Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Udawalawe NP, Galle, Colombo
9.8: Munich -> Dubai
10.8: Dubai -> Colombo -> Kandy
11.8: Kandy -> Nuwara Eliya
12.8: Nuwara Eliya -> Udawalawe national park
13.8: Udawalawe national park -> Tangalle
14.8: Galle -> Colombo
15.8: Colombo -> Bangkok
Planning and overall impression
The was a short
five days stopover trip to Sri Lanka, on my way from Germany to
southeast Asia. I had to be in Bangkok on August 15th which limited my
time in Sri Lanka to just four full days.
The idea was to do a look in the south of the island touching Kandy and
then turning south and then back to Colombo. Initially I was thinking
of taking a rest in Colombo after arriving from Munich via Dubai, but
it turned out that there was no time and in fact I would have to get
further and spend the night in Kandy on August 10th.
Everything went as planned, but clearly I could have spent much more
time exploring the area. Especially the mountains and tea estates were
interesting. My itinerary didn't cover too much in terms of
history/culture, but I guess elsewhere in Sri Lanka there are enough
historic sites and temples. Driving was a rented car was a bit of a
challenge, because the not so good roads and the difficult traffic
conditions in Sri Lanka.
Costs weren't high, but not very low either (hotel rooms for instance
were in the 30-40 Euro/night range). Something to be aware of is that
in some places foreigners pay much more to get in than Sri Lankans. In
one place for instance, the ticket for foreigners costs 20 times what
Sri Lankans pay
Except for one case (in the Udawalawe NP) the local food which I found
was not very good. In Galle I ate twice in a Chinese restaurant. Part
of the problem was that I was travelling in low season when many
restaurants are closed, didn't know where the good restaurants were and
generally speaking didn't have too much time to spend in restaurants.
But I'd guess that good food in Sri Lanka exists, although it may not
be easy to find.
The hotels I chose (via the international booking portals) were all
quite good and not expensive. Essentially these booking portals allow
you to chose a hotel with good reviews and exactly how the room looks
Money / Exchange rate (August 2019)
1 Euro = 197-200 LRK (Sri Lankan rupees)
Mobile phones and prepaid cards
I bought a SIM card from Dialog at the airport in Colombo paying 1300 LRK for 10GB data and 650 LRK of international calls
(12-18 LKR/min). Coverage in general was good, except for some spots in the highlands.
Despite travelling in the rainy season, the weather wasn't too bad and
in fact it rained just 1-2 days. There was more rain up in the
highlands. Tropically hot in plains and along the coast, quite fresh in
the mountains at altitude.
Health / Vaccinations
Probably the usual set
of tropical immunisations are needed. I say probably because for the
five days spent in Sri Lanka I didn't bother to refresh my vaccinations.
VISA / Entry requirements
Free VISA on arrival for EU nationals and nationals of several other
No problems in Sri Lanka (except for the crazy traffic). It's a safe and stable country.
Because the trip was ambitious and time was limited, I rented a car and
used that to get around. Driving is doable, but you have to be very
careful when on the roads, because traffic is erratic and surprises can
happen at any time.
I emailed a number of car rentals and in the end rented the car with
Malkey Rent-A-Car in Colombo airport. The car was a Suzuki Alto and the
cost (including full insurance and the driver between Colombo and
Kandy) was 23400 LKR. The car rental fee included only 400km so I had
to pay something when returning the car because I drove 787km in total
The car rental took care of the endorsement (some kind of
9.8: Munich -> Dubai
Hotel: night spent on the plane
Weather: hot summer evening in Munich; hot and
humid in Dubai
- The Udawalawe national park: lots of interesting wildlife in a nice scenery
- The highlands area south of Kandy with the tea estates
- Galle: a very nice colonial era city with many historical buildings in an old coastal fortress setting
Leaving home around 6pm I reach the airport around 7:40pm. There is not
too much queue. After checking in I have some fast food at a
McDonalds, then rush to the gate. At 9pm I queue up at the
security check and around 9:30pm I reach the gate.
The Emirates plane (an A380) takes off around 11pm with a short delay.
I manage to get some sleep, but not too much.
We land around 6am in Dubai.
10.8: Dubai -> Colombo
Hotel Sarvodaya Samma Vaasa Residence, Kandy. 32.40
USD for a room wiith fan, A/C, small cupboard, table+chair, telephone,
attached toilet with shower. Good soft bed, but only with one sheet
(have to ask for one blanket).
