Cities & township

Negombo is a city on the west coast of Sri Lanka, north of the capital, Colombo. Near the waterfront, the remains of the 17th-century Dutch Fort now house a prison. Negombo Lagoon, lined with fishermen’s huts, feeds into the Dutch-era Hamilton Canal.

2 m
27°C, Wind SW at 18 km/h
Foozoo destinations
Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya

Cities & township

Nuwara Eliya is a city in the tea country hills of
central Sri Lanka. The naturally landscaped Hakgala Botanical Gardens displays roses and tree ferns, and shelters monkeys and blue magpies. Nearby Seetha Amman Temple, a colorful Hindu shrine, is decorated with religious figures.

1,868 m
16°C, Wind SE at 5 km/h
Foozoo destinations


Cities & township

Kandy is a large city in central Sri Lanka. It's set on a plateau surrounded by mountains, which are home to tea plantations and biodiverse rainforest. The city's heart is scenic Kandy Lake (Bogambara Lake), which is popular for strolling.

500 m
25°C, Wind SW at 5 km/h
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Top Hotels



Happy New Year in April

The Sinhala & Tamil New Year explained.

This is Sri Lanka’s single largest celebration and festival and usually takes place on the 13th and 14th of April every year. It is also one that is celebrated by both of the island’s main races, the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The Sinhalese refer to it as ‘Aluth Awurudda’ and the Tamil community refers to it as ‘Puthandu’or ‘Puthuvarudam’. It can be said that the festival combines aspects of astrology, Hinduism and Buddhism. It is also a harvest festival.



Astrology is at the heart of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year

The sun has been worshipped by the people of this part of the world from time immemorial. And the origins of this festival can be traced to this connection. Today every aspect of this festival is interpreted through Astrology and in simple terms is all about the Sun moving from the house of ‘Meena’ (Pisces) to ‘Mesha’ (Aries). This celebration also coincides with similar celebrations of many traditional calendars in South and South East Asia.



Lead up to the festival


Sri Lankans start preparing for New Year as early as February. The radio and TV stations start promoting the New Year with traditional music and reminders. Shopping picks up and houses are colour washed. New clothes and gifts are purchased. As the dates get closer you will also hear the call of the ‘Koha’ bird fill the air. This bird call is synonymous of the coming celebrations. As the days get even closer the roads get busy. So do the markets and malls. By about the 12th of April, the locals take leave from work and travel to their hometowns and villages. By the time the first auspicious time descends the country comes to an almost standstill.


If you are travelling to or in Sri Lanka this time, it is best to avoid the direction of travel of the locals. Catching a train or bus out of Colombo from about the 10th should be avoided. But transport towards the city will be relatively easy and less crowded. The opposite happens after the New Year. While most places of tourist importance will remain open, most food outlets will be closed and transport will be difficult to find at the peak of the holiday. This may last for a period of 48 hours. Most Sri Lankans take about a week off and so it will also take time for life to return to normal after the holidays. If you are travelling without the assistance of a tour company, you should plan your travel and meals in advance. It would best to book hotels with all meals.



Auspicious times and the sequence of events


Unlike the celebration of the new Gregorian calendar year at midnight on December 31, the Sinhalese traditional New Year begins at a time determined by astrological calculations. Also unlike 31st night celebrations, where old year ends at midnight and new year begins immediately afterwards; the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart from one another (this span of time is usually 12 hours and 48 minutes, which starts when the sun, as a disk, starts to cross the astrological boundary between 'House of Pisces' and 'House of Aries' and ends when the crossing is complete. 


The auspicious times are published in advance and can be found online. As each time comes and goes, the locals light crackers and engage in a specific activity. The first auspicious time to be celebrated is the one for bathing for the New Year. This involves rituals of cleansing and spirituality. Next up is the actual dawn of the New Year. The inauspicious time is a period of no festivities or importance and most people use this time to visit temples or to reflect on their lives and plans. The lighting of the hearth puts the festivities into full swing as the fires are lit and the food is prepared. Next is the time to partake in meals and transactions. All of these times will happen at different intervals and is different every year. The anointing of oil happens a few days later and the auspicious time for leaving for work can happen a full week from the first auspicious time of that year’s festivities. So as you can see it can be all very confusing for a person who is used to a countdown on New Year’s Eve.



Is there an actual festival?


Technically the whole duration from the first auspicious time to the last is a time of the festival. But you may not see much happening other than people walking about. In that sense, it is more a holiday. You will see people attending temples and Kovils, and then visiting friends and family. They will also be wearing the auspicious colors of that year. Most villages will also hold ‘Aluth Avurudu Uthsawa’ meaning New Year Festival. Here you will see people playing traditional drums, engaging in sports activities, song contestants, cooking feats and even beauty pageants. Bicycle races, cross country running and musical shows also happen. So it really is a lot of different activities happening at different times.


As a tourist, the best way to experience this is to be invited to the home of a local. Most large hotels and even the smaller ones will also conduct their own festivals.



Should you avoid this time as a traveller?


Absolutely not! In fact, it is one of the best times to travel to Sri Lanka because everyone is on holiday mood and happy to welcome you to their homes or play traditional games. The days are usually the hottest of the year and fair weather is common. Although the occasional April Shower will come down and cool everything down in the late afternoons or evenings. If you are travelling on your own then it may be advisable to spend the peak festival time chilling out in one area without travelling around too much. But if you are travel with a tour company like Foozoo Travel you can count on having all the fun aspects of this unique holiday explained and included as fun activities.



Aluth Avurudu with Foozoo Travel


This tour package lets you spend 2 days and nights with a local family and experience the various festival highlights. It can be incorporated into an existing tour or enjoyed on its own as a special experience.


Image credits: Sri Lanka College of Journalism

Image credits: Kingsbury Hotel

Image credits: TimeOut

Some helpful Dos and Don'ts fo..

You are planning for an adventure in Paradise and want to be fully prepared. This write-up is all about providing you with essential and helpful tips to aid that preparation. The dos and don’ts mentioned here have been drawn up for the regular traveller but if you are travelling with Foozoo you can count on everything to be taken care of. Also, these points will not only help you bridge the cultural gap in no time but also give you a chance to enjoy Sri Lankan way of living.


Drinking water. Unless you are particularly sensitive, general tap water is good to drink. But to be on the safe side and not ruin your holiday, stick to bottled water. Most hotels will provide these at a cost. If you are staying at a Foozoo run guesthouse or hotel you will notice that they will provide free drinking water from a dispenser. Also if you tour with them, they provide water for the entire journey. Do make it a point to take a refillable glass or metal bottle to help the island fight its battle against Single Use Plastic. One good way to stay hydrated however is to keep downing those sweet and cooling king coconut water which you will find in abundance.


Sugar and Spice and all that’s nice: Try everything once and be amazed and delighted. And note that every cup of tea or fruit juice is too much too sweet. So if you are particularly trying to avoid sugar, give the restaurant or cafe a heads up. This mostly happens in rural areas and street-side shops. The same goes for spices. Remember you can always ask to have the spices a bit toned down if you know the food is made to order.


Insect Repellent: It’s a tropical paradise and that means the insects are abundant and the locals have adapted well to live with them. So don't be alarmed when you see way too many creepy crawlies and winged insects everywhere. Mosquito-borne diseases are however a big issue. Although concerted efforts have helped keep some of the dangerous diseases like Dengue Fever in check it is always good to stay protected. So do keep your favourite mosquito repellent or all-purpose insect repellent handy. We recommend you try out the many organic ones available which are good for you and the environment. And by the way, if you tend to swell up or have allergic reactions to insect bites, maybe see a doctor before you travel and get some medication.


No Selfies with the Buddha: Don’t take a selfie with the Buddha or any other religious statues such as Hindu gods etc. Sri Lankans hold their religion in high regard. To the extent, a female tourist with a Buddha Tattoo on her arm was recently refused entry to the country for disrespecting Buddhism. Always remember to show respect to religious statues. Avoid facing your back to religious statues or worse yet taking selfies with them. Also, make sure your shoulders and legs are covered when visiting places of religious or cultural importance. Also, no hats when entering such places.


Ahem. No PDA, please. Sri Lankans are a prude lot. You will rarely see people kissing in public, let alone couples holding hands. Showing affection in public is something we tend to avoid like the plague. So unless you enjoy being stared at, it’s best to avoid PDA (Public Displays of Affection) at most times when you are out and about. Of course, this applies to the times when you are in public.


The pace is super slow: What is a 15-minute drive on the map could take an hour if you set off at the wrong time. Sri Lankan roads are small and packed with an ever increasing number of cars, motorbikes and tuk-tuks! Rush hour traffic can come to a virtual halt. Also, bus travel can be slow because they to stop whenever they see the potential of taking on another passenger. So Intercity express is more a concept here vs a reality. And it only gets worse on holidays, festival days and so on. While this is all fun for the adventure or budget traveller you will end up precious time staring blankly into another vehicle for long amounts of time. Therefore plan ahead and leave space for delays. If you can afford it, Sri Lanka is one destination where using the services of a tour operator makes perfect sense.


No Meter? Girl Bye! Yep. If the slow pace was bad, being ripped off at the end of a long journey is the worst. Being in the industry we know. And it keeps happening. So always agree on a price beforehand or stick to a taxi with a meter and ensure the meter is running. You could be paying multiple times the cost of an actual trip and have a bad experience overall. So always look for the meter. If there is no meter, simply refuse and walk away. To make matters easy, we have Uber which offers tuk-tuks and a host of transport options as well as the local version, Pick Me, Sri Lanka. The latter, however, requires a local sim to be operational.


Watch out! It’s a fact. Some of us (yours truly excluded) drive like maniacs. Especially the Bus Drivers, Tuk Drivers and motorcyclists. They swerve and cut through in the most unimaginable ways, an innocent drive to the shops sometimes does feel like a rollercoaster ride. There have been occasions too many, where even the pedestrian crossing has not proven to be safe. Make sure to look and look again, before you cross the road. Double the level of alertness if you are brave enough to wield a bicycle, motorcycle or drive.


How does one book a train? Well, this does seem tricky indeed. The general rule is to go to the station, buy a ticket and travel. Scoring a seat is like a winning a lottery. A private website under the title Malinda Prasad provides an easy to understand the time table of trains. The government website can be a bit perplexing. Some train lines, particularly the ones on the upcountry line (Colombo - Kandy - Nanu-Oya - Ella) line offer carriages where the seats can be reserved one month in advance. But they also sell out before you say ‘one ticket please’. Work with Foozoo or other local agents to have your train tickets reserved on these busy lines and act at least a month in advance. For those who fail to get one, know that you can still travel on these trains. A seat may become available as the passengers alight from different stations.


Hand sanitizer and tissues: Sri Lanka is humid and before you know it you are feeling hot and sticky. So passing on or attracting germs is easy. This is why having a bottle of hand sanitiser is a good idea. Especially when there is such a lot of good street food to be had. And you don't want to pass one by. And wet tissues are a genius invention. Not just to wipe off the dust and feel a temporary cool respite. They also help clean your hands after a quick bite or prove helpful in the case of a toilet emergency.


To tip or not to tip: Tip away. It is not essential. It is not expected. But a lot of Sri Lankans you will meet on the road, at cafes, at hotels etc really struggle to get by. So a standard tip of 10% will have a large impact on their lives and families.


Where’s the toilet roll? Why wipe when you can wash? And here’s a delightful hand shower to change your life. If you are going to a public washroom or staying with locals (other than a guesthouse or hotel) you may find a handy shower you can aim at the ‘you know what’ and clean far better than a piece of paper ever could. It’s really nice. Try it.


A mess of a tax system. There are way too many tax systems even for the locals to understand. So don’t try. But if and when booking hotels and services in advance, be mindful that the figure you agreed on may not be the final. But as a standard, you will have to pay VAT, NBT and service charges.


We hope the above these Sri Lanka travel tips will be useful for your upcoming holiday.

What is a Poya holiday in Sri ..

Heading to Sri Lanka on a holiday? Then it is advisable to have a look at its holiday calendar. The island has a staggering number of holidays and most of these have religious significance. One key holiday is the Poya holiday which may happen up to 12 times a year. And because it has religious, cultural and practical considerations it is good to be aware and prepared.


What really is a Full Moon Poya Holiday?

A Poya day is the name given to the Buddhist full moon holiday called ‘Uposatha’, and is celebrated monthly in recognition of the moon being at it’s the fullest point. This usually means that a Poya Day falls once a month, however, there can occasionally be two Poya days in one month depending on the lunar calendar. This additional Poya is given the prefix “Adhi”, meaning extra. What all this also means is that Sri Lankans are lucky to have a holiday every time the moon is full! If and when a Full Moon Poya holiday falls on a weekend a holiday in lieu of it will not be given. However, there have been instances where this has happened and usually applies to the most sacred holidays of them all, the Vesak Full Moon Poya.


How does one celebrate a Poya Holiday?

All Poya days are recognized by the Sri Lankan Government and so are marked with both a civil and bank holiday, throughout Sri Lanka. All practising Buddhists within Sri Lanka meditate, reflect and put particular importance on the five precepts of Buddhism. These five precepts are to abstain from: harming living beings; sexual misconduct; stealing or theft; deception or lying and intoxication – whether from alcohol or drugs. If you are visiting Sri Lanka during a Poya holiday you can see most people visit temples dressed in white. However, since this is a Buddhist holiday the other religions continue with their normal lives. Also, not all Buddhists practice the rituals and rights associated with a Poya to the fullest.


How will Poya impact your holiday?

A Poya holiday applies to all sectors of work and business in Sri Lanka. This means all schools, banks and government offices are closed. So are most private businesses. There is also a ban on the sale of meat, fish, alcohol and cigarettes. Serving these items are also prohibited. It has been noted that those not following this holiday will usually stock up on the previous day.


Why does each Poya have a different name?

The Sinhalese have given a name to each month and this name is tied to that month’s Poya holiday. Each Poya also relates to an important aspect of Buddhism or a significant event in Sri Lanka’s Buddhist history. For example ‘Vesak’ Poya happens in the month of ‘Vesak’ (May) which is the first month in the Buddhist calendar. And on this Poya holiday Buddhists all over the world commemorate the triple anniversary of Lord Buddha – the birth, enlightenment and passing away. ‘Poson’ Poya in the month of ‘Poson’ (June) commemorates the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.


Here is a list of Poya holidays and their meaning in brief.

Vesak – May: Birth, enlightenment and passing away of Lord Buddha

Poson – June: Introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka

Esala – July: First sermon to the ascetics. (Also corresponds with the Esala Perahera/festival of Kandy which may happen in July or August)

Nikini – August: First Dhamma convocation

Binara – September: Buddha’s visit to heaven to preach to his mother and the celestial multitude

Vap – October: Conclusion of Buddha’s preaching of the Abhidhamma

Ill – November: Obtaining of Vivarana

Unduvap – December: Arrival of the Bo-tree sapling to Sri Lanka

Duruthu – January: Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka

Navam – February:  Entrance into the order of two leading disciples of The Buddha (Sariputta and Maha Moggalana).

Medin – March: Commemorates the visit of The Buddha to his home to preach to his father King Suddhodana and other relatives.

Bak – April: It commemorates the second visit of The Buddha to Sri Lanka. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year also happens during this period.





Latest News

#1 On Lonely Planet In The Midst Of A Coup

Note: This article will be updated to reflect the changes in the ground situation.

Update (14/11/2018 11:40 AM) : Parliamentarians who voted in favour of the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse have signed a motion to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya reconfirming their calls. The majority voted ‘aye’.

