Mobile phones
Getting around

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 -> Galle
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 like.

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 developed countries.


No problems in Sri Lanka (except for the crazy traffic). It's a safe and stable country.

Getting around

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 (35 LKR/Km).
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

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 -> Kandy
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). Quite long 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 9:45am.

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 Eliya
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. The hotel 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 security check, 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 passes 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 -> Udawalawe national park
Udawalawe 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.
Weather: 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 traveller hotspot.

Since it's late, I just skip lunch and drive straight to the national park.

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 park.

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 -> Galle
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.
Weather: 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. Nice scenery 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 dinner there.

14.8: Galle -> Colombo
Airport 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 here.
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 temple 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 at 4:45pm.

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 government.

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 hotel.

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 conditions.

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 Khaosan road.
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 airport.

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 front of mine, because the seat is narrow. Probably it's a plane set up for short people.

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).

Continues with the Thailand 2019 travelogue

Copyright 2020 Alfred Molon