Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

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Kinioo
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Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by Kinioo » Mon Dec 22, 2014 8:00 am

Morning All,

We've just booked our flights to Sri Lanka in March so it is happening...

Its not a motorbike trip (yeah I know) but anyway,

We are going there for two weeks in March.

We will be generally backpacking and here is few questions for you guys:

- what is worth visiting / and what is not;
- any suggestions for nice trips etc.;
- what about cash / cards etc.
- best cheapest / safest ways of transport;
- where to stay overnight / where not;
- what eat / what not;
- what about water - I know tap water is a no no but how easy is to get a bottled water there ?

Probably I'll be back with more questions...but many thanks for any reply / suggestions.

Chris

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The Sarge
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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by The Sarge » Mon Jan 05, 2015 6:39 pm

Chris,
I have been travelling / Surfing in Sri Lanka for the past 14 years and can tell you it is a magical place to travel around. You can hire motorbikes in the tourist trap areas like Hikkaduwa , mostly old and well worn XL500's but other than that it's Bajaj 125's which are like an old Honda CG 125. The roads and standards of driving are horrendous though, make sure you where a helmet despite the locals not doing so, the Police will pull you. Colombo will horrify you on arrival, busy, dirty and dusty but that is it's charm, most people head away from thee ASAP but there are some great places to stay for your first night. Head South to Galle or North to Jaffna, to the mountains of Nurwela and Kandy it's all brilliant, breathtaking and memorable. The train system is an experience, cheap as chips and very reliable, the state buses are mental though, the drivers are mad as hatters and will scare the crap out of you. Sri Lankan Food is amazing, cheap street food like Roti's and local curries are fish based and also very cheap, you can get western but why bother ? Bottle water is a must and available everywhere, the local Lion beer takes some getting used to but is cheap, wine is crap and expensive. You should visit, Adams Peak, Sigirya, and Kandy as a minimum, the North is now open after the Civil War and Trinco is well worth considering. If you want somewhere cheap to rest by the Sea, head for Hikkaduwa and walk the beach opposite the Surf looking for the best rates on rooms, barter barter barter, never pay the first price. The end of March is the start of the Monsoon on the West coast, so rooms become cheaper as the tourists leave. The East coast around Arugam bay has great Surf and is much quieter than Hikkaduwa.

Enjoy.

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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by daytona-supersport » Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:45 pm

Interesting place. I did the posh bit and stayed in hotels, brilliant. Had an interesting moment at one place, whilst swimming in the pool, I went to one of the sides for a breather and about 2 metres away was a flipping big lizard digging up the lawn. Well over a metre long with bloody big claws and drooling. Hmm, I bet he can out swim me. I just backed away nice and slow like. I had seen plenty of lizards in the rivers but this was a biggy. If you're in the south, a stroll up the Lion Rock is worth a visit. Do go to the top and don't wimp out before the final climb to the top, it is worth it.
If you go on the rivers and there is the chance to get your feet cleaned by the fish.
Be warned, The rivers are not clean and some of the fish will try to swallow a complete toe. Greedy so and so. Not worth the bother to try this really.
Most of Colombo is a dump but there are a few nice bits so don't just write it of your places to visit. Check out the pictures on the tourist web sights, lots to see.
When it is hot out there, it is seriously hot. Drink lots.
Only ever bottled water and the beer is fine. Don't get tempted to eat any uncooked food or fruit that is not washed and then peeled, preferable by yourself.
I picked up an E-coli infection in India and believe me, you don't want to try it.
Have a good trip and enjoy yourselves. (thumbs)

jackdaw
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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by jackdaw » Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:58 pm

Have a great trip. Agree with most of what's been said, But
Not sure that monsoon starts in Mar. More like may/June.
Thee further South you go the quieter it gets. Our best beach Marakolloia South of Tangalle


Ella, in the mountains, has a nice village feel and is nearly at the end of the rail line
East Coast is opening up Trinco and Arugam Baay sees tourists, but in other places you will attract attention.
Rice and Curry From cheap and cheerful out of a newspaper wrapper to high end and expensive. Deep fried roti rolls from baker's vans.

