Galle Fort – Sri Lanka

Galle is located on the south coast of Sri Lanka and is about 2 hours from Colombo (see 'Getting There'). Perfectly located for trade routes to Europe, Galle was previously occupied by the Portuguese before the Dutch and the English had a go, the old town is built within European style walls complete with a lighthouse and only one gate in and out. The new town has since expanded outside the walls but most people come to visit the old town and the walls themselves. 

Inside the walls the streets are incredibly clean and cater fully to tourists, there are plenty if boutique hotels, quirky cafes and handmade gift shops.

About a 30 minute walk from the fort is the Sea Turtle Hatchery, it costs Rs500/pp and you only need about 30 minutes there. As well as hatching babies they also take in injured turtles and the staff do a really good job explaining all the different species etc.

There are other hatcheries in Sri Lanka who let tourists release babies into these a but you can't do that here. A baby released during the day on its own has an almost 100% death rate, it's an unethical practice and the staff in Galle Hatchery really seem to care about the welfare of the animals. 

We chose to stay overnight but if you're short on time, Galle can certainly be done as a day trip from Unawatuna. There were lots of direct busses from the Main Street in Unawatuna, travel time is approx 30 minutes. 

Where to Say: 

The hotels inside the fort were quite expensive, we stayed about 25 minutes walk away at the hotel Hasara. It was a great budget option, basic but had A/C and a free breakfast. Worth noting that it was up a very dark path with no street lights, either take a torch with you (we just used my phone) or take a tuk-tuk for Rs200. 

Getting There:

From Colombo there are a few trains per day, we visited the tourist information stall in Colombo the day before who told us that we couldn't pre-book tickets for this train and that tickets were Rs80/pp and the journey was about 2.5 hours. When you get to Galle station you can take a tuk-tuk for around Rs100. 

We had abit of a disaster in Colombo and Sean got serious food poisoning, we didn't know what the bathroom situation would be onboard and it didn't seem fair to have him sitting vomiting into a bag the whole trip. We asked the receptionist to book us a private driver which cost Rs9,000, which is completely over the average, but we were desperate and in no position to negotiate. The drive took 2 hours.  

How to Haggle

Haggling or bargaining is expected in most countries, I’ve got abit of a head start being a professional buyer means that I’ve had my fair share of practice but it can be daunting if you’re not used to it. I’ve listed a few tips below that will help you along the way if you’re completely new to haggling. 

  1. It will be expected that you will try to haggle the price, because of this, the first price offered is almost always inflated. Never accept the first price. 
  2. A little bit of local knowledge goes a long way. Knowing what something should cost, gives you a good starting point. A quick google search can give you an estimate of taxi prices per KM etc. You can save a fortune by just spending 10 minutes online before your fly.
  3. If you are taking a taxi, always agree the price before you get in, it’s to late too try and haggle after the event. 
  4. Don’t be afraid to walk away, if the vendor is being uncooperative then the chances are you will find another one who is willing just around the corner. Never feel pressured into paying to much.
  5. Most importantly, remember to be realistic and ethical, sure you can buy this £2 sunglasses for £1 if you try hard enough, but is it really worth it? Remember that the vendors all have families to feed and bills to pay. There’s nothing wrong with expecting to pay a fair price, but make sure it’s fair for both sides.

Some people will argue that if you can afford to travel to a foreign country then you are instantly richer than the majority of its population and therefore should be willing to pay over the odds to help the local economy. However by paying to much you can have a negative effect by inflating prices for the local people and pricing them out of the market.

Let me know if you found this useful.

Ashleigh xxx

Algarve – Itinerary and Cost

Day 1 – Late night flight from Newcastle,

The flight time is 3 hours and cost £100/pp for a return ticket with Ryanair, use SkySkanner.com for the best deals. There isn’t any time difference between the UK and Portugal.

A taxi into Faro cost us €12, it only took about 10 minutes to get from the airport to our hotel. We spent 2 nights at the Guest House Sao Filipe which cost £30/night. The rooms were basic and small but they were clean and comfortable.

Day 2 – Full day in Faro,

We were lucky enough to be featured as guest writers on http://www.onedayitinerary.com, the article should be published soon, I will link it to our home page as soon as it up.

Day 3 – Travel to Lagos,

Our hotel was about a 5 minute walk to Faro main train station. As all trains in Europe, they cheap and reliable, a one way ticket from Faro to Lagos was only €7.20/pp, travel time is just under 2 hours. Trains aren’t very regular so check out www.algarvebus.info for the latest time tables.  

We arrived in Lagos just after mid-day and had a gentle stroll around the marina and town centre until we were allowed to check into our apartment at Via D. Ana at 2pm for 7 nights. We only paid £33/night and had the most amazing view from our balcony. The apartment was clean and had in everything we needed to make ourselves at home for a week.

Day 4 to 7 – Lagos,

Lagos is a really good place for families, couples and also has a fairly big backpacking scene. We spent our days walking, cycling and lying on the beach. At night we explored the old town which had a lively nightlife and loads of restaurants, it was easy to get whatever you fancied, Indian, Italian, English, Japanese, etc. and of course Portuguese!

Check out our blog post for the best things to do in Lagos here.

Day 8 – Day trip to Silves,

The trains were so cheap and reliable that we stayed in Logos for a little bit longer than we had originally planned and just did a couple of day trips, first we went to Silves,

A historic town not far from Lagos and easily accessible on the train. Silves is dominated by a medieval castle and surrounded by beautiful countryside and orange farms. We’ve done a full post on this, click to here to read.

Day 9 – Day trip to Portimao

We spent a full day in Portimao but I wasn’t overly impressed. The beach front is lined with massive hotels and British pubs and it was a lot more crowded than anywhere else we had been. Maybe it was just because we had been spoiled by the amazing scenery and beaches in Lagos and the culture in Faro, but Portimao just didn’t seem very Portuguese.

Day 10 – Travelled home

We had an absolutely amazing time in the Algarve and will certainly return. There are other places in Portugal I want to visit too, like Lisbon. I also want to go back to Porto as a tourist, I’ve only ever been on a business trip but had one night in the town centre which was beautiful.

Other Useful Information:

When to visit: The Algarve is based along the southern coast of Portugal and gets really hot and busy during the summer months. May and September are still sunny but it’s a little cooler and much more comfortable.

Visa: UK Passport holders do not currently need a visa to enter Portugal.

Vaccinations: At the time of writing (May 2017) there are no vaccinations required.

Money: The currency in Portugal is Euro. Exchange rates on 9th May 2017 below:

£1 (GBP) = €1.18 (EUR)

$1 (USD) = €0.92 (EUR)

It was really easy to find a cashpoint (ATM), but it’s worth mentioning that we did notice quite a few signs in café windows etc. that said ‘cash only’.

Food and drink all over the Algarve is very reasonably priced, we spent 10 days here and never spent more than €25 per meal.