Getting To & Around Colombo

ABOUT COLOMBO

Colombo (Sinhala: කොළඹ, Tamil: கொழும்பு) is the largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Former capital of the nation, Colombo is still perceived by many as the capital of the nation and is located just beyond the suburb of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, the official capital.

Due to it being on a strategic route in the Indian Ocean, Colombo hosts one of the busiest ports in South Asia, and was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. Today, the city is the central point of the country’s activities and is home to the majority of country’s restaurants and entertainment venues. Just like another typical South Asian big city, Colombo is congested, noisy, busy, and vibrant with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings. It is the financial centre of the island and a popular tourist destination.

Buddha Statues at Seema Malakaya, Colombo

Understand

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 30.9 31.2 31.7 31.8 31.1 30.4 30.0 30.0 30.2 30.0 30.1 30.3
Nightly lows (°C) 22.3 22.6 23.7 24.6 25.5 25.5 25.2 25.1 24.8 24.0 23.2 22.8
Precipitation (mm) 58.2 72.7 128.0 245.6 392.4 184.9 121.9 119.5 245.4 365.4 414.4 175.3

Source:w:Colombo#Climate

Colombo is the commercial and financial capital of Sri Lanka after the administrative capital was moved to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, a suburb east of the city. “Colombo” could refer to either the city proper, or to Greater Colombo that includes the areas of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte and Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia.

For the best weather, visit during the north-east monsoon season, which is November to April.

 

Get around

A Tourist Development Authority operated ‘tuk tuk’ or tri-shaw

Colombo Traffic

Getting around by Tri-shaw (Three wheelertuk-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 Rs 50 for the first kilometre and Rs 30 for every additional kilometre plus waiting fees.

Colombo has an extensive network of buses going around the city/region. It’s fairly easy to find the right one by asking locals or your accommodation. Fares depend on the type of bus and distance. Prices start usually at 10 LKR. Traveling by bus is an adventure itself!

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. 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. Uber is available in Colombo with options for smaller cars (Go and Zip), as well as UberX, but XL is not available. A local ride-sharing app called Pick Me allows to order everything from a tuk tuk to a van, although there have been reports about the app not working for all users.

Car Rentals is also a possible for travellers to hire car with or without a driver. Companies like Malkey Rent A Car offer such services based on Colombo.

See

Holy Places

  • 1 Basilica of Our Lady of LankaLankamatha Road, Ragama suburb of Colombo (From Ragama Railway Station 2 km NE or bus to stop ‘National Basilika Ave’). A Roman Catholic church with basilica status. The church is home to the venerated statue of Our Lady of Lanka. 
  • 2 St Luke’s Anglican ChurchBorella district of Colombo-8The church plays an important role within the history of the Church Missionary Society on the island. 
  • 3 St Michael and All Angels Anglican ChurchPolwatte (159, St Michael’s Road, Colombo 3) (Cameron Pl corner. East 100 m of Kollupitiya Jumma Mosque). It was dedicated on the 29 September 1887 and is a landmark in Kollupitiya, a suburb of Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. A magnificent building of stone, mortar and wood. 
  • 4 St Andrew’s Scots Kirk churchNo. 73, Galle Road, Colombo 3 (Close to High Commission of India, Colombo). It was founded in the late 19th century, and prospered during the colonial and post-colonial periods, it was a centre for the Scots element in Colombo, the capital city of what was then Ceylon. 
  • 5 St Lucia’s CathedralSt Benedict’s Street and St Lucia Street, Kotahena (in the north east of Colombo. North 200 m of Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium). The seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka. 
  • 6 St Paul’s Church (1853)Galle Rd, Milagiriya district (Dr Lester James Peries Mawatha Street corner. Take bus to stop ‘Milagiriya’). It is one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka. Built by the Portuguese as a Roman Catholic church, and was known as Nossa Senhora dos Milagres 
  • 7 Buddha Jayanthi Chaithya stupaColombo HarbourA Buddhist shrine, built with reinforced concrete. 
  • 8 Gangaramaya Temple61, Sri Jinarathana Road, Colombo 2 (Hunupitiya Lake Rd corner),  +94 11 2 435169One of the most important temples in Colombo. The temple’s architecture is an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese styles. 
  • 9 Sri Bala Selva VinayagarHindu temple in Colombo 10. Devoted to Shiva and Ganesh.
  • Sri MuthumariammanHindu temple in Colombo 13
  • Shiva Subramania SwamiTemple on Slave Island
  • Sri Ponnambalam-Vaneswaram templeIn Koch-chikade, 3 km north of Fort.
  • Kalani Raja Maha Viharaya.Located about 9 km away from Colombo, the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is one of the most significant Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. The temple had been built more than 2,000 years ago and contains images of reclining and preaching Buddha along with frescoes depicting incidents from his life.
  • Memm HarnafiMosque founded by C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha.
  • 10 Church of St AnthonySituated beside the sea where Sea Street and St Anthony’s Mawatha meet.
  • 11 Jami-Ul-Alfar MosqueSecond Cross Street in PettahThis historic mosque is a popular tourist site in the city. Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque was built in 1909 by the Pettah Muslim community to fulfill their required five-times-daily prayer and Jummah on Fridays. It is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo. 
  • 12 Victoria Masonic TempleGalle Face, Colombo 03It is the meeting place for the Masonic Lodges. It was built in 1901 during British rule and designed by E. Skinner, an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and built by the Colombo Commercial Company. The building was built in neo-Georgian style mixed with elements of Eastern architecture.
  • 13 Wolvendaal church363, Galle Road, Colombo 06One of the oldest churches built during the Dutch era in 1749. The interior is decorated with Dutch furniture with the wooden carved pews, chairs, pulpit and lecterns. 

