Arriving back from my trip to Sri Lanka, I still can't believe how much we managed to squeeze into our week exploring this pretty country. Over 7 nights we visited 5 different areas, packing in culture, wildlife, hills and beaches.
It was a whistle-stop tour, and it was only possible because we booked a tailor-made trip and hired a driver in Sri Lanka. Arranging a private driver is a perfect way to see Sri Lanka for several reasons – so if you’re planning a trip, be sure to take these into consideration.
When we met our private driver, Jaya, we told him how much we loved wildlife and had come to Sri Lanka to see as many animals as possible. Instantly, he was on the lookout for birds and monkeys, pulling the car over whenever he saw any interesting creatures – and believe me, he could spot a heron where all I could see was a tree!
The local drivers and guides who spend all of their time here know all of the best places for reliable wildlife sightings, which saved us lots of wasted hours searching for elusive creatures! After just 2 days we’d spotted Woolly Necked Storks, Serpent Eagles, Little Green Bee-eaters and even the rare Hornbill, perched in the top of the canopy.
It was wonderful to have an extra pair of trained eyes looking out for animals as we drove through the country and really made the trip special as we would have been hard pressed to find those things travelling alone.
Being driven around the country with a private driver meant we could make much better use of our time. If we’d been travelling by public transport, the schedules and departures would have meant there’s no way we could fit so many places into a week.
With Jaya driving us, one moment we could be admiring the beautiful countryside and the next moment snoozing comfortably on the longer stretches so we could be ready and excited for the next place. Another bonus is that we could pull over any time we wanted, which we did in the high passes of Ella when I wanted to have a wander through a tea field. This kind of experience is harder to achieve on a tour or on public transport - the air conditioning was also a blessing, especially in the middle of the day when the sun was scorching!
Initially, when we touched down in Colombo, we were collected from arrivals and drove straight to Sigiriya, a 5-hour drive. In a bus, this would have been pretty brutal but in a comfortable, air-conditioned car complete with complimentary water and cold towels, plus a few café stops - we had a great time, enjoying the views from the car of the local towns we passed through.
Despite packing as much as we could into our time in Sri Lanka, being on a tailor-made trip meant we could take our time along the way. Within reason, you negotiate with your driver what time you want to start each day, or what time you need to be back in the hotel or town for dinner – you’re not a slave to public transport schedules.
Touring around the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa we lingered at the temples we liked and side-stepped the ones we were less interested in. We felt this was so much better than being herded around in a group, but we still had the bonus of having Jaya as our guide so it was more informative than wandering around alone. When it got too hot we could easily hop in the car and go back to the hotel, no pressure either way.
Organising everything before we left, including flights, hotels and a private driver meant that when we were in Sri Lanka the only thing I had to worry about paying for was food. This is actually truly relaxing because it meant we could really relax and not worry about missing out on anything because we couldn’t afford it; everything was paid with hard-earned savings before departure and just bits and bobs to sort when we were there.
I can definitely recommend a private tour in Sri Lanka – it’s the easiest way to see this beautiful country – from the tea fields of Ella to the ancient temples of Polonnaruwa. To start planning a trip that suits you down to the ground, whether you’re travelling solo, or as a couple of with kids, from shoestring to luxury – we can plan bespoke Sri Lanka holiday to suit you, simply call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email. See our Sri Lanka trip ideas (ex flights) or Top 10 things to do in Sri Lanka for more ideas.