For those travelling from UK, and I suspect most of Europe, your only chance of a direct flight to Colombo is with Sri Lankan Airlines as most of the air traffic in that direction routes through the Middle East. You can go with Qatar who I flew with before and loved but requires a stop in Doha which they often make ludicrously quick resulting in them losing my baggage last time round. You can go Emirates, another favourite of mine, but that will require a layover in Dubai and so on and so forth.
On my latest trip to Sri Lanka I decided to give the local airline a run, purely because of the flight times. It is about 10 and a half hours going out and about 11 and a half coming back (headwinds, I guess). I'll talk you through my first flight with the aforesaid carrier.
I turned up at Heathrow in good time and went to the check-in. I have neither the equipment nor the knowledge, or indeed the will, to do this scanning your mobile 'phone to check in nonsense. I like to speak to a human being! There was a queue of one (happy days) and I presented my passport, asked if he needed my booking number but no, in these Big Brother days, my passport was all that was required. He checked me in quickly and efficiently and even with a degree of humour as we had a joke where I tried to guess the weight of my (previously unweighed) bag and went for 16. Guess what? Exactly 16.0 which I took to be a good omen.
I should mention that the young man in question was obviousy of Southern Asian origin himself so it may actually have been a Sri Lankan I was joking with. Obviously it is usual practice for airlines to have local staff in place landside and I mention this merely as an aside for readers that do not know London. Heathrow lies to the West of London by a few miles and the ethnogeographic (is that a real word or did I just make it up?) profile of the area is very much Southern Asian. The vast majority of the people working there have Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi roots. I care not as long as they can get me through that most hateful airport asap.
On now to the flight. Boarded in good time and then sat on a taxiway for a long time, it was over half an hour late taking off. I have no idea whose fault that was, be it the airport or the airline but not a good start. The 'plane was fairly standard with about the legroom I would expect in cattle class. The service was, shall we say, efficient. The cabin crew were perfectly polite but, for some reason I cannot quite put my finger on, appeared to be going through the motions. Even in economy I have had much friendlier service on other carriers.
The "evening meal" was served and it was OK but nothing more than that, a look round my pages here will show that decent grub can be kept in a heated container for hours if it is prepared well in the first place. I then decided to avail myself of the entertainment facilities. They were adequate, but I have had much better selections (again Qatar and Emirates spring to mind). I amused myself by watching the James Bond Spectre film, which I had not seen, and something else which was so memorable I have forgotten what it was!
Cattle class is merely a matter of enduring, rather than enjoying, the flight and I am used to it. I am a fairly tall man at 6'5" so legroom is always an issue and this was about standard for longhaul ecenomy and fortunately the person in the seat in front was not a "recliner".
What did mar the whole flight was the shrieking child who literally didn't stop for the entire journey although the airline is obviously in no way to blame for that. I do not think the child was in any discomfort or distress, he just appeared to be having an 11 hour tantrum at extreme volume and without much in the way of his minders trying to stop it. I know from reading the forums here and elsewhere that this is an extremely emotive subject so don't bother sending me abusive comments, mails or whatever as they shall be ignored. I agree that people should have the right to travel with small children but with any rights there are responsibilities attached and the responsibility here is upon the parents / guardians of such small children to ensure that the thirty or forty people surrounding are allowed a modicum of peace and quiet. The flight was completely full and so I could not even ask to be moved.
On arrival in Colombo we deplaned quickly and the luggage was already on the belt after a relatively quick run through the immigration procedures. I travel with a softskin kitbag and nothing was damaged so at least their baggage handlers were not being too brutal.
So, would I travel Sri Lankan Air again? On balance, I would have to say yes purely for the direct flight advantage. As stated above, I know I can get better service on other airlines but there is always that chance of missing a connection and ending up sitting about some airport for hours when you don't even have a few ££ of the local currency to get a drink.
- Budget Travel
When you don't have a great amount of time on your holiday to get around it is a good idea to employ a driver, someone who knows the roads and can help you design a memorable trip.
My friend Dinu currently drives for a company but he is purchasing his own vehicle and will be able to offer his services freelance as well. I have been with him en-route from Kandy - Nuwar Eliya - Ella as well as Dambulla, Sigiriya (his home town) and Negombo. His former background was with the airforce at an early age, after this he moved into the hospitality industry being the chef and general manager for a guest house and later a chef in the Maldives. He is fluent in English and has a very nice manner with people, he will go that extra mile for his customers.
Dinu can arrange for accommodation at guest houses along your chosen route and if requested he will be able to give you a cookery class if the guesthouse permits the use of the kitchen. He is an honest and reliable guy who wants everyone to experience the magic of Sri Lanka.
