Hotel & Travel Agency Review
Mandarina Colombo: Stayed here for one night in January 2019
1) It is a good business hotel with very clean rooms and bathrooms.
2) The place is quiet at night and sleep quality is good.
3) The bathrooms are spacious. The bath area is separate from rest of the toilet.
4) The staff is very courteous and speak excellent English.
5) The front desk was helpful in making travel arrangements for us.
6) The WiFi connectivity and speed were very good.
7) The tariff was reasonable.
8) It is centrally located and close to the National Museum and there are several eating and transport options next to the hotel.
1) The choices at the rooftop restaurant are rather limited for vegetarians. We had the Thai Curry and it was rather average.
2) The hotel is a bit hard to locate and took us a bit of searching around.
- The Sanctuary at Tissawewa, Anuradhapura: Stayed here for two nights in January 2019
1) This is a wonderful property. This is a palatial colonial building dating back to the early 1800s and property still maintains its old charm. The decor is excellent in keeping with the history of the property.
2) The rooms and bathrooms are spacious and very clean.
3) The property is located in a very large garden and hence is very quiet at night and the sleep quality is excellent.
4) The property is located close to the Mahabodhi temple making sightseeing very convenient.
5) The staff were very courteous and enough of them spoke good English.
6) The front desk was very helpful and helped with making all our sightseeing and onward travel arrangements.
7) The WiFi speed is good.
8) The tariff was reasonable.
9) We used the laundry facility and it was delivered on time.
10) The breakfast is served early (7 am for continental ad 730 for Sri Lankan). We tried the vegetarian rice with curry for lunch. Both the breakfast and lunch were excellent in taste and quality.
1) The place is far from the city centre. So you are dependent on the hotel for all your needs. There is no place to eat close to the hotel. The hotel arranges a tuk-tuk on demand.
2) The place is a bit hard to locate. The signboard outside is very small and is easy to miss as the place is right at a round-about.
3) The rooms sorely lacks plug-points. We had to unplug the fridge/table lamp if we had to charge our mobiles.
4) The hotel WiFi drops once the phone is idle and you have to keep re-signing in.
- Luxman Guest House, Polonnaruwa: To be frank, I was very apprehensive to book this place mainly because I have never stayed in a hotel that is less than INR 1000 (USD 15). The reason I went with it is because this was the only one I could book on-line.
This is a budget guest house, no doubt and but for Mr. Luxman, I would have rated this as just satisfactory. What made the place special is Mr. Luxman, the host. He took such good care of us, that have nothing to complain about. He helped with all or travel needs. Even after checking out, he kept calling to make sure we reached our onward destination correctly and on-time. He also prepared a wonderful and tasty breakfast for us.
1) The place is close to the city centre and it is a short walk to all eateries and shopping.
2) The place is dirt cheap.
3) There is a washing machine at disposal.
4) The rooms and bathrooms were clean.
5) WiFi had good connectivity and speed.
- Sevana City Hotel, Kandy: Stayed here for two nights in January 2019
1) This is an excellent business hotel with very clean rooms and bathrooms.
2) The rooms and bathrooms very spacious.
3) The staff spoke good English and were very courteous.
4) The front desk was very helpful in making all our travel arrangements.
5) The place is centrally located with many shops and eateries right outside. All the city attractions, including the tooth temple, is at a walking distance from the hotel.
6) Despite located on a busy street, the place is very quiet at nights and the sleep quality is great.
7) If you need Sri Lankan breakfast, you have to pre-order it and we did. It was excellent.
8) WiFi connectivity and speed were very good.
9) We used the hotel laundry and the service was good and our cloths were returned on time.
1) There is no good parking next to the hotel. We found it hard to even get dropped in a taxi.
- EKHO Safari, Tissamaharama: Stayed here for two nights in January 2019
1) This is an excellent property at a great location. It is right beside the picturesque Tissa Lake and is a short walk from the Tissa and Sandagiri stupas. The decor is excellent and the front lobby, dining and pool area are very spacious and tastefully done.
