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Colombo

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Western Sri Lanka : Colombo
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Colombo (Sinhala: කොළඹ, Tamil: கொழும்பு) is the largest city and the financial and commercial capital of Sri Lanka.

Colombo skyline
Colombo

Understand

Colombo is the commercial and financial capital of Sri Lanka after the administrative capital was moved to Sri Jayewardenepura-Kotte, a suburb east of the city.

Weather wise, the best time to visit is during the North East monsoon season, which is November to April.

Get in

By plane

There is air service to and from Colombo, provided by the national airline Sri Lankan Airlines. Flights are available from origins throughout Europe, United States, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. Other airlines, include Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad and Emirates. If you were to fly Emirates, you can stop over in Colombo on your way to Singapore (e.g. Dubai - Colombo - Singapore). Gulf Air operation From Bahrain to Colomno is back starting from October 2010.

Sri Lanka's only international airport, Bandaranaike International, is at Katunayake, close to Negombo, on the coast north of Colombo. The journey to Colombo will take about an hour by taxi.

Air Arabia [1] is a low cost giant that provides excellent connections from Middle East and North Africa to Colombo, and its known for its on time service and low fares.

Air Asia has now begun to fly to Colombo from Kuala Lumpur with very cheap airfares. [2]

By train

Trains operate from Bandaranaike International Airport to Fort, Colombo. A single one way trip costs Rs 500 (Approximately USD 5) per person. Trains run only once a day and at different schedules on each day of the week. [3]

By bus

The Sri Lanka Transport Board is the nationalized bus service. Buses are the principal mode of transport in the county. 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. Route No 187 connects the Katunayake Airport to the city of Colombo, and buses are available throughout the day.

By boat

Passenger services with India have now finally returned with the twice-weekly ferry from Tuticorin operated by Flemingo Liners [4]. Sailing days change from week to week but departure time is at 6PM, arriving in Colombo 8AM the next morning. Prices starts at 2,200 INR. Also Indian Ocean Cruises [5] operates a cruise liner to Colombo as part of its itinerary along the West Coast of India and to the uninhabited Lakshwadeep Islands.

Getting into Colombo from Katunayake airport

The international airport is closer to Negombo than to Colombo, so if you're arriving late, it might be a better option to head to Negombo for the night instead. Do an online search for those hotels. Star class hotels and budget guest houses are available. Ceylon tourist board(Controlled by Government) has a chain of hotels(http://www.ceylonhotels.lk/).

By taxi

Airport Taxi Some taxi services are available at Air port as well.

Other popular Taxi services - [6] and http://www.colomboairporttransfer.com/about.html

Local Taxi (mini van)

The taxi service provided by the taxi counter in the arrivals hall is one option. They provide a mini van without air conditioning, but it will be about a third cheaper than taxis provided by 'hotels'. It is worth noting that this service is primarily intended for the locals, so the counter staff may try to persuade you to go to one of the 'hotel taxi' counters outside the arrivals hall but insist that you only want a mini van. Insistence has not helped in some cases: counter staff maintained that the service is only for locals and refused to issue tickets for this service.

Hotel Taxi

Most 4 or 5 star hotels have their own counter just outside the arrivals hall. You can get a taxi from one of these places. They will provide an air conditioned car. As of May 2009, the cost to Galle Face (Colombo Fort) could be about Rs 2,800 (approximately 25 US$).

By bus

This is the cheapest way to get into Colombo, but will take some effort and time. The public bus (number 187) to Colombo Fort leaves from the airport bus depot which is located outside the airport. You can get there by free shuttle or walk (about 10 - 15 mins). To catch a free shuttle bus, come out of the airport, turn left and walk all the way to the end of the building. You will not find any signs, so be sure to ask airport personnel. You will see an old white bus with a sign that says main terminal. Catch it and it will drive for 5 minutes and drop you off at the bus depot. From the bus depot, catch any bus marked 187 to Colombo at a cost of 40 rupees (although the bus collector may try to make tourists pay more 'for luggage' etc, in fact the typical luggage a tourist may carry is not supposed to be accommodated in public transport, thus despite what some "know it all" may write here be prepared to not even be allowed in the bus if there is a crowd waiting to take the bus) to Colombo Fort station. Beware that only the big white buses (similar to the airport shuttle) will be 40 Rupees, the smaller buses with aircon will charge foreigners definitely more. Given that "more" might mean 70-100 Rupees, it's not that big of a deal, even though they might ask for 300 Rupees in the start, just hand them over a smaller amount and tell them it's not your first visit here.

