Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Asia (
-   -   10 DAYS IN SRI LANKA in Feb. (

impacked Dec 15th, 2007 08:00 PM

And this is what we plan to do:
Dambulla Rock 2 - days
Nuwara Eliya
and Galle
Does any one have a recomend for a driver/guide?
Are we better off hiring a company to book our hotels & driver/guide or doing it seperately ourselves?
Many Thanks for any suggestions

Kathie Dec 15th, 2007 09:32 PM

You think you are going to do all that in 10 days? The distances may not seem large, but the driving is slow. With this itinerary, you;ll spend the majority of your time in the car. Slow down and experience some of Sri Lanka.

Take a look at my recent report Kathie's Adventures in Sri Lanka 2007 from our November trip.

When you say Dambulla rock 2 days, I assume you mean one day to visit the cave temples at Dambulla and another to visit Sigiriya. We stayed at the Kandalama while we visited Polonnaruwa, Dambulla cave temples and Sigiriya.

From there to Nuwara Eliyais probably at least a six hour drive, maybe more.

Craig Dec 16th, 2007 04:00 AM

Looks like you've planned a logical circular route from Colombo except that Aluthgama would come after Galle. I am not sure why you've chosen these particular destinations. Perhaps it is based on where you want to be over night. You've probably figured out that you can't do it all in 10 days. Assuming these are the ONLY things you want to do, you could spend a couple of days in Giritale and see Polonnaruwa, the Dambulla caves and Sigiriya. Then on day 3 drive to Nuwara Eliya. I would choose between Nuwara Eliya and Ella where I would want to spend 2 or 3 days then on to Kataragama where you could spend another day. From there, you could travel to Aluthgama, spending a couple of hours in Galle at Galle Fort along the way. Exactly how you would allot your time depends on what you want (or don't want) to accomplish. As Kathie says, drive times are slow and you will want time to relax and enjoy the country. The routing I've outlined above would have you 2 nights at Giritale, 3 nights at Nuwara Eliya or Ella, 2 nights at Kataragama and 2 nights at Aluthgama. We are also going to Sri Lanka in February, doing approximately the same route (but somewhat different sites) over 12 days with 3 x 3-night stops, 1 x 2-night stop (a safari) and 1 x 1-night stop (near the airport before we leave). I hope this helps.

If you are looking at mid to upscale hotels, you will save money by booking through an agency like Boutique Sri Lanka or Red Dot Tours. If you do not know of a reliable driver, I would book your driver through them also.

Good luck - I look forward to hearing about your trip.

Kathie Dec 16th, 2007 01:54 PM

Both Craig and I booked through which is great if you are looking for high end hotels. Someone named foodsmarts recently returned from Sri Lanka and they booked with Tangerine Tours. It was a lower cost trip, and they had a good experience with the company and a great time.

Since you are a bit late in planning this, I think you'd be best advised to use a booking company.

impacked Dec 16th, 2007 04:45 PM

Thanks for your time and advice.
Tonight we are hitting the guide books and rethinking our itinerey.

I've printing off your report Kathie and will read it as well.

I'm so happy that I've posted the questions before making mistakes.

Be back with more questions soon.

Kathie Dec 16th, 2007 05:10 PM

I'm glad to help. We had a wonderful time in Sri Lanka and will return.

impacked Dec 16th, 2007 08:31 PM

Hello again... Kathie, we loved reading your report and Craig, I'm sure we will have an equally wonderful time.
We have been hard at it and have come up with a new plan. Whatcha think?
1 Negombo
3 nights Dambulla - Caves, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya
2 nights Kandy
1 Ella
1 Kataragama
2 Aluthgama
last night Colombo
Boutique Sri Lanka looks great with some terrific hotels! Any suggestions for the hotels in the south???
Craig? Anyone?

Mohammed Dec 16th, 2007 11:49 PM

If arriving Colombo at a decent hour it may be better to drice staright off to Dambulla rather than stay a night in Negombo.

Kand and Nuwaraeliya is great.

What are your reasons for going to Ella and then on to Katharagama?

Katharagama is a famous temple where both hindus and buddhists go to but not much else. The nearby Yala park is presently closed. This area is probably best avoided unless you have a definite reason to go there.

Ella? There is the Ella adventure park which has some eco frindly accomodations and some adventure activities, if this is what you looking for. The rest house at Ella has a stupendous view into the Ella gap, good for a lunch stopover maybe.

Finally, Aluthgama which is basically the same place as Bentota is closer to Colombo and and comes after Katharagama on your proposed route. Great beach country and Feb is super. Perhaps further south in Galle also will be nice.

If you tell me a bit more about your specific interests and budgets maybe I could give you a bit more help

Mohammed Dec 16th, 2007 11:52 PM

Sorry if I wasn not clear.

The logical routing should be Kataragama, Galle, Aluthgama...


Craig Dec 17th, 2007 07:02 AM

impacked - I don't think I can be of much help as our 3-night stop in the south is at Tangalle, on the coast about halfway between Kataragama and Galle.

