Icaruswept had written an interesting post on restaurant prices. This is something I have been thinking about myself, along with the related subject of hotel/resort prices.
Dining out is expensive and the reason is not just food cost. We are getting ripped off in the coffee bars in Colombo and the resorts outside Colombo, something I have complained of before.
Let me share a few recent experiences on trips outstation.
Just returned from Unawatuna from a great little guesthouse in Unawatuna called the Summer Valley Boutique Villa. that charged us Rs.3600/- per double B&B. Thats 1800/- a head, including a breakfast. My friends were shocked at the price we got and were expecting the worst, some sort of flea infested dive.
Contrary to the worst fears of the party, the place was very clean and comfortable. In the evening my friends were debating where to go for breakfast the next day. I remided them that breakfast was included. They were shocked again. How could they afford to give us breakfast as well? They expected it to be crap and suggested that we may not want to take the risk.
Come the next day our party decided to check what was on offer. A pot of tea, and a tasty omelette, along with some delicious 'kade' paan, butter and jam turned up. The 'kade' paan in Colombo is positively insipid compared to what we got and it was polished off with relish.
More surprises were in store when a bowls of fruit salad turned up and an excellent peni pol pancake to finish off.
In Colombo that breakfast alone would have cost us anything between 800-1200.
When I stayed at a similar, spotlessly clean guesthouse in Galle called Leisure Holiday Resort, they charged me Rs.2,750 for the room. Breakfast was not included but could be ordered for Rs.350/- and they offered a similar menu as in Unawtuna although portions of fruit and bread were much smaller. Still, very good value and quite adequate, especially compared to prices at coffee shops in Colombo where no single item costs less than about Rs.300/-.
I visited Kandy a couple of months ago and stopped on the way for breakfast at a place recommended by another friend. Just beyond the Ambepussa Resthouse they offered a full buffet for Rs.350/-. This included paratas, string hoppers, dhal curry, fish curry, kiribath and a few other dishes. It was, in short, a steal compared to prices in Colombo.
We got a good indication of food costs when we stayed in Batticaloa just before Avurudu. We rented a bungalow and we bought the provisions and had them cooked by the staff. The food cost divided amongst the five of the party (and excluding the two bungalow staff) worked out to around Rs.1400/ per person per day (for three meals plus morning and afternoon tea). The meals included prawns, fish, crabs (on on occasion) and beef on another.
We have got used to paying Rs.8,000-10,000 full board to a hotels – and that too on a deal. Bungalows, which used to be pretty cheap to rent (5,000-10,000 for the whole bungalow about ten years ago) have followed suite and now routinely charge 20,000+.
In Colombo the only alternative to coffee shops are the members-only clubs but thankfully in the outstations there is now a whole set of budget properties that have come up. The problem in the past used to be 1) finding the properties, a subject of much vexation 2) checking on how good the place was.
Now, thanks to a booking site called booking.lk (or booking.com) its possible to get a list of all the properties and prices at a given location. Even better, the reviews are verified and controlled by the site.
Both the places I listed above I booked through booking.com. Since I was very happy with the places I wanted to give them a good review and searched on the site for a place to do a review. There was nothing. It is not possible to get on the site and just do a random review of a place.
What happens is that after someone has made a booking and completed a stay, an email is received from booking.com inviting the visitor to review the place. This way reviews are restricted to people who actually book.
If a place has a good number of reviews and the overall ratings are good then the chances are it will live up to expectations. Even better, as a part of the review, the visitor is shown the pictures of the property displayed on the booking site and asked to review if the actual place was better than/worse than the pictures.
Therefore, thanks to booking.com, a whole range of budget properties can now be accessed with some certainty of what is on offer, which is a great boon to travellers and I would recommend going through them the next time you want to travel.