The journey into Colombo Fort could take anything between an hour and fifteen to two hours. The bus will stop at major towns en route . They also have collapsible seats along the aisle which will get used as the bus becomes busy so, try to get a seat at the front. The one opposite the door is preferable! Ask the conductor to tell you when the bus gets to the Fort station (as opposed to the Colombo bus depot). Note that some buses do not go as far as the Fort station and stop at the bus depot, which is about 5 min walk from the station. Others go via the depot to fort station and then double back to the bus depot.

Once you reach Colombo Fort, you can get a three-wheeler (tuk-tuk) to get to your destination. You will pay a little premium for catching a tuk-tuk from the bus station or outside Fort station (on the main road so there will be a choice of tuk-tuks) but it should not cost more than Rs 150 to go to hotels near Galle Face (e.g. Cinnamon Grand, Taj or Galle Face Hotel).

You can also catch a bus to Galle Face (less than Rs 10) but you will not be welcome on-board with large luggage; however, a backpack may be accepted.

By train

This is probably the most unknown way to get into Colombo, but completely possible. Take either the free Airport to the bus station and then follow the road (Canada Friendship) to the Katunayaka South station (around 1km, if you don't have luggage) or, if you've luggage, best just to take a Tuk Tuk right from the airport to the train station. Should be 100 Rupees, if you're good at haggling you might get them down even a bit more. Then, at the train station, get a ticket to Colombo Fort, you'll be arriving right next to where the buses drop people off. Cost is 30 Rupees. Trains are sometimes delayed, but driving relatively frequently, around 1 per hour, more during rush hour. It will take around 1 hour to get to Fort station, so definitely quicker than by travelling by bus, if you manage to just catch a train without much waiting. Check online timetable on one of the free computers in the terminal when arriving about the next train, if it suits you, it's an easy way into the city for very little money.

Tri-shaw (Three wheeler, tuk-tuk)

You can also take a Tri-shaw aka tuk-tuk from the bus depot(reach there by free airport shuttle bus) as on May 2011 it takes about 1500 LKR to take you from airport to Galle Road and with some bargaining it can reduce up to 1000 to 1200 LKR. On average it will take about an hour to raech Galle Road (these rates are highly unrealistic as even the meter taxi tuk tuks that cost about 40% less than the normal ones cost around 1400 for the same journey, a normal one, specially for a foreigner would cost substantially more.) So do be careful as you may be embarrassing your self following these exaggerations as to how cheap things are in Sri Lanka.

Get around

A Tourist Development Authority operated 'tuk tuk' or tri-shaw
Colombo Traffic

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. Shorter trips can cost you anywhere from Rs. 50 (for around 2 - 3 km) to Rs. 250 (for 8 kms) (absolutely untrue, the meter taxi, the cheaper option even costs 50 rupeees for the first KM and 30 for every additional plus waiting fees, so do not rely on these rates, these sound more like 10 years ago). Do not settle for first rikshaw you get, they will fleece you that way. Look for at least 3 or 4 three-wheelers before you settle down). Its very difficult to negotiate with the tuk-tuk parked in a tuk-tuk parking area. Best way to do is stop a one traveling to the direction you need to go and negotiate with them or use a bus.

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.

Taxis are also a good mode of transportation. The cars often have meters starting on Rs. 40 and charge about Rs. 65 per kilometer. You seldom pay more than Rs. 200 for a trip inside Colombo. Rs. 500 will get you to Mount Lavinia. Taxis are much safer than a three-wheeler and offer you the option of air conditioning.

