PDISpices of Ceylon

This document contains essential information that you need to prepare for, as well as information you will need during your holiday with us.

We ask that you read it carefully and that you take the document with you on your holiday. It contains information on visas, vaccinations, spending money, etc, as well as a detailed, day by day itinerary of your trip.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Expert English-speaking local tour guide throughlout the tour, and local site guides at some sites.
  • Sightseeing (including entrance fees where applicable): ancient city of Anuradhapura; Dambulla Cave Temples; and Matale Spice Garden.
  • Walks to Mihintale – the birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism, Sigiriya (Lion Rock) rock fortress, and to 'World’s End’ in Horton Plains Nature Reserve.
  • Bike ride around the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.
  • Visit to the elephant sanctuary at Pinnawela.
  • Two nights in Kandy including a visit to the Temple of the Tooth to witness the daily Thewawa ceremony.
  • A night in a rest house in Nuwara Eliya, with our own cook preparing Sri Lankan delicacies.
  • A night in a rest house in Belihul Oya with access to a rock pool and a nature walk.
  • Time to relax on the beaches of Unawatuna and free time to explore Colombo.
  • Train from Haputale to Ella Ella.

Summary of accommodation, transport & meals


  • Bicycle
  • Bus
  • Taxi
  • Train


  • 12 nights Hotels/guesthouses


  • 12 breakfasts
  • 1 lunch


International flights, arrival and departure transfers, airport/departure taxes, local payments, visas, pre or post tour accommodation, all other meals, optional tours sightseeing or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature, laundry and flights unless specified. Some places that we visit charge additional fees if you are entering with a camera or camcorder - your city guide will advise on these and they can be paid for locally.


Visas and Permits

Sri Lanka

Please note that visa requirements can and do change. It is essential that you confirm requirements with the nearest relevant embassy or check with your travel agent before you travel. From 1 January 2012, all foreign passport holders are required to obtain a visa prior to entry into Sri Lanka. The process is simple and the cost is US$20 as a standard for all countries for processing the visa prior to arrival. Those who arrive at the airport without a prior visa can also obtain one at your port of arrival. The fee for obtaining your visa on arrival is US$5 higher than obtaining it online. Note that free visa on arrival will continue until 31 March 2012 if you planned your trip prior to 31 December 2011. However, Singaporeans and Maldivians are not required to have a visa prior to arrival. The visa can be obtained as follows: Online by logging on to www.eta.gov.lk (detailed information and the visa forms are provided through this site). The information is available in many of key languages (English, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, German, Spanish, Chinese etc). The visa is provided within a day; On arrival (extra $5); or through your travel agent or local visa service such as www.visalink.com.au


Many governments publish up-to-date travel advice for countries around the world. Information is gleaned from both local and international sources as well as ‘friendly’ governments, and the notices are often on the cautious side. Sometimes there will be conflicting information. For example, the Australian, UK and Canadian governments may agree on the nature of the advice; however, frequently they do not. And sometimes the views expressed by a particular government can be coloured by political considerations. We will monitor these travel advisories closely and may alter itineraries or cancel trips as a result. However, it is also your responsibility to stay informed and form a balanced view. We recommend that you visit the websites or contact the departments listed below. Unless otherwise stated, it is not normally the intention of the relevant government travel advice to dissuade you from travelling. Rather, it is to inform you of where and when you should exercise caution to avoid problems. Please also note that, as a responsible tour operator, we maintain constant links with our ground operators and your safety - at all times - is our paramount concern. You can check your government's latest travel advice at one of the links below:

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
U.S. Department of State New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade


We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended


We recommend that you photocopy the main pages of your passport, your airline ticket, itinerary, insurance policy, traveller’s cheques and credit card. Keep one set of photocopies with you, separate from the originals. Leave one set of copies at home with family or friends. It is also worth taking some extra passport photos with you in case of additional visas, permits or other unforeseen paperwork.


This is a fairly active trip, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. We will be riding bikes, climbing lots of stairs to monuments (see for instance Day 2), so if the weather is hot it can be pretty tiring.


Medical Kit

It is a good idea to take a small medical kit with you, and you should consider packing the following items:

Antibiotics, Lip-balm, moisturiser, sunscreen, headache tablets, antiseptic (e.g. Betadine), anti-diarrhoea tablets (for changes in diet and water), laxatives, band-aids/moleskin/dressing strips for blisters, small scissors/tweezers. Note that moleskin is particularly good for blisters and can be obtained from any pharmacy.

It is also recommended to carry a letter from your doctor explaining any less common prescribed medications that you may be carrying.


Stomach upsets are not uncommon when travelling through new destinations (usually a 24 - 48 hour 'bug') and this may cause diarrhoea, leading to dehydration. Should you develop a stomach upset you should eat only in moderation and drink plenty of fluids. It is a good idea to carry a couple of sachets of rehydrants with you (such as Gastrolite). We also suggest that you carry one of the common anti-diarrhoea tablets such as Imodium.


