12 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and the...
"Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and the people are so friendly and helpful. What let our holiday down was the Taj Exotica. Having visited the Taj in Goa I expected a hotel of a similar standard but 2 are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of luxury.
This is not a 5 star I would say 3 at the very maximum.
The Taj Exotica in Bentota still smells of must and damp following the Tsunami damage and a lot of the hotel rooms have damp. We were lucky with our room on the top floor but many others were not.
The food was awful - only 1 restaurant of the 4 open in the hotel during our 2 week stay. Very little Sri Lankan dishes on the menu - mainly European food - who wants to go to Sri Lanka for a Greek salad! As a vegetarian I was not catered for at all. We had a buffet 3 of the 14 nights the rest was a la carte.
One of the days we had a school tour of about 60 screaming children come to play in the pool - what joy."
- Travel date: Tue 4th of September 2007
After going away on a fabulous holiday o...
"After going away on a fabulous holiday of lifetime and touring Sir Lanka staying at various hotels along the way, we were very disappointed with this hotel as we had booked an orchid room as a special treat to rest at the end of our tiring tour.
The hotel was very palacial and the staff were very helpful and welcoming as the Sri-Lankans always are. The food was buffet style accompanied with a freshly cooked speciality. The food in general was ok but it wasn't spectacular compared to the other hotels we had previously stayed at. The views were spectacular overlooking the pool and miles of beach.
Our biggest disappointment was our room. The Orchid room is the second best rooms available at this hotel and we were expecting the 'WOW' factor considering it cost quite a bit extra. It was no bigger than the standard rooms. The interior was nothing special and the bathroom was a disappointment, very standard. The only good thing was the view.
Also you need to be careful in the town area of Bentota as there are numerous pick pocketers and thieves; we had a lucky escape as we were followed down the road by 3 men trying to rob us. We managed to get away by jumping into a passing tutut.
- Travel date: Mon 26th of March 2007
"Having used this forum in my research thought I'd post a review having just returned with my wife.
We had a standard room booked - (partial sea view) for $15 you can upgrade to a deluxe sea facing room which we did and it was worth it - more space though bathroom same size. Facilities of hotel very good with a lot of little extra touches - would agree with some reviewers that bedrooms could do with refurb regards furniture, soft furnishings (to keep up local 5 star rating) but we found the service, food and value very good indeed. Public areas smart and upmarket feel. main restaurant Palms does good buffet selection and A la carte also available - we also used the Sea View A la Carte - very good food although beef pricy. Wine prices not as bad as I had expected (house wine about Â£12.00p) Two local restaurants Aiada and Golden Grill alternative options - OK and within 5 min walk of hotel - prices cheap compared to UK. You can also email and phone from 2 local "shops" - one below Aida and one next to Wondebar - sea food restaurant on approach road to Taj - much cheaper thatn hotel charges (to phone from hotel to UK 350 rupees per min - from outlets mentioned above 35 rupees !"
- Travel date: Tue 13th of September 2005
Relaxing at the Bentota
"(Booked Kuoni) August 19-23. Arrived at the Bentota Taj at 7.30pm after a 5 hour transfer from Kandy having been on a 4 day tour inland. Booked into a superior room for wife n' I (603) but my 15 year old son had been put 2 blocks away! The duty manager managed to get a couple to move so son could be only 3 doors away (607). Problem solved but it spoiled the arrival a bit. Overall the place was good. OK, the sea was rough but the pool was calm! Ha Ha! Food was fine (I happen to like curry) but there was also a choice of international cuisine. Bar prices were reasonable for hotel of this standard and the entertainment was unobtrusive. Staff were polite and pleasant. Yep! the sunbed epidemic was there - reserve your beds at 7am and then don't turn up til 11am grrr! (Every nationality guilty btw). The only drawback for any hotel in Bentota area is the horrendous drive time to/from Columbo airport. The transfer to the airport took us 4 hours and that was with the driver finding "rat-runs" (literally!) through the city."
- Travel date: Mon 5th of September 2005
"Afte spending nearly two weeks travelling around Sri Lanka my husband and I were looking forward to our '5 star' experience at the Taj, however we were bitterly disappointed. Our room on arrival lent itself well to a scene from Fawlty Towers, sinks blocked, taps falling off, no remote control for TV, dirty floors. When we complained to the manager (after relaying our disappointment to two duty managers) we were upgraded to a more superior room.
The pool experience is not a pleasant one, if you arrive after 10.00 am do not expect to get a lounger or a towel for that matter. The floors are slippy and quite dangerous.
