For travellers willing to step outside their comfort zone, who don’t mind being thrown in at the deep end. Just the ticket for those aged between 18-35 or anyone young at heart with an open mind, an eye on the budget & a nose for adventure.
Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Sri Lankan currency is the Rupee (LKR), which is divided into 100 cents.
Check out www.xe.com for current exchange rates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Negombo, Western, Sri Lanka
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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31st March 2014
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