Most tourists our age who go to Sri Lanka spend about 10 days here. They join a tour where everything is catered for, or hire a driver (as was recommended to us by the gentleman at the Colombo Tourist Office). A driver will obviously take you where you want to go, help you get tickets to tourist sites and probably even select places to stay. These can sometimes be more expensive than the budget traveller wishes to pay, but more suitable to the drivers needs. Sometimes drivers will want to take passengers to shops where they get commission. We had 21 days and a pretty relaxed schedule. We chose the ‘do it yourself’ option because we wanted flexibility, we wanted to ‘do it like the locals’ and we’re tight arses.
Our accommodation choices were always adequate rather than superior. Rooms were clean, we always had an ensuite bathroom; but sometimes the linen was a little ‘tired’. Occasionally access would be difficult if a person didn’t have good mobility; often stairs (no lifts) and at Ella Hide View the wooden stair was rickety and the handrail broken, so treacherous in the wet. Wherever possible we chose local restaurants rather than tourist restaurants. Local dishes were more flavoursome; we are not afraid of the heat of chilli, nor of eating with our fingers (although some restaurants do provide forks and spoons), and meals were usually a couple of dollars cheaper than restaurants that target tourists. Street food was often very delicious; especially mango sprinkled with salt and chilli powder.
We had a wonderful time, and given that we had 21 days, would not have travelled any differently. Maybe we would have headed for the northern beaches, rather than the southern ones, as we have been told that at this time of the year (April/May) the north is not affected by the monsoons.