Weather: hot and steamy in Dubai
After going through security I walk to the gate (B22).
walk. Food in Dubai airport is expensive, also due to the bad exchange
rate (1 Euro = 4.15 AED). 45 AED for a burger meal for instance.
I kill the time waiting for my connecting flight by processing some
images on the computer. The flight to Colombo is scheduled to depart at
It's a Boeing 777 plane, smaller than the A380. This first flies to
Male and after a stop of 1:30 hours continues to Colombo.
Almost everybody gets
out of the plane in Male. But surprisingly the plane fills again
completely with passengers flying from Male to Colombo.
The plane takes off a bit after 5pm local time and touches down in
Colombo at 6:25pm (we get out of the plane at 6:40pm). Things then are
quite fast: I proceed through passport control (no queues, but a guy
asks for a visa which I don't have and actually don't need).
By 7:10pm I have reached the arrivals area, got cash from an ATM, a SIM
card for my phone (Dialog: 1300 LRK, 10GB data, 650 LRK int calls
(12-18 LKR/min)) and met my driver. 7 minutes later we are in the car
and drive to the office of the car rental.
By 7:45pm everything is settled and we start driving towards Kandy,
arriving at 10:50pm.
11.8: Kandy -> Nuwara
Huddle hotel, Nuwara Eliya. 5961 LKR for a nice
room with cupboard, phone, LCD TV, small table with chair, tea making
equipment, cupboard, free fast Internet. My room
is on the main street
and very noisy. It's also cold: at night I have 18°C in the room
(and 77% humidity).
Weather: mostly overcast, every now and then some
patches of blue sky and some rain. It rains several times, most times
lightly and only for a few minutes each time. It's sufficient to carry
an umbrella. Quite fresh in the evening in Nuwara Eliya (lowest
temperature is 13°C).
In the morning I check out at 10am.
is in walking distance of the attractions of Kandy, so I spend a few
hours walking around.
At first I run into the pilgrims who are walking to the sacred tooth
temple. This seems to be the major attraction of Kandy, because the
other sights are not terribly impressive. You have to go through a
then buy a ticket for 1500
LKR (locals probably pay
peanuts) and finally take off your shoes.
The temple is kind of nice, but not terribly photogenic. Not so many
large open spaces, interesting architecture etc. Inside it is very
crowded. Especially the staircase which leads to the actual relic is
full of people.
I spend less than one hour in this temple, then get out and walk into
town. Kandy is kind of nice, with some colonial era buildings, pleasant
surroundings and lots of life and colours.
At 11:30am, since I had no breakfast this morning, I walk into a
cafe/restaurant which looks promising. There I order a fresh pineapple
juice and a chicken sandwich
(before ordering it I ask if
it is hot,
and they say it's not). When the food arrives, the juice is heavily
diluted with water and the sandwich is so spicy that I only manage to
eat a small part of it. In addition, the chicken inside consists of
very small pieces of very hard chicken meat.
Around 12pm I get out again and continue exploring Kandy.
There is an
elephant in the Sri Maha Kataragama Devalaya temple. I check a bit the
lake area. There is a waterfront on which you can walk for a couple
hundred metres along the lake.
There are three temples next to each other on the other side of the
lake, but apparently you can't go in.
The Royal park (100 LKR
ticket) is small and unimpressive, but there
are some good views of the lake.
Around 2:30pm I take the car and drive to the botanical gardens in
Peradeniya (the hotel staff suggested them). They are 8km from Kandy,
on the road to Nuwara Eliya.
It takes some effort to find a parking. In
the end I don't go in because the ticket is expensive (2000 LKR) and
the gardens don't look so interesting. But also because locals pay only
100 LKR. Why should foreigners pay 20 times what a Sri Lankan pays?
Then I continue driving to Nuwara Eliya. The road is good and
through some very nice scenery (mountains, forests, tea plantations).
The big problem is that it is a road full of narrow curves and there is
always some very slow thing which can't be overtaken (unless you are
willing to take risks or violate traffic rules).
For instance often
there are rikshaws (not sure why these drive out of towns), trucks and
slow buses. Especially buses are very slow.
In addition, the traffic situation is unpredictable.
It can for
instance always happen that behind a curve a car is stopping on the
road, that people walk on the street or cross the street. Or that there
are roadblocks, and cars or buses coming from the opposite side.
