Colombo is the largest city and the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. It is a busy and vibrant city with a city population of nearly 1 million people.
Colombo is divided into 15 zones and these zones have a designated postal code 1-15.
While the following are not considered within Colombo proper, they are the suburbs to the south of Colombo and are located pretty close to the center and have to be mentioned. They are listed here in the order that they come when moving from Colombo towards the south, along the Galle road.
Colombo is generally more known for its shopping, rather than for its sights. However, it has some nice sites that are worth visiting.
Besides these major shopping complexes, there are the numerous individual specialized shops. The following are some of the most popular amongst tourists:
Colombo has a tropical climate, meaning hot and humid weather year round. Temperatures average around 30 °C during the day and around 20 °C at night. February and March are the warmest months, July and August the coolest, but differences are very small. Rainfall is possible year round, but is higher during the April to June and October/November, with over 300 mm of rain a month. January-February (only 75 mm a month) and July-August are somewhat drier.
|Avg Max||30.9 °C||31.2 °C||31.7 °C||31.8 °C||31.1 °C||30.4 °C||30 °C||30 °C||30.2 °C||30 °C||30.1 °C||30.3 °C|
|Avg Min||22.3 °C||22.6 °C||23.7 °C||24.6 °C||25.5 °C||25.5 °C||25.2 °C||25.1 °C||24.8 °C||24 °C||23.2 °C||22.8 °C|
|Rainfall||58.2 mm||72.7 mm||128 mm||245.6 mm||392.4 mm||184.9 mm||121.9 mm||119.5 mm||245.4 mm||365.4 mm||414.4 mm||175.3 mm|
Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), also known as Katunayake International Airport and Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport, is the main gateway to Colombo and in fact of Sri Lanka as a whole.
Sri Lankan Airlines is the national airline of Sri Lanka. It operates international flights to and from Abu Dhabi, Bangalore, Bangkok, Beijing, Chennai, Coimbatore, Doha, Dubai, Delhi, Dammam, Frankfurt, Goa, Hong Kong, Hyderabad, Kuala Lumpur, London Heathrow, Male, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Karachi, Kuwait, Singapore and Tokyo Narita. Other airlines serving the country are Emirates, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Martinair, Condor, Cathay Pacific and lowcoast airlines Air Arabia from Sharjah. Expo Aviation operates many charter service to and from the following destinations: Abu Dhabi, Australia, Bangalore, Bangkok, Beirut, Cairo, Kozhikode, Chennai, Chittagong, Kochi, Dhaka, Dubai, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Jakarta, Jeddah, Karachi, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Lahore, Malé, Manila, Mumbai, Muscat, several cities in Africa and Europe, Sharjah, Singapore, Tiruchirapalli and Thiruvananthapuram. Domestically, Expo Aviation and Aero Lanka offer scheduled flights to Jaffna and Trincomalee from Colombo. Chartered flights are also available.
Mihin Lanka is a lowcost airline which focuses on providing low cost flights from Colombo to Dubai and a number of cities in India. Its future base would have been Weerawila International Airport (WRZ), which would have been ready in 2009. However, the project faced significant environmental concerns, and was eventually scrapped. The site of the proposed airport was moved to Mattala, Hambantota, and a new Hambantota International Airport/Mattala International Airport is currently under construction there.
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.
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 a major rail hub in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 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.
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.
Passenger services with India have to Tuticorin are out of operation probably to never return at least not on this line. As a pricy alternative Indian Ocean Cruises operates a cruise liner to Colombo as part of its itinerary along the West Coast of India and to the uninhabited Lakshwadeep Islands.
Taxis are 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.
It is easier to use public transport to get around Colombo, rather than driving your own car. Public transport range from buses, trains to the more individual form of public transport, the taxi and the three wheeler.
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 50 rupees for the first kilometre and 30 rupees 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.
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. 10-50.
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, Mt.Lavinia is only abut 20 minutes away from the city and entertains a good deal of nightlife. Along the beach are a variety of restaurants that serve liquor (by restaurants along the beach I mean they are literally on the beach, 50 feet away from the water and tables on the sand) 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 a cool hang out.
