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A Guide to Colombo
Know Before You Go
- You will need a visa for Sri Lanka. Kiwis can apply for it online, and it's recommended to start your application a week or two before your trip.
- Bring along your International Driver's Permit if you want to rent a car. You'll also need to have your Kiwi driver's licence with you.
- Skip the street food if your stomach gets easily upset. The hygiene practices aren't the same as New Zealand, and you run the risk of getting Colombo belly.
- Don't drink the tap water in Sri Lanka. Instead, buy bottled water from the stores, but make sure you check the expiration date. It's also a good idea to skip salads if the vegetables have been washed with tap water.
- Pack sunscreen in your bag. It's expensive to buy in Sri Lanka and hard to find anything over SPF 30.
- Celebrate Poya with the locals. Every full moon in Sri Lanka is a public holiday, and many of the shops and restaurants will close for the day.
Getting Around Colombo
The cheapest way to get around Colombo is with the public bus. Fares start at LKR 0.50 per hour or LKR 0.80 for express minibuses. Keep in mind that most of the timetables and destinations boards are in Sinhala so you will need to know what bus number to take.
Another affordable way to get around is with the train. You'll speed past the country's natural beauty, and routes connect passengers to Sri Lanka's most popular destinations.
If you want a unique way of getting around, hire a tuk-tuk. You can flag down a driver or negotiate a price to drive yourself around for a few hours.
Hire a driver for the duration of your trip if you don't want to navigate the city's traffic. Most drivers from reputable businesses will speak English and can double as a tour guide.
When is The Best Time to Visit Colombo?
The best time to visit Colombo is between January and March. It's the dry season, making it ideal for outdoor activities. However, the lack of rain attracts crowds of tourists, so expect airfare and hotel prices to skyrocket.
For budget travellers, the most affordable period is during the city's two rainy seasons. From December to March and June to October, you'll find cheaper accommodation and better deals on airfare and tours. Plan your trip for November if you want to experience one of Sri Lanka's biggest cultural festivals, Diwali.
May is Colombo's shoulder season, and it's a great option if you want to explore the city, and it's surrounded with fewer crowds. The monsoon season has yet to start, making the weather ideal for exploring the outdoors and hotels begin to slash their prices.
Airports in Colombo
Bandaranaike International Airport
Bandaranaike International Airport is located 35km from the city centre. It's the main hub for SriLankan Airlines as well as Cinnamon Air and Millennium Airlines. The airport operates flights to over 100 destinations around the world.
Getting to and from Bandaranaike International Airport
If you're travelling to Sri Lanka on a budget, the cheapest way to get from the airport into the city is with the bus. The Sri Lanka Express leaves the airport every 30 minutes from 05:30 a.m. to 08:30 p.m and tickets cost LKR 120 per person.
For red-eye flights, take minibus #178. Tickets cost LKR 120 per person and between LKR 100-200 for luggage.
But if you don't want to take public transportation late at night, the airport has metered taxis available 24/7. You'll find the cab drivers waiting outside of the arrivals terminal, and it will take on average 45 minutes to arrive in the city centre.