The Ultimate Guide to “shop till you drop” in Sri Lanka!

Clothes, footwear, spices, handicrafts, gemstones, designer jewelry, tea, souvenirs and much more are available in all corners of Sri Lanka, at extremely reasonable prices. Popular cities such as Colombo and Kandy have malls and massive retail outlets bustling with interesting things to buy for yourself.

Did you Know?

So go ahead and add “shopping” to your list of reasons why you should plan a holiday in Sri Lanka!

And if shopping is on your list, make sure to include at least a couple of days in Colombo – dedicated only for shopping. Because Colombo is the biggest trading hub in Sri Lanka, you can find absolutely everything and anything here. From modern, air conditioned malls, to busy street markets, there is something for everyone!

Read ahead to learn more about what you can find where in Colombo and make your shopping experience that much simpler.

Pettah

Before we go on to the high end shopping stores, let us brief you in about the much spoken about “Pettah Market”. Located in the Fort area, you can find almost anything within the narrow streets of Pettah. Plenty of small shops are available to satisfy your retail needs. Clusters of shops are located together and each cluster sells a particular type of item. For example, if you walk through the cluster of shops on Keyzer Street, you will find all kinds of wholesale and retail textile items being sold. Driving through these streets are more time consuming than walking. So the best option is to get your hat, shades and shoes on and explore the Pettah Market on foot. Oh and one more thing – in Pettah, your bargaining skills should be at its best!

Malls

Majestic City

Majestic City is a 7 storied building located in Colombo 04 (Bambalapitiya) and has a total of 96 shops within the premises. Being one of the oldest malls in Sri Lanka, it is still considered the most popular one amongst locals and tourists alike. In the basement, there is a kiddies play area as well as a food court where you can fill your stomachs and entertain your kids too. In 2008, Majestic City, also known as MC, underwent a massive renovation and got its own Cineplex with four cinemas! In addition to the international brands and other retail stores ideal for shopping, MC is also a popular hangout joint amongst youngsters who want to window shop or lounge around.

Crescat Boulevard

If you are looking for an upmarket shopping mall in Colombo, Crescat Boulevard is where you should be. The retail brands cater to tourists and high end shoppers hence you will find a variety of top notch brands at this mall. Crescat is also known for the diverse cuisines offered at the food court for affordable prices and to satisfy the taste buds of every individual.

Liberty Plaza

The history of Liberty Plaza dates back to the 1980s, making it the first ever shopping complex in all of Sri Lanka. While the exterior of the mall may not be so appealing, the rarities of some of the oldest retail outlets in the country will definitely impress you. More than clothing, liberty plaza is known more for the offers available on electronic items, mobile phones and accessories. “Photo Technica” is a popular stop at this mall where all latest models of digital cameras and other electronic accessories are sold. When planning to visit this mall, keep in mind that it closes by 7.00pm on weekdays and most of the shops are closed on Sundays too.

Arcade Independence Square

The Arcade at Independence Square is a compound of colonial style buildings where many high end brands for shopping, dining and entertainment are available. Samsung, Nike, Levis, Giordano, Amante, Stone N String, Titan and Parfumerie are some of the popular brands for shopping. In terms of food, The Arcade offers a mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Japanese variety and there is also a 3D equipped premium cinema within the complex for the purpose of entertainment. The complex also has an outdoor sitting area with beautiful fountains and flower beds for visitors to relax and hang out in between their shopping spree.

Homeware

Plate

From spectacular paintings to vintage photography to picture framing to art materials to home decorative items to antique ornaments to gift items, Plate is an upmarket company that caters to ‘people who admire and value things of beauty’.

Paradise Road

An experienced and popular store in Sri Lanka known for its quality of homeware. The brand – Paradise Road – is now linked with unique taste and style for refining Sri Lankan lefstyle.

Gandhara

Modern homeware, antiques, paintings, household furniture as well as unique lighting options can be found at the Gandhara store in Colombo 06.