It can be quite easy to get sun burnt when you are not accustomed to the sun in new climates. You should take sensible precautions such as wearing a hat and using a good UV sunscreen. Finally, drink plenty of fluids - preferably water.


In general, water is not safe to drink in the areas through which we travel. Bottled Water is widely available and most travellers prefer to drink this. Your guide can assist you in regards to the relative safety of tap water and the availability of bottled water on each tour. When walking, or in hot conditions, you must make a conscious effort to maintain your hydration, drinking as much water/tea as possible to offset fluid loss.



Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan currency is the Rupee (LKR), which is divided into 100 cents.

Exchange rates

Check out www.xe.com for current exchange rates.

Personal Expenses


You will need to take money with you to cover those meals not included in the tour cost. You will also need to budget for bottled drinking water plus such things as tips, laundry, other drinks, souvenirs and other shopping, additional sightseeing tours and activities, and possible delays. In this regard, most of our trip notes contain information about the likely cost or some of the optional tours and activities that should be available at the places you will visit during your tour. It is much better to come with more than you would expect to spend and to end the trip with a surplus, rather than being caught short! It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies which could happen en route. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the source and reimbursement will be made later by your insurance company (providing your claim falls within the scope of your policy). This is the situation where having a credit card may be useful.

Spending Money

We recommend you allow a figure of between US$200 and US$250 for your additional FOOD AND DRINK/SNACK requirements. In addition you should carry sufficient funds for extra sightseeing and optional activities. On average people spend approximately US$70 on extra sightseeing. Shopping is a personal thing that, again, varies enormously. On average, people spend between US$120 and $175 on clothing, jewellery and other souvenirs.

Airport Taxes

Sri Lanka

There is a plethora of taxes which apply to air travel these days. Many are now added onto the cost of your airline ticket and are effectively paid by you at the time you purchase your flights. It seems that the airport tax at Colombo, which was formerly 1000 Sri Lankan rupees, is now included in your international air ticket.


Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.

If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.

The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:

Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants round your bill up to the nearest INR20. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15%of your bill.

Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest INR100 per day for local guides.

Porters: Throughout your trip you may at times have a porter in addition to your leader. We suggest INR50 per day for porters.

Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of INR100 per day is generally appropriate.

Local transport: For a city tour we suggest INR50 per day.

Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $US 2-4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.



On arrival

Please refer to your itinerary for the joining hotel name and address. If you have not pre-booked an arrival transfer you will find taxis available on arrival at Colombo Airport. Make sure you agree to the price before you set off into town. You can expect to pay about US$20-30, depending on the time you arrive and distance travelled. If you have booked an airport transfer with us, please meet your transfer guide in the arrivals area as you exit from the customs hall. Your transfer guide will be holding a sign with your name on it. There will be a pre-departure briefing with your tour leader in the evening at the joining hotel. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the briefing.

Hotel Check In / Check Out

Generally, your room will be available on Day 1 from around midday. Sometimes it may be available mid-morning but this is in no way guaranteed. If your flight is scheduled to arrive in the early morning you may have to wait until your room becomes available. Alternatively you can book one night's 'pre-tour accommodation' which will ensure that your room is ready whenever you arrive. Rooms must generally be vacated by 12 noon on your final day unless you have made prior arrangements with the hotel Reception. If you want to keep your room for longer you may have to pay an additional charge. Most hotels have a store-room should you wish to store your luggage after check-out.

Photo etiquette

Please ask first if you want to take someone's photograph. This is just a normal courtesy and if you are refused permission please abide by that person's wishes. At certain ancient sites, and in most museums, photography (video or still) may be forbidden, or may incur an extra charge for camera-use. Do not take photos of buildings, structures and personnel of potential military significance (including airports, bridges, and police stations).

Flexibility and patience

Travelling with us can provide you with some really rewarding travel experiences. Our tours visit countries where travel modes and lifestyles are often not as sophisticated as our own. There is also a laid-back attitude amongst workers and there will often seem to be huge amounts of red tape and bureaucracy when doing the simplest things. You will enjoy your trip much more if you slip into the rhythm of local life and are prepared to take things as they come.

A word on drugs

In most countries even the smallest quantity of an illegal substance is considered a very serious offence and can carry lengthy jail terms. Avoid any contact with illegal drugs. Don’t put yourself and others at risk and never carry bags or luggage for other people. Any person found to be carrying or using illegal drugs will be asked to leave the trip immediately without the right to any refund.


Local Emergency Contacts In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency please contact Gecko’s Sri Lanka office on +94 11 256 4584 during business hours or after hours on +94 716 105 296

Please note that if you have paid for a single supplement, this does not apply for nights 3 and 4 in Polonnaruwa, as this is a home stay and facilities do not allow for single rooms.

