With England’s tour of Sri Lanka underway, this is my guide to this brilliant country based on my experiences when I visited a year ago. Sri Lanka is a fantastic country, I found to be beautifully scenic, inexpensive to travel around and the people to be warm and welcoming. In fact, a great place to watch cricket!
However, it can also be a very confusing place to travel around. Hence why I have detailed information for getting to Sri Lanka, visa information, getting around, city guides to the host cities as well as some others I visited, where to purchase tickets for the matches and the England tour schedule.
Capital – Colombo
Currency – Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Current exchange rate (12/10/18): £1GBP = LKR 225.
Official & Recognised Languages – Sinhala, Tamil, English
Population – 22 million
Time – GMT+5:30
Getting to Sri Lanka & Visa
Sri Lanka’s main international airport is Bandaranaike International Airport, 20 miles north of Colombo. SriLankan Airlines has daily overnight direct flights from London Heathrow and many major airlines offer flights from Birmingham, London and Manchester to Colombo with a stopover.
Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Most countries will require a visa to visit Sri Lanka, please consult your country’s travel advice for Sri Lanka regarding obtaining a visa.
If you are a UK citizen, you can view the UK’s government advice on entry requirements by clicking here. As noted, you can obtain a visa in advance which is recommended and this is the method I chose. The application process is simple and costs $35, allowing stays within the country for 30 days. Upon arrival, you simply present your confirmation at immigration and your passport will be stamped.
Getting around Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has an excellent bus and train network, although it can be a little daunting due to a lack of information available. However, I found travelling by train and bus to be an efficient, inexpensive and fantastic way to get up close to the friendly locals.
Air – Cinnamon Air offers internal flights but options are limited, destinations include Batticaloa, Dickwella, Sigiriya and TrinComalee. Search and book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Bus – Travelling by bus is a great way to travel but it can be a little difficult to find travel information. Services are run by the Central Transport Board as well as by private companies and serve most cities within the country. It really is a unique way to travel, with the buses colourfully decorated and karaoke music and lights blazing on board. Tickets are never going to cost more than a few pounds and can be purchased on board.
Taxi & Tuk-Tuk – Taxis and Tuk-Tuks will be found most places you go. For both methods, it will be important to use your negotiating skills and agree on a fare beforehand. I find you soon pick-up how much you should be paying and its always worth asking your accommodation beforehand how much you should be paying for a journey.
Train – Journeys on the train in Sri Lanka are described as some of the most scenic in the world, heading south from Colombo to Galle, or east to the hill country of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Ella. Tickets come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd class and can be booked at ticket offices at the station and journeys shouldn’t cost more than LKR 1000.
Further information for travelling between each city, can be found below in the city guide section.
The capital, Colombo, is a great starting point for your journey in Sri Lanka, with England due to play tour matches at four different grounds in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo:
R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium (Khettarama Road, Maligawatta, Colombo) – named after former Sri Lanka president Ranasinghe Premadasa, the ground is the largest in Sri Lanka with a capacity of 35,000. The ground hosted the finals of the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 and 2002 ICC Champions Trophy, as well as matches for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
England are playing tour matches here on the 5th and 6th October, as well as an ODI on the 23rd October and the sole Twenty20 International on the 27th October.
Nondescripts Cricket Club Ground (Maitland Place, Colombo 7) – this 2,000 capacity ground is home to Nondescripts Cricket Club, one of Sri Lanka cricket’s most successful clubs and is due to host a 2 day tour match between the 30th and 31st October.
Colombo Cricket Club Ground (Maitland Place, Colombo 7) – home to Colombo Cricket Club, the 6,000 capacity ground hosted 3 test matches in the 1980’s as well as matches for the 2006 under-19 Cricket World Cup. England will be playing a 2 day tour match between the 1st and 2nd November.
Sinhalese Sports Club (Maitland Place, Colombo 7) – the ground has hosted a number of Test matches, ODIs and T20Is and is the main headquarters of Sri Lanka Cricket. The 10,000 ground will be hosting the third and final test between the 23rd and 27th November.
Accommodation: On my 2 night stay in Colombo, I stayed at City Beds The Regent. Although it didn’t look like much from outside or even inside when walking up the stairs, the room itself was very modern, clean and comfortable. I chose this hotel based on its central location and proximity to Fort Rail station and the bus station for access to the airport. Rooms from £30 a night.
Read other traveller’s reviews and book your stay on TripAdvisor by clicking on the links above.
Getting there & away:
Air (getting to/from) – Sri Lanka’s main international airport is 30 km away north of Colombo. The cheapest way to reach the city from the airport is the bus, which is located directly opposite the arrivals terminal. The bus is approximately a 45 minute journey to the Central Bus Station.
