New hotel recommendations

Stella writes:

A few accommodation spots I stayed at in early 2020 that might be of interest to your readers:

Airport Green Hotel at Katunayake (Maybe about 6 or 8 rooms), near Bandaranaike International Airport
667/51 Liver Brother Road, Liyanagemulla, Katunayaka, Western 11410
+94 77 235 9441

Away from the beach, this lovely friendly family-run place, set in a peaceful garden, has big clean a/c rooms (enormous bathrooms) and excellent breakfasts. It’s about 10 mins from the airport. Shirly (man!) who runs it will pick you up outside the airport (it costs to enter the airport) in his old jeep on arrangement for $5US. They will cook meals if you ask and Shirly is happy to take you on jaunts around the place. We clocked up 31 bird species in the garden and surrounding lanes. Great place to arrive and depart from. About $US28.

Wilpattu Safari Camp On the other end of the scale, cost wise particularly, we stayed here at Wilpattu NP. It was organised as part of our bird tour so not sure how much it cost but it was upmarket glamping with very interesting informative hosts (top bird photographer). The dreadful road access is only for safari jeeps; they can transfer people to the camp. http://wilpattunationalpark.com/wilpattu_safari_camp.php?lId=14

Galway Heights, Nuwara Eliya
Probably on the expensive side (we were there as part of our bird tour and the website doesn’t give prices) but it was very nice, particularly the food which was outstanding. See https://www.galwayheights.com/

A message from Bradt Guides – and 50% discount on all Bradt titles

You don’t need reminding what an awful time we’re all facing. Life is on lock-down and each day brings more bad news. For the moment, as we’re stuck at home trying to get to grips with ‘social distancing’, the world feels a smaller place.

But the world is still out there, as big as it’s ever been. The only certainty about the current situation is that it will pass, that the time will come when those of us who love to travel will pack our bags and venture out once more. That time might come later this year or it might come in 2021 – but it will come, and what now seems an impossible distance away will soon loom large and exciting.

While we wait indoors, what better way to while away the hours than planning for adventures ahead? Over the coming weeks, we’ll try to sate your wanderlust with travel features to entertain and inspire you. We’ll serve up weird and wonderful travel facts, amusing travel stories, and even flexible travel deals that you might want to consider booking for 2021.

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But, placing cards on the table, we hope also to enlist your help during these deeply difficult months. Many industries are suffering, of course, but the travel industry is among those faring the worst. Hundreds of travel providers are at risk of going under, and – aside from the human stories behind such collapses – as travellers, we can expect less choice and higher prices in the future if we allow that to happen.

And, yes, we at Bradt Guides find ourselves fighting for survival. Bradt is the only independently owned guidebook publisher among the ‘top 5’; we’ve no parent company to carry us through. For nearly 50 years, Hilary Bradt has led the way in covering regions that other publishers don’t, championing countries that need tourist revenue more than the tourist hotspots. She’s tried to do good through our books, to support the ‘underdog’ destinations. She was awarded an MBE in recognition of her services to tourism. Now, for the first time ever, she and we find ourselves the ones in need of support.

Hilary Peru by Hilary BradtHilary researching an early Bradt guide in Peru © Hilary Bradt

But this isn’t a plea – it’s a rallying call! We want to mobilise those who have used our books over the years. Those who value the type of travel that we value and want to protect it as far as possible. So, if you’re at all able to help, we ask three things here:

Stay as outward looking as you can As we hunker down, let’s push the four walls back a little by anticipating what’s on the other side. We’ll provide all the material you need to indulge that wanderlust. Engage with us on social media, send us an email or just browse our e-newsletters. Join us in celebrating a shared love of travel – even if, for a while, that’s from our armchairs.

Plan for 2021 You will be travelling again so why not take this time to prepare the way ahead? If you’ve a dream trip on your bucket list, research your ideal itinerary. Now might even be a good time to book: operators are launching deals for future travel at huge discounts and with unprecedented guarantees on flexibility. If you’ve booked a trip for the coming weeks, consider pushing the date back rather than cancelling it altogether.

And buy a Bradt guide or two… What better way to fill the hours than by reading a good book? And what better time to buy than now, when we’re offering 50% off all our titles for the foreseeable future (use code DREAM50 at the checkout). We’ve travel guides to inform and inspire, of course, and to help you with your planning. But we’ve a host of other titles too: books about Slow Travel in your local area; works of travel literature describing epic expeditions or life-changing journeys; anthologies of true travel tales that range from the moving to the side-splitting; celebrations of wildlife, whether in Britain or around the world; biographies by leading naturalists and activity guides that might provide some ideas for getting out into open spaces and preventing you going stir-crazy. We’ll shortly be publishing Britain in a Bottle– a guide to Britain’s best breweries and distilleries – that surely will come in useful. We’ll also be putting together some exciting subscription offers, with special travel-themed rewards – watch this space!