Tickets for the scenic train journey on Day 9 from Haputale to Ella cannot be purchased in advance. Your tour leader will purchase them on the morning of Day 9 and tickets are subject to availability.




Spices of Ceylon

Trip Length

Trip Code

13 days



Countries Visited

Sri Lanka


Start City

End City

Negombo, Western, Sri Lanka



Day 1: Wattala

Accommodation: Sanmali Hotel Marawila or similar, Negombo

Ken says his favourite Sri Lankan breakfast is a big plate of hoppers. No, not the jumping kind. They're wafer thin, cup-shaped pancakes made from rice flour, coconut milk and a splash of palm toddy. Don't leave without trying them.

  • If arriving early in the day, perhaps consider a taxi ride into Colombo
  • Pre-departure meeting in the evening, as well as an optional group dinner

Day 2-4: Ancient sites

Meals included: 3 breakfasts

Accommodation: The Village or similar, Polonnaruwa

Best bits: Making new pals at the Pinnawela elephant orphanage, walking 1840 steps to the birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism, looking at (but not climbing) the world's oldest known tree and biking around the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.

Day 2

  • Stop by Mihintale - the birthplace of Sri Lankan buddhism
  • Walk up the 1840 granite steps of Mihintale for awesome views
  • In the afternoon explore the ancient (3rd century BC) city of Anuradhapura, home to the sacred bohdi tree, supposedly the oldest living tree in documented history
  • Take in the sights of the Brazen Palace, the enormous Ruwanveliseya Dagoba, the seated Samadhi Buddha and the ruins of various temples and palaces

Day 3

  • Stop at Habarana for a village safari and lunch in a local family home
  • Visit the extraordinary Sigiriya (Lion Rock) rock fortress
  • Proceed to Polonnaruwa

Day 4

  • Hire bikes and set off to explore Polonnaruwa, another ancient city
  • Time permitting, embark on an optional jeep safari in Minneriya National Park

Day 5-6: Dambulla - Kandy

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Devon Hotel or similar, Kandy

If you were a Buddhist hermit in the 3rd century BC, where would you live? The answer is one of 80 spacious caves in Dambulla. Explore markets, gardens and the intriguingly named Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.

Day 5

  • Check out the Dambulla Cave Temples
  • Travel onwards to Kandy, via the Matale Spice Garden
  • Pay a visit to the Temple of the Tooth
  • Watch a Sri Lankan cultural show in the evening

Day 6

  • Guided tour around Kandy, taking in the botanical gardens and local market
  • Plenty of free time to get to know this pretty town

Day 7-9: Nuwara Eliya - World's End - Ella

Meals included: 3 breakfasts, 1 lunch

Accommodation: Lesuire Village or similar, NuwaraEliya

Sri Lankan food facts: they love spices, the seafood is amazing and they're not afraid of a little deep frying. Walk it off on a trek to the World's End, where you can see the Indian Ocean over 50km away.

Day 7

  • Stop off in Nuwara Eliya, known as 'Little England' because of its British-influenced cottages and mansions
  • Enjoy Sri Lankan delicacies, prepared by a local cook
  • Spend the night in a rest house

Day 8

  • Visit the Hortons Plains Nature Reserve
  • Embark on a guided walk through forest and grassland to 'World's End'
  • Spend the night in a rest house in the hill region of Belihul Oya
  • Take a dip in rock pools

Day 9

  • Enjoy a scenic trip to Ella, a town boasting amazing coastal views

Day 10-11: Ahangama - Galle

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Insight Resort or similar, Ahangama

If you've finished all your books and your iPod's gone flat why not try surfing? Nobody will laugh when you fall off (maybe). And even if you're terrible, surfing works up an appetite so those fresh fruit smoothies will go down a treat. 

Day 10

  • Descend from the altitude to the beaches of the south coast
  • Pass seaside villages and sweeping bays before arriving at the funky beach town of Ahangama

Day 11

  • Laze on the beach, check out the famous stilt fishermen or visit historic Galle

Day 12-13: Colombo

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Concord Hotel or similar, Colombo

Not to be confused with the one-eyed homicide detective, the capital of Sri Lanka is full of things to do. Visit Gangaramaya Temple, Sri Kailawasanathar Swami Devasthanam Kovil Hindu (try saying that three times fast), grab some street food at Galle Face and drink from an orange coconut.

Day 12

  • Make the most of a free afternoon to explore Colombo
  • Enjoy an optional final dinner with the group

Day 13

  • The trip ends this morning after breakfast


The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact us. We are here to help you!


Your feedback is important to us and to our tour guides and helps shape the quality of our trips. It tells us what we're doing right, what you believe could be done better and what improvements you feel could help future travellers choose and enjoy Imaginative Traveller.Just go to http://on.fb.me/16wYISa for our easy to fill out form. We’d love to hear what you have to say!

Last Updated

31st March 2014

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