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Sri Lanka compared to southern India, which do you prefer?

Sri Lanka compared to southern India, which do you prefer?

Old Nov 30th, 2017, 10:55 AM
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Sri Lanka compared to southern India, which do you prefer?

As many of you know, we are India aficionados and have now spent four months in total traveling there. As far as southern India, during our six weeks we visited Mumbai, Goa, Karnatanka and Kerala; we did not visit Tamil Nadu.

Now I have been thinking about Sri Lanka possibly, but I am uncertain. I've been reading about it and am even more undecided. I have heard Sri Lanka described as India lite. As far as I am concerned, Kerala and Goa are India lite compared to the north. I've read some people prefer Sri Lanka because it is cleaner and less chaotic while others prefer India in all of its craziness because it is more completely unique. And, I've read that some people think Indian food is much better than what the average tourist will find in Sri Lanka.

Many people go to Sri Lanka because of its beaches. While we might visit one for a couple days of rest and relaxation, this is not why we'd go. Wildlife is another attraction for many. We've seen leopards and elephants in the wild in India, so just going because of the wildlife parks probably isn't sufficient reason on its own. We've been to tea plantations in India, so I don't know if that aspect of Sri Lanka is all that unique for us. That leaves the historical and cultural aspects--things that really could interest us. Are they that different and that interesting?

Then I have also read that Sri Lanka is more expensive to visit than India. What percentage more I don't know. If it makes any difference, we are mid-range travelers who will do an occasional splurge. We like "nice" but not luxurious lodging. We will hire private drivers etc.

Maybe I am interpreting all of this wrong and Sri Lanka really is truly unique and worth two or three weeks without question. For those of you who have visited there (and especially if you have also visited southern India), what are your thoughts? Thanks.
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Old Nov 30th, 2017, 12:19 PM
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Thanks for posting this, JulieS! I've been wondering the same thing. I've posted the same question in recent trip reports by Sartoric and CaliforniaLady, but not in as much detail as your enquiry.I too look forward to the replies!!

Incidentally, re: beaches ( just a couple days r and r, not as a compelling primary reason for visit) Kannur on the north Kerala coast will soon have an airport for international flights!! I recall you were on one of the nearby during a super-hot weather time on your last trip. I stayed in that area too, plus took a day trip to the beaches farther north. They are perfect--soft golden sand lined with coconut palms, still relatively undiscovered and quiet, compared to the famous beaches in South Kerala. Whenever I return (dreaming) that area is on my list....and possibly SL, based on the replies you get.
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Old Nov 30th, 2017, 01:50 PM
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It was dogster who first call SL India lite, and I tend to agree with him. I did not find the historic and religious sites particularly compelling. Since there was no accommodation I was willing to consider at Yala I didn't visit. I had a car and driver for my trip, not something I usually like to do, but I was booking for SL from India over Christmas.

My TR is here:

https://www.fodors.com/community/asi...-sri-lanka.cfm
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Old Nov 30th, 2017, 03:06 PM
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I found the historic sights in Sri Lanka particularly compelling. Cheryl and I are both interested in Buddhism and we felt like we learned so much on our Sri Lanka trip. Before our trip, I had no idea that Sri Lanka had 2500 years of recorded history.

We spent most of our time in the cultural triangle and spent a few nights in tea country.
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Old Nov 30th, 2017, 07:18 PM
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I'm with Kathie on the appeal of the historic sites in Sri Lanka. I spent four nights based in Dambulla schlepping around to archaeological sites, and I was in seventh heaven. Moreover, the people were so pleasant and friendly.

There is no shortage of nature in Sri Lanka. I enjoyed the rainforest at Sinharaja, and the beauty of Ella and Horton Places.

Regarding prices, the main drawback is the outrageous entry fees in Sri Lanka. You can, however, find the fees online and add it up, and see if it's worth it to you. I found the hotels to be a better value than those in India, where land is outrageously expensive. In Sri Lanka, you will have no trouble finding nice hotels in all price ranges.

I found very little begging in Sri Lanka, but plenty in India, with the exception of Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, the parking lot guard hassled me about a tip while I was waiting for my driver, and random people kept claiming they cleaned a bathroom, and wanted money.

