Quick tour of Sri lanka - Sep 1 - Sep 6, 2017
I will start off by reviewing Ida. The entire experience of communicating our needs and having the trip set up was painless and very good. I would recommend Ida wholeheartedly to anyone wishing to go to Sri Lanka.
The trip itself though well planned had some hiccups in execution. The driver will take you to tourist traps for shopping. As long as one is aware, it is easy (though annoying) to avoid grossly overpaying for things. The driver will also take you to restaurants that cater to tourists. These are impossible to avoid despite repeated requests to the driver to avoid them. The issue here is that we almost never got to experience Sri Lankan cuisine, only local parodies of "pasta", "pizza" etc. The hotels where we stayed were not much better with "American" or "Continental" being the option in most places. This is not a reflection on the Driver or on Ida but on a lack of understanding on the part of the hotels of a certain kind of traveller.
The pacing of activity was off as well on two days. The second day was crammed with activity. The entrance fee to the Temple of the tooth had to be paid up by us despite being included in the price of the tour. I was told that the driver did not have enough money and the tour agency would be refunding the money to me directly. The tea factory tour was on day two in Kandy as opposed to later at Nuwara Eliya. The explanation given was that the tea factory was shut on Sunday at Nuwara Eliya and hence the activity had to be shifted to Kandy. This could have been avoided as it was apparent that the day at Nuwara Eliya would fall on a Sunday.
Additionally, the morning of the day which we were supposed to visit Galle fort was rained out. The driver informed us that the entire day would be washed out and we could do Galle fort the next morning. We accepted this as something beyond our control. But later in the day when the weather cleared up, the driver was unavailable to take us to the fort. This meant we had to do this activity the next morning eating into the time we had to tour Colombo. We only got to see the fort at Galle for half an hour before the heavens opened up again leaving us to rue the half a day of sunshine we missed the previous day. Additionally,we only got to see Colombo from the car on our way to lunch and after that to the airport.
Overall, I would rate it as a good experience but would caution any would be traveler to be constantly wary of his own interests to avoid issues which is not a state of mind one wants to be in while on vacation.
As mentioned previously, the service received from Ida was exemplary.