Museums

  • 14 The National Museum of ColomboCinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7 +94 11 2 695366, e-mail: Sa-Th 09:00-17:00Department of National Museums. 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. Child Rs 300, adult Rs 500 (2013). 
  • 15 The Natural History MuseumSir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7 +94 11 269-1399Sa-Th 09:00-17:00. Closed all public holidaysThis museum features Sri Lanka’s floral and fauna in dioramas. Child Rs 150, adult Rs 300.
  • 16 The Dutch Period Museum95 Prince Street, Colombo 01 +94 11 244-8466Sat-Thu.: 09:00-17:00Nice but very small museum documenting Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka. Houses Dutch-inspired artifacts. Child Rs 300, adult: Rs 500 (2013). 
  • 17 Independence Memorial Hall ((also Independence Commemoration Hall)), Independence Square (formerly Torrington Square) (Cinnamon Gardens). 09:00-17:00is a national monument in Sri Lanka built for commemoration of the independence of Sri Lanka from the British rule with the establishment of Dominion of Ceylon on 4 February 1948. It also houses the Independence Memorial Museum. Child Rs 150, adult Rs 300 (2013). 
  • 18 Central Bank Currency Museum58, Sri Jayawardhanapura Mawatha, RajagiriyaM-F 08:30 to 16:00 except public and bank holidaysEstablished on 20 April 1982 at the Central Bank Head Office in Colombo Fort. The museum is open to the general public. – The Central Bank Currency Museum traces the history of the usage of coins and notes in Sri Lanka since 3 BC and has on display a large number of ancient coins and notes which were used in the country dating back to 3 BC. Foreign coins and notes received from other Central Banks are also on display at the museum. free. 

Galleries

  • The Sapumal Foundation32/4 Barnes Pl +94 11 269-5731Colombo 7. 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 Centre18 Guilford Crescent, Colombo 7 +94 11 269-5794M-F 09:00-13:00 and 14:00-16:00The Art Centre has exhibitions, art shows and stage events. Visitors also able to purchase various antiques as well as paintings and crafts by contemporary Sri Lankan artists. 

