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Know Before You Go
- Unless you are a national of Singapore, Maldives or the Seychelles, you will need a visa. The good news is that you can apply online. Start your application a week or two before your trip as it can take 48 hours for the visa approval to come through.
- If you want to rent a car in Sri Lanka, you will need a valid driver's licence from your home country as well as an International Driver's Permit.
- Sri Lanka's kitchens aren't up to scratch western hygiene standards. If you don't want to risk an upset stomach, skip the street food and head to a restaurant that has a sign boasting about their sanitary practices.
- The tap water in Sri Lanka is not drinkable. You can buy bottles of the country's reverse osmosis water but check the expiration date. It also might be a good idea to skip salads as there is a possibility the vegetables are rinsed with tap water.
- Don't forget to pack sunscreen. It is impossible to find anything over SPF 30 and shops that do carry lower quality sunscreen sell it at exorbitant prices.
- Every full moon in Sri Lanka is a public holiday. It's known as Poya, and the dates change every year. Check to see if there will be one during your travel dates as many shops and restaurants will close for the day.
Getting Around Colombo
- Buses are the cheapest way to get around Colombo. However, for travellers, they can be a challenge to navigate. Timetables and destination boards are only in Sinhala, so make sure you know which bus number you need to take. Bus fares will cost you LKR 0.50 per hour or LKR 0.80 on express minibuses.
- Travelling by train in Sri Lanka is cost effective and a wonderful way to see the country's natural beauty. 1st and 2nd class tickets from Colombo sell out quickly, so be sure to book in advance if you plan to go to popular nearby destinations.
- A unique way of getting around Colombo is by hiring your own Tuk-Tuk. All Tuk-Tuks available for rent are no more than five years old, include comprehensive insurance and 24-hour support.
- If you don't feel comfortable navigating Colombo's traffic, you can hire a driver for the duration of your trip. It's best to go through a reputable business to make sure you get a driver that speaks English and can double as a tour guide.
When is The Best Time to Visit Colombo?
The best time to visit Colombo is during the dry season (January to March). However, the lack of rain attracts visitors from near and far, driving up prices for hotels, airfare and tours. Duruthu Perahera Festival is held in January, and its popularity makes this period an expensive time to travel as well.
If you are travelling on a budget and want to avoid the crowds, visit Colombo during its rainy seasons. From December to March and June to October, you'll find cheaper accommodation, deals on airfare and bargains on tours.
May is a short shoulder season that offers travellers good deals. The crowds start to leave the city and monsoon season has yet to hit, making it a good time to explore Sri Lanka's natural beauty and save money on accommodation.
If you want to experience Sri Lanka's biggest cultural festival, Diwali, head to Colombo in November. Besides the celebrations, the weather is dry and hot enough for outdoor activities.
Airports in Colombo
Bandaranaike International Airport
Bandaranaike is the main international airport in Colombo. It's located 35km from the city and serves as a hub for SriLankan Airlines, Cinnamon Air and Millennium Airlines. The airport has scheduled flights to over 100 destinations in Europe, Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Far East.
Getting to and from Bandaranaike International Airport
The cheapest way to get from the airport into Colombo is with the Sri Lanka Express HighWay Bus. The buses depart daily every 30 minutes from 05:30 am to 08:30. Tickets cost LKR 120 and are purchased from the bus driver.
If you arrive at Bandaranaike on a red-eye flight and want to save money, you can take minibus #178. Tickets cost LKR 120 and LKR 100 - 200 extra for luggage. But if you don't feel comfortable taking public transportation at night, taxis are available from the airport 24/7.
Taxis are the fastest way to get to and from the airport. It takes on average 45 minutes to get dropped off right outside your hotel. You can also book an airport shuttle service online if you want to avoid any hidden costs.