Since we gain altitude, at some point it gets quite foggy, i.e.
visibility is poor. In the end I reach the hotel at 6:02 pm.
In the evening I have some food in a restaurant (again some poor
quality and very spicy meal) and explore a bit Nuwara Eliya.
12.8: Nuwara Eliya ->
Wildlife & Nature Protection Bungalow, 33 USD for a rather basic
room with two beds, no other furniture, fan (no A/C), attached simple
toilet with shower (cold water only). The good thing
about this place
is its location, not far from the entrance to the Udawalawe national
park and the service. Friendly staff, who serve a good dinner and
arrange a jeep for the safari for me.
heavy rain and fog in the morning in Nuwara Eliya. The weather improves
the more we descend from the mountains. Dry late afternoon in the
Udawalawe national park (sunny with lots of clouds).
At 10am I check out and start driving towards the Udawalawe national
park. The idea would be to stop in Ella for lunch, then continue
driving and arrive as early as possible in the Udawalawe national park.
Well, because Google Maps this morning malfunctions I end up driving in
the wrong direction. After 10 minutes I turn back, but later I miss a
road because Google Maps claims that it has lost the GPS connection.
I switch to the Maps.me
navigation app (Here won't work here in Sri
Lanka) and use that for a while, then use again Google Maps which
suddenly starts working again.
I lose quite some time (arrive in Ella after 1pm) but on the plus side
I see a lot of interesting tea real estates and rural life. Probably no
traveller visits these places.
When passing through Ella I see many foreign travellers. Must be a
Since it's late, I just skip lunch and drive straight to the national
The last 80-90 km are in the plains, on mostly straight roads with not
so much traffic. There I manage to drive 70 km/h (the speed limit).
Around 3:30pm I'm at the park
checkpoint. Turns out that booking.com
have the wrong address of my hotel and in fact my hotel is not inside
the national park. Some park staff guides me to the hotel.
There I check in and arrange a car for the safari trip (cost is 3500
LKR for a two hours trip).
At 4pm we start driving to the national park.
Park visitors must buy an
entrance ticket (foreigners pay 5025 LKR, very expensive, locals
probably pay a small fraction of that). Then we start driving into the
There is a late afternoon sun and the park is beautiful. We immediately
run into a group of elephants, who are having some fun rubbing their
proboscises. We continue driving and see some other animals (peacocks,
a crocodile water buffaloes, several bird species, a mongoose).
Around 6pm we are out again and drive to the hotel. In the evening I
have a dinner in the hotel (best food I have had so far in Sri Lanka).
13.8: Udawalawe national
park -> Tangalle
Sam Villa hotel, Galle. 28 USD for a nice big room
with adjustable A/C, some furniture (table+chair, TV, fridge, big
mirror wirh drawers, extra chair), soft bed, fan, free WLAN. Good
location in the centre of the historic core.
a lot of rain today. It's fine until
11am, then it starts raining and it will continue raining with small
interruptions, more or less heavily until 5pm. In the evening it's dry.
I check out at 10am, then drive to a service station where I add some
air to the front tyre. Then I continue driving towards Tangalle. The
road is a mix of faster road and small narrow rural road.
of rice fields along the way.
With a few stops along the way I reach the Dutch fort area in Tangallle
at 11:45am. It's still raining heavily, so I wait a while in the car.
Then I get out and have a look at the area. There is a naval base and a
beach, otherwise not much. So I get back to the car and drive a bit
further north, to the larger beach.
I can't seem to find a nice
big waterfront area along the beach with a
promenade, restaurants and shops (i.e. what you would find in a
European beach area). The entire coastal area is sort of locked by
residential areas and areas with small narrow road. No such things as a
big road running parallel to the beach, like a Corniche.
There are also few tourists and travellers here. Some restaurants are
even closed. In the end I find a restaurant where I have some lunch.
After lunch I continue driving, this time to Galle. The last part of
the road is a motorway with a 100 km/h speed limit. What a change after
days spent on narrow roads at 20km/h, with crazy traffic. I speed
up and drive at 100km/h, overtaking everybody on this motorway, except
for a big bus which also is travelling at 100km/h.
I'm at the hotel in Galle at 3:40pm.
The rest of the day is spent having a look at Galle. The historical
core is a huge historical place with plenty of colonial era
architecture. Lots of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, cafes, souvenir
shops. Lots of tourists, many from China.
