The capital of Sri Lanka and the largest city, Colombo, are filled with busy streets, the loud humdrum of the long-standing markets that have been here for hundreds of years, and the colonial buildings are just some of the things to see in Colombo.

Researching any holiday is key, to having the best travel experience. This is where our ultimate travel guide to Colombo comes in. We have not only experienced the best places to visit in Colombo, but detail what you should pack for your holiday, budgeting tips, and more.  

When to visit Colombo 

You could visit Colombo any time of year due to the tropical weather, which makes it hot all year round. However, depending on when you travel will depend if you want to be on holiday when the monsoon rain hits.  

There are two monsoon seasons a year, but they each hit Sri Lanka at different times of the year. You can find out more about when the best time to travel to Colombo, is by reading more on our post on Things to know before you travel to Sri Lanka

Want to receive a FREE Travel Planner?

Currency 

Currency used in Colombo is the Sri Lankan Rupee (Rs). 

Our advice would be to purchase the Rs before you travel, although it is possible to use debit/credit card while you are there. However, you must take into account any charges for the use of the debit or credit card. Make sure you check with the card provider before you travel.  

About Colombo  

When the British came to the island, they proclaimed Colombo as the capital of Sri Lanka in about 1815. But the British were not the first to colonise Sri Lanka. In the 8th century, Arab traders settled in the port, until the Portuguese arrived in about 1505. In the middle of the 17th century the Dutch had taken over, much of the architecture is still visible today. Sri Lanka finally gained independence in 1948 from the British, and set up their government in a suburb of Colombo called Sri Jayawardenpura-Kotte, which is the official capital of Sri Lanka.  

Things to do in Colombo 

Colombo is our base while we visit Sri Lanka, giving us the opportunity to explore some of the best places in Colombo.  

Galle Face Green 

District: Colombo 1

Opening times: 24/7 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 100, 400, 400/1, 412, 418, 423/400, 428, 430, 431/2, 433/4, 433, 433/1, 433/2, 463/1, 433/2, 2, 2-1, 2-3, 2-4, 2-6, 2-9, 2-10, 2-11, 2/187, 2/366, 2/368, 2/382, 26, 26-1, 26-3, 32, 32-1, 32-2, 32-4, 32-5, 32/493, 42, 42-8, 42-9, 42/369, 42/410, 42/430, 60, 60-1, 60-3, 60-4, 60-369,  

Train station – Kollupitiya before walking a short distance back to Galle Face Green 

Tuk tuk will drop you at Galle Face Green 

Located along the sea front, and a great spot to watch the sunset. This was once an expanse of green which would have contained a race course and golf course, but other sports have been played.  

Galle Face Green
At night, looking along to Galle Face Green

Today it is the largest open space, and popular with families to gather, vendors selling delicious food and kite flyers. Long gone has the beautiful green land that would have once been, along with the sporting events of the race course and the golf course.  

Viharamahadevi Park 

District: Colombo 7

Opening times: 24/7 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 138, 140, 125, 138/2, 138/3, 138/4, 166, 175, 120, 122, 155, 162, 177,  

Tuk tuk 

The oldest and largest park in Colombo, with features such as water fountains, mini zoo, and children’s play area. A large Buddha statue replaces the original Queen Victoria statue. 

This park is ideal for families, or an evening stroll, admiring the surrounding landscape. 

Dutch Hospital 

District: Bank of Ceylon, Mawatha, Colombo 1

Opening times: 10am –10pm 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 100, 101, 120, 122, 125, 138, 138/1, 138/2, 138/3, 138/4, 162, 168, 170, 187, 188, 190, 400, 400/1, 412, 418, 423/400, 428, 430, 431/2, 433, 433/1, 433/2, 433/4, 463/1 

Tuk tuk 

This has to be one of our favourite spots to come and visit, with shops, restaurants and bars to explore, and have a few drinks.  

