Booking our Sri Lankan Holidays - Tour Operators
My family travelled to Sri Lanka & this site tells our first hand experiences.
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Booking our Sri Lankan Holiday
Finding a Sri Lankan Tour Operator
We thought booking a Sri Lankan holiday would be easy. Given its exotic location we decided that a mainstream travel agent or tour operator was our safest bet. We’ve mainly booked our holidays in a DIY fashion – searching the internet for the best deal, booking flights and accommodation separately and hiring a car to get around. The thought of booking an expensive Do It Youself holiday in Sri Lanka was not an attractive prospect so we all popped down to our local travel agents; Thomson and Going Places in our local town to get booked up.
After several hours of debate with travel agents and checking on accommodation we came away despondent. The travel agents really knew very little about Sri Lanka, they all had Sri Lankan golden triangle tours followed by beach holidays but none of them really made us feel very comfortable. However the biggest difficulty was the fact that we had the audacity to have three children!! Sri Lankan hotels abounded with double and twin rooms but nothing for a family of our size. We’d happily squeeze together in two rooms but of course this isn’t allowed and on top of everything else as all the Sri Lankan holidays were aimed at couples, each room rate was based on 2 adults sharing so even if we were allowed 2 rooms, we had to pay for 4 adults!
A Villa in Sri Lanka
Despondently we returned home. I couldn’t understand the short-sightedness of the travel companies and tour operators. Almost as an afterthought I decided to fall back to an old favourite and look for holidays with Villas (which of course generally cater for whole families). To my surprise and delight I found a website run by a local Srk Lankan tour operator with loads of villas in Sri Lanka. The company's name was Red Dot Tours. This was a turning point in our Sri Lankan holiday. While we hadn’t at this point decided to drop the major travel agents (we had in mind booking with Going Places but substituting the beach part of the holiday for a self booked villa or may be they could book the villa for us), the more we researched Red Dot’s website, the more convince I became that they could offer us what the mainstream agents could not.
I started picking out places from the site that we wanted to visit – the Elephant Sanctuary, the ancient capitals of Aradratnapura and Pollonaruwa, the second city of Kandy to see some local dancing etc and sketched out a possible route for the first week of our holiday, ending at one of the fantastic Sri Lanka villas on Red Dot's website.
This is where we got our first view of the Sri Lankans! I sent Red Dot an email, asking about the villas which was close to the major Sri Lankan town of Galle and, as they had tours on their website, asking about the price of the tours. The Sales agent’s name was Nicola. How she didn’t get fed up with my too-ing and fro-ing I will never know but gradually we started to lock down an itinerary that worked. Nicola was fantastic – when we asked about seeing animals she came up with a tour which included a 2 night stay on safari. Suddenly this looked ideal. Some culture, followed by a safari, followed by a week on the beach! Something for everyone!
We also found what looked like the most fantastic villa in southern Sri Lanka – South Point Villas. It was right by the beach and had 3 big rooms to accommodate us all.
Flying to Sri Lanka
Getting a flight was more tricky (at least it was more pricey!). The only company flying direct from London to Colombo was Sri Lankan Airways. However the price was enormous especially as airlines count a 12 year old as an adult. However Red Dot suggested Qatar Airways which flew via Qatar to Sri Lanka and who were much cheaper. Red Dot offered to arrange this on our behalf and after a quick check on Red Dot’s ABTA registration, we decided to go ahead.
What did our "exotic" Sri Lankan Holiday cost?
This was not a cheap holiday but given that it was two weeks for a family of 5 including a driver of our own, all the entrance fees and a two week safari, I think the cost of the holiday in Sri Lanka was pretty reasonable! This is what we spend:
All the hotels we booked in Sri Lanka were 4 or 5 star and were on a bed and breakfast basis as we never quite knew whether we’d be “in for dinner”. This works out at a cost of £618.50 per person per week which while expensive didn’t seem to us extortionate!
It was a pretty scary moment however putting our credit card details into online payment system but it worked fine and we got our tickets.