Bus – Colombo has 3 main bus terminals (Bastian Mawatha, Central Bus Station, Saunders Pl), each with links to many cities across the country. Just be warned that the terminals are quite chaotic and there are many Tuk-Tuk and Taxi drivers looking to overcharge weary tourists.
Train – Colombo Fort Station is the main terminal in the city, being rather central. Trains from Colombo head on the scenic routes to Ella (via Kandy and Nuwara Eliya) and Galle (via Matara).
Place to eat/drink: The main hub of bars and restaurants I found to be located around Hospital Street, this included the reasonably priced The Dutch Pub for a few drinks. Luckily when we visited, the Colombo Street Food Festival was on, with plenty of food, drink and live music on offer and runs monthly.
What to do: I didn’t find Colombo the best for sightseeing, more of a place to stroll around. I would recommend the following:
- Explore the Fort Area, taking in its old colonial-era buildings.
- Walk along Galle Face Green, to the the south of Fort and you will see locals playing in the sea, eating picnics and playing games.
The 1st and 2nd ODIs on the 10th and 13th October are taking place at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium (Kurunegala Road, Dambulla 21100) in Dambulla. The ground has a capacity of 16,800 and has hosted ODIs but yet to host any test matches.
Unfortunately I didn’t visit Dambulla in central Sri Lanka as I travelled mainly around the south of country, therefore I don’t have much to offer in the way of advice.
Getting there & away – There are frequent buses from central Dambulla to Colombo (5 hours) and Kandy (2 hours). There is no train station in Dambulla, with the closest station being Habarana (about 23km north), which has a service to Colombo (6 hours).
What to do – Although I didn’t get to see it myself, I’ve heard the Dambulla cave temple is worth a visit. Sigiriya Rock and gardens is also nearby, with a bus taking about 45 minutes from Dambulla, or can be visited from Habarana.
England are due to play the first test between the 6th and 10th November at the world famous Galle International Stadium (Colombo Road, Galle 80000). Described as one of the world’s most scenic cricket grounds, it borders the Galle fort and the Indian Ocean. Home to Galle Cricket Club, the ground has a 35,000 capacity and hosted Tests and ODIs.
Accommodation: I would recommend staying in the Fort area of Galle, with the Frangipani Motel being right in the middle. Clean and comfortable, the owners offered a fantastic breakfast in the morning.
Rooms from £17 a night. Read other traveller’s reviews and book your stay on TripAdvisor by clicking on the links above.
Getting there & away:
Bus – the bus station is located next to the cricket ground and has links to Colombo (3 hours), Hikkaduwa (30 minutes) and Matara (1 hour).
Train – if you are looking to get to/from Colombo, I would highly recommend taking the scenic train journey running alongside the Indian Ocean (2 hours). There are also services to Matara (1 hour), Mirissa (90 minutes) and Kandy (6½ hours). The railway station is approximately 1km away from the fort area of Galle.
Place to eat/drink: The Pedlars Inn Cafe (Pedlar Street) offered fine food. However, if you are on more of a budget, Anura’s Resturant (Light House Street, Dutch Fort) is a good choice for a cheap eat.
What to do: Galle is a fantastic place to stroll around, walk around its characteristic streets and round The Fort Walls.
There are due to be two ODI’s (17th and 20th October) and the second test (14th – 18th November) at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium (Kandy-Mahiyangane Highway, Pallekelle) in Pallekelle, a suburb of Kandy. The ground (35,000 capacity) was built for the 2011 Cricket World Cup and also hosted 2012 World T20 matches, as well as previously hosting Test matches.
Accommodation: Although not the most central in Kandy, My City Hotel was a very modern hotel and was close to the bus and train station.
Rooms from £24 a night. Read other traveller’s reviews and book your stay on TripAdvisor by clicking on the links above.
Getting there & away:
Bus – the Goods Shed bus station is the main port of calls for buses in Kandy, with services to Colombo (4 hours), Negombo (4 hours) and Nuwara Eliya (2 hours).
Train – Kandy has a large train station and is a station along the way on the scenic Colombo to Badulla journey, with stops at Nanu Oya for Nuwara Eliya and Ella.
Place to eat/drink:I can’t recommend anywhere for breakfast or dinner, but if you fancy an ice cream check out Cool Corner which offers the refreshing desert freshly made.
What to do: I’ll be honest, I didn’t think much of Kandy. However, it does have a couple of sights to explore:
- Take a leisurely stroll around Kandy Lake, although watch out for the monkeys and giant monitor lizards!
- The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is home to the most important Buddhist relic. When visiting, ensure you cover up your legs and shoulders to show your respect.
