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Cancelled Bangladesh, Need New Plan Asap. What about Sri Lanka....?

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Jan 1st, 2014, 10:40 PM
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Cancelled Bangladesh, Need New Plan Asap. What about Sri Lanka....?

When the hotel started talking about taking armed guards to the airport and an indefinite general strike was called we bowed out! So here we are at the Sofitel in Abu Dhabi working on Plan B, we've opted for a second night here and plan to go somewhere tomorrow. I'm looking at Sri Lanka as I can get a visa at the airport and there is a cheap flight available.

Given that we've paid for Bangladesh we aren't looking for very expensive high end suggestions, so no Tea Trails unfortunately. We will have 13 nights with at least one night in Colombo on the way in, so where would you suggest we go? In terms of travel would anyone recommend the train? My brother in law has recommended a taxi driver who we are contacting.

I looked at traveling to Sri Lanka ages ago but remember very little about it, Galle is certainly a possibility and perhaps some of the UNESCO sites around Anuradhapura which appeals to my husband. Do let us know what/where you would suggest?

As you can imagine time is of the essence!
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Jan 1st, 2014, 11:30 PM
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There's an excellent series of blogs on Sri Lanka on a new site called Travel Gumbo. Have a look:

http://www.travelgumbo.com/collection/SriLankaBlogs
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 12:51 AM
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A link to my thread on our month in Sri Lanka. Search for Thursdaysd, Kathie annhig and you will find others.

Firstly, columbo is not really "on the way in" the airport is close to Negombo and Columbo is 2 hours to the south in the opposite direction to the cultural triangle etc. Although you may be better going into Columbo if you want to organise a tour.

We did two weeks with a driver guide around the central and northern regions , cultural triangle, tea country etc and DIY once on the coast just getting taxis or tuk tuks from place to place.

Train travel is fantastic, especially in the hill country although I doubt you will be able to turn up and buy tickets at least for first class . Second class is more fun though and you should be ok. Your taxi driver is bound to be able to make a phone call a few days in advance. They all seem to have there contacts near the railway stations.

We weren't that impressed with Anurahadpura and like Polonuurawa better.

http://www.boutiquesrilanka.com is one of the major players in SL tours as is http://www.reddottours.com
I would point out that I had a mixed experience with reddot and others seem to rave about BSL.tour http://www.reddottours.com there are notoriously bad at responding to emails so a personal visit to thir offices may be your best bet. If you are ok about getting around on your own I think it would be doable just hiring a taxi in each place to get around although that will clearly take out a big chunk of your 13 days just making the arrangement so if you have a recommendation for a driver, that is probably your best bet.

NB reddot have some detail trip routes on their site so you might like to use one of those as a template.

Good luck!
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 01:56 AM
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Thanks so much for the feedback, links and ideas, much appreciated!

Lets just say I always had this idea that I'd love to go to the airport and randomly pick a destination, in reality it's not quite so charming! Though we are happy to see a few alternatives emerging.

The train looks like a good option 2nd class would be fine. At this stage we'll have to be flexible about accommodation, Im thinking about booking directly rather than using an agent but I will look at the itineraries as a template.

I'm currently on an endless hold with united trying to reroute my ticket using a local sim which took sometime to get.
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 05:58 AM
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Sri Lanka or Maldives, but Sri Lanka is my recommendation if you like that part of the Indian Ocean. Otherwise, Sarawak.
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 06:19 AM
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You can certainly book directly with hotels/guesthouses, but an agent might make things easier for you as you are booking at the last minute. And you will need a car ad driver for at least part of the time (and I always recommend that people book a driver though an agency). thursdays did a budget trip through BSL - her report might be helpful to you. http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...-sri-lanka.cfm

We loved Sri Lanka.
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 07:30 AM
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Thanks everyone, I've been to the Maldives before but it wasn't on the cheaper side of things!

United has been a nightmare but American came through with some awards flights and we're heading to Colombo tomorrow. It's high season so lots of places are booked out but we're happy to know where we are heading even if we have no clue what to do when we get there!

We arrive in the evening and so will probably opt for a night in Negombo unless anyone has any other ideas?

Abu Dhabi has little to recommend it IMHO which is as we expected. It's a surreal place on a huge scale like Vegas and built entirely for cars and drivers. We took a walk along the corniche which is attractive but though we walked for miles there wasn't a single cafe only vending machines every kilometer or so!
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 02:14 PM
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go for it. wtb. spending a night near the airport seems like a good idea while you review your options.

I recommend getting hold of the Lonely planet guide which we found to be pretty reliable; in Galle we didn't like the accommodation that had been prebooked for us [the only time this happened to be fair] so we asked out driver to take us to somewhere else recommended by the guide [The Fort Printers] inspected the room, and took it straight away.

