Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sri Lanka: Itinerary, Budget and Planning

Background
I have a bucketlist. Not a virtual one, not a pinterest board, but a real bucket list written in pen and paper. 
I wrote Sri Lanka there. 



I some a photo of Sigiriya Lion Rock somewhere (I cannot recall where), and it led me to Googling about it. Pretty awesome. Just with that, I wrote Sri Lanka in my bucket list.



Map & Route

I only wanted to spend a week in Sri Lanka. The tourist places are scattered throughout the island. The cultural triangle is at the middle. I decided to focus on the cultural triangle and tea plantation. I skipped exploring the beaches because I scared myself reading about solo female travellers who were sexually assaulted in beach areas. Not taking a chance on that. 



I visited a lot of Hindu and Buddhist temples and I could say that they were all "same same but different". To break the monotony of the ruins, I headed to the mountain region of Nuwara Eliya to enjoy the tea plantation. The cool and damp weather is a nice change from the hot and humid weather in the cultural triangle.

I love tea!



I also explored Horton Plains, although I think it was a tad overrated. Though I could push it, I didn't explore Adam's Peak because my guide told me that it was the "extremely peak" season. Also met two travelers who felt like Adam's peak was very nice but had they known it was that crowded, they wouldn't have done it.

Horton plains

Budget and Itinerary:
Not as cheap as I thought. I always play with $100/day.
Date
Activity
 Sri Lanka
 PHP
Conversion rates
  0.33
                 1.00
11/12/2015
KUL-CMB flight Air Asia
        7,678.26
1/13/2016
MNL-KUL via 5J
3,109.50
3/1/2016
Air Asia KUL-MNL
4,179.41
Travel Insurance (Malayan Insurance)
600.00
Day 0 - Friday
MNL-KUL. KUL-CMB


FX
30.00
MRT Card Reload
30.00
Jeep
7.00
Wendy's Biggie fries
84.00
Gatorade
60.00
Water
18.00
Travel Tax
1,620.00
14:10 ETD MNL via 5J
17:50 ETA KUL via 5J
21:00 ETD KUL via AK
21:55 ETA CMB via AK
Dialog simcard
    1,300.00
Toll fee
       300.00
Tip to taxi driver
       100.00
Day 1 - Saturday


Hostel check-out - $47.70 USD charge (includes $26 pick up charge from airport)
   6,900.00
Water 1L bought from bus station
80.00
Tuktuk Ride - Actual 262.50 - no change given
       300.00
Bus Ride - Actual is 174 in the ticket
     180.00
Dinner - full
       667.00
Day 2 - Sunday
Pollonnaruwa


Breakfast
435.00
Pollonnaruwa ticket
    3,550.00
Private tour tuktuk
6,000.00
Lunch (including driver)
2,300.00
Bread from Bake House
90.00
6 liter water
290.00
Ice cream
80.00
Day 3 - Monday
Sigiriya, Pidarangula, Dambulla


Breakfast
      435.00
Tuktuk rental
1,500.00
Sirigiya entrance
4,260.00
Pidurangula entrance
500.00
Tip for tuktuk guide
1,200.00
Dambulla Shoe storage - actual is 25
30.00
Lunch
600.00
Dinner - half-size
333.00
Day 4 - Tuesday
Kandy


Breakfast
435.00
Tea/Coffee
150.00
Room ($24.62*144.81)
3,565.00
Overall service charge of Oasis Hotel
699.00
Tip for family
            1,500.00
Bus to Dambulla
100.00
Tooth Temple
1,000.00
Shoe keeping
100.00
Shoe donation
20.00
Lunch at Empire Café - Actual is LKR 1,078
1,100.00
Groceries: water, tea - Actual is 1,677.72
1,675.00
Ice cream
75.00
Bakeshop - Actual is LKR 72
70.00
Lake House Residence - Actual LKR 4,054
4,050.00
Burger King Fries
550.00
Day 5- Wednesday
Kandy to Nuwara Eliya


Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (77km) - Actual is LKR 9,480 with 158 conversion. (Annoying conversion rate!)
          10,000.00
Tip to tea plantation lady
       100.00
Park
       300.00
Lake - 200 fee, 100 parking
300.00
Water
160.00
Tip to Lakeround Residence caretaker
70.00
Lunch
1,000.00
Dinner
700.00
Day 6 - Thursday
Horton Plains


World's End - 9km walk - lots of overrated reviews
Tuktuk rental
2,500.00
Breakfast for tuktuk driver
220.00
Tip
200.00
Entrance fee
3,560.00
Lunch
540.00
Snacks
200.00
Dinner at Salmiya - pasta and fries
750.00
Day 7 - Friday
Midnight flight from CMB-KUL


Blue Wing Inn
8,830.00
Tip for Blue Wing Inn
1,000.00
Lunch (LKR 100 as tip)
2,240.00
Car rental
11,400.00
CBTL in airport
2,000.00
Tip to Driver
22:55H ETD Colombo via AK
05:15H ETA KUL via AK
Day X - Saturday
Morning flight back to MNL


08:30 ETD KUL via AK
12:30 ETA MNL via AK


          92,589.00
          17,416.17
PHP
 30,454.36
17,416.17
TOTAL, PHP

          47,870.53
In USD
$      1,007.80





Airfare
If you take out airfare, I am still within the $100/day budget. I did not score cheap rountrip MNL-KUL airfare unlike in 2013. Also, I got regular flights for the KUL-CMB tickets. 

Accommodation
My backpacking budget for accommodations should be in the $25/night range. Dorms are not as popular so I had to book private rooms - except in Colombo where I stayed at a dorm for a night. Though the price is within my range, I lacked roommates.

Tickets
Obscenely high. Even locals think that the tourist rates for the tickets are high. I had to spend $30 for an entrance fee. Compare this to a 3-day pass in Angkor Wat for $40...pricey! 
Visa
You can apply for the visa in this website. Actually, "buy" is the more operative word instead of "apply" ^_^. Ten minutes after submitting my application and paying the fees, I got my visa. Tourist visas with double entry for 30 days costs $35. Make sure you print this out before your trip. AirAsia checked if I had the visa when I dropped off my check-in luggage.


Sri Lanka visa.


Female Solo Traveler in Sri Lanka
I started travelling alone in 2011. I felt fairly same most of the time and I encourage other women to try it out. I travelled alone locally, in developing countries and in developed countries.

But I would strongly caution doing a solo female adventure in Sri Lanka.
Is it possible to travel as a solo woman in Sri Lanka? Yes, with reservations.
Is it safe? It is possible to be safe. 
Did I feel safe? Not really. I dressed conservatively, didn't lead on conversations with iffy personalities, I didn't stay out late. I was probably safe most of the time but the problem was I didn't feel like I was safe. That feeling makes a diffference, and dampens the enjoyment, no matter what rationale explanation I tell myself that I was safe.
It it enjoyable? Yes, until the sun goes down and I had to go back to the dorm. In the three dorms that I stayed, I was strongly advised by the lessors not to stay out once the sun goes down. The female caretaker of a house strongly objected to me roaming around the streets because I was alone. 
Did I regret the experience? No. Each adventure is a teaching experience, albeit not always safe and scary to some extent.
Would I do it again alone?  No.    
Would I advise women to do it alone? Not really. I would say read a lot about it and gather a lot of courage. 

I wore a fake wedding ring to deter "vultures"I read somewhere that most women do not travel alone and if they do, they are perceived as "loose women" aka prostitutes - right not, I cannot find the source where I read this. I said that my fake husband was on a business trip in Colombo and he could not join me and I really wanted to travel around Sri Lanka. Was it effective? I think so, up to a certain extent. That's until my tuktuk driver made a pass at me. It wasn't a friendly or joking pass. VERY CREEPY. More on that in another blog post. 
Be careful. Be ready. 


