Colombo (CMB) Stopover Tips | Australian Frequent Flyer
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Colombo (CMB) Stopover Tips

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This thread is a place to share tips and recommendations for stopovers at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) in Sri Lanka. You can discuss things like:
  • How to get from the airport to the city
  • Things to do (both near the airport and in the city)
  • Where to stay/hotel recommendations (both near the airport and in the city)
  • Your favourite CMB airport lounges
  • Airport facilities such as luggage storage and showers
  • Any other destination-specific tips or "hidden gems" you've discovered that could be useful for someone stopping over
Do you have a great tip that other travellers might find useful when stopping over in Colombo? Add your suggestions to this thread.

Read the AFF article here: The Ultimate Colombo Stopover Guide
 

Henry48

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It's a fair way from the airport into Columbo city (~50 mins) , so we always stay in Negombo (~25 Mins) for transit stops. There are many options there but after a long haul flight wherever you've come from, we recommend the Jasmin Villa Ayurvedic Resort. Book in advance, and they'll send a car for you. The accommodation is spacious, low key, well appointed and very affordable at around A$50/night, but the Ayurvedic treatments are outstanding. The food at Jasmin Villa is also excellent. If you must go to the city, we recommend the Renuka City Hotel, which has an excellent rooftop pool and an outstanding restaurant, The Palmyra. If you're not a regular in Sri Lanka, be aware that the National Sport is ripping off visitors (albeit with a smile!). Hotel tax, which is always added to the price you'll get on your booking engine is an eye-watering 21-26%. This can sometimes be avoided by booking direct with your hotel, however - make sure you check via email in advance. The tax does not apply to smaller operations.
 

RooFlyer

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Several of us on AFF have used a private tour run by 'Lucky' and he's very good. PM for details.

I'd second staying at Negombo. My hotel was the Pledge3, a good small hotel close to some good eating options, although maybe 20-30 mins from the airport.
 

philelltt

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Sri Lankan airlines offers an inclusive overnight hotel stay on flight tickets with more than 8 hour break. You need to book it by e-mail ahead of time. On arrival you will be directed to a transfer desk. It will take about an hour or 2 from arrival to hotel bed. You'll be given meal vouchers and a return transfer. Amazingly, it works.
 

RooFlyer

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Sri Lankan airlines offers an inclusive overnight hotel stay on flight tickets with more than 8 hour break.
Wow, I didn't know that. Is it for all classes of travel and are there any conditions on booking to qualify for it (ie direct with them ...) ? Do you know if it can it be part of a OW RTW?
 

Austman

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The details are here:

Transit Accommodation

Don't get too excited though! For the past couple of years they have been using the Ramada near the airport. It's OK, but only just! Staff are very nice however. And consistently it's a pretty ordinary experience getting there. Process, process and then some more process. But you get there eventually!
 

1963transtasman

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The best lounge would be Emirates followed by Sri Lankan
Duty free is very good you can even buy a Fridge!
If you need a Taxi into Colombo the fare is fixed
The largest Taxi Company is Kangaroo Cabs
Worth downloading their App
I always get a SIM card in the arrivals Hall and call the company to tell them
I’ve arrived
It’s a good idea to email them first as they have special fares sometimes
Don’t ask their Driver to meet you in the Arrivals Hall they charge extra for that
Tell the Driver to go via the Express way it’s another 300 Rupees and worth it
Accomodation in Colombo
Tuk Tuks are banned from the airport
The Galle Face Hotel is excellent and near one of Asia’s top 50 restaurants Nihonbashi
The later offer an early dining discount in one part of their Restaurant
The Galle Face Hotel has an excellent High Tea about $16 Aussie per person
Another great place to stay is the Colombo Swimming Club
You need to belong to a Reciprocal Club to stay there The ROSL is one such Club and cheap to Join
Mensa is a great Tea shop in the Crescat Mall near the CSC
There is a supermarket and food court in the basement and there is a great Menswear shop worth visiting
If you are going to Kandy and want to stay somewhere relaxing try Summit View Guest House at Peradeniya The Hosts are very honest and they have a great Pool on top of a Hill
Kandy town is very noisy that’s why I always stay at Summit View
It’s near the famed Botanical Gardens and University
 

Milboo

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I’m also a fan of Pledge3 - they offer a free transfer from the airport. I preferred staying in Negombo vs driving into Colombo after a midnight arrival. We had a police officer try and shake down our driver - and also asked me to hand over my passport to check it.

