Arriving In Sri Lanka – Things To Know

Arriving In Sri Lanka – Things To Know

Being the only international airport in Sri Lanka, chances are your first stop on the island is going to be through Colombo airport. So we’ve put together a things to know when arriving in Sri Lanka guide for what to expect upon arrival.

What To Expect When Arriving In Sri Lanka

We landed in Colombo fresh from a 2 month trip around India and to be honest, we weren’t really sure what to expect. Although one thing’s for sure, we were excited for a new cultural experience!

We guess everyone assumes Sri Lanka is a mini India because of the close distance between the two countries, but upon arrival we soon realised that they couldn’t be further apart.

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Colombo city views

Colombo – An Underrated City

We’d heard that a lot of people were underwhelmed by the city, and looking back we kind of understand why.

If you’re on a 2 week trip then there are definitely many more beautiful places to see in Sri Lanka. That, added with the fact most people are arriving in Sri Lanka on direct flights from London or Berlin, it makes sense that they want to escape the city as soon as possible.

Although, in our opinion, Colombo really doesn’t get enough credit from fellow travellers.

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Colombo is the countries cultural capital

The city itself is by far the cleanest we’ve seen on our trip! For a place that homes the largest percentage of Sri Lanka (at over 12%) it was surprisingly spacious. It had an easy to use bus system and the tuk tuks are all on meters. So there’s less chance of being scammed or getting ripped off.

The people seemed genuinely interested and friendly, going out of their way to make sure you got on the right bus without expecting anything in return. If this was what their version of London was like, then we had great expectations for the rest of Sri Lanka!

So our advice, if you’re on a short holiday and in a rush to get around then of course head down south and get to the palm trees as soon as possible. On the other hand if you have plenty of time then don’t rush out as quickly as everyone says. Even if you just use Colombo as a base to get set up with SIM cards, extend visas at the embassies or chill and catch a movie it’s definitely worth your time.

For more things to do in Colombo check out Tourist Places In Colombo – Things To Do.

Sri Lanka Visa On Arrival

You can apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) online before arriving in Sri Lanka which costs $35 for a 30 day visa.

Alternatively you can get one at customs when arriving for $40.

For tips on How To Extend Your Sri Lanka Tourist Visa you can read our blog here.

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Lauren happy with her Sri Lanka visa on arrival

Transport From The Airport – Negombo To Colombo

After touching down in Colombo airport, we were surprised by the cleanliness and friendly tuk tuk drivers. This place was a dream and we couldn’t stop smiling!

From the airport in Negombo to Colombo it’s just a 30 minute local bus ride.

It should cost no more than 130 rupees per person and will drop you off in Pettah Station – the transportation hub of Colombo.

Mark this place on your map because it’s your one way in and out of Colombo. Every bus leaves from here and you won’t be waiting any longer than 15 minutes before the next one arrives.

Sri Lanka Sim Cards

You have many choices of Sr Lanka SIM card companies when arriving in Sri Lanka but the top 3 are; Dialog, Mobitel and Airtel.

We opted for Airtel and paid 150 Rupees for the SIM card. Different data bundles are available depending on your needs. Although we just stuck with wifi in Sri Lanka.

Places To Stay In Colombo

Luxury – Movenpick Hotel Colombo – The first five star hotel in Sri Lanka to be built in over 20 years and one of the nicest accommodations we’ve had the pleasure of staying in! You can read our full review of Movenpick Hotel here.

Mid-Budget – Cinnamon Red Colombo – A pleasant hotel chain with a great reputation within Sri Lanka. You can’t go wrong with Cinnamon.

Backpacker – Colombo City Hostel – A real great place with helpful young heads dotted around the hostel. A great first stop for backpackers in Sri Lanka. You can read our review here.

To check out the prices of other places to stay in Colombo you can click here.

More Sri Lanka

For more things to do in Sri Lanka and which route to take, make sure to check out our break down – The Best Of Sri Lanka – A Route & Trip Guide.


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