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Colombo (Sinhala: කොළඹ, Tamil: கொழும்பு) is the largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Former capital of the nation, Colombo is still perceived by many as the capital though the suburb of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is now the official capital.
Due to it being on a strategic route in the Indian Ocean, Colombo hosts one of the busiest ports in South Asia, and was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. It was an important port on the Maritime Silk Road. Today, the city is the central point of the country's activities and is home to most of the country's restaurants and entertainment venues. Just like another typical South Asian big city, Colombo is congested, noisy, busy, and vibrant with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings. It is the financial centre of the island and a popular tourist destination.
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Colombo is the commercial and financial capital of Sri Lanka after the administrative capital was moved to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, a suburb east of the city. "Colombo" could refer to either the city proper, or to Greater Colombo that includes the areas of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte and Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia.
For the best weather, visit during the north-east monsoon season, including the driest months December to March. There's also a shorter dryer period in July and August.
There is air service to and from Colombo, provided by the national airline Sri Lankan Airlines. Direct flights are available from major centres in Europe, the Middle East, East Asia and Australia, as well as to many cities throughout the subcontinent.
- 1 Bandaranaike International (CMB IATA), Canada Friendship Rd (at Katunayake, close to Negombo), ☏ . Sri Lanka's 1st international airport, on the coast north of Colombo. The journey to Colombo will take about an hour by taxi.
- 2 Ratmalana Airport (RML IATA). Flights from Hambantota-Mattala, Jaffna, Trincomalee
- 3 Mattala International (HRI IATA Hambantota Airport), Airport Road, Mattala (From Hambantota Town 23km North), ☏ . An international airport that opened in 2013 is in the southern part of the country, approximately 250 km away from Colombo.
Ground transportation from Katunayake Airport (Bandaranaike International).
The international airport is closer to Negombo than to Colombo, so if you're arriving late, it might be a better option to head to Negombo for the night instead. Confirm the cost of any mode of transport before using it.
Airport taxi: immediately after leaving customs there's a taxi counter on your right. Tell them your destination and they will print you a voucher with the price. An A/C van from the airport to Colombo 1 (Fort) cost Rs 2904 (2013). Other popular taxi services: Kangaroo Taxi and Airport Taxi booking. Most 4- or 5-star hotels have their own counter just outside the arrivals hall.
You can also take a tri-shaw aka tuk-tuk from the bus depot (get there by free airport shuttle bus), it takes about an hour and Rs 1500 (2011) from airport to Galle Road.
This is the cheapest way to get into Colombo, but will take some effort and time. The public bus #187 to Colombo Fort leaves from the airport bus depot, where you can get by catching a free shuttle or walk for about 10-15 mins. To catch a free shuttle bus, come out of the airport, turn left and walk all the way to the end of the building. You will not find any signs, so be sure to ask airport personnel. You will see an old white bus with a sign that says main terminal. Get on this bus and ride for 5 minutes till the bus depot. From the bus depot, catch bus #187 to Colombo at a cost of Rs 40 (although the bus collector may try to make tourists pay more 'for luggage' etc., the typical luggage a tourist may carry is not supposed to be accommodated in public transport, thus be prepared to not even be allowed in the bus if there is a crowd waiting to take the bus) to Colombo Fort station. Beware that only the big white buses (similar to the airport shuttle) will be Rs 40, the smaller buses with aircon will charge foreigners definitely more, like Rs 70-100. The personel in minivans are often cheaters; if they are asking more than 150 Rs, refuse to pay and just walk away.
The journey into Colombo Fort could take anything between an hour and fifteen to two hours. Once you reach Colombo Fort, you can get a three-wheeler (tuk-tuk) to get to your destination, it should not cost more than Rs 150 to go to hotels near Galle Face. Or catch a bus to Galle Face, less than Rs 10.
This is probably the most unknown way to get into Colombo, but completely possible. Take either the free Airport to the bus station and then follow the road (Canada Friendship) to the Katunayaka South station (around 1 km, if you don't have luggage) or, if you've luggage, best just to take a Tuk Tuk right from the airport to the train station. Should be 100 Rupees, if you're good at haggling you might get them down even a bit more.
Then, at the train station, get a ticket to Colombo Fort, you'll be arriving right next to where the buses drop people off. Cost is Rs 30. Trains are sometimes delayed, but driving relatively frequently, around 1 per hour, more during rush hour. It will take around 1 hour to get to Fort station, so definitely quicker than by travelling by bus, if you manage to just catch a train without much waiting. Check online timetable (look for Katunayake, as "Katunayake Airport" station is not in use) on one of the free computers in the terminal when arriving about the next train, if it suits you, it's an easy way into the city for very little.
Long-distance train services are starting to improve after decades of neglect due to the civil war. Sri Lankan Railways resides over an increasing network with the central station Colombo-Fort as main hub. There are daily services from Badulla and Kandy as well as over-night trains from Batticaloa and Trincomalee. As of early 2013 there are still no services from Jaffna or any other northern cities.
Apart from the government-owned SLR there's ExpoRail with a high-end service on the Badulla-Kandy-Colombo stretch. Prices are about twice as much as the government trains but still affordable for a tourist, the ticket includes an onboard meal.
Fort Station is in the heart of the city, located next to Colombo Fort and Pettah and close to the meeting points of the A1 and A4 highways. The station provides access to businesses and offices in Colombo Fort, as well as the markets at Pettah.
Maradana Railway Station is another major rail hub in Colombo. The station is served by Sri Lanka Railways, with many inter-city and commuter trains entering each day. It is the terminus of several intercity trains. - Maradana is home to the suburban-Colombo network's centralised traffic control centre.
- 4 Slave Island Railway Station, Station Passage. Coastal Line. Platforms 2. - Tracks- 2. (also known as Kompanna Vidiya Railway Station) is a railway station in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It serves the Slave Island area in the centre of the city. It is served by commuter rail. The station building is significant for its historic architecture.
