Cruise ships dock at the Queen Elizabeth pier. It is about a 15-minute walk to the town center. Taxis are generally available at the pier. Be sure to agree on the fare before starting out. Shuttles are often offered.
Alongside, on the pier, are the ‘Trader’ stalls, little shops full of wood carvings, jewelry and clothing. It has only a basic cruise ship terminal.
Printable map to take along on your cruise.
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Located off the southern tip of India, tropical Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is a luxuriant Eden with some of the most exotic vegetation this part of the world has to offer. Rubber, coffee, pepper, tea, spices and coconut plantations cover the slopes of hills and mountains while giant umbrella trees offer shade.
Colombo, Sri Lanka's political, economic and cultural center with around one million inhabitants, is the island's largest city and a major port. Visiting Colombo provides some insight into what makes Sri Lanka tick.
Its history goes back many centuries and relics of Portuguese, Dutch and English settlements blend with Indian influences for a unique cultural mix. The center, known as "Fort," is very easily explored on foot.
Adjacent to the fort and immediately inland from it is the Pettah, Colombo's bustling bazaar area. Everything you ever wanted is sold in some shop or street in the Pettah. Turning inland one finds Cinnamon Gardens, home of the museum, art gallery, university, the city's largest park and the most exclusive residential district where many of the embassies are located.
Dutch Period Museum Originally the residence of the Dutch governor, the building served many purposes before being restored and converted into a museum. Its fascinating exhibits offer insight into the Dutch period. Various rooms around a garden courtyard are dedicated to different aspects of Dutch colonial life.
Dehiwala Zoo Located about six miles from the center of Colombo, this zoo is one of the most attractive in Asia. Thirty-seven acres of undulating grounds are beautifully laid out with shrubs, flowering trees, plants, orchids, lakes, and fountains. Over 2,000 animals include sloth, leopard, civets and other small cats, many kinds of lizard, crocodiles and snakes. The zoo is home to lions, tigers, jaguars, black panthers and many other exotic species. A troupe of trained elephants can be observed every afternoon.
If your ship offers tours of Sri Lanka, do so. The reason is, that traffic in Sri Lanka, especially around the Colombo area and around the bigger cities is a complete shambles and utterly unpredictable.
The most common mode of transport in Sri Lanka is via a three-wheeled automobile appropriately referred to as a three-wheeler (Tri-Shaw). Also known as Tuk-Tuks from the noise of their motors. These operate in a manner similar to taxis, and is a highly cost-efficient way to get around. You should not pay more than 10 euro per hour. Negociate before you het in!
Hire a taxi, and simply drive around and appreciate the elegant mansions and tree-lined streets of Cinnamon Gardens - you may even get to see locals enjoying a game of cricket or flying kites - or drive the 10km to the closest beach resort Mt. Lavinia. Taxis are about 110 Euro for the day.
It pays to compare your cruise line shore excursions here.
A long coastal strip extending south from the central area is Galle Road, which eventually leaves Colombo and ends up in Galle, Sri Lanka's fourth-largest town some seventy miles from Colombo.
The Pettah bazaar district where the streets are crammed with shops and stalls selling everything from vegetables to gemstones, and also visit some of the lovely temples.
The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee. The exchange rates are approximately 110Rs/ USD, or 170Rs/ EUR. US Dollars widely accepted. Credit cards less so.
ATMs are located in many places (specially at bank branches) in the cities and suburbs, less so in the countryside.
Sinhala, Tamil and English are widely spoken throughout Sri Lanka, with the exception of remote villages where it might be Sinhala only or Tamil only.
Shopping hours Mon-Fri 0900-1730, Sat 0900-1300.
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