Art & Crafts

Laksala

Located at The Arcade Independence Square, Laksala targets more of the discerning shoppers. They have a wide variety of products that exhibit traditional arts and crafts in Sri Lanka. From handlooms to wood crafts, jewelry, batik clothes, brass items, leather products and tea, they have many intriguing items to purchase.

Barefoot

Upon entering Barefoot (Colombo 03), you get a typical bohemian and ethnic feel. Majority of the products here are hand woven and the rare characteristic in their products can be instantly recognized as an item from Barefoot. They use bold and bright colors in high quality handloom material to make their products stand out.

Department Stores

Odel

You haven’t seen Colombo, unless you’ve been to Odel! At Odel, you have a whole 33000 square feet of shopping bliss, Odel has only been expanding since its launch and has reached a status worthy of international acclaim. The exterior presents homage to colonial architecture in Colombo while the interior boasts a rich collection of clothing in all price ranges. In addition to that, Odel offers designer homeware, sarees, perfume collection, books, unique jewelry and accessories as well as a good collection of kids items.

Arpico

Arpico is the leading supermarket chain in Sri Lanka and is categorized under department stores because it not only caters to groceries but also to stationery, plasticware, household items, electronics, clothing, kitchenware, furniture and much more. They have several branches across the country so you can head on to the one closest to you and begin your shopping!

House of Fashions

The new House of Fashions is a massive 250,000 square feet with four floors of retail items and 17 escalators for the convenience of shoppers. Many well known clothing brands for men, women and children can be found here, along with gift items, fashion accessories, household items, cosmetics, perfumes, and jewelry. This huge store is very well spaced out and provides a peaceful experience to shoppers.

Clothing

No Limit

No Limit is Sri Lanka’s biggest and largest fashion chain catering to clothing, accessories, bags, shoes and much more for men, women and children. They offer a range of quality products at reasonable prices and hence attract majority of the population in Sri Lanka.

Fashion Bug

Also a popular clothing retailer for trendy items catering to men, women and children; Fashion Bug is not as large as No Limit but does have a few stores in most parts of Sri Lanka.

Beverly Street

Beverly Street is another leading fashion store in Colombo with the latest styles and trends in clothes. They also have a functional online store where you can choose your products and get them delivered to you.

Cotton Collection

If you are looking for a really fun and colorful collection of comfortable clothing, cotton collection is the store to be at. Catering to the youth market, cotton collection sells clothing that is mostly brightly colored and patterned.

Tea

Dilmah Tea Shop

This is a boutique located in the heart of Colombo, exclusively selling tea products from Sri Lanka’s leading Tea Company – Dilmah.

Mlesna Tea Centre

Located at the upmarket Crescat Boulevard, Mlesna Tea Centre gives tea lovers a fresh range of tea varieties to choose from in a very elegant atmosphere.

Gems & Jewelry

Zam Gems

Looking for some exclusive jewelry made with genuine materials? Zam Gems provides you just that at affordable prices. They have a unique collection of handcrafted jewelry including earrings, pendants, bracelets and necklaces made with finely cut precious and semi precious stones, including the popular Ceylon Stones. The skilled craftsmanship at Zam Gems can also cater to customized designs to suit your requirements.

Colombo Jewelry Stores

This is a premium jewelry store in Colombo featuring some unique designs for those with a keen eye for fashion. The precious gems and the unmatchable craftsmanship have helped Colombo Jewelry Stores reach a hallmark of quality, luxury and style. With a customer base of locals and internationals, CJS is a respected, recognized and influential brand in Sri Lanka.

Stone N String

Chic and super fashionable jewelry can be found at Stone N String; which is also the ideal place for gift shopping. Reflecting quality and style, Stone N String makes fashion jewelry for youngsters as well as the classics. Their designer jewelry items include bracelets, brooches, necklaces, earrings and rings. They also have a bridal collection of jewelry catering to Kandyan and Western styles.

Accessories such as cufflinks and tiepins for men can also be found at the store along with rings, bracelets and chains for men. They also recently launched a wristwatch collection that includes a variety of classic and contemporary designs. Every February, they introduce a brand new Valentines collection of jewelry for those looking to impress their loved ones.