- 5 Colombo Terminus Station. It was the primary railway station in Colombo, 1865-1908. It was retired from service at the beginning of the twentieth century and replaced by Maradana Station. The preserved building is now home to the National Railway Museum.
- 6 Fort Railway Station, Olcott Mawatha Rd (Connections : Buses, via Central Bus Stand, Pettah.). A major rail hub, the station is served by Sri Lanka Railways, with many inter-city and commuter trains entering each day. Fort Station is the main rail gateway to central Colombo; it is the terminus of most intercity trains in the country.
The Sri Lanka Transport Board is the nationalized bus service. Buses are the principal mode of transport in the country. If you cannot speak or understand Sinhalese, however, travelling by bus might prove more difficult than train travel but is entirely feasible and may be much quicker. Prepare for severe over-crowding and make sure to confirm your destination with the driver and conductor of the bus.
The three primary bus terminals — Bastian Mawatha, Central, and the Gunasinghapura Bus Terminals — are in Pettah.
- 7 Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal, Olcott Mawatha (A1 Highway). handles long distance services whereas
- 8 Gunasinghapura Bus Terminal (Gunasinghepura Bus Stand), Colombo 11, Saunders Pl..
- 9 Central Bus Terminal (Central Bus Stand), Prince St. handle local services
Passenger services with India have to Tuticorin are out of operation probably to never return at least not on this line.
Getting around by Tri-shaw (Three wheeler, tuk-tuk) is most convenient. Most three-wheelers do not have any meters fitted with them and so you have to always negotiate and agree on a price before you take a trip. But it's best to hail a meter taxi (identified by the words "Meter Taxi" on its windshield) that is traveling in the direction that you need to go instead of hiring one from the parking area or the tuk-tuk stand. The meter taxi, costs Rs 50 for the first kilometre and Rs 30 for every additional kilometre plus waiting fees.
The Sri Lankan Tourist Development Authority also operates its own fleet of 'tuk-tuks' around Colombo which are tourist friendly and metered to ensure that travellers are aware of the price being paid. Tourist board tuk tuks are distinguishable by their unique paintings. These three-wheelers can be booked 24 hours a day by calling 0712 500 800 or 0772 299 299.
Colombo has an extensive network of buses going around the city/region. It's fairly easy to find the right one by asking locals or your accommodation. Fares depend on the type of bus and distance. Prices start usually at 10 LKR. Traveling by bus is an adventure itself!
Taxis are also a good mode of transportation. There are 'Tata Nano' cars in service nowadays and the charges start from Rs 40 per kilometre with air-con and it is also a safe and convenient way to travel. Taxis are much safer than a three-wheeler. The tuk-tuks also offer their service for a fee of Rs 30 per km and do not forget to go for the ones with the "Metered Taxi" name board in front. Others may not have the meters running. Uber is available in Colombo with options for smaller cars (Go and Zip), as well as UberX, but XL is not available. A local ride-sharing app called Pick Me allows to order everything from a tuk tuk to a van, although there have been reports about the app not working for all users.
Car Rentals is also a possible for travellers to hire car with or without a driver. Many companies based in Colombo offer such services.
- 1 Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka, Lankamatha Road, Ragama suburb of Colombo (From Ragama Railway Station 2 km NE or bus to stop 'National Basilika Ave'). A Roman Catholic church with basilica status. The church is home to the venerated statue of Our Lady of Lanka.
- 2 St Luke's Anglican Church, Borella district of Colombo-8. The church plays an important role within the history of the Church Missionary Society on the island.
- 3 St Michael and All Angels Anglican Church, Polwatte (159, St Michael’s Road, Colombo 3) (Cameron Pl corner. East 100 m of Kollupitiya Jumma Mosque). It was dedicated on the 29 September 1887 and is a landmark in Kollupitiya, a suburb of Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. A magnificent building of stone, mortar and wood.
- 4 St Andrew's Scots Kirk church, No. 73, Galle Road, Colombo 3 (Close to High Commission of India, Colombo). It was founded in the late 19th century, and prospered during the colonial and post-colonial periods, it was a centre for the Scots element in Colombo, the capital city of what was then Ceylon.
- 5 St Lucia's Cathedral, St Benedict's Street and St Lucia Street, Kotahena (in the north east of Colombo. North 200 m of Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium). The seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka.
- 6 St Paul's Church (1853), Galle Rd, Milagiriya district (Dr Lester James Peries Mawatha Street corner. Take bus to stop 'Milagiriya'). It is one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka. Built by the Portuguese as a Roman Catholic church, and was known as Nossa Senhora dos Milagres
- 7 Buddha Jayanthi Chaithya stupa, Colombo Harbour. A Buddhist shrine, built with reinforced concrete.
- 8 Gangaramaya Temple, 61, Sri Jinarathana Road, Colombo 2 (Hunupitiya Lake Rd corner), ☏ . One of the most important temples in Colombo. The temple's architecture is an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese styles.
- 9 Sri Bala Selva Vinayagar. Hindu temple in Colombo 10. Devoted to Shiva and Ganesh.
- 10 Kalani Raja Maha Viharaya.. Located about 9 km away from Colombo, the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is one of the most significant Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. The temple had been built more than 2,000 years ago and contains images of reclining and preaching Buddha along with frescoes depicting incidents from his life.
- 11 Memm Harnafi (Dawatagaha Jumma Masjid), Dr C.W.W Kannangara Mawatha. Mosque founded by C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha.
- 12 Church of St Anthony. Situated beside the sea where Sea Street and St Anthony’s Mawatha meet.
- 13 Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque, Second Cross Street in Pettah. This historic mosque is a popular tourist site in the city. Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque was built in 1909 by the Pettah Muslim community to fulfill their required five-times-daily prayer and Jummah on Fridays. It is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo.