Somehow Galle looks a bit like Melaka. The historical area is walled
and the walls extend to the sea.
In the evening I discover a Chinese dumplings restaurant and have
14.8: Galle -> Colombo
Zen resort, near the international airport
of Colombo. 44 USD for a stylish big room (brick walls) with adjustable
A/C, fridge, soft bed, LCD TV, plenty of sockets, attached bathroom
with shower. A table but no chair, cupboard for the clothes. This place
is about 2-3km from the airport, offers a shuttle service to the
airport and has a pool. It's immersed in the nature and has a
restaurant. Very nice environment, you could even spend some holidays
Weather: sunny the whole day, blue sky with
clouds. No rain the whole day.
In the morning I check out at 10am, then spend about an hour and a half
(until 11:45am) to explore the historic core of Galle. Not so much
time, because the historic core is small anyway and I partly already
visited it yesterday. Under the sunlight the historic core looks very
nice and photogenic.
Then I have some drinks, again the dumplings I had yesterday and
take a rest.
Around 1pm I start driving towards Colombo.
Very quickly I reach the
motorway and the motorway lasts until the last 15km before my
destination, which is the Seema Malakaya Buddhist temple.
I arrive there at 3pm and quickly manage to find a parking in a side
road next to the Colombo City Centre mall. This temple is a very cute
on a lake, nicely decorated in a beautiful setting (ticket: 300 LKR).
After half an hour in the
temple, I walk into the Colombo City Centre
mall. From the outside this mall is stylish, but inside it is quite
unimpressive. However there is a food court on the fourth floor, where
I have some lunch.
At 4:20pm I start driving the historic core of Colombo, arriving there
The entire old fort area in the island is closed for tourists (some
kind of government area).
What else is left is not
terribly impressive, as if it has been neglected by the local
Colombo has potential, if they clean up the place and restore the old
buildings (and open everything for tourists). But right now Colombo is
perhaps one of the ugliest capitals in the world.
I don't spend too much time in Colombo. I just drive to the Lotus tower
(sort of a big TV tower, shaped like a lotus flower), then to the
In the evening I return the car to the car rental. I have driven 787km
in four days on Sri Lankan roads, with crazy traffic and road
15.8: Colombo -> Bangkok
Paragon One Residence hotel, Bangkok. 800 Baht for
a room with adjustable A/C, table+chair, cupboard for clothes, phone,
free WLAN, fridge and a bench. Two star place in walking distance from
Weather: milky blue sky, lightly overcast in the
morning in Colombo. Very hot in Bangkok, no rain.
I wake up early and at 8am wait for the shuttle to the airport. This
finally arrives at 8:15am (a small Citroen car). By 8:30am I'm at the
Initial security check with an X-ray scanner when getting into the
airport building, followed by a second X-ray scan before being allowed
to get into the check-in area. Check-in is relatively fast (short
queue), same for the passport control. Final security check before
getting to the gate (very thorough, I have to take out belt and shoes).
The airport is a bit oldish and in the gates area there is no cafe or
restaurant where to have some breakfast (I eat the cookies I have left
over from the Udawalawe NP).
By 9:15am I'm at the gate. Some waiting time, then we board the
plane. It's an old B737-800, very cramped. My knees hit the seat in
mine, because the seat is narrow. Probably it's a plane set up for
The flight takes off 5 minutes early at 10:25am. Seems to be a budget
airline, because on board they sell meals (Thai cash only).
The plane lands early in the Don
Muang airport of Bankok at 3:25pm.
Then there is a bus transfer to the terminal and it's about 4pm when I
finally queue up at the passport check counter.
Huge queue and very long waiting time. It takes one hour to go through
passport control. There are not enough counters and people work slowly.
Then I get a SIM card from DTAC
for 170 Baht (unliimited Internet for 5
days, but max 1 MBit/s speed; 15 Baht of calls included (1 Baht/minute).
Finally I queue up for a taxi at the exit 8 at 5:25pm. The taxi trip
costs 500 Baht for the taxi + 120 Baht for the tolls. Shirley only paid
300 + 120 Baht for the same trip. Perhaps my taxi tuned the meter.
In the evening we go to Khaosan road for dinner. Then I book a car for
the trip to the Erawan national park (using Europcar; an SUV for about
140 Euro for three days).
Copyright 2020 Alfred Molon