Whilst still in the planning stages had I had several telephone calls with Viator local supplier, Beyond Escapes and the communication was not of the standard one would expect from a company dealing with International tourists on a day to day basis. I was repeatedly asked what time our flight was and what hotel we were staying at. We were being collected and staying with friends for the first few days in Colombo but it seemed that if you went off the most trodden tourist path they were unable to cope.
Three weeks prior to our arrival we were told that there were problems with taking the train, Expo Rail and Sri Lankan Railways had been unable to come to an agreement. I immediately wrote to Beyond Escapes and said that the train journey was one of the highlights of the tour and that we were not keen on driving the route instead. We were not informed that it was possible to reserve seats for the regular train and still travel in comfort but without lunch the very same route. As everyone, who has ever used the internet to look up Sri Lanka knows, this route is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, why would I want to go by car? This basically comes down to not knowing your customer/market.
The first two days were interesting, the nights were in a Spa Resort and we were very happy. It had a pool, outdoor bar, buffet or al a carte menu. The rooms were large and airy, nicely decorated, a small terrace to sit out on and clean.
I was not a fan of being taken to the places where you could buy things. The cultural sites was what I was there for. The third night was a little disappointing, a boutique hotel with a double bed ! I was travelling with my cousin, I did not want to share a bed with her however! The hotel had no twin rooms, does the tour company check these kind of things? There was no restaurant, no bar, our driver had dropped us and gone the owner offered to call a tuk tuk to take us to the closest supermarket to get food 3.5 km or further to restaurants. We were weary from a long day of sightseeing and opted for a like warm shower, a bag of crisps we happened to have, a bottle of water and some Netflix!
The following evening after pleasant sightseeing and making our own arrangements to take the train we asked our driver about the hotel we were heading to. He said it was another boutique hotel. This hotel also had no bar/restaurant, the room had a double bed AGAIN no twin rooms in this hotel either, no coffee or tea facilities and was well out of the town. I was not about to go down this route again! I asked our driver to contact Beyond Escapes and after almost two hours of phone calls and checking the internet I booked my own hotel for the next two nights.
For less than the price of the boutique hotel we had abandoned, we stayed in Tea Hills Bungalows. We had a large dual aspect room overlooking the hills with twin beds. In the room a fridge, kettle, coffee, tea, and a terrace to sit out on and watch the sun go down. Downstairs was a delightful dining room also looking out over the tea plantations and little houses dotted around. They had an organic garden that we had a tour of, lunch was 10 and a three course dinner 12. The food was outstanding and breakfast was included and all for 40 a night.
We sent our driver off a day early back to Colombo, his English was not good, he was OK telling us about the sites but if we had questions he didnt really understand. We made our own way back to Colombo.
Viator/Beyond Escapes need to: 1 check the accommodation, and 2 if the customer is paying for a private driver make sure he doesn't leave you stranded without food!
We had been on a tour the previous 10 days in India and so felt we were able to compare, this tour did not come up to expectations.
Die Tour lief ab wie beschrieben, die Abstimmung zwischen Viator und dem Veranstalter vor Ort passt also. Unser Fahrer war auch pünktlich am Flughafen und hat uns während der gesamten Folgezeit sicher durch das Land begleitet. Auf Unvorhersehbarkeiten hat er jederzeit engagiert und flexibel reagiert und auch auf Individualwünsche ist er sofort eingegangen. So haben uns beispielsweise sowohl die Silk Factory als auch einige andere Kleinigkeiten nicht so interessiert, dafür wollten wir uns mehr bewegen. In Nuwara Eliya hat unser Guide deshalb noch einen anderen Fahrer organisiert, der uns am Freitag Morgen um fünf Uhr zum World's End gefahren hat - ein wunderschöner 15-km-Trail in den Bergen mit spektakulären Bildern von weiten Gebirgen und einem Wasserfall Baker's Falls. Auch eine Elefantensafari mit über 100 Tieren in freier Wildbahn konnten wir am Dienstag Nachmittag einschieben. In Summe: Alles wie vereinbart und noch ein bisschen mehr :