I like the food better in India, since there are many vegetarian restaurants. In Sri Lanka, the food seemed to be limited in variety, and to me, not as interesting.

Sri Lanka may be cleaner than India, but the traffic in many areas is just as chaotic.

After all that, I am glad I went to Sri Lanka, mostly because of the historical sites. I regret not spending more time in Kandy, and not getting to Galle, but maybe sometime in the future.
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Old Dec 1st, 2017, 02:45 AM
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It's a question I'm also curious about as I'm thinking about a combined trip to Sri Lanka and S. India for early 2019. S. India is a definite but am thinking about combining it with SL. It all depends how much time we will take for travel.

julies, from an initial trip I planned almost 2 years ago, I was surprised that the costs of hotels in S. India were generally higher than in the north, at least for comparable places.

CaliforniaLady, interesting comparisons! I do recall you wrote about the entry fees for foreigners in SL; I remember that there were different prices in India for native vs foreigner as well, though. Were they more extreme in SL?

CaliNurse, thanks for the suggestion of the northern Kerala coast beaches! Sounds like a possible option for our trip in S. India, especially if we need to take a welcome break!
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Old Dec 1st, 2017, 03:34 AM
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We specifically chose Sri Lanka to visit in Oct 2017 because we absolutely loved our time in southern India earlier in the year.

The history and temples of both countries were equally fascinating to us, although very different. I loved being at the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy on a busy Sunday. Huge but friendly and peaceful crowds, getting a sensory feast from the highly decorative artwork, the drumming, the chanting, and the waft of coconut oil drifting from the heads of women around me. CL is correct, in Sri Lanka entrance fees are high, we thought the price worth paying at every site we visited. The interaction with friendly locals was a free bonus.

I also thought accommodation was better value in Sri Lanka. Our hosts everywhere were great examples of what we hope for, nothing was too much trouble, happy to engage and offer info, or leave us alone. The quirks and oddities in the buildings were similar to those in India and much of South East Asia, and we always managed to get a great view.

We didn’t go for the wildlife or beaches, but were talked into a great game drive and stayed two nights on the beach at Trincomalee. At least these types of options are available and within relatively short drive times.

We enjoyed the food in Sri Lanka. Most meals were protein focused, however, as a part time vegetarian, there were still plenty of choices for me. I had read about the poor experiences of others, we were lucky to eat some very authentic meals, so they are available. Our driver made some good suggestions, and joined us on several occasions. There were some regional differences and local specialties, coconut and spices feature just about everywhere. Having said that, for sheer variety, India wins the food stakes (sorry) for me too.

Our driver enhanced our time considerably in both countries. The driving itself was similar, with Sri Lanka only slightly less chaotic in parts. We saw a lot more wildlife visible from the road, many lakes teeming with water birds, and more jungle. Sri Lanka seemed less densely populated.

We’ve been to India twice for a total of seven weeks, and are seriously considering a third trip, of course it’s a much larger and more diverse country. We visited Sri Lanka while the second trip to India was still relatively fresh, comparing the two countries similarities was fun, the differences were enough to make SL memorable.
We don’t regret for a minute our two weeks in Sri Lanka, it’s a beautiful country with friendly people, and a fascinating history and culture. It’s like India but it’s also clearly not India. I think you should go !
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Old Dec 1st, 2017, 06:22 AM
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I really appreciate all of the thoughtful and extensive comments and the link to Kathy's trip report (which I'll admit is a bit off-putting as far as encouraging me to visit).

Price comparisons between the two places are also very helpful. It does sound like admission fees are often exorbitant! I am pleasantly surprised to hear some of you say that lodging in Sri Lanka is often cheaper than in India. I'll admit that as we've gotten older and traveled more, our expectations as far as what we consider "nice" lodging for us have changed, and we've moved up somewhat on the scale of desires in lodging expectations. But, we still are not in the luxe category by any means.