The buffet restaurant is satisfactory, avoid screaming children if you can! I would highly recommend the Sea view restaurant, the best seafood we had in Sri Lanka.
Overall somewhat disappointing after excellent experiences at hotels like the Deer Park and Yala Village where you get a feel for the real Sri Lanka, not like a sun holiday package at the Taj."
- Travel date: Sat 27th of August 2005
the dream escape
"we have just returned from our holiday of a lifetime, we visited taj exotica for our honey-moon and we have to say we were fully satified for these reasons.
-there was a wide range of activities provided and we tried and enjoyed almost each and every one...
-We were amazed at the high standard of our room as it included a mini-bar, balcony/terrace and a colour -screened tv and my wife was very pleased with the hairdryer we were suplied with in the bathroom...
-rachael allens farts are the loudest i have ever heard although she will kill you of with her stench.
p.s rachael was the elphant!
i hope you have found this reveiw helpful"
- Travel date: Thu 25th of August 2005
Best hotel in Sri Lanka
"The last five days of our trip to Sri Lanka were at Taj Exotica. We were driven down from Deer Park, a journey that took most of the day. The hotel was the best we stayed at for a number of reasons. The rooms were a reasonable size, the best bathrooms we in Sri Lanka (although the outdoor bathrooms at Deer Park were a great experience). The buffet was also the best we found in Sri Lanka and very reasonably priced. The design of the hotel was brilliant with the balconies on a sloping face looking towards the beach which ensured privacy but avoided that nightmare of the drop when you are travelling with children. The hotel is at the end of a road servicing several other hotels and as a result is very secure and private. Security guards patrol all the time so it feels very safe. Needless to say as soon as you step on the beach during the day you get hassle, but at night its clear and a lovely place for a stroll.
The trains run directly behind the hotel and yes they are noisy, especially the series that pass by in the early morning (8-9).
The pool is very good with very good attendants - one of whom organised a waterpolo game every day at 12. Pity we only got involved on the last day as it was great fun and really got the guests together, whether playing or watching. I was usually up by 8.30 and enjoyed watching the sport of other guests heading out to reserve loungers, so sad and yes they were almost exclusively Brits. Then they went to breakfast! Would be an improvement if they (or any other hotel for that matter) could prevent this pathetic practice.
The water sports, which the hotel organise at the nearby Sunshine Water Sports Centre, are very good. They collect and return you to the hotel at a few minutes notice. Their staff are very friendly and experienced - they taught my son to waterski in 3 days! The watersports are on a river as the sea in August (just after monsoon season) is not safe.
There isn't much to do late at night, when the bar closes thats pretty much it.
There is a pool table but it was difficult to get a game as, even though notices said they shouldn't it was usually hogged by kids whose parents were nowhere to be seen. There were board games including chess and monopoly and a small library. Not many English titles, but plenty in German!
One of the downsides, which the hotel can do little about really, was the behaviour of certain kids, or more accurately their parents. On the Friday night a middle eastern family (about ten of them) were at the next table. One kid was screaming so loud the rest of us couldn't have a conversation. This went on throughout the meal, ie for about 45 minutes. The parents just carried right on. Most of the other diners in the area were couples or, like us parents with kids (11&12). When mine were babies if that happened in a restaurant we took them out so as not to disturb others. The older children, up to age about 10, quickly ate their dinner and then ran havoc through the restaurant, again without the slightest batting of an eyelid from the parents. One nearly tripped up a lady carrying soup, another did trip up a waiter. The nail in the coffin was when one boy, aged about 8 went up to the desserts and simply destroyed a number of cheesecakes and a mousse by demolishing them with a spoon. There were many examples of this sort of behaviour but they seemed to be weekend guests - things were much better Monday onwards. Having said that we hit rock bottom when I followed an English woman round the salad section and watched her taste the salad dressings using the serving spoons!! Ugh! Went off dressings immediately! As I said not much the hotel can do about this though.
One big downside was another design feature. Everywhere in hotel had the slippiest tiles possible. People were slipping and sliding everywhere. As soon as the balcony door was opened the heat meeting the AC cooled room resulted in condensation which made the floor tiles like ice. These tiles were even used round the pool, everyone was slipping on the water (surprise surprise there was water all round the pool) and the attendants were mopping it up all the time, especially when it rained. Having survived the sliding for 4 days my son slipped down a step on the last night and sprained his ankle badly. He had to have a wheelchair for the rest of the stay and at the airport as he couldn't walk (although he did enjoy the novelty of boarding the aircraft by an ambulance scissor lift). Therefore I couldnt recommend this hotel to an elderly person to whom such a fall could be very serious.
