Getting to Sri Lanka – Negombo – Colombo

Sri Lanka index HERE and all PHOTOS HERE

We’re quite lucky, we can leave the house, walk 100m and get a bus with one connection to Heathrow and jump on a plane.  This time we’re flying Emirates via Dubai – decided that was worth paying a bit more than going on Jet Airways via Mumbai…. 

Whilst we like blagging our routes, accommodation and the like, getting to a new country/continent is always stressful.  So we’ve prebooked a few days accommodation and airport pick up by the guesthouse.   Yeah – copout, but better than fighting with airport tuktuk mafia when tired, and the price is the same.

Rare bar selling cold beer

We are flying into Colombo, and out of again in a month, so decided to stay in Negombo which is closer to the airport to acclimatise, and then just visit Colombo for a day before heading off to Kandy . We can return to Colombo at the end if desired

Unlike SE Asia where most guesthouses have their own websites, in Sri Lanka that is rarer, but most are on booking.com or hotels.com.  For our Negombo stay we are staying at Family House (9.4/10)  which is around £20/night with breakfast and $8 for airport pickup.  We don’t think accommodation at short notice is a problem, but I think getting the “>8.5/10” places becomes more challenging!

Negombo Beach (hmmmm)

Before getting to SL you need to get an ETA (travel approval) and as usual there are 1001 scam sites out there – so ensure you go to the correct site – http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US – (note ending on .gov.lk ) – and get you paperwork sorted.  Trivial, just seems like another $35pp fleecing exercise!

So with everything sorted, off we set…..

The flights to Sri Lanka were fine, the first hop to Dubai was smooth with good movies, and the second leg we managed a bit of sleep.  Can’t complain but does remind us how much we hate flying – such a chore to get to places!  But we arrived in one piece and got picked up by our homestay/guesthouse owner in a little NV200 van – home from home.

Negombo fish market, drying fish in the sun

The driving was as expected, but our driver a little too reactive for our tastes, but he assured us he’d get us there safely. Which he did – but only after going through a non existent gap and hitting a bridge wiping out the front corner of the van.  No big deal, but the joy of the homestay was hearing the ear-bashing he got from his wife!

We took leave and ventured into Negombo on the beach strip to get used to how things work and to grab a much needed cold beer.  After getting back and going to sleep Mel was a little ill – but as we’d not eaten anything we put it down to dehydration as we hadn’t really had much to drink and it is vvv warm and humid. 

Negombo Lagoon

So on the next days walk down to the fish market and into town centre, we actually drank 3x 1.5L bottles of water by 1pm!  So lesson learned, and more water for us.  Prices for cold water from shop varied from 60-80 LKR for 1.5L.  We also bought a sun umbrella and a can of mozzie spray!  The walk to the fish market was around 5km but interesting through the shops, and on the beach the fishermen were drying out fish and selling lots of fresh ones of different sizes.  Some fish were gutted and there were buckets of fish innards giving off a nice smell.  After seeing the mess not sure I’d want to swim or dive in Negombo….

For our first meal we opted for a highly rated restaurant which was nice and busy, but all westerners.  Around 1500 LKR (£6.50) for both.  Nice enough but not a mind blowing new dish like your first ever real Thai green curry for instance.

Walk to the station along tracks, just north of Negombo

Leaving Negombo we took the train to Colombo Fort which was only 10 mins late.  The Sri Lankan railway website said 40 LKR for third class, and 80 LKR for second class.  As it was, it was 55 LKR and all carriages were the same.  Fairly full with people and buskers, beggars, and the odd irritating guy trying to befriend us.  Well Mel!

We’d ordered some first class tickets for the observation car from a Sri Lankan company a few months ago, and had to collect the tickets from the station….  And amazingly it all worked well and well worth booking ahead (we used Visit Sri Lanka Tours, and we suggest print out clearly reference/details).  Looking at the board pretty much most bookable trains were down as “full”.  That said, someone in the line did manage to buy a ticket for the next day but not the observation car…  Guess you take a chance….

Columbo towers, assume designed this way rather than Sri Lankan building!

Our hotel in Colombo was surprisingly good and really just an overnight stop – so we explored a bit on foot, with the usual temples and stupas, lake, beach and lots of new posh apartments marketed to the “privileged few” – nice!!  Shows the classes in society are still very much in use.  Near out hotel there were a lack of eateries, so we opted for a local one, the sort with barely a menu, wipe clean tables, and full of locals….  What could go wrong…..!   A curry and noodles meal cost 180 LKR (80p!) – so does show what the tourist tax puts on for presentation (and a knife and fork!!) 

We survived the night and ventured out for breakfast pastries (rather than curry) for 200LKR. 

Genuine local food (80p per plate)

As you may guess, the cities are interesting and a good place to get a feel of how things work, but aren’t really the reason we’ve come to Sri Lanka – that comes next….

Colombo!

Next installment, click HERE

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