I think after our visit to Kerala I might have learned to "interpret" what some visitors (of a certain class) are saying when they rave about certain accommodations. In Kerala we stayed in a few highly reviewed places that did absolutely nothing for us. Now that I am remembering, we also stayed in another one in Rajasthan where I think a certain group of primarily Brits were hoping to revisit the days when their group would have been the upper crust associating with the ruling class. Looking back, I think many of these people had their customized tours arranged by the same upper end British agency. Some of these places just weren't us. We are not hoity-toity and are not looking for pampering and kow-towing as some people are. We also much prefer to try to eat in smaller, non-hotel (and non-buffet) family-run, authentic restaurants. Being unable to find these is something we often found problematic when we visited Myanmar last year. In a number of places we just ended up eating at our hotel because we couldn't easily find and other alternatives.


We do enjoy being in places where there are great scenic half-day (we've gotten too old for all-day) hikes. Nature and scenic beauty does interest us a lot, but we don't need to just see a slightly different repetition of what we've experienced elsewhere. I think for us this would be more appealing than the typical tourist itinerary visits of tea plantations and spice plantations. Been there and done that.

All of your comments have helped me figure out if we would choose to visit Sri Lanka which parts to see and which parts to skip. I am thinking that perhaps about two weeks would be more than ample time to devote to the country if we decide to go. I am still conflicted, however, and will need to give this some more thought. Parts of Sri Lanka sound appealing and parts sound gawdful to me. Perhaps I should instead think of Tamil Nadu.
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Old Dec 1st, 2017, 07:02 AM
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I try to tell it as I see it.... The temples in Tamil Nadu are certainly worth seeing, and I enjoyed the Chettinad area, which like Coorg has a separate identity. My TR on Fodors got a bit sidetracked, so my blog will be easier to follow:

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...3/temple-town/

WRT to SL, I think you would like the area around Ella, and maybe Yala which I regretted not getting to. You might look at the east coast beaches rather than the south.
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Old Dec 1st, 2017, 11:43 AM
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JulieS, you haven't yet been to (southern) Tamil Nadu. That would be an easy combination with SL. Why do either/or? Were you in the Coorg area already (it's near Wayanad, where you have been)? Thursdaysd writes positively about Chettinad; I recall Sartoric also enjoyed that unique area.

As Progol mentions, hotel prices in Southern India have risen, and are, for comparative places, higher than in the north at the comfort level you're describing. There are a bunch of legit reasons for this, including the extreme high prices of land there, the relatively short tourist season, etc. From my own "dream" planning, I don't find many places less than $125 or even more/night (per room, not per person) which, on my first trip to Kerala in 2008 would've been out of the question! $50/night is do-able, but with some "iffy" places. Even local homestays are more $ now.
NB: things that are concerning for me, traveling solo, might be a bit different than for you since you travel as a couple.
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Old Dec 1st, 2017, 02:40 PM
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I reckon (like CaliNurse) that you can easily do both Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu in one trip.

Agree with thursdaysd, Ella might be a place you’d like. We enjoyed a three hour hike to Little Adams Peak, there’s another one to nine arch bridge which was rained out for us. I too, regret not going to Yala. If there were a next time, I’d like to stay a couple of nights in Nuwara Eliya to explore the surrounding countryside, it’s just beautiful.

We paid less than US $65 per night including breakfast at all our accommodations. All were small family run guest houses or private homes, with the exception of one large hotel in Trincomalee. All had aircon (which we didn’t always use), a private attached bathroom, a beautiful view from a balcony or porch, and either a fridge or use of a fridge. We were encouraged by our driver to purchase beer at the local wine shop to drink back at our place, even when the establishment served alcohol (not all did).

Admittedly this was in October, a shoulder season with a high likelihood of rain all over the country. It worked for us, less crowds, more availability of rooms and cheaper prices. Meals in local restaurants were often incredibly cheap. For some food details with pictures and prices this is my mini blog Tasting Sri Lanka.. https://goo.gl/7JuhtK
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Old Dec 2nd, 2017, 03:52 AM
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We went to SL about 5 years ago and it was possibly the best trip we ever did together. We loved, mostly, the chaos of the roads, once we were used to it, the lack of begging, the monuments [agreed they were expensive but they were well preserved and clean] the friendliness of the people, and the food. Sorry if others didn't like it that much but we were bowled over by it - perhaps we were just lucky.

