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less than 6 weeks to go - help me refine my Sri Lanka itinerary.

less than 6 weeks to go - help me refine my Sri Lanka itinerary.

Aug 11th, 2012, 10:19 AM
  #1  
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less than 6 weeks to go - help me refine my Sri Lanka itinerary.

i suddenly realised that our trip to Sri Lanka is coming up fast, and having had a lot of help from people here when we were in the initial booking stage, [major thanks to Kathie and Crelliston] I've come back to ask for more help in making sure that we balance the desire to see what there is to see with having some rest and relaxation.

Here's our basic itinerary:

mon 24/9 - arrive at colombo airport at 1pm. meet driver and drive to Dambulla - Hotel Kandalama. stay three nights.

while we're here, we'd like to see Sigiriya, the elephants at Minneriya, Polonnaruwa, and the Dambulla caves. as i'm struggling with how long each of these will take and the length of drives between them, i'd like some advice on how to group them. i need to take account of the fact that on Thursday 27th, we are moving to Kandy and have to be there by 3 pm for the T20 cricket match -2 tickets bought today for the grand price of $1! [and they weren't the cheapest!] Will we have time to do anything on the morning we leave? or should we go straight to Kandy, and is there anything worthwhile to see on the way?

Thursday 27/9 - drive to Kandy. [doesn't look that far on the map but the impression I'm getting from re-reading trip reports is that even short distances can take longer that you'd think. Cricket match in pm. 2 nights at Theva residency, 2 kms from Kandy. next day around Kandy with the botanical gardens, temple of the tooth ceremony, and ????

Sat 29/9 - drive/train to Nuwarra Eliya - staying Warwick gardens 3 nights. would like to see world's end and tea planation. anything else? anything en route from Kandy? [when should I book train from Kandy to NE? - before we leave or while we're there/]

Tues 2/10 - drive to Chaaya wild. stay 2 nights. I day trip to Yala and/or bird sanctuary.

Thurs 4/10 - Drive to Galle - staying Unawatuna, Thambapanni retreat - 2 nights. explore Galle and area - plus DH would like to fit in a dive if possible.

Sat 6/10 - drive to colombo - staying Galle Face regency - 2 nights.

Sunday 7/10 - morning in colombo and afternoon at T20 finals.

Mon 8/10 - drive to airport, flight at 1 pm [need to arrive at airport by ???]

any thoughts as to activities to include/omit gratefully received.

I'd also welcome some advice on whether it's necessary to take any cash [I know i can't change it into sri lankan currency til i get there] or should we rely on ATMs? we are already committed to taking cash to pay for the cost of the car and driver in U$ on arrival - should i take some more U$ or £sterling, either in cash or those old fashioned things, travellers' cheques? [I read in a quite recently published guide book that they get a better rate of exchange than cash, but this may be out of date]

that's all for now - I'm sure that I'll think of some other things closer to the time.
annhig is offline  
Aug 11th, 2012, 02:23 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
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I was able to withdraw funds from ATMs throught the country, even when it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere.
Femi is offline  
Aug 11th, 2012, 02:51 PM
  #3  
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thanks, Femi, that's very helpful.

no extra $ or travellers' cheques then.
annhig is offline  
Aug 11th, 2012, 05:43 PM
  #4  
 
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annhig, I understand from the other thread that you are dealing with BSL. They said they cannot book trains ahead for us and the driver will do it for us then. From another thread I read, I believe you can book the train 10 days prior, the tickets become available then on the website.
So you are not doing the cultural show is Kandy?
Esperanza77 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2012, 05:45 PM
  #5  
 
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When I was there (now 5 years ago) they wanted US$ for admission fees. I don't know if that has changed or not. Like Femi, we also got money from ATMs. First at the airport, and later, when we needed money, we just told our driver and he found an ATM for us.

In the cultural triangle, you want to see Sigiriya as early in the morning as possible, as the climb is steep. You could visit the Dambulla Cave Temples late that afternoon. We spent a good 4 hours at Polonnaruwa, then went to see the elephants later in the afternoon (you want the game drive near dusk). It's about a two hour drive to Polonnaruwa, only half an hour to Sigiriya, and even less to the Dambulla Cave temples from the Kandalama.

It's about a two hour drive to Kandy from the Kandalama.
Kathie is online now  
Aug 11th, 2012, 11:54 PM
  #6  
 
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We had planned to visit Sirigiya (about 3 - 4 hours to get to the top and back) early in the morning but, believe it or not, our guide got lost! We started our climb about 10.00 and whilst it was a bit warmer than we would have liked, the later start gave the sun a chance to burn of some of the haze/cloud which made for better views (on that particualr day). We did Dambulla caves ( 90 mins there) that afternoon after stopping for lunch at the Benota Bake house in Dambulla (excellent food!). The afternoon sun and the expanse of bare rock surrounding the caves made for a very hot afternoon (take water and a hat etc. with you)

Other places in the vicinity worth a look are Ritigala Nature reserve with its ruined temples up a hill in the forest and, Namal Uyana conservation forest with its "mountain of rose quartz" -not quite as impressive as it sounds but a nice, if strenuous hike throught the froest and up some ridges. (the best bit was meeting the monk that has lived in the forest for years).

