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Anyone been to Sri Lanka lately?

 
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simpleminds



Joined: 04 May 2006

PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:34 am    Post subject: Anyone been to Sri Lanka lately? Reply with quote

I'd like to know what your experience was regarding safety and transport, and, of course, of places there. I'd like to visit places as far north as Kalpitiya and south as far as Galle. I'd also like to pay Kandy and the Wilpatta National Park a visit. Is traveling by rail feasible? Any tour companies to go with? I prefer not to go on a tour, though. I don't like being rushed.

I'm female, and will travel alone.

Also, what's the standard airfare to Sri Lanka?

I also want to go to Doha for the tennis, since I nae been to the Middle East before. Two birds with one stone, but Doha/ Dubai isn't enough for two months, and much of the Middle East (Isrea l/ Syria) is dodgy at the mo. So, from K Land to Sri Lanka, to the Middle East and back is on the agenda.

Thanks in advance!
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valkerie



Joined: 02 Mar 2007
Location: Busan

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was there in January. Did one train trip but \i'd hire a f=driver. \you can plan your own itinerary.
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simpleminds



Joined: 04 May 2006

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What's a F= driver?
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JustinC



Joined: 10 Mar 2012
Location: We Are The World!

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I only stayed in Kandy and Colombo when I visited, in February 2010. You can travel by train between the two (it's a very nice train journey, albeit bumpy). Best to buy 1st class either on the morning or in advance. I was alone, mostly, and never felt at risk. I don't tend to go out very late at night, though. Kandy was still quite bustling but very green and the hotels were reasonable. I stayed in several as I hadn't booked ahead and there was a local holiday/festival going on. I hired a Tuk Tuk driver for several days to explore, The Temple of the Tooth, various other Buddhist temples and Elephant Sanctuary were highlights.

I don't know about the airfare as I was traveling from Riyadh (via Abu Dhabi). Why, apart from watching the tennis, would you want to spend time alone in the Middle East? I think most Qataris would be watching from home, and there isn't a huge amount to do there unless you're really interested in the region. You might enjoy seeing Thailand, Indonesia etc much more.
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lemak



Joined: 02 Jan 2011

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah....Qatar is D.U.L.L. Granted I was there during ramadan so it was uber vanilla, but didn't seem like it's excitement central any other time.
A couple of days as a stopover would be more than adequate in my book.
If I were you I'd go to Jordan. Great country, great food, friendly people. Hard to believe a place with such shite neighbors can be so laidback.
You can also head across the border into Israel if you're so inclined. Worth checking Jerusalem, Bethlehem etc. for a few days. You won't get stamped, so no worried about being denied entry into any of the other Arab countries.
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JustinC



Joined: 10 Mar 2012
Location: We Are The World!

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan is a nice place to visit, I preferred Aqaba to Amman as it was much easier to get around on foot, and cheaper, but there's less to keep you entertained. Also there's Petra.

I wouldn't think Israel would be on anyone's holiday itinerary at the moment, it looks really bleak Sad

Also there's no guarantee you won't get stamped, is there?
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lemak



Joined: 02 Jan 2011

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JustinC wrote:
Jordan is a nice place to visit, I preferred Aqaba to Amman as it was much easier to get around on foot, and cheaper, but there's less to keep you entertained. Also there's Petra.

I wouldn't think Israel would be on anyone's holiday itinerary at the moment, it looks really bleak Sad

Also there's no guarantee you won't get stamped, is there?


If you cross across that Allenby/King Hussein Bridge you'll avoid the stamp. The Jordanians still claim the West Bank and Jerusalem as their territory (they even have the Al Aqsa Mosque on their money) so they won't stamp you out simply as to do so would be to accept that you're leaving their country and entering a new one. Likewise even though you'll likely only have had a single entry Jordanian visa issued when you fly into Amman they won't cancel your visa when you leave as they still consider you're in their country whilst in the Palestinian territories and by default Israel. I don't think the Israelis have stamped anyone in or out at that crossing for years, although the security would be tight (especially now) so expect to be grilled. I was questioned for an hour and then had to wait another hour while they confirmed my info, phoned some of my Israeli friends etc.
Don't think there's ever really a *great* time to visit that part of the world. Right now might be a little more interesting, but the old part of Jerusalem is generally pretty safe. Can't recall tourists ever specifically being targeted by either groups either.
Should settle down pretty fast hopefully.
But yeah, I loved Jordan. Compact too. Easy to get around....can rent a taxi to drive you from one end of the country to the other for 20 bucks or so. The area around Madaba was cool too. Loads of history, the place where Jesus was baptized, where Moses saw the holy land, the Dead Sea etc.
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schwa



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Location: sokcho

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

F=driver, maybe he means a female driver? If such an arrangement were possible, that would be ideal for a solo woman traveler.

I went to Sri Lanka in 2006 from here & spent a couple incredible weeks. A male traveling alone, I hired a driver with a car (easy to arrange) for the duration of my stay who took me all over the island. He customized all my travel to my interests & got me good deals on good hotels each night. Easygoing & honest guy. Didnt cost me a lot.

