We strongly believe that before traveling to a foreign country you should learn as much about that country as possible in order to make the most of your time there. An understanding of Sri Lanka’s culture, history and traditions will enhance your experience at every turn – not only when visiting the ancient cities and religious temples, but also simply when you are observing local life. Our travel tips not only include useful practical information, they also cover how to be respectful – Sri Lanka is a deeply religious and traditional country. We have also included a list of recommendations on dining, shopping and things to do.
Stuff You Should Know ?
- Essential Tips
- Lunch Stops and Refreshments
- Things to Do/Activities
Sri Lanka uses a range of sockets, including European and UK plug styles, so an international travel adapter may come in useful. Specialized Sri Lankan adaptors can be bought in major hotels and many shops.
An airport tax is built into the price of your flight tickets; Sri Lankan departure tax is no longer paid on departure.
Allow Enough Time
We believe that you will discover Sri Lankans to be the most courteous and friendly people in the world. However, Sri Lanka will not be rushed, and a genial, relaxed service is not always a rapid one. Allow a little more time for checking out of hotels, ordering food, paying bills, traveling etc.
Please ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. Minority groups in particular are often unhappy to have their photo taken. Photographing Buddhist Monks is not taboo but can create awkwardness, so assess the situation and if in doubt ask. We do not recommend paying for the right to take a photo.
Pack for heat and humidity. Long-sleeves might be advisable after dusk to protect against mosquitoes. In the hill country, where it is cooler, a light sweater is frequently required at night.
On the Beach:
Topless sunbathing is officially illegal. The use of bikinis is generally considered acceptable while on the beach. When swimming in rivers or lakes ask for local advice, as covering up may be necessary.
Away from the beach/pool, be aware that dress standards are comparatively conservative and it is respectful to wear loose, long and lightweight clothing. Be especially careful about modest dress when visiting religious sites, where knees and shoulders are often required to be covered.
Consider buying a Sri Lankan SIM card for your mobile phone - Sri Lankan mobile phone call rates are relatively cheap, both for local and international calls. There is a Dialog GSM shop outside airport arrivals, or we can pre-purchase a SIM card for you if you let us know in advance.
Sri Lanka Telecom shops (e.g. Colombo World Trade Center) sell scratch cards for immediate Internet access, which are good value and easy to use. IDD facilities are available in the vast majority of tourist hotels and hotel fax lines are plentiful. To contact a BT operator from Sri Lanka, for charge card or reverse-charge calls, dial 432999 (but be aware that some hotels will block this number). Some hotel business centers offer Internet access, and cyber cafes exist in Colombo and some tourist areas, although connection speeds are slow outside Colombo.
Customs and Cultural Differences
Sri Lanka’s genuine hospitality to tourists is renowned. Take care to avoid religious offence, however. In particular, respect the Buddhist faith: do not touch a monk, do not pose for photographs on religious statues and remove shoes and socks when entering temples. We recommend that you are as informed as possible about the island before you arrive: read about the religion and culture and learn about local rules and values. Be sensitive to cultural difference. Patience, friendliness and courtesy are highly valued virtues that will win you the respect of many.
Before you go, email yourself a copy of all the important information – airline numbers, phone numbers and passport and driving license numbers. If your documents and/or wallet is lost or stolen, you can still access all your details.
- Police: 011 2433333
- Fire: 011 2422222
- Hospital: 011 2691111
- Colombo Tourist Information: 011 2252411
- Kandy Tourist Information: 081 222 2661
- Department of Motor Traffic: 011 2694331
- Automobile Association: 011 2421528/9
- Department of Immigration: 011 2503629
Entertainment is predominantly, but not exclusively, based around the top hotels, which offer: a range of restaurants and bars; sports facilities, from swimming pools to floodlit tennis courts; health facilities and spas; nightclubs, and traditional Sri Lankan entertainment. However, do not automatically limit yourself to the hotel – in Colombo especially, and in other major tourist areas, there are smaller, independent alternatives. Casinos are sanctioned for tourists.
The beaches are some of the finest in the world, but before you swim consider dangerous currents and cleanliness. Sri Lanka also offers: game parks; activity holidays; bird-watching sanctuaries; hill-walking and outstanding historical and religious sites. There is a wide range of shopping options in the country, including gems, spices, linen and batiks, art galleries and hand-made carvings.