- 14 Victoria Masonic Temple, Galle Face, Colombo 03. It is the meeting place for the Masonic Lodges. It was built in 1901 during British rule and designed by E. Skinner, an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and built by the Colombo Commercial Company. The building was built in neo-Georgian style mixed with elements of Eastern architecture.
- 15 Wolvendaal church, 363, Galle Road, Colombo 06. One of the oldest churches built during the Dutch era in 1749. The interior is decorated with Dutch furniture with the wooden carved pews, chairs, pulpit and lecterns.
- 16 The National Museum of Colombo, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Sa-Th 09:00-17:00. Department of National Museums. Also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum, it is the largest museum in Colombo. Among its exhibits, it contains regalia of the 17th century Kandyan Kings. Child Rs 300, adult Rs 500 (2013).
- 17 [dead link] The Natural History Museum, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7, ☏ . Sa-Th 09:00-17:00. Closed all public holidays. This museum features Sri Lanka's floral and fauna in dioramas. Child Rs 150, adult Rs 300.
- 18 [dead link] The Dutch Period Museum, 95 Prince Street, Colombo 01, ☏ . Sat-Thu.: 09:00-17:00. Nice but very small museum documenting Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka. Houses Dutch-inspired artifacts. Child Rs 300, adult: Rs 500 (2013).
- 19 [dead link] Independence Memorial Hall ((also Independence Commemoration Hall)), Independence Square (formerly Torrington Square) (Cinnamon Gardens). 09:00-17:00. is a national monument in Sri Lanka built for commemoration of the independence of Sri Lanka from the British rule with the establishment of Dominion of Ceylon on 4 February 1948. It also houses the Independence Memorial Museum. Child Rs 150, adult Rs 300 (2013).
- 20 Central Bank Currency Museum, 58, Sri Jayawardhanapura Mawatha, Rajagiriya. M-F 08:30 to 16:00 except public and bank holidays. Established on 20 April 1982 at the Central Bank Head Office in Colombo Fort. The museum is open to the general public. - The Central Bank Currency Museum traces the history of the usage of coins and notes in Sri Lanka since 3 BC and has on display a large number of ancient coins and notes which were used in the country dating back to 3 BC. Foreign coins and notes received from other Central Banks are also on display at the museum. free.
- 21 The Sapumal Foundation, 32/4 Barnes Pl, ☏ . Colombo 7. The Sapumal Foundation was once home to the late Harry Pieris. Visitors are able to see his studio and art materials that have been left undisturbed over the years. This gallery also contains 200 paintings that follow the development of Sri Lankan art. Special art classes are also available at the gallery.
- 22 The Lionel Wendt Memorial Art Centre, 18 Guilford Crescent, Colombo 7, ☏ . M-F 09:00-13:00 and 14:00-16:00. The Art Centre has exhibitions, art shows and stage events. Visitors also able to purchase various antiques as well as paintings and crafts by contemporary Sri Lankan artists.
- 23 India House. The official residence in Colombo for the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. Built in 1926-27 for the Imperial Bank of India and taken over by the Government of India in 1956. It is a colonial style villa/bungalow, with large gardens located along Thurstan Road. It is guarded by personnel from the Border Security Force.
- 24 Lakshmigiri Mansion (Saifee Villa). A bungalow at 102, Thurstan Road in Colombo.
- 25 Storm Lodge., 142 Galle Rd, Colombo-03. A mansion, owned by the Colombo Swimming Club.
- 26 The Lighthouse.. A large bungalow. Owned by the Sri Lankan Government and houses the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies. Located in the Cinnamon Gardens a suburb of Colombo, it was built by D. Peiris.
- 27 Whist Bungalow (Pradeepa Hall). A large bungalow. A 19th century stately home modelled on Neoclassical style, located in Mutwal north of Colombo on the cost where the Kelani River used to meet the Indian Ocean. It is now used as a reception hall for weddings.
- 1 Galle Face Green Promenade, Galle Road, Colombo 03. Visit at sundown for a spectacular view. The ½km long promenade stretches 13 acres (5.3 hectares) between Galle Road and the Indian Ocean; it tends to attract children, teenagers, vendors, lovers, kite flyers, merrymakers, and families. Usually on Saturday and Sunday evenings, the land is filled with day-trippers, food vendors, and people picnicking which make it very crowded. It is also the only largest open space in the city. Free.
- 2 Colombo Zoological Gardens, Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha, Dehiwala (By Bus: From Colombo port, No. 101 stops at Dehiwala junction, and get the Bus No. 176 or 118. - By Train: get to Dehiwala station which near station to Colombo zoo and get Bus No. 176 or 118.), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. daily 08:30–18:00. Colombo's zoo has a wide variety of animals, birds, and reptiles from all over the world. See lion show, every day 16:00 – 16:15; elephant show, every day 16:30 – 16:55. For overseas visitors: adult - Rs 2000, child - Rs 1000, video cameras - Rs 500. Other fees: elephant ride, adult - Rs 200, child - Rs 100; pony ride for children under 12 - Rs 25.
- 3 Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park), Cinnamon Gardens. It is the largest, oldest and most colourful park situated in the heart of Colombo, just opposite the colonial style Town Hall building.
- 4 Attidiya Bird Sanctuary (9km towards the south west of the city). A beautiful marshland, rich with natural biodiversity and a resting place for many types of birds. The vegetation is dominated by sedge and grasses including Rhyuchospora rubra and Panicum repens. Around 43 species of waterfowl live in the area. Most common among them are Indian Shag (Phalaerocorox fuscicollis), the Blue breasted Banded Rail (Rallus striatus) etc. If you are an enthusiastic bird watcher or an eco friend, then it is worthwhile to spend sometimes in the Attidiya bird sanctuary.
- 5 Sri Lanka Planetarium, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7. Established in 1965. English shows on the last Saturday of the month at 14:00.