Mansions

  • Clare House.
  • India HouseThe official residence in Colombo for the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. Built in 1926-27 for the Imperial Bank of India and taken over by the Government of India in 1956. It is a colonial style villa/bungalow, with large gardens located along Thurstan Road. It is guarded by personnel from the Border Security Force. 
  • Jefferson HouseThe ambassadorial residence in Colombo for the Ambassador of the United States in Sri Lanka. It was built in 1914 in the Cinnamon Gardens a suburb of Colombo. 
  • Lakshmigiri Mansion (Saifee Villa). A bungalow at 102, Thurstan Road in Colombo.
  • Modera HouseA large bungalow. A 19th century stately home, located in Mutwal north of Colombo. Now it is part of the De La Salle College. 
  • Morven Mansion.
  • Saravasti Mansion.
  • Storm Lodge.142 Galle Rd, Colombo-03A mansion, owned by the Colombo Swimming Club.
  • Rock House Colonial era Mansion.
  • Sirimathipaya Mansion.
  • The Lighthouse.A large bungalow. Owned by the Sri Lankan Government and houses the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies. Located in the Cinnamon Gardens a suburb of Colombo, it was built by D. Peiris.
  • Whist Bungalow (Pradeepa Hall). A large bungalow. A 19th century stately home modelled on Neoclassical style, located in Mutwal north of Colombo on the cost where the Kelani River used to meet the Indian Ocean. It is now used as a reception hall for weddings. 
  • Winyatts Mansion.

Do

Nelum Pokuna (Lotus Pound) Performing Arts Theater
  • 1 Galle Face Green PromenadeGalle Road, Colombo 03Visit at sundown for a spectacular view. The ½km long promenade stretches 13 acres (5.3 hectares) between Galle Road and the Indian Ocean; it tends to attract children, teenagers, vendors, lovers, kite flyers, merrymakers, and families. Usually on Saturday and Sunday evenings, the land is filled with day-trippers, food vendors, and people picnicking which make it very crowded. It is also the only largest open space in the city. Free. 
  • mbo Zoological GardensAnagarika Dharmapala Mawatha, Dehiwala (By Bus: From Colombo port, No. 101 stops at Dehiwala junction, and get the Bus No. 176 or 118. – By Train: get to Dehiwala station which near station to Colombo zoo and get Bus No. 176 or 118.), e-mail: daily 08:30–18:00Colombo’s zoo has a wide variety of animals, birds, and reptiles from all over the world. See lion show, every day 16:00 – 16:15; elephant show, every day 16:30 – 16:55. For overseas visitors: adult – Rs 2000, child – Rs 1000, video cameras – Rs 500. Other fees: elephant ride, adult – Rs 200, child – Rs 100; pony ride for children under 12 – Rs 25.
  • Casa Serena Art Gallery122 Havelock Roa, Colombo 5 +94 11 2587440Tu-Sa 10:00-18:00 and 12:00-13:00 to 18:00The gallery is a purpose built space, designed to exhibit a diverse array of art, photography, sculpture, video installations and craft. It focuses on contemporary and traditional arts and features the work of local and international artists.
  • 2 Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park), Cinnamon GardensIt is the largest, oldest and most colourful park situated in the heart of Colombo, just opposite the colonial style Town Hall building. 
  • Attidiya Bird Sanctuary (9km towards the south west of the city). A beautiful marshland. The wet land is rich with natural biodiversity and is a resting place for many types of birds. The vegetation of this wetland is dominated by sedge and grasses including Rhyuchospora rubra and Panicum repens. Around 43 species of waterfowls live in the area. Most common among them are Indian Shag (Phalaerocorox fuscicollis), the Blue breasted Banded Rail (Rallus striatus) etc. If you are an enthusiastic bird watcher or an eco friend, then it is worthwhile to spend sometimes in the Attidiya bird sanctuary during one of your leisurely evenings during your stay in Colombo.
  • Colombo PlanetariumBauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7Established in 1965. English shows on the last Saturday of the month at 14:00.
  • Gordon GardensAbout 16,000 m². The Gardens have an amazing variety of trees.
  • 3 Colombo RacecourseCinnamon Gardens, Philip Gunewardena Mawatha, Colombo 07In 2012 it was redeveloped as the Colombo Racecourse Sports Complex to become the first International Rugby Union ground in Sri Lanka to host all the national rugby union sides home macthes. 
  • 4 Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club GroundsMalalasekara Mawatha, Colombo 07. 
  • 5 Royal College Sports Complex10, Sri Lanka Foundation Mawatha, Off Independence Avenue, Colombo 07. 
  • 6 Royal Colombo Golf Club223, Model Farm Road, Colombo 08. 
  • 7 Sugathadasa StadiumArthur de Silva Mawatha or Prince of Wales Ave, Colombo 14. 
  • 8 Colombo Cricket Club Ground (CCCG; Sinhala: කොළඹ ක්‍රිකට් සමාජ ක්‍රීඩාංගනය, Tamil: கொலோம்போ கிரிக்கெட் கிளப் கிரௌண்ட்)Maitland Crescent. 
  • 9 Nelum Pokuna Theatre +94 11 2 669024Performing Arts Theater 

