Negombo is a quiet town in the western coastal area of Sri Lanka, with a tourist strip to the north on Jetwing Beach. Its key attraction is its proximity to the international airport. Formerly the haunt of budget travellers, rising hotel rates and luxury resorts mean it now attracts tourists for its yellow, sandy beaches and its relaxing and friendly environment. There are a few other tourist attractions, and decent opportunities for diving and water sports.
The 100-km-long canal network running through the city is still used, and outrigger canoes and modern water-craft ply this route daily, for trade and tourist purposes. Remains of colonization include the Dutch fort built in 1672, as well as centuries-old Portuguese and Dutch houses, administrative buildings, churches and the ceiling frescoes of St. Mary's cathedral church. Negombo is the centre of Sri Lanka's Catholic community, and you can expect to see many churches during a visit.
Negombo is also home to the country's second-largest fish market, the "Lellama", at the north end of the town's lagoon. There are daily fish auctions, which give tourists a chance to meet the area's fishermen and even organise fishing trips into the lagoon and the ocean beyond. Other nearby attractions open to visitors include the Muthurajawela marshland, which is part.
Getting there: Taxi costs Rs 1500 which can be booked at taxi counters in the departure hall. A trishaw will cost Rs 400–800. Besides, most hotels in Negombo can arrange pickups, but usually it's a pricey option: Rs 1500 to 2500.
There used to be a free shuttle bus from the Arrival Terminal to Katunayake bus stop, but it's no longer available. This bus now goes to Colombo. You may try your luck asking the driver to drop you off at Katunayake, but he may ask for the full fare to Colombo, anyway.
Otherwise, it is 15-min walk to the "Airport" bus terminal. A regular bus fare to Negombo bus terminal is Rs 22 (May 2015). Then take bus #905 to Negombo Beach for Rs 12.
To Kandy: buses depart every 30 minutes from the main bus terminal, Rs 220, 3–4 hours.
To Anuradhapura: buses depart from Periyam Mulla junction bus stop in Negombo, journey takes more than 5 hours.
By taxi or trishaw
Trishaws or "tuk tuks" are a common way to travel around. Be sure to negotiate your price ahead of the ride. These days, drivers tends to charge "fixed price" for tourists (e.g. Rs 200 from the Negombo Bus/Train Station to hotels in Lewis Place Street) and especially from Lewis Place it is difficult to catch the passing ones carrying locals if these "stationary" drivers are around.
The PickMe app can be used to get a fare estimate, which is usually significantly lower than prices quoted by local drivers.
Negombo is very flat so bikes are popular among locals. It is also possible to rent one, for example at 1 Shane Tours, 176 Lewis Pl, Negombo 11500, Sri Lanka (Lewis Place, close to the Holy Rosary church.), ☏ . Rs 500 for a bike for 24h.
Renting your own vehicle
You can find international companies at the airport or local one in Negombo streets, where you can easily rent tuk tuks, vans, 4x4 or motorbikes, providing you have an international driving license. Note that to rent a tuk tuk, a local license is needed (which can be obtained through a travel agency).
Negombo is the area in which most travellers will begin and end their time in Sri Lanka, owing to its proximity to the airport. Negombo is a holiday destination itself, with its beautiful beach being its main attraction. Other things to see include:
- 1 Dutch Fort. Built in 1672
- The canals
- 2 St. Mary's church.
- Katuwapitiya Church, Katuwapitiya Rd. Dedicated to the city's patron saint, St. Sebastian. Modeled on the Reims Cathedral in France. Built in the 1990s.
- 3 St. Sebastian Church (Sea Street Church).
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, intersection of Ave Maria street and Old Chilaw street.
- Negombo Grand Jumma Masjid.
- Agurukaramulla Raja maha viharaya Buddhist temple, Temple rd.
- Abhayasekararamaya temple.
- Sri Sudarshanaramaya Buddhist temple.
- Asapuwa Buddhist temple.
- Dutugamunu viharaya Buddhist temples.
- Boat rides in shallow waters of the Negombo lagoon.
- Laze on the wide sandy beaches
- Handicraft and other gift shopping.
- Diving. There are two diving centres along the main strip, with boats departing from the beach, and roughly 30 dive sites.
Negombo used to be a major producer of cinnamon. While the trade has moved on, you can still find local cinnamon and vanilla for sale at roadside shops.
Souvenir shops sell Sri Lankan handicrafts such as jewellery with local gems, Batik, etc.
Local curry houses offer authentic dining for Rs 200. Cheaper, local restaurants are inland from the main strip, Porutota Rd. Roti Talk, on Porutota Rd and opposite Jetwing Blue, offers excellent local roti and chutney for Rs 200–300, and local curry and rice for Rs 700–900.
A mid-range destination, recommended by locals, is 1 King Coconut. located on the southern end of Jetwing beach. It offers Sri Lankan curry & rice, but is most recommended for its pizzas. Expect to pay about Rs 1000 for a meal.
2 Lords (Porutota Rd opposite Jetwing Blue). Somewhat pricey by local standards, and is very much for western visitors. It also showcases local art, and has a cultural show on Wednesdays. Expect to pay about Rs 2000 for a meal..
3 Koththamalli (Inside Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions). Touts itself as the only vegetarian / vegan restaurant in Negombo, which might be correct. Haute cuisine for very reasonable prices. Most dishes are less than Rs 1000..
The three Jetwing resorts dominate the upper end of dining. Expect to pay about Rs 3000 for a meal.
Fine dining is one of the most satisfying factor enjoyed by any visitor who comes to Negombo.
- Finest sea food can be tasted in Negombo. Fresh fish, lobsters, crabs, prawns and shellfish can be ordered in many restaurants. Crabs are sourced from the local lagoons. The fish markets are worth a visit.
- Also any juicy tropical fruits can be purchased at Negombo food markets.
Specially Sri Lankan fresh king coconut is cheap and ubiquitous. If you search a bit you will be lucky enough to taste fresh toddy from area.
The local beers are Three Coins and Lion lagers. Locals are generally indifferent, although Three Coins is somewhat more full bodied. Arrack is the local spirit, made from coconut and tasting similar to rum.
There are plenty of hotels (both budget and mid-ranged) and hostels in town, mostly scattered around the beach area.
- Woodside Villa, St Sebastian Place, Ethukala, ☏ . Check-in: 11AM, check-out: 11AM. Guesthouse just a short walk from the beach. The rooms are all spacious, clean and equipped with AC. There is a large garden and lounge areas with wifi throughout. Rooms have AC. The staff are fantastic and can cook breakfasts. from Rs 3,000.
- Dion's Guest House, 137 Lewis Place, ☏ . Check-in: 11AM, check-out: 11AM. Has a nice large lawn and a spacious dining area. Rooms are equipped with flat screen TV, air-conditioning and in-room free WiFi. Can arrange pick-up drop from airport, bus or railway station. Rs 4,000.
- 1 Hostel First Colombo Airport, No 477 Negombo Road (follow the road away from the airport until it crosses with Negombo Road; turn right and follow Negombo Road until you see the hostel's sign on the left), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers spacious accommodation, 24-hour front desk service, free WiFi and parking, and airport transfers and tours can be arranged upon request at a surcharge. Dorm US$10, private rooms $25-40.
- Marine Tourist Guest House, 118 Lewis Place (1 km from the city center), ☏ . Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. 1,500.
- Mr Silal Fernando Homestay, Just outside Negombo, ☏ . Mr Fernando is an amicable gentleman who runs this small homestay. He offers airport pickups for 800 rupees. Meals available. Single Rs 1000, Double Rs 1500 With A/C Rs 2500.
- 2 Prince Residence, 91, Lewis Place (next to Ice Bear on Beach Road), ☏ , PrinceToursLanka@GMail.com. Check-in: Noon, check-out: Noon. Very clean accommodation next to the beach, with A/C, TV, mini-fridge and 24 hours hot water. Rp 3164.
- St. Lachlan Hotel & Suites, St. Lachlans Beach Villa, St. Anthony's Lane, Ettukala, ☏ . The hotel comprises 16 guest rooms and suites, all of which have LED TV, DVD player, mini-bar, and tea/coffee making facilities. Some of its amenities are a pool bar, swimming pool, and a gift/souvenir shop. Rates on official website start at US$176.
- 3 Star Beach Hotel, 83/3 Lewis Place (beside Golden Star Beach Hotel, opposite Ocean View Tourist Guest House), ☏ . Non-air conditioned room ground floor Rs 800, worn and old rooms. Air conditioned rooms first floor Rs 1600.
- 4 Club Hotel Dolphin, Kammala South Waikkal, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Comprehensive range of modern facilities
The main roads and beach areas of Negombo have their share of touts and tricksters. Expect to be hailed by taxi drivers, souvenir-sellers and beggars. One man walks the beach with a monkey on a rope, trained to grab hold of tourists' legs.