- 6 Gordon Gardens. About 16,000 m². The Gardens have an amazing variety of trees.
- 7 Colombo Racecourse, Cinnamon Gardens, Philip Gunewardena Mawatha, Colombo 07. In 2012 it was redeveloped as the Colombo Racecourse Sports Complex to become the first International Rugby Union ground in Sri Lanka to host all the national rugby union sides home macthes.
- 8 Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club Grounds, Malalasekara Mawatha, Colombo 07.
- 9 Royal College Sports Complex, 10, Sri Lanka Foundation Mawatha, Off Independence Avenue, Colombo 07.
- 10 Royal Colombo Golf Club, 223, Model Farm Road, Colombo 08.
- 11 Sugathadasa Stadium, Arthur de Silva Mawatha or Prince of Wales Ave, Colombo 14.
- 12 Colombo Cricket Club Ground (CCCG; Sinhala: කොළඹ ක්රිකට් සමාජ ක්රීඩාංගනය, Tamil: கொலோம்போ கிரிக்கெட் கிளப் கிரௌண்ட்), Maitland Crescent.
- 13 Nelum Pokuna Theatre, ☏ . Performing Arts Theater
Sri Lankan mines produce some fine gemstones and Colombo is the main place where they are marketed. Both cut but unmounted stones and finished jewellery are sold in many places.
- Rubies and sapphires are the same mineral; different impurities give different colors. The top-grade stones are very clear and can be cut with facets; lesser stones are cut cabuchon (curved, not faceted) to give star rubies or star sapphires. Off-color stones — most commonly gray, but also burgundy, pinkish or brown — are much cheaper than bright red or blue stones and may still be lovely. Murkiness or inclusions (opaque spots within the stone) reduce the value of a stone considerably; pointing out such defects may help in bargaining.
- Black or green star sapphires are somewhat rare and they command a high price; they have a six-point star like any other sapphire or ruby. A "black star" which has only four points is a semi-precious stone (diopside) and should be far cheaper. Some vendors may try to sell tourists black stars at sapphire prices; walk away quickly.
- Moonstones are also common. Again, the top grades are clear and lower grades murky or with inclusions. The most sought-after stones are a clear bright blue-white, and Sri Lanka has plenty of those, but many other colours can be found as well.
Sapphires and rubies are at 9 on the Mohs hardness scale, hard enough for any use. Moonstones are 6 to 6.5, less than ideal for rings or bracelets; they are used in those, but there is a risk they will chip or crack if they hit something. If you want a ring and do not want or cannot afford a sapphire, consider amethyst (7) or topaz (8). It is safer to get moonstones in some other piece of jewellery; earrings and pendants are popular choices. Pearls are only 2.5 to 4.5 and need even more caution.
As with any goods that span a wide range of prices, anyone can buy the cheaper items but it is much safer to avoid the big-ticket items unless you are either an expert yourself or have expert advice. If you plan to bring home expensive jewellery, check your country's import regulations. Some countries, such as Canada, charge a stiff duty on finished jewellery but much less on unmounted stones.
Places to shop include:
- 1 Barefoot, 706 Galle Road, Colombo 03, Kollupitiya, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-19:00, Su 11:00-17:00. This handicraft shop has a wide range of good quality souvenirs and handmade items: clothes, bags and children toys, from some of the most beautifully-coloured fabric you've ever seen. While the biggest outlet is at Galle Road, there are smaller outlets at the Dutch Hospital and 41 Pedlar Street.
- 2 Crescat Boulevard, 89 Galle Rd. Colombo 3, Kollupitiya. An up-market shopping mall. Though it is fairly small, it contains a food court on the basement floor.
- 3 Lakmedura, 113 Dharmapala Rd (Colombo 07, Cinnamon Gardens.). Gift shop.
- 4 Lakpahana, 14 Reid Ave, ☏ . Colombo 07, Cinnamon Gardens. A non-profit organization run by the craftsman association of Sri Lanka with assistance from the government. Offers all handicrafts and gemstone jewellery. Unique metalware, wood carvings, silver jewellery, batik, textile products and other crafts.
- 5 Liberty Plaza, RA de Mel Mawatha, Colombo 3, Kollupitiya. Similar to Majestic City but smaller. You can find various items such as clothing, CDs and DVDs.
- 6 Majestic City. In Kollupitiya on Galle Road has a wide variety of clothing outlets- including a sub-branch of Odel- at very good prices, as well as various electrical goods and toy shops. It's pleasantly air-conditioned and includes a food court on the ground floor.
- 7 Odel, No 5, Alexandra Place, Colombo 7, Cinnamon Gardens. A stylish department store, with its very own Delifrance outlet, clothing, houseware, sporting goods, books and movies, as well as Delight – for sweet indulgences from chocolates to exotic nuts.
- 8 Paradise Road, 213, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, Cinnamon Gardens, ☏ . 09:00-19:00. A shop with a small café in a British colonial style building where antiques, home décor items and art can be viewed or purchased.
- 9 The Pettah Market. Fruits to clothes to electronics at wholesale prices. You have to bargain extensively and it is recommended that you take a local you trust along with you. Even if you don't buy anything, Pettah, or Colombo 11 is an experience in itself being a very typical, loud and crowded oriental market place full of all sorts of odds, ends and junk. Each street in the market has its own speciality, for example, in 1st Cross Street you can find electrical items, 2nd Cross Street has jewellery and so on. In the Pettah Market area, some street vendors actively ask passers-by, foreigners and locals to view products they are selling though polite refusal is generally accepted.
Much Sri Lankan food is extremely spicy, so visitors not accustomed to spicy foods will need to exercise caution.
That said, Colombo has a wide range of food places, and there should be something for almost any combination of food preference and budget.