With regard to timings, expect the unexpected. The drive from Dambulla from Polunuwara was suposed to take 90mins but we broke down and we spent hours by the roadside whilst a temporay fix was carried out. No big deal for us but if you need to get to a cricket match by a specific time, leave plenty of time. (PS - we were there when the world cup was on and the views of the cricket ground from the city walls were spectacular)

ATMs are plentiful in most towns and it is easy to get cash but do advise your bank of when and where you are travelling as some will block foreign traqnsactions if not advised. I always take at least 2 cards, just incase one gets refused. You might struggle to get T/C s changed in many banks without a long wait. we change some £ cash in a bank and that too seemed to take forever with quite long queues.

Re the train, tickets becom available 10 days prior to departure and your T/A needs to be quick off teh mark as 1st Class goes really quickly. in 2011 they couldn't be booked online and our operator had to call a man near the station who went to buy the tickets and brought them to us at the station just before we departed (i think the tickets cost $2 and the booking fee$10!). We had one 1st Class journey (great views at teh rear of the train) and one 2nd Class which, although not as comfortable, was, upon reflection, a better experience as we were amongst normal Sri Lankan people (as opposed to other tourists).

Have fun on your trip !!!
crellston is offline  
Aug 12th, 2012, 05:23 AM
  #7  
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thanks, all of you!

Kathie & Crellston - I had remembered the advice of both of you to do Sirigiya early in the morning, so I am thinking that we should do this on our 3rd day, given that we will have travelled up from the airport on our first, and probably won't want to get up early the next morning. I reckon that it's about 4 hours to Dambulla from the airport, so we are unlikely to get there until 6pm - I'm expecting it to be dark by the time we get there.

so i am thinking that we should go to Polunuwara on the first morning at kandalama, followed by the elephants in the late afternoon, and Sirigiya on the 2nd, followed by lunch at the Benota bake house in Dambulla and then the Dambulla caves.

on the day we move to Kandy, it's useful to know how long the journey might be - I think that we might just pootle on down to Kandy, check into our hotel, have lunch and swim, and them go to the cricket.

this gives me a first section like this:

mon 24/9 - arrive at colombo airport at 1pm. meet driver and drive to Dambulla - Hotel Kandalama. arrive 6pm ish.

Tues 25/9 - am drive to Polunuwara. late pm - elephants at Minneriya.

Wed 26/9 - early start for Sirigiya. Afternoon at Dambulla caves

Thursday 27/9 - drive to Kandy. 2 hours-ish. check into hotel - Theva residency - have swim and lunch. Cricket match in pm.

Fri 28/9 - in and around Kandy - botanical gardens, temple of the tooth ceremony, and cultural show? [not too fussed to be honest, Esperanza!]

Sat 29/9 - train to N Ella -or should we leave this to when we've leaving here, and do the Ella to Haputale stretch?

ref currency, i was thinking of taking at least another U$ 200 on top of what we owe for the driver and car, but I think that i might take a bit more than that. what do you think?
annhig is offline  
Aug 12th, 2012, 06:56 AM
  #8  
 
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I think you plan looks good. I didn't to any of the train, so can't advise you there. My notes say it was three hours from Negombo to Dambulla.

Have a wonderful trip!
Kathie is online now  
Aug 12th, 2012, 07:55 AM
  #9  
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Kathie - thanks!

yours was one of the first trip reports i read which encouraged me to think seriously about persuading DH to do this trip and i've been back to it several times since.

I'm still not expecting to get to Dambulla til late pm; if er get there earlier, it'll be a bonus!
annhig is offline  
Aug 12th, 2012, 08:21 AM
  #10  
 
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We took the train from Kandy to Hatton and from Hatton to Haputale. Both were good but the Hatton/ Haputale stretch is the one I would go for as the scenery is much more impressive as the route rises through the higher altitudes.
crellston is offline  
Aug 12th, 2012, 08:25 AM
  #11  
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crellston - again, thanks to you too. you've confirmed what I thought. presumably we get our driver to drop us off at Hatton, and to pick us up again at Haputale?

question now is how to book it!
annhig is offline  
Aug 12th, 2012, 10:39 AM
  #12  
 
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Annhig, you are correct. It takes as long to drive as it does by train. Our driver was a whole 10 mins late!! Your tour operator should be able to arrange the train tickets for you.
PS where in Cornwall are you? I was born in Saltash...
crellston is offline  
Aug 12th, 2012, 10:58 AM
  #13  
 
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Hi Ann your itinerary/route seems quite well planned.

From Colombo airport to Kandalama is max 2 1/2 hours. Please tell you driver to take the route via Dankotuwa, Narammala Kurunegala, Dambulla, and do not back track to Colombo and go via Ambepussa. This is a route i always use, much less traffic and very good road. The road via Colombo and Ambepussa will be horribly busy at this time of day.

