Reach Colombo by Road - A1 highway connects Colombo with Kandy. A2 highway connects Colombo with Galle. Colombo has an extensive public transport system based on buses, operated both by private and government own Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB). Bus is the cheapest way for tourists to get into Colombo, but will take some effort and time. Other means of transport includes auto rickshaws (commonly called “three wheelers” in Sri Lanka) and taxicabs.
Reach Colombo by Rail - Rail is an important means of travel in Sri Lanka, which is comfortable but a slow one. Other forms of surface transport are also available for enjoying the tour from one city to another within the country.
Once in Sri Lanka, land transport is main mode of travel. Trains are a cheap, safe and enjoyable but slow way to get around. Trains in Sri Lanka have several classes – 1st class sleeper, 1st class observation car, 1st class air-conditioned seats car, 2nd class seats, and 3rd class seats. The 1st class observation car is highly recommended for tourists as it has comfortable armchairs facing a large window looking back along the track and best to enjoy daytime scenic beauty of Sri Lanka.
Seats must be reserved by travellers before departure (probably within 10 days of departure), but early booking is best as the observation car is very popular and gets booked up fast. 2nd class seats are more than adequate, but try to get a window seat. 3rd class gets very crowded, and it is generally not recommended for visitors. It’s easy to buy tickets from the window; there is a special ticket window for tourists at Colombo Fort station.
Reach Colombo by Air - Access to Sri Lanka for tourists is only possible by air. The Bandaranaike International airport at Katunayake, just outside Colombo (journey about an hour by taxi), provides the only link between Sri Lanka and the outside world. Flights to Colombo are available from all the major Indian destinations such as Chennai, Trichy, Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi and Mumbai.
For reaching Sri Lanka from the major European destinations, there are lots of regular flights from the Middle East like- Kuwait Airways, Emirates, Royal Jordanian and Qatar Airways, Emirates, Royal Jordanian and Qatar Airways and to reach Sri Lanka from any of the Asian cities, a number of airlines available to provide their services like- Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways, Malaysia, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways, and Malaysia Airlines.
Tips: 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.
Getting Around in Colombo - For tourists, getting around by three wheeler (named tuk-tuk) in Colombo is most convenient. Most three-wheelers do not have any meters fitted with them and so travellers need to be alert. Shorter trips in Colombo can cost from Rs. 50 (for around 2 – 3 kms) to Rs. 250 (for 8 kms). It’s 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 tourists need to go and negotiate with them. 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 travelers 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 and safer mode of transportation in Colombo with the option of air conditioning. The cars often have meters starting on Rs. 40 and charge about Rs. 65 per kilometer.
Tips: There are counters of most of the 4 or 5 star hotels outside the Colombo airport arrivals hall providing AC cars. The taxi service (Non Ac Mini Van) provided by the taxi counter in the arrivals hall is cheaper than taxis provided by ‘hotels’. The counter staff may try to persuade tourists to go to one of the ‘hotel taxi’ counters outside the arrivals hall but insist that you only want a mini van.
Best Time to Visit Colombo - Only major change in the weather of Colombo is during the inter monsoon season which is from May to August and October to January. During this time heavy rain fall can be expected in Colombo. The best time to visit Colombo is from mid-October to mid-April.
Shopping in Colombo - Colombo is a very nice place for tourists to shop something like souvenirs or handicrafts as prices are very reasonable and fixed. Most common shopping items are high altitude Ceylon tea, spices, ebony items and ritual masks. Items range from local costume, house ware, jewelry, wooden crafts, fabric travel bags, children’s toys, paper products and much more. Every item is unique.
Colombo ’s primary bazaar is Pettah, located next to the Fort District. If travellers are looking goods for cheap Pettah bazaar is the ideal location to go for shopping for all kinds of things from fruits to electronics, but this is always busy and crowded and famous for an extensive bargaining.
Larger scale shopping is available at the Galle road; there are some shopping malls like Majestic City, Liberty Plaza and Crescat Boulevard which are very popular among local tourists as well. Prices are very competitive. ODEL and Arina shopping malls are very popular among travellers. Another good shopping area for crafts is the Laksala Emporium – a state corporation shop run by the government; the goods here are more expensive, but usually top-notch.
To purchase the famous Ceylon tea, one safe bet is Tea Tang, with locations at Liberty Plaza, Galle Face Court, the World Trade Center, and the airport and another good option is Miesna Tea, with shops at Liberty Plaza, Majestic City, the Hilton, Crescat Boulevard, and the airport.