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 Mt. 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).
|AAA Accommodation||49 Lionel Edirisinghe Mawatha Off Polhengoda Road||Guesthouse||57|
|Hotel Sansu||651/31, Sir oliver Gunatilake Gardens off Elvitigala Mawatha, Narahenpita||Hotel||-|
|Ranjit's Ambalama||53/19 Torrington avenue||Hostel||-|
|Summer House Apartment||1126, 2nd Lane, Zone V, Millenium City Athurugiriya (off Colomb)||Apartment||-|
|Tropic Inn||30 College Avenue||Hostel||80|
|Hotel Clarion||103 kandy road kiribathgoda||Hotel||-|
|Hornbill Holiday Home||No 21A, Fernando Gardens, Dehiwala||GUESTHOUSE||69|
|Concord Hotel||140 Galle Road Dehiwela||Hotel||-|
|CHAMENKA GUEST HOUSE||NO 44, PALLIDORA ROAD, DEHIWALA,SRILANKA||Guesthouse||-|
|Fieldview Holiday Resort||No 17, Annasiwatte Road, Athurugiriya,||Hotel||-|
|Mount Lavinia Home Stay||17/7 Off De Saram Road Mount Lavinia||Hostel||83|
|Tropic Inn @De Vos Avenue||19 De Vos Avenue Colombo 4||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Omni Holiday Bungalow||No: 10, De Soysa avanue, Mount Lavinia||Guesthouse||-|
|Salco Residency||475/19 Lake Crescent RAJAGIRIYA||Apartment||-|
|Supun Arcade Residency||56, Galle Road||HOTEL||-|
|Adikaram sea View Hostel||45/1, Initium road Dehiwala||Hostel||-|
|Lavinia Beach Hostel||6A Samudra Mawatha Mount Lavinia||HOSTEL||85|
|Airport Vicinity Hostel||3/69 Serendib Airport Road, Minuwangoda||HOSTEL||-|
|Mount Air Inn||24-A Station Road Mount Lavinia||HOTEL||-|
|Ivory Inn||21, Barnes Avenue||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Colombo Airport Hostel @Negombo Beach||42, Kannattha Para (Cemetery Road) Eitthukala, Negombo||HOSTEL||-|
|Breeze of Paradise||35/8A, Meegahawatta Road Gangodawila||Guesthouse||-|
|Mysoor Inn||130 Galle Road||Hostel||67|
|CityRest Motels||128, Old Moor Street Colombo - 12||HOSTEL||-|
|Colombo City Hostel||68 S D S Jayasinghe Mawatha||HOSTEL||78|
|Clock Inn Colombo||457, Galle Road, Colombo 03||HOSTEL||78|
|Cottage 26||26, de Vos Avenue Colombo 4||GUESTHOUSE||-|
Internet cafes are available in all the cities and these are cheap and easy to access. Most hotels have internet access as well but are relatively expensive. There are various internet service providers (Sri Lanka Telecom, Dialog, Mobitel etc.) providing different packages: ADSL broadband, dial-up, WiFi. Please contact a service provider to learn more about the packages and prices.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country code for Sri Lanka is 94. Remove the intercity prefix (0) before the area code when dialling internationally into the country (i.e., 0112 688 688 becomes +94 112 688 688) when dialling from abroad). The two next numbers after 94 represents the area code, they are different for every district.
The use of GSM cellphones is widespread and the coverage is good. Dialog and Mobitel are two operators that have sales offices at the airport inside the arrivals lounge. Dialog Mobile has the widest coverage in the country including rural areas and has the best quality GSM / 3G / HSPA +/4G network. Mobitel also has a 3G/HSPA+ network. All the mobile operators are having same call rates due to floor rate tariffs. Therefore it is advisable to go to the network which offers you the best quality. All Mobile Operators offers cheap IDD Call rates. If you want to surf internet, best way is to buy a HSPA dongle and a Mobile Broadband connection. Dialog Mobile, Mobitel, hutch, Etisalat and Airtel offers prepaid Mobile Broadband services which can be activated and used immediately. Dialog is the Vodafone Roaming Network in Sri Lanka and offers the best range of Value added services for Roamers and the rates are cheaper. Etisalat and Airtel also provide cheap roaming rates specially to India.
Sri Lankan Post is the national postal company. Each city/town has a main post office and the villages will have access to sub post offices, either at the village or nearby village. Local post, through normal mail, is cheap and fast. However, to ensure that the post has reached recipient, it is better to send by registered post which will allow you to have a reference number which you can later use to check with your post office that your mail has reached its destination. There are local courier services. Aramex and Pronto are some of the ones in Colombo and they deliver mail the same day or overnight. For better tracking and fast services companies like DHL, or TNT provide a good service but are more expensive.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Colombo searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Colombo and areas nearby.
Ask planxty a question about Colombo
In 2015 I spent three months in Sri Lanka with a bit of time spent in the Colombo area. I returned in 2016 and spent the majority of another three month trip on the outskirts of the city so I know a bit about the place.
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