It is believed to be the oldest building in Colombo Fort, dating back to about 1681, and was built in the Dutch colonial era. This would have once been a working hospital, with doctors and nurses rushing around to look after the sick seafarers. Much of the architecture has not changed since it was built, leaving the colonial era in tacked.  

Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre

District: South Beira Lake, Colombo 2

Opening times: 6am – 6pm 

Price: Rs300 

Getting there: Bus – 166, 101, 145,  

Tuk tuk 

How this has changed over the years from our first visit! On our first visit together, this was free to explore, and very quiet. Yet, it has since been opened up as a temple and meditation centre, with tourists and locals coming to pray and meditate with the Buddha Statues.

Outside Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre in Colombo
Outside Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre

What we love about visiting this lovely meditation centre, is the peace and tranquillity. We would recommend spending some time here, soaking up the lovely atmosphere. 

Gangaramaya Temple

District: Sri Jinaratana Road, Colombo 2

Opening times: 6am – 10pm 

Price: Rs300 for tourists 

Getting there: Bus – 145, 101, 166 

Tuk tuk 

Buddhism is largely practised by Sri Lankans, meaning there’s plenty of Buddhist Temples to explore. While exploring Colombo, we would recommend Gangaramaya Temple, its more commercialised compared to the many other beautiful temples you’ll see around Sri Lanka, but still worth visiting.

Not only is this a Buddhist temple, but you can explore the museum that hold many different artifacts.  

One of the many Buddha Statues at Gangaramaya Temple
One of the many Buddha Statues at Gangaramaya Temple

Things to look out for would be the smallest gold Buddha Statue, the stuffed elephant, and the most colourful Buddha statues.  

Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque 

District: Colombo 11

Opening Times: 9am – 5pm 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 168, 145, 168 

Tuk Tuk 

This stunning Islamic Mosque is located in the busy streets of Pettah. This looks like no ordinary mosque with its red and white stripe design on the exterior, making it one of the most popular spots for photographers. 

Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque in Colombo
Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque in Colombo

Built in about 1909, making this the oldest Mosque in Colombo, and now holds a capacity of 10000 people. You can enter the mosque except during prayer times, and women must be modestly dressed to enter.  

Wolvendaal Church 

District: Wolvendaal Lane, Colombo 11

Opening times: 9am – 4pm 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 143, 152, 224, 225, 226, 228, 230, 2231, 235, 240, 260, 261, 262, 265, 275, 277, 343, 356,  

Tuk tuk 

Built in about 1749 and one of the most important Dutch buildings in Colombo, that’s still in use today. The name Wolvendaal derives from the Dutch for wolf’s dale. It took its name, when the Dutch mistook a pack of jackals for wolves, so the church and its area became known as Wolvendaal. 

Wolvendaal Church
Wolvendaal Church

The exterior is looking a little worn and dated, compared to how grand it would have been when it was first built, but the interior is a real beauty, with its lovely designed pews, the wooden pulpit, and Baptist font. 

Colombo Lotus Tower 

District: Colombo 10

Opening times: 24/7 

Price: Free 

Getting there: 120, 122, 125, 162, 170, 190 

Tuk tuk  

We have seen each stage of the Lotus Tower being built over the years, on each of our visits. Now that it has been completed after about 7 years of construction, we have seen the beauty of its creation. 

Colombo Lotus Tower
Colombo Lotus Tower

Located on Baira Lake at a height of about 356 metres, making it the second tallest structure in South Asia. It was designed to represent the lotus flower; which Sri Lankans believe to symbolise purity. It is due to be opened to the public in the near future, consisting of an observation deck at the top, restaurants, shops and a hotel.  

On certain evenings, the Lotus Tower lights up, with different light displays. We can’t wait until we can finally explore this new creation. 

Bev & Shams at Colombo Lotus Tower
Bev & Shams at Colombo Lotus Tower
Want to receive a FREE Travel Planner?