Water conservation is especially important in Sri Lanka. Water is a precious resource needed for personal use, industry, farming and power generation (the island is heavily reliant on Hydro Electric Power). Avoid excessive use of water: consider taking a shower rather than a bath, or shorten the length of your shower, and consider asking for towels to be folded rather than washed each day.
Electricity conservation is essential in Sri Lanka. Power is a precious resource at present and the demand for electricity places an enormous strain on the economy. Try to conserve electricity where possible: make sure you turn off your lights etc. when you leave your bedroom, and consider limiting your use of air-conditioning – for example, cool down the room and then switch to an overhead fan.
Waste pollution is a serious problem in Sri Lanka. Disposal systems are often inadequate, whilst the recycling of many products is rare. The plastic bag is a particular blight, and will be offered for almost every purchase, so try to take your own bags when shopping. Cotton bags are also readily available.
Be wary while shopping to ensure you are not encouraging the wasteful destruction of important natural resources and/or endangered species. Avoid hard wood products likely to have been produced in an unsustainable manner, shells from beach traders or ancient artefacts.
Sri Lanka’s terrorist conflict ended in 2009 after a 20-year guerrilla war by the Tamil Tigers was defeated by government forces. Even at the height of the conflict, the vast majority of the island was violence-free. There has been no renewal of terrorism since the end of the war and Sri Lanka has experienced a large rise in tourist numbers. The conflict touched many lives with sadness and should not be regarded as a topic for casual conversation.
Beware of breaking baggage limits; your flight tickets should clearly state the maximum baggage weight. Additional charges may be levied, or equipment left behind. Requests for a higher limit can be made on your behalf, but success is not guaranteed. You can ship excess baggage to your final destination through the excess baggage counter, which offers better rates than similar airline-run services. This counter is located prior to the check in desks at the farewell area. Expect any unaccompanied excess baggage to reach your final destination 3-5 days after the day of departure.
Food and Drink
Rice and curry is the Sri Lankan staple, but a wide range of international dishes are available throughout the island. Bear in mind that purchasing local food and drink supports the locals rather than promoting costly imports. When eating, consider the old advice: ‘boil it, bake it, peel it or ignore it’. Be particularly wary of salads and unpeeled fruit and ensure your meat is thoroughly cooked.
Most importantly, drink and clean your teeth in bottled water only. This can be bought more cheaply from local shops than top hotels, but check that the seal is unbroken. Top hotels also supply flasks of boiled and filtered water. Coconut water is renowned as a settler of a queasy stomach, although some may prefer to take their medicinal coconut in the form of arrack, the local firewater.
Sri Lanka has more public holidays than anywhere else in the world, the most common being Poya Day, which occurs every full moon and is important to Buddhists for religious observances. Generally shops and businesses are closed on Poya days, the sale of alcohol and fresh meat is forbidden and entertainment can be restricted. If you would like to buy alcohol in advance of a Poya day, your chauffeur-guide will be able to assist you. For the dates of upcoming of national holidays, visit: www.srilanka.travel/srilankan_public_holiday
Language and Religion
Sinhala (spoken by more than 80% of the public) and Tamil are the national languages. English is widely spoken and understood in all but the most remote areas. Buddhism is the predominant religion, although Hindus, Muslims and Christians are also present.
All the top hotels offer a one-day laundry service, although prices vary widely. Cheaper launderettes are available in most towns, although quality is inconsistent.
Money and Security
Local currency is Sri Lankan Rupees. Currency can only be exchanged in Sri Lanka, so you would be best to bring US Dollars, British Pounds or Euros. The bank booths in the airport arrivals hall generally offer the most competitive rates and quick service. We advise against Traveler’s checks, which are rarely accepted. Credit cards are accepted in most shopping outlets, and ATM machines are widely available in major cities. Beware credit-card frauds whenever you pay direct. We offer a strict anti-fraud policy for your maximum protection.
Passports and Visas
Sri Lanka introduced a compulsory online visa system for all travelers arriving in the country in January 2012. Visitors must now apply for the Electronic Travel Authorization via www.eta.gov.lk established in the Department of Immigration and Emigration. See details in our Visa section.