So I would definitely say - go!

For us the highlights were Polunnawara, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Kandy, NE, Ella, and Galle. We did not enjoy the elephant encounter at Minneriya which I felt was verging on the dangerous, nor the safaris at Yala where a rumour of a sighting of something special caused upward of 20 jeeps all to converge at the same point so personally I would avoid those. There may be better run national parks in Srl Lanka but if you have seen leopards and elephants in India, I would not go to Sri Lanka to repeat the experience.

This all comes with the caveat that DH and I never got to India. I have been toying with the idea of going by myself but I need to wait for the right time and opportunity, which hasn't arisen yet.

My trip report is here if you click on my screen name.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2017, 05:16 AM
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More input. Thanks much. I now have a really good idea about Sri Lanka and can make some balanced decisions. I'll admit that my initial thought had been to combine Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, but then I started to read the mixed comments about Sri Lanka, and it gave me pause. That is why I posted here.

In addition I started to read, once again, my favorite but now twenty-year-old guidebook on book on India. Louise Nicolson's India Companion https://www.amazon.com/Louise-Nichol.../dp/0747277575. It has marvelous descriptions of places, and I found so many more in India that I still want to see. It looks like it would take us two more six week trips in order to see all of those places in India and also see both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

All of us are so fortunate to be able to travel, and it eventually comes down to top priorities and, as I am increasingly realizing, comparisons to places we have already visited.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2017, 05:33 AM
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Definitely visit those top priorities! You never know when something will happen, just ask annhig. And I have been grounded all year, and next year isn't looking too good.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2017, 05:44 AM
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Julie’s - I too have wondered about Sri Lanka. As we weren’t wowed by the Kerala area, we are hesitant to go there. On the other hand, I highly recommend the Tamil Nadu area. The temples there are very different from the Rajastan area and we loved our time there. Perhaps Sri Lanka will be in the picture one day, combined with other areas of India which we have missed.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2017, 03:34 PM
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Kathy and Kathie

Yes, life and the ability to travel as one grows older definitely change. I hope both of you get some resolution to your health problems so that you can once again start doing the traveling you so enjoy.

And, Ann I hope you can find some peace as you now start to travel as a solo traveler.

To all, I am now going to read more on Tamil Nadu.

Thanks.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2017, 07:11 PM
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progol - Regarding your questions about foreigner prices in Sri Lanka, versus India, you are correct. The price differential is much larger in Sri Lanka. For example, the entry fee for Horton Plains National Park is about $25. Also, in Sri Lanka, virtually every temple charges a fee, but I have never had to pay to visit a temple in India. During my trip in September, I did pay admission for a few forts and museums, but they were never more than a few dollars. During my 2009 India trip with my son, I do recall him saying "We spent alot of money the last two days" when we were in Agra, but I think the Taj is quite expensive, and we went at sunrise AND sunset.

julie - It will be an interesting journey if you can combine Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. Planning a trip to Sri Lanka is a challenge, because nobody follows along the same "route." The sites are here and there, so everyone seems to take a different path. Regarding hotels, Sri Lanka guesthouses are a safe bet, simply because they are quite clean and they seem to understand the needs of the western traveler quite well. I was pleasantly surprised by the elegant breakfasts served at all my hotels.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2017, 03:24 PM
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JulieS, thank you for the link to that book. Oh no...more temptation!!
Indeed, so many places in India still to visit! I don' like too-long trips away from home, so visiting every enticing place is just not going to happen in this lifetime. Then we're back to Thursdaysd's wise advice:top priorities!
May all who have been either physically or emotionally affected so that dreamed-of trips are put on hold for now, recover to travel another day!

In addition to research, including Fodors Tamil Nadu trip reports by CaliforniaLady, Sartoric, Dgunbug and others-- each with a different focus/opinion--I strongly recommend the detailed, funny, accompanied-by-photos report on the region by Fodors' "Rje."
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Old Dec 14th, 2017, 02:24 AM
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Good reviews hanks
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