2) The rooms and bathrooms are very spacious and extremely clean.
3) The staff is very courteous.
4) The front desk was very helpful and helped with all our travel needs and spoke reasonably good English.
5) The food was very good and tasty. Breakfast spread is excellent.
6) The hotel prepares packed breakfast/lunch for safari.
7) The WiFi speed and connectivity was excellent.
8) There are enough places to eat around the hotel and it is a 15 minute walk to the town.
9) We used the hotel laundry and the service was good and we got our cloths back on time.
10) The place is extremely quiet at nights and the sleep quality is great.
1) The hotel is a bit pricey.
2) Vegetarian choices for dinner are rather limited.
- Awon Mirissa: Stayed here for one nights in February 2019
1) Rooms and bathrooms are spacious and clean.
2) The front desk is courteous, helpful and speaks good English.
3) The place is close to the main road and there are several restaurants in walking distance.
4) We had an early morning Whale Watching trip and the hotel provided us packed breakfast on request.
5) WiFi has good connectivity and speed.
6) The place is quiet at night.
1) The room had no TV.
2) There is no bath area separate from the toilet.
3) The A/C was barely functional.
- Airport Villa, Seeduwa, Colombo: Stayed here for one night as we had an early morning flight to catch. There are not too many options to stay close to the Colombo Airport.
1) It is a very good property. The lobby and back area are spacious.
2) The rooms and bathrooms were very big and spacious.
3) The rooms and bathrooms were very clean as well.
4) The place is reasonably close to the airport - just a 5 min drive away.
5) The WiFi connectivity and speed were excellent.
6) The hotel provides airport drop off (not free).
7) The hotel front desk was courteous, helpful and spoke good English.
1) The place does not provide lunch or dinner and the place is not close to any eateries. It is a long haul to Ja Ela to find decent eating options. If you are short on time and transport, then this could be an issue.
- Shehan Safari: I contacted Shehan Safari to organise our safaris in Yala and Bundala National Parks. It was a private safari for two of us. I had contacted a couple of other agencies as well, but Shehan was the only one to respond to my e-mail queries and he patiently answered all my questions and help book the safari we need.
The first was a day long safari in Yala. The driver was on time at 5 am. He was very courteous and spoke very good English. He knew the park very well. We spotted a leopard, a sloth bear and an elephant, all thanks to his spotting and driving skills. Our jeep was the only one we could spot where there was an assistant in addition to the driver. The lunch and breakfast provided by the team were quite tasty.
Second was a morning safari in Bundala and the driver was sent and that was also very enjoyable trip. We spotted lots of birds and the driver is a decent in spotting and identifying the birds.
My only minor complaint is that our jeep had some starting trouble, but the problem went away as the day progressed. I hope they can get that problem looked into at the earliest.
- Eco Team, Colombo: We used Eco Team's service to organise our Whale Watching trip in Mirissa. We contacted a few companies and Eco Team was the only one to respond to us over e-mail.
1) They were contactable over e-mail. Although I would only put the responses as just satisfactory, others we tried to contact did not even respond.
2) They delivered what they promised: an overnight accommodation in Mirissa, Whale Watching and one-way drop to Colombo.
3) The transport back to Colombo was excellent. The vehicle was in great condition and the driver was extremely courteous, on-time and spoke good English.
4) On the day we were to go on the Whale Watching trip, the government had doubled the rates. That caused a lot of confusion and they sorted it all out without charging us anything extra.
1) The cost was bit steep.
2) The communication is not great. It takes a long time and lot of repeated questioning to get any information.
Travelling around Sri Lanka
- We took one-way taxis to travel between places in Sri Lanka. It is quite expensive, about twice as expensive of what it would cost in India. The road network is excellent. But most roads are just two-lane (one each way) and that means going is slow as you are invariably stuck behind a slow moving vehicle.