Connecting to Sri Lanka from anywhere in the world

Planning your next holiday to the small, yet beautiful island in the Indian Ocean? Your first question probably is which flights will take you there? Or what route would require least travelling? Or what would be your cheapest option? Let us answer all your questions in this brief article about airports in Sri Lanka and which flights will take you there.

Airports in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has two international airports – one in the western town of Katunayake and one in the southern province in a town known as Hambantota.

Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA)

This is the busiest airport in Sri Lanka, and one of the busiest in South East Asia as it handles about 8.5 million passengers annually (according to reports from the year 2015). Most airlines choose to fly to this airport rather than the one in the south. BIA is about 30kms (one hour’s drive) from the capital city of Colombo and just 15 minutes away from the popular coastal city of Negombo. The airport has money changing facilities that are open 24 hours in both arrivals and departure halls, in addition to ATMs, mobile network operators, taxi services and more.

Arriving at the airport is rather hassle free – all you have to do is go through the immigration line, walk down to the luggage belt and once you’ve collected your baggage, the exit is just there. If the custom officers inquire about your travel destinations and request you to open your luggage, being nice and cooperating with them is the best solution to get out of the airport faster.

During departure, if you happen to arrive early at the airport, you could browse around the duty free, hang out at one of the many restaurants & cafes such as Pizza Hut, Burger King and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Foot spas are also available if you would like to treat yourself to a massage while you wait for your flight. Exclusive lounges are located on the way to the gates where you can buy yourself a pass and enjoy the delicious food, comfortable seating and other luxury amenities available there.

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA)

MRIA is the airport located about 15kms from Hambantota, in the southern coast of Sri Lanka. This airport has a very large terminal but is not very popular in the international market as most carriers choose to fly to the BIA. Currently only one Middle Eastern flight operates to and from MRIA – one flight a day. So if you are connecting to Sri Lanka from the Middle East and want to start exploring Sri Lanka from the southern coast, then landing at MRIA is a viable option. Because of the low traffic at MRIA, it is best for you to pre-arrange your transport before you land at the airport.

Sri Lankan carriers

Currently, Sri Lankan Airlines is the only national carrier in Sri Lanka. Bandaranaike International Airport is the carrier’s hub and it operates an extensive network all around the globe. Mihin Airlines was a budget airlines that was launched in 2007 but that too merged with Sri Lankan Airlines at the end of the year 2016. The national carrier has a safety record that is on par with international carriers.

The airlines also provide local networks in partnership with Cinnamon Air. So if you want to begin your holiday in Sri Lanka from the east coast for example, once you land at the BIA on Sri Lankan Airlines, they can provide you an onward flight connection to Batticaloa so that you can reach there much faster than by road.

Foreign Carriers

From Australia & New Zealand

If travelling from East of Sri Lanka, i.e. countries such as Australia and New Zealand, you have to look out for a connection through Asian carriers like Thai, Malaysian or Singapore.

From Europe

Sri Lankan Airlines has a direct flight to London Heathrow. While this might be a slightly expensive option, you could choose other connections such as British, Emirates, Austrian, Qatar, Etihad, Kuwait or Turkish which will bring your to Sri Lanka via one or two additional stops.

From Asia

The Asian flight network is very well connected to Sri Lanka by Sri Lankan Airlines and several other carriers. Direct flights to Sri Lanka can be easily found for reasonable fares from most Asian destinations in the world. The most popular budget flight is Air Asia while other competitive options such as Jet Airways, Malaysian and Thai are also available.

Many tourists to Sri Lanka like to combine their holiday in Sri Lanka with the Maldives. For this route, Sri Lankan or Emirates would be a good option as only these two carriers fly between Colombo and Malé.

From America

American tourists to Sri Lanka are literally travelling half way across the world. You could choose to route your flights from Canada or USA and go through the west coast – Asian destinations, or you could choose the east coast – from Middle East or India.

Best Ice Cream joints in Sri Lanka

Craving an ice cream during your holiday in Sri Lanka? Whether you are in Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna or Galle, ice cream lovers can satisfy their cravings anywhere in Sri Lanka.

