Discover the ins, outs, and the quirks of Colombo!
Colombo is the commercial capital and the largest city in Sri Lanka. It is a vibrant city that draws together people and cultures from all parts of the country. The colonial heritage, modern high-rise buildings, good food, shopping splendor, and the urban buzz of Colombo along with hospitable locals and the laid back way of life is making it one of Asia’s most favoured travel destinations.
Getting around Colombo
A trip to Colombo is incomplete if you don’t take a ride on the famous tuk-tuks. It’s a three-wheeled vehicle that three passengers can fit in to. It may not be the most comfortable vehicle however it’s a cheap and fast way to get around. The tuk-tuks whizz past even during traffic jams since these small vehicles can wiggle in between narrow spaces.
One of the cheapest modes of transport in Colombo is the public bus. Even though it’s a cheap travel option some tourists avoid it due to the crowds. If you are planning to travel a long distance then you can book tickets in advance on air-conditioned buses.
If you have the budget then the most comfortable way to travel is to hire an air-conditioned vehicle with a driver. Since the weather is warm and self-driving is a big no, unless you are familiar with the roads – this is a great option.
Where to stay in Colombo
Whether you are on a Sri Lanka honeymoon, quick getaway, a well-planned family holiday, or a business trip, Colombo offers excellent accommodation to suit your taste and budget.
Galle Face Hotel
Galle Face Hotel is housed in one of the most iconic buildings in the city. Dating back to the 18th century it’s one of the oldest hotels in the country. Located overlooking the glistening Indian Ocean on the Galle Face Green, this one of the most luxurious accommodation options in the city.
One of the city’s most exclusive hotels, Tintagel Colombo has witnessed several distinguished guests including the Prince of Wales. This elite hotel offers 10 boutique style suites and personalised customer service. This is not for those travelling with a tight budget.
Located in the heart of the city, Drift BnB is ideal for backpackers and budget travellers. This cozy hotel offers rooms on a private and shared basis. Well equipped with all the required comforts, it’s a great place to meet like-minded visitors. The staff is warm and friendly.
Where to dine in Colombo
Ministry of Crab
Ministry of Crab is one of Sri Lanka’s finest restaurants aptly named to coincide with its policy to only serve the finest export quality crab in the country. A definite trendsetter in Colombo’s restaurant scene it’s undeniably a local favourite when choosing a place to dine. This high-end restaurant became widely popular when it opened in 2012, mostly since it was a partnership by two cricketing legends in the country Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena along with the famed Chef Dharshan Munidasa. You will find all things crab on the menu with various methods of preparing them.
The Manhattan Fish Market
The Manhattan Fish Market is a Malaysian franchise that took Colombo’s seafood dining scene by storm. The name of the location has nothing to do with the city instead it’s a hat tip to Fulton Fish Market in Brooklyn. It’s ideal for a casual dinner, the meals are succulently perfect and premium quality. The portions are considerably sized and free of trans fat making it appealing to health-conscious patrons.
Off the Hook
The relatively new fresh seafood restaurant Off the Hook has become a foodie favourite. Always streaming with customers, the intimate venue is your best choice for authentic local food at affordable rates. The restaurant managed to win over customers with their FOC breadbasket and the reasonably priced Jaffna crab curry. The options are varied however many prefer their signature crabs with fresh bread dish. For those looking for a casual dinner that is value for money, Off the Hook it is.
Things to do in Colombo
Visit the National Museum
Located in the heart of Colombo the National Museum is on the list of ‘must-sees’. With a history spanning 2500 years, Sri Lanka has a list of interesting artifacts to exhibit. The museum, which was established in 1877, holds a variety of significant artifacts from different eras in history. The galleries hold art, carvings, and statuary from the country’s ancient past as well as swords, weapons, and other equipment that reflects the colonial period. There is a magnificent royal throne made for King Wimaladharma in 1693 which is quite stunning and plenty of other historically significant artifacts on display.
Head to Pettah
Whether you want to shop (or not) drop by in Pettah. This is the busiest market space in Colombo. It’s loud, crowded and there’s a lot of commotion going on most of the time but it’s a place where you can buy useful and interesting things at affordable rates. The best time to visit Pettah is around 10 am when the shops start to open and the crowd starts gathering slowly. The streets are packed inch to inch by tuk-tuks, vendors, and crowds of people so you will have to get around on foot. Apart from the endless list of things you can buy here, you will also have a glimpse of fascinating colonial architecture.
Take on Galle Face Green
When you are in Colombo, there’s no way that Galle Face Green will go unnoticed. This is the best place to witness the sunset in the city. Families gather here to spend time leisurely, flying kites, playing games, and enjoying the mouthwatering street food sold by vendors and small restaurants. It’s also a common sight to see lovers taking shelter under large umbrellas whispering sweet nothings to each other or sharing their emotions in silence. Early mornings are also beautiful here. You see many people walking, jogging, or exercising before starting their day.
Colombo travel tips
Bring comfortable footwear and clothes – It can get pretty humid in Colombo so you will be thanking your lucky stars for packing cotton shorts and t-shirts when travelling. Apart from your main luggage, bring a backpack especially when you go shopping you will be able to stuff everything in without carrying several bags.
H2O – drink plenty of water or be hydrated. Buy sealed water bottles and enjoy the (exotic) fruit juices that are available in plenty.
Buy a map – this may sound obvious but arm yourself with a decent map if you want to avoid getting lost. The street names can get confusing but one thing’s for sure if you ask a local for directions they’ll go out of the way to help out.
Keep away from scammers – Do not buy valuables from strangers or allow them to lead you to expensive stores that sell gems and jewellery. There will be ‘helpful’ people on the roads but if you don’t know them it’s always advisable to say hello and walk away.
Plan Ahead – Colombo is a pretty crowded city so work out what you want to see, where they are ahead of time. It’s ok to be spontaneous but if you are a first timer, it’s best to avoid any unnecessary risks.