Buy

  • 1 Barefoot706 Galle Road, Colombo 03, Kollupitiya +94 11 2589305M-Sa 10:00-19:00, Su 11:00-17:00This handicraft shop has a wide range of good quality souvenirs and handmade items: clothes, bags and children toys, from some of the most beautifully-coloured fabric you’ve ever seen. While the biggest outlet is at Galle Road, there is smaller outlets at the Dutch Hospital and 41 Pedlar Street.
  • 2 Crescat Boulevard89 Galle RdColombo 3, Kollupitiya. An up-market shopping mall. Though it is fairly small, it contains a food court on the basement floor.
  • Lakmedura113 Dharmapala RdColombo 07, Cinnamon Gardens.
  • 3 Lakpahana14 Reid AveColombo 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 jewellery, batik, textile products and other crafts.
  • 4 Liberty PlazaRA de Mel Mawatha, Colombo 3, KollupitiyaSimilar to Majestic City but smaller. You can find various items such as clothing, CDs and DVDs.
  • 5 Majestic CityIn 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. 
  • 6 OdelNo 5, Alexandra Place, Colombo 7, Cinnamon GardensA 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 Road213, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, Cinnamon Gardens +94 11 268 604309:00-19:00A shop with a small café in a British colonial style building where antiques, home décor items and art can be viewed or purchased.
  • 7 The Pettah MarketFruits to clothes to electronics 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. 
  • Casa Serena boutique122 Havelock Road, Colombo 5 +94 11 2587440Tu-Sa 10:00-18:00 and 12:00-13:00 to 18:00The boutique showcases a wide range of traditional and modern creations to enhance the art of living. Some are practical, some are useful, and some are just beautiful souvenirs.

Eat

  • Hansa Sri Lanka Speciality Coffee (Hansa coffee), 24 Fife Road, Colombo 5 (off Thimbirigasyaya Road,),  +94 77311657909:00-20:00An exceptional gourmet coffee, made from Sri Lanka coffee beans. The coffee can be purchased at several shops 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

  • 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 50-100.
  • A cup of coffee and some goodies for lunch at D’Cafe at No. 15A, Cambridge Place, Colombo 7.
  • 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 180.
  • The New Yarl Eat House is located in Station Road, Wellawatte, just off the Galle Road, on the sea side. It serves traditional Jaffna style rice and curries with excellent value for money crabs. A lunch for one including a full crab costs around Rs 400

Mid-range

  • The Cricket Club Cafe34 Queens RdKollupitiya, 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 Cafe2 Alfred House RdOff 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 LagoonThe Cinnamon Grand Hotel, 77 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03 +94 11 243-743712:00-14:30, 19:00-00:30This restaurant focuses primarily on seafood with colourful Sri Lankan flavours. The friendly, professional staff create an enjoyable dining experience. Full meal: Rs 4,000 per person.
  • Mango Tree82 Dharmapala Mawatha, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03 +94 11 537-9790+94 11 537-9791, e-mail: daily 12:00–15:00; 19:00–23:00One of the finest restaurants in the city. North Indian Cuisine, full of innovative dishes. Service is occasionally slow. Full meal: Rs 1,000 per person.
  • The Palmyrah Restaurant328 Galle RdKollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves excellent Sri Lankan dishes and has an international menu.
  • Roadhouse Cafe335 Galle RdKollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves Sri Lankan and Western food. Meals range from Rs 180 – 380. The food is excellent, but the service is a little slow. Try the mango milkshakes or one of their speciality coffees.
  • 168 Seafood PalaceJust off Galle Road, near Hotel Renuka, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves excellent Chinese food and seafood dishes. Prices start at Rs 250. but some prices depend on weight (e.g. crabs). The service is very good.
  • UK Urban Kitchen69 Hyde Park Corner, Union Place, Colombo 2 (Arpico Super Centre),  +94 11 7219169M-Th 10:00-22:00, F-Su 10:00-13:00Serves Western, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines at relatively reasonable prices. Also specializes in wood-fired pizzas and coffee. Next to Arpico supermarket.
  • Thalis RestaurantNo 155 Park Road, Colombo-05. +94 112 507 788Mon-Sun 11:00-23:00Vegetarian restaurant, serves South Indian cuisine. Meal 400-700 Rs.