Available everywhere are small bakeries selling rotis (either flat or folded into triangles filled with egg, vegetable or fish), hoppers (bowl shaped pancakes made with coconut milk), and other "short eats" (bread based snacks or fried foods). The price of individual items range from Rs 50-100.
Buy a "lunch packet" from street stands practically anywhere in the city. Typically, it will be a filling meal of rice and vegetables for about Rs 180.
- 1 New Yarl Eat House, Station Road, Wellawatte (just off the Galle Road, on the sea side). It serves traditional Jaffna style rice and curries with excellent value for money crabs. A lunch for one including a full crab costs around Rs 400..
- 2 Roadhouse Cafe, 335 Galle Rd (Kollupitiya, Colombo 3). Serves Sri Lankan and Western food.. The food is excellent, but the service is a little slow. Try the mango milkshakes or one of their speciality coffees. Meals range from Rs 180 - 380.
- 3 The Cricket Club Cafe, 34 Queens Rd (Kollupitiya). This cafe is a must for any cricket lover. The walls are covered in autographed memorabilia and photos with sports (usually cricket) being screened on all the TVs scattered throughout the rooms. They serve authentic Aussie cuisine and a wide variety of drinks. The bar is named after Donald Bradman.
- 4 The Gallery Cafe, 2 Alfred House Rd (Off Alfred House Gardens, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3). Wonderful atmosphere in beautiful building - designed by famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Large food menu featuring many international dishes, decadent desserts and extensive cocktail menu.
- 5 The Lagoon, The Cinnamon Grand Hotel, 77 Galle Road (Kollupitiya, Colombo 03), ☏ . 12:00-14:30, 19:00-00:30. This restaurant focuses primarily on seafood with colourful Sri Lankan flavours. The friendly, professional staff create an enjoyable dining experience. Full meal: Rs 4,000 per person.
- 6 Mango Tree, 82 Dharmapala Mawatha (Kollupitiya, Colombo 03), ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. daily 12:00–15:00; 19:00–23:00. One of the finest restaurants in the city. North Indian Cuisine, full of innovative dishes. Service is occasionally slow. Full meal: Rs 1,000 per person.
- 7 The Palmyrah Restaurant, 328 Galle Rd (Kollupitiya, Colombo 3). Serves excellent Sri Lankan dishes and has an international menu.
- 8 168 Seafood Palace (Just off Galle Road, near Hotel Renuka, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3). Serves excellent Chinese food and seafood dishes. Prices start at Rs 250. but some prices depend on weight (e.g. crabs). The service is very good.
- 9 UK Urban Kitchen, 69 Hyde Park Corner (Arpico Super Centre, Union Place, Colombo 2), ☏ . M-Th 10:00-22:00, F-Su 10:00-13:00. Serves Western, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines at relatively reasonable prices. Also specializes in wood-fired pizzas and coffee. Next to Arpico supermarket.
- 10 Thalis Restaurant, No 155 Park Road (Colombo-05), ☏ . Mon-Sun 11:00-23:00. Vegetarian restaurant, serves South Indian cuisine. Meal 400-700 Rs.
- 11 Nihonbashi Main Restaurant, 11 Galle Face Terrace (Kollupitiya, Colombo 3). There are three Nihonbashi outlets in Colombo. A Sushi Bar at ODEL and an outlet at the Hilton Colombo Residence are the other two. The main restaurant is an airy and spacious restaurant with a blend of modern and traditional in design consisting of 8 private dining rooms also a dine-in wine room. Nihonbashi is owned and run by Tokyo-born Dharshan Munidasa, a self-taught chef.
- 12 Spoons (Colombo Hilton, Echelon Square, Fort, Colombo 1). Is the flagship restaurant of the Hilton Hotel. It has a show kitchen, and an impressive collection of wine and chocolates.
- 13 Ginza Hohsen (Colombo Hilton, Echelon Square, Fort, Colombo 1). This is one of the Japanese restaurants in Colombo. They have a sushi bar, the tatami rooms and ever teppanyaki.
- 14 The London Grill (Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Galle Face, Colombo 3). As the name suggests this restaurant is very British. It probably has the best ambiance of all, and the food is just great.
- 15 California Grill (Galadari Hotel, Fort, Colombo 01). This is a fine dining restaurant on the rooftop level of the hotel. It offers panoramic views of the Galle Face marina. The food, mostly US-style grills and premium seafood, is excellent too.
- 16 Royal Thai, 115 Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha (Slave Island, Colombo 02). Located at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel is an authentic Thai restaurant offering the usual favourites, such as Tom Yam and Chicken Pandan leaves.
- 17 The Ministry of Crab. Old Dutch Hospital, Colombo Fort. Located in the historic Dutch Hospital, The Ministry of Crab serves the best crabs in Sri Lanka. Crabs are priced by the size and a kilo of crab costs around Rs. 6500. They also serve their house speciality sweet tea with soda. One of the most expensive restaurants in Colombo, but it is definitely worth it.
- Thembili තැබිලි (Orange Coconut juice) is safe, since they cut it open in front of you (uncontaminated).
- Spring water with SLS certification are safe to drink.
- Hansa Sri Lanka Speciality Coffee (Hansa coffee), 24 Fife Road, Colombo 5 (off Thimbirigasyaya Road,), ☏ . 09:00-20:00. An exceptional gourmet coffee, made from Sri Lanka coffee beans. The coffee can be purchased at several shops including supermarkets and is served in hotels and cafes throughout the island. Their retail outlet is at 24 Fife Road, Colombo 5, where they also serve several coffee drinks. Telephone: 0773116579.
Colombo's nightlife is on par with most other Asian destinations and features a number of establishments that offer decent music and drinks, served in a pleasant atmosphere. Expect the music to range from 80s retro to modern chart toppers as elegant partygoers dance the night away sipping the poison of their choice. Most clubs close around 04:00, R&B perhaps a little longer after.
