Any shopping tips for Sri Lanka?
Try the local markets – big and perfect for gift shopping. But be careful – you will get approached by friendly, English speaking people, who will tell you that they will get you a good deal if you go to a particular stall. Well, it’s not quite true, you will still get overcharged (and the friendly local will get his commission). I suggest to shop around and you will find some good deals yourself!
Charlotte Taylor - Customer Operations
What do I do about money and what are local costs like in Sri Lanka?
In main towns, it is possible to withdraw money from an ATM. It is also possible to exchange Sterling and US Dollars in local exchange offices. I would suggest to take some GBP in cash and change most of it (if not all) at the airport in Colombo (in the arrivals hall). It is absolutely safe to carry cash around with you but you can also leave your passport and excess cash in a safe in your hotel room. Both food and drink prices are reasonable. I was on AIL in September 2008 and I spent £250.00 for food, drinks, gift shopping and tips.
Gabriela Krizanova - Sales
Tips from staff who have been to Sri Lanka
Wear whatever is comfortable, it will be very informal and you just need to dress for the weather. Longer sleeves or trousers are a better idea for evenings, when the mozzies come out, but I would also take along some bug spray to fend them off.
Most of the time I was just in shorts, t-shirts, light tops, canvas trousers etc. Anything light really! It's really only in temples you need to cover up a bit more.
I found I didn't use as much stuff as I thought, especially clothes, and spent a lot of the trips in a couple of pairs of shorts and t-shirts.
Full on hiking boots aren't necessary, just solid trainers or walking shoes will suffice. It can be slippy in parts if it rains, but this is a unlikely to really affect choice of footwear.
If you're visiting the Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya, it's really interesting to see and you don't need anything super formal, but trousers and a shirt are expected.
It can get hot and sticky at times. We had a couple of afternoons of rain but nothing too serious. Sri Lanka is quite tropical so you can expect this at any time of year. Obviously, like here, you can have local conditions that will be hotter/ wetter/ colder than the average and when it does rain, it's generally a build up to the afternoon, big downpour and then dries up quickly.
If you need to take a taxi from Colombo airport, there is a counter at the airport with official taxis (see link below). You pay at the counter, get a ticket, go to the rank outside and off you go. Because you have already paid, there is no haggling at the end. Sri Lanka is very safe, so you won't have any problems.
You will have access to ATMs in most towns you pass through but cash is also very easy and safe to carry, which is what I did.
I changed it, to start, at the airport, the office there is open 24 hours a day. The hotels also change money but I didn't use this, although some of the group did. I also topped up with my debit card towards the end to do some shopping, which is easy to do but probably a good idea to advise your bank in advance. You could also just use your card for all your spending money as well, I guess, but there is a danger if you lose your card or have any problems with it. It's very safe to carry cash, as long as you use the same common sense that you would at home.
I didn't get any done myself, but I'm sure a few places along the way will be able to help. I washed a few things out myself in the hotels and just dried them (quite quick to do). Somewhere like Kandy should be definitely possible as you stop there for a while and it's about halfway through the trip.
You can pretty get much everything from local food to pizza to other western foods. It is quite similar to South Indian food. You usually split your meals in the evening about half and half between hotels and eating out and, when you eat in the hotel, there is always choice of a buffet or a la carte. There are lots of vegetarian options but also plenty of chicken, beef, seafood etc.
Any other tips? I didn't find mozzies too bad, but did pick up a few bites along the way. Mornings and evenings are when you need to protect yourself, but some bug spray helps with this.
I listened to my iPod quite a lot while on the drives, and I think the only thing I took not on the list was a small travel pillow, as I get a stiff neck sometimes! But I just picked that up at the airport for less than a tenner I think.
Gabriela Krizanova - Sales
What kind of food should I expect around the Indian subcontinent?
There is a real mix available and you won't be disappointed! The local cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, with lots of rice. You can enjoy everything from traditional spicy curries to stalls selling tasty sweets and deserts and even right the way to western style grub, if it all gets a bit too much. Vegetarians and 'non-spicy' food people are easily catered for, and the leader will make sure a wide range of dishes are ordered for each meal.
Charlotte Taylor - Customer Operations
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