Independence Memorial Hall 

District: Independent Square, Colombo 7

Opening times: 24/7 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 154,  

Tuk Tuk 

This national monument was built to commemorate the independence from the British in 1948, and located at independent square in Cinnamon Gardens area of Colombo. The design is based on the audience hall in Kandy.  

Independent Square in Colombo
Independent Square in Colombo

Many families, or couples come here to take a leisurely stroll around the monument and the new Independent Square arcade. If you want to stay fit and healthy, while on holiday, then this is a must place to come for a run, or to use the outdoor gym equipment.  

Arcade Independence Square 

District: Independent Square, Colombo 7

Opening Times: 10am-11pm 

Price: free 

Getting there: Bus – 154,  

Tuk Tuk 

This lovely shopping complex is housed within an old, mentally insane asylum (lunatic asylum as it was then called). The building itself hasn’t changed much, but the interior has been designed to a high standard.  

Arcade at Independent Square
Arcade at Independent Square

It is best to visit in the evening, when the exterior lighting bounces off the building, creating this incredible structure to stand out. Looking at it, you could never imagine this to have once been an asylum holding a number of patients. 

Clock Tower 

District: Janadhipathi Mawatha, Colombo 1

Opening times: 24/7 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 145, 168, 100, 101, 120, 122, 125, 138, 138/1, 138/2, 138/3, 138/4, 162, 168, 170, 187, 188, 190, 400, 400/1, 412, 418, 423/400, 428, 430, 431/2, 433, 433/1, 433/2, 433/4, 463/1 

Tuk tuk 

The Clock tower was built in about 1857 and was the tallest structure in Colombo at the time. It was a fully operational light house until about 1952, when surrounding buildings obscured the light and the lighthouse. 

While the lighthouse is no longer operational, the clock tower is still in working order.  

Bev & Shams at the Clock Tower in Colombo
Bev & Shams at the Clock Tower in Colombo

If you love admiring the colonial architecture, then you will love admiring this attractive Clock Tower in the heart of Colombo. 

New Kathiresan Kovil 

District: Sea Street, Colombo 11

Opening times: 6am – 6pm 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 168, 145,  

Tuk tuk 

Such diverse religions in Sri Lanka, meaning this pretty Hindu Kovil is one of a popular three along the stretch of road.  

The Kovil is dedicated to the War God Murugan, and built in about 1830. 

The bright colours of the exterior, draws the attention to the temple immediately. 

Old Kathiresan Kovil 

District: Sea Street, Colombo 11

Opening times: 6am-6pm 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 168, 145,  

Tuk tuk 

Located in the middle of the three Hindu Temples, along the same stretch of road, and seems very popular with tourists and locals alike. 

Sri Muthu Vinayagar Swamy Kovil 

District: Sea Street, Colombo 11

Opening times: 6am-6pm 

Price: Free 

Getting there: Bus – 168, 145,  

Tuk tuk 

The last one of three is the southernmost Kovil, along the same stretch of road and one of the oldest built in about 1830.  

Whilst all three are located on the same stretch of road, they have all been designed differently, and really stand out.  

Where to Stay in Colombo 

Where you stay is important, there are a few factors you need to take into account before booking that place, these are: 

  • Price – This always has to be within our budget 
  • Location – how easy will it be to get around Colombo 
  • Transport links – where are the transport links to get us to and from the airport, and to different locations within or outside of the town. 
  • Reviews – what are the reviews from other travellers who has stayed here 

Here are just some of the places to stay in Colombo with a budget in mind, but also taking into account the above factors. 

The Kingsbury Hotel 

Price: £100.00+ per night 

The Kingsbury Hotel is located in a good location, right on the seafront next to Galle Face Green, making this an ideal location for lovely evening strolls along Galle Face Green. It’s not far from the Fort, making it easy for sightseeing at the Old Dutch Hospital and the Clock Tower. 

The facilities are excellent, with a good size swimming pool, spa, pool bar, restaurants and we can’t leave off the amazing High Tea.  