Update (26/11/2018 4:30PM) : Following the initial NCM vote, there have been two further votes, both of which led to violent incidents within the parliament, as supporters of Rajapakse refused to accept the outcome. Those of the Rajapakse camp claim the Speaker is being partisan in how he chose to conduct the NCM vote. The Court of Appeal will take up a Writ of Quo Warranto filed by 122 MPs challenging Rajapakse and his purported government's continuation in office on November 30. Meanwhile, a seven-judge bench to hear the petitions against the dissolution of Parliament will be taken up on December 3.

No sooner than Lonely Planet announced Sri Lanka as its #1 travel destination for 2019, governments around the world issued travel advisories warning their citizens about the sudden shift in Sri Lanka’s political climate. Fear not, however, as we’re here to tell you that our doors are still open and why it’s still safe to visit the resplendent island.

So what’s really going on? Well, at the moment of writing this, a few things have happened. Our president and prime minister came under scrutiny as their government, which came to power on a popular platform, could not deliver on its promises. Perhaps in an attempt to avoid responsibility, the president chose to remove the prime minister and appoint a new one, former president Mahinda Rajapakse. The president appointed a cabinet of ministers, issued a gazette to dissolve parliament, and elections have been called for January 2019. This was much to the ire of those opposed to the previous regime and those who uphold the constitution, which does not allow for it. On the other hand, many have been celebrating this change.

In fact, for the most part, it is civil society, concentrated in Colombo, that are riled up about the issue. Everywhere else on the island, from tourist destinations to the rural countryside, peace prevails and life goes on as usual. There has been one incident of violence when a mob attempted to assault a member of parliament and his security personnel fired at them. This happened in the heat of the coup, and since then it has been calm and memes have taken over. Politics is certainly on everyone’s mind, but the hospitality sector, in particular, is never shaken. As Lonely Planet rightly notes, our people defy all odds with our welcome and friendliness.

Be it the tuk driver, surf instructor, waiter or bus conductor, wherever you go, you’re sure to be greeted by a Sri Lankan smile. That’s just a part of our culture and our personality, a curious fact. You’d sometimes stop and marvel at how we manage to maintain this sense of optimism. Some attribute it to short-term memory, that we soon forget our troubles. Others choose to believe that we simply persevere. After having to turn away visitors time and time again over a 30-year conflict, we’ve spent the past decade, post-conflict, inviting the world to share in the delights of this country, and we’re not about to let some political misadventures spoil that.

So what’s in store for Sri Lanka? A Supreme Court hearing on November 12 and 13 led to a stay order on the Gazette. This allowed the parliament to be convened, today. A No Confidence Motion has been called against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.

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The IGLTA Foundation launches the Discovery Series

Founder of Foozoo Travel, Sri Lanka makes some compelling points


The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) is an international organization and a member-based global organization dedicated to LGBT tourism. The association has a global presence with member businesses in more than 80 countries and global ambassadors in more than 22 countries. The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) was the first gay organization to receive affiliate member status in the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in November 2010. In November 2015 the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association became an orgisational partner with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).


The IGLTA Foundation supports the mission of IGLTA and its members through education, research and leadership development that benefits the global LGBTQ tourism industry. And this year saw the launch of the Discovery Series – Voices from LGBTQ Travel Professionals in Emerging Destinations.


The programme, conducted by IGLTA Hall of Fame award winner, Tanya Churchmuch of Much PR saw representatives from small to medium businesses speak about unique challenges they face back home. Participants included representatives from Brazil, Curacao and Uganda.


Contributing to the conversation, founder of Foozoo Travel, Dinesh Perera highlighted that destinations like Sri Lanka offer a multitude of challenges that are complicated by cultural norms and politicisation. His business that is contributing to the economy needs to appeal to international clients that value diversity, safety and authentic experiences yet communicate them in such a way that does not ruffle feathers. He also appealed for cohesive and strategic support in marketing communications, and visibility which organisations like the IGLTA can provide.

Another contributor touched on the important fact that the demographics of International travellers are changing. As marriage equality takes hold around the world and people are becoming more comfortable living their authentic selves, international travellers who identify as LGBTIQ are also increasing. They and their families value businesses and destinations that respect equality. Thus creating a strong business case for equality and non-discriminatory practices.


