Galle Travel Guide

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Galle Travel Guide

Galle is a city on the coast of southwest Sri Lanka and is most famous for its fort. The Galle fort is the largest remaining European-built fortress in Asia and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The old colonial buildings and little lanes are utterly charming, even if it has calcified into a full-blown tourist town. You can walk around all the streets within the fort half a day, but I ended up spending a few days here wandering the streets.

Galle, Sri Lanka

These are my notes of my stay, and I’ve included useful external links as well.

Where To Stay

Galle Fort Hotel

The best area to stay is inside the fort. The area within the fort is easily walkable so there is no area that is most advantageous. With the small area and high tourism demand the accommodation rates are double the rates of accommodation in Sri Lanka.


I had considered stayed outside the fort to save money but the hotels and guesthouses are either run down or inconveniently located. You are better off staying in the fort and enjoying the ambience of the old streets at all hours.

I would recommend booking a place as far in advance as you can manage. While I was ok to turn up in other towns without bookings, I found that booking a few days in advance many of the nicer places were already booked out.

Search for hotels in Galle Fort

If you are in Sri Lanka purely for the beach then you could stay at Unawatuna which is only 5km away, making for a good base for day trips to Galle, and other beaches.

Search for hotels in Unawatuna

Things To See

Inside the fort

Fort wall in the evening

The biggest attraction of Galle is the fort itself. There are remnants of colonial-era forts that can be found across Asia, but nothing compares to Galle with its entire wall intact. During my stay I would walk around the wall at sunrise and sunset and then walk around the side streets throughout the day.

Within the fort the are churches, buddhist temples, and mosques.

All Saints Church

The Dutch Reformed Church (Groote Kerk) was built in 1755 and is one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka. I like its use of old tombstones for paving.

Dutch Reformed Church floor

While the Court Complex has some attractive colonial buildings I was more impressed by the surrounding trees. This must be the worlds loveliest car park.

Big Trees

The Old Dutch Hospital is now a sparkling-new shopping centre. This was a case of too much restoration for my liking as the building is filled with fancy restaurants and cafes that made me feel underdressed to enter.

Old Dutch Hospital, Galle

There are some little patches of beach around the fort if you are desperate, but you are better off saving your beach time for the “real beaches” which are not far away.

Galle local beach

Outside the fort

There is not much to see outside the fort but I went wandering a few times to eat at local restaurants at half the price of places in the fort.

With its high wall the area inside the fort escaped major flooding from the 2004 tsunami. The rest of the city was not so fortunate and most of the old buildings in Galle were damaged.

Old Galle Building

If you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your taste) you could be in Galle while an international cricket match is on. Galle is said to have one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world. The ground is next to the fort entrance so you can’t miss it.

Galle Cricket Ground

If you’re not getting the train to or from Galle have a look inside the station anyway and see the antique departure board.

Railway Timetable

Near the train station is St Mary’s Church, which sits on top of a little hill overlooking the city.

St Mary's Church

The market streets are interesting to walk around and a good place to buy the spices that Sri Lanka is famous for.

Spices

Galle for digital nomads

Sri Lanka hasn’t been on the radar for digital nomads so I was curious to see what Galle would be like as a work base. In terms of places to work the options are limited. The fort area is small and the cafes are mostly of the ice-cream-for-tourists kind of cafes.

I did find some nice cafes to work from while I was there, but Galle is no Penang in the cafe department (and being in tea-loving Sri Lanka, the coffee was average).

My favourite place to work was at the Fort Dew Roof Top Cafe.

Fort Dew Roof Top Cafe

The cafe is on the western side of the wall, overlooking a green and the sea. It’s a great place to come and watch the sunset.

Office with a view

Another good cafe with wifi is Barista Cafe.

Barista Cafe

Getting There

Galle Railway Station

Galle is 120KM south of Colombo which is the closest international airport.

[Search for flights to Colombo]

The bus and train station at Galle are next to each other opposite the cricket ground, which is in front of the fort entrance. There are regular buses and trains from Colombo and onwards along the south coast. The train is slower and you may not get a seat, but it travels along the coast for most of the way making for a scenic ride.

There is an expressway that runs from Colombo to Galle which has made bus travel faster. You could also hire a private car from Colombo which will get you to Galle in an hour.

Blog Posts

Saving Galle – wsj.com article on the rapid gentrification of the fort (in 2012).

Guide Books

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)

Photos

Sunset in Galle

Galle Photo Gallery – Photo gallery of my time in Galle.

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Comments

  1. Hi James,

    Love to read your writing. I’ve really benefited from your information. I wanted to share back what I’ve found with you and your readers.

    I checked out Sri Lanka as well. Beautiful nature, friendly people, tasty food, reasonable prices.

    But the internet is just too unreliable to work for digital nomads.

    The problem is the price. There’s very little competition in the market, so the ISPs that do exist offer very limited bandwidth for expensive prices. For example, as of autumn 2015, US$23 per month gets a package which allows you to download up to 40GB. US$50 per month gets 75GB. To get 220GB, it costs US$120. 1000GB costs $475 (!).

    The speed is 4Mbps. After exceeding the monthly limit, it drops to a unusable 64Kbps until it resets on the first of the next month.

    Many small hotels and cafes advertise that they have wifi, but they don’t value high bandwidth. They usually opt for a lesser package of US$10 for 12GB. So if a few travelers download movies and watch videos on Facebook one day, it uses up the package and the place has essentially no internet for the rest of the month.

    Even nicer hotels and cafes have at most 40-75GB limits in total per month. Shared with other bandwidth-hungry users, it just isn’t enough and is depleted rapidly.

    So if you’re in Sri Lanka, you’ll notice that internet seems reasonable in the first few days of the month, but pretty quickly it drops off. By the third and fourth week of the month, there’s very little connection available in most hotels and cafes.

    If you have an apartment and are willing to pay the price for the internet package you want, it’s a great place. But otherwise, Sri Lanka is definitely not the place for digital workers.

    • Hi Julia, thanks for the info. I didn’t know that about the wifi but I know it was slow everywhere. Hopefully it improves because it would be a great for local business and travellers alike.

  2. Great post….Thanks for sharing….this precious tips and guides…the pictures are stunning. ….But guys i always suggest mobile date instead of using wi-fi for the tourists…it’s easy and stable ….There is no actual 4g or high speed internet..but the LTE gives you the required speed for the digital nomads…

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