For many years, Colombo was the capital of Sri Lanka, and many believe that it still remains so. In fact, since 1982, the suburb of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, which, together with several other settlements, is part of Greater Colombo, has become formally the capital. See JIBIN123 for Sri Lanka customs regulations and visa requirements.
This is a very large metropolis, divided into several very different districts. The city felt the influence of the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Dutch, British and Portuguese. Therefore, today all these cultures are reflected in architectural traditions and monuments. But the basis is, of course, the bright, colorful and bustling life of Asia.
For travelers, Colombo often becomes a transit point on the way to the resorts, but those who allocate at least a couple of days to explore it are usually satisfied: there are many unusual sights, a well-developed tourist infrastructure and friendly locals. And there is also a beach, so you can combine a trip with a vacation on the ocean.
How to get to Colombo
A couple of times a month there are direct Azur Air flights from Moscow to Colombo. Travel time is almost 9 hours. With one transfer you can get there almost every day, the planes of Etihad Airways, Air Arabia, Qatar Airways, Emirates and other carriers make stops in Sharjah, Dubai, Doha or Abu Dhabi. There are also KLM flights via Amsterdam. The minimum travel time is 11 hours.
From airport to city
Bandaranaike International Airport is located 35 km from the city. To get to the center, you can take a bus, train or taxi.
Bus number 187 connects the airport and the Central Bus Station, and bus number 240 goes to the railway station. The journey takes about an hour, you can leave from 5:30 to 21:00. Also, trains from the airport arrive at the railway station, although the departure station is a kilometer away, some passengers travel by tuk-tuk, and most go on foot. The train travels 30-40 minutes.
The most convenient way to be in the center is a taxi, the duration of the trip depends on traffic jams (30-60 minutes), and you will have to pay 2000 LKR. For large companies, it is beneficial to hire a minivan: they charge 2500 LKR for travel in it, with a capacity of 8 people. The prices on the page are for August 2021.
The best way to get around the city is by tuk-tuk. Fare payment – either depending on the distance, or by agreement before boarding. A short train will cost 170 LKR (2-3 km), a longer one – 350 LKR (about 8 km).
Official tuk-tuks also run around the city, they can be identified by their unique coloring (supervised by the tourist office of Sri Lanka). Drivers are friendly to tourists and help them navigate the area. They can be caught on the street or ordered by phone (24/7): (0712) 500-800 or (0772) 299-299.
Taxi is the second most popular transport among tourists (safer and more comfortable than tuk-tuks). As a rule, machines are equipped with counters. Traveling outside the city will cost 320 LKR, to Mount Lavinia – 700-1000 LKR.
Since January 2010, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka can be traveled around on a double-decker bus. The special city tour departs from the Gall Face Hotel (the oldest in Colombo) at 8:30 am. The open upper deck will allow not only to see, but also to feel the city in all its glory.
A bicycle is not a very popular form of transport in Colombo, but if desired, rental can be found in many hotels. There are even Russian-language services that will help you rent a bike. Some youth hostels offer free use of two-wheelers. True, the infrastructure is not particularly developed, you mostly have to drive along the roadway, and the traffic here is very busy.
In addition, the city has a large port where not only cargo, but also passenger ferries arrive, from where you can continue your journey to India or the Maldives.
Since Colombo is located by the ocean, the best hotels are built along it. But places to stay can be found in any part of the city.
For a long stay, classic hotels, guest houses or villas are best suited. If you need a shelter for one or two nights, then you can choose budget hostels or capsule hotels. Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi, and many have their own parking.
A room in a three-star hotel costs 2500-7000 LKR, luxurious accommodation on the first line in a 5 * hotel will cost 11 400-30 900 LKR, a place in the hostel can be rented for 673 LKR.
What to bring
Shopping in Colombo is not very highly valued, but the places where you can buy something to remember from the trip are impressive. There are no small shops here, but there are real souvenir hypermarkets where it is easy to buy gifts for everyone in one visit.
The two-story indoor market Laksala (215, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Thunmulla) stands out in particular, where mainly the products of local Sri Lankan artisans are presented. A good Lakpahana Handicraft store is located at 14, Phillip Gunawardena Mawatha, Reid Avenue, they also sell handicrafts and modern souvenirs.
The most popular gifts from Colombo are wooden carvings (mainly elephants) and masks. They are made from both simple types of wood, and from very expensive ones. In addition, you can often see drums in stores; they are also in demand because they reflect an important, religious part of the life of the Sri Lankans.
It is customary in Colombo to bargain, and it does not matter where the purchase takes place: in the market or in an expensive store, you can throw off up to 30% of the cost of the goods. Especially boldly traded in the case when the price is not specified.
Most often, tourists bring tea from Colombo. This famous Ceylon drink is considered one of the best in the world. But it is better to buy it in supermarkets or directly at factories, not with hands. In addition, there are a lot of jewelry stores in Colombo, precious and semi-precious stones are mined in the country: sapphires, rubies, garnets and rare alexandrites. But local gold and silver are not valued, just like the design of jewelry. If you wish, you can buy stones at a very favorable price, and order jewelry from jewelers when you return home.
And, of course, sets of fragrant spices, coconut oil, herbal balms and aloe creams are brought from here.
Cuisine and restaurants in Colombo
In the largest city of Sri Lanka, you can try not only local cuisine, but also others: from Thai and Indonesian to Portuguese and English.
The most delicious dishes are prepared in non-tourist places: street eateries and outdoor cafes. You just need to be prepared for the fact that the food will be very spicy. Local fast food is the so-called “rotti shops”, they sell cakes made from rice flour and coconut “rotti” with fillings. But expensive restaurants will not disappoint, except that the prices will be a little higher.
National dishes consist mainly of vegetables and fruits – raw and cooked. Meat is rare, fish and seafood are a little more common, there are more of them than in any other part of the country. Local chefs put spices in abundance in food – chili, coriander, turmeric, ginger and all kinds of herbs, rice and coconut in all forms are popular.
The word “curry” here refers to almost all dishes, which include spices. Even before cooking, they are fried in a pan and only then added to the main products.
Be sure to try “string hoppers” – very thin steamed rice noodles. But simply “hoppers” are savory pancakes from the same dough, they are eaten with fillings, they are also used to make Sri Lankan fried eggs: an egg is broken into the center of the pancake.
Non-crumbly rice is tasty – “kiribat”, it is boiled in coconut milk, and then various shapes are made from it, usually rhombuses. The dish can be eaten as a main dish with spicy and spicy appetizers, or as a dessert with coconut flakes and other sweet ingredients. Other sweets are halva “aluva”, donuts “kyavum” and cookies “kokis”, which vaguely resembles our brushwood.
The local strong alcohol is arak palm vodka; cocktails are made on its basis, and sometimes they drink it in its pure form. Of the non-alcoholic drinks, coconut juice is the most popular, the contents of orange fruits, which are considered the most useful, are especially valued.