ATM at airport - just before you head into arrivals (where drivers wait etc) there is a line of money exchange places - head to the far left and around the side is 2 ATM.

Otherwise, on arrival there are 2 places that you can queue for arrivals clearance. Don’t necessarily stop at the first one as the one behind (to the left) tends to be quicker.

For departures - there is a full security clearance to even get in the airport, with X-ray and wanding. And the most intimate of pat downs I’ve ever experienced! Departure queues once checked in can back up and tend to move slowly (around time of the SQ departure). Lounges are relatively basic (SQ access). There is a further security check at the boarding gate too.

All in all it is an easy airport to navigate.

Cinnamon Grand was fine for one night - nice pool.
Colombo traffic is a little chaotic, especially getting in and out of the city.
Express way is convenient (think it is now completed to the airport) but I really enjoyed the drive around the coast (heading to Galle) - picturesque and interesting.
 
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I stopped over in Colombo for a couple of nights last year. Really enjoyed the food and I would recommend the walking tour run by Harold from Colombo Walks.

As an Australian you need to apply online for a Sri Lankan visa. But if you're in transit for under 48 hours, you qualify for a transit visa which doesn't cost anything.

I actually really liked the UL Serendib lounge at CMB, although I realise it's not for everyone. You can get a free massage there.
 

MarkMelbourne

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A few more tips:

The arrival hall is a good / safe opportunity to:

1. Exchange USD or AUD to Sri Lankan rupees for a competitive price. After counting my money, I hand back one big note and ask them to change it to small denominations to start me off. (5000Rs will be hard to use in small places. 50Rs or 100Rs is useful for a small tip for someone in a toilet (handing you paper, turning on the tap) or for someone who loads your bag into a car. On that note: Men at the airport will try hard to confuse you into paying 1000Rs or more as a tip for the 10seconds it takes to put your bag in the boot. A simple no thanks, or if you weren't quick enough and your bag has been loaded, 100Rs would be plenty. The minimum daily wage is 400Rs.)

Side story: I once made the mistake of trying to change AUD500 at a street money changer, they literally had to send staff to another branch to fulfil my request, and after 45mins I had this wad of small notes so massive that people were staring in disbelief.

2. Get a pre-paid SIM at one of the booths. The SIM is free, and the attendant will tailor a plan for you. Last time I paid ~$10 for a month with calls and data. It can be topped up on the street if required.

3. Book your transport to the city or elsewhere. On the right hand side wall, there are pre-paid fixed price transport operators (private drivers). I have heard that the booth on the very right has Government Controlled pricing. There is more than one company to check prices with in the same location.

In Colombo:

1. Use a “Meter taxi” (tuk tuk) when in Colombo – just pay the fare on the meter, plus a small tip if the driver is nice. There will be annoying taxi 'pimps' at popular locations trying to 'help' you. You want a 'meter taxi' and nothing else - if the meter is 'broken' or they want to haggle on a price in advance, move on to another driver immediately.

By the way, if you find a nice driver don't hesitate to book him all day. Tell him where you want to go and agree on a rate for 4 hours or whatever. He'll be happy with the premium salary earned, and you'll have someone happily waiting to take you anywhere ... without dealing with hustlers trying to take you on a 'tour' for the day. You might even get some local knowledge. (You may be invited to his home to meet his kids and have a cup of tea, for me 'Unfortunately on this trip I'm just too busy. Thank-you and maybe next time.')

2. Don’t tip if you see ‘service tax’ on your bill, the tip has been included already. Otherwise I always tip when I feel like I’m getting a good price (as opposed to inflated tourist price) and someone has made an effort in their job. A few dollars to us goes a long way in Sri Lanka. And lets face it, if we are 'rich' enough to travel to their country, we can pay a bit more.