CFA

Colombo has recently become a major destination for Indian candidates appearing for CFA Exam. CFA exam, held by CFA Institute, USA, has not been allowed to conduct its premier examination in India in past few years. Colombo offers a cheap destination to Indian candidates as compared to Singapore or Bangkok.

The June 2008 exam was held at Hotel Galadari at Galle Road and the December 2008 exam was held at Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM), British Council and Saraswathi Hall. Except Saraswathi Hall, all examination centers are pretty comfortable.

Indian Candidates can take Spice Jet from Chennai to Colombo which offers very cheap rates (less than INR 5,000 for round trip.

See

Museums

Buddha Statues, Colombo
  • The National Museum of Colombo - Department of National Museums, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7. Tel: 11 269-4767. Closed Fridays and all public holidays. 9AM-5PM. Also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum, it is the largest museum in Colombo. Among its exhibits, it contains regalia of the 17th century Kandyan Kings.
  • The Natural History Museum- Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7. Tel: 11 269-1399. Closed Fridays and all public holidays. 9AM-5PM. This museum features Sri Lanka's floral and fauna in dioramas.
  • The Dutch Period Museum- 95 Prince Street, Pettah, Colombo 11. Tel: 11 244-8466. Closed Fridays and all public holidays. 9AM-5PM. Historical museum documenting Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka. Houses Dutch-inspired artifacts.

Galleries

  • The Sapumal Foundation- 32/4 Barnes Place, Colombo 7. Tel: 11 269-5731. The Sapumal Foundation was once home to the late Harry Pieris. Visitors are able to see his studio and art materials that have been left undisturbed over the years. This gallery also contains 200 paintings that follow the development of Sri Lankan art. Special art classes are also available at the gallery.
  • The Lionel Wendt Memorial Art Center- 18 Guilford Crescent, Colombo 7. M-F 9AM-1PM and 2-4PM. Tel: 11 269-5794. The Art Center provides a multi-functional creative experience with exhibitions, art shows and stage events. Visitors to the Art Center area also able to purchase various antiques as well as paintings and crafts by contemporary Sri Lankan artists.

Do

  • Visit Galle Face Green Promenade at sundown for a spectacular view. The promenade stretches 13 acres between Galle Road and the Indian Ocean; it tends to attract children, teenagers, vendors, and families. Usually on Saturday and Sunday evenings, the land is filled with day-trippers, food vendors, and people picnicking. The Galle Face Green Promenade was reopened to the public in May of 2001.
  • Colombo Zoological Gardens- Colombo's zoo has a wide variety of animals, birds, and reptiles from all over the world. One of the most popular attractions to the zoo is the elephant show, which is held daily at 5:15PM. The zoo also offers elephant and pony rides. Currently, the zoo is being renovated, and plans to have an open area for the elephants.

