My TWO DAYS IN COLOMBO went like this:
Landed in the CMB airport at 8:30am. The airport is about a 40 minute drive from Colombo (Capital of Sri Lanka) I had made previous arrangements with the hotel I was staying at to be picked up at from the airport.
I’ve learned from past experiences that after a long flight, the last thing I want is to land in a foreign country, get hit with cultural shock, and then struggle to find a ride to my hotel.
The shuttle to the hotel from the airport cost $25 USD for my husband and I. The drive takes about 30-40 minutes, and after doing a little math, you can expect to pay about the same if you got a taxi or tuk tuk from the airport. I personally find it easier to have someone waiting.
Like any airport, after customs and baggage you reach the arrivals section where you’ll see heaps of drivers holding up signs waiting for guests. I didn’t get 2 minutes to look before being approached asking which hotel? My reply, “City Beds”… the man insisted that City Beds doesn’t pick up guests from the airport. I had email confirmation, pre-paid… I knew this guy was lying. Trust your planning skills and don’t believe everything people tell you. They see you as a tourist and an easy target for money. Long story short— our hotel driver was waiting for us, as planned.
The City Beds Hotel is located on a busy street but lots of crosswalks and easy to navigate. It’s also about a 10 minute walk to the Colombo Fort train station. Rooms cost $55 per night, they had wifi, AC, and a kettle to boil water so you don’t have to constantly buy more. The staff was helpful and they spoke good English. I felt that the hotel also had good security, you have to have a key card to access the front office (or knock—they’re open 24/7) then use the key card to go into the stairwell to the upper floors, as well as a separate room before getting to your actual room.. if that sounds confusing, basically you need a key to go through three doors before you can get to your room. Inconvenient, but I definitely felt like the building was secure. There’s no food served at the hotel, but there is a small restaurant right next door that you can get bottled water for 25cents. The room itself was nice. Air conditioning worked amazingly, even got chilly at night. Nothing to complain about for this hotel, and would definitely recommend or stay there again myself.
The first day in Colombo was hard. It was midnight back home, but my hubby and I tried to see as much as Colombo as possible and try to get on the Sri Lankan time schedule. We started by walking to the floating market, and to be honest it was a bit disappointing. There wasn’t much open (but then again, I did travel in November which is the shoulder season) There’s a few shops and some cheap places to eat. The water the market “floats on” is…well….green, stagnant, and disgusting.
After the market we made our way over to manning market which is where you can get fresh fruit and vegetables as well as some shopping. I preferred manning market over the Pettah Floating Market (at least during the off-season) While walking through manning market you can find the red mosque. Its quite beautiful and can take a look inside as well. Its a very unique building thats worth a look if you’re in the area.
Galle face is a popular spot as well, but again, during the shoulder season, it’s a bit of a let down. There were a few food carts and ice cream carts, kids with kites, and the view was nice; but there’s not much to do other than take a stroll and watch the waves. Don’t go in the water here, there’s run off from near by rivers that aren’t exactly clean. Near Galle face is also the Presidents house, you’ll see plenty of police around. The building looks like a sandstone version of the US White House.
On the second day in Colombo we woke up at 6am to start walking south towards all the buddha temples. Our first stop was the Gangaramaya Temple. It costs 200 rupees per person (about $1.30 USD). We were there in the morning when others were there for their religious practices. Be quiet and respectful to the locals. This is their church.
The second temple was a 5 minute walk across the street located on a green stagnant lake overlooking skyscapers. This temple was more modern and simply designed but still very beautiful. If you plan on visiting a lot of temples, consider wearing easy on-off shoes since it is require to remove you shoes before entering.
After the two temples we walked approximately 1 mile south to Arcade Independence Square market. This is a large white beautifully remodeled building that was a prior insane asylum converted into shopping and food stops.
We took a lunch break at the “T lounge”, a cute tea hub and restaurant. They had a large menu full of a variety of drinks, tea, entrees, desserts. Plus—there’s free wifi and air conditioning! It was a great spot for a break.
After lunch we walked towards Galle Avenue located on the beach, and got a metered tuk tuk (ALWAYS CHOOSE METERED IF YOU CAN TO REDUCE THE CHANCE OF GETTING SCAMMED).
It costs $1.80 for 5km and we got dropped off at the Sambodhi Chaithya Temple (entrance fee is FREE) There’s no elevator but a 9 story hike to the top. You can get a great view of Colombo and the port, and see a very unique temple. Inside it has paintings telling the story of the original Buddha. Definitely a spot not to miss out on! Check out the video from this adventure here.