Bartering over the price of goods is widely expected for a variety of transactions, including the hire of tuk-tuks and the purchase of handicrafts. Note though that not all sellers will quote you an inflated price and that therefore requires bargaining. Modern shops, for instance, have adopted Western habits where bartering is not welcomed. We recommend you try to ascertain the guide prices for goods or services before purchasing, and remember that a small and inconsequential saving for you could be an extremely important amount to the seller. Bargaining is best carried out in a light-hearted, courteous manner; aggressive haggling will offend the seller and may increase the price. If you make a purchase, beware extra import costs for tax, handling charges, customs, and delivery fees. In Australia, for example, fumigation certificates may also prove a problem.
Smoking in public areas in Sri Lanka is not allowed, but there are designated smoking areas for restaurants/pubs/cafes etc. Some establishments have a designated smoking area inside.
GMT +5.5 hours.
Whilst the recently built highway has helped to quicken many of the journeys, in particular airport transfers, travel around Sri Lanka often entails several long drives, sometimes on rough roads. Bathroom facilities during the drives can at times be very basic; anyone who would be uncomfortable in such a situation should not consider an overland journey around Sri Lanka.
An itinerary may call for a significant amount of walking on uneven paths, and you may encounter long and steep stairs at many of the sites you visit. Some of the historic sites have challenging climbs, which you should assess with your guide before attempting.
For taxi drivers, hotels and restaurants 10% is common. Often the service charge is included on your bill at hotels and restaurants. If you hire a car and driver, please also consider tipping your driver for good service. A good tip is anything upwards of $10 per day.
Trishaw or Tuk Tuk:
The simplest and cheapest way to travel short distances in Sri Lanka. Good-natured price bartering is widespread, although in Colombo this is often unnecessary, as many are fitted with a meter. In towns, work on a rough guide of about Rs50 a kilometer and agree the price before you set off.
In certain locations, such as Arugam Bay, tuk tuks are available to rent: we advise only those familiar driving on Asian roads to consider hiring a tuk tuk.
Taxis are good value for longer journeys and operate on set charges. However, be aware that taxis operating from 5-star hotels are dearer.
Cheap and plentiful, at least during the day, but often crowded and unreliable.
Journeys from Colombo-Nuwara Eliya and beyond, or Colombo-Matara are a peaceful way to enjoy some spectacular scenery. Prices are cheap, so booking the luxury of first-class in advance is advised. See our Train Travel section in your Booking Information document for more information.
Sri Lanka's roads will seem chaotic to all but the most experienced traveler in Asia. Travelers should be prepared for disruption due to roadworks and traffic congestion, which can cause delays to your road journeys. The journey times that we provide are therefore only an estimate. Independent car hire is possible upon production of credit card and driving license but, as chauffeur-driven cars can be arranged for similar cost, they are strongly advised.
Often available, although not to be recommended on anything but the quietest roads, as accident rates on busy roads are high.
Scooters and Motorbikes:
Particularly in the main tourist destinations, scooters are a popular way to travel and are available for hire. However, they are rarely found in established vehicle hire shops: most often, scooter/motorbike rentals are offered by locals running an independent business. You usually have to leave your passport with the vendor for the duration of the rental. We strongly advise that scooter/motorbike hire should only be considered by those with experience riding in Asia.
Helicopters and Sea Planes:
Helicopter and/or sea plane transfers are not only a luxurious and incredible way to travel round Sri Lanka, but are also extremely time-efficient. We use four Sri Lankan aviation companies, all of which offer a reliable and comfortable service: Senok Aviation, Cinnamon Air, Helitours and Simplifly. If you are interested in seeing the island by air, get in touch with your travel consultant for more information. Daily scheduled flights, charter flights and scenic flights are available.