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At 50% off, a Bradt book will cost less than a luxury pack of loo roll. Why not get stock-piling?

We’re not stupid. We know that no-one is unaffected by the current situation, and if you have an elderly relative or run a small business then your priorities will lie elsewhere. Our thoughts are with you; we hope you find a way through. But, if you feel you can afford to do so, please buy a few Bradt books during this lock-down rather than waiting until it passes. It’s only through the forward-thinking of readers like you that we’ll be around to publish guides when things return to normal.

Whatever your situation, we hope you can stay positive. If nothing else, we’re all in this together.

Adrian signature                             Hilary signature

Adrian Phillips                                                        Hilary Bradt

Managing Director                                                  Founder

6th edition Errata & updates

Stella writes:

I was recently in Sri Lanka with the 6th edition of your SL book, now well-thumbed and much appreciated. I thought it might be worth mentioning a few errors and changes I noticed:

Electricity – we found a bewildering variety of sockets, from international and square UK types to the old UK-style round pin ones which none of our multi-adaptors would fit! Maybe worth mentioning this (in case you haven’t in 7th ed!)

Page 45: 5th line from the bottom: You listed various banks that will accept foreign cards and “issue up to Rs400,000 (around US$270) per transaction.” Having just arrived and bamboozled by zeros we tried to withdraw Rs200,000 and were disappointed/anxious that our card would be swallowed. We later realised that should probably have been 40,000, not 400,000. In fact Sampath Bank offered us 50,000 and Hatton National Bank stated that the limit for foreign cards is an impressive 150,000. I’m sure this has been pointed out to you before and I’m sure you changed it in the 7th edition but in case it was overlooked I felt it was the most important update.

P218: Admission to Dambulla.  We paid – I think about $10.

P238/9: Ritigala Archaeological Reserve: According to sign on ticket office open 8.00-16.00. Also, you mention the scarcity of visitors (mid p239) but this was not the case on the Saturday we visited!! There were at least a dozen full size busfuls of locals! Happily, since we arrived after lunchtime most were leaving (rather hazardous – and perplexing – meeting them on the very narrow dirt road) so we did enjoy the place with relatively few people there but it might be good to note a warning about visiting on weekends!

P293/4: Mannar  – I chuckled at your line describing Juli Hotel’s “uninhibited use of purple paint” but sadly, at least on the outside it has been repainted in cream! (A photo of it in purple garb could still be seen in a banner out front.) Maybe it is still purple inside!! More importantly, when we went there to eat we were told the restaurant was closed and we got the impression that this was not temporary. (We ate, and stayed, at Hotel Agape.)

P300: There is a new causeway in Jaffna joining the mainland with Valanai – the Valanai-Nainativu Road.  (We didn’t take it.)

P317: Chundikulam NP 3rd line typo – black drongo (not ‘back’ drongo)

P326: In Trincomalee, we stayed at Amaranthe Bay (for a birthday treat). You mentioned it is ‘5 mins from the beach at neighbouring Trinco Blu’ which I took to mean we could walk through but we were made to feel very unwelcome indeed when we did, so maybe best to delete that bit.

P331: When I read that Pigeon Island NP was closed Nov-May we almost changed our long-held plans to go to Trinco. However, we discovered that it is sometimes closed during that period, when weather is unfavourable, and were able to go without any problems.

P403: Aluvihara Cave Temple: 11th  ‘maintain’ should be ‘mountain’.

Nov 2018 trip report

Adrian writes:

Some feedback (in no particular order) on your excellent guide which we used for our recent trip to Sri Lanka

Trincomalee Naval & Maritime museum was displaying no information re the Hermes etc attack. The Commonwealth War Graves Comm cemetery north of the town was, as is customary, immaculately kept and repays a visit.

Nilaveli At Jungle Beach Resort north of Nilaveli we were privileged to see at dusk a small herd of wild elephants approx 200 metres up the beach.

Kandy The train journey from Nanu Oya to Kandy was divine.

Nuwara Eliya There are 2 new hotels. We stayed in the Green City Hotel which is big and appears to accommodate large coach parties.

Galle Mention could be made of Fort Dew, a guest house with a roof top cafe/restaurant on Rampart Road. We used Galle Fort Walks (p573) and would recommend them for some unique insights into the Fort. The guide did insist on sharing some personal anecdotes, but displayed a colourful and knowledgable talent.

Yala National Park Our early morning game drive through Palatupana Gate was very disappointing. The drivers/guides imparted no information and seemed to be intent on clustering together. Consequently, the tracks were noisy and somewhat crowded. Anecdotal evidence suggested that late afternoon drives were more productive.

