At the outset, I would like to declare that Sri Lanka travel tour is definitely worth it for the family. It is is relatively low cost, educational and enjoyable.
I will go over the essential details of our travel tour of Sri Lankan for our Pakistani readers so that you don’t face any difficulty in making arrangements and enjoying the trip.
Our Tour itinerary was Colombo – Sigiriya Rock – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya -Ella – Yala – Galle – Bentota – Colombo.
This Sri Lanka trip for our Pakistani family was in first week of August 2019, for 5 days and four nights. The total bill was Rs 600,000 for four people.
We stayed overnight in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Yala, Bentota only. We missed the cave temple of Dambulla, and Adam’s Peak.
Our hotels were 2-star, clean, neat and good enough.
The only significant money we spend was on Air tickets of Sri Lankan Airlines Lahore- Colombo that is Pak Rs 75000 per person.
E-Visa for Sri Lanka is called ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) and it takes 5 minutes to fill a simple form online. The essential information to fill up this form quickly requires your passport number, address etc. and high resolution pictures soft copy. The ETA arrives through email next day.
Parity of Pak Rupees and Sri Lankan Rupees is almost equal i.e. Pak Rs 165 is equal to LKR Rs 175.
We chose to take off from Lahore because it was more convenient to land in Colombo directly. The other cheap options had a layover in Middle East and that was a waste of time.
In any case, our Daewoo bus arrived in Lahore at a comfortable time and we used Careem Go to take our four bags to the Lahore Airport.
We had about $ 1500 in our pocket and had budgeted to spend $ 1000 during the tour (with four family members travelling total). In the end the total bill, all included was Pak Rs 600,000 i.e. Pak Rs 140,000 per person.
We booked with ‘Tour for Sri Lanka’ and the local sales girl Sonali was very interactive and helpful.
Mr. Kumara +94778447309 is the owner of tours for Sri Lanka and he was accommodating, disciplined and helpful, especially since he has a military background.
Tours of Sri lanka asked for $ 100 advance to book 2-star hotels for us, but after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), it is a nightmare to transfer money abroad.
Tours of Sri lanka asked for a total of $ 600 for four Pakistani adults for 5 days and 4 nights. This included 2-star rooms for the night, complimentary breakfast, driver, air-conditioned hybrid hatchback car, king-coconuts drink, pick and drop from the airport and slight detours on the way to see the odd tourist attraction.
Let the tour operators arrange hotels, because they know how to bring down prices.
For the life of me, I could not transfer money to the company account of Tours for Sri Lanka — it’s just not possible. An individual Pakistani cannot transfer US Dollars to any Sri Lankan company either through money changer or the regular banks. It has to be through credit card or PayPal.
As the losers in PayPal have refused to come to Pakistan, I tried credit card transfer and found that most of the Sri Lankan tour operators don’t have a credit card payment page.
I was about to cancel the tour when Mr. Kumara reluctantly agreed to wait till I land at Bandaranayke Airport Colombo to collect full $ 600 payment.
Many foreigners don’t pay till the last, but as I am used to the Pakistani style of working, I paid upfront and they did not disappoint.
Sri Lankans are not cheaters for once. They are conscientious businessmen and try to speak the truth mostly.
The Sri Lankan Airlines was more or less like Pakistani airlines, with old and rickety aircraft and systems, but the cabin crew was more decent, groomed and helpful. They were a little haughty though, maybe because of the western styled education system.
Lots of Pakistani labor uses the Pakistan – Sri Lanka – Malaysia corridor, so it gets tricky with the staff sometimes.
I think Pakistani government should conduct civics lessons for Pakistani labor on simple things like throwing garbage, carrying oneself, conversing and grooming so that the poor people don’t embarrass themselves and the country.
Our driver / guide was Tushaar; he was a nice dude. He was patient and firm. It helps when you have several people wanting different things and people get cranky in a long journey. I paid Rs 1500 tip every day I traveled with him. Tushaar can be reached at +94728643646 http://www.mangotourssrilanka.com/
Tushaar has good understanding of Buddhism and local legends and mythical stories. He gave me valuable insights on what not to miss next time we visit Sri Lanka.
We designed our flight and travels in such a way that we would get up early, leave by 7 am , travel (snooze in the car), visit our tourist attraction and sleep early. This keeps the circadian rhythm going and there is enough energy throughout the day.