- Slightly Chilled Guest House – one of the best kept secrets in Sri Lanka, this tranquil guest house is the perfect base from which to climb Adam’s Peak. The rooms are simple, but clean, the staff attentive and the food is delicious. You can't get a better location if you are going to Adams Peak, the setting and views are just exquisite. (Adam’s Peak, Dalhousie, 0513519430)
- Bandarawela Hotel – A historic hotel, which is worth a look. Enjoy afternoon high tea on the lawn. (No. 14, Welimada Road, 057 2222501)
- Jetwing Vil Uyana – lunch or dinner in the second floor restaurant with views to Sigiriya rock. (066 4923583)
- Sigiriya Village Hotel – extensive gardens and a stunning backdrop of the awe-inspiring Sigiriya Rock. (Hotel Road, Sigiriya, 066 2 286803)
- The Sanctuary at Tissawewa – formerly Tissawewa Rest House, this property has beautiful landscaped gardens and great food. (Old Puttalam Road, Old Town Anuradhapura, 025 2 222299)
- Gimanhala – a popular pit-stop in Dambulla for those heading to Jaffna, Sigiriya and the east coast. (754, Anuradhapura Road, 066 2 284864)
- The Lake House – stunning views over the lake in Polonnaruwa. (51000 Polonnaruwa, Pothgul Mawatha, 011 5 585858)
- The Ministry of Crab – this restaurant owned by Dharshan Munidasa and two famous cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara is a great experience. Enjoy delicious crabs, prawn curries and no fuss dining (Dutch Hospital, Col 1, 011 2342722)
- The Gallery Café – previously the studio of the architect, Geoffrey Bawa, this is one of the trendiest spots in town. Great atmosphere and great food. (Alfred House Gardens, Col 3, 011 2582162)
- Lagoon – good for seafood. You can choose from a mini market-style selection of fish, prawns, crabs and lobster and have them cooked to your preference. (Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Col 3, 011 2497371)
- Nihonbashi – fantastic Japanese restaurant (No. 11, Galle Face Terrace, Col 3, 011 2323847)
- Nuga Gama – a traditional village setting in the middle of the city. This is a good place to have Sri Lankan rice and curry although it is outside, therefore it is better to dine here in the evening. (Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Col 3, 011 2582162)
- Park Street Mews – a laid-back café atmosphere in the daytime. Good for lunch. 50/1 Park Street, Col 3, 011 2300133)
- Barefoot Café – an atmospheric lunch spot serving salads, sandwiches and quiches. There is also a good specials board with other dishes. (706 Galle Road, Col 3, 011 2589305)
- Kaema Sutra – contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine in the heart of Colombo. (Independence Ave, Colombo 00700, 011 2 670722)
- Shanmuga’s – specialises in vegetarian Indian dishes. (53/3 Ramakrishna Road, Wellawatte, 0112361384)
- Upalis – beautiful views of Viharamaha Devi Park and the iconic Town Hall. (65 CWW Kannangara Mawatha, Colombo, 011 2 695812)
- Café Francais – run by the Pourcel brothers, this contemporary restaurant is a traditional French bistro in the heart of Colombo (48 Park Street, Col 3, 011 4502602)
- Amangalla Hotel – delicious food, a wonderful atmosphere and great for afternoon high tea. They can also do special occasions such as birthdays beautifully. (10 Church Street, 091 2233388)
- Galle Fort Hotel – a great spot for lunch (28 Church Street, 091 2232870)
- Peddler’s Inn Café – for milkshakes, sandwiches and an informal atmosphere (92 Peddler Street, 0773 141477)
- Fort Printers – A great setting for dinner. (39 Peddler Street, 091 2247976)
- Crep-ology – a great range of sweet and savory crepes in a casual setting. Open for lunch and dinner. (53 Leyn Baan Street 0912 234 777)
- Fortaleza – delicious Asian inspired fusion dining in a warm and cosy ambience. (No. 9 Church Cross Street, Galle, 091 2 233415).
- Elita – warehouse-turned-restaurant overlooking the lighthouse in Galle Fort that does great fusion dining.
- Poonie’s Kitchen – delicious food, in particular the desserts, in a tranquil courtyard setting. (63 Pedlars Street, Galle Fort, 091 222 63 49).
