Solo Sri Lanka Trip Under INR 34,900
Me & my wife have made a pact last year in 2014. Once a year we shall travel together. Once a year, she may travel with her best buddies (she hates travelling alone, except to her hometown) and once a year, I shall travel SOLO. So, that’s 2 trips for her and 2 trips for me per year. And so in 2015, I have begun my SOLO international vacation-cum-exploration trips with SRI LANKA. Frankly, I didn’t think of it as ‘wise’ to spend a lot of money going to some European country, only for self pleasure. I chose Sri Lanka purely for budgetary reasons. I had kept my budget for finishing this trip in under INR 50,000. Eventually, I managed to do it in under INR 35,000 and I state here what I did & how:
- Since I am enrolled under the Frequent Flyer Program of Jet Airways, it is a ‘given’ that I always prefer to travel by Jet. By booking my to & fro tickets almost 2 months in advance, I ensured I get the best rates. It cost me INR 16,500/- Mumbai to Colombo & back.
- Getting a Sri Lanka Tourist Visa is pretty easy, takes about one day’s time to get your Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) signed. ETA means there is no typical ‘VISA’ stamp on your passport but the positive confirmation on your travel permission through email. Saves a lot of time & hardwork. Simply show this ETA copy to the Immigration Officer at the Departure & Arrival Airports.
- Sri Lanka has kept it’s ETA Fees very low (USD 15) for nearby countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal etc but it costs double (USD 30) if you belong to some other nation. Since I opted for an agent, ETA cost me INR 1,300/- only.
- Hotels were booked from
and I had no problems anytime. You can refer to my reviews on Sri Lankan hotels in my Hotel Reviews category.
- Currency Exchange Counters are pretty much there in popular cities, especially in Colombo. At the time of my travel, the exchange rate was 1 INR = 2 LKR (or 1 USD = 136 LKR). ATMs can be found throughout the island. None-the-less, I also observed that Sri Lankan people use cash to the extent possible. Credit Cards aren’t used everywhere for your retail transactions. There is also a 5000 Rupee note, I was surprised to find one of that big a denomination !
Day 1 & 2 : Pune – Mumbai – Colombo – Galle (1,822 Kms)
- Since this was a budget trip, with a funny target of completing in “as less as possible (but w/o compromise on food)”, I opted for sleeper train ride from Pune to Mumbai. It cost me only INR 102/- for this comfortable journey and I was there at Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai) at 10.30 pm, with 4 hours to go for my flight.
- It is here at the Airport, after completing all my formalities when I still had almost 3 hours to go that I realized I had forgotten by headphones and w/o them, spending time was torture.
- I haven’t experienced Jet’s flights getting delayed of the 13 times that I have travelled with them. On the contrary 7 of these 13 were before time. Same with this 9W 256 Mumbai Colombo flight. I reached Colombo 40 minutes early.
(Outside the Banderanayike International Airport in Colombo at morning 5.30 am)
- Finishing Arrival formalities at Banderanayike International Airport (Colombo) doesn’t take much time and the Immigration Officers are helpful. I actually found them very happy-go-lucky guys, chit chatting with eachother, having some fun time, but at the same time, being attentive on arriving tourists.
- Immigration Officer shall also hand over to you free SIM Card for your use throughout Sri Lanka, with 50 LKR as credit balance 🙂
- I was very particular of NOT USING taxis etc that can cost me a dozen. So, I was asking and confirming on how I can take local bus. One officer guided me to the right bus, which stops just outside of the Airport on your left hand side. For approx 35 kms distance from Airport to Colombo Fort Railway Station, which is where I wanted to go for my onward journey to Galle, this AC bus takes LKR 110/- and only 40 minutes. There is one bus scheduled every hour, first one leaving Airport at 5.00 am.
- There are other non AC (ordinary) buses, they take 100 LKR but over 90 minutes since they travel through the entire city, before reaching the same destination. So, it makes sense to take the AC bus.
