Last month Darryl and I went on our first ever group tour to Sri Lanka with TruTravels. We’d never even thought about doing a trip like this before, but quickly realised we didn’t want to explore Sri Lanka alone as we’d probably miss out on all the hidden gems. So on Black Friday last November we started the holiday hunt.
I spent about six hours that day looking for a good deal and came across a tour with TruTravels, which we found via STA Travel. We ended up booking the tour and flights at the same time with STA, the same company which we booked our month long trip to Dubai, Australia and Bali with in 2015.
After doing a bit of research into TruTravels and their tours, it was obvious they were generally for younger travellers, which is what we were looking for. They’re also hot on sustainability and being eco-friendly, so they get extra brownie points for that!
We went ahead and booked our tour for the following September, saving 25% on the tour and flights because of the offer that day. It pays to take advantage of the sales!
The Sri Lanka Uncovered tour included 9-nights’ accommodation and 13 meals. For a 10-day tour I thought that was pretty good, and because the food out there was so cheap we didn’t really need to worry too much about funding the rest of our meals.
The tour also included all activities, which obviously add up if you’re going solo. Better still, all tickets and bookings are sorted, so you literally have nothing to worry about whilst you’re there.
The tour was pretty full on, but the days became more chilled towards the end of the trip. Some mornings we’d get up before sunrise, others we’d be able to have a little lie in. Put it this way – you were never bored!
Here’s a quick look at what we did each day:
DAY 1 – Arrive in Sri Lanka and chill before a welcome dinner
DAY 2 – Bus to Sigiriya stopping at Dambulla Cave Temple on the way
DAY 3 – Climb Sigiriya Rock, explore the town & eat with locals for dinner
DAY 4 – Bus to Kandy for exploring & Temple of the Tooth, stopping at a spice garden on the way
DAY 5 – Visit to a tea plantation, cooking with locals and the famous train to Ella
DAY 6 – Climb Little Adam’s Peak and visit Nine Arch Bridge
DAY 7 – Waterfall visit and bus to Udawalawe for glamping
DAY 8 – Udawalawe National Park Safari and bus to Unawatuna, stopping at Galle on the way
DAY 9 – Trip to Jungle Beach and Unawatuna Beach
DAY 10 – Chilled check out
For me the best bits were climbing Sigiriya Rock, cooking with locals, visiting the tea plantation, taking the train to Ella and the safari. But all of it was amazing. There wasn’t one activity that I disliked!
One other part that I loved was the farewell party. We ate our favourite Sri Lankan dinner on the beach, drank a couple of cocktails, got absolutely soaked from a storm and ended dancing for hours in the rain to live music. We left for the airport on 90-minutes’ sleep and a slightly tipsy, but it was worth it!
I didn’t know how I’d feel about spending 10-days with a bunch of people I didn’t know – but it was amazing. We were lucky to have such a friendly, hilarious group and that made the trip what it was.
It ends up being the little things that you enjoy as well, like waking up in a new place almost everyday and eating breakfast together, before another day of exploring.
I also adored our guide, Wajira (Waji). He was super knowledgeable, so friendly and gave us some of the best laughs of the tour. If you get him as your guide, you’re in for an amazing trip!
As someone who isn’t a big drinker and has emetophobia (fear of sickness), I was really worried about endless partying throughout the tour, which I know many tours are like. This wasn’t the case for Sri Lanka, but there was one heavy night which ended up getting really messy. But thankfully it was only that one night, and every other night was amazing. Just keep this in mind for tours such as Thailand where partying is on the agenda almost every day!
The only other thing I didn’t love was the accommodation. I appreciate that the tour wasn’t hugely expensive, but I feel like for the price of the hotels in Sri Lanka, we could have easily stayed in nicer places for just a few Rupees more each night. Some were ok, but others had stained bedding, stained towels, bugs, mouldy bathrooms and no hot water. Our favourite hotel was The Flower Garden Resort in Ella!
The tour is usually £750 per person, but as we booked on Black Friday we got the tour for £560. The return flights were a similar price and we spent £250 whilst we were there, so all in we spent just under £1300 each.
If you leave on the last day of the tour, book a late flight. Or better yet book it for the following day. We stupidly booked ours for 10am, which meant we had to get a taxi from Unawatuna to Colombo at 3am!
Your transport back to the airport from Unwatuna is the only transport you’ll need to pay for, so your spending money is only for food, shopping and additional activities.
Take double the amount of mosquito repellent you think you need. They’re relentless!
Take a backpack instead of a suitcase, they’re easier to lug in and out of the bus.
Take plenty of meds in case the food doesn’t agree with you. We were fine but others did feel a bit off after the occasional meal as the food is very rich.
In short, yes. But I’d be very selective about where to avoid party tours! I think a group tour is such a good way to explore a new destination as you’re slightly out of your comfort zone and you’re encouraged to get involved in things that you’d maybe skip if you were travelling alone. And if you get a good group like we did, you’ll make the best memories of your life!
If you’re thinking of visiting Sri Lanka but would love the support of fellow travellers and an incredible local guide, I would highly recommend the Sri Lanka Uncovered tour by TruTravels. Everything from the group chat, to the unplanned best bits, to the incredible sights made it one hell of a trip for us.
Have you ever been on a group tour? Where would you go if you decided to book one?