On landing at Sri Lanka early in the morning helped us leave for Sigiriya Rock fort, immediately. Sigiriya Rock Fort people charged us $ 15 per person. This is a must see because it is a UNESCO world heritage site. Don’t forget to claim SAARC concession from them.
We then drove to Kandy as we had to attend the Kandy Perahera festival at night it cost us LKR Rs 8500 per person.
The Kandy Perahera Festival started at 9 pm and was still on at 12 pm when we left to retire for the day. Don’t miss this festival. Everyone talks about Kandy Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka and is in their collective religious psyche. It’s refreshingly nice too.
In the morning we left for Nuwara Eliya at 8 am, stopping briefly at a city view spot of Kandy in the surrounding mountain. We got a glimpse of Buddha tooth relic temple too. People spend money to go inside the temple – we didn’t as there are so many beautiful temples along the way. A huge tea factory owned and operated by Muslims come up along the way. This 100-years old factory and its range of tea products was a good lesson in cash crop farming.
We also stopped at the Shri Bhakta Hanuman Temple, Nuwara Eliya where it is said the legendary Hindu God stayed at several thousands of years ago. I would love to stay there with huge water falls, green mountains, drizzling clouds and three fresh water lakes ahead.
Nuwara Eliya is a hill resort. We stopped at the Gregory Lake inside Nuwara Eliya to see some power boating going on. It is called little England because of its well preserved colonial architecture.
Seeing the beauty of the green and chilly Nuwara Eliya hill resort, I can understand why English didn’t leave Sri Lanka till 1948 — they wanted to enjoy another summer there.
Early next morning we drove along the scenic Nuwara Eliya to Nanu Oya railway station road and stopped at a local tea plantation. We walked along the green perfectly aligned tea plants and enjoyed the low clouds over the mountains.
Nanu Oya – Ella train has to be booked pre hand a month before or else you land in the third class compartment like us and don’t get to see the scenery outside. This is the most picturesque stretch of railway track.
At Ella, we had our guide waiting with the car. We could only do one activity with the available time, so we chose zip line at Ella. There is also the Little Adam’s Peak and Colonial bridge hike that is simple and very fun.
Moving from Ella to Yala, we saw beautiful water falls, bigger than what we have in Pakistan.
Further ahead comes Yala town. We slept overnight at our hotel and left early at the crack of dawn with our packed breakfast to see the big-3 animals at the Yala Safari. I got to see the elephants, birds, crocodiles, lizards, and one leopard. They charged us $ 55 per person. We also managed to see the sight where two dozen foreigners died in the tsunami of 2004. There is a monument that shows how high the three devastating waves come crashing into foreigners sitting in the local canteen.
It was a little hot and got a little boring at the end.
From Yala we drove on to Bentota. I stopped and walked around several temples of Buddhists and Hindus and attended their religious ceremonies. It was refreshingly different.
We also stopped at Galle Dutch fort and enjoyed walking into a town that still looks like a European colony. It still has 65 Muslim families residing inside it.
At Bentota, we went on a river delta safari into the salt water mangroves and the temples on islands. Here we saw the replica of the ‘Starving Buddha’ of the Theravada Buddhism that was brought to Sri Lanka by the Son of Asoka, Mahindra, from the region that is now Pakistan.
Unfortunately no one told us that during monsoon season, the river along the west coast is rough and the east coast is calm. I wanted to do snorkeling and water sports at Hikkaduwa.
There is also whale and dolphin watch at Marissa.
Schedule your water sports and whale watch during calm waters in the west coast November to April.
After staying at Bentota, we then drove to Colombo to buy souvenirs from the government shops and ate at a local Indian restaurant. Their biryani tastes exactly like ours.
Then we flew out on Sri Lankan Airlines, hopped on Daewoo bus at Kalma Chowk and reached Rawalpindi early in the morning, next day.
A few Don’ts of the trip:
- Don’t forget to check out at 1200 am every day or else it becomes a sore point.
- Don’t litter the place, Sri Lankans don’t like garbage.
- Don’t talk sh*t about any religion. They think you are ignorant.
- Don’t bring sandy feet into the car or hotel.
- Don’t be overly Muslim — they are scared due to the recent bombings. Even the Muslims there are cowered down.
- Do haggle where required, otherwise, Sri Lankans have fixed prices at various spots.
- There is no official night life in Sri Lanka, except may be in Colombo
- There are no official escort service available, so don’t even ask.
- The coconut tree sap extract is fermented, so it is intoxicating.