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 this Things To Do in Colombo guide and what to expect upon arrival.
Welcome To Sri Lanka – What To Expect When Arriving In Colombo
So if you’ve been following our journey then you’ll know that we landed straight into Sri Lanka, fresh from a 2 month trip around India. To be honest, we weren’t really sure what to expect, but 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.
After touching down in Colombo airport, a short 35 minutes after departing from Kochi, we were so 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 it’s just a 30 minute local bus ride to the heart of the capital. It should cost no more than 130 rupees per person and will drop you off in Pettah – 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.
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 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.
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 and full of happy, helpful people. It had an easy to use bus system and the tuk tuks are all on meters, so there’s no 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.
Things To Do In Colombo
This comes up at the top of everything in Colombo for a reason. We paid 300 rupees for a ticket that allowed us to visit Seema Malaka, the small Buddhist temple on the lake, and also Gangaramaya itself, which was a beautiful introduction to the most practised religion in Sri Lanka!
Galle Face Green
A scenic spot for sunset and a mini break from the city for an evening. Here you can see plenty of local kids playing, friends meeting for street food and families strolling along the promenade.
The National Museum
Pretty self explanatory and could be worth a visit, depending on your interests.
Like all major cities there’s always plenty of places to shop. For Colombo we recommend Majestic City for those big label European style shops. Pettah Market (back near the bus station) is another hot spot for the biggest local market in Colombo!
If you’re stuck for ideas who needs an excuse to chill out and watch a new movie on the cheap? At only 500 rupees (£2.50) for a 3D ticket, we jumped at the chance to see the new Spider-Man!
Where To Stay
Movenpick – If you’re on a slightly higher budget then there are plenty of luxurious looking hotels scattered amongst the sky scrapers. We were lucky enough to stay at the newest 5 star hotel in Sri Lanka, Movenpick Colombo, which you can read all about here!
You can also check out the prices of other places to stay in Colombo here.
Where To Eat
Galle Face Green – If you’re looking for street snacks then this is the perfect place to grab a local delicacy whilst taking a beach front walk. We recommend stocking up on vegetable rottis or prawn vadai.
Dutch Hospital – For something a bit more fancy or a sit down meal then definitely head here. As the name suggests, an old hospital transformed into a huge outside food court with food varying from your average pub grub to some more upmarket food. Perfect for whatever the mood.
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