Colombo (also known as Serendib, Ceylon, Teardrop of India,
Resplendent Isle, Island of Dharma, and Pearl of the Orient) is the
Capitol city of Sri Lanka, a small island known for its rolling hills,
plains, ruins, beaches, and tea plantations. Marco Polo counted the
island as one of the best of its size.
First, a few warnings. Sri Lanka once teemed with civil war; those
days are mostly past, but some regions are still considered too
dangerous for tourists, so many tourist guides suggest sticking to the
city of Colombo. Some northern and eastern sections of the island
still are plagued by land mines. Sections of the island that lie north
of Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Nilaveli, and the eastern side of the
island south of Trincomalee (including Batticaloa) may be dangerous.
If you?re traveling along major city routes (especially those that
link the south and north), be prepared: You may be searched by armed
militias (called ?home guards?).
Health risks include cholera, hepatitis, malaria, and dengue fever.
Cholera is transmitted from person to person, or by contaminated food
or water. Even persons who don?t appear ill may pass cholera to you.
The time lapse between infection and the arrival of symptoms is
usually between one and five days. If you get diarrhea while in
Colombo, seek medical attention right away.
Hepatitis E and A are transmitted by contaminated food and water.
Hepatitis B, C, and D are spread through contact with infected blood,
blood products, or body fluids.
Malaria, which is spread by mosquito bites, is also a health risk in
Sri Lanka. You may consider taking pills to avoid malaria (see your
doctor before you depart). Consider using insect repellent. Seek
medical help right away if you get fever, chills, and sweat.
Dengue fever is also transmitted through mosquitoes, especially in
urban areas. Seek medical attention right away if fever, muscle and
joint pain, headache, nausea, and vomiting occur.
Other cautions: It?s not wise to walk around at night alone, or with
people you don?t know. Aside from criminal dangers, there are
sometimes curfews in certain areas of town. Also be aware of
unofficial ?baggage handlers? at the airport; it?s better to carry
your own bags and not chance having your luggage stolen.
Do not buy anything from someone who approaches you in the street.
The city is well known for con-men, and they frequently approach tourists.
Finally, watch the traffic. Colombians are famous for their crazy driving.
December to March tend to be the driest seasons in and near Colombo.
This is also the season most tourists arrive in the city.
The money used in Sri Lanka is the ?rupee.? Here is a recommended
budget for travelers, from Lonely Planet (
Shoestring travelers can exist comfortably on less than US$20 a day by
staying in basic share or double rooms, getting around by bus and not
lashing out at flash restaurants. Up the scale a bit, add US$5 or $10
for kipping down in delightful rest houses, or plan on around US$100 a
day if you want the full five star treatment.?
There are many ?money changers? in Colombo, in addition to official
banks, who will exchange your traveler?s checks for cash. The banks
are usually your best bet. There are even some ATMs to be found in the
city. Credit cards are usually accepted (including Visa and
MasterCard) at hotels and better restaurants.
Most experienced travelers suggest having lots of change handy.
A ten percent ?service charge? is expected for most things, and is
automatically changed. This includes accommodations, restaurants, and
Bargaining is encouraged when you?re out shopping.
For tips on shopping in Sri Lanka, check out Virtual Tourist:
Traditional art and architecture in Sri Lanka is mostly Buddhist.
Woodcarving, weaving, pottery and metalwork are all well developed
The dancing of the island is quite acrobatic, and is used to tell
symbolic stories. Colombo is a great place to watch traditional ?devil
dancing,? which is meant to be a kind of exorcism.
All though the pace of life in Colombo is hectic, the locals are
Here are some tips from tourists from all over the world, with regard
to Sri Lanka culture:
* Avoid traveling by bus or train on holidays, as they tend to be
especially over-crowded then. Here are the holidays for December and
January: New Year?s (Jan. 1); Tamil Thai Pongal Day (Jan. 15); and
Christmas (Dec. 25). New Year's (and, in particular, Christmas) aren't
as "big" as they are in the Western world. For a complete list of
holidays, see the U.S. Embassy website:
* Bring your own toilet paper, as it can be hard to find in Sri Lanka.
Soap is sometimes difficult to find, also.
* Don?t take photos with your back to a Buddha statue. It?s considered rude.
* ?As with many cultures, in Sri Lanka, the left hand is considered
unclean. Avoid passing things or touching things with your left hand.?