1 Mount Lavinia is a great place to be. The beach and the friendly people always draw visitors there and keep them for a while. Unlike the South of the island, Mount Lavinia is about 20 minutes away from the city and entertains a good deal of nightlife. Along the beach are a variety of restaurants that serve liquor alcohol have great food catered to suit every budget. The variety of the beach spots themselves are interesting, from nice little coves for a quiet chat a and a drink to well lit, busy places with dance floors, music courtesy of a live DJ and well stocked bars. Try Jo Jo's, a quiet little place where they serve pretty decent food and drink and has a nice homey feel to it. The owner Mr Jo, Jo, (Mr Nihal) better know, is a nice person. Buba, on the other side of the Mount Lavinia Hotel which divides the public beach is also popular.
Mount Lavinia also serves as the gay district of Colombo. Although not home to any gay bars, it is a very gay friendly town and always plays host to Colombo's Gay Pride week in June. Do not be surprised if some bars have the rainbow flag flying on the beach.
Slave Island and surroundings
Popular watering holes include:
- 2 Whitehorse (Nawam Mawatha).
- 3 In... on the Green (Galle Face Hotel).
Most nightclubs may charge admission and smart/casual dress is encouraged with longs/shoes a must.
After a night out, some people will end with a late night snack, try e.g., Hotel de Pilawoos along the Galle Road in Kollupitiya to enjoy a Chicken Roti (chicken and cheese wrapped in a roti) followed by an iced Milo (sweet chocolate and malt flavoured drink)
Colombo's cheap accommodations in the centre of town apart from the famous YMCA (containing a gay bathhouse) are mostly concentrated along the road opposite the Colombo Fort Railway Station. Many rooms are available but with shared bathrooms. These, however, tend to be dirty and dingy affairs that even seasoned travellers are unlikely to tolerate.
Moving south along Galle Rd., one can find a lot of more reasonable housing. Around Kollupitiya, you will still be dealing with air-conditioned concrete boxes where a sleazy clerk will tell you that they have a "budget single room for only 57 dollars". Further down south, prices and people will get more reasonable. There are quite a few small hotels in the side streets off Galle Rd. in Wellawatte area. If you continue south and get as far as Mount Lavinia, there will be hundreds of small guesthouses, some of them very affordable, in a quiet old-fashioned area with a lot of greenery and right by the sea (the only problem being that it's far from the centre). As of May 2014, typical costs were Rs 1,000-2,000, depending on the room quality. Buses 100, 101 and perhaps some others go down Galle Rd. from Colombo Fort station (Rs 20 to get to Wellawatte).
- 1 Hotel Nippon, 123, Kumaran Ratnam Road (Slave Island, Colombo - 2). Decent rooms fitted with air-con, cable TV, etc. It is located in a prime location in the city close to all essential sight seeing spots. Some of its facilities and services are restaurant, and bar.
- 2 Hotel Janaki, 443, Fife Rd (Havelock Town, Colombo 5). This 3-star hotel offers its guests rooms with air-conditioning, cable/satellite tv, and a room safe. There is a restaurant and bar on site, with 24-hour room service.
- 3 Parisare Homestay, 97/1 Rosemead Place (Near Embassy of France, Cinnamon Gardens (col 7)), ☏ . This is a lovely home with a wonderful hostess, but they have only 3 rooms which are frequently occupied by long term guests, which makes prior reservation essential. It is also a bit far from the city centre (Fort). Rs 1000/1200.
- 4 YMCA, Bristol Street, Colombo 01 (5 minute walk from the Fort railway station). Also a reasonably priced restaurant. Rs 700 to 1150 per night for a single room. There are dormitories which start at Rs 300 per night. The dorms however are not available to foreigners. You must be from Sri Lanka. Rs 700 to 1,150 per night for a single room. Dormitories start at Rs 300 per night..
- 5 Galle Face Hotel, 2 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A famous, old fashioned colonial style grand hotel. Most rooms come with a view of the ocean or the Galle Face Green. The hotel also has a variety of restaurants on site to choose from, including: The 1864 and Verandah. Spa and butler services are also available for guests. $200+.
- 6 Garden Guest House (email@example.com), 7 Karlsruhe Gardens (Borella, Colombo 8), ☏ . This three-room guest house offers its visitors attached bathrooms, free internet services and laundry facilities. The staff at the guest house can also arrange island tours and airport pick-up.
- 7 Palm Village Hotel, 262, Old Colombo Road (Uswetakeiyawa (Hendala)), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Located close to the airport, has 50 air-conditioned rooms with either a balcony or a terrace. A restaurant and bar are located on the hotel grounds. There is also a jewellery and souvenir shop.
- 8 Kamvelta Holiday Resort, Kindelpitiya, Welmilla Junction, Bandaragama (5 km from Bandaragama, 6 km from Panadura, 8 km from Piliyand), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Air-conditioned and non air-conditioned rooms with hot water, restaurant, can cater to wedding parties, nearby to Nachchimale meditation centre. 24 hr room service.
- 9 Hotel Renuka & Renuka City Hotel, 328 Galle Road (Kollupitiya Colombo 3), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. These sister hotels offer their guests comfortable rooms and friendly service. Each room is equipped with flat screen television with local and cable channels, 24-hour room service, in-room safes and internet connection. The hotels have one of the most famous restaurants in Sri Lanka, the Palmyrah, which serves authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. A popular dish is Iso Thel Dala, spicy prawns sautéed with onions and tomato. Two onsite bars.
- 10 Hotel Sansu, 651/31, Sir Oliver Gunathilake Gardens (Havelock Town, Colombo 05, off of Elvitigala Mawatha), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 26 rooms and self-service apartments, each of which includes cable television. 24-hour front desk services, as well as wake-up calls and an on-site juice bar. single from US$40, double from US$50 (2013).