Buy

  • Barefoot handicraft store, 706 Galle Road, Colombo 03, Kollupitiya. [7]. Has a wide range of good quality souvenirs and handmade items: clothes, bags, and children toys, from some of the most beautifully-colored fabric you've ever seen.
  • Crescat Boulevard, 89 Galle Rd, Colombo 3, Kollupitiya. An up-market shopping mall. Though it is fairly small, it contains a food court on the basement floor.
  • Lakmedura, 113 Dharmapala Road, Colombo 07, Cinnamon Gardens.
  • Lakpahana [8], 14 Reid Avenue, Colombo 07, Cinnamon Gardens. A non-profit organization run by the craftsman association of Sri Lanka with assistance from the government. Offers all handicrafts and gemstone jewellery. Unique metalware, wood carvings,silver jewelery,batik ,textile products and other crafts. Only member in Sri Lanka of the World Craft Council and winner of several international awards therefore all our products come with an international guarantee.The only place where quality exceeds price.
  • Liberty Plaza RA de Mel Mawatha, Colombo 3, Kollupitiya. Another shopping mall similar to Majestic City however it is smaller in size. You can find various items such as clothing, CDs and DVDs.
  • Majestic City in Kollupitiya on Galle Road has a wide variety of clothing outlets - including a sub-branch of Odel - at very good prices, as well as various electrical goods and toy shops. It's pleasantly air-conditioned and includes a food court on the ground floor.
  • Odel [9] No 5, Alexandra Place, Colombo 7, Cinnamon Gardens. A stylish department store, with its very own Delifrance outlet, clothing, houseware, sporting goods, books and movies, as well as Delight – for sweet indulgences from chocolates to exotic nuts.
  • Paradise Road – 213, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, Cinnamon Gardens. Tel: 268 6043.Open 9AM-7PM. A shop with a small café in a British colonial style building where antiques, home décor items and art can be viewed or purchased.
  • The Pettah Market, this is the place to go for shopping for all kinds of things from fruits to clothes to electronics if you want to buy at wholesale prices. You have to bargain extensively and it is recommended that you take a local you trust along with you. Even if you don't buy anything, Pettah, or Colombo 11 is an experience in itself being a very typical, loud and crowded oriental market place full of all sorts of odds, ends and junk. Each street in the market has its own speciality, for example, in 1st Cross Street you can find electrical items, 2nd Cross Street has jewellery and so on. In the Pettah Market area, some street vendors actively ask passers-by, foreigners and locals to view products they are selling though polite refusal is generally accepted.

Eat

  • Hansa Sri Lanka Speciality Coffee (Hansa coffee), 24 Fife Road, Colombo 5 (off Thimbirigasyaya Road,), 0773116579, [10]. 9AM-8PM. An exceptional gourmet coffee, made from Sri Lanka coffee beans. The coffee can be purchased at several stores including supermarkets and is served in hotels and cafes throughout the island. Their retail outlet is at 24 Fife Road, Colombo 5, where they also serve several coffee drinks. Telephone: 0773116579.

Budget

Buy a "lunch packet" from street stands practically anywhere in the city. Typically, it will be a filling meal of rice and vegetables for about Rs 120.

Also 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.

Mid-range

  • The Cricket Club Cafe, 34 Queens Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03. This cafe is a must for any cricket lover. The walls are covered in autographed memorabilia and photos with sports (usually cricket) being screened on all the TVs scattered throughout the rooms. They serve authentic Aussie cuisine and a wide variety of drinks The Bar is named after Donald Bradman.
  • The Gallery Cafe, 2 Alfred House Road, Off Alfred House Gardens, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Wonderful atmosphere in beautiful building - designed by famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Large food menu featuring many international dishes, decadent desserts and extensive cocktail menu.
  • The Lagoon, The Cinnamon Grand Hotel, 77 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03, +94 11 243-7437. 12-2:30PM, 7PM-12:30AM. This restaurant focuses primarily on seafood with colorful Sri Lankan flavors. The friendly, professional staff are able to create an enjoyable dining experience. Full meal: 4000 Rs. per person.
  • Mango Tree, 82 Dharmapala Mawatha, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03, +94 11 537-9790, 11 537-9791 (). 12–3PM; 7–11PM, 7 days a week. One of the finest restaurants in the city. North Indian Cuisine, full of innovative dishes. Service is occasionally slow. Full meal: 1000 Rs. per person.
  • The Palmyrah Restaurant, 328 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves excellent Sri Lankan dishes as well as having an "international" menu.
  • Roadhouse Cafe, 335 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves Sri Lankan and Western food. Meals range from 180 Rs. - 380 Rs. The food is excellent, but the service is a little slow. Try the mango milkshakes or one of their specialty coffees.
  • 168 Seafood Palace, just off Galle Road, near Hotel Renuka, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves excellent Chinese food and seafood dishes. Prices start at 250 Rs. but some prices depend on weight (e.g. crabs). The service is very good.
  • UK Urban Kitchen, Arpico Super Center, 69 Hyde Park Corner, Union Place, Colombo 2. Serves Western, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines at relatively reasonable prices. Also specializes in wood-fired pizzas and coffee. Next to Arpico supermarket. Open M-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Su 10AM-11PM. Telephone 94 11 7219169.

