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Jan 19 2016

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas‘Twas the night before Christmas when Teresa rode (screeched) into town on a donkey (local bus).  It was dark when the bus finally pulled in to the bus station in Nuwara Eliya.  She hadn’t booked anything in advance, but didn’t foresee it being too much of a problem (boy, was she wrong!).  She set about finding a room in the hotels and guesthouses she passed, but each one said there was no room at the inn.  After a while, she was beginning to wonder if she would actually find a place.

She had a local SIM, but she had problems getting that working.  She returned to the first hotel she went into to ask if they had WiFi she could use.  They didn’t, but said she might get WiFi at the bus station.  With no other option, she returned to the bus station, and… nothing.  No WiFi.  What was she to do?  Feelings of doubt, worry, and a bit of panic started to set in, but she reminded herself that things always work out.  She needed to trust that everything would be OK.

With that, she heard a voice say, ‘Do you need a room?’.  Was she hearing voices?  Thankfully, she wasn’t.  She looked up, and saw a man sitting in a tuk tuk.  She had no idea at the time that he was her guardian angel.  She walked over to the tuk tuk, nodded, and took the card that the man was holding.  She asked, ‘Does it have WiFi?’  Admittedly, that was a strange question to ask when faced with being homeless for the night.  However, it was Christmas Eve, and with the situation as it was, especially as she was on her own, she really wanted to have some connection, albeit virtual, with her family and friends.  Due to the problems she was experiencing with the local SIM card, she wasn’t sure when she would have the opportunity to wish them a Merry Christmas.  Without WiFi, she wouldn’t have that connection she desperately needed at the time.  He replied, ‘No’, but he could see how important WiFi was to her, so he offered to drive her to other hotels and guesthouses to see if they had a room with WiFi.  If not, she could take the room he had available.  Whatever the outcome, she wouldn’t be homeless and he would get some money.  There really was nothing to lose, and with no other option, she agreed.  In she got, and off they went.

Tuk tuk in Sri Lanka

In the little three-wheeler, they stopped off at about 8 different hotels and all, bar one, were full.  The one that had a room available also had WiFi.  Before she got too excited, she asked the price, but wasn’t prepared for the shock she was about to receive.  They wanted the equivalent of £120 for a place she wouldn’t ordinarily pay £20 for.  A German guy was in the lobby at the time, and he said, ‘Well, if you haven’t got much choice, you’ll have to pay it.’  She disagreed, and said that it wasn’t her only option.  That’s when it finally dawned on her that she couldn’t be fussy that night.  She needed a place to stay, first and foremost.  WiFi was a luxury, a ‘nice to have’ if she had the choice of where to stay.  She didn’t.  She realised that the tuk tuk driver’s option of a room wasn’t so bad after all.  With no room at any inn, except for one that had a ridiculously high price tag, she decided to check out the tuk tuk driver’s offer.  Off they went.

A few minutes later, they arrived, high on a hill, overlooking Lake Gregory, although it was too dark to see.  His wife and children met them at the door, and showed her the room.  It was a very basic room, but it was shelter for the night.  This is a notoriously cold part of Sri Lanka, so finding a place to sleep for the night was particularly important.  Without hesitation, she agreed to take the room.  She breathed a sigh of relief because she had a place to rest her head for the night.  There was a time when she wasn’t sure that would happen.

Accommodation in Nuwara Eliya

She even had the chance to connect to the internet, albeit briefly, when she had a late dinner at a restaurant.  Feeling thankful for everything – her accommodation, her guardian angel, the internet, and her family and friends – she tucked herself up in bed after having a cold shower, as there was no hot water, and went to the wonderful land of slumber.

Interestingly, the following day, Christmas Day, she moved on to another town, Ella, and bumped into the same German guy she had met the night before at the ridiculously overpriced hotel.  It’s a small world when you travel!  What she hadn’t realised was that he didn’t stay there, as she had thought.  He was just enquiring about it, as she was.  He also didn’t want to pay the stupidly inflated price they insisted on charging.  Instead, he slept in his car.  He was lucky to have a car to sleep in, although he said he was freezing the whole night and didn’t sleep a wink because it was so cold.

The moral of the story is… if you go to Sri Lanka over Christmas, it is advisable to book some places to stay in advance.  I was fortunate to find a place everywhere I went, but it wasn’t always easy, as this story shows.  If you don’t book in advance, you could end up in the same situation that both the German guy and I faced when there didn’t seem to be a room at any inn.


This map shows you where Nurwara Eliya is located:

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Have your say

Have you ever had a situation like this while travelling when you thought you might be homeless, but then a guardian angel came along to save the day?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.


  1. Iain

    Happy that it all worked out in the end.

    I’m all for the “turn up and see”/”go where the wind blows” approach too Teresa, but there are some days where booking ahead is advisable. Christmas (or any public holiday) being such a time. It’s also worthwhile to find out if there are any local holidays in your destination too.

    Ask me about the Sultan of Brunei’s playpark in Brunei. Quite a story (that ended surprisingly well) 🙂

  2. Teresa Keane

    You’re right, Iain. The thing is, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get there, which is why I didn’t book anything. In addition, I didn’t expect the lovely people of Sri Lanka to make such a big deal out of Christmas. You live and learn, and I’m constantly doing that!

    You’ll have to tell me about that Brunei story.

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