 

June 2018 trip report

Our publisher Hilary Bradt recently visited Sri Lanka and sent me the following updates & observations:

Colombo:Bandaranaike International Airport’s troubles now seem to be in the past and I can honestly say it’s now one of the best I have ever been to. We were told to get there four hours before the flight but I’m sure that if you check in on line three or even less would be OK. Best to go through security (two of them) immediately because there are masses of good shops and restaurants the other side.

Bentota: We went on a river trip up the Bentota which was as you describe – we saw several river monitors and a crocodile or two.and plenty of birds. I’m with Stella Martin who wrote Bradt’s Australian Wildlife; she’s good on birds. Then we went to Brief Gardens which I thought were amazing – both the gardens and the house. Some good bird-watching there as well. Your book is enormously helpful – so comprehensive and informative.

Induwara: We stayed at Janus Paradis Rest. It’s not in your book but nice. The rooms are small and plain but with fans and mosquito nets and the place is right on the beach. Friendly staff, Janu himself always hovering around poking at his mobile phone. It cost each of us US$90 (more-or-less) for three nights, a double room each. It’s at 664 Galle Road, tel: +94719420744

Beruwala: The Harbour is very photogenic but you will be compelled to go into the mosque courtyard by the caretaker and to pay 400rps “for the children”. It’s worth it for the view but you need to be forewarned. We liked the sound of China Fort Gem Market and persuaded our driver to go there although he was very reluctant. Big mistake. We were almost physically dragged into a private office by a dozen or so Muslim traders and subjected to intense gem sales talk and sapphires etc poured into our unwilling hands. Even if you want to buy this isn’t the place, and if you just want to wander and look, this certainly isn’t the place.

Galle: We went on a day trip – took the train there and bus back, which worked fine. We loved the old part of the fort. Quiet and hassle free.

Sigiriya: We went there on the strength of your description and loved it. Maybe worth saying it’s 1200 steps to the top. I found it quite tough. But I did it.

Matale Situated between Kandy and Habarana, Matale is famous for all the spice gardens. Our driver said around 100, most of which seem to be open. We didn’t go (I’ve seen enough of these in my time) but they’re certainly a tourist attraction and someone should describe one for you).

Kandy: On the way to Kandy from Yala, we visited Glenloch Tea Factories, which is one of the oldest, and quite interesting (in conjunction with your tea box). In Kandy, the gem place in the same complex as the Kandy Lake cultural display (good recommendation) ends with such a hard sell we felt embarrassed having taken their time on a slide show and (very interesting) tour and not buying. So unless you might buy this sort of jewellery it might be best avoided. It was a visit pushed on us by our driver who no doubt gets a commission on sales.

Electricity: One thing the book doesn’t seem to mention is the type of plug needed for SL sockets. They’re English-type square sockets

Tipping:  We adhered to your advice for out long-term driver and it felt about right. For upmarket tourists, we were given the following guidelines by a local resident and other tourists –

Bell boy & luggage carriers: 200.

Chambermaid/cleaner (who so often get forgotten because we don’t see them): 100-200 per night.

Safari driver: 1,000 for standard 3hr safari.

Safari tracker, 1000-2000, depending on how good they are.

 

6th Edition Errata & notes

Thanks to Royston Ellis (author of the previous 5 editions) for noting the following errors in the 6th edition:

p 57 – Poya dates for 2017 were inadvertently included for 2018 (Poya dates given for 2019 are correct).

The actual dates for the rest of 2018 are as follows:

Bak: 31 March 2018
Vesak: 29 April
Adhi Poson: 29 May
Poson: 27 June
Esala: 27 July
Nikini: 25 August
Binara: 24 September
Vap: 24 October
Ill: 22 November
Unduvap: 22 December

p 124 – Negombo is not (as stated) 8km by road from Bandaranaike International Airport, but around 8km as the crow flies and (depending exactly where in town you are headed) around 10-12km by road.

p 152 – Dates associated with Dawson’s Tower in Kadugannawa should be 1832 and 1829 (rather than 1932 and 1929).

p 177 – in Aluthgama, Hansagiri and Ranga Liquor Stores are far superior in service, stock and genuine prices to Barley Street Wine Shop. (In fact, I bought a great Australian shiraz in Hansagiri for lunch today whereas Barley Street didn’t understand my request and had nothing except standard plonk!).

It has also been brought to my attention by Mani Kurien that that while the average daily high temperatures for Colombo on p 38 are accurate, the average daily lows should be 2-3°C lower, as follows:

Jan       Feb      Mar     Apr      May     Jun       Jul        Aug      Sep      Oct      Nov      Dec

23         24        24        25         26        26         25         25         25         24       23         24