The pool area at The Kingsbury
The pool area at The Kingsbury

You can find out more on The Kingsbury Hotel and what we really thought about them in our review.  

Cinnamon Grand 

Price: £100.00+ per night 

One of our favourite hotels in Colombo, but one of the more expensive places to stay. However, the facilities are good, but the food is even better.  

You can find out more on Cinnamon Grand Hotel, and what we really thought about our stay, in our review.

You can book your next stay here at Cinnamon Grand Hotel.

Cinnamon Lakeside 

Price: £100.00+ per night 

This has to be our favourite hotel to visit. The pool is a very good size, the staff at the pool bar are very pleasant and helpful. Although we visit annually, they can always remember us, and will also be prepared to assist us when required. Whilst the pool is its attribute, Cinnamon Lakeside does have other facilities to help you have a lovely stay. 

The lovely pool at Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo
The lovely pool at Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo

You can check out what other facilities they have, along with what we really think of our stay when you visit our review on Cinnamon Lakeside

My Little Island Hostel 

Price: £10.00-£30.00 

We have heard some really good reviews from people who have stayed in this little hostel. If you are on a budget and don’t want to spend out on the luxury hotels, then staying here would be ideal.  

When we visit Colombo, we will often stay one or two nights in a hotel or hostel, whilst the rest will be at our own apartment that we have in Colombo. We have tried to include a range of high-end hotels, and budget friendly places. 

How to get around Colombo 

Getting around Colombo is quite easy, and what makes it easier is the tuk tuk’s, however this could work out to be more expensive than public transport. Public transport is available, and here are just some of the options on how to get around Colombo: 

Air 

The closest airport to Colombo is Bandaranaike in Negombo. The easiest way to get to Colombo from the airport, is via a taxi. You can pick up a taxi from the many taxi ranks in the arrival hall at the airport.  

If you have already got a hotel booking, it might be a good idea to enquire with the hotel, if they can arrange an airport pick up, for which the driver will be waiting for you in the arrival’s hall. 

There are bus services to and from the airport, but for quicker journey times, choose a bus that takes the expressway.  

Bus 

There’s a number of bus stations in Colombo, that provide bus services around Colombo and to the many villages and towns around Sri Lanka, making travel around Sri Lanka easy for tourists.  

Travelling by bus can often be a cheaper way to get around. Choosing a non-aircon bus over an airconditioned bus, will be cheaper, and some buses travel on the highway, whilst others will take the long coast routes.  

Train 

There are a number of beautiful scenic train routes, that can take you down south of the island or into the hill country. Our best train experience was from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya. The train moves slower as it climbs higher into the hills of the tea region, but the scenery is stunning and not to be missed.   

Train journeys are cheaper, and depending on comfort, you can choose first-, second- or third-class carriage. The lower the class, the least amount of seating space available on many of the routes, but definitely an experience.  

If you are looking to take a train around Colombo, you may find this a bit of a challenge as many of the trains will take you to the suburbs of Colombo such as Mt Lavinia.  

Taxi 

Taking a taxi will be more expensive, but often quicker and easier way to get to your next destination. We would highly recommend downloading the Pickme app or Uber app. Both of these are ways to hire a taxi, but with Pickme you can choose a tuk tuk or a vehicle, and with both apps you can see how much the ride will cost before you travel. 

Tuk Tuk 

A really good way to get around is via tuk tuk. Their small and compact meaning they can get through traffic with relative ease. This is often our prefer method of getting around Colombo, but not always the cheapest depending on where we are going. 

A Tuk Tuk in Colombo
A Tuk Tuk in Colombo

Walk 

Our most favoured method of getting around. However, walking is not always easy with the heat, and some things are a distance apart. But we will always prefer this method and would recommend it to you. Not only will it keep you within a budget, but it has so many health benefits.  