All in all this was a very good hotel. I'm not sure if the previous correspondent stayed at the real Savoy Hotel in London or Mandarin in Hong Kong but this is not in that league. I would categorise it as 4 star, but that said for the price it is exceptionally good."
- Travel date: Sat 20th of August 2005
"My boyfriend & I stayed at this hotel in November 2004, it was our first exotic holiday together. The minute we arrived at the hotel, we liked it. The hotel lobby is impressive with high ceilings, marble floors and fine decor. There is a lovely view from the hotel to the sea and the very nicely kept gardens.
We stayed in a seaview room and although the room was kept nice and clean and the towels were replaced every day, I wouldn't have classed the room as being 4*. The furniture needs updating and could have been being bigger. The view from the hotel room balcony was lovely and most nights we would sit there with a drink watching the sea. I wouldnt' recommended staying at the rooms facing the other way as they back onto a railway track. Although the train doesn't run very often the noise is enough to wake you up!
The buffet food was lovely and it varied each night so there was plenty to choose from. The hygiene must be at very high standards as we never for once experienced a bad stomach. The evening enterntainment was lacking somewhat. The bands were usually low standard and hardly lively. The bar closes around midnight and after that everyone seem to have gone to their rooms. There was a disco for those who wanted to continue partying but it appeared that there were never a lively evenings in all 10 nights we stayed at the hotel. The dress code at the hotel is casual, most of the people wore jeans but some people especially women made an effort to dress up.
The hotel organises various trips and I would recommend that you arrange all your trips through the hotel. Elephant ride on the beach is a must!!!
The beach is lovely and it went on miles and miles and miles. The sand is very soft and the beach was kept reasonably clean. The only downside to the beach was the beach boys who kept pestering to take you on trips. The men selling coconuts drove us mad after a while. On most days there were only few people on the beach and there was plenty of room without having someone sitting right next to you with their towels.
The local elephant made regular trips to the beach and it was absolutely wonderful site to see.
All in all I would recommend this hotel to anyone. We never had any trouble there and we were well looked after. The staff are very friendly and do anything for you. The only downside is that expect to tip tip and tip again so be prepared to have loads of change on you!!!"
- Travel date: Tue 2nd of August 2005
Didn't want toleave
"We visited the Taj in June this year. I must admit as we drove through Bentota we wondered "what have we come to" because of the poverty. As soon as we hit the hotel it was like "OK so we have a great hotel" but it turned out to be fantastic. I have never met such friendlier people, they were all superb. The service was excellent and nothing was too much trouble for them. They tried to keep you entertained during the day with aqua aerobics, water pole and beach volleyball. The food was excellent though we did try the local cuisine just to give them trade. They too were reasonable but certainly not as upmarket as the hotel. The rooms were excellent and our "room service person" "Nilaj was superb in everyway starting with his big smile in a morning. We visited the town that we were weary of but this too was great. The people were lovely and helpful, we paid a few visits down there and looked forward to everyone. The only thing I did not like was the main road that runs through Sri Lanka which is congested to say the least, this put alot of time onto our journeys otherwise we enjoyed our holiday but the Taj Exotica made it for us, we didn't want to leave - SUPERB"
- Travel date: Tue 5th of July 2005
Lovely 4* Hotel
"My husband and I have just returned from a week at the Taj Exotica - we were on the 2 for 1 deal, which is very good. We had a deluxe room, although it looks a bit "tired", it had everything we needed, and we were very happy with it and it was cleaned beautifully. We only ate in the Sea View restaurant and that was very good. One lunchtime we had room service, which as other reviewers have commented, is a great option and good value. The pool area of the hotel is lovely, but there does seem to be this towel reserving of sun loungers which is rather tedious. I enjoyed the water aerobics class and the water polo looked good fun too.
There isn't much to do in Bentota town, one decent restaurant called Aida. We walked along to the other hotels near us (Bentota Beach, Serendib), but they weren't as nice as the Taj, although the Saman Villas looks like a beautiful hotel, on a different level to the Taj.
We went into the rainforest for a couple of days, to Boulder Garden, which was amazing and well worth the trip. But the roads are atrocious, so try not to travel about too much!
The Sri Lankan people are lovely, never stop smiling! We felt very safe
All in all, a great hotel, but I would say 4* not 5*!"