(Virtual Tourist: http://www.virtualtourist.com/vt/15cd43/a/ )
EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS
If you end up in Colombo during January, do not miss the Duruthu
Perahera, which celebrates Buddha?s visit to Sri Lanka. This is
considered the country?s second most important celebration. Streets
will be crowded, though, so have patience when you?re trying to get
In the north of the city, is the ?Fort district,? which is the
country?s business center. Here, you?ll find department stores,
airline offices, book shops, and the site of Central Bank (which the
Tamil Tigers bombed in 1996). You might also wish to visit the clock
tower, the president?s residence (often called the ?Queen?s House?),
an old lighthouse, and some buildings left over from colonial days.
Some parts of the Fort are still chained off, and armed forces may be
found throughout the area.
In the south, there?s Galle Face Green, which is on the beach, but
features some green lawn for cricket games. There?s a lot of activity
here, from kite flying to couples walking, to concerts, to athletes
strutting their stuff. There?s also The Galle Face, which is Colombo?s
best-known hotel, looking over the Indian Ocean.
Nearby is one of Colombo?s most elaborate Buddhist temples, which has
a museum attached to it. It?s called Gangaramaya (Vihara). The address
is 61 Sri Jinaratana Road.
For the oldest Hindu temple in the area, go to Sri Kailasanathar Swami
Devasthanam, which is behind the Fort Railway Station. The address is
11/15 Captain's Garden.
Cinnamon Gardens is in the south; it?s considered Colombo?s most
exclusive neighborhood. Here, you?ll see mansions sitting near
tree-lined streets. You?ll also discover the largest park in Colombo
(called Viharamahdevi), as well as many beautiful shops, cafes, and
bars. North east from Viharamahadevi Park, there?s a town hall build
in 1927; it?s a small imitation of the Capitol Building in Washington,
To the east is the Pettah bazaar district. Here, you?ll find goods of
nearly every type, from food to gemstones, to gadgets and
?Slave Island? is another area of interest. It?s on the large Beira
Lake. At one time, the Dutch kept their slaves in this area, before
shipping them off to new owners. It?s a mixed area, where you?ll see
street traders and lots of cultural diversity. You?ll also see
beautiful Hindu and Buddhist temples. For a glimpse of modern life, be
sure to check out the JAIC tower, a fashionable shopping area.
There?s also the suburban Wellawatta (or ?Little Jaffna?). You may
pass through it on your way south. Do stop and take a peek, as there
are some beautiful Hindu temples. You?ll also see many street vendors
with goods staked high. The Savory, a movie theatre in this area, is
sometimes called the best in Colombo.
Many travelers suggest checking out Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya. ?The
spot on which this vihara stands derived its sanctity in the Buddhist
era 2531, with the third visit of the Buddha to this country... The
Naga King...invited the Buddha to a repast at this spot which
following the expounding of the Dhamma was consecrated and on which
the King had built a vehera wherein the Buddha's hair and the utensils
use at the repast together with the seat on which the Buddha sat were
buried.? (?Virtual Tourist:?
http://www.virtualtourist.com/vt/15cd43/4/ ) You?ll find this
interesting site along the west bank of the Kelani (Kalyana) river,
about 10km north east of the city.
You?ll also discover Anuradhapura about 205 km north of Colombo. These
are the remains of an ancient, sacred city; it was once the capital of
the island, but was invaded in 993. Today, the remains include several
dagobas (domes built to enshrine sacred relics), sculptures, carvings,
ruined palaces and monasteries, bathing ponds, and irrigation tanks.
If you like museums, don?t miss the National Museum. Here you?ll see
historic artifacts and art (with an emphasis on local artists). For a
complete list of museums, see the Sri Lanka.com website:
You can also visit the popular Dehiwala Zoo, which includes over 2000
animals?and an elephant show in the afternoon.
Colombo is home to a number of casinos, which are popular spots for
tourists. For a list of casinos in the city, see Sri Lanka.com:
To experience Colombo night life, check out the Fort and Pettah
districts. The Cascades (behind the Colombo Plaza hotel, near Crescat
Blouevard) is probably the most Westernized nightclub, featuring
popular music till 5am. There?s dancing, if it?s not too crowded. The
clientele is rich, and many folks bring their bodyguards. There is a
dress code: No shorts, no sandals.
For more ideas for good casinos, bars, and other nightlife, check out
Virtual Tourist: http://www.virtualtourist.com/vt/15cd43/5/
Colombo is also home to many art galleries. For a list, see ?Listing
of Art Galleries? at Sri Lanka.com:
For a basic city map, see ?World66:?