Tips 

  • Try and avoid travelling in Colombo during rush hour traffic. It becomes very busy, the roads are blocked, and takes twice as long to get around Colombo than usual. Rush hour tends to be between 7am-9am, then when schools finish at 12pm-2pm and then the evening work rush hour between 4pm and 7pm.  
  • Always try and haggle a good price for goods and services, and always shop around. As foreign tourists, the locals will often increase the price for you to double if not more than what the locals will pay. Therefore, you should get the best price by haggling, if you are not happy, walk away, as you could get a better deal elsewhere.  
  • If you are catching a tuk tuk that is not pre booked, always take a metered tuk tuk. 
  • If you have agreed a price on the millage rate with a tuk tuk or taxi driver, just be careful that they do not take you a longer route to the destination, so that they can charge you more for the journey. 
  • Be careful when it comes to tuk tuk drivers that stop you at the side of the road. Some will try to offer to take you to a good jewellery shop to sell you goods. A family member who was travelling in Sri Lanka got caught with this, and was taken to a jewellery shop but was locked in for security. This however became a scary situation for them. So just be careful! 
  • Always tell a friend or family member the details of the taxi or tuk tuk you are taking. With Pickme or Uber, you can share your travel details with your family member or friend. If they don’t hear from you, they can raise the alarm. 
  • If you decide to walk to take in the scenery, you will get approached a number of times by tuk tuk drivers to take you to your destination. Each time just decline if you do not wish to go by tuk tuk. 
  • If you are a female traveller, or solo female traveller, be careful in the evenings or when it is dark. We as female travellers will never go out in the evening unless we have a male friend accompanying us. This is because, it isn’t safe in the evening and late in the night for females to be alone, especially when taking a taxi or tuk tuk.  

Where to eat 

We love Sri Lankan food, it has so much flavour, spices, and just all round delicious. There is no other country that in our opinion could compare to Sri Lankan food.  

So, when you’re on holiday in Colombo, you’ll want to eat these delicious dishes. Why not check out our post on Staple Food of Sri Lanka. We detail the staple foods, how to eat in Sri Lanka, and some of the best places to eat. 

We hope you enjoy Sri Lankan food just as much as we do. 

Budgeting tips 

Not everyone, including us are made of money and can’t afford to go on expensive holidays. Having said this, we are still able to travel a lot, and abroad for two simple reasons. One we save hard to enjoy our travels, but two we budget. On every trip we make, we always budget, we set a daily budget that we can spend, and calculate what we expect to pay on sightseeing, food, accommodation and transport. If we didn’t do this, we would spend all our money on just the one trip.  

It is for this reason that budgeting is so important for any trip.   

We want to help you, travel more, but on a budget. By following these simple tips, you will not only have an amazing experience, but will be able to travel more. 

  • Plan and research your trip in advance – Colombo’s a budget friendly city to visit especially with the exchange rate from £s to Rs. But you still need to consider budgeting for your trip, as it could become costly on you if you don’t. 
  • Book your attractions online where possible – not only will booking your attractions online in advance save time, in most cases you can save money too.  
  • Walk as much as possible – We will walk everywhere and will try to avoid public transport. Not only because it is the cheapest way to explore a city, but you could miss out on the local area, if traveling via public transport.  

To give you an idea of what you could be looking at for your trip to Colombo, check out the table below: 

Colombo Travel Costs

We hope that you found this ultimate travel guide to Colombo useful! If you have been to Colombo, we would love to hear all about your experiences, all you have to do is leave a comment below. 

There are many photogenic spots in Sri Lanka. If you want to take the best photos, then check our The Most Photogenic Places in Sri Lanka (a unique itinerary)

Want to receive a FREE Travel Planner?

Want to read more articles like this: 

Check out our posts on  

Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

Things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Temple Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

There may be affiliate links within this article, using these links will not cost you anything extra, but we may earn a small commission to help us maintain our travel blog. Thank you for your support. 

Ultimate Travel Guide to Colombo
Ultimate Travel Guide to Colombo
Travel guide to Colombo
Travel guide to Colombo
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: