In November 2014, I was invited to Sri Lanka by Cinnamon Hotels and was flown in on SriLankan Airlines. The experience was many firsts for me and the country and experience were also top notch. I have some more information to disseminate on Sri Lanka, but wanted to give you some details on its capital city Colombo (CMB):
- Home Airline: SriLankan Airlines (UL) a member of the oneworld Alliance and Mihin Lanka (MJ).
- Scheduled Service Airlines Serving Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB): Air Arabia (G9), Air Asia X (D7), Air India (AI), British Airways (BA), Cathay Pacific (CX), China Eastern (MU), Emirates (EK), Etihad (EY), flydubai (FZ), Jet Airways (9W), Korean Airlines (KE), Kuwait Airways (KU), Lot Polish (LO), Malaysia Airlines (MH), Mihin Lanka (MJ), Oman air (WY), Qatar (QR), Rotana Jet Aviation (RG), Saudi Arabian Airlines (SV), Singapore Airlines (SQ), SpiceJet (SG), SriLankan (UL), Thai Airways (TG), Transaero Airlines (UN) and select charter airlines.
- Airport Web site: Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) http://www.airport.lk/
- Airport To The City:
- Tuk Tuk – If you feel like it, you can actually take a Tuk Tuk all the way to the airport
- Local Bus – There’s a bus that leaves from the Colombo Central Bus Station on Olcott Mawatha, just a little further down from Colombo Fort Railway station on the same road (Olcott Mawatha)
- Train – The airport is actually located in the town of Katunayake; you can take a Tuk Tuk to the Katunayake Railway station and then take the train to Colombo.
- Airport Taxi – Grab a cab from your hotel or call a local cab
- Cheaper Taxi such as Kangaroo Cabs. You can book online or on the phone and they really are cheaper.
- Airport Hotels: The closest town to the airport with hotels is Negombo, this is where you would stay if you get bumped and wanted to get to a hotel quickly. I stayed at the Jetwing Blue and would highly recommend it. It will cost at 1,500 LKR by taxi to get to the airport in about 20 minutes. There is also Jetwing Beach which is right next door to JetWing Blue as well as two other properties also in the Negambo area (Jetwing Lagoon and Jetwing Sea). Book your hotels below:
- Currency: Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR)
- Language: English is spoken in most places. As you get deeper into the country not so much, but you’ll have no language issues.
- Visa Information: A visa is required for U.S. citizens. Luckily it can be had online for 30 USD at the current writing of this post. Other citizens should check with the Sri Lankan consulate/embassy in your region for specifics. Alternatively, you can use the IATA Web site for visa/health requirements.
Places Worth Seeing in Sri Lanka The country is full of gems, but here are a few to whet your appetite:
- Kandy – I love this town nestled in the hills. It has a certain hidden charm and also has the country’s longest river, the Mahaweli running through it. It’s about a two-hour journey by train and the journey is quite cheap and totally worth it. It is the second largest city by population and was once the country’s capital and home to the Temple Of The Tooth.
- Galle – This south coast town is home to Galle Fort. You can literally spend hours walking through the Fort, then when you are done, head into town. Fishing is the main task here
- Polonnaruwa – Home to the original Temple of Tooth, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can drive the area or rent a bicycle and explore the different sites. Watch out for the monkeys as they are everywhere running around. You have to take off your shoes to enter each of the Temples and dress in light colors, preferable white and dress humbly as a sign of respect.
Ground Transportation Around the city walking or a Tuk Tuk will get you everywhere. Expect to pay from 100 to 500 for short trips. Negotiate and if they try to charge you more, just walk away. There are also local buses and the train. Colombo Fort is the main station in the heart of the city; there are also two other stops (Secretariat and Slave Island) that are in the heart of the city as well. It’s really cheap on the trains. About 20 LKR. They do get crowded and people hang off the sides, which I’m told is very illegal. Just keep your belongings safe when in crowded vehicles. This is true for any place you visit.
Domestic Air Transportation While Sri Lanka has some really nice highways and some not so good ones as they are in the process of improving the infrastructure, you may also travel around by air. CinnamonAir operates flights between several of the domestic airports with convenient connections to SriLankan for the international portion of your trip. You can see a report I wrote about them here. Check them out.
Where To Stay in Colombo There are many places to stay in the city. I stayed at the Cinnamon Hotel properties all over the country (Cinnamon Lakeside is where I stayed in the city) and also at The Kingsbury which is a luxury business property located right on the waterfront. The Lakeside also caters to business travelers as well. There’s also a Hilton close by the Kingsbury and the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotels as well. These are all in close proximity to the Financial Center, shopping and an area called Pettah which is know for its shopping. Hyatt is also building a new property along the waterfront as well. Here’s a brief review of the two properties in which I stayed in the city of Colombo: Cinnamon Lakeside Located by the Lake (Beira) as the name implies, this property. The best feature for me is its bar that’s actually in a The Library. So you can read a book and have a beer; I like that concept. It also have a dance floor and if you smoke an enclosed smoking room plus you can do karaoke as well. It’s one of nine places to eat and drink on the property. You can also have dinner on a boat that is docked by the river an while you eat it chugs along the Beira Lake. The hotel also caters to weddings (there was on there on my visit), banquets and conferences like the one I attended there.
The Kingsbury If you are in town for a business meeting then you’ll really like this property. It’s within easy reach of the financial district, you can see the towers from the hotel as well as the Central Bank. All rooms have a view of the sea. Like almost all the luxury Sri Lankan hotels it has a pool, fantastic buffet and fine restaurants among other amenities. For me, its signature is the Executive floor, where you have access to the Executive Lounge with a Butler who will take care of your every needs; I mean your every needs. He even anticipate your needs which for me is needed :-). The hotel also caters to weddings, banquets and conferences with several conference rooms throughout the hotel.
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If you are into logging countries, this is one of the best ways to get to Maldives. It’s only 1:30 by plane and you can take Korean Airlines (KE) or SriLankan Airlines (UL) over either using a ZED or by one of the low fares in the market.
Have you been to this region? If so please leave a comment below about your recommendations and experiences. If you’ve not, then leave a comment if you need additional information about taking the trip.