- Fort Bazaar – Middle Eastern décor and a buzzy atmosphere, the restaurant serves delicious gourmet food. (Church Street, Galle Fort)
- Lucky Fort – delicious rice and curry. (7 Prarawa Street, Galle, 091 2 242922)
- Kahanda Kanda – a magical lunch spot. Eat in the ambalama with views to Koggala Lake and over paddy fields. There is a delicious three-course lunch menu. Afterwards you can enjoy a swim in the dark emerald-colored pool. (Angulugaha091 4943700)
- Tri Lanka – offers an elaborate seven-course dinner in beautiful surroundings on the edge of Koggala Lake. They also have a range of unusual cocktails (such as the beetroot martini) and various flavors of vodka, ranging from lemongrass to chili. (Aladuwa Watte, Pelassa, Thitthagalle, Ahangama 80650)
- Helga’s Folly – for something totally different and extraordinary. A good place for a cup of afternoon tea. (Off Mahamaya Mawatha, 081 2234571)
- Kandy House – a great spot for lunch or dinner. The Kandy House is a stunning old family house that has been sensitively restored into a boutique hotel. Make sure your driver knows where it is as it is out of Kandy town but well worth a visit. (Amunugama Walauwa, Gunnepana, 081 492 1394)
- Slightly Chilled – is a welcome stop on any trip through Kandy, especially to rest weary feet. There is a relaxed atmosphere, and simple yet scrumptious food. Watching the world go by from the roof top balcony is a must: the view is one of the most outstanding in the city. (No 29a, Anagarika, Dharmapala, Mawatha, Kandy, 94771887255).
- The Empire Café – Conveniently located in center of Kandy right next to Temple of the Tooth. An iconic setting for a relaxed snack or light meal overlooking a UNESCO heritage site. Open all day and serving quality coffee and teas, smoothies, juices, breakfast, salads, Sri Lankan curry, soups, delicious sandwiches, pasta, cakes and snacks. (Temple Street, Kandy, 081 2 239870, open from 07:30 - 19:30)
Theva Residency – one of Kandy’s best restaurants, Theva Residency sits in the hills of Hantana and has expansive views of the city centre. Delicious food and stunning presentation. Try their signature cocktail and mouth-watering desserts. Theva Residency Road, Kandy 20000, 081 7388296).
- The Golf Club is a great place to sit and eat toasted sandwiches for lunch.
- Hill Club – Western cuisine and great authentic Sri Lankan curries. Beautiful gardens.
- Tip – stop at one of the strawberry cafes around Gregory Lake and enjoy freshly picked strawberries.
- Maya Villa – a good lunch spot. (Old House, Temple Road, Aranwella, Beliatta, 047 5679025/6)
- Amanwella – a romantic spot for dinner in front of the ocean. (Bodhi Mawatha, Wella Mawatha Godellawela, 047 224 1333)
- The Last House – does great lunch and dinners for outside guests. Ananda does an amazing crab curry. (Pubudu Mawatha, Seenimodara, Nakulugamuwa, 081 5638006)
- Coco Tangalla – a wonderful setting for lunch. Enjoy a swim in the pool or the sea too. (Pubudu Mawatha, Seenimodara, Nakulugamuwa, 081 563 8006)
- Kingfisher – for great food and cocktails on the beach. (Devala Road, 0773 408 404 / 5)
- One Love – an informal, relaxed setting, great for Sri Lankan rice and curry. (Devala Road)
- Lucky Tuna – simple fresh seafood dishes on the beach (Devala Road, 091 4380346)
Colombo to Kandy
- Ambepussa Rest House, Ambepussa – A lovely al fresco setting and a good rice and curry buffet at lunchtime as well as an a la carte menu.
- Wahalkade, Ambepussa – A well-designed restaurant set by a river. A lunchtime rice and curry buffet as well as an a la carte and kid’s menu.
Airport to Cultural Triangle
- Diyadahara, Kurunegala – A Sri Lankan rice and curry restaurant.
- Saruketha, Kurunegala – A Sri Lankan rice and curry restaurant. 037 4690667
- Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sigiriya – A lovely setting for lunch in the second floor restaurant with views towards Sigiriya rock. 066 4923585-6
- Kandalama, Dambulla – Great restaurants to enjoy lunch in this architectural marvel of a hotel. 066 5555000
Cultural Triangle to Kandy
- Ena de Silva, Matale – A wonderful place to stop for lunch on the way from the Cultural Triangle to Kandy. This is the home of Ena de Silva, Sri Lanka’s most famous batik artist. Enjoy seeing how batik patterns are made before settling down for a Kandyan banquet with over thirty different dishes. Book ahead – minimum 4 pax. 066 2222777
- Ranwelli Spice Gardens, Matale – Delicious Sri Lankan cuisine.