**NB this man seems to have fallen off the wagon so I think I shall remove his contact details. I have been working in the tourism industry and do know a fair few honest reliable people
- Road Trip
We went to Sri Lanka for 10 days and we got Kalum's contact details from a Lonely Planet forum. From the begining, Kalum helped us giving us tips about hotels and itinerary and one of the best hotels we have been in Sri Lanka was recommended by him.
Kalum is a good professional, very kind and with a very good knowledge about his country. Furthermore, and bearing in mind the dangerous traffic in the roads, we have felt very safe with his driving.
Kalum is very friendly, do not hesitate to ask him about any doubt you will have.
Phone: +94 77 685 5443
Website: http://www.greenlankavacations.comAdd to your Trip Planner
Still one of the best travel we've made! And we travel quite a lot.
We were on Sri Lanka in 2010, by recommendation of our friends. We also took the same guide, Jagath Tours, and this proved to be the winning combination. That was a wonderful, carefree travel, full of cultural and natural wonders.
It is so easy to recommend Jagath as the first and only option to travel with in Sri Lanka. So many of our friends went for him, that we've made a little fan club of Jagath here in Slovenia! :)
Visit his web page
Here are some of our photos from that trip:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
I have had the opportunity to meet Manju in person when he has brought customers to Trincomalee and chat with his customers. I have only have heard really great reports of his dedication and integrity.
He has a small business whereby he has hand selected reliable tour guides to give you his own style of personable service if he is unavailable. Package tours can be arranged to take in all the sites of Sri Lanka and tailored to your requirements.
His last customers were a couple from Jersey and Ireland who decided to go to Arugum Bay, they ended up wanting to chill the whole day on the beach and go in the evening, Manju obliged even though I know it was a crazy ask as the road is deserted and dangerous at night. To me this just proves that he will go to great lengths to keep his clients satisfied.
Phone: +94 776230420
Website: http://www.tours-srilanka.com/Related to:
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Arts and Culture
We had a wonderful trip around Sri Lanka in January 2013 for two weeks. We travelled with our children (21,19, 15 years) ; in advance we had organized the trip with Gorgeous lanka-our driver was Rupa. we recommend him warmly, despite the chaotic traffic he was driving safely, he was very reliable, punctual and very friendly and patient. His English is good and he stopped many times to show us interesting places, plants, animals or to indicaste where we can go for a walk. We never had the feeling to be pushed somewhere so that he can get a commission. We had booked the hotels in advance and in most of them he could stay also for the nights. Unfortunately our tour with him ended abruptly because he had to go home suddenly for family reasons, but our last host, Samhita Penzkofer from the beautiful and remote aqua beach cabanas organised every transport for us from then on.
We will come back!
- Arts and Culture
- Diving and Snorkeling
Sri Lanka are making improvements to their transport infrastructure and train travel is one of these areas.
The train from Colombo to Badulla which passes through Kandy, Nuwar Eliya (Nanu Oya) Ella has an Observation carriage which needs to be booked a few days in advance. This offers spectacular views of scenery tea plantations and waterfalls.
There is also semi - express service between Colombo & Vavuniya (en-route to Jaffna)
Expo Rail Services offering luxary air conditioned train travel with wifi, meal and unlimited tea,coffee & water.
Overnight sleepers usually only have about 5 2 bedded compartments so best to book in advance. If you are a solo female traveller the railway will only have you share the compartment with another lady
We visited Sri Lanka in last December with a low budget. We had no idea of hiring a car at all but we had a big lit to visit in seven days.Two of three drivers dropped us at the middle of the negotiation and we went forward with the last one.He asked $ 100 a day for air conditioned double room with breakfast and air conditioned car with fuel and unlimited mileage.But we wanted to find our own hotels and we took his service only as a driver( $ 55 a day ).
We started (06:00am) to travel Anuredhapura via Puttalam and our first stop was Negombo fish market.It is not a clean place but you should not miss it .Making dry fish is amazing.We saw an wild elephant and lots of birds in between Puttalam a and Anuradhapura.Visited ruins at Anuradhapura in the afternoon and enjoyed sun set at Mihintale.We had our booking at a guest house in front of Tissa vewa only for the first night and it was not up to the mark.
Second day we went to Ritigala and Polonnaruwa.We asked a suggestion from the driver for a hotel or guesthouse.He took us to Sigiriya Cottage which was a good choice.Other hotels he suggested and we enjoyed were Nature Walk Resort- Kandy,Sky Green Resort- Ella,Lake Wind Hotel - Tissamaharama, Paradise Beach Resort - Mirissa,Galle Face Hotel - Colombo.All these hotels provided accommodation for the driver as well.