- Having reached Fort Railway Station, which is like “Dadar” of Mumbai (meaning the main area in Colombo and as such the centre of town), by 7.00 am, I had no trouble finding out the next train to Galle – thanks to the display boards in English. The train was scheduled at 8.40 am and cost me LKR 180/- one way. I later realized that while I was charged for 2nd Class, I actually took a seat in one class lower (3rd class)… Not the Railway’s fault, of course !
- And yes, there is a washroom and bathroom facility on Platform No. 10 – just in case you want to freshen up or want to have a shower. The guard there charges around LKR 50/- but don’t expect it to be like the one you find at International Airports across the world.
(Display Boards at the Railway Station – my train was at 8.40 am, hence not featured above)
(Colombo Fort Railway Station – from inside)
(My train bogie – this is known as 3rd class)
- Colombo to Galle is a beautiful 120 odd kms stretch, just adjacent to the shoreline and believe me, it would be just fantastic to watch. You see vast ocean and feel the breeze in your face. The below pic captures the essence. But there are small stretches where the road in below pic goes on the other side and your train marches ahead along the ocean shoreline.
- It takes just about less than 3 hours to reach Galle, a very small beach town on the southern end of this beautiful island. Just outside the Galle Railway Station, is a bus stand and Tuk Tuk stand.
- Looking at the scorching sun over my head & being close to the sea also meant it was extremely humid, it became really painful for me to wait for the correct bus to drop me at or near Hotel Kalan Villa & then again find the exact place. Hence, I decided to take a Tuk Tuk, that cost me LKR 120/- even after a fair bit of negotiations. It turned out a distance of only 2 kms, very much walkable in the late evenings – not at 12 pm !
- I suggest you rest till about 4 pm and then you may venture out to see quite a few places that are there, namely Galle Fort being the most prominent one. Dutch Reformed Hospital, Galle Cricket Stadium, Light House and Unawatuna Beach are some other popular places to enjoy. From my hotel, this was at a distance of nearly 2 kms and I went walking.
- The above attraction places are very near to eachother, except Unawatuna Beach – which is 5 kms on the opposite side of Galle. Travelling to this secluded beach by bus is pretty convenient and takes only LKR 20/- one way. Don’t waste your money on Tuk Tuk !
- Ideally, unless you HAVE to stay at Unawatuna beach like the Europeans do or may be do Whale-Watching, one day in Galle should be enough.
Day 3 & 4 : Galle To Kandy (260 Kms)
- I preferred same mode of transport (Train in 2nd Class Compartment & it costs 320 LKR) to reach Kandy, another beautiful town in Central Sri Lanka (a hill station actually). I was anticipating a different route this time but it turned out that this train scheduled at 2.40 pm goes to Kandy via Colombo.
- This 2.40 pm train reaches Colombo around 6.00 pm, meaning quite a office-going crowd boarding the train for their individual stops within one hour radius. The train remains packed till about 7.15 pm or so, then becomes almost empty thereafter till about 9.15 pm, when you arrive in Kandy.
- It can be a little hard to negotiate once you are out of Kandy Railway Station post 9.00 pm, as most of the buses would have stopped running and you are at the mercy of the Tuk Tuk drivers.
- I was put up at Majestic Tourist Hotel, located up-the-hill on Ampitiya Road, around 5 kms from Kandy Railway Station and the first Tuk Tuk asked for 300 LKR. I negotiated and finally settled for 200 LKR.
- May be the Tuk Tuk drivers know this is their best bet, it’s already late night, there is no alternate transport available. And the fact that the next morning, tourists will themselves find out of the local buses, which cost only a penny, might have had some impact on why the Tuk Tuks charge high at night. Local buses though, charge only 12 LKR one way to & from this Majestic Tourist Hotel.