- Sirilak Spice Gardens, Matale – Great setting, good rice and curry.
Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
- Ramboda Falls Inn – Lovely setting by a waterfall. Good for Sri Lankan cuisine.
- Blue Field Tea Factory – Enjoy visiting a tea factory, followed by lunch
Kandy to Bandarawela
- Nuwara Eliya Golf Club – A beautiful setting for a simple lunch. The toasted sandwiches are famous!
Hatton to Tangalle
- Kitulgala Rest House – Good for Sri Lankan rice and curry.
Yala to Galle
- Amanwella – Expect a fabulous lunch in a stunning beachfront setting. 047 2241333
- The Last House – Fantastic food. The crab curry is famous. Book ahead. 047 2241333
- Coco Tangalla – Great food. Book ahead. 081 5638006
- Taprobane Island – A magical setting. Wade across the water and set foot upon this private island. A great spot for lunch and a swim. Book ahead. 091 4380275
- Wijaya Restaurant, Thalpe – Great food and a wonderful setting. Try the oven-fired pizzas and the seafood dishes. 0777 903431
- Why Beach, Thalpe – secluded villa with great seafood and other delicious lunch options – essential stop for food lovers.
- Lantern, Mirissa – beautiful beach front. Serves up local and international food.
Galle to Colombo (Coast road)
- Lunuganga – Take a garden tour of the late Geoffrey Bawa’s estate. Follow this with a delicious lunch on the lawn. Book ahead. 077 3655865
- Club Villa, Bentota – A lovely setting to have lunch. 034 2275312
- Villa Bentota – Just next door to Club Villa, this is a great place to have lunch. The menu includes many of the famous dishes from the Gallery Café in Colombo. 034 2275311
Sri Lanka has wonderful jewelry, handloom textiles, books and handicrafts and we find that most people like to a bit of shopping along the way and take something home. The following is a list of some of our favorites. As a general rule we think shopping in general is best left to the end of your trip, particularly for handlooms, home ware and art. Having said this, we find Kandy is probably the best place to buy jewelry from a price-quality perspective, as there are many outlets in competition. Important note: This list is intended as a useful guide for those wishing to make purchases during their trip to Sri Lanka. The shops included below are merely suggestions based on personal taste and our customer feedback: as a company, we do not officially promote or recommend any shops.
- Nishantha Wood Carving – Small gift items to take home as well as furniture. You can also see a carving demonstration. (No.3, 26th Post, Hathamunua Road, 027 2222187)
- Henry Batiks – Interesting to see how batiks are made in a live demonstration. (Sigiriya Road, Inamaluwa, Dambulla)
- Silk Gardens – Here you can find silk saris, scarves, T-shirts. You can try wearing a sari as well as see a demonstration of how silk is made. (Trincomalee Road, Inamaluwa, 066 2286644)
Art and Antiques
- Kandyan Arts and Crafts Centre – Good for buying local craft items. (Next to Queens Hotel)
- Waruna Antiques – An interesting treasure trove of antiques, which includes furniture, paintings and jewelry. (761 Peradeniya Road, 814470925)
- Hemachandras – A reliable jewelry shop. (939 Peradeniya Road, 081 2387387)
- Premadasa – Another established and reliable jewelry shop. (692 Peradeniya Road, 081 2389789)
Clothing and Gifts
- Barefoot – A smaller outlet of the main Colombo store. Great for gifts to take home – colorful sarongs, clothes, toys, books, tea and more. (41 Pedlar Street, 091 2226299)
- Exotic Roots – A fun shop selling bowls, jewelry and colorful paintings. (32 Church Street, Galle Fort, 091 2245454)
- Lolapalooza – A fun shop selling beautiful Mimimango clothes, ideal for the beach. Also bags, jewelry, scarves and gift items. (Pedlar Street, 091 2242702)
- Mimimango – A small boutique selling beautiful clothes by the designer Jo Eden. Beautiful dresses, kaftans, scarves and bags made in light, cool materials that are ideal for the heat. (40 Leyn Baan Street, 091 2234765)
- Orchid House – A great shop for buying gifts to take home – tea, spices, linen clothes, coconut spoons, bowls made from kitul wood and much more. (28A Hospital Street, 091 7429090)