Jaffna

Point Pedro – Rio Ice Cream

The Rio Ice Cream brand is about 40 years old and has survived through decades of war in Jaffna. Now it has become an important part of the local community and is a must-visit stop during your tour to Jaffna, Sri Lanka (if not for the ice cream, for the brand at least!).

The ice cream joint is located just adjoining the Nallur Temple and is also a popular hangout spot for youngsters, particularly since it is one of the few establishments in Jaffna that offers air conditioning. Their menu includes a wide variety of scoops, sundaes and other specials. Taste wise, the ice cream is lovable for those with a sweet tooth.

Galle

Pedlars Inn Gelato

Pedlar’s Inn is a popular brand in the Galle Fort area, located on Pedlar’s Street. Along with their ice cream joint, they have a pizzeria and a dining café as well. The gelato they serve is naturally flavored, very creamy and goes quite on par with international standards.

Dairy King

Located on Church Street, in Galle Fort, this joint is run by a family living there. In addition to the ice cream flavors, they have many options of juices, shakes, tea and coffee. Their ice cream scoops are very much worth for the price and they offer many flavors to choose from. Don’t forget to try their brownie and ice cream dish which is served with a generous serving of delicious brownies.

Kandy

Cool corner fried ice cream parlor

This is a leading fried ice cream provider in Kandy and is well recommended by those who have been there. On their menu, they have delicious fruity flavors of ice cream scoops, as well as sorbets and other beverages. A recently popular item is the roll ice cream that gives you a blend of two or more flavors into one ice cream roll.

Fozsta

Frozsta is a great hangout place that provides healthy frozen yogurt and other desserts. The environment is very peaceful and the owner makes an extra effort to make your visit a memorable one.

Colombo

Carnival

For decades, carnival has been a go-to place for those wanting an affordable ice cream option. Recently, the store has had a major uplift and is now much more appealing than before. The interior is really done with an aim to cheer up anyone in a sad mood. They have introduced more ice cream flavors on their menu as well as new shakes and sundaes. You haven’t been to Colombo if you haven’t been to its signature ice cream store – Carnival!

Jam Roll

Originating in Thailand, roll ice cream is now in Sri Lanka. A small joint in Thimbirigasyaya serves roll ice cream, just the way you like it. The open kitchen concept lets you see the intriguing process of how they make it. You could either choose from their set menu or pick your own flavors and toppings to result in your kind of ice cream.

Cremalato

If you are looking for some premium quality ice cream in a unique range of flavors, Cremalato is where you should be. They have their own range of fresh fruit popsicles that are a real refresher in the heat of Colombo. Additional creamy flavors include biscotti, wild berries, mint choc chip, mango and more. If you are lazy to go to their pickup outlet in Colombo 04 (A&M Cupcakes), simply call them up to deliver your ice cream straight to your doorstep!

4 exciting reasons why Cricket fans should visit Sri Lanka

Cricket is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka and has a history dating all the way back to 1832, which is nearly 2 centuries ago! November 1832 was when the Colombo Cricket Club was formed, after which many domestic matches were played. In 1975, Sri Lanka made its debut in one day international cricket and in 1981, it joined Test cricket. Sri Lanka is now one of the ten countries that play test cricket and one of the five countries that has won a cricket world cup.

Up until today, several legendary players have evolved from the Sri Lankan cricket team, many who have created world records. Any cricket fan around the world surely knows how valuable the sport of cricket is in Sri Lanka and would love to explore cricket in Sri Lanka during their next holiday. Here are some highlights of what cricket fans can do in Sri Lanka:

1. Visit international cricket stadiums – where history was created

Sri Lanka now hosts many beautiful international cricket stadiums which you could visit and experience what it would be like to be a part of history in the making.