- Travel date: Sun 26th of June 2005
Tipped over the edge
"Holiday in Sri Lanka â Review
I recently booked a holiday in Sri Lanka with my boyfriend and stayed at the 5 star Taj Exotica hotel in Bentota. The hotel itself was excellent; located right beside the beach, overlooking the Indian Ocean and surrounded by a well-tended exotic garden. Marble floors, high roofs and exquisite teak, ebony and mahogany furniture adorned the inside. The food was fabulous and the service was excellent. The ambiance was relaxed, dignified and calm. Life outside the hotel however was very different.
The perimeter of the hotel is patrolled at all times by security guards to keep the locals from hassling the guests. On our third day at the hotel we met with our tour rep, who sat us down for an hour to warn us of all the things we should not do while in Sri Lanka. Donât drink the water, donât sun bathe between 12.00 and 3.00 pm., donât swim out of your depth because of the strong current etc. However, it was his warnings about the scams we would encounter that caused us the most anxiety, and as it turned out, with just cause.
We were warned not to book any trips with the âbeach boysâ who patrolled the beaches outside the hotel. He told us that these âall inclusive tripsâ would sound like a good deal but could turn out to be anything but inclusive. E.g. entry fees to sites of interest might not be covered, or hotel costs if staying over night would not have been paid. If we booked a trip on the river, we might be confronted while on the river and asked for more money â at which stage its hard to refuse! He recounted the story of one English couple that had gone to the Taj Exotica on their honeymoon. They booked a trip to the Yala Park Game Reserve with someone they met on the beach. Their tour rep warned them against this but they felt they could trust this guy. Two days later the tour rep got a call in the middle of the night from the couple. They had been robbed of STGÂ£650 by their âtrustworthyâ driver and left stranded on the other side of the country with no way home and no way of paying their hotel bill. When asked why they had taken so much money with them, they responded saying that their guide had told them his uncle owned a gem mine and he would get them a good deal on some gems. The rep organised their return, contacted the police and eventually the culprit was tracked down and half the money recovered. It was too late for that couple â their honeymoon was already ruined!
We were also warned that if we purchased by credit card that not all shops had automatic credit card machines. If presented with the old carbon copy type receipts we should ensure that we put a line before and after the total to ensure the sum could not be altered after we left. We were also warned to be careful when buying gems as itâs a regular scam to sell worthless duds instead of the real thing.
We were told that if were went into town not to speak to anyone who approached us on the way; not to ask for directions and if anyone followed us into a shop to tell the shop owner he wasnât with us and we didnât know him. The reason for this is the commission system that operates in Sri Lanka. As soon as you leave the confines of the hotel grounds you will be approached by locals who will shake your hand, ask where youâre from and ingratiate themselves with you so that you will trust them to take you where they want to take you â they will recommend a restaurant, a gem shop, an ayurvedic garden, souvenir shop etc. When you go to these places and spend money your friendly guide gets a kickback from the local business, which of course you end up paying for in the price you pay. You will also want to give the guide a tip for his help of course.
Tipping is another thing that is expected by everyone you deal with. The concept of tipping because youâre happy with the service or the amount of the tip being at your discretion doesnât seem to exist. Guides especially expect you to be very generous even if they rush you around the site and donât give a particularly good service at all. The porters at the airport who rush in and take your trolley from you without be asked or needed will demand 200 rupees at least for pushing your trolley 100 yards. I witnessed one Sri Lankan family with two young children being hounded by two porters at the airport demanding more money when they were not happy with what the tip they were given. Two porters werenât necessary in the first place, and hassling a young mother carrying a baby was shameless.
You should also be aware that there are two pricing systems in Sri Lanka â one for locals and the other for tourists. E.g. a bottle of coke has a price of 20 rupees on the lid of the bottle â a tourist will pay 100 to 120 rupees. Entrance fees at sites of interest may be 20 rupees for locals and 300 for tourists etc. Thereâs always a significant difference in prices unless you shop in the shopping centres in Colombo where everyone pays the same. I canât say that I found shopping there cheep, you end up paying first world prices a lot of the time. Always haggle otherwise you will get totally skanked. I found that items I purchased outside the hotel were at least 30% dearer than the gift shop in the 5 star hotel we stayed in and that was after bargaining the price down. If youâre paying for a meal you will be a 10% service charge, which the waiter wonât get so you will be expected to pay another 10% to the waiter as his tip.