- 11 Sapphire Hotel, 371, Galle Rd (Wellawatte, Colombo 6), ☏ . Located 5 minutes away from the ocean. Has an on-site restaurant and bar. Each room includes air-conditioning, 24-hour room service, and satellite television. Has two reception halls for those wishing to host a convention or wedding reception. Reservations are required.
- 12 Mount Lavinia Hotel, No 100, Hotel Rd, Mount Lavinia, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2 pm, check-out: 11 am. This is a colonial heritage hotel in Sri Lanka dating back to early 1800s. It consists of 210 rooms inclusive of colonial, ocean view, and suites. The hotel offers 06 restaurants and bars as well as facilities to host business events and weddings. Starting from USD 96.
- 13 Hotel Clarion, 103, Kandy Road, Kiribathgoda, ☏ , fax: . All rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, a TV with cable channels and are wheelchair accessible. Also in the hotel is the 180 restaurant, a fitness centre with steam room and a business centre. The Clarion is a bit far from the central city: it will generally take at least 45 minutes to travel to the centre, with possible 30-minute delays from heavy traffic.
- 14 Hotel Galadari, 4, Lotus Road, Fort, Colombo 1, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Has 446 rooms, including 23 suites. There are special executive level and handicap rooms. There are a variety of dining facilities in the hotel to suit different palates. Als has spa and fitness facilities.
- 15 The Havelock Place Bungalow, 6-8, Havelock Place, Havelock Town, Colombo 5, ☏ , fax: . A boutique hotel, consisting of two restored colonial homes. Tastefully decorated using antique colonial furniture. Provides wireless Internet, pool, jacuzzi, restaurants.
- 16 Uga Residence, 20 Park street, Slave Island, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka, ☏ . Near major shopping centres and business establishments. Decked with colonial touches, like antique furniture and high ceilings. Rooms are equipped with Jacuzzi, DVD player and refrigerator.
- 17 Tintagel, 65 Rosmead Place, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka, ☏ . Situated in Rosmead Place. Once a stately home to the political Bandaranaike family. The 10 elegant suites have high ceilings and timber floors. They open to a private courtyard, balcony, or separate lounge area. Each suite also has king-size beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, and a bathroom with a rain shower and bath.
- 18 Casa Colombo, 231, Galle Road, Colombo 4 (opposite Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya, and down a private lane next to Lumala Gift City in Bambalapitiya), ☏ . Boutique hotel with 12 suites.
- 19 Ceylon Continental, 48 Janadhipathi Mawatha, Fort, Colombo 1, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Has 250 rooms, all with views of the city or Indian Ocean. Various onsite restaurants and cafes on site. 24-hour room service, fitness facilities and spa services.
- 20 Cinnamon Grand Colombo, 77 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, ☏ . Has a spa and meeting facilities.
- 21 Taj Samudra, 25, Galle Face Centre Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, ☏ . A variety of rooms; they range from standards with views of the sea and pool to presidential suites with separate dining and dressing areas. Also equipped with a fitness centre, book shop and swimming pool. There are also a variety of restaurants ranging from casual in dress to fine dining.
- 22 Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo, 115, Sir Chittampalam A.Gardiner Mawatha, Colombo 2 Sri Lanka, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. As of Dec 2012, the rooms were quite tired and are in need of renovation. The price they ask does not reflect this. Despite this, the service is good and otherwise is a reasonable place to stay.
- 23 Colombo Courtyard Boutique Hotel, 32 , Alfred House Avenue, Colombo 03, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Has a wine cellar, a rooftop café, cloud café, spa, pool side dining options. The Scarlet restaurant offers European, Mediterranean and Asian food. Starting from $117.
Colombo is like most other South Asian capitals. Although it is not as dangerous as one would think, tourists should be very vigilant. Many first time visitors to Colombo find themselves falling victim to scams and touts; however, seasoned visitors to Sri Lanka are rarely scammed and it is very simple to avoid being a victim of scammers as long as you take precautions such as:
- Being on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice. Take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, especially if they tell you the place you want to go to is closed, dangerous, non-existent etc. If you are unsure, check a map.
- Not engaging in business with people who have to actively approach you for business such as Tuk Tuk drivers, street vendors, etc. If people have to approach or make overtures to you for business without you seeking them on your own volition, then they shouldn't be considered for business dealings. Because, you will likely be overcharged, as you have been denied the option of shopping around for the best price.
- If you have been told your hotel is closed or full, give them a call. If you are a first time visitor to Sri Lanka, don't admit it as it will make you a target for the scam artists.
Once you are past the scammers, Colombo is a far more welcoming destination than other South Asian cities. Certainly single women, although not advised to explore every nook and cranny of the city on their own late at night, will not find the pestering attentions of leering men. Sri Lankan women are also very "western" in their dress sense, so it is very normal to wear skirts, tank tops, etc. You may get a few whistles and hellos from bored school boys, but they are more friendly and not meant to be threatening, so just ignore it and they will leave you alone.
The civil war that once raged is now long over, with much development occurring since. The country is now generally free from terrorism, though in April 2019, an Islamist terrorist bomb attack against churches and hotels in Colombo and elsewhere in Sri Lanka killed 259 people and wounded more than 500.
- Seemingly innocuous public displays of affection between lovers such as kissing and/or hugging are not culturally acceptable in Sri Lanka as it is considered to be secluded behaviour (this does not apply to private functions or establishments designated for adults such as nightclubs, casinos and beach parties). Much lenience is given to foreigners and holding hands and public affection between parents and their children is not frowned upon.
- In most buses, it is local etiquette to provide or give up the very front passenger seats to members of the clergy, such as monks or priests if they are present.
- Do not turn your back to (or be alongside) a Buddha statue when within a reasonable distance (observe what others are doing). This includes posing for photos. It's OK to photograph a statue, but all persons should be facing it.
- Public nudity is illegal in Sri Lanka. Nude/topless sunbathing and skinny dipping should be avoided at beaches, except in the few private beach resorts which allow it.