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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by The Sarge » Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:35 pm

For clarity, Sri Lanka has 2 Monsoon seasons between the East and the West. They are not as extreme as those found in India, the sea gets quite rough and unsafe to swim, the onshore winds increase making beachside resorts pretty uncomfortable, not to mention most of the B&B's close down leaving the more expensive hotels as the only choice. The Surfers follow the seasons and of course the cheapest accommodation to spend as long as possible for the least amount of money. Most are there from November through to March, between Hikkaduwa and Mirissa. South of Galle, there are some great places to stay, Easy Beach in Ahangama was one of note , not to mention Kabalana, but Midigamma has cheaper places to stay and of course not as salubrious ! The food and hygiene is far higher in budget Sri Lanka than that of budget India and I spent 4 months traveling around there on an Enfield. Just stick to the rules, as mentioned by Jackdaw, fish and shellfish are fine on the coast, most of the chefs have worked abroad, so the range of food is pretty extensive, and well prepared. 2 weeks will give you a taster of the country only, there is much to see and do but I doubt it will be your one and only visit, everybody returns at some point because for value, scenery, culture and experience it's damned hard to beat!

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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by Toe » Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:37 pm

I went to Sri Lanka some years ago now but had an amazing time. A couple of the best things I saw were from friendly locals on the beach asking us to come and check things out, we went (there were 4 of us) where they led us and some some incredible hidden temples and views.
The seafood at some of the beach side restaurants was some of the best I've ever eaten too.

It's also where I learnt that pointy sticks rule the world. Everything from monitor lizards (I was told by the man with said pointy stick it was about 8ft long) to elephants were kept under control with pointy sticks.
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Kinioo
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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by Kinioo » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:24 pm

The Sarge wrote:Chris,
I have been travelling / Surfing in Sri Lanka for the past 14 years and can tell you it is a magical place to travel around. You can hire motorbikes in the tourist trap areas like Hikkaduwa , mostly old and well worn XL500's but other than that it's Bajaj 125's which are like an old Honda CG 125. The roads and standards of driving are horrendous though, make sure you where a helmet despite the locals not doing so, the Police will pull you. Colombo will horrify you on arrival, busy, dirty and dusty but that is it's charm, most people head away from thee ASAP but there are some great places to stay for your first night. Head South to Galle or North to Jaffna, to the mountains of Nurwela and Kandy it's all brilliant, breathtaking and memorable. The train system is an experience, cheap as chips and very reliable, the state buses are mental though, the drivers are mad as hatters and will scare the crap out of you. Sri Lankan Food is amazing, cheap street food like Roti's and local curries are fish based and also very cheap, you can get western but why bother ? Bottle water is a must and available everywhere, the local Lion beer takes some getting used to but is cheap, wine is crap and expensive. You should visit, Adams Peak, Sigirya, and Kandy as a minimum, the North is now open after the Civil War and Trinco is well worth considering. If you want somewhere cheap to rest by the Sea, head for Hikkaduwa and walk the beach opposite the Surf looking for the best rates on rooms, barter barter barter, never pay the first price. The end of March is the start of the Monsoon on the West coast, so rooms become cheaper as the tourists leave. The East coast around Arugam bay has great Surf and is much quieter than Hikkaduwa.

Enjoy.
very helpful - thank you.

I may come back with few more question though...

Chris

jackdaw
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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by jackdaw » Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:00 pm

Some more random thoughts.
ATMs in big towns. If you're going somewhere more remote take cash.

Sri Lanka grows the best tea in the world, but what they serve up in resto's (where the buses stop) is awful. Ask for plain tea.

Buses are the cheapest way to travel. Busses run 24/7 on major routes. Journeys can be long and cramped. You wont always get a seat. Bus drivers are very competitive and drive long hours. Not a good recipe for safety. Your luggage may well end up on the roof. Keep valuables with you.

People are generally very friendly and helpful. On our second motorbike tour the bike broke down on several occasions and we were never short of people willing to help us.

Beggars are usually very poor. There is not much to be had in the way of state benefits. I generally gave (100 rupees)
Cigarettes are relatively expensive. My wife ( a smoker) was often chatted to. After a few pleasantries she would be asked for a fag. No hassle.

Buying stuff from vendors on the beach is usually more expensive. If you really want something they have haggle.

Buy jewellery from long established shops. You can get good deals, but because of the amounts involved you can get stung.

Galle old town has interesting colonial artefacts.

Kinioo
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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by Kinioo » Sat Jan 10, 2015 4:15 pm

Guys, just checking Sri Lanka railway and do I need to book in advance or is it OK to buy tickets there for next day train???

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Re: Sri Lanka - Your thoughts

Post by The Sarge » Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:48 pm

You can buy them on the day,the locals do. Do avoid using tour companies, they are just making a quick buck.

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