Splurge

  • Nihonbashi Main Restaurant, 11 Galle Face Terrace, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. There are three Nihonbashi outlets in Colombo. A Sushi Bar at ODEL and a outlet at the Hilton Colombo Residence are the other two. The main restaurant is an airy and spacious restaurant with a blend of modern and traditional in design consisting of 8 private dining rooms also a dine-in wine room. Nihonbashi is owned and run by Tokyo-born Dharshan Munidasa, a self-taught chef.
  • Spoons, Colombo Hilton, Echelon Square, Fort, Colombo 1. Spoons is the flagship restaurant of the Hilton Hotel. It has a show kitchen, and an impressive collection of wine and chocolates.
  • Ginza Hohsen, Colombo Hilton, Echelon Square, Fort, Colombo 1. This is one of the Japanese restaurants in Colombo. They have a sushi bar, the tatami rooms and ever teppanyaki.
  • Chesa Swiss, 3 Deal Place, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Representing the best of Swiss cuisine, this restaurant has all your favorites from fresh garden snails to Chateaubriand for two to steak Café de Paris style! The wine list is exclusively Swiss.
  • The London Grill, Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Galle Face, Colombo 3. As the name suggests this restaurant is very British. It probably has the best ambiance of all, and the food is just great.
  • California Grill, Galadari Hotel, Fort, Colombo 01. This is a fine dining restaurant on the rooftop level of the hotel. It offers panoramic views of the Galle Face marina. The food, mostly US-style grills and premium seafood, is excellent too.
  • Royal Thai, 115 Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha,Slave Island, Colombo 02. Located at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel (refurbished and rebranded September 2009), is an authentic Thai restaurant hosting the usual favorites, such as Tom Yam and Chicken Pandan leaves.Although eating cow in India is rude here its polite

Drink

  • Thembili තැබිලි (Orange Coconut juice) is the safest, since they cut it open in front of you (uncontaminated).
  • Spring water with SLS certification are safe to drink.

Mount Lavinia is a great place to be. The beach and the friendly people always draw visitors there and keep them for awhile. 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 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.

Mount Lavinia also serves as the gay district of Colombo. Although not home to any gay bars, it is a very gay friendly town and always plays host to Colombo's Gay Pride week in June. Do not be surprised if some bars have the rainbow flag flying on the beach.

For those night owl's Colombo's nightlife is on par with most other Asian destinations and feature a number of nightlife establishments, that offer decent music and drinks, served in a pleasant atmosphere. The major hot spots as of July 2011 include Amusuem at the Galle Face Hotel, Kama (near the Ramada Hotel), Silk (near independence Square) and R&B on Duplication Road.

Expect the ,music to range from 80's retro to modern chart toppers as elegant partygoers dance the night away sipping the poison of their choice. Most clubs shout around 4AM, R&B perhaps a little longer after. Please do not drink and drive, hop a Three wheeler, its easier....

Popular watering holes include Whitehorse (Nawam Mawatha), Inn on the Green (Galle Face Hotel), Rize Bar (Dharmapala Mawatha), Seven Degrees North (Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel) and Cheers (Cinnamon Grand Hotel)

Most nightclubs may charge admission and smart/casual dress is encourages with longs/shoes a must.

