That is a place which makes you sense things in a different way! Travelers recognized Sri Lanka as the top vacation spot of 2018, and there is no doubt if it is true. Sandy beaches, warm ocean waves, and wild nature usually attract millions of visitors with different budgets and contrasting purposes.
Sri Lanka is one of the most unusual experiences we’ve got so far. But about it a bit later. Package tours to Sri Lanka Island sounds like a good idea for family vacation, indeed! However, we came up with own idea on how to explore the country. And of course, we started with Colombo.
How to choose destination for the unforgettable trip?
We base our strategy on what we want to see, eat, and what type of weather (which is crucial for us, sunny lovers) we prefer. Second, we sort the countries on how safe/unsafe they are through the Travel State Advisor.
Certainly, a matter of money plays a very important role, therefore we properly calculate and agree on how much we plan to spend. Third, what is the duration, and how easy/hard to get vacation approved 🙂 Such details as flight duration, number of layovers or waiting hours in the airport, airline name fall under the category of “second” importance.
All in all, we spent 10 incredible days traveling, moving, almost backpacking within the country. My huge advice is not to stay at the same place for the whole time. It is super easy and safe to explore things around not only hotel but also around the town. Ten tuk-tuks will be waiting next to the hotel. Just waving a hand will be enough to get on it and go. You will be able to notice that lots of tuk-tuk drivers have their “tours” ready during which they will take you to the most significant and visited spots in the city.
Flight to Colombo, the biggest city in Sri Lanka Island
I flew to Dubai, then to Colombo. All in all, 11 hours of flight with 2 hours layover in Dubai.
Now be careful about Dubai airport!
Once you get off the plane and enter the terminal, there will be a person who shows the direction to those who have a connecting flight. Depending on which terminal you land at or which you have a connecting flight from, there is a chance you will need to get the transfer. However, terminals are huge. That’s why “May I help you” stuff is all over the terminal, almost on every corner.
My personal opinion about the airport is quite controversial. According to the official website, there are 3 terminals + 1 additional (Dubai World Central (DWC). Now attention: if you land in terminal 2 and your connecting flight is from terminal 2, you are not allowed to go to any other terminal! Even contacting Dubai airport help desk didn’t explain the reason behind it. On top of that, there are trains between terminal 1 and 3 only! Moving between terminals is a pain as well, I had to go through security three times. This feeling of discrimination and being “third type” is absolutely visible there!
The airline which matched our timeline was
The plan for the trip was following:
2 nights in Colombo – 3 nights in Kandy – 3 nights in Dambulla – 4 nights in Colombo
Whenever you take a flight to Colombo (the capital), you will actually land in Katunayake area, located in a suburb of Negombo, 20 miles (32.5 km) north of the commercial capital Colombo. For this reason, guests should either book hotel transfer, or order taxi, get on tuk-tuk or the easiest option is to guess what 😀 of course Uber. Don’t get confused as Uber Sri Lanka offers you Tuktuk as an option as well.
One of the most logical tips to share – buy a sim card. It may help to make life easier.
The local currency is Sri Lankan rupee, as xe.com says for 10 USD will be equal 1800 LKR.
After getting on Uber (budget bag option), we started our trip which took around 40-50 mins. Entering Colombo can be a bit stressful even for the passenger. First of all, no one follows the rules, drivers keep the speed quite high even when crossing the street, saying “crossing” means driving on the red light. Because of narrow sidewalks, people have to jump on the road. A diversity of vehicles and pedestrians makes the traffic a complete mess.
Colombo is a big never-sleeping city where the population is more than 5.5 mln people. That’s why the variety of hotels is wide as well. We made our final decision to spend the first 2 nights in The Ocean Front Hotel which is right next to the ocean. It won’t impress you by its appearance, but by helpful and smiley personnel.
Great fresh breakfast, super simple colonial style of the room, beautiful harmonious view on water changed our first feeling. However, there is a very important detail to bear mind while booking a hotel in Colombo. There is a train route all the way from the north to the south of the country which actually goes through the capital as well. The logic railway was constructed is somehow unique, as it crosses the city and is located ridiculously close to the beach. Unfortunately, The Ocean Front is located 20 meters away from the railway path. It may get quite loud but because we were so tired every day, we did not hear anything during the night.
You can see a map of railway system operating in Sri Lanka.
What to see in Colombo
Sri Lanka is the country of a few religions like Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. The main religion remains Buddhism covering over 70% of the population.
On account of that, Colombo presents various experiences: visiting unique mosques, walking barefoot in Buddhist temples, having a break in gem store etc.
Seema Malaka Temple – small tiny one located in the heart of the city park, this temple has a perfect combination of peace and religion. As any other Buddhist place, it requires respect from visitors ( no shoes, covered shoulders).
Gangaramaya Temple – so-called “mother” temple gives an impression of a holy place with a lot of reliques along with gifts from foreign governments (Buddha statue made of ivory from India etc)
Temple of Sri Kailasanathar Swami Devasthanam Kovil is a hidden treasure behind the Colombo Fort Railway station. Combination of medley colors, gods portrayed from different angles with different facial expression, birds singing and praising life – all of these small pieces match the main puzzle, named Sri Kailasanathar Swami Devasthanam Kovil. Visiting time is from 6 am to 10 am and then 5 pm to 9 pm on all days. Tourist will need to buy an entry ticket (around 200-300 LRK).
Few more pictures from Colombo
Places where we had lunch and dinner:
- The Lagoon has a great variety of seafood.
2. Palmyrah Restaurant is in one of the hotel close to The Ocean Front. Very touristic full of non-local visitors, this place serves “mild” dishes along with decent wine. The price is a bit higher in comparison to other venues but it’s worth the money.