Places that you can get to easily by train are Galle [which we liked a lot, and stayed 2 nights though I wished we'd had 3] and Kandy where we stayed for 2 nights, which was just about enough, depending on what you want to do.

lots of luck - please let us know how you get on!
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Jan 3rd, 2014, 07:03 PM
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Thank you all so much for the help, I can't tell you how reassuring it is to have team Fodors on our side, now if only we could get a guidebook we'd be golden!
We took a flight on Qatar Airlines via Doha which worked out well arriving around 7 pm. We didn't have time to do the evisa but it was simple to pay the $35 at the Visa on Arrivals desk which was empty, tho they said it's often very busy in the mornings.
We organized SIM cards at the airport, there were quite a number of companies and the rates and plans varied considerably so it pays to check several out. For an astonishing $3 I have 1.75gb for my ipad and my husband spent $7 to get the same amount of data on his iPhone and several hours of calls to the US so I can sort out our onward plans with United, and spend plenty of time reassuring my mother who is thrilled to hear we are not in Bangladesh!
At the airport the tourism counter guy said a car and driver incl. petrol runs $50 a day if you take seven days, but we haven't booked yet, unfortunately we haven't heard back from the chap my BIL recommended and only have his email, not a phone number.
It was easy to arrange a taxi from the airport and so far things seem fairly laid back here.iThanks for the heads up on where the airport is! I booked a simple place in Negombo called Lodge 19 on booking.com, wow $70 goes a long way in Sri Lanka we have a four poster brass bed and enough room for guests!
We are beginning to map out a plan, probably a couple of nights in Kandy at a guesthouse, a couple of nights in the cultural triangle (thinking of the Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana) and then possible a couple of nights on one of the Eastern beaches (perhaps the Jungle Beach Resort) before we head south?

For someone who is a dyed in the wool planner like all of you, this is a very different way to travel. Normally I spend ages looking at everything that is available and what the best choices are within our budget but on the ground is more important to see what is available and work from there. However, this way of doing things has some potential as the flexibility feels quite liberating and some places are cheaper at the last moment. From what I can see immediately

Galle is the most booked up so we will leave it till the end of out trip in mid-Jan when things are a little less busy. Given that this is a secondary trip we will need to mix in less expensive places so do give me any of your recommendations? Right now we really need to get a guidebook as while I understand Kandy is a place to go I don't even know what there is to see! All the reports a skimmed in the small amount of time we have had are blurring together and it's time to stop reading and get going!

Thanks for all the help, suggestions, links and resources. If anyone has the tel. no. of a driver they would recommend please do post....
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Jan 3rd, 2014, 08:15 PM
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Lots of people like Kandy, but I have to say it was not our favorite place. We loved the cultural triangle area and if you are interested in history, Buddhism, and such you'll want more than a couple of nights (which is only one full day). I'd say three full days for the cultural triangle (four nights). Drives are long - even when places look close together on the map!

Good luck finding a guidebook. Do keep us posted on how you are doing.
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Jan 3rd, 2014, 11:32 PM
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Kathie,
You post mirrors our change in plan. We were going for Kandy because of availability but are now leaning away as we found a room available at Jim's farm. We have spent much of the day tracking down a driver and firming up the itinerary but it looks like we may be on our was in an hour or two.

Here is what we have (hopefully)
One night at Jim's Farm in Sigiriya , three nights at Cinnamon
Lodge near Habarana, three nights on the eastern beaches at Jungle Beach Lodge near Trincomalee, two nights in the hill country at Ella and two nights in Galle. The last part of this is a bit vague!

Thursday - we contacted your driver and he is sending someone he recommends, we pay for the first day but can opt out if we pay for his return trip which seems fair. We will let you know how it goes and thanks again for the help/ interest to all.
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Jan 4th, 2014, 12:49 AM
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Good to hear things are coming together. Re the guidebook, if you have an iPad or e-reader you could always download one. lonelyplanet allows you to download individual sections.
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Jan 4th, 2014, 03:04 AM
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good luck, wtb.

the plan looks great, but watch out for the driving times - Trincomalee to Ella in one day sounds like a hell of a lot of time in the car! As you may already be learning, the roads are not easy to negotiate, and even on the straight stretches, the speed limit of 60kms slows you down a lot. an [extreme] example - it took us 3 hours to do the 85kms from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.

for your stay in Galle, I can thoroughly recommend the Fort Printers in the centre of the Fort - very comfy and good food.
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Jan 4th, 2014, 07:21 AM
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It sounds like things are coming together. I think you'll really enjoy Sri Lanka.
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Jan 4th, 2014, 07:24 AM
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Good luck! Just read this - my driver took great care of me, hope yours works out. Make sure you're clear on how long the drives will be. I would spend more time in the hill country than on the beach or at Galle, but I'm not a beach person, and unlike some posters I was disappointed with Galle.

Besides crellston's suggestions of buying LP chapters for download, Rough Guide has a lot of info available on its site for free. http://www.roughguides.com/destinati...lanka/explore/
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Jan 4th, 2014, 04:27 PM
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Glad to hear things seem to be working out for you,
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