The driver was recommended by Marene ,Rohnaca Raj and Rachel ,which helped us a lot and hope this post will help to somebody as well.His knowledge about the history ( describing ruins with the history and folk tales )and the capability of identifying of birds has to be appreciated.
- Budget Travel
We had a very nice holiday in Sri lanka last december. for the whole tour we got the service of a driver. so after a few recommendations we select the company named Gorgeous Lanka. Actually it was the best selection. The owner lady arranged our Itinerary very attractive manner covering the most interested places. provide a very good car with a friendly and English speaking Driver. both the owner and the driver were very helpful and efficient.
Here is the contact detail of the company. firstname.lastname@example.org
I must thank them for making our holiday more relaxing and comfortable one.
- National/State Park
- Family Travel
all transport in sri lanka is fine, some choices better than others tho for different journeys. this based on my experiences feb 2010
some guest houses will give free bike use. its a fab way to get around but you need your wits about you. the roads are in poor condition and tuktuk and busses dont tend to make allowabnces for bikes. although no one seems to use lights on a bike its really dangerous in the dark, not just becasue of the traffic but also the potholes. i thought id bike a lot but often used bus daytime and tuktuk at night. i met russians with flash carbon fibre bikes travelling with back up around 80k/day, i wouldnt do a road trip like this, the humidity and the hills too great for fun
the busses tend to be very full and its diffiuclt to find timetables but just jump on, they are so cheap. theres a ticket seller on board who if you are lucky will tell you when to get off but best ask the person next to you. some busses are express ie they don stop much but i got on one once just cos i didnt realise it was express and flagged it down. red busses are governemnt owned and tend to be slower and rougher. busses are brilliant because theres so many of them and they are so easy. however, with backpacks its not easy, theres no room. they are incredily cheap tho. if you choose to do a long journey you'd be best getting a tuk tuk to the end of the line so you can get on at the beginning to be sure of a seat. i wouldnt use a bus at night tho unless exclusively in a tourist area.
again very cheap but also very very slow, early morning trains tend to be much busier than those later in the day. goods trains are slower than mail but get you there. 1st class needs to be booked a couple of weeks in advance but 2nd and 3rd class are fine except for the loos which are grim. on the trains i used 2nd class had fans and seats wheras 3rd didnt have fans and just had tables to sit on instead of seats. just like busses, trains are diffiuclt to manage with too much baggage as they are crammed, you have to have your wits about you as there's no one to tell you where to get off or how many stops, you have to know or ask. sometimes the train doesn't pull in at the platform but on the other side of the lines so you have to do a mega jump down onto the rails cross over them and then a big climb back up on to the train, very very diffiuclt with bags. bonus tho therell be someone wandering up and down selling food. id be anxious about using a night train anywhere as they tend to be very quiet and even tho it was only early evening when i was on, i got off at 8pm, i felt uncomfortable with so few people on board
a 10rp bus journey cost me 400rp tuktuk daytime and 500 nighttime. this is still peanuts tho. tuk tuk will give you the flexibility to go where you want when you want with ease but make sure you negotiate the price beofre you get in. often the driver speaks reasonable english and will stop for you to take photos and also may tell you about places. if you are female and wanting to buy beer, he (i didnt see any women drivers) this is not the norm and you may feel safre getting your driver to come with you. tuktuk have an amazing capacity for people and baggage! the diesel ones have a bit more room but are noisier and slower. you can get a tuktuk for sevral days to do you a tour and he'll find you accomodation. once youve found a driver you trust its wirth taking his phone number to call him again, especially if you are on your own at night, although i used them alone at night without diffiuclty
negotiate drivers to take you on a trip and make sure they know you want to see things along the way and stop to take photos. i used 4 drivers as i was carrying my own travel stuff and gear for my duaghters wedding
negombo to wattegamma (nr kandy) 95k 6,500 rps 4 hours
wattegamama to induwura via horton plains, nuwaraeliya 250k over 2 days 10,000rps
induruwa to hapitule 182k 10,000rps 5hours
hapitule to negombo 235k 10,000rps 6hours
cost depends not just on distance but also time and condition of roads which are often incredibly slow
ok so not to be recommended but a sole female i met up with stuck her thumb out and was fine.
i was offered a lift in a van with 3 men in haputale, i made my own decision and decided they were safe and jumped in. i was squashed on the front seat with 3 men. this was the best adventure i had, we collected veg to take to the local wholesale market at bandanarella and i ended up going all the way there with them to unload even tho this was not in my plan. it was an extraordinary experience that ill treasure
- Women's Travel
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel