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Sri Lanka 'on a Shoestring'

absorb both Hindu and Buddhist cultures on the Emerald isle! - Trip for singles

Book From   € 799,-
GROUP SIZE: 4-24 | 14 DAYS

Sri Lanka 'on a Shoestring'

Known as ‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, Sri Lanka is home to some incredible sights such as the old city of kings at Anuradhapura and the cave temples of Dambulla. Enjoy palm-lined beaches and green tea plantations, watch the dancers in Kandy and take a bicycle tour through the ruins of Polonnaruwa. Visit an elephant sanctuary or join an adventurous jeep safari in the beautiful wildlife reserves of Wilpattu and Yala. Sri Lanka is waiting for you with open arms!

Travel documents

Please note that as from 1st January 2012, all visitors to Sri Lanka will need to purchase an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization). Please see  for further details and to submit your application. The cost of the authorization is US $ 30.00 per person. 

You must also ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended exit date from Sri Lanka.

Accommodation and transport

During the tour of the island you will be travelling mainly by private (mini) bus with air conditioning, so you can stop at beautiful places in nature along the way. The transfers to and from the airport are not included.

Once you have arrived at the beach in Hikkaduwa you will then say goodbye to the tour leader and driver. The final transfer from Hikkaduwa to the airport is not included.

The route from Nanu Oya to Bandarawela is made leisurely by train. The three-hour scenic ride takes you through the most beautiful mountain scenery in the country with jungle and tea plantations. The train chugs away through tunnels and along ravines and climbs to an altitude of 1900 meters above sea level. You do not have to lug your baggage onto the train as it will be delivered to the hotel in Bandarawella by bus.


You'll stay in hotels in 2-person rooms with private bathroom. Travellers booking alone will share a room with a fellow traveller. When arranging the rooms, we keep in mind to pair travellers of the same sex. Please note that for couples, a double bed is reserved as standard. If you would like separate beds, please indicate this when you make your booking.

You can also choose to sleep in a single room throughout the entire trip. There is a supplement to pay if you wish to do this and it should be added when making your booking online.

Many of the planned hotels have a swimming pool which we are sure you will enjoy! This applies to accommodations in Marawila, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Tissamaharama and Hikkaduwa. In exceptional cases it may happen that we have to change hotels and a pool is no longer available. In these cases we will try to find an alternative (pool).

Please note:
Groups of 6 travellers and fewer will be guided by an English driver/guide in a smaller vehicle. Groups starting from 7 people will be accompanied by an extra English speaking escort.

A good first impression of the hotels and transportation used by Shoestring in Sri Lanka can be found in the slideshow.



During July/August, the festival of Esala Perahera takes place in Kandy. It is a spectacle of impressive proportions and for the predominantly Buddhist population is an important festival. This 10-day festival includes a copy of the Tooth of Buddha, safely preserved in the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy, being carried in one of the five processions on the back of a richly decorated temple elephant. The Esala Perahera consists of several parts. The first six nights the Kumbal Perahera takes place. This part is slightly less impressive than the next, the Randoli Perahera, which culminates on the tenth night. Then all of the elephants gather from miles around, in splendid appearance and together with groups of dancers, acrobats and musicians, participate in the procession. To conclude there is a small ceremony held during the day called Diya Kepeema/the water cutting ceremony of Day Perahera.