- Australia (Australian High Commission), 21, Gregory's Rd, Colombo 7, ☏ , fax: .
- Canada (Canadian High Commission), 33A, 5th Lane, Colpetty, Colombo -03, ☏ , fax: .
- China (Embassy of the People's Republic of China), 381-A Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, ☏ , fax: .
- France (French Embassy), 89, Rosmead Place, Colombo 7, ☏ , fax: .
- Germany (German Embassy), 40 Alfred House Avenue, Colombo 3, ☏ , fax: .
- Greece (Greek Embassy), John Keells Holdings Plc, 130, Glennie St, Colombo 2, ☏ , fax: , ✉ GreeceConsulate.SriLanka@gmail.com.
- India (High Commission of India), 36-38, Galle Road, Colombo 3, ☏ , , , fax: , . Tourist visas for India can be obtained there. The cost of a six-month visa depends on your nationality, and you’ll need to supply two photos. It takes at least five days to process a tourist visa, but only one day if you are a foreign resident in Sri Lanka. Lines tend to be very long. You can also obtain an Indian visa in Kandy at the Assistant High Commission of India (081-222 4563; email@example.com; Box 47, 31 Rajapihilla Mawatha). Kandy makes a good alternative to Colombo because it’s not as busy.
- Indonesia, 400/50 Sarana Road, Off Budhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
- Italy (Embassy of Italy), 55, Jawatta Road, Colombo 5, ☏ , fax: .
- Japan (Embassy of Japan), 20, Gregory's Road, Colombo 7, ☏ , fax: .
- Malaysia (High Commission of Malaysia), 33, Bagatalle Road, Colombo 3, ☏ , , , fax: .
- Maldives (High Commission of the Republic of Maldives), 25, Melbourne Avenue, Colombo 4, ☏ , fax: .
- Nepal (Embassy of Nepal), 153, Kynsey Road, Colombo 8., ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Netherlands, 25, Torrington Avenue, Colombo - 7, ☏ , fax: .
- Norway (Royal Norwegian Embassy), 34 Ward Place, Colombo 7, ☏ , fax: .
- Russia (Embassy of the Russian Federaration), 62, Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha, Colombo 7, ☏ , , fax: .
- Thailand (Royal Thai Embassy), 46/46 Nawam Mawatha, 9th Floor, Green lanka Towers, Colombo 2, ☏ , fax: .
- United Kingdom (British High Commission), 389 Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo - 7, ☏ , fax: .
- United States (American Embassy), 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, ☏ , fax: .
SIM cards for unlocked phones may be purchased upon arrival at the international airport.
Mobile data is a simple way of connecting when traveling in Sri Lanka. The internet is supplied through Data cards (this is the local interpretation of the item) . They are simple, small-sized scratch coupons available in almost every store in the city. A data card is priced according to variations of the package and the company manufacturing it. A few trustable companies are Dialog, Mobitel, Hutch and Airtel.
In a normal coupon, usage details are normally applied in the back, along with a hidden serial number which can be accessed by scratching off the top layer with a coin (Quite similar to a scratch lottery). You have to dial the given ussd code and proceed with the instructions given in the back of the card. If you are not so sure about trusting local stores (scammers are present in most of them), you can easily request a card from the hotel reception (depends on the hotel quality, a low budget hotel might not serve willingly.) or visit the company headquarters (most of them are located in Colombo).
WiFi can be accessed easily in the city. Travelers can either log into free public WiFi which is usually available in parks, cafes and shopping malls, or they can log onto the hotel WiFi by requesting the password from the reception. (most hotels provide free WiFi, (low budget hotels may not have WiFi) but due to unauthorized external usage, hotels in the city secure the network.) Public WiFi is usually slow and laggy due to high usage, WiFi in hotel lobbies are the same, however, WiFi provided in hotel rooms work exceptionally well. Buying a separate router for internet access is not recommended.
- Delhousie— town at the foot of Adam's Peak which is considered a place of worship and pilgrimage by many religions. The 2,224 metre peak, also known as Sri Pada, is home to a foot imprint on a rock at its summit. Depending on the faith, the foot print has been considered that of Buddha, the god Shiva, St Thomas, and even Adam, after he was expelled from the garden of Eden. The stairway to the top is believed to be one of the longest in the world. After reaching the top, climbers can ring the bell to mark the journey they just made. The panoramic view makes the journey well worth the effort. Reaching Delhousie from Colombo can be an adventure in itself, unless you are lucky enough to find a direct bus. The route is Colombo-Hatton-Maskeliya-Delhousie. The distance is quite short on the map but can take 6–8 hours.
- Kandy, Located 120 kilometres (less than 4 hours away) outside of Colombo, Kandy is a small, tranquil town that holds the sacred tooth of Buddha, a sacred relic of the Buddhist faith. According to the legend, the tooth was taken from the Buddha on his funeral pyre and was smuggled into Sri Lanka hidden in the hair of a princess in the 4th century. The Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth, is a main attraction for pilgrimages. Each July and August, the tooth is carried in a procession. Although one cannot see the tooth, the festivities are a sight to see.
- Sigiriya, located 160 kilometres northeast of Colombo, is a very important Buddhist site in Sri Lanka. The remains of the ancient fortress and city date back to 477 AD. Legend has it, King Kasyapa built it in order to protect against attacks from his brother, whom he had stolen the throne from. The only way into the city is through the giant lion's jaws. The site is also famous for its 5th century frescos. Sigiriya is approximately 2–3 hours away from Colombo, and can be reached via train, bus, or car. It is open daily from 08:30 to 18:00. For foreign nationals the entrance fee is 2,000 rupees.
- Negombo, beach town just north of the airport, also famous for its canals and fish market. It used to be a backpacker haven, though it's more and more becoming a resort with new expensive hotels being built. 1-1.5 h by bus from Colombo.