Sri Lanka's flag carrier airline - SriLankan Airlines - is the only operator of direct flights to Colombo from the UK. SriLankan Airlines offers non-stop flights from London Heathrow only. These flights are operated on all days of the week. From London Heathrow, as well as other major airports in the UK, connecting flights are available. Connecting flights are offered by Qatar Airways, Emirates, Jet Airways, Etihad Airways, Cathay Pacific and Air China among others.
January to March is definitely the peak-season in Colombo. The November-December rain spell is gone and it is replaced by lighter winds, lesser humidity and plenty of much-needed sunshine. Visiting Colombo in the beginning of January makes for a good start of the trip. The weather being dry till March, with temperatures around 27 °C, outdoor activities and sightseeing are made more satisfying. March will see monsoon clouds floating in from all directions later on in the month but really still plenty of sunshine going around the whole month. The weather becomes dry and pleasant again during July and August. September rains set in fairly rapidly and travellers cannot be too flexible with this shoulder season.
Officially known as Bandaranaike International Airport but commonly dubbed as Colombo International Airport, this is the receiving airport for flights from the United Kingdom. It is located at a distance of 32 kilometres from central Colombo. Unlike the much closer Ratmalana Airport which only caters to domestic flights, Bandaranaike International Airport operates both international and domestic flights. The IATA code for this airport is CMB. Cheap flights to Colombo from the UK utilize the passenger Terminal 1 of this airport. Terminal 2 is still under-development whereas Terminal 3 exclusively serves domestic flights. With a good number of duty-free shops around, travellers will find themselves happily engaged in hunting for souvenirs. Other conveniences include a cafeteria and a smoking lounge.
For many travellers, monsoon always remains a bit of concern. From April to June and September to November, the weather remains wet, humid and mostly cloudy. Price-wise travellers wait for this seasonal rush to end – as prices drop significantly during the low-season. Cheap flights and accommodations can be had during this period. November experiences the most rainfall (more than 16 inches of rain) and October and May follow closely behind. The average temperature does not change much, 27 °C, but due to humidity, the felt temperature is somewhat higher. That said, Colombo is a year-round destination and there is something special going on throughout the year. Be flexible and see Colombo in its different colours.
Gangaramaya Temple: Colombo is a picturesque collection of temples and shrines. A ten minute drive from the city centre brings travellers to this Buddhist temple. Maintained gardens, colourful carpets and an overall beautiful architecture give a decisive first impression. Sightseers find themselves absorbing the magnificent view of the temple complex. Rows and columns of seated statues of Buddha form a wonderful patchwork and the fact that the temple is touched on sides by the Beira Lake enhances its views. From somewhere in the distance comes the faint sound of a temple bell and just then the mind time travels to another age.
Jami ul Alfar Mosque: At first sight the mosque appears to be a blend of art and architecture. No sooner do they enter that sightseers experience a stronger spiritual ambience around. If their timing is right, tourists will experience the call to prayer / azaan which in itself is a sublime experience – for the ears as well as for the spirit. The white and maroon colour scheme is a marked feature of this mosque and has its inspirations in the Indo-Saracenic Revival Architecture.
Beira Lake: One huge mass of silvery waterfront, this is by far the most prized natural attraction in the region. Despite being inside the city, the lake sets its own tone and stands apart from the rest of attractions. A gentle stroll across the shore and associated parks and gardens is a refreshing experience. This is also a great site for photography.
National Museum of Colombo: The largest museum in Colombo has been performing its conservatory duties since 1986. From thrones and crowns to statues and skeletons, this museum houses indigenous artefacts as well as important relics from surrounding countries.
The Pettah Floating Markets: Down the Pettah neighbourhood, this floating platform is a hub of flea markets, fish stalls and souvenir shops. There are even shops on boats, most of which bring fresh supplies of sea food and make fast food on demand. This is perhaps the most representative site of downtown Colombo.
- Galle Face Green Park
- Viharamahadevi Park
- Independence Memorial Hall
- Khan Clock Tower
- Sambodhi Chaithya Buddhist Temple
Colombo has a well designed urban public transportation system that meets the requirements of a growing population. If you arrive here and it is your first time in Colombo, take a bus from the airport. Keep strolling straight from the terminal until you reach the bus stand which is inside the perimeter of the airport. It takes half an hour for a bus from the airport to reach the city centre. Get a ticket from the counter and get on the bus as quickly as possible. Doing so, you get to stack your baggage on the overhead compartments inside the bus. As a rule, whoever comes first gets the luggage booths. Note that the timetables are not settled. Expect delays. Be patient. Beaufort is the central bus station and a walking distance from the famous Pettah Floating Market. Buses in Colombo serve a high passenger demand and happen to be one of the least expensive modes of commute in the city.
Bumper to bumper gridlock congestion is a common sight in Colombo. Tuk-tuks save time and money and prove to be a good alternative to taxis. If there is a traffic jam, your tuk-tuk driver may find a way through the streets and give you a more intimate experience of neighbourhoods and localities. Even though tuk-tuks are extremely cheap yet you can also share your ride with another passenger if the two of you happen to be going in the same direction. This cuts the cost of your commute and adds to the value of your experience.
The most popular 4-star hotels are:
- The Ocean Hotel
- Mandarina Hotel
- Fairway Hotel
- Great Southern Hotel
- OZO Hotel
Quality and comfort, at a cheaper price, can be had in some of the city’s 3-star hotels:
- Cinnamon Red Hotel
- Grand Oriental Hotel
- The Richmond House Hotel
- Renuka City Hotel
- Ceylon City Hotel