Other places to visit
With there being some time in between matches, I would highly recommend taking the time to explore this fantastic country. Here are some of the other destinations I visited:
High in the hills of Sri Lanka, Ella is a beautifully scenic village. With some great hikes on offer and its laid back vibe, spend at least a couple of nights here.
Accommodation: With fantastic views across the hills looking towards Ella Rock, Mount Blue View Guest Inn is a fantastic choice when staying in Ella. A short, albeit hilly, 5 minute walk from the town centre. The rooms are clean and modern, with a appetising breakfast served each morning on the balcony outside your room by the owner.
Rooms from £33 a night. Read other traveller’s reviews and book your stay on TripAdvisor by clicking on the links above.
Getting there & away:
Bus – Buses stop on the road in the middle of Ella, with journeys to Badulla, Bandarawela and Wellawaya. To get to the major cities, you will have to change bus or even better, go by train.
Train – A lovely little train station serves Ella, with the very scenic journey serving Colombo (9 hours), Kandy (6-10 hours) and Nanu Oya for Nuwara Eliya (2.5-3 hours), as well as other destinations such as Badulla, Bandarawela and Haputale.
Place to eat/drink:If you’re craving western food or a cold beer, look no further than the chilled out Dream Cafe. It does however get extremely busy so you may struggle to find a seat!
What to do: Ella is a fantastic place to relax and unwind with its chilled vibe, or better yet, go hiking amongst the tea plantations. Little Adam’s Peak has great views but on the other side, the more challenging Ella Rock has even better. I also recommend checking out Nine Arch Bridge, (just watch out for trains!) you can walk all the way to/from town following the tracks from Ella station.
Chilling on the beach and getting close up close to the world’s largest animal, you can easily spend at least a couple of days in Mirissa.
Accommodation: I’m going to be honest with this one, I won’t recommend where I stayed in Mirissa – wasn’t the cleanest and was too far from the beach. My tip – pay a little more and stay near the beach where all the bars are!
Getting there & away:
Bus – Buses head along the main road and head to Colombo (5 hours) and Tangalle (90 minutes).
Train – Mirissa does have a train station a little way out of town (you’ll need to catch a Tuk-Tuk) and there are infrequent trains to Galle (90 minutes).
Place to eat/drink: I can’t recommend a particular bar or restaurant as there were so many along the beach! From the one’s I tried, food standard and prices are fairly similar during the day, each with their own happy hour deals at certain times.
What to do: Apart from lazing on the beach, Mirissa offers the chance to get up close to the largest animal to ever exist, the Blue Whale. I would highly recommend Raja & the Whales, who were very knowledgeable and environmentally-conscious tour guides. The day I visited, the water was particular choppy so perhaps if you get sea sick, this may not be for you as the trip took about 6 hours!
Being only 8km from the airport, the beach town of Negombo is a great choice if you’re looking for a stop over either before or after your flight.
Accommodation: If you’re looking for a relaxed stay either to start or end your trip in Sri Lanka, you can do a lot worse than staying at the Oreeka Hotel. A few km’s out of Negombo town and from the airport, you can get there by Tuk-Tuk or Taxi and start/end your trip, lazing by the pool.
Rooms from £15 a night. Read other traveller’s reviews and book your stay on TripAdvisor by clicking on the links above.
Getting there & away:
Bus – There are bus services from the town to Colombo (1 hour) and Kandy (4 hours).
Train – Negombo has a train station with a train to Colombo, but these are slower (2 hours) and less frequent than the bus.
Place to eat/drink: The Oreeka Hotel has its own restaurant, which is useful as there was nothing else nearby! Some room packages include dinner and breakfast, with offerings to be a good standard!
What to do: As I ended my Sri Lanka trip at the Oreeka Hotel, I didn’t get the chance to explore the town. I am however aware that it has a Dutch Fort and its own beach.
Nuwara Eliya will remind English fan’s to some extent of home, with temperatures considerably cooler and lots of greenery, including a Race Course close to town.
Accommodation: Rather indiscreet but pleasingly cheap and with a friendly owner, Blue Moon Hotel will do the trick if you’re looking to stay a night in Nuwara Eliya. Located just out of the centre, near the Racecourse, the hotel is a short walk to Gregory Lake.
Rooms from £17 per night. Read other traveller’s reviews and book your stay on TripAdvisor by clicking on the links above.
Getting there & away:
Bus – The main bus station is in the town centre with services to Colombo (6 hours), Ella (3 hours), Kandy (4 hours) and Matara (7 hours).
Train – Nanu Oya train station is approximately 10km away and you’ll need to catch a taxi or Tuk-Tuk into Nuwara Eliya. The station is on the line to Colombo, Kandy and Ella.
