Most people entering or leaving Sri Lanka choose to stay in either Colombo or Negombo due to their proximity to the airport. Read on for a comparison of the two to decide which is best to include in your itinerary.
Colombo is slightly further away from Bandaranaike Airport, however if you’re willing to pay the small fee to travel on the expressway, it will take only around 20 minutes to reach Colombo.
Although many people seem to dislike Colombo, I quite enjoyed it and found there were plenty of activities to fill in a couple of days. There are different areas to explore, shopping for locally made goods, monuments to see and so on. It’s easy to hire a tuk tuk for the day to take you on a city tour to see the best of Colombo (but be careful not to get scammed like we did!).
Colombo is a great place to get your first fix of the delicious Sri Lankan cuisine, as there are plenty of restaurants to suit any budget. There are also great Western options to be found if that’s preferred. My favourite restaurant for trying local dishes at an affordable price was Upalis, located in district 7.
Colombo is also conveniently the home of a large train station and frequented by buses, so its easy to either start or end your Sri Lankan adventure here.
Negombo is the closest town to the airport to stay in, making it a convenient choice if you have a particularly late arrival time or early departure.
There aren’t a lot of activities in Negombo, however it’s easy to fill in a day by visiting the fish market and the beach. I wouldn’t recommend spending more than a night in Negombo though, as there are much nicer beaches in Sri Lanka.
Choices for eating out are slightly more limited in Negombo, but if you love fresh seafood then this is the place to be. Most restaurants specialise in seafood and cater to Western taste-buds. Prices are more expensive than Colombo for poorer quality (in my opinion).
Negombo also has both a train and bus station, and it’s easy to arrange a private driver to take you to your next destination.
My Personal Opinion:
I preferred Colombo when comparing the two, as there was much more to do and plenty of great options for eating out. I also enjoyed filling my suitcase with souvenirs from Barefoot on my last day in Sri Lanka. I felt like we wasted a night staying in Negombo that would’ve been much better spent at the gorgeous beaches down South.
I think Negombo would be a good place to start your trip if you have a late flight arriving into Sri Lanka. It’s close to the airport and easy to arrange transport to visit the cultural triangle. However, don’t spend longer than a night there.
Personally, when deciding between Colombo or Negombo I would choose to both start and end my trip in Colombo as it’s still close to the airport but with plenty more to do.