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My partner and I are going travelling in Sri Lanka in November for two weeks and I'm trying to plan a trip. I have a few specific questions about travel but would appreciate any tips or suggestions or any good experiences you've had.

We'd like to have each of the following:

  • Hiking in the jungle
  • See some wildlife, e.g. leopards and flamingos
  • visit a tea estate
  • Stay on the beach and swim in the sea and eat the food.

So, at the moment I'm thinking of this:

  • arrive and go to Negumbo for a couple of nights to acclimatise
  • get a taxi to Kandy and spend a couple of days exploring the city. Maybe take a guided jungle tour
  • go south to Ella and from here explore the various natural formations, e.g. Ella Gap, World's End.
  • Go south to Yala and take a safari
  • Go to the coast and stay at one of the more isolated and quiet beach resorts.
  • Back to the airport, probably by taxi

We're thinking of doing all this by taxi or small coaches. I've tried to plan this so there are few long trips by car.

Some questions:

  • is taxi a reliable way to travel? Is it easy to get drivers at this time of year and between these places?
  • considering we only have two weeks, any obvious omissions?
  • any hotel recommendations?

All suggestions, tips welcome!

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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I am American, but have lived in Sri Lanka for the past 9 years (my wife is Sri Lankan), so I can offer a bit of advice based on my time here.

First, a recommendation for Negombo: depending on your budget, Ranweli Holiday Village, which is about 15 minutes north of Negombo is great. I've stayed there several times over the years and always enjoyed it. Private beach, food is good, and all rooms are separate bungalows. And you are sandwiched between a river and the ocean, so you have to ride a little ferry to get to the hotel!

If you are going to Kandy, you might want to visit the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. It's getting a little pricey now (around $20), but if you like to see lots of elephants up close this is a good place.

I would also visit Sigiriya, which is a few hours north of Kandy. It's one of the more amazing things to see in Sri Lanka. You could do this as a day trip from Kandy, or go and stay near it.

If you are going to visit World's End, you would want to probably stay in Nuwara Eliya instead of Ella, since it's closer. Honestly, now that they've started charging more from foreigners at World's End I'm not sure it's worth it anymore. So if you are pressed for time I would skip it.

Speaking of Nuwara Eliya, a great place to stay (though pretty expensive these days) is the Tea Factory Hotel. It's way out in the middle of a working tea estate and is built in a renovated tea factory. They've recently upgraded the rooms and common areas and it's 4-star now, I think. As long as it's not too cloudy you have some great views from your room and there is hiking, etc available in the surrounding area. They even have their own little mini-tea factory that you can visit to learn about how tea is prepared.

I have not been to Yala or spent much time down south, so I can't really recommend much there. Mirissa is a nice, little beach in that area.

As for getting around in Sri Lanka, the easiest is of course to get a car and driver. You can easily get one to stay with you the whole trip, if you want, and have complete freedom of movement. A good guide/driver can help you to really experience the local things. I can recommend this guy as a reliable choice -- we use him and his drivers whenever people come to visit us.

Hope this helps.

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Thank you for the great advice and links! We might be able to splash out on those hotels for a few nights and the driver recommendation is gold. –  David Aug 25 '11 at 18:55
    
It's really nice to see someone commenting about Sri Lanka :) I am a local and I am ashamed I haven't visited as much as you have! Anyway, for Wild Life, I recommend both Yala and Wilpattu. I know I am too late for David but if you are visiting World's End, definitely visit the Baker's Falls. It's simply fantastic! And right on about Sigiriya! A must see for any foreigner :) –  Ranhiru Cooray Dec 30 '11 at 7:40
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I'm researching a similar trip so this answer is based on looking on the Internet rather than actual experience.

You might like to consider catching a train from Colombo to Kandy. There is the expensive Expo Rail or you could buy a cheaper ticket on a standard train. There is allegedly an observation carriage.

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There is an observation car, but it's first class and gets booked up in advance! You get pretty good views from second class, so don't let the lack of 1st class tickets stop you. Seat61 has information on the train –  Gagravarr Apr 5 '13 at 7:31
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