After a night out, most will rock up at Hotel de Pilawoos along the Galle Road in Kollupitiya to enjoy a Chicken Roti (chicken and cheese wrapped in a roti) follwed by an iced Milo (sweet chocolate and malt flavoured drink)

Sleep

Colombo has no cheap accommodation in the center of town apart from the YMCA

Budget

  • Global Towers Hotel, Marine Drive, [11]. It offers spacious rooms fitted with all the essentials of home and office, providing both comfort and convenience. All equipped with cable TV, Internet connection, and shower with bathtub. Some of its facilities and services are restaurant, bar, and spa.
  • Hotel Janaki, 443, Fife Rd, Havelock Town, Colombo 5. This 3-star hotel offers its guests rooms with air-conditioning, cable/satellite tv, and a room safe. There is a restaurant and bar on site, with 24-hour room service.
  • Kamvelta Holiday Resort, Kindelpitiya, Welmilla Junction, Bandaragama. (5 km from Bandaragama, 6 km from Panadura, 8 km from Piliyand), +94 38 2293306 (), [12]. Air-conditioned and non air-conditioned rooms with hot water, restaurant, can cater to wedding parties, nearby to Nachchimale meditation centre. 24 hr room service.
  • Parisare Homestay, 97/1 Rosemead Place, Cinnamon Gardens (col 7) , Colombo (Near Embassy of France), +94 11 2694749. This is a lovely home with a wonderful hostess, but unfortunately they have only 3 rooms which are frequently occupied by long term guests, which makes prior reservation a must. It is also a bit far from the city centre (Fort) 1000/1200.
  • Hotel Ranmuthu, 112, Galle Road, +94 11 243-3986. Hotel Ranmuthu is comprised of 54 rooms, which are available in single, doubles, or suites. The hotel is located 45 minutes away from the airport. Rooms are air-conditioned, and there is 24-hour security on the premises. The hotel also offers currency exchanges and room service.
  • Hotel Sansu, 651/31, Sir Oliver Gunathilake Gardens, Havelock Town, Colombo 05 (off of Elvitigala Mawatha), +94 11 236-8450 (, fax: +94 11 535-4348), [13]. Hotel Sansu offers luxury that will not break your budget. The hotel is comprised of 26 rooms and self-service apartments, each of which includes cable television. It offers its guests 24-hour front desk services, as well as wake-up calls and an on-site juice bar.
  • Sapphire Hotel, 371, Galle Rd, Wellawatte, Colombo 6, +94 11 258-3306, [14]. Located 5 minutes away from the ocean, Sapphire Hotel offers its guests an on-site restaurant and bar. Each room includes air-conditioning, 24-hour room service, and satellite television. The hotel also has two reception halls for those wishing to host a convention or wedding reception. Reservations are required.
  • YMCA, Bristol Street, Colombo 01 (5 minute walk from the Fort railway station). ===Mid-range=== * Galle Face Hotel, 2 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, +94 11 254-1010 (), [15]. A famous, old fashioned colonial style grand hotel. Most rooms come with a view of the ocean or the Galle Face Green. The hotel also has a variety of restaurants on site to choose from, including: The 1864 and Verandah. Spa and butler services are also available for guests.
  • Garden Guest House (chitru@sltnet.lk), 7 Karlsruhe Gardens, Borella, Colombo 8, +94 11 269-7919. This three-room guest house offers its visitors attached bathrooms, free internet services and laundry facilities. The staff at the guest house can also arrange island tours and airport pick-up.
  • Palm Village Hotel, 262, Old Colombo Road, Uswetakeiyawa (Hendala), +94 11 479-5114 (, fax: +94 11 293-0766), [16]. Located close to the airport, this hotel consists of 50 air-conditioned rooms with either a balcony or a terrace. A restaurant and bar are located on the hotel grounds. There is also a jewelry and souvenir shop for guests.
  • Hotel Renuka & Renuka City Hotel, 328 Galle Road, Kollupitiya Colombo 3, +94 11 257-3598 (), [17]. These sister hotels offer their guests comfortable rooms and friendly service. Each room is equipped with flat screen television with local and cable channels, 24-hour room service, safety deposit lockers, and internet connection. The hotels themselves house one of the most famous restaurants in Sri Lanka, the Palmyrah, which serves authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. A favorite dish among travelers and locals alike is the Iso Thel Dala, spicy prawns sautéed with onions and tomato. The hotel also offers its guests two bars on site: the Palmyrah Bar and the Water Hole bar.