Each evening the procession begins at an allotted time. After the hymns and prayers (heard everywhere in Kandy for hours) all is suddenly silent. A thunderous cannon shot from the Temple of the Tooth announces the beginning of the preparations. Only when the second gun shot is fired does the procession start to move. It is already dark and the fire bearers light up the parade. At the forefront are men with long whips. Every ten steps they stand still and make a strike of their whips. The sharp crack reverberates through the night. It is now really beginning. The tension is palpable. Drum roll accompanies the acrobats who spin their heads, necks and limbs. Groups of drummers accompany the dancers. The musicians look fabulous in their long white skirts with red sash draped with jewels over their bare torsos. Several groups of dancers pass by, mostly men and some women. Each dance has its own symbolic meaning. The drum rolls as members from the group of dancers take themselves through the air, making acrobatic somersaults. The ecstatic dancers make rigorous movements. Groups of priests and temple servants in gorgeous outfits are accompanied by large numbers of elephants dressed in rich robes, often illuminated with hundreds of lights, which are kept burning by a battery on wheels behind the elephant. They await the last group to arrive at the Dalada Maligawa. Surrounded by musicians and dancers the beautifully decorated main temple elephant arrives with the silver reliquary containing the copy of the precious relic, the Tooth of Buddha, on his back. He is flanked by two equally richly attired elephants. Finally, there follows a long procession of acrobats, dancers, sword fighters and believers. On the last night it takes three hours for the procession to pass. The curtain falls, the party is over. Only then will the crowds head in droves to the carnival. The timing of the Esala Perahera is determined by the moon. The last night of the Perahera Randoli ties in with the full moon.

Tour leader

Our tours are led by trained, local English speaking tour leaders. We know that our travellers appreciate being accompanied by these local tour leaders who, compared to their counterparts (living outside of the destination) have more detailed knowledge of their country. He/she knows the area well, can provide background information and ensure that the trip goes smoothly. He/she knows what to do if something were to go wrong, but is not a "walking encyclopedia". Therefore we would like to refer you to study a good travel guide (book) in advance of travel.

Your tour leader understandably expects a tip at the end, if she/he has completed the job well. Shoestring pay the tour guides a wage which is higher than that of most adventurous travel companies. Our guideline for tipping is between € 1, - and € 2, - per passenger per day (the equivalent thereof).

Trip rating

This tour is classified as category A
The level of our trips varies. The experience of the level of a trip is also different from person to person. In order to give an indication of the level of a trip, we have developed the following rating system:

Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.

The Sri Lanka trip belongs in category A. This trip can be enjoyed by anyone who is reasonably fit. The travel times are short and nearly all hotels are reasonably comfortable. Keep in mind that you travel in a developing country that has much lower standards of living than those you are used to. Also, it is possible that some roads cannot be used due to the weather or lack of maintenance; in which case we will have to change the route slightly. A flexible and positive attitude is therefore more important than physical fitness.

Nature of the trip
Sri Lanka is known as ‘the Pearl of the Indian Ocean’. Shoestring’s trip through this very hospitable paradise is very affordable. In two weeks, you will visit the best sights of the country, such as the ancient royal city of Anuradhapura and the cave temples of Dambulla. You will enjoy white beaches lined with palm trees and green tea plantations. Or how about visiting an elephant orphanage, taking a bicycle trip along the ruins of Polonnaruwa or an adventurous jeep safari in the most beautiful nature reserve near Yala? Sri Lanka is waiting for you, with open arms.


We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible. 

Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here


Travel insurance, including medical repatriation insurance, is mandatory. It is not included with our packages and it is your responsibility to purchase suitable travel insurance. Make sure that it covers all the activities that you are likely to undertake, such as rafting and trekking. Many ‘free’ insurances that come with banking packages, credit cards etc, are quite often inadequate to cover you on our tours, so make sure you check the policy before you travel. You should enter your travel insurance details via your my.shoestring account and you are required to give a copy of your insurance policy to your tour leader upon arrival. Without proper insurance like this, you will not be allowed to join the tour as we will not be able to respond adequately in case of an emergency if you do not have the right insurance.


Shoestring International
Entrada 223
1114 AA Amsterdam-Duivendrecht, The Netherlands.                    

You can call us on number +31 20 6850203 or +44 (0)1306 744797 and email us at           

Opening hours Monday to Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM (Local times in Netherlands).

Country information

More country information about Sri Lanka

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions about Sri Lanka

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