Land travel

Bus tickets are dirt cheap. You've read that one before.  I rode a bus from Colombo to Dambulla which lasted for 5.5 hours with no bathroom break, no aircon, and Sri Lanka music pounding through my eardrums even when I was listening to my own playlist is my Ipod. Dirt cheap, but it one hell of a bus ride.Thankfully, I wasn't groped or sexually assaulted during the ride. Sri Lankan drivers are crazy drivers. Do it for experience, but if you have the money to for a ride (and you want to absolutely pay for it), rent a car. 

Budget at least $50-$60 per day of car rental. This will increase depending on the vicinity covered by your itinerary.

Forex and Credit Cards
Bring crisp and clean dollar bills. Once you get out of the airport, there are 5 banks where you can exchange your USDs to LRK (Sri Lankan Rupees). They all offer the same rates. I choose the booth with a short line. 


Credit cards are not widely accepted for budget accommodation and restaurants. The restaurant has to be on the upscale side if you wanna use it. I didn't use my credit card at all. 


Food
I don't like spicy food. I can tolerate a bit, but I don't like it. 
I don't travel for food, so I just tolerated whatever was available. I really liked it that my homestay in Dambulla cooked curry without any hint of spice in it. Now you ask, what kind of curry is that? The kind that I will eat. :P

Food can cost as cheap as LKR 250-400 in canteens where most of the diners are locals. I did not try food there as I knew that all the options there were spicy. Plus, I didn't feel completely safe as a female alone. 


Traditional Sri Lankan meal. For one.


Clothes
Both men and women tend to dress on the conservative side. Women wear blouses with sleeves and most of them wear skirts (ala baro-at-saya). Men wear polo shirts and pants or malong. Even when the weather is so hot, the men tambays still wear polo shirts and pants - in the Philippines, the tambays will be shirtless and in shorts. 

With that, you gotta find ways to stay cool. For women, shoulders and knees are required to be covered in some spots, but I highly suggest covering them all the time. I borrowed Sarah's loose pants that she got in Bangkok. I didn't buy my own because it wasn't flattering for me. But it does the job of staying covered and staying cool. Always bring your shades, and an umbrella or hat. Also, please bring a pair of socks if you are exploring temples in Polonnaruwa or elsewhere. Temples require visitors to take off their shoes. Most of the temples are ruins already: they don't have roofs, so their floor is scorching hot. It can really burn the soles of your feet. I had to skip some temples because I couldn't take walking barefoot in their hot floor. 

I noticed that even girls at home wear clothes that cover their shoulders and knees - even if their weather is as hot and humid as ours and there's no airconditioning!

Borrowed pants + shades + umbrella

4 comments:

  1. Hi Loraine! I've been reading your blog for a while now :). Thanks for this post! A little disappointed to read that solo female travel in Sri Lanka doesn't feel super safe. I've been wanting to go to Sri Lanka for a while now, but I'm pretty sure I can only go solo. I was in India a few years back as a solo traveler, and don't really want to put myself in that situation again :( Ah well, maybe another time.

    Also, I read in your other post that you're going to be in Budapest! I lived there from 2014-2015. If there's any way I can help, please let me know :) I hope you enjoy your European trip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Noelle! Thank you for dropping by. :)
      I haven't been to India but I would say they are probably similar. I really didn't feel super safe in Sri Lanka. I really understand your apprehension. If you really want to go to Sri Lanka, perhaps joining a tour group would make you feel safer.

      I'll leave for Budapest next month! Excited about it! :)

      Delete
  2. Hi! Did you rent a private car or you use public transpo throughout your entire trip?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jone. I discussed this in the blog post - I did a mix of private cars and public transpo. Please read the "Land Travel" portion along with the transpo costs in the table.

      Delete

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