Splurge

  • Hotel Galadari, 4, Lotus Road, Fort, Colombo 1, +94 11 254-4544 (, fax: +94 11 244-9875), [18]. Hotel Galadari is made up of 446 rooms, including 23 suites. There are special executive level and handicap rooms available. There are a variety of dining facilities in the hotel to suit different palates. The hotel also offers its guests spa and fitness facilities.
  • The Havelock Place Bungalow, 6-8, Havelock Place, Havelock Town, Colombo 5, +94 11 258-5191 (fax: +94 11 258-4655). A boutique hotel, consisting of two restored colonial homes. Tastefully decorated using antique colonial furniture. The hotel provides wireless Internet, pool, jacuzzi, restaurants.
  • Park Street Hotel, 20 Park street, Slave Island, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka, +94 11 2439977, [19]. Park Street Hotel is in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It’s near major shopping centres and business establishments. Decked with colonial touches, like antique furniture and high ceilings, the rooms bestow ample luxuries – a Jacuzzi, DVD player, refrigerator, and more.
  • Tintagel, 65 Rosmead Place, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka, (94) 11 4602122 / 060, [20]. Tintagel is situated in Rosmead Place, Colombo’s classy neighbourhood. Once a stately home to the political Bandaranaike family, Tintagel has been transformed into a stylish and sophisticated hotel. The 10 elegant suites are defined by high ceilings, timber floors, and luxurious décor. They open to a private courtyard, balcony, or separate lounge area. Each suite also has deluxe king-size mattresses with non-allergenic pillows and Egyptian cotton sheets, and a bathroom with a rain shower and tub.
  • Casa Colombo, 231, Galle Road, Colombo 4 (opposite Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya, and down a private lane next to Lumala Gift City in Bambalapitiya), +94 11 452-0130, [21]. Boutique hotel with 12 designer suites.
  • Ceylon Continental, 48 Janadhipathi Mawatha, Fort, Colombo 1, +94 11 242-1221 (), [22]. Ceylon Continental is equipped with 250 all with magnificent views of the city or Indian Ocean. The hotel has many restaurants and cafes on site to choose from. The guests are also offered 24-hour room service, fitness facilities, and spa services.
  • Cinnamon Grand Colombo, 77 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, +94 11 243-7437, [23]. Has nightly turn down services with orchids and chocolates, and spa services.
  • Taj Samudra, 25, Galle Face Center Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, +94 11 244-6622, [24]. Taj Samudra features a variety of rooms depending on your travel habits; they range from standards with views of the sea and pool to presidential suites with separate dining and dressing areas. The hotel is also equipped with a fitness center, book shop and swimming pool. There are also a variety of restaurants ranging from casual in dress to fine dining.

Stay safe

Colombo is like most other South Asian capitals. Although, it is not as dangerous as one would think, tourists should be very vigilant. Many first time travelers to Colombo find themselves falling victim to scams and touts, however, seasoned travelers to Sri Lanka are rarely scammed and it is very simple to avoid being a victim of scammers as long as you take precautions such as:

  • Being on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice. Take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, especially if they tell you the place you want to go to is closed, dangerous, non-existent etc. If you are unsure, check a map.
  • Not engaging in business with people who have to actively approach you for business such as Tuk Tuk drivers, street vendors etc. If people have to approach or make overtures to you for business without you seeking them on your own volition, then they shouldn't be considered for business dealings. Because, you will likely be overcharged, as you have been denied the option of shopping around for the best price.
  • If you have been told your hotel is closed or full, give them a call. If you are a first time visitor to Sri Lanka, don't admit it as it will make you a target for the scam artists.

Once you are past the scammers, Colombo is a far more welcoming destination than other South Asian cities. Certainly single women, although not advised to explore every nook and cranny of the city on their own late at night, will not find the pestering attentions of leering men. Sri Lankan women are also very "western" in their dress sense, so it is very normal to wear skirts, tank tops, etc. You may get a few whistles and hellos from bored school boys, but they are more friendly and not meant to be threatening, so just ignore it and they will leave you alone.

