Will be helpful if you’re evaluating a possible trip to Srilanka
Q1: What about VISA?
30 Day tourist visa will be given free of cost on Arrival for Indian passport holders. We didn’t have any issues on this front.
For other nationalities, you have to have a valid visa prior to the trip. Sri Lankan Immigration introduced ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) in 2012 in order to facilitate tourist to obtain the visa. As soon as you have access to internet and credit card, you are able to get one, so you do not need to visit the local embassy anymore. ETA is issued with 6 month validity and you can stay up to 30 days from date of entry. For more information, please visit Srilankavisa.org.
Q2: What prompted you to go on this trip?
Multiple factors: Low return fares offered by Spicejet (just about INR 4k for return ticket), Visa on Arrival, Highly convenient flight timings- we could start on Friday night, return on Monday morning, making full use of 48 hours weekend. We figured out that entire trip can be achieved in less than INR 10k per person, cheaper than most of the domestic destinations.
Q3: Were 2 days enough? Why didn’t you take few days leave and have a longer trip?
2 days were certainly not enough, as SriLanka has several places of tourist interest. But then, getting leave together for a group of friends was difficult and unlike other international tours where first and last days are spent on nothing but air travel, we could make full use of 48 hours weekend to explore SL. For us this was more of an experiential travel- we just got some basic insights into Srilankan culture, cities and so on and can always make another weekend trip in near future if felt necessary.(when we take leave, value of one day salary also need to be factored)
Q4: How much did it cost for travel, stay, food etc?
We spent little less than INR 1000 per person ex-Chennai, all inclusive. Here’s the breakup: INR 4008 on air ticket (ex-chennai), INR 2000 on Day 1 cab rental, INR 1000 on hotel rent, another INR 2000-3000 was spent on food, local travel, airport transfer in Chennai, entry and camera fees etc (Above cost is average per person expense for a group of 6, staying at a budget hotel)
Q5: What about currency conversion rate? Where did you convert? How much does it cost?
I wasn’t involved in this much- Few other team members took care. But to give an idea, when we converted INR 12500 to US $ first and then converted US$ to LKR, we got little less than 30000 LKR. Effectively, we got about 240 Sri Lankan rupee for every 100 Indian rupee. Sandeep used his Prepaid Travel Card. Currency conversion can be done at forex counters in airport or money exchangers in city.
Q6: How did you travel?
For Day 1 we’d booked a 9 seater Toyota Hiace minivan from Malkeys, Srilanka’s most popular car rental agency. Their rate was LKR 4500 for 8 hours/100kms, thereafter LKR 45per km and LKR 80 per hour, some additional charges for airport parking, entry fee, out of Colombo fee, 15% tax etc
On day 1 we travelled about 400 kms- from Airport to Kandy to Nuvara elia back to Negombo via Kandy. Since rental companies charge garage to garage, total usage was about 480 kms (Colombo to airport & Negombo to Colombo included): This bill came to about LKR 27500
For Day 2 we used trains, tuk tuks (rikshaws) and buses. As we had only local travel and got help from Praveen’s friend who’s Colombo based, we could easily manage.
Q7: Language problem: Are you able to manage?
Local people were very helpful. Main language is Sinhalese, but If you know Tamil, it is highly manageable, coz you’re likely to find at least one tamil speaking guy to every 3-4 who don’t. English works fine with good number of people who readily offer assistance (like directions etc), but may not work with auto drivers and other vendors. An auto driver demanded LKR 1000 for a 3km ride, when we spoke in Tamil and made him understand that it doesn’t cost more than Rs 50 per km, his charges came down to sensible levels (LKR 200). During Day 1 we sort of managed with our van driver who knew just fine English, for day 2 we managed with Tamil, English and later with the help of local friend.
Q8 What all the places you people covered in 2 days?
Day 1: Kandy (tooth temple, city view point, royal palace, museum), Nuwara Eliya (waterfalls, tea plantation and tea factory), back to Negombo (400 kms drive through hill station and cities)
Day 2: Negombo (Beach, Dutch Fot, fish market (closed), church), train to Colombo (Museum, Twin towers, Whitehouse. Beach and Pettah Market in Colombo)
Q9: How was the trip overall?
It was good. By and large the places were similar to India, except minor differences. Whatever we could cover in 2 days we did, within our stipulated budget
Q10: What’s good, what’s bad and what’s ugly?
Good: Cities are much cleaner, food, travel and stay at affordable cost, transport made easy with tuk tuks and buses, friendly VISA policy, cloths are cheaper, friendly people
Bad: Trains are slow and unreliable, newspapers relatively expensive, petrol n diesel cost same as in India,
Ugly: Finding vegetarian food is big trouble. Veg fried rice is the only sensible thing one can find for lunch and dinner, apart from rice and daal, if available. Non vegetarians will not have any problem. Also be aware of Full Moon Day celebrations
Disclaimer: All the above information are based on just 2 days of observation. Needn’t necessarily be accurate or valid all the time and can’t be your ultimate travel guide to Srilanka. Individual perspectives and preferences may vary. Please do cross check with other sources and use your judgment.
This should answer most of your immediate queries, standby for detailed posts.
Updates: Read Srilankan Trip Travelogue Part 1 * Ramboda Falls * Sunday Newspapers in SriLanka *