First time visitors to Sri Lanka tend to assume that the country and the culture are very similar to India given their close proximity (only 28km apart) however nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve only been in the country a couple of days and already I have been overwhelmingly blown away by the kindness of the locals, the richness of their culture, the mouthwatering local cuisine and of course the breathtaking scenery.
I arrived at 5am aboard Sri Lankan Airlines, the nation’s only international air carrier. Flying in to Colombo in the dark was a gorgeous experience in and of itself. As we descended overhead our speed combined with the abundance of trees kept blocking the lights below. The end result was very much like watching thousands of white Christmas lights blinking on and off.
Here’s a gift for all you Pinners 😉
Sri Lanka Immigration
Sri Lanka is investing heavily in their tourism industry and one way it clearly shows is in their visa process. Foreign visitors can (and should) apply for a visa online prior to arrival. It costs $30 USD and only takes a minute but allows you to skip the VOA queue upon arrival and head straight for immigration. No annoying questions about where I am going or when I am leaving, just a warm welcome, quick stamp and a gift.
That’s right, all visitors are given a welcome package that includes a booklet on Sri Lanka, coupons for local businesses, tea packets and a free SIM card pre-loaded with 50 R. Sure, it might not be enough to start streaming videos but at least you’ve got a local phone number to make/receive calls and the ability to send and receive texts.
After retrieving my luggage there were several different cellular providers selling SIM cards. The free one was Dialog but I also purchased one from Hutch and another from MobiTel (yes, for those who don’t know I carry an abundance of electronics with me, including two laptops, two tablets, GoPro, phone and perhaps most important of all, my universal myfi USB stick that runs off any SIM in any country in the world).
As I’ve only been here 48 hours I cannot say yet which provider has the best coverage area and fastest data, however I will update this article with that info at the end of this month.
Arrival In Colombo
Bandaranaike Airport located outside of the capital of Colombo is one of three international airports on this island nation and is the gateway to Sri Lanka for the nearly all foreign tourists. From there it is less than an hour drive down one of the country’s many new highways to reach Colombo.
Although the war that ravaged Sri Lanka for thirty years finally ceased in 2009, some remnants of this tragic history still remain. For example upon nearing Colombo a few old cement watchtowers and barbed wire fences remain. However the city itself is completely safe and peaceful. The only thing you need to be wary of are the touts — but that is true with any tourist destination.
Transportation Around Colombo, Sri Lanka’s Capital City
The fastest and easiest way around Colombo is via tuk-tuk. These three-wheelers are exactly the same as the ones found in Thailand and Philippines but with one key difference: they are all brand-spanking new.
The standard price for a tuk-tuk in Colombo is 50 LKR ($0.40 USD) for the first kilometre and 40 LKR for every additional kilometre. Of course this doesn’t mean that people won’t try and rip you off. My buddy and fellow traveler Kerwin of KerwinMcKenzie.com and I experienced this firsthand mere minutes after setting out on foot to explore Colombo. After being advised of a ceremony taking place at a nearby Buddhist temple the two of us opted to take our first Sri Lankan tuk-tuk ride and go catch the show.
Shortly into the ride we inquired as to the price and were quoted a staggering 1,000 LKR ($8 USD). After asking why so much the driver gave us a variety of bullshit answers all while driving in circles down side streets. Yes, seriously. (Like he thought we wouldn’t notice, HA!)
Many of these tuk-tuks have meters however most do not. If you prefer not to have to haggle or hassle with your driver than it is best advised to stick with metered taxis only.
And now I leave you with…
More Photos Of Sri Lanka
Poolside at the amazing Cinnamon Bey Hotel in Beruwala, Sri Lanka