  • Pallekelle cricket stadium (Kandy) is one of the two newly built stadiums for the cricket world cup held in 2011. Designed after an inspiration from the Supersport Park in Centurion, South Africa, this premiere stadium holds the record of being the third stadium to see a wicket fall off the first ever ball that was bowled here!
  • Dambulla cricket stadium lies amidst the historical ruins in Sri Lanka and holds a record of being built within 167 days. The main purpose of having a stadium here is to host matches during the wet season that affects other parts of the country. Currently only day matches are being held due to some faults in the floodlights needed for day/night matches.
  • Mahinda Rajapaksa International cricket stadium (Hambantota) has a seating capacity of 35000 people and saw its first international match being played in February 2011. This is the other one of the two new stadiums built for the 2011 cricket world cup and is the second largest stadium in Sri Lanka.
  • Galle International stadium is one of the most picturesque grounds in the world, being surrounded on either side by the Indian Ocean. 30 Test matches and 6 ODI matches have been played at these grounds.
  • Premadasa Cricket stadium (Colombo) is one of the oldest, yet largest cricket stadiums in Sri Lanka. The first match played here was in 1986 and one of the most popular records made here is the highest Test total: 952 for 6 scored by Sri Lanka against India in 1997-98, during which Sanath Jayasuriya scored a whopping 340 runs!

2. Stand a chance to meet popular/favorite cricketers

Are you a fan of Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Roshan Mahanama, Marvan Atapattu, Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda De Silva, Kumar Sangakkara or Mahela Jayawardena? Well all these players live in Sri Lanka and if you are really keen, you might just be able to get their autograph, click a selfie with them or even have a few minutes of question – answers with them.

3. Play cricket in Sri Lanka

Because cricket is a popular sport in Sri Lanka, many youngsters have developed a passion for the sport and to cater to this audience, there are several outdoor grounds and indoor cricket nets where these rising starts can practice. During your holiday in Sri Lanka, if you want to enjoy an evening of cricket with your family, just stop by one of the many large fields/grounds that you come across in any part of the country; prepare your pitch and play! If you don’t have a crowd big enough for a game of cricket, stop by wherever you see a group of friends playing cricket and request if you can join them. Friendly Sri Lankans will be glad to accommodate your request. Sports clubs in Colombo such as Fingara, Cricket Club and Otters have indoor cricketing nets where you can practice the game too.

4. Purchase Sri Lankan cricket merchandise

If you are a fan of Sri Lankan cricketers, you can purchase the team’s T-shirts and caps at almost any popular retail clothing store around the country. Other specific gear such as autographed bats and balls are available in specialized cricket shops in Colombo.

Tourism in Sri Lanka is only getting better!

In encouraging a tourist to visit Sri Lanka, just a lovely description of the natural beauty in the country may not suffice. Some travelers need numbers to convince them of whether or not Sri Lanka is a potential country on their list of places to visit.

Tourism Statistics

According to Daily Mirror – a news company in Sri Lanka, the tourism economy seems to be thriving and growing very well.

  • Tourist arrivals have increased to approximately 2 million, which is a growth of 14%.
  • Foreign exchange earnings have increased from USD 2981 million in 2015 to USD 3518 million.
  • On average, tourists would spend USD164.1 per night in 2015 and this figure increased to USD 168.2 per night in 2016. This could mean that tourists are spending more in Sri Lanka.
  • The current prime minister has targeted tourism arrivals to increase to 5 million by 2025.

 

International Presence

In addition to these figures, Sri Lankan High Commissions in other countries are taking an effort to make their presence as Sri Lankans felt worldwide.

For the second consecutive year, Sri Lanka participated in the international tourism and travel show 2017 held in Montreal, Canada, during the 20th – 22nd of October 2017. At this event, over a hundred other countries participated, exhibiting their own tourism industries. According to the Asian Tribune, 34,200 visitors were said to have attended the show with an aim to see where their next travel destination would be, to discover new holiday destinations and to learn about holiday tour operators.

At the Sri Lankan stall, all visitors were given country maps, brochures in different languages, as well as complementary tea from Sri Lanka. The booth also exhibited beautiful tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, focusing on the rich cultural heritage, unique wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. By browsing through these, visitors were impressed with the beauty of the country and expressed interest in visiting Sri Lanka for their next holiday.

