Tourist Attractions in Sri Lanka

  • Tour staff wait on the beach to pester you.
    Tour staff wait on the beach to pester...
    by Madasabull
  • Too many 4x4's
    Too many 4x4's
    by DSwede
  • Too many 4x4's
    Too many 4x4's
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Most Viewed Tourist Traps in Sri Lanka

  • Madasabull's Profile Photo

    Booking a cab or tour.

    by Madasabull Written Dec 1, 2013

    We found that the hotel tours and cabs were really expensive, when compared to what you could get in the towns, so when we booked a trip to take us up to some of the attractions by private cab, we did it from the town.

    Now, this is where the sh`t hit the fan. Our driver came to pick us up from the Dolphin, and when he drove into the front of the hotel, we could see he was swamped straight away from the tour people who were based right outside the gates.

    The poor guy was being shouted at and threatened by these thugs who thought they were the only ones that could sell tours. We went straight to the cab and as we were getting in, these thugs were looking like they were going to start shouting at me, but me at 20 stone and looking at them like they were wasting their time, they backed off.

    I could see all the staff of the hotel stood in the window scared to do anything to help. This was the only real let down for that hotel. Didn't stop us booking another cab another day either.

    Related to:
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Seniors
    • Beaches

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    Smoking

    by Maxus Updated Nov 27, 2011

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    Since 2006, there is no longer a duty-free allowance for tobacco products for foreign passport holders arriving at Colombo, if you get caught you will be charged Rs.6,000 per carton of 200 cigarettes. Apparently, they don’t mind a few 20 packets for personal use, you can no longer buy them at the airport on the way in.

    http://www.customs.gov.lk/duty_free.htm#non

    Very few women smoke in Sri Lanka but lots of men do (their preferred brand is often yours) the government has imposed a ban on smoking in public places but the good news for smokers is that as of October 2011 there is still a smoking room at the airport (down behind ODEL).

    Fun Alternatives: You can get all sort of cigs cheap (around Rs3500) from the beach vendors some people say ‘they don’t taste the same’ so they could be fakes but smokers I’ve travelled with have found them ok.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip

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    Special Price

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    Ok, we are relatively rich while some Sri Lankan people remain poor so maybe I shouldn’t begrudge paying hugely inflated prices to enter tourist sites but I can’t help it, it irks me, we call it racism in my country and I wish they would find a more subtle way to overcharge me.

    This picture was taken at the Blowhole and unless it's the season don't even think about it!

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    • Trains
    • Budget Travel

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    Stilt Fishermen

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    I hate to be dismissive about an important 'feature' but while the guy sits out on his stilt dangling his line in the water his colleagues wait on shore to collect money from the tourists who stop to take pictures. Whether these guys ever catch any fish is debatable, I’m assured by my Sri Lankan friends that its tourist they are really after and catching fish is at best a sideline. But hey, why not, it’s a living init and you wouldn’t get me perched on a stick for hours on end for a few hundred rupees.

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    • Road Trip

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    Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    For some people, describing Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage as a tourist trap is a heresy and lots of travellers rave about what is one of the Sri Lanka’s major tourist attractions, so maybe its just me. I do not mind paying a massive tourist premium to get in or being charged extra to take my camera, I just did not like the place.

    I was told that Mahouts love their elephants and generally they do but the Mahouts at Pinnawela appeared much more interested in my money than in their elephants and I honestly did not see much in the way of care or concern for the animals. The close relationship between independent Mahouts and elephants elsewhere in Sri Lanka is much more evident

    Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is about 90 km from Colombo en route to Kandy, you can get a train to Rambukkana where you can pick up a bus or even walk the 3 kilometres to Pinnawela. The train will be met by an army of touts.

    In addition to being a tourist trap, the welfare of the animals is increasingly a cause for concern for many experts.

    http://www.bornfree.org.uk/campaigns/zoo-check/captive-wildlife-issues/pinnewala-elephant-orphanage/

    Unique Suggestions: Take lots of change, you are expected to tip for everything but breathing or if you have Sri Lankan friends get them to go along with you, it helps keep the touts away.

    Fun Alternatives: If you love elephants or you are travelling with children who do, then it might be mean not go along to Pinnawela but for the independent traveller you can either see your elephants in the wild or at work.

    If you intend to travel out to Arugam Bay don’t bother with an organised ‘safari’ trip, you’ll see plenty roaming free from the A4 between Magama and Pottuvil, early evening is maybe the best time. The Ampara area has ton's of elphants and is still relatively tout-free, see the pics attached to this tip..

    Related to:
    • Backpacking
    • Trains
    • Road Trip

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    Touts and Scams

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    In tourist areas touts, aka 'beach boys' are a fact of life and they can be very annoying indeed, I have met people who have hardly left their hotel because of them. They are not usually dangerous but are often highly skilled in the art of separating tourists from their holiday cash and some will go to great lengths do it with all manner of cunning scams. The cleverest touts are difficult to distinguish from ordinary well meaning people and it is very easy to be taken in so be always on your guard and remember that while most people in Sri Lanka are happy to help a tourist they would not generally approach you directly unless you were obviously lost or in a dangerous situation.

    The simple rule is that people who engage you in conversation in a tourist area are probably out for your money, anyone who leads you into a guesthouse or even a shop is on commission and it is you who pays it.

    People are well mannered here and even with touts keeping good-face is important, a firm but polite refusal (in Sinhalese if possible) with lots of eye contact will sometimes do the trick, in Sri Lanka losing your temper is never a good idea. He may be a tout but this is his country, not yours.

    Unique Suggestions: When arriving anywhere it is best to have some idea where you are going to stay so use a guide book and telephone in advance. If necessary find a three wheeler, tell the driver the name of the place you want to go and agree a price for the journey in advance. If the driver informs you that the place is closed or full of cholera and that he knows a better place, tell him just to get on with his driving. When doing your holiday shopping hop on a bus to the nearest large town inland, one that is not mentioned in your guide book (and so has no tourist attractions) where things will be a fraction of the price in your resort.

    For all their faults the local beach boys will know what is going on, they will know where the locally owned bars are (which are considerably cheaper than beachside hotels) and can arrange trips to places of interest. So by all means have a chat with your fellow tourist and ask them which beach boys they have done business with and use him when it suits you but always remember that this is a business arrangement. The most dangerous touts are the ones you do not realise are touts.

    Fun Alternatives: Do not let the touts put you off from meeting the locals, most people are fantastic and will be glad to help you, so if you need advice do not be afraid to ask. One day I stopped the guy in the photograph and asked him where there was somewhere to swim, he took me along to the river, joined me for a swim and later drove me to the nearest rest house. He came back in the evening and joined me for a beer. That is how it works here.

    Related to:
    • Backpacking
    • Trains
    • Road Trip

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    "beach boys"

    by prazlin Updated Dec 4, 2008

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    beware of the "beach boys" , these guys try to bring you in tourist stores where they get a provision if you are going to buy the overpriced stuff there ! The locals are normally a little bit reserved so you will recognize these 'beach boys' very soon due to their pushiness.
    You meet them anywhere in Sri Lanka !

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    • Arts and Culture

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  • sri lanka tours

    by henriplesser Written May 3, 2008

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    Hi

    You can do day excursion to kandy and possible to see mentioned place .it will take about 3-4 hrs drive to kandy .to see the bottled feeding at pinnawala elephant orphanage you must be there at 0915 morning session and 1315 at second session. If you need some contact detail of driver/guide in sri lanka I would like to recommend d.karnal de silva he is a nice person who having license issued by Ceylon tourist board. we had a fantastic time with him. Contact detail as follow.

    Email-karnal3@hotmail.com

    Web-www.karnaldesilva.com

    Thanks you,

    henri

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  • Scams

    by Jeananne Written Apr 18, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Although 99% of Sri Lankan people are honest and trustworthy, like everywhere else in the world there are some who are after the main chance.

    Unique Suggestions: You may be approached by someone who says they recognise you from the hotel your are staying in( they will have done their homework!!) while you are on the beach or just browsing about the shopping areas. They will say something like they are on their way to the doctor or pharmacy or going to the train station and have lost their wallet en route and could you lend them some rupees ,which they will pay back when they go on duty at the hotel later that day or the next day .They will tell you their name and what time they will be on duty again.Needless to say you will never see them again. This has happened to me and to other people I know. That is not to say it happens all the time ,but it is worth remembering about it.,

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  • Spice Garden No 25

    by Lillylilly Written Mar 5, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    We were taken here by our driver and it was a nice tour and massage at the end and although we are usually very aware of being fleeced on this occasion got fleeced big time.
    The potions and lotions were had vastly inflated prices on them and when told my selection would come to 119.00 i knocked them down to 80 - silly me i got my calculations wrong and on checking my visa found that £85.00 had been taken and there was not more than £10.00 worth of goods there. I priced these up locally and a bottle of lemon juice had a price on it of 5200 rupees with a label on it of low lipids.

    Unique Suggestions: Take in all the knowledge and massarge at the end but dont buy or at least haggle down to a 10th of the price.

    Fun Alternatives: Buy in the little local shops they are in better containers as well

    Related to:
    • Women's Travel
    • Food and Dining
    • Budget Travel

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  • Tip on Tips

    by TotalRelax Written May 27, 2007

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    We were made to feel uncomfortable by the agrresiveness with which some people sought tips from us for thier services. The avergare wage over there is something like $35 a month but but they will routinely demand tips in the region of 800 rupee (approx $8 for the most menial of tasks. Whilst this may not seem a lot of money we were warned on several occasions that we should not tip anything more than that as, if everyone did it, it would effect the local economy.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Luxury Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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    Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya Forest Complex

    by nishantha076 Written Feb 12, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The KDN complex is situated in the southern part of Sri Lanka which is about 147 kilometers away from Colombo. The total forest spread over 10139.3 hectares. The forest complex occupies the interfluves between two rivers the GinGanga and the Nilwala Ganga consists of series of ridges and valleys and the elevation ranges from 60-425M above mean sea level. The mean monthly temperature is around 27C with a diurnal range of 4-5C, Maximum temperature has been recoded from mid May while the annual rainfall in Kanneliya is around 3750 mm.

    The Kanneliya forest as a whole are among the most important natural forests in the southern province for protection of the head waters of the Gin and Nilwala which are critically important for socio-economic development in the Galle and Matara districts. This region has identified as floristically one of the richest areas in South Asia. There is a high proportion of endemism among the identified woody plants, with 159 species belonging to 94 genera and 41 families being endemic to Sri Lanka. Some 220 faunal species with 41 endemics have been recorded from the KDN and adjacent forests. Majority of the 20 endemic birds in Sri Lanka are restricted to the rain forests of the Southwest. Large numbers of medicinal plants are found in the KDN forest complex. Some of these plants are
    • Weniwelgata – Concinium fenestratum
    • Kudahedaya – Lycopodium Squarrosum
    • Maha hedaya – Lycopodium phlegmaria
    • Kothala Himbutu – Salacia reticulate
    • Rasakinda – Tinopora cordifolia

    Unique Suggestions: Snakes of Kanneliya Forest: A total of 36 species snakes, including 17 endemic forms belonging to six families have been recorded from Kanneliya.

    Lizards of Kanneliya Forest: A total of 23 species of lizards including 13 endemic species belonging to four families have been recorded from Kanneliya forest.

    Freshwater Fishes of Kanneliya Forest: A total of 38 species of fishes belonging to 14 families have been recorded from Kanneliya forest and among them are 20 endemic species. The Gin Ganga, Udugama Ela, Kanneliya Ela and their shady forest streams provide extremely suitable habitats for their fishes.

    Also the Kanneliya forest is an ideal location for bird watching. Numbers of endemic bird species are recoded from Kanneliya forest. Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Orange Billed Babbler, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie can be seen in the Kanneliya forest.
    Some Useful Tips:
    • To enter Kanneliya Forest Reserve, tickets should be purchased from the Forest Department office at the entrance.
    • Start the trail early, at least by 8am
    • Wear light colored, comfortable clothes
    • Be prepared for external practices such as Leeches and ticks. Leech proof socks, preferably boots and a suitable external parasite repellent would be very useful
    • Be prepared for sudden changes in weather – it rains often (a cap and a rain coat would come in handy)
    • Avoid walking alone. Always seek the assistance of a trained nature guide from the Forest Department office.
    • Make sure you carry sufficient water, food and a basic first aid kit

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Birdwatching

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    Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage – Sri Lanka

    by nishantha076 Written Jan 17, 2007

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    Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is situated in the Sabaragamuwa province of Sri Lanka which is about 87 Kilometers away from Colombo. To reach Pinnawala you have to turn from the 82nd kilometer post of the Colombo – Kandy main road and come through Rambukkana road. If you travel by train the nearest railway station to reach Pinnawala is Rambukkana (2 Kilometers from this railway station).

    Unique Suggestions: The orphanage has a bunch of 84 elephants at the moment which is also considered as the biggest bunch of elephants in the world that are living under the human supervision. The age groups of these elephants are from One week to 50 years of old.

    The orphanage starts at 8.30 am daily for the visitors. At about 10.00 am this bunch of elephants starts walking towards Ma-Oya where they refresh with their daily bathing. Ma-Oya provides the water for drinking bathing for these elephants. The Elephant bathing at Ma-Oya provides a picturesque scene every morning & evening. Most of the visitors enjoy this scene every day while 84 elephants having their bath in this picturesque river according to their own rhythm.

    At 13.15 pm the staff of the orphanage starts feeding baby elephants with milk. This is another eye catching event for which most of the visitors enjoys themselves. At 14.00 pm again these elephants are accompanied for bathing at Ma-Oya. They bring back to the orphanage at about 16.00 pm and they are sent to the respective cages where they stay the night.

    The elephant orphanage enriches with a restaurant to provide delicious foods & refreshments for the visitors who likes to have some refreshment.

    The daily routine of the Orphanage is

    • 08.30 AM - Open for visitors
    • 09.15 AM - Feeding the baby elephants with milk
    • 10.00 AM - Accompanying the elephants for bathing
    • 12.00 - Return to the orphanage after bathing
    • 13.15 AM - Feeding the baby elephants with milk
    • 14.00 PM - Accompanying the elephants for bathing
    • 16.00 PM - Return to the orphanage after bathing
    • 17.00 PM - Feeding the baby elephants with milk
    • 18.00 PM - Close the Orphanage

    Safety Tips

    • Please do not enter the restricted areas
    • Smoke only the allocated areas
    • Keep the distance with the elephants
    • Keep the ticket with you
    • Do not disturb the elephants
    • Do not bring the pets

    Related to:
    • Trains
    • Road Trip
    • National/State Park

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    Warana Historical Temple

    by nishantha076 Updated Nov 20, 2006

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    Warana is an ancient temple situated in a village called "Warana" in the province of western sri lanka.This has a history which runs over of few decades. It is a fine display of ancient architecture of temples in the era of king Walagamba.This place is rich of beautuful paintings inside the cave temple,Statues of lord buddha etc.

    To reach the temple you have to come through the Colmbo-Kandy main road & then there is a turning at Thihariya junction. That road is called warana road. you have to travel few kilometers through that raod & then you reach the beautiful temple which is sorrounded by a paddy field.

    Unique Suggestions: This is a place for worship. So only if you are interested in ancient architecture,heritage sites , religious places you can visit this temple.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Architecture

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  • Beach Seating Charges

    by Vaughany Written May 23, 2006

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    You will see tables and chairs with parasols set out on most tourist beaches, maybe close to a bar. Be aware that if you sit down there is a charge for doing so. Even if you do not order anything from the bar, and even if there is no bar there, someone will pop-up before you move on and charge you a seating price. This is especially common on all of Colombo’s beaches and nearby Negombo beach.

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    • Backpacking

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Comments (2)

  • Jul 10, 2013 at 7:52 AM

    BEWARE AT YALA
    I travelled here and miraculously a hostel owner and guide met me at the bus stop. The bus driver obviously called him to tell him there was a foreigner on the bus. He then took me to his hostel which I didn't like so I went to another up the road. I asked this second hostel about a tour to yala park. The first hostel guy then walks over and they talk in Sinhalese. I tell them I DO NOT want to pay commissions but want to book direct with the second hotel. They say 'sure, sure'. The price of the tour was 7000 rupees for a half day tour. The others on my jeep paid 5000 rupees, although I think they got a good deal. So basically I think the bus driver, first hostel guy and second hostel guy all took commission even though I told them not to. It's hard to avoid sometimes as the alternative would have been to not get a tour off any of them and spend a day getting around in a tuk tuk and seeing what else I could find. But if you can book direct with the tour company and not the hotel and you will get the best price.

  • Jul 10, 2013 at 7:49 AM

    Spice Gardens
    Basically AVOID these places. Go and take a look if you want but certainly don't buy anything. I purchased a small bottle of perfume (supposedly natural) at one for 1000 rupees. A local afterwards told me that it was not natural and not made in Sri Lanka but imported from India and should cost 200 rupees. He then took me to a local market and showed me all the products supposedly natural and made at the spice gardens that are basically just repackaged from the local markets then sold at HUGELY inflated prices. For example ayurvedic honey was 1900 rupees at the spice garden. It was 300 rupees at a real local Ayurveda store. The miracle natural hair removal cream the spice gardens sell was 3000 rupees per bottle and just 1300 rupees at the local market. I doubt it's even natural. So be warned and DO NOT BUY at the spice gardens around Sri Lanka. It's a scam!

Sri Lanka Tourist Traps

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