The Discovery series will continue at future IGLTA conventions and the points discussed in the first meeting will be revisited throughout the coming year. Foozoo Travel on behalf of other businesses like them hope that these discussions will deliver tangible and meaningful results.

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IGLTA shines a light on the human rights aspect of Tourism with a diverse and captivating panel discussion

Foozoo Travel Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Perera highlights some key observations affecting emerging markets like Sri Lanka


IGLTA 2018 through its programme line-up demonstrated an acute awareness of not only how important LGBTIQ travellers are to the global tourism but also how they are demanding more from their travel destinations. From sustainability practices, disability support, authenticity to acceptance of human rights, LGBTIQ travellers are far more involved and have broad considerations when deciding on where to go. Therefore the panel discussion titled ‘The Intersection of Human Rights and Tourism’ was one of the most well received and powerful moments of the 4 day event in Toronto, Canada.

The panel discussion which was sponsored by AIG was moderated by Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The panel comprised of Kevin Dallas, Chief Executive Officer, Bermuda Tourism Authority, Sean Howell, cofounder & President of Hornet, Helen Kennedy, Executive Director, Eagle Canada Human Rights Trust and Dinesh Perera, Founder of Foozoo Travel, Sri Lanka.

Mr. Fabrice kicked off the panel discussion by highlighting the publication of the Standards of Conduct calling on the private sector to scale up its game in contributing to the much-needed global social change on Human Rights of LGBTI people. He noted that these Standards have already received the support of more than 120 of the largest companies in the world. And this list is fast growing.

Here are a few other extracts from Mr. Fabrice’s opening statement.

“Tourism provides 10% of the world’s GDP, 7% of global trade and as many as one in every 11 jobs globally. Dee (Dinesh Perera) was mentioning yesterday that travel and tourism contributes to 11.6 % of Sri Lanka’s GDP. It is a voice that cannot be ignored and has the power to contribute to expand the historic shift in public attitudes we observed here in North America and need in most places of the World.”

“But business is now increasingly engaged in the fight to extend equality for the LGBT community – we are observing it in Singapore, Uganda or Hong Kong – and, we believe, business today has a critical role to play globally in support of those grassroots movements we see emerging around the world.

At this time of great flux – when huge gains made in many countries in the West, in Latin America and parts of Asia now need to be consolidated and extended, and when LGBT communities are more visible – and in some cases facing pushback – in parts of the world where they were previously relegated to the shadows – we need your help now more than ever to get all companies irrespective of their size and location in this industry to step up in meeting responsibilities and opportunities on the Human Rights of LGBTI people.


Contributing to the panel discussion and responding to questions, Dinesh Perera of Foozoo Travel Sri Lanka gave credit to all the many civil society personalities who have chipped away at the walls that have held LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka captive. He mentioned that this work continues with added energy and is more and more supported by business enterprises that see it as the right thing to do. And as a business organization that is LGBTIQ owned and catering to that segment, he highlighted their responsibility, fears and complexities in doing business and supporting the community at the same time.


Dinesh also highlighted work done by Foozoo Travel to make the LGBTIQ story more visible. These include openly marketing itself as an LGBTIQ friendly company, enrolling staff, providing training and engaging with other organizations and businesses connected to or supporting LGBTIQ businesses. He also brought attention to how this topic has been politicized, confused and grossly misrepresented by numerous groups. This he said continues to challenge them personally and as a business as the climate towards LGBTIQ persons and work can rapidly turn ugly.


Meanwhile, Kevin Dallas highlighted the international fallout for Bermuda Tourism as a result of changes to the same sex marriage ban. Sean Howell of Hornet touched on how his app is not just bringing community members together but also making positive changes and providing protection for communities in unsafe areas. Helen Kennedy brought in a lot of perspectives on staying engaged with the many stakeholders and staying focused even if it means that it will all take a lot more time.


Speak to Dinesh Perera or Foozoo Travel to transform your business to an LGBTIQ friendly one. Their consultancy platform offers practical and engaging means to educate the management, staff, partners and all stakeholders on being LGBTIQ friendly, accepting and nurturing.

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