Cheap Flights to Colombo
Colombo is the energetic capital of Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was known earlier), the tiny, laid-back tropical oasis off India's southern coast. In most ways, this sprawling urban expanse does not represent what the rest of the country is like. Where Sri Lanka is hilly terrain with dense forests, tea estates, wildlife, gorgeous tropical beaches and pretty Hindu and Buddhist architecture, Colombo itself is a crowded city of traffic-filled streets, bazaars, office blocks and businesses vying for space with places of worship of every imaginable religion.
Most people come to Colombo because it is the country's international gateway to the beautiful country that they wish to explore. There are trains and buses out to the culturally rich temple towns of Kandy or Kadhirgamam, the pristine beaches of Bentota and Hikkaduwa, the stunning mountain slope tea estates of Nuwara Eliya or the grand mountain fort of Sigiriya.
Experienced travelers come to the city for another reason -- flights passing through Colombo Bandaranaiye Airport (CMB) often publish cheaper prices than those through other cities. You can check them out on Skyscanner.
Traveling to Colombo
Temperatures remain constant year-round, but you do want to time your trip to avoid the monsoon. Colombo is best seen in the summer, between May and September. The month of October can be cheaper, but the weather can be unpredictable. Traveling out into the country is best done between December and March.
Many international airlines fly to Colombo. Canadians visiting up to 30 days at a time need a visitor's visa that can be obtained online, prior to departure. A vaccination for yellow fever is essential, as well.
Arriving in Colombo
Most international flights arriving in Colombo come in at around midnight. Since the airport is 30km outside of the city, in an area called Katunayake, you'll need to find some form of transportation. If you'd like to take public transportation out of Colombo, there is a bus, but you don't get service late at night.
During the day, the street outside the airport tends to be full of taxis and tuktuks (three-wheeled motorized rickshaws) willing to take you to your hotel or anywhere else. There aren't too many of these around in the middle of the night, however. You'd do well to find your taxi at one of the counters that you'll see before you actually leave the terminal. An air-conditioned taxi-ride that costs around CAD 20 may seem unfair, because the trains that you take from Colombo out into the country will cost around CAD 2; but it's the way prices are.
You might consider flying to your destination further in Sri Lanka. An air taxi called Cinnamon Air flies to various points of tourist around the country on tiny propeller aircraft, but fares can be exorbitant (around CAD 300 for flights that last an hour).
The taxi and tuktuk drivers usually double as agents for various hotels, and will happily scalp guests if they have a chance. It's important to make reservations before you arrive, and to carry a full printed address, along with indications of what sector of Colombo the hotel is in (Colombo 1, 2 and so on). Transportation drivers tend to not be particularly knowledgeable. Skyscanner has a useful hotel finder tool.
If you're planning to sleep overnight at the airport before you catch a train or bus out into the country, you won't have a good time. The airport has nowhere for you to sleep, except plenty of chairs with fixed armrests.
What is there to do in Colombo?
Setting aside a couple of days to spend in Colombo to acclimatize and absorb the culture of the city, will work out well. You'll probably want to start off with Pettah, the sprawling, frenetic market area full of shops and stalls selling all kinds of food and merchandise. The fun promenade at Galle Face Green is great for the beach, street food and general energy, and the beautiful Buddhist temple of Gangaramaya at the center of the city, next to Beira lake, will likely give you a shot of the Buddhist culture adrenaline that you're looking for.
A travel advisory
The government of Canada put out an advisory for Canadians traveling to Sri Lanka in April 2017. While the country's civil war officially ended eight years ago, there still is considerable military presence everywhere in the country. It's a good idea to have your passport with you at all times.
Flexible where you fly? Search nearby airports for bigger savings.
Airports near Colombo
Prices shown on this page are estimated lowest prices only. Found in the last 45 days.