Splurge

  • Nihonbashi Main Restaurant11 Galle Face Terrace, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3There are three Nihonbashi outlets in Colombo. A Sushi Bar at ODEL and an 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.
  • SpoonsColombo Hilton, Echelon Square, Fort, Colombo 1. Is the flagship restaurant of the Hilton Hotel. It has a show kitchen, and an impressive collection of wine and chocolates.
  • Ginza HohsenColombo 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 Swiss3 Deal PlKollupitiya, Colombo 3. Representing the best of Swiss cuisine, this restaurant has all your favourites from fresh garden snails to Chateaubriand for two to steak Café de Paris style. The wine list is exclusively Swiss.
  • The London GrillCinnamon 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 GrillGaladari 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 Thai115 Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha,Slave Island, Colombo 02Located at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel (refurbished and rebranded September 2009), is an authentic Thai restaurant hosting the usual favourites, such as Tom Yam and Chicken Pandan leaves.
  • 1 The Ministry of CrabOld Dutch Hospital, Colombo Fort. Located in the historic Dutch Hospital, The Ministry of Crab serves the best crabs in Sri Lanka. Crabs are priced by the size and a kilo of crab costs around Rs. 6500. They also serve their house speciality sweet tea with soda. One of the most expensive restaurants in Colombo, but it is definitely worth it.

Drink

  • Thembili තැබිලි (Orange Coconut juice) is safe, 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 a while. Unlike the South of the island, Mount Lavinia is about 20 minutes away from the city and entertains a good deal of nightlife. Along the beach are a variety of restaurants that serve liquor alcohol 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 popular.

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 February 2013 include the Amuseum and My Kind of Place at the Taj Samudra, 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 close around 04:00, R&B perhaps a little longer after.

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, some people will end with a late night snack, try e.g., Hotel de Pilawoos along the Galle Road in Kollupitiya to enjoy a Chicken Roti (chicken and cheese wrapped in a roti) followed by an iced Milo (sweet chocolate and malt flavoured drink)

Sleep

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 Mount 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). As of May 2014, typical costs were Rs 1,000-2,000, depending on the room quality. Buses 100, 101 and perhaps some others go down Galle Rd. from Colombo Fort station (Rs 20 to get to Wellawatte).

Budget

  • Hotel Nippon123, Kumaran Ratnam Road, Slave Island, Colomo – 2Decent rooms fitted with air-con, cable TV, etc. It is located in a prime location in the city close to all essential sight seeing spots. Some of its facilities and services are restaurant, and bar.
  • Hotel Janaki443, Fife Rd, Havelock Town, Colombo 5This 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.
  • Parisare Homestay97/1 Rosemead Place, Cinnamon Gardens (col 7) (Near Embassy of France),  +94 11 2694749This is a lovely home with a wonderful hostess, but they have only 3 rooms which are frequently occupied by long term guests, which makes prior reservation essential. It is also a bit far from the city centre (Fort). Rs 1000/1200.
  • Hotel Ranmuthu112, Galle Rd +94 11 243-3986Hotel Ranmuthu has 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.
  • YMCABristol Street, Colombo 01 (5 minute walk from the Fort railway station). Also a reasonably priced restaurant. Rs 700 to 1150 per night for a single room. There are dormitories which start at Rs 300 per night. The dorms however are not available to foreigners. You must be from Sri Lanka. Rs 700 to 1,150 per night for a single room. Dormitories start at Rs 300 per night..

