I walked into the room and there it was staring back at me, frozen in place next to my suitcase. I stopped abruptly, sighed and looked carefully at its shiny black body and spindly legs. The one light bulb in the room seemed to make the big cockroach’s body shimmer even more in ickiness. I stood there for a moment trying to decide how brave I felt like being. Would I take care of this myself in a brave confident fashion, or would I succumb to my stupid fears and rely upon others around me to handle this common hotel ‘guest’ issue in Sri Lanka?
I crumbled. I backed out of the room carefully keeping one eye on it to make sure it didn’t dart off to an unknown place that would keep my girlie mind occupied all night and ultimately keep me from sleeping. I saw our guest house host in the living room and tried to tell her in a very calm and non-wussy fashion about the large cockroach ruining my evening. She quickly sprung up and apologized (which was nice but not necessary at all), walked into our room and with her bare feet quickly stepped on the bug (not killing it), but ushering it out of my room cupped under her foot.
So much for being non-wussy…after watching how calmly she took care of it in bare feet I pretty much felt like a stupid girlie American. I’d like to say that I slept great that night; but visions of cockroaches danced in my head instead. Something I never fully got used to in Sri Lanka – but I had to learn to live with.
Finding good budget lodging in Sri Lanka was a gamble thanks to really poor (or lack of) websites and marketing of the guest houses. Sri Lanka is still relatively new to tourism due to it’s warring past, and the marketing and technical infrastructure and understanding of what western visitors expect and need isn’t quite fully developed or reliable yet. So we turned to TripAdvisor.com to determine all of our lodging bookings as we moved swiftly throughout Sri Lanka. It was the one source that we could really count on for honest reviews of these places and quickly understand what our options were for lodging as we arrived in a town. Prior to getting into a town we would research quickly and then make phone calls to the guest houses and try to reserve them the day before we arrived. Or sometimes we’d arrive and use Trip Advisor to know where to look first for a place to stay, walking from guest house to guest house negotiating rates.
We stayed in many places that ranged from amazing to ‘get me outta here!’ Here’s a rundown of the best and worst guest houses we used in Sri Lanka during our month of travel. Hopefully if you travel there you’ll be able to use this as a starting point for your research.
Note: I rate these based on things that are important to me; cleanliness, the demeanor of the owner, wifi availability and connection, lot of plugs for electronics, food, and value.
A League of Its Own
Galle and around:
Auraliya – this isn’t a guest house, or a hotel…it is absolute paradise. A luxury villa south of Galle that houses 12 people, with a staff of 5 to wait on your every need, and the best private beach I’ve ever been to. The entire villa is rented at one time, and thanks to my good friends who own the villa, they graciously let us stay there for 4 nights to kick off our trip and a birthday present to me. Pure luxury.
Auraliya Trip Advisor Reviews
Kingfisher – a new and modern guest house in Unawatuna was my favorite guest house experience. A bit more pricey, but totally worth it for the great location, and beautifully designed rooms. We had a balcony that was spacious with nice furniture and a view of the beach. This place was brand new and will quickly be one of the best places to stay in Unawatuna. The accompanying restaurant had amazing seafood and the service was top notch.
Kingfisher Trip Advisor Reviews
Kingfisher Website – not completed yet email [email protected] Can find a bit more info here
Hill View Bungalow - A newly built top floor made this guest house a favorite stay. In fact, we had a reservation somewhere else and once we saw this place with its lovely furniture, balcony, and fireplace in the room we immediately decided to stay put. The price was great for the quality of room and service. The owners were amazing cooks and very accommodating doing laundry and organizing rides/tours for us. We ended up staying 3 nights when we originally planned on 1 night in Nuwara Eliya.
Trip Advisor Reviews – not listed yet…but don’t let that discourage you!
Office Phone – 0522223496 Address: 74 St. Andrews Road. Under Bank
Waterfalls Homestay – This guest house was tucked away among green trees and monkeys and true to it’s name – it had a stunning waterfall view. This place was top notch because it was run by an Australian expat couple who clearly knew what western tourists expected in service. There was less of a culture gap and because of that it was a favorite place to stay. Great for hiking and the food and hosts were a highlight.
Waterfalls Homestay Trip Advisor Reviews
Flower inn – There weren’t many great budget/backpacker choices in Sigiriya – but the Flower Inn came highly recommended for it’s food. And the recommendations were correct. As for the rest of the place, it was generally humorous. No AC, hot water, and one of the funniest (and somewhat ugly) rooms I’ve stayed in. It was filled with old stuffed animals and fake flowers. However what the place lacked in design, it was a good place to meet other travelers, had a great location for Sigiriya, great food, and it was cheap.
Flower Inn Trip Advisor Reviews
Nature Walk – a nice place a bit far from the main part of town, but it was easy to get a tuk tuk to get around. Great AC and nice room. A beautiful balcony and view and hot water. Wifi was sporadic, and the food was quite blah. Service was also pretty average and the owners worked hard at trying to sell you more all the time.
Nature Walk Trip Advisor Reviews
My Village Guest House – A strange geometric design, and a little dark inside the rooms, but the place was clean and the AC worked. Price was reasonable, and they sold safari tours that were in line with the going price on the street. The food was average. The owner was ok. No wifi. Nothing to write home about…but I slept well.
My Village Trip Advisor Reviews
Top Secret/Harmony Guest House – I have to preface this with the fact that it was the cheapest place we stayed – so maybe I was expecting a bit too much. The rooms were dismal at best. There were plenty of bugs joining us in the room and even on the bed (this is a deal breaker for me). It was hot, stifling hot, uncomfortably hot, did I say hot? No AC or hot water. However the wifi was good, the beach area was one of the best for hanging out, and the owner was really nice. Food was nothing to write home about.
Top Secret Trip Advisor Reviews
Top Secret/Harmoney Guest House Website
Wathsala - the best thing this place had going for it was that you didn’t have to spend the whole night there because most people get up in the middle of the night and hike Adam’s Peak anyway! The owner was helpful, but the guest house was old and worn. The rooms were full of run down furniture, the towels were dirty, there was no hot water (yet we were told there would be hot water), and no AC. The food was average and the service at the restaurant was s—l—o–w. The worst was the bed which was made to look like a queen bed, but it was actually a full bed turned sideways and then a foam padding stuck at the bottom to fill out the rest of the queen frame.
Wathsala Trip Advisor Reviews
Siyanco Holiday Resort - This guest house was designed for bus tours through the surrounding ancient ruins – not really for backpackers. They offered some sad looking buffet food and host that wasn’t very helpful. The AC was advertised but barely worked, the rooms were average in design and comfort, no wifi, and only about ¼ of the food on the menu was actually available. The owner claimed to know very little about the prices of tours and tuk tuks and generally you felt like he wasn’t on our side when it came to trying to get a good tourist experience and value. It was extremely overpriced compared to others on this list and the lack of quality is oozed.
Siyanco Trip Advisor Reviews
Our overall lesson about lodging in Sri Lanka was that there was no consistency across the country on price vs. quality/service at all. Every time we walked into a new town I felt like we were gambling with our accommodation choices.
Trip Advisor was a big help on this trip. Since we utilized Trip Advisor to make all of our accommodation plans in Sri Lanka – we also ‘paid it forward’ and made sure we put in our own reviews of each of these places. After all, websites like Trip Advisor only really work when you give and take.
Do you ever use Trip Advisor to choose/research hotels? And do you give back and enter your own reviews?