Travel to Colombo and Negombo

National Museum, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Following on from the general post about Sri Lanka, is a guide to travel to Colombo and Negombo. We stayed just briefly in Negombo upon arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport. It is much closer to the airport than Colombo, which is an hour away. There are some shops and restaurants in Negombo, and it is also on the coast. Although it may not be a main destination, we enjoyed our short stay and the hotel had a great ocean view. It was a great start to our trip and our first stop outside of the city was the Millenium Elephant Centre. We enjoyed meeting and patting the friendly elephants, and also watching them bathing in the river.

Finally, at the end of our tour, we visited Colombo for a day. First, our driver Danan drove us to see the National Museum. It was full of interesting historical and cultural objects and information. Unfortunately it was also so hot that we felt like we were in a sauna! We didn’t last too long before needing a refreshment break. I spent some time walking around the city and there is an interesting mix of European and Sri Lankan architecture. At times, I seemed to be the only tourist walking in the heat sightseeing.

Modern architecture in Colombo
Modern architecture in Colombo
Uber tuk-tuk in Colombo
Uber tuk-tuk in Colombo
Independence Square, Colombo
Independence Square, Colombo

Highlights

  • Negombo beach
  • Millenium elephant center in Rabukkana
  • Many Buddhist statues in the cities and along the roads
  • National museum- very interesting but it was so hot and humid inside that we didn’t last for very long
  • State Government tourist shop for souvenir shopping
  • Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation
  • Galle face to see the beach view
  • Walk to see the Colombo lighthouse, the port and Sambodhi Chaithya Buddhist temple which looks like a stupa on tall legs or a spaceship
  • Old Parliament and the lotus flower tower
  • Cargills supermarket

Before you go

  • The weather in the cities can be hot and humid
  • Many hotels have air conditioning but you may double-check before booking if you are sensitive to the heat
  • It is best to drink bottled water as tap water may not agree with tourists
  • Driving is on the left side of the road, like in the UK
  • If you are walking around Colombo, you may be bothered a lot by tuktuk drivers asking if you need a lift. For example, there are not many people walking in the area around the Colombo lighthouse
Bus in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Bus in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Ferrari tuk-tuk in Negombo
Ferrari tuk-tuk in Negombo
Colombo lighthouse
Colombo lighthouse

Transport

  • We mostly travelled around the area by car with our driver Danan from BH Tours Lanka
  • In Colombo it is possible to walk around on foot in the city centre
  • Uber and Uber Eats are active in Colombo
  • The International airport is about an hour outside of Colombo near Negombo
  • Sri Lankan Airlines is a partner with BA so we could luckily use the lounge and priority queue

Accommodation

  • Beacon beach hotel in Negombo. A nice comfortable hotel with ocean views. It was also very close to the airport, so nice to arrive there and just relax.
  • Our hotel in Colombo, The Fairway, was very central. We had a view of the city and it also has a rooftop bar. They were very kind to pack us breakfast to go when we checked out early in the morning.
Gentle giant Raja at the Millenium elephant centre
Gentle giant Raja at the Millenium elephant centre
Buddhist temple Colombo- Sambodhi Chaitya
Buddhist temple Colombo- Sambodhi Chaitya
Old architecture in Colombo Cargill's supermarket
Old architecture in Colombo Cargill’s supermarket
Ministry of Crab, Colombo
Ministry of Crab, Colombo
McDonald's in Colombo
McDonald’s in Colombo- good old chicken McNuggets

Food

The first meal of our trip was dinner at Coco Beach. They had fresh seafood of the day so Kem had grilled white fish with a side of fried rice. I had grilled prawns with sides of fried seafood noodles and fries. Those weren’t the typical sides but they were flexible. It was yummy and nice to be right near the beach. We also tried the local Lion beer which was refreshing.

Our guilty pleasure meal towards the end of the trip was at McDonald’s in Colombo. Chicken McNuggets tasted as expected!

Then we treated ourselves to one last excellent dinner at The Ministry of Crab. It is a beautiful setting but quite warm with only fans, no air conditioning. We had an avocado half with wasabi crab, prawn curry with giant prawns, bread and a large chili garlic crab. It was all very good but eating the crab was a lot of work. We got bibs that said Keep Calm and Crab on. Messy! We had a chocolate biscuit pudding for dessert.

Dinner at the Ministry of Crab
Dinner at the Ministry of Crab- prawn curry
Dinner at the Ministry of Crab
Dinner at the Ministry of Crab- avocado and crab
My dinner at Coco Beach was grilled prawns with seafood noodles and chips
My dinner at Coco Beach was grilled prawns with seafood noodles and chips

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: No, not for the city of Colombo. You can generally walk around and taxi or Uber works in the city.

Q: Do people speak English?

A: Yes most people speak some English

Q: Is it a walkable city?

A: Yes for the most part, but it is hot and humid so some may prefer to be driven around. The National Museum and some sights are a bit further out from the centre.

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