Place to eat/drink: The extremely busy Grand Indian is a good choice if you fancy an Indian curry for a change. At the other end of the scale, Milano Restaurant is a solid choice for a cheap eat in town. Towards Gregory Lake, Salmiya Pizza, is an indiscreet little restaurant offering good pizza.
What to do: I can’t say I had much time to explore the town, with torrential rain forcing me to inside for most of my time! I did however have time to a pleasant walk around Gregory Lake and did intend on checking out Victoria Park.
Easily my favourite place in Sri Lanka, Tangalle could rival some of the world’s best known beach destinations but yet remains a low key, untouched gem. I spent 5 days there but happily could of stayed longer!
Accommodation: Sat directly on the beach, with bungalows and rooms looking out to sea, the Ibis Guesthouse is a great place to spend some down time.
Rooms from £40 a night. Read other traveller’s reviews and book your stay on TripAdvisor by clicking on the links above.
Getting there & away: There is no train station in Tangelle, so the bus is your only option with services to Colombo (6 hours), Galle (2 hours) and Mirissa (90 minutes).
Place to eat/drink: Having stayed in Tangalle for a few days, I do have several places to recommend eating at:
- The Lounge – directly on the beach, the food was fantastically presented and cooked but do expect to pay higher prices than most places you find in Sri Lanka!
- Little Pumpkin Cabanas – also on the beach, food wasn’t as good as The Lounge but prices were much lower and still tasted great!
- Dream Family – set back away from the beach, you wouldn’t find Dream Family unless you were looking for it. A very generous owner and the food cooked by his family, the portions of Sri Lankan curry were huge and you could eat as much as you wanted!
What to do: Relax and unwind on the beach!
Udawalawe National Park
A fantastic opportunity to see wild Elephants, I highly recommend taking the time to check out Udawalawe National Park if you’re not intending on going to Africa any time soon!
Accommodation: Silent Bungalow is a pleasant guesthouse with a huge breakfast in the morning and Sri Lankan curry for dinner. The owners were lovely and the husband and son run their own safari tours, which I thoroughly recommend!
Rooms from £13 per night. Read other traveller’s reviews and book your stay on TripAdvisor by clicking on the links above.
Getting there & away: Your only choice if staying near the National Park, is the bus. You will normally have to change buses in the nearby town of Embilipitiya, as I did when coming up from Tangalle. To then get to a town such as Ella, you will normally change at Thanamalwila.
Place to eat/drink:There is not much in the village of Udawalawe, therefore eating on site if staying at Silent Bungalow is a great choice.
What to do: The only reason to visit Udawalawe is for the safari, which will get you up close not only with wild elephants, but potentially buffalo, crocodiles, leopards and snakes. The Elephant Transit Home is also worth checking out at feeding time to see the fantastic work supporting injured and orphaned elephants.
Tickets can be purchased through BookMyShow here.
Ticket prices range from LKR.1000 – LKR.5000 for the ODI’s and T20I at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium, and LKR.200 – LKR.3000 for the ODI’s at Dambulla and Pallekele.
England are due to play a series of tour matches, 5 One Day International’s, 1 Twenty20 International and 3 Test matches over the course of 7 weeks:
One Day International Series
Tour Match: 5th October 2018 (10:00) – R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium, Colombo (England won by 43 runs – D/L method)
Tour Match: 6th October 2018 (10:00) – R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium, Colombo (Match Abandoned – No play possible due to rain)
1st ODI: 10th October 2018 (14:30) – Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, Dambulla (No Result – Rain interrupted play with England at 92/2)
2nd ODI: 13th October 2018 (10:00) – Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, Dambulla (England won by 31 runs – D/L method)
3rd ODI: 17th October 2018 (14:30) – Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Pallekele (England won by 7 wickets)
4th ODI: 20th October 2018 (10:00) – Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Pallekele (England won by 18 runs – D/L method)
5th ODI: 23rd October 2018 (14:30) – R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium, Colombo (Sri Lanka won by 219 runs – D/L method)
England won the 5 match series 3-1
Twenty20 International series
T20I: 27th October 2018 (19:00) – R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium, Colombo (England won by 30 runs)
England won the 1 match series 1-0
Tour Match: 30th – 31st October 2018 – Nondescripts Cricket Club, Colombo (Match Drawn)
Tour Match: 1st – 2nd November 2018 – Colombo Cricket Club Ground, Colombo (Match Drawn)
1st Test: 6th – 10th November 2018 – Galle International Stadium, Galle (England won by 211 runs)
2nd Test: 14th – 18th November 2018 – Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Pallekele (England won by 57 runs)
3rd Test: 23rd – 27th November 2018 – Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo (England won by 42 runs)
England won the 3 match series 3-0
All times are local.
Need any advice on getting around Sri Lanka? Feel free to drop me a comment!