Colombo, Sri Lanka - Stein Travel
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Colombo

A pretty metropolis sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it is a description that fits Colombo, Sri Lanka's largest city, a beehive of commotion with more than a million inhabitants.

Frenetic traffic fills the main Galle Road that runs through the city from the district of Fort, parallel with the coast, connecting all the suburban enclaves down to the town of Galle in the south. Fort is the historic centre of the city that has become the main business district, filled with shops, office blocks and government buildings. It is here that most of the gracious old buildings from the Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial eras are to be seen. East of Fort is the exciting Pettah bazaar district, where the streets are crammed with shops and stalls selling all manner of goods from vegetables to gemstones. Further south the city's seafront is known as Galle Face Green, where locals enjoy games of cricket, fly kites or take evening strolls watching the sunset. Beyond this lies Colombo's smart neighbourhood, Cinammon Gardens, boasting elegant mansions, tree-lined streets and the lovely Viharamaha Devi Park. The closest beach resort to the city is Mount Lavinia, about six miles (10km) from the city.

Main tourist attractions include museums, historic buildings and churches, and beautiful parks. What is especially enjoyable is the variety of cuisine that can be sampled at any one of the city's plentiful bars, restaurants, sidewalk cafes and kiosks.

Information & Facts

Climate

Colombo's weather stays evenly hot and humid throughout the year, with no distinct seasons apart from two rainy seasons. Heavy monsoon rains occur between May and August, and again between October and January.

Getting Around

Catching a bus in Colombo is an experience in itself and is perhaps recommended only for hardened travellers. Buses become incredibly crowded and are erratic, with no obvious schedule. A far safer way to negotiate the city is via taxi. Prices should be agreed on before hand as very few have meters, though they are usually cheap and easy to hail. Driving in the city is as much of an adventure as taking a bus and normal traffic rules do not seem to apply. It would be well worth rather hiring a car with a driver. Three-wheeled auto rickshaws are also available, and although usually somewhat cheaper than taxis, are not exactly a comfortable ride.

Language

Most people speak Sinhala, which is the national and official language. Tamil is also spoken, and English is spoken at most tourist establishments.

Money

The unit of currency is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR), which is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards are widely accepted, and travellers cheques in US Dollars are recommended. ATMs are becoming more common, but outside the main cities they are unlikely to accept international cards. Credit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change, banks and hotels, but exchanging cash is more expensive than exchanging travellers cheques. Banks are closed on Sundays.

Time

Local time is GMT +5.30.

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