For additional ideas on places to see, see this link at Virtual
Food is usually spicy hot, and the tea is considered excellent. Rice
and curry are common foods, and are often accompanied by a side of
vegetables, meat, and/or fish.
?Indian curries such as vegetarian thali, delicately flavoured
biriyani and kool, a boiled, fried and dried-in-the-sun vegetable
combo, are also available. Hoppers are a unique Sri Lankan snack,
similar to a pancake, served with egg or honey and yoghurt. Coastal
towns have excellent fish and most travelers are happy to live on the
delicious local tuna. There's plenty of tropical fruits to choose
from, the tea is terrific and the beer acceptable.? (?Sri Lanka,?
Lonely Planet: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/indian_subcontinent/sri_lanka/culture.htm
For a list of recommended restaurants in Colombo, see ?A-Z of
and Virtual Tourist: http://www.virtualtourist.com/vt/15cd43/2/
GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND
Colombo has an airport where direct flights from many countries
(including most of Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East) fly
To find websites for exploring the best (cheapest) flights, check out
?A-Z of Tourism:? http://www.a-zoftourism.com/Flights-to-Colombo.htm
For good hotel prices, see Travelosity:
or Orbitz: http://www.orbitz.com/App/ViewSpecificHotelLP?hostSystem=PEG&chainCode=IG&propId=12178&semsource=goog&semkeyword=hotel+colombo
Once you?re in Colombo, there are plenty of buses to get you around,
as well as taxis. The buses vary from old, smoky beasts to modern
coaches. They are cheap, but crowded. Trains are more comfortable.
You can also hire a motorbike or car, or rent a car and driver. You
may go to this Expedia link to get a vehicle:
or go to the Sri Lanka.com website:
Before you get into a taxi, haggle with the driver for a price. If he
tries to charge you more once you reach your destination, just give
him the amount agreed to.
OTHER THINGS OF INTEREST
To view current news in Colombo, check out the Colombo Page:
http://www.colombopage.com/ or see Sri Lanka News:
For a history of Sri Lanka, see Lonely Planet:
For a city guide, see ?Colombo City Guide:? http://www.colombocityguide.com/
And here is the official city page: http://www.atsrilanka.com/cityofcolombo.htm
I hope this Answer is everything you desire. However, if you have any
questions about it, please don?t hesitate to request a clarification
before you rate the Answer.
colombo ?sri lanka?
colombo "travel guide"
colombo "sri lanka" holidays
Clarification of Answer by
08 Nov 2004 13:53 PST
Unfortunately, it?s difficult for me to know what you're after. A
travel book would cost in the $20 range...yet an author earns
thousands of dollars for his or her research and writing of such a
book. I have already researched Colombo thoroughly, over the course of
several days. However, I have tried to target the specific questions
in your clarification:
1. ?how to travel in colombo?
This is covered in my original Answer, but to clarify further: Once
you?re in Colombo, there are several satisfactory ways to travel about
the city. Buses are a good option (although you?ll want to avoid them
during holidays, because they?ll be busy and full).
You can also hire a motorbike or car. You
may go to this Expedia link to get a reservation for such a vehicle:
or go to the Sri Lanka.com website:
There are also taxis. If you?d like a taxi to pick you up at the
airport, here?s a list of numbers:
Services, Colombo City Guide) Be sure that you find out the exact cost
of the ride *before* you get into the taxi. Taxi drivers in Colombo
may ask for a higher price once you?ve reached your destination.
Politely hand them the amount originally settled on, and don?t be
lured into paying more.
What method you choose for getting around depends entirely on your
personal preferences. However, if you?re unused to Colombo?s hectic
streets, I recommend taking the bus or a taxi.
2. ?which arer the places one can shop for?
I?ll assume you mean ?where are good shopping locations?? Many were
already mentioned in my answer, and much depends upon what you?re
shopping tastes are. In addition to the sites already mentioned, you
might be interested in:
Hilton JAIC Tower (200 Union Place). Here you?ll find jewelers, tea
shops, a parfumarie, and more, in an upscale atmosphere.
Liberty Plaza (Near the intersection of RA de Mel Mawatha and Ananda
Kumaraswamy Mawatha, one block inland from Galle Road). Jewelers,
music shops, electronics, leather goods, and more.