For the rail look at http://www.exporail.lk/

If rains break out Yala can be very wet/muddy in mid October but I suspect the North East monsoon will be delayed this. You are staying at Chaya Wild which is a very comfortable place so don't fret about this.

Late afternoon elephant watching at Minneriya after a full morning at Polonnaruwa is very logical as it will be enroute. However please do check where the herds are as they move back and forth move from Kaudulla to Minneriya and if the herds are in Kaudulla then please do make the effort to go to Kaudulla instead, it will entail about 45 min more driving if coming from Polonnaruwa. Kaudulla is IMHO much prettier too.

If you can try to slot in a stop at Pinnawela enroute to Kandy. This will require you to take a different route from Dambulla to Kandy. I suggest Dambulla, Kurunegala, Kegalle, Pinnawella, and then the road via Kadugannawa to Kandy is very scenic. The more direct route Dambulla to Kandy will be via Matale.

Kandy Botanical Gardens - pls do walk to the Orchid House, it is only about mins walk from the gate.

For Scuba Diving in the South West coast October is still rather early in the season and seas can be rough, visibility poor. There are a couple of dive operators from Unnawatnua, one German run and another local at Unnawatuna Beach resort. Also you will find a few at Hiikkaduwa, try Posiedon or International Divers. Hikkaduwa is well know for the "Conch" and "Earl of Shaftebury" ship wrecks. There is also German run dive operator at Weiligama Bay Inn and another at Beruwela called Ypsylon.

Kathie and Crellston have given you very good advice too.
Mohammed is offline  
Aug 12th, 2012, 11:15 AM
  #14  
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thanks, crellston - another poster has said that she asked her tour agency [boutique Sri Lanka, the same as mine] has said that they can't do this and have suggested that she waits to she arrives. we've got over a month so I've got time to do some more research.

re your PS, we live in the west near Redruth. [or 'Druth, as it's known locally]. I go past Saltash a lot as i have to work in Plymouth fairly regularly, but rarely stop there.I see you're in london - do you go back to Saltash at all?

hi Mohammed - I've been hoping that you would see this and join in! your comments about routes to take and timings are most welcome. I'll note them down and send them to the agent.

The diving was an additional idea of DH's after our dates were set and flights booked [dictated by the cricket dates and discovering that we could save £600 by delaying our flight home by a day]. he's an experienced diver and knows that it's very dependent on conditions - if it doesn't happen, i'm sure we'll find something else to do.

i'll pass on your comments to him.
annhig is offline  
Aug 12th, 2012, 12:28 PM
  #15  
 
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We saw the elephants at Kandulla... Mohammed's comments are well-taken.
Kathie is online now  
Aug 31st, 2012, 01:54 PM
  #16  
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just came back to say that our tickets for the T20 matches in Kandy arrived today. I was a bit sceptical about getting them, let alone in the post, but there they were in the post box.

the tickets them selves were U$.50 each, but postage was U$9, making the total cost of 2 tickets U$10. so I wasn't risking much.

sadly I hesitated too long to get tickets for the finals, but I'm hoping that when we get to Colombo something may turn up - possibly supporters of one of the fancied teams that hasn't made it to the final for example. if not, we'll have to watch it on the TV!

only 3 weeks to go, now.
annhig is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2012, 02:20 AM
  #17  
 
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Ann, finals tickets are sold out, I had managed to get 4 grandstand tickets to the finals on the day of release, also so many friends from India and Pakistan are calling me daily asking for tickets to semis and finals etc...

Last time for the world cup there was a huge black market operation but thankfully this time it has been really well adminstered (thus far).
Mohammed is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2012, 03:20 AM
  #18  
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Mohammed - lucky you!

I hesitated over the "buy" button for too long, and was lucky in the end to get tickets for the match in Kandy; however we get two matches for the price of one - the afternoon and the evening.

actually, you may be able to help me with this - the afternoon match starts at 3.30, and we have "unreserved seating" - how early should we aim to arrive to get a decent view? presumably there will be food available at the ground for in between the matches? [though I gather you can get a pass out during the interval]

anyway, it all sounds a lot of fun and we'll be treating it as an experience, with a gentle day in Kandy on the following day to recover.
annhig is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2012, 05:21 AM
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At 0.50 cts a ticket for the kandy match you will have unreserved seating, in fact doubt there will be any seats at all, most likely a grassed open area. T20's are likely to draw big crowds especially if its a SL match. Lots of Indians and Pakistanis also descending here. But don't fret, these are short matches and should be lots of fun. The usual food/drink should be available hot dogs, cokes/beer ice creams etc etc. I would get to ground 30 mins before start of play.
Mohammed is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2012, 05:44 AM
  #20  
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thanks, Mohammed - that's more or less what I thought. We've no problems sitting on the grass and mucking in with everyone else - it'll add to the fun.

shame that the "usual" food will be available - I was hoping for curry!
annhig is offline  

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