- Colombo to Anuradhapura: 201 km. It took us 6.5 hours including an hour halt at Yapahuwa and a half hour dinner stop.
- Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa via Aukana, Dambulla, Sigiriya: 158 km. It took us 8 hours including all the sightseeing halts.
- Polonnaruwa to Kandy: 141 km. Took us 4.5 hours which included a half hour stop each at Nalanda Gedige and Aluvihara Caves
- Kandy to Tissamaharama via Nuwara Eliya, Yudaganawa and Buduruwagela: 268 km. Took us 11 hours which included several sightseeing stops.
- Matara to Colombo: 155 km. This is the only proper freeway in the country and it is absolutely world class. You can complete the journey in less than 3 hours.
- Our Indian credit and debit cards just worked. We generally had no trouble withdrawing money from ATM or paying at any of the attractions or restaurants. Our cards did not work in all ATMs, but it worked in most, so it wasn't an issue.
- We had taken AirTel International Roaming before leaving India and it worked just fine. We have connectivity with good speeds everywhere we went.
- Vegetarian food is not a problem. Sri Lankan breakfast is a vegetarian's delight - string hoppers with dhal curry and kiri hodi was our staple food on all days. Lunch and dinner were rice and vegetarian curries. In tourist towns, there were pizzerias as well to choose from. The Drinking Yogurt from Cargills was a lifesaver.
- There is a 50% SAARC discount applicable to Indians. In many places you have to ask to get it. So please do remember to ask for the discount whenever and wherever you buy tickets and unfortunately, you have to have passports on hand to avail the discount.
- Colombo: We only found the National Museum to be worth visiting. Couple of hours should be sufficient.
- Anuradhapura: Tuk-tuk is the best way to get around the place, In a tuk-tuk, in about 4 hours, you can see every monument and museum in Anuradhapura. Starting at 8 am will get you back by lunch. You can cover Mihintale in 2 to 2.5 hours on tuk-tuk including the sightseeing.
- Aukana: It is just an in-and-out monument and you can easily add this on a day trip sightseeing to Dambulla and Sigiriya.
- Dambulla: It is a 10-15 min steep climb to the caves from the car park. It gets crowded. Without crowd, 30 mins would be plenty to see all of the 5 caves.
- Sigiriya: About 2 to 3 hours should be sufficient to see all of it. It is a steep climb to the top.
- Polonnaruwa: If you have a tuk-tuk or a vehicle, you can cover all the monuments in about 4 hours - about the same size as Anuradhapura.
- Kandy: The main chamber that houses the relic in the Tooth Temple only opens at 9:30 am and 6:30 pm and outside of these hours, the temple is not crowded and you can visit it easily in about an hour. Botanical Gardens is the only other thing that we found worth visiting and half a day would be plenty to visit the place.
- Yudaganawa: The stupa itself isn't that impressive. But there is a small room in front of the stupa that contains some precious murals. It is not worth a detour just to see the murals. But if you have the time, you can check it out. 15 mins at the site is plenty.
- Buduruwagela: This is a stunning site. It is a 30 - 45 min detour from the main road and you need 30 mins at the site.
- Bundala National Park: This is an excellent birding site. But it mostly houses common birds that you find all over the Subcontinent. I will not put this above Yala. Morning safari is preferable here.
- Yala National Park: There is morning/afternoon and full day safari options. Full day gives you the best chance to see the leopards. If you want to have a real chance of seeing the leopards, you will have to let the driver drive around the park crazy. Full day safari gives you a more leisurely drive in the afternoon and you can get to enjoy the park in peace. There are limited toilet options in the park. They come every 3 or 4 hours.
- Mirissa Whale Watching: The ocean is very choppy and the boats are very small. So if you suffer from motion sickness, don't attempt it. Medicines aren't going to help much. In season, the place is teeming with whales and you will be back by 10:30. In off season, the boats only get back by 1 - 1:30 pm. The boats leave by 7-7:30 am.