Colombo on a Budget
Colombo is a fast-developing city, which means it’s not necessarily a cheap city. However, if you are equipped with the appropriate knowledge, a couple of days in Colombo doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips for those who want to experience this great city on a budget.
Colombo is inundated with budget hotels and hostels that offer dorm beds as well as private room accommodation. The quality of the accommodation varies widely, and it is best to check reviews before making your booking. Dorm beds usually start from about $8 a night and private rooms from about $30 a night.
A number of museums in Colombo offer interesting insights into life in ancient Sri Lanka during the kingdom periods, as well as during colonization. Best yet, each museum visit would cost just under $8.
Feel free to check out the different places of worship located in the city of Colombo that demonstrate the city’s cultural diversity. Temples, churches, mosques and kovils provide an insight into the city’s past as a cultural melting pot and do not require a fee to enter.
Colombo has a very varied food culture ranging from cheap and questionable roadside snacks to fine dining in luxury hotels. Be cautious not to eat from every eatery you see, as your stomach will probably not be able to handle some of the harsher conditions! However, there are a number of trusted eateries that serve good, low budget meals. Hotel de Pilawoos and Hotel De Plaza Colombo (neither is a real hotel) serve the famous Sri Lankan kotthu rotti, a mix of rotti, meat, vegetables and spices. Colombo is home to a number of low budget South Indian vegetarian restaurants that serve thosai, idli and vadai. You can also grab a couple of maalu paan (bread bun stuffed with spicy fish filling) or tea buns (sweetened bread buns) from the many bakeries that dot the city. You can survive on approximately $12 a day for food and water.
Colombo has a couple of working-class bars such as Vespa in Kollupitiya that serve alcohol and bar snacks at reasonable prices.
The Galle Face Green Promenade is a public area that overlooks the Indian Ocean and is a great place to visit on a tight budget. Catch the beautiful views of the setting sun and indulge in some delicious and cheap Sri Lankan street food from the various carts and stalls that line the promenade. You will spend about $5 for food and water or soft drinks at the venue. Remember to carry cash, as these small vendors do not carry electronic payment devices.
Colombo’s busy Pettah Market is the best place to shop on a low budget. Carry cash, as it is unlikely you will find vendors that accept electronic payments. The market is a vast and rather crowded area that should be visited on a weekday, as many local shoppers flock there on the weekend. You will be able to find products ranging from clothes, to kids’ toys, to electronics in the streets of Pettah.
There are two parks in the heart of Colombo that are easily accessible and free to use. The Viharamahadevi Park in Town Hall and the park surrounding the Independence Square in Colombo Seven are perfect places to take a stroll or go for a jog.
There are also a large number of low budget spas and massage parlours in the city, but they should be visited at your discretion.
Travelling by car in Colombo can be pretty expensive. However, there are many bus routes that can take you to all the main locations in the city. Bus transportation is pretty cheap, but the conditions are not the best, especially during rush hour. If you don’t mind spending a bit more and travelling a little more comfortably, your best option is tuk-tuk. Transport booking apps such as Uber and the local PickMe give you the option of selecting tuks. They usually charge about $0.25 per kilometer. Alternatively, you could rent a motorbike or scooter and travel around the city.