3. I liked visiting the shop 'Barefoot' which also has a lovely beer garden out the back. The prices aren't cheap, but the quality and range is an excellent example of the best of Sri Lanka.

Enjoy.
 
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legseleven

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We have an organised work trip/tour next week to Sri Lanka, spa treatments are included. Would tipping in US dollars be okay? How much would you think? Thanks for any advice.
 

Daver6

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The best lounge would be Emirates followed by Sri Lankan
I actually really liked the UL Serendib lounge at CMB, although I realise it's not for everyone. You can get a free massage there.
Looking at lounges options. Will be arriving about 11pm and departing two hours later. LEaving on CX in J as a OWE. Also have PP lounge access.

From what I can gather UL has two lounges. Serenediva and Serendib. What's the difference?

Seems that CX also grant access to the Lotus First Class Lounge for OWE. I'd have access to this via PP too which actually has very generous guesting allowance

Maximum 6 hour stay - Limited to six guests per cardholder, subject to a per person charge, where applicable - Access may be restricted due to space constraints - Children under 2 years are admitted free.
And finally there's also the Palm Strip PP lounge.

I might want a shower and highly likely some dinner. Based on this, any comments?
 

Gigi

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Mr G is a cricket tragic so we go to Sri Lanka when the tests are on.
We change money in the arrivals hall.
We get sim cards in the arrivals hall.
We get a taxi into the city.
We have stayed twice at the Kingsbury Hotel. It has a good breakfast, a nice pool and was once close to the water
The first time we went, I booked a 'boutique hotel' which had red lights that lit up the bed!
Always get a tuk tuk with a metre.
Try a sunset drink at the Galle Face Hotel - we don't stay there as the pool isn't that great.
Kandy - we got the train from Colombo for the experience. We stayed at the Queens Hotel, noisy but on the lake. Visit The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
We got the sea plane - Cinnamon Air - from Kandy back to Colombo - only two of us on the plane and views were great.
Galle a beaut place to visit, very interesting.
Unawantana - beach is not that great but worth the visit.
Sightseeing Sigiriya Rock (lots of climbing) and Dambulla Caves.
Shopping is ok- I can shop anywhere.
We flew to the Maldives as a side trip once. Got upgraded to F class - wish the flight had been longer than an hour and a half.
Favourite breakfast : hoppers.
We have also flown to Europe with Qatar from Colombo.
 

CraigF

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Just got finished reading this thread in preparation for my stopover, and there's so much great info here! You're all awesome!
 

1963transtasman

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If you want to use Tuk Tuks in Colombo its true they are metered but the drivers will change the rate on the meter
The best way is to use Uber and you can select a Tuk Tuk that way
I was at the Majestic Shopping Center in Colombo and wanted a Tuk Tuk to take me about 3.4km to where i stay
One Tuk Tuk driver said 400 rupees , i showed him the pr1ce i could get on Uber for a Tuk , it was 104 rupees
I use Kangaroo Cabs and they are excellent .
The best Thai restaurant in Colombo is Dao Krua Thai 618 Galle Rd Kollupitiya It has only 4 tables so book
It cost me $8 a person in July .I go to Sri Lanka every year .If you are going to Kandy Cafe Nihonbashi is very good , about $35 each
One of the best meals that i have ever had in my life cost $13 for two and it was at vegetarian restaurant in Kandy called Sri Krishna Dosai
Its worth going to Kandy but its too noisy to stay in town i always stay at Summit View Guest House at
Phihibiyahena Road Megoda, Kalugamuwa Peradeniya, Kandy 20409 You wont be ripped off here , the Host Liz and Luc are honest

1571736086867.png
 

1963transtasman

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Nov 4, 2013
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Does anyone have any comparison information on Columbo Duty Free Liquor (mainly Gin) prices?
Not specifically but the prices are all in US $ at the airport
The allowance for in bound duty free is very good
I buy tourist stuff in Colombo because the same item can cost less in the same shop in Colombo
Eg I saw the same mug in the branch of a well know no store in Colombo at $7 cheaper than their airport branch
 

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