Sri Lanka is really compact. You can go from nice tropical beaches to temperate highlands in a couple hours. Kandy is awesome, check out the botanical gardens there. A big nature reserve (name escapes me now) in the southeast corner of the country is also impressive, lots of elephants & I glimpsed a leopard. Except for flying in & out, I skipped Colombo.

Sri Lanka is culturally & historically rich. It has much of the flavor & color & smell of India (which I visited many years ago) without the hassles & in-your-face poverty. The people were pleasant & welcoming everywhere I went there & I never felt unsafe. Easy on the wallet too.

This thread has me contemplating a return visit.
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lemak



Joined: 02 Jan 2011

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 4:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I'm the only person who didn't really love Kandy. Also not helped by being there mid holiday season (no hotels) and essentially pouring with rain the entire time.
I did enjoy the dozens of crows downtown though that had somehow learned to throw their trash and pieces of old meat on passersby. Could have spent hours watching them, lol.
The cave temples at Dambulla just north of Kandy and also the nearby rock fortress at Sigiriya nearby are mindblowing.
Some of the best beaches in the world down south too.
Agree with Schwa that Sri Lanka (and also to a degree Nepal) are like India-lite. A lot of cultural similarities, but a lot less hardcore and insanity inducing.
Sinhalese food is great stuff too.

(*PS* as tempting as it may sound being right next to the airport try and avoid Negombo Beach. Something of a haven these days for Western pedos and gross slums lining the beach catering for the market.)
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valkerie



Joined: 02 Mar 2007
Location: Busan

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, should have just been 'driver'. I'm battling a new keyboard with a slightly different layout and smaller keys.
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bucheon bum



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: DC area

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lemak wrote:


If you cross across that Allenby/King Hussein Bridge you'll avoid the stamp. The Jordanians still claim the West Bank and Jerusalem as their territory (they even have the Al Aqsa Mosque on their money) so they won't stamp you out simply as to do so would be to accept that you're leaving their country and entering a new one. .


The rest of your post was right, but this is wrong. Jordan gave up any claim to the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1988.

That crossing is the only spot where you'll avoid the stamp. Everywhere else, Jordan will stamp your passport (or Egypt, if you cross over from there). And when you enter Israel, you should request your passport to not be stamped, otherwise they might just do it out of habit.

And OP, the rest are right, Qatar will bore you after a day or two. Maybe look into the UAE and Oman. The latter is really chill and gives you a nice taste of the middle east. Turkey is also a fantastic country you might want to consider visiting if you haven't already.
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alwaysbeclosing100



Joined: 07 Feb 2009

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 10:49 pm    Post subject: re Reply with quote

Sri Lanka is fine and plenty safe. Air Asia flies there from KL and it is very cheap. Manila and Phnom Penh are much more dangerous at night than Sri Lanka. I suggest you not take pictures of the military there. Remember there was a 30 year war that ended just a couple years ago. If you are in an autorickshaw and get stopped at a military roadblock I wouldn't make any fast movements. They will quickly see you are a foreigner and just wave you through. I had a great trip and I went just after the war ended. Good food, people more laid back than in India, nice beaches, interesting culture..........just take the normal precautions like staying near the crowds and not walking down dark alleys at night.
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simpleminds



Joined: 04 May 2006

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your thoughtful replies!

I won't be going to Qatar after all; I heard it was indeed dull. Very Happy

JustinC: Already been to Thailand, not interested in Indonesia. I am now planning to going to Dubai (might meet a friend there, she lives in Saudi Arabia), then head to Kandy and company in Feb. I don't want to book ahead, so it's reassuring I can just turn up. Very Happy I'll check Aqaba out on your recommendation. I'm a day person, not the drinking and partying sort. I suppose Amman is just another big city. Is Agaba far from Amnan?

lemak: Jordan sounds fantastic, I've always wanted to go to Petra. Dunno about Israel, I'll prolly get grilled and I have no Israeli friends. I have to check if I need a visa; I'm Australian. The taxi idea for Madaba sounds like a good idea, did you get a taxi from the hotel or just one off the street?

Regarding Kandy, did you go in January? I was planning to just spend a few days there, but the crows are making me reconsider. I want to draw some crows from life. I'd heard about Sigiriya; I imagine that's a day trip. I like to take my sweet time.

I thought Negombo Beach looked a bit dodgy. What about Negombo itself, or is it better to stay in Colombo for the first night?

schwa; I am indeed interested in Kandy because of the gardens and the elephant sanctuary. Not interested in Buddhist stuff; I got Buddhaed out in Thailand. I can't remember the nature reserve's name, either. I want to see a leopard!

How long did you stay?

bucheon bum:
I'd thought about Oman, but might leave that for next year; Sri, Dubai and Jordan will be enough...and if things work out, Israel, too. I'll be heading over to Dubai to see a friend instead of Qatar. I've just been to Ephesus in Turkey, loved it.

valkerie: Are you female? It would be great if I could get a female driver. I wonder what the rate is?

alwaysbeclosing100: KL is Kuala Lumper in Malaysia? Thanks for the tips! The war ended in 2009, right? My history's a bit rusty. I heard there will be elections next year.
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