Majestic City (on Galle Road ) electronics, food, jewelers, a
parfumarie, clothing, spices, and much, much more. This is a large and
popular shopping spot.
Crescat Boulevard is similar to Majestic City, but this street is more
upscale. Lots of clothes in this area, in addition to food, imported
goods, bakeries, and more.
Also try the Barefoot Gallery (706, Galle Road, Colombo), which has
clothes, artifacts, antiques, toys, books, household items...a wide
variety of things. It also has an art gallery and cafe.
Odel Unlimited (5 Alexandra Place, Lipton Circus [also known as De
Soysa Circus]) is perhaps the most famous store in all of Sri Lanka.
Again, you?ll find a wide variety of items, from books to clothing to
Cargill's (corner of York Street and Sir Baron Jayatilaka Mawatha) is
the oldest department store in Sri Lanka.
Paradise Road (3 Alfred House Road)is a large household goods store.
There?s also great food to be had here.
Since it?s difficult for me to know whether or not these suit your
taste, you may also wish to check out these links, with additional
places to shop:
?Colombo Shopping,? Sri Lanka Travel Guide:
?Shop Finder,? Sri Lanka:
?Featured Shopping in Colombo,? Sri Lanka:
3. ?what are charges for smokes there?
Cigarettes run about 2.50 rupees. Beware ?white cigarettes,? which are
illegal and cost about 1 rupee. You may also bring in, duty-free, 200
cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco or a combination of
these not exceeding 250 grams. (?Colombo,? City Dossier:
I hope this is helpful.
Clarification of Answer by
08 Dec 2004 09:01 PST
Legends (5th Floor, Majestic City, Station Road Colombo 4), Colombo?s
largest nightclub, located at the top of the Majestic City Shopping
complex. Live bands, and jazz on Wed. nights.
Cascades (Behind Colombo Plaza hotel (formerly the Lanka Oberoi), next
to Crescat Boulevard on the 'landside' of Galle Road, Colombo 3) is a
Western-style club with dance music, hip-hop, and R&B.
Rhythm & Blues (?Head down Duplication Road in Bambalapitiya towards
House of Fashion. It's on the right, next to and almost hidden by the
old Atlantic casino.?) has R&B music and is considered the best late
night bar in Colombo. There?s also pool table.
Clancy's Bar and Shooter's Pool Hall (?on Maitland Crescent, not far
from Independence Square in Colombo 7?) an Irish bar with good food
and drink and regular half-price happy hours.
Bradman Bar ? Cricket Club Café (34 Queens Road, Off Duplication Road)
a popular ?theme? bar for those who love cricket.
Glow Bar (3rd Floor, Automobile Association Building, 42A, Sir Mohamed
Marcan Marker Mawatha, Colombo 3) a bar with a relaxing atmosphere and
The White Horse (2, Navam Mawatha, Colombo 2) has been called the
?liveliest bar in Colombo.? On Fridays and Saturdays, the crowd
usually spills over into the streets.
The Hut (Mount Lavinia Hotel, 102, Hotel Road, Mount Lavinia) offers
70s reggae music, 80s disco, and 90s techno. There are usually live
bands on Friday and Saturday. The entrance fee of Rs.1000 includes two
There are a number of casinos in Colombo, offering gambling, food, and
drinks?and sometimes live music. Many are open 24 hours.
Atlantic Club ? 26, R.A.De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 4.
Bally?s Club ? 14, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 3.Tel: 257 3497. Www.bally?s.com.
Bellagio Casino ? 430, R. A. De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 3.
Continental Club ? 425, Galle Road, Colombo 3.
MGM Club ? 772, Galle Road, Colombo 4.
The Ritz Club ? 5, Galle Road, Colombo 3.
Star Dust Club ? 9, 15th Lane, Colombo 3.
Star Club ? 7, Chatham Street, Colombo 1, Fort.
(In addition to the many sources I?ve already provided)
Sri Lanka is an excellent place to shop for clothing at great deals.
Try Odel (5 Alexandra Place, Lipton Circus, Colombo 7;
http://www.eodel.com/ ) and Cotton Collections (Ernest de Silva
Mawatha, Colombo 7); both offer men?s, women?s, and children?s
clothes. Arena (338 T. B. Jaya Mawatha, Colombo 10) has designer
clothing and perfumes at great prices. Majestic City is a better
place to buy CDs and DVDs at good prices. For jewelry, electronics,
leathers, and arts, see my previous clarification.