Kathie Dec 17th, 2007 07:19 AM

I'm guessing that you may be arriving late at night (after midnight) so that is why you are staying in Negombo the first night (as we did). As Mohammed says, if you get in during the day, do drive to Dambulla the first day.

In general, I find that satying one night somewhere is not worth it to me. I don't really get a chance to explore a place. So you might think about whether you want to combine one night in Ella and one night in Kataragama into a two night stay somewhere (one of those places or elsewhere).

After some consideration, we opted not to visit the south coast. We thought about a short stay in Galle, and we chose the Fort Printers there - a new boutique hotel in an old print shop. It looked great, but there are many lovely boutique hotels in Galle. ventually, we had to cut Galle (there were way tooo many places we wanted to visit). So I'm afraid I can't be of much help with specific properties, either.

If you are interested in booking with Boutique Sri Lanka, register with the website and someone will work with you. These people really know the properties and can answer questions and make good suggestions. They can also help you fine-tune your itinerary. I checked on all of the drive times before finalizing my itinerary. You can do it all by email, or you can call and talk with your agent.

impacked Dec 18th, 2007 07:13 PM

We are back at working on our plans.
Kinda difficult during the Holiday season! But, I was able to book
flights today using miles!!!

So, we going!

We love culture, nature,architecture, shopping in local markets. We are fairly active and like to hike. We enjoy small luxury hotels but if we have to sleep in a tent or a seedly motel to be where we wanta be that's ok.

We will be arriving in the morning so we can drive to Dambulla.

Any thoughts?

Kathie Dec 18th, 2007 07:24 PM

Congrats on getting your flights with miles!

If you can drive to Dambulla the first day, that will be great. You may even feel you have the energy to go to the caves that first afternoon.

I thought the Kandalama was lovely and was very reasonably priced for what it included. The prices you see on the BSL website are half-board, and the food was excellent there. It's well-located to take in the Dambulla caves, Sigiriya, and Polonnaruwa.

In Kandy, I would definitely recommend the Kandy House.

Sorry, I can't help you much with your other locations, but I found the descriptions and the travelres comments on the BSL site very helpful.

Happy planning!

impacked Dec 19th, 2007 05:04 PM

I've sent off an email to Boutique Sri Lanka and just waiting for their reply.

One thing I was uncertain about was driver and car??
Kathie, did you rent a car and then hire a driver? I figured we would hire a driver with a car.
Does anyone have any recommendations??

Thanks so much.

Kathie Dec 19th, 2007 06:14 PM

You hire a car and driver together. That's true all over the world when you hire a car and driver. We went through BSL for ours, and as you saw from my report, we were very happy. One of the nice things about hiring a driver through BSL is that he already had relationships with all of the places we stayed which was helpful. Typically, when you hire an independent driver, they want to set up all of your hotel reservations so they get a commission. Few drivers have relationships with the places we were staying.

Mohammed Dec 19th, 2007 09:40 PM

There are lots of cars and drivers available for hire, even as you step out of the airport you can find one, hwever it is very important to have a reliable and good driver. For this suggest you to use a driver trough a well known agent such as Kathie suggests. A good driver will make all the difference.

Robbietravels Feb 21st, 2008 07:32 PM

Need clarification from Kathy. You found that your tour operator got you better prices on your hotels (Kandalama, Tea Trails and Kandy House) than you could have gotten on your own directly or via internet???

dogster Feb 21st, 2008 08:20 PM

Kathy & Mohammed seem to be giving you good advice. Safe - but good. BSL is perfectly fine if you'll feel more comfy using them.

I've been to Sri Lanka 3 times in the last 3 years, a month each time.

Try Galapita for your Kataragama night. It's great.

Try Taru Villas for Bentota - [Aluthgama]

You'll find them both on BSL.

Driving from Kataragama to Bentota is 6 hours. Why you aren't staying at Galle is a mystery to me. If you do the Galle Fort Hotel is really great.

Think of scenic train between Kandy & Neware Eliya. Your driver can follow with luggage.

Kataragama to Galle - 4 hours. Galle to Bentota 2 hours. Depending on traffic and the time of day.

Kathie Feb 21st, 2008 09:00 PM

Robbie, when I was booking, I went to several hotel booking websites and found that the prices were no better (and sometimes worse) than BSL. Some of the hotels could be booked directly online, but the prices were no better than BSL. Some of the places were not readily bookable online other than through BSL... now I'm remembering that I did all of this research before I actually narrowed down my itinerary, so I can't remember exactly which were and were not bookable online. Anyway, by the time I finished my research, I decided to book the whole thing with BSL. Oh, one place I couldn't find to book online was the Villa Araylia near Negombo. As you know I "never" use travel agents, but this was a time when it seemed to make sense. BSL has a number of properties (particularly villas) that seem not to be available through any other source I found. We ended up not booking a villa, but there is always next time. Craig and Jeanne did book a villa on the coast.

Robbietravels Feb 21st, 2008 11:53 PM

Would you be comfortable sharing the price they quoted for your trip? I've heard back from Kandalama and Tea Trails (awaiting Kandy House) and want to see how the rates compare.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:29 AM.