One final word to the wise regards Sigiriya â the 8th wonder of the world. On arrival our driver told us a guide would show us around, that he had already been paid and that if we were happy with the service we could tip him. Sigiriya comprised the ruins of a 1600 year old palace, part of which is built on a 200 meter rock. There are over 1000 steps to climb to reach the top. The guide stopped us at the start of the steps and told us that the steps were old, broken and very slippy. A tourist had fallen the previous month, cracked her head open and broken a leg. He had two teenage boys with him who were âspecially trained and licencedâ who would help us if we needed them. When one of the boys grabbed me I said no thank you but was ignored. I was dragged along, with my âhelperâ standing on my flip-flops and generally getting in my way for the next hour or so. Along the way hawkers would jump out from behind rocks trying to sell us ornate wooden boxes, guidebooks and other souvenirs. The guide told us we didnât need to buy now, we could think about it and buy on the way back down. We were confronted with them again on the way down but refused to buy anything. When we neared the bottom of the steps again the guide stopped â well away from where our driver would see us. I tried to tip the helpers but they refused to accept the money because it wasnât enough. At this stage the guideâs demeanour changed considerably and he became quite nasty. We were informed that we HAD to pay the helpers 350 rupees each and more if we were happy with the service. As I hadnât needed or asked for their service, hadnât been told there would be a charge and had in fact refused their help in the first instance, I was far from happy. I didnât have small denominations in rupees so I had to give them 1000 rupees between them. Having given them this amount we were taken a little further on by the guide and given the âits been a bad season, Iâm an independent operator, I expect a fat tipâ spiel by the skanky guide. We ended up having to give him 1000 rupees too. I was totally disgusted by this behaviour. On the way home at the airport we met an English couple who had suffered the same fate at Sigiriya only they had been asked for 1000 rupees per helper. The English woman, like myself, had an arm full of bruises after the specially trained helper had finished with her.
I canât say I really enjoyed my holiday. If we left the hotel to go to the beach we had to run the gauntlet of hawkers and beach boys trying to lure us here there and everywhere. I felt like we were being hunted every time we set foot on the beach. While on our trip we were constantly hassled by hawkers in the street, if we went into a shop the shop assistant followed two feet behind me hassling me to buy something. If I did I was hassled to buy something else. As for the tipping culture, as one Englishman said, âtheir hand is always out and there never happy with what you give themâ. The view of westerners seems to be weâre all filthy rich, ripe for ripping off and have endless cash to throw away. In the end the hotel became a gilded cage because we simply werenât prepared to get hassled or ripped off anymore by leaving it. Sri Lanka is definitely not somewhere I will visit again."
- Travel date: Mon 20th of June 2005
I am in love with Sri Lanka all over again
"Just returned from a two week stay at the Taj on Sat. In one word "wow"!
The food is fantastic - we ordered room service and you can choose from array of goodies such as the toasted sandwiches with french fries, authentic sri lankan curries or starters which are suitable as mains such as chicken satay.
There are two main restaurants. The sea view restaurant which surprise surprise offers sea views and a wonderful intimate atmosphere. My friend and I had a bottle of wine with our meal along with mains and puds and the bill including service charge came to around Â£15 each.
In the palms restaurant, you can either help yourself to European cuisine inside or Sri Lankan cuisine outside.
The staff were very helpful. We hired a driver for a day for around Â£27 to take us shopping for around 12 hrs to Colombo. It is very safe and he was very reliable. I would especially recommend this if you are travelling as two girls. Bentota itself, does not have many restaurants, so visit Colombo as much as you can as it is only an hour and half ( depending on traffic) and has some amazing restaurants / shops.
Internet within the Taj is pricey. A half an hour session would cost around
Â£ 1.70. However this would be a preferred mode of communication in comparision to the room phone which is a whopping Â£2.25 a minute!!!!!
The gym is small but sufficient. For the ladies I recommend the beauty salon where you can get pedicures/ manicures and threading all at much cheaper prices. Within the gym for men and women, you can opt for a massage. Be prepared to pay around Â£17.50 for an hr. It is very worthwhile.
Our room was a standard room. We received two complimentary bottles of water every day and it was very clean. The tv has lots of sports channels and MTV Asia/ HBO/ CNN and BBC news 24. Although each room is given two towels, you can request more along with an iron.
We had a view of the beach from our room. And outside the beach is simply breathtaking.
If you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday then the Taj is for you. If you want a multi stop trip within Sri Lanka, then again the Taj is for you.
The people of Sri Lanka are so so friendly. And it is really the most amazing holiday destination."
- Travel date: Sun 12th of June 2005