- KK Shop – A great interiors shop selling fine linen, towels, fabric and other items to decorate the home. This is a partner concept to Kahanda Kanda, the boutique hotel. (36 Church Street, 091 7212391)
Art and Antiques
- Olanda – A wonderful treasure trove of antiques – beds, Dutch chests, columns, lamps, plates and much more. (30 Leyn Baan Street, 091 2234398)
- Sithuvili – An atmospheric shop selling chests and bowls decorated with traditional Buddhist temple designs including vines and lotus flowers. There are also painted wooden panels and large paintings. (56 Leyn Baan Street, 0777914277)
- The Museum Shop – Full of antique and precious jewelry as well as lots of other interesting artefacts. (31-39 Leyn Baan Street)
- Manjari – Galle’s main department store. Fun to have a browse. Great for colorful trivia – fabrics, beads, sequins, feathers etc! (Wakwella Road)
- The Old Railway – Beautiful clothes and dresses made by Catherine Rawson as well as soft toys and home ware items. There is a good café upstairs too. (942 Havelock Road, Galle, situated on the canal between the railway and bus stations, 0776 263 400)
- Udara Antiques – Worth browsing for antiques, lamps and pots. (266 Matara Road Peellegoda Unawatuna, 091 2224315)
Bath and Body
- Siddhalepa – A good range of ayurvedic products such as balms and creams as well as a spa. (33 Wijerama Mawatha, Colombo 07, 011 2698161)
- Spa Ceylon – Beautiful ayurvedic products made using ingredients famous to Sri Lanka such as pink lotus, sandalwood, ginger and ayurveda. A wonderful place to buy treats to take home. Also try out their spa treatments – foot massages, facials and much more. There are five main outlets in Colombo:
- Royal Indulgence Store and Spa: 103/7 Galle Road, Colombo 3, 011-2338111
- Boutique: 8B Crescat Boulevard, Colombo 3, 011-5544398
- Park Street Mews: 48D Park Street, Colombo 2, 011 5340011/2307676
- Dutch Hospital Courtyard, Fort, Colombo 1, 011 5666663
- White by Spa Ceylon: 14 Ward Place, Colombo 7, 011-2680800
- Aashkii – Offers handpicked designer ethnic wear and saris. (1 Maitland Crescent, Colombo 7, 0112 699196)
- Barefoot – This shop, café and gallery has become a Colombo institution. Talks, exhibition openings, film showings and quiz nights fill the evenings. During the day you can enjoy browsing for sarongs, gifts, books and toys. Everything sold here is uniquely Sri Lankan. (706 Galle Road, Colombo 3, 011 258 0114)
- Crescat – A shopping center in central Colombo. There are Mlesna and Dilmah teashops as well as a Spa Ceylon and a Keells supermarket in the basement where you can buy spices. (77 Galle Road, Colombo 3)
- Dutch Hospital – The restored Dutch Hospital has an Odel department shop, Barefoot, Spa Ceylon for bath and body products, Siddhalepa for ayurvedic products, Colombo jewelers, a teashop and a crafts shop. (Colombo 1)
- Gandhara – An eclectic shop selling furniture, home ware items, books, clothes and much more. (28 Stratford Avenue, Kirulapane, Colombo 6, 011 2596329)
- Melache – A small boutique selling clothes by a handful of talented Sri Lankan designers. (No 29/3 Visaka Pvt Road, Colombo 4, 011 2595405)
- Odel – Colombo’s biggest department store. A great place to stock up on winter clothes. (No 5, Alexandra Place, 011 2682713)
- Rithithi – Stunning Indian saris, fabrics, scarves and jewelry. (19, Alfred House Garden, Colombo 3, 011 2581988)
- Paradise Road – This is the well-known brand and chain of shops by lifestyle designer Shanth Fernando. There are four different outlets in Colombo:
- Paradise Road – The main store selling home ware with a small café upstairs. (213 Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7)
- A small outlet at the Gallery Café. (Alfred House Rd, Col 3, 011 2556563)
- The Paradise Road Studio, just next to the Gallery Café, which has books and home ware. (15 Alfred House Gardens, Col 3, 011 2506844)
- The Design Warehouse – For furniture. (61/3 Ward Place, Col 7, 011 2691056)
- Pettah Market – A traditional bazaar area close to the Fort district. Each street specializes in a different product from fabric, beads and sequins to cashews and dates, dried fish, ayurvedic medicinal herbs and gold. Best to go before 11am when it is a bit cooler or in the late afternoon. There are mosques and Hindu kovils in the streets that you can also visit.
