Our “Inside Sri Lanka” posts offer useful guides and tips about different places in Sri Lanka. Our first guide is for Galle and Devteta. Please note, these are not our own photos unless otherwise specified.
Galle is an apparent tourist must see, it is in all of the guides and a traveller is sometimes made to feel they have missed out if they don’t get the chance to visit. Does Galle live up to the hype? This post looks at what Galle has to offer a budget traveller.
Without a doubt Galle is worth a visit as it is home to The Galle Fort a UNESCO heritage site. The fort was built by the Portugese in the 16th century before being reinforced by the dutch. Galle Fort is very unique within Sri Lanka, it has small cobbled streets and almost reminds you of a European village rather than being a part of one of the most bustling cities in Sri Lanka. This is worth a visit to be surrounded in history the Fort has a wonderful mix of traditional colonial buildings, run down properties and boutique hotels, be warned this is a very cosmopolitan place.
Where to eat in Galle Fort on a Budget
- Lucky Fort restaurant – for your fill on local dishes, they offer 10 curries between 2 for LKR900 meaning you get a heck of a lot of great tasting food for roughly £2.25 per person.
- Indian Hut – there is another Indian Hut on the outskirts of Galle (Deveta) but the one in the Fort is definitely better, for a chicken curry, rice (easily enough to share) and a naan you are looking at around LKR600 or less. We highly recommend the tandoori chicken and Calcutta chicken special, the food is awesome but the service is pretty shite so be prepared to wait a while.
- Crepology – This isn’t the cheapest place in the world (the Fort on a whole is bloody expensive) but the food is great. You can have crepes or wraps galore, we would recommend the Chicken Jubilee wrap and for dessert a Banoffee crepe. The prices range from savoury items at LKR900 to sweet at LKR 500. You must try their “chillers”, they are blended ice drinks and are super refreshing, passionfruit and blackcurrant is especially good.
Shopping in Galle Fort
Galle Fort is expensive, you will not get as good a deal here as you would say in Unawatuna or somewhere a little more unknown like Habaraduwa, however you are still able to barter and if you are happy with the price you are paying then it shouldn’t matter.
Galle is not a budget location, you are better finding a guest house on the outskirts of the city, Unawatuna is only a 15 minute tuk away fro Galle fort and has more budget accommodation as well as cheaper bars and nightlife, read our guide on Unawatuna (coming soon) for more information. If you want to spend a little more money then accommodation in the Fort can be arranged, we have heard the cheapest you may get is LKR4000/5000 a room.
Galle is a crazy little city, it home to a bus and railway station, you are able to easily move around Sri Lanka from these stations. A highway bus is available from the bus stop which takes you Marahaba in Colombo for LKR390 and only takes 1h30mins oppose to the local bus which can take 3 hours. From Marahaba you simply catch a bus to Pettah and you will find yourself at the centre of the city where the bus and train terminals are located.
The train to Colombo also takes at least 3 hours though you arrive straight at Pettah station in the centre of Colombo.
Culture in Galle
Galle has heavy muslim influence and so women should respect this and cover up, vest tops are fine but long trousers are better. You will also feel more comfortable in these types of clothes as you attract less attention. Another important thing to note is that most shops in Galle (excluding the Fort) will be closed on a Friday afternoon due to the Muslim holiday.
As a tourist it is worth walking around the town, there is not much to buy but a few things to see. A large vegetable market is held behind a small temple close to Sahana eatery. Do NOT buy fruit from the stalls located directly on the road as you will be seriously ripped off, the same goes for the fish market close to the fruit stalls. If you wish to buy fish walk along the beach front away from the fort and you will find a large fish market, try to buy first thing as the fish are left in the sun and quickly lose their freshness.
You are able to buy a kilo of fresh calamari squid from Devata, a kilo should cost LKR600 but can differ slightly depending on the season. You may be approached by men in the city who will say they can get you a better price, do not use them, they will speak with the owner and usually get some sort of commission.
If you want convenience and some home foods then the best super market is Keells, this is located slightly out of Galle, about a 2 minute Tuk Tuk as though you were heading to Hikkaduwa. They have the most options available, if you can’t find what you want in Keells, you most likely won’t find it at all. Keels also have a fresh bakery, very cheap and perfect for a snack, their tuna sandwich is very nice along with their chocolate donuts, eclairs and croissants, get there early or the food is a bit stale and chewy.
Seafair in Deveta is also useful, a little smaller than Keells and a little more expensive but they have many international products.
Junk Food Fix
If you have been in Sri Lanka for a few weeks then you are probably getting a bit of a junk food craving, your choice is KFC or Pizza Hut, both aren’t that cheap – especially Pizza Hut, but they satisfy a craving. The best is Burger King in Colombo, the food is not a let down.
Galle is full of shops stocked full of raw fabrics as well as pre-made saris, have a wander and grab yourself a few metres at bargain prices. Manjari off Wakwella road is 5 stories of anything you could ever want including their top floor dedicated to fabrics of all kinds. Find yourself a seamstress from one of the hundreds available in and around Galle/Unawatuna, remember to check the quality of their work beforehand so not to waste material. Voila, you can have anything you desire made up for a fraction of the price, I would always recommend giving the seamstress something to copy as quite often design details are lost in translation.
Galle is not known for its surfing but there is a great little spot located in Deveta (Deveta is the area closest to the main T-junction when heading towards Matara). There is a huge eatery called Sahanas, located next to Seafair (mentioned above), you walk to the left of Sahanas onto the beach on your left is a bar called Surf Point. They offer you boards at a decent price (if you say you are staying at Hostel Unawatuna they may give you more of a discount), they also offer you complimentary ginger tea!! The sea is great, it is a shallow, sandy bay with no rocks at all, the waves change depending on the weather but they are usually good for both intermediate and beginner.
Galle is home to the international cricket stadium, this means that at certain times there is opportunity to go and see a world class match of cricket. Recently Sri Lanka played India, if you are a fan of cricket then try and time your trip so you are able to attend a match.
So is Galle worth spending a good few days in?
I would say no. Yes come and see it, there is history and beauty to be explored so spend a night or possibly two. However, unless you are a surfer or have a little money to spend around the Fort, from a backpackers point of view, there is a lot more to be seen elsewhere for the price you end up paying.
Please find some of our photos taken in and around Galle.
Check out our coming guides on different areas of Sri Lanka, next time we look at party town Unawatuna.