The recent civil war in this country will not affect your journey as the warring area is mostly off limits to civilians and is hundreds of miles away from Colombo. Furthermore, there have also been some small bomb attacks on Colombo buses and trains in the past, so taxis or private hire cars should be used. Such attacks are noted for their avoidance of tourist spots, mainly due to the severe adverse publicity this would create.

In June of 2009, the Sri Lankan government lifted travel alerts after the military defeat of rebel insurgents in the north of the country, though it is advisable to check with the local travel advisory bureau in your country if there is any doubt. Since June 2009, Sri Lanka is now a very safe country to travel around. Avoid the peak seasons as this small country is now getting too overcrowded with tourists.

Respect

  • Seemingly innocuous public displays of affection between lovers such as kissing and/or hugging is not culturally acceptable in Sri Lanka as it is considered to be secluded behaviour (this does not apply to private functions or establishments designated for adults such as nightclubs, casinos and beach parties). Much lenience is given to foreigners and holding hands and public affection between parents and their children is not frowned upon.
  • In most buses, it is local etiquette to provide or give up the very front passenger seats to members of the clergy, such as monks or priests if they are present.
  • No photography of sensitive locations (inside and outside), and inside of shopping malls and tea factories (outside is OK). Be especially careful in Fort, Colombo (except on the beach). If soldiers are guarding something, it probably shouldn't be photographed. Don't rely on signs alone, as sometimes they are old or missing. For example, one end of a bridge may have a "No Photography" sign, but not the other.
  • Do not turn your back to (or be alongside) a Buddha statue when within a reasonable distance (observe what others are doing). This includes posing for photos. It's OK to photograph a statue, but all persons should be facing it.
  • Public nudity is illegal in Sri Lanka. Nude/topless sunbathing and skinny dipping should be avoided at beaches, except in the few private beach resorts which allow it.

Cope

Embassies

  • Ch-flag.png China, 120/3A, Vidya Mawatha, Colombo 07, +94 11-2676658 (emergencies +94 779288949, , fax: +94 11-2688611), [26].
  • Us-flag.png United States, 210 Galle Rd, Colombo 3, +94 11 249-8500 (fax: +94 11 249-8590), [27].

Get out

Fresco at Sigiriya
  • Sigiriya, located 100 miles northeast of Colombo, is a very important Buddhist site in Sri Lanka. The remains of the ancient fortress and city date back to 477 AD. Legend has it, King Kasyapa built it in order to protect against attacks from his brother, whom he had stolen the throne from. The only way into the city is through the giant lion's jaws. The site is also famous for its 5th century frescos. Sigiriya is approximately 2-3 hours away from Colombo, and can be reached via train, bus, or car. It is open daily from 8:30AM to 6PM.
  • Adam's Peak is considered a place of worship and pilgrimage by many religions. The 7,297 foot peak, also known as Sri Pada, is home to a foot imprint on a rock at its summit. Depending on the faith, the foot print has been considered that of Buddha, the god Shiva, St. Thomas, and even, Adam after he was expelled from the garden of Eden. The stairway to the top is believed to be one of the longest in the world. After reaching the top, climbers can ring the bell to mark the journey the just made. The panoramic view that one gets makes the journey well-worth the effort. Reaching Delhousie (The town at the foot of Adam's Peak) from Colombo can be an adventure in itself, unless you are lucky enough to find a direct bus. The route is Colombo-Hatton-Maskeliya-Delhousie. The distance is quite short on the map but can take 6-8 hours.
  • Located 75 miles (around 4 hours) outside of Colombo, Kandy is a small, tranquil town that supposedly holds the sacred tooth of Buddha, a sacred relic of the Buddhist faith. According to the legend, the tooth was stolen from the Buddha on his funeral pyre and was smuggled into Sri Lanka hidden in the hair of a princess in the 4th century. The Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth, is a main attraction for pilgrimages. Each July and August, the tooth is carried in a procession. Although one cannot see the tooth, the festivities are a sight to see.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!



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