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Thursday, February 07, 2013

How to find your self around Sri Lanka

Two years ago, I decided to start navigating around Sri Lanka on my own, which is where the idea of writing this blog came about. Along the way I learnt about the different maps available and the gizmos that I could buy to make getting from A to B much easier.

During my journeys I did meet quite a few tourists who had rented their own means of transport, probably one of the most interesting was a group of 3 australians (including a brit who lives there), they had hired scooters and were touring around the country in these. I must say it must have been scary to start off with but none the less exciting and exhilirating. That said this post is not exactly about the different ways in which one can find them selves around the island, but about what tools and resource and what asking for directions is like in Sri Lanka.

In my very first trip around the country on my own, I used Nokia Ovi maps on my trusty E71 smart phone, they were rather accurate at the time considering. However there were also GPS providers in Sri Lanka at that time, though I didn't actually want to pay for it. Nokia Ovi maps have very good coverage for Sri Lanka, and the best part is that they do have navigation,  which is what I really needed.

Last year I used a combination of Google maps and Ovi Maps, on my cool Nokia N8, which I must say didn't dissapoint me at all! It even had voice guided navigation (Nokia Ovi)! If you want voice guided navigation and didnt want to pay for a GPS device in Sri Lanka, then I would most certainly recommend you taking a Nokia Phone with GPS and the latest Ovi Maps on it. You might however want to download the Sri Lanka Map so that you do not need to use the Internet connection to load maps.

This year I resorted to using Google Maps on my new trusty Samsung Galaxy S3. Google maps is great too, they have more up to date maps, with more roads and businesses and buildings listed, however the navigation option is not available. That said the directions option is. This is when you will see the route plotted on the map, but it is very static, and the only thing that changes is your position on the map. Which is still not bad, but its easy to take the wrong turn or miss your turn this way, which I learnt the hard way this year when I used google maps.

I also noted that there are some apps available to buy on the android market, "Google Play" in particular "City Guide" which you will need to purchase offline at a Dialog Store. I wouldn't say that you will need this sort of detail, but I thought I would mention it for those who like to be safe.

Road network in Sri Lanka is not very complicated, it is very well sign posted, and the signs are read in three languages, Sinhala, Tamil, and English. Usually getting directions is very easy from locals as they are very friendly and will not hessitate to help you out. Like I said the more rural you go, the less likely that the road will be on your map (rest assured that all Highways, A, and B roads are on google maps, and so are most side roads in residential areas).

If you want to get your self a hard copy Road map of Sri Lanka, then the best place to get this would be a book shop, these are available all over any of the towns / cities in the country.

Most of the solutions I have mentioned in this article refer to Mobile Phone based apps, which in most cases will use Internet for searching and giving you directions, if you are wondering as to which network to use then why not read my article on mobile providers in Sri Lanka here -

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