- Premadasa – Good for gold jewelry and gems. (560 Galle Road, Colombo 03, 011 2595178)
Art and Antiques
- Green Path Fence – Along the fence that runs along the edge of Viharamahadevi Park and Green Path emerging artists display their paintings. Best to visit at weekends when there is more work on show.
- Hempel Galleries – Represents a handful of talented Sri Lankan artists. On appointment only. (30/3 Barnes Place, Colombo 7, 0777907321)
- Paradise Road Galleries – At the Gallery Café. The exhibitions change every six weeks and the gallery shows artists from around the world. (Alfred House Rd, Col 3, 011 2556563)
- Saskia Fernando Gallery – One of the city’s most interesting contemporary art galleries, which represents a host of Sri Lankan talent. (61 Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, 011 7 429010)
- Theertha Red Dot Gallery – Theertha is an international network of artists and art organizations that promotes exchange of ideas and innovation within the contemporary visual arts. (39/4 A, D.S Senanayake Street Borella, 0773665548)
- Villa Saffron – Antique and contemporary furniture. (No 15, Bogahahena Road,
Things to Do/Activities
- Ballooning – Sunrise Ballooning, Dambulla - Enjoy seeing ancient ruins, jungle and national parks from the air. Tel: 0773 522013
- Bicycling – Idle Tours in Galle – Offers a selection of great bike rides inland from Galle and Thalpe. Tel: 0777 906156
- Peter Bluck in Colombo – Offers wonderful biking holidays. Tel: 0777 66903
- Boat Charter –
- Borderlands – A six meter pleasure cruiser (takes four passengers). Moored in Weligama and ideal for whale watching. Tel: 011 4410110
- Sail Sri Lanka – Operates luxury day-long sailing cruises n Beruwela from October to April and Passikudah from April to October Tel: 0711 885 753
- Diving –
- Unawatuna Dive Centre - From here you can do diving, snorkeling and get your PADI certificate. Tel: 091 2244693 or Pearl Divers Tel: 091 22 42015.
- Sri Lanka Diving Tours - Felician Fernando runs good diving tours and day trips on the East Coast. He is a PADI IDC staff instructor. Tel: 0777 648459
- Rafting and Canoeing –
- Borderlands – Canoeing, kayaking and rafting in Kitulgala and other locations around the country. Tel: 011 4410110
- Idle Tours, Galle - Paddle the Ginganga River. Tel: 0778 034703
- Rainforest Tours – Rainforest Rescue, Galle - A good range of rainforest walks and Koggala lake boat trips. Tel: 091 2232585
- Tea – Handunugoda Tea Estate, near Koggala – Learn how tea is produced and processed on a guided walk around the estate. Enjoy tasting different teas with a piece of chocolate cake. Tel: 077 3290999
- Turtle Spotting – Rekawa – Turtle Conservation Project. Ask your driver to take you here.
- Watersports – Sunshine Watersports, Bentota: Have fun tubing, water-skiing, banana boating and jet skiing on the Bentota River. Tel: 0777 941857
- Yoga – We can organize a yoga instructor to travel with you for a few days if you like. Here are some yoga centers /spots that we recommend.
- Galle – Amangalla hotel in Galle Fort (Tel: 091 2233388) and Secret Garden hotel (091 2241857) in Unawatuna.
- Colombo –Yoga Café - check the schedule on http://yogacafelk.blogspot.com
- Kandy – The Samadhi Centre, set in a forest, is a great spot for yoga and meditation. Tel: 081 4470925
- Koggala – Lara Baumann, creator of Quantum Yoga. Classes held at a picturesque villa or the tree-top Yoga shala at Tri Lanka.