Saga versus Independent Travel: Sri Lanka Hotel Holiday

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

How does a hotel-based holiday in Sri Lanka with Saga Holidays compare with an independently organised holiday?

I’ve researched an eight day ‘All Inclusive’ stay at the Club Palm Bay Hotel in Marawila, Sri Lanka, as featured in the Saga Holidays 2014 brochure.

This quiet ‘luxury’ beach hotel is situated on the NW Coast about 25 miles north of the international airport and about 50 miles from Colombo.

I’ve chosen September 2nd to 10th, 2014, for the holiday as that would suit Senior Travellers, being outside busy school holiday periods.

Saga Holidays

If you book with Saga Holidays, in addition to eight days at the hotel, you also get:

  • VIP door-to-door travel service
  • Travel Insurance
  • Return scheduled flights and transfers
  • Full board
  • Free bar open 13 hours a day
  • Two excursions
  • Welcome drink and dinner, cocktail party and farewell dinner
  • Resident Saga representative
  • Porterage at your hotel
  • Fruit and water in your room on arrival
  • Ayurvedic head massage (one per stay)
  • Exclusive Saga lounge area
Saga Holidays - Kandy, Central Sri Lanka

Kandy, Central Sri Lanka

The total cost for two people in a double room for September 2nd to 10th, travelling from Manchester Airport by Emirates, is £2538. This is reduced by £68 if you miss out the travel insurance. We generally advise if you are travelling more than once a year, that you should get annual travel insurance, see: Travel Insurance. Hence without insurance: £2470.

Independent Travel

Booking the same time directly with the Club Palm Bay Hotel costs £472 for ‘All Inclusive’ for two people in a double room. Flying Emirates from Manchester Airport on the same flights costs £490 per person return. Transfer in Sri Lanka organised by the hotel is £50 return for two persons. Hence the total cost of the hotel, flights and transfers is £1502. That is about £484 per person less!

Comparison

What do you get from Saga Holidays for your extra £484 per person? Well taking the list above, that leaves:

  • VIP door-to-door travel service
  • Two excursions
  • Welcome drink and dinner, cocktail party and farewell dinner
  • Resident Saga representative
  • Porterage at your hotel
  • Fruit and water in your room on arrival
  • Ayurvedic head massage (one per stay)
  • Exclusive Saga lounge area

The two excursions are local ones which can be organised independently with each costing about £20 per person. The Ayurvedic head massage would again cost about £20 per person. A total of £60 per person.

Royal Botanic Gardens

Royal Botanical Gardens

Taking into account these items, independent travel saves about £424 per person.

Considering this is an ‘All Inclusive’ holiday, the ‘Welcome drink and dinner, cocktail party and farewell dinner’ could be considered to have no extra cost. This also applies to the ‘Porterage at your hotel’  and ‘Fruit and water in your room on arrival’ – don’t all Sri Lankan hotels offer these as standard?

So what do you get for your extra £424 per person when booking through Saga Holidays?

  • VIP door-to-door travel service
  • Resident Saga representative
  • Exclusive Saga lounge area

If you live a long way from the departure airport, then the ‘VIP door-to-door travel service’ can be a valuable part of the package; accepting airport parking instead is a poor deal, as is transport from near the airport. Having a Saga representative at the hotel can be very useful if you have problems. Also, of course, booking online at Saga Holidays is much easier than booking the hotel, flights and transfers yourself.

You also have holiday protection with Saga Holidays via ABTA and ATOL, although you can obtain travel insurance that covers for third party and airline insolvency. If you book with your credit card directly with the airline or the hotel, then you are also covered.

So, the choice is yours! Either way it sounds like it should be an interesting and enjoyable holiday at a hotel that gets good scores on TripAdviser.

Stop on the way at Dubai

Stop on the way at Dubai

Also Include..

Whether you travel with Saga or independently, in addition to local excursions, I’d strongly recommend travelling a bit further afield.

An excellent one-day trip visits Kandy, stopping at the Pinniwala Elephant Orphanage and the Royal Botanical Gardens along the way. This and similar excursions can be arranged locally and are not expensive.

You do of course get more flexibility when organising your holiday independently. When  I travelled to Sri Lanka by Emirates, I stopped over a few nights in Dubai. Highly recommended!


COMMENT

31st July 2014 – Peter McLean says:

Your conclusions that the only real difference is that it is easier to book the whole thing with Saga, despite the extra cost, is quite true. It is also fair to say that they will have to ensure that the whole trip runs smoothly or pick up the pieces. When we travelled to Sri Lanka 2 years ago we booked independently but had a couple of ‘glitches’ that had to be sorted out locally – easy if you are happy to be a bit flexible. I would also suggest looking at the following website which we used to prepare for our trip and which proved immensely helpful.

See: http://drfumblefinger.com/wrdprs/blog/category/aall/asia/sri-lanka/

Dr. Fumblefinger was a personal friend of Arthur C. Clarke who lived in Sri Lanka and who gave him many suggestions for his travels there.
Either way, enjoy your trip to this lovely land!

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