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Sri Lanka Planning

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Just booked flights from UK (Birmingham) to Columbo via Dubai with Emirates. Booked direct on their website as they have a deal on at the moment (saving about £70 pp over the next best fare which seemed to be with Expedia whose price seemed to increase every time I clicked to buy!!). We leave on 3rd Feb for 4 weeks so now down to the serious but enjoyable business of planning!

Kathie pointed me in the direction of dogsters post re which is proving invaluable loads of really good information. I tried to contact them by phone but no reply so I have fired an email off to them requesting a costing for using their itineray as a base with a few days drawn in form their "Adventurous" and Undiscovered itineraries thrown in. We have 28 days on the ground so I am looking to spend 2-4 days in each main location and maybe get in a few days beach/scuba diving on the south coast if time permits.
We are looking a budget guesthouses/B&Bs and homestays (budget < $50for most of the trip (with maybe the odd splurge, probably in the hills/tea country.)

Our normal style of travel is basically have an outline plan and then to make it up as we go as far as travel and accomodation is concerned.

A few immediate questions:

How easy is it to arrange accomodation/car & driver/train travel at short notice whilst there?

Would this be significantly cheaper than a pre-arranged tour?

We arrive in the morning around 8.30am any recommendations fo places to stay in Columbo for a couple of days (or would negombo be better and leave Columbo till the end)??

Finally, we aim to visit all of the major sights and throw in some hiking and cycling along the way but would appreciate opinions/suggestions on what not to miss and what to avoid.
Any help would be appreciated.

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