Day 5 & 6 : Kandy and Nuwara Eliya (65 Kms)
- There are quite a few places to see in and around Kandy namely Kandy Lake, Temple of Tooth, Paradeniya Botanical Gardens, KCC Shopping Mall etc. Around 65 kms to the south of Kandy is another wonderful town called Nuwara Eliya, which is famous for the surrounding hills, the British era houses and the tea plantations including the Ceylon Tea Plantations.
- You can get to Kandy Bus Stand (also referred to as Good Shed), and from here you can get a bus to Nuwara Eliya. Bus fare hovers around 110 LKR for ordinary (Non AC) bus & 150 LKR for AC bus – one way.
- Food should be good experience, try Kottu Roti, Rice & Curries. I had these dishes, which cost me 200-220 LKR each. Majority of the local population eat this. Although I didn’t become an immediate fan of this food but it is worth trying.
(Top Pic has Rice, Vegetables & Chicken and the above food item is Kottu Roti with Chicken Curry, which includes Roti pieces, chopped Cabbage, Boiled Eggs, Chicken, Onions and Capsicum – all mixed together)
Day 7 & 8: Kandy – Colombo – Mumbai (1,680 Kms)
- I stayed in Backpack Lanka Hostel, a great hostel in Kalupitiya or Colpetty area (Colombo 03 as it’s pin code) for backpackers. Kalupitiya is used by locals and Colpetty is in English.
- During this time, it had begun raining in Colombo and I ventured out of the hostel to only nearby places like Galle Face Green, Pettha Market, National Art Gallery, National Museum and Beira Lake – all which is walkable, in the radius of 2 kms from the hostel.
- There’s also a Coffee Shop “Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf”, in Colombo 07 area – but I felt 550 LKR for a Cappuccino and 500 LKR for a single slice of chocolate pastry was just not in line with the nature of my travel 🙂
Flight back home from Colombo to Mumbai again reached 25 minutes early, only to be at a stand-still on Mumbai Airport’s taxi-way, due to no parking bay available !!
Few More Pointers & The Mistakes To Avoid When You Are On Budget Tour In Sri Lanka
- Wherever possible, travel by local transport and try local food. Travelling by Cars and having food in big hotels can be done on business trips or in your home country or when you travel with your family etc. Never while you have accepted the challenge of doing all on budget. Not only does it save money but also helps you understand local culture.
- Power and Internet is not a problem here and the speed is remarkably good too.
- I found the Sri Lankan people very friendly and hospitable. 9 out of 10 locals will come forward to help you. I also found Sri Lankan women very beautiful and polite. I felt they work in offices not because they need money but because they want to grow, they wish to move ahead in their careers, do something meaningful in life (But please don’t ask me the logic of how & why I felt like this ! That’s just the way I felt about them !)
- At the time I went – which was the Off Season – I had anticipated rains. They come earlier than in India. But good that it didn’t rain on 7 out of 8 days I was there. Only on the last day did it start pouring. Also, southern Sri Lanka can be hotter than the Central part, which is cooler due to the hills everywhere.
- Eat outside the main attraction points or in International Food / Coffee Chains, as they tend to be pricey. Like, I think the above visit to this coffee shop, that cost me 1,100 LKR (it was my penultimate day in Sri Lanka) was totally unnecessary. It was raining heavily and I could have simply stayed in my hostel that late evening.
- I was also a little late to depart from my hostel to the Railway Station or Airport a couple of times, resulting in additional unnecessary money I had to pay to the Tuk Tuk, otherwise I could have opted for a local bus and thus, would have been able to save another 600 LKR, minimum.
- There are 3 popular languages – Sinhalese, Tamil and English. English is fairly acceptable and spoken – especially where international tourists are expected.
- I also sometime would want to cover Hatton, Ella, Bentota, Mirissa and South East Sri Lanka, that is well known for wildlife sanctuaries – next time I visit.
All in all, Sri Lanka is definitely worth visiting and you should try it too 🙂
Lufthansa has great number of flights to Colombo (Sri Lanka), common try here: