I'd present them with my plan and ask for a price (or several prices, as per Craig's instructions). BSL can book places for you that they are not affiliated with if it makes it easier for you - or you can book those yourself. I had correspondence with them about this a couple of years ago when we were thinking about going back.

    I'd ask BSL for quotes for both sections of the trip and for the whole trip. While we had a driver available to us for the days we were at Tea Trails (and didn't use him) it didn't cost us much, as the cost of a driver is as much for mileage as for the actual driver.

    It looks like a lovely trip!

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    Hi Craig and Kathie! I was hoping you would both reply as I've read all your reports thoroughly before taking any of our previous trips. Likewise ... this one as well. :-)

    Thanks you for your suggestions. I've sent my itinerary to BSL but based on your comments I'll still need to ask for separate quotes for the driver and car and break it into separate sections. I intend to contact all the hotels and guesthouses for their rates and will also check with Tea Trails about hiring a driver after we leave. Kathie. Yes, 'days' means 'nights'. I didn't realize BSL can book the other places as well. Their website didn't list them.

    Craig. It seems you really liked your driver and I notice you've given his contact details in your report. I may also check with him for a quote. This is the first time we will have hired a private driver in our travels so getting a good one with a reliable vehicle is very important to us. It can make or break your trip. Kathie. Having read your report I know you prefer using BSL because of their reliability and high standards and I can relate to that too. I tend to research and plan accommodations and transportation very carefully before leaving on a vacation ... no unpleasant surprises if they can be avoided. On our most recent rip to France and Belgium we arranged a lease - buy back car rather than rent because of the added advantages of a brand new vehicle amongst other things. It always works well.

    Craig. I hadn't thought about asking about a late checkout or day rate at Lunagonga ... great idea. It will be a long trip home and it would make a big difference if we went to the airport later. BTW ... while we were at Inle Lake last year Joyce guided us for 4 days. She was wonderful.

    Many thanks to both of you!

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