Mid-range

  • 1 Galle Face Hotel2 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3 +94 11 254-1010, e-mail: 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. $200+. 
  • Garden Guest House (chitru@sltnet.lk), 7 Karlsruhe Gardens, Borella, Colombo 8 +94 11 269-7919This 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 Hotel262, Old Colombo Road, Uswetakeiyawa (Hendala) +94 11 479-5114fax+94 11 293-0766, e-mail: Located close to the airport, has 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 jewellery and souvenir shop.
  • Kamvelta Holiday Resort***Kindelpitiya, Welmilla Junction, Bandaragama. (5 km from Bandaragama, 6 km from Panadura, 8 km from Piliyand),  +94 38 2293306, e-mail: 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.
  • Hotel Renuka & Renuka City Hotel328 Galle Road, Kollupitiya Colombo 3 +94 11 257-3598, e-mail: 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, in-room safes and internet connection. The hotels have one of the most famous restaurants in Sri Lanka, the Palmyrah, which serves authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. A popular dish is Iso Thel Dala, spicy prawns sautéed with onions and tomato. Two onsite bars.
  • Hotel Sansu651/31, Sir Oliver Gunathilake Gardens, Havelock Town, Colombo 05 (off of Elvitigala Mawatha),  +94 11 236-8450fax+94 11 535-4348, e-mail: 26 rooms and self-service apartments, each of which includes cable television. 24-hour front desk services, as well as wake-up calls and an on-site juice bar. single from US$40, double from US$50 (2013).
  • Sapphire Hotel371, Galle Rd, Wellawatte, Colombo 6 +94 11 258-3306Located 5 minutes away from the ocean. Has an on-site restaurant and bar. Each room includes air-conditioning, 24-hour room service, and satellite television. Has two reception halls for those wishing to host a convention or wedding reception. Reservations are required.
  • 2 Mount Lavinia HotelNo 100, Hotel Rd, Mount Lavinia +94 11 271-1711, e-mail: Check-in: 2 pm, check-out: 11 amThis is a colonial heritage hotel in Sri Lanka dating back to early 1800’s. It consists of 210 rooms inclusive of colonial, ocean view, and suites. The hotel offers 06 restaurants and bars as well as facilities to host business events and weddings. Starting from USD 96.

Splurge

  • 3 Hotel Clarion103, Kandy Road, Kiribathgoda +9411 2911579fax+9411 4821068All rooms equipped with air-conditioning, TV with cable channels and wheelchair accessible. Some of its facilities and services are 180 restaurant, fitness centre with steam room and business centre.
  • 4 Hotel Galadari4, Lotus Road, Fort, Colombo 1 +94 11 254-4544fax+94 11 244-9875, e-mail: Has 446 rooms, including 23 suites. There are special executive level and handicap rooms. There are a variety of dining facilities in the hotel to suit different palates. Als has spa and fitness facilities.
  • 5 The Havelock Place Bungalow6-8, Havelock Place, Havelock Town, Colombo 5 +94 11 258-5191fax+94 11 258-4655A boutique hotel, consisting of two restored colonial homes. Tastefully decorated using antique colonial furniture. Provides wireless Internet, pool, jacuzzi, restaurants.
  • 6 Park Street Hotel20 Park street, Slave Island, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka +94 11 2439977Near major shopping centres and business establishments. Decked with colonial touches, like antique furniture and high ceilings. Rooms are equipped with Jacuzzi, DVD player and refrigerator.
  • 7 Tintagel65 Rosmead Place, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka +94 11 4602122Situated in Rosmead Place. Once a stately home to the political Bandaranaike family. The 10 elegant suites have high ceilings and timber floors. They open to a private courtyard, balcony, or separate lounge area. Each suite also has king-size beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, and a bathroom with a rain shower and bath.
  • 8 Casa Colombo231, Galle Road, Colombo 4 (opposite Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya, and down a private lane next to Lumala Gift City in Bambalapitiya),  +94 11 452-0130Boutique hotel with 12 suites.
  • 11 Taj Samudra25, Galle Face Centre Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3 +94 11 244-6622A variety of rooms; they range from standards with views of the sea and pool to presidential suites with separate dining and dressing areas. Also equipped with a fitness centre, 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 visitors to Colombo find themselves falling victim to scams and touts, however, seasoned visitors 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 civil war that once raged is now long over, with much development occurring since. The country is now free from terrorism and tourists needn’t be afraid of that aspect.

Respect

  • Seemingly innocuous public displays of affection between lovers such as kissing and/or hugging are 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.
  • 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.

To know more:  https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Colombo