2016 was the first year that Sri Lanka participated in the International Tourism and Travel Show and during that year, 50,087 Canadian tourists came to Sri Lanka. According to further reports, this figure showed a 29% increase in Canadian tourists to Sri Lanka. This obviously means that the international presence made a difference and the participation at the exhibition this year too would further encourage Canadian tourists to visit Sri Lanka.

Apart from Canada, the Sri Lankan embassy in Sweden held a tourism promotional event known as “A Glimpse of Sri Lanka”, for the second consecutive year in September this year. Large crowds were attracted to this event where live demonstrations of Sri Lankan food being cooked appealed to the sensory experience of visitors. While wanting to savor Sri Lankan cuisine was one reason to visit, guests also expressed interest in the tourist and cultural attractions in Sri Lanka.

Awards and Achievements

In July 2017, Maldives hosted the “World Travel Awards Ceremony”. At this event, Sri Lanka was competing with 47 Asian countries and managed to bag the following two awards:

  • Asia’s Leading Destination
  • Asia’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination

Minister of Tourism Development in Sri Lanka stated that these two awards were important milestones for the tourism industry and will be a spotlight to draw more tourists to Sri Lanka as a holiday destination.

Conclusion

For the statistics/research minded traveler, the above information will surely be convincing enough for you plan to visit Sri Lanka and explore the much spoken about holiday destination! Whether you are looking for relaxation, unmatchable views, thrilling adventure, rich culture and good food, Sri Lanka has it all!

FIVE up-and-coming destinations for a RELAXING holiday in Sri Lanka

Mirissa

Beaches are everywhere in Sri Lanka, and a beach experience not just entails sun, sand and water; every details counts. Recently, travelers have discovered the perfection of Mirissa beach.

Mirissa is a small town located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, about an hour’s drive from Galle (40kms).

Imagine sitting under a coconut tree sipping on a cold drink while a monkey is happily munching a mango on the tree. On the other side of the trees you can see crystal clear water, beautiful soft brown sand, and a peaceful atmosphere.

Cleanliness and crowd are two important qualities in rating a beach and Mirissa scores plenty on these two criteria. Compared to Hikkaduwa and Galle, there is much quietness here and you can see absolutely no litter being washed ashore with the waves.

With regard to accommodation, Number ONE Mirissa, Deep South Mirissa, Seaworld Resort, Mirissa Gate, Paradise Beach Club, Triple O Six and Parrotfish Bay are a few high end hotels in this area.

Yala

Yala is more commonly known for its beautiful wildlife so you could opt for a night or two of luxury camping with merchants such as Leopard Trails Yala or Mahoora Safari Camps. You can experience in reality what it is like to live under the twilight and wake up to the sounds of birds chirping. A safari drive can show you around the big animals of the wild but if you are not up for it, just relax in your tent and take in all the fresh air possible.

While one side of Yala presents jungle life, the other shows tourists more of the southern coastline. If you are looking for exotic beaches away from the crowds, Yala beach is the place to be. Camping options are also available on the beach if you are looking for a unique accommodation option.

Tangalle

Tangalle is a slightly larger town in the southern coast that offers a very unique experience of beach life. Tangalle does not have just one single line along which the beach lies, but it has a collection of bays that make up the coastline. This makes Tangalle an ideal destination for swim safe beaches that present stunning circular views of every beach location. Diving is also a popular activity in Tangalle along with surfing and of course – sun bathing!

If you are looking for exclusive accommodation in Tangalle, here are a few options: Nature Lanka Ayurveda Resort, Anantara Peace Haven, Sooriya Resort and Spa, Taru Villas and Ananthaya Beach.

Ella

Had enough of the south coast? Head towards the hill country and try a train ride from Kandy to Ella for some of the best scenic views in the island. Include a stop at Ella for a few nights on your Sri Lanka holiday itinerary to indulge in the lovely cold breezy weather and the panoramic views from any place you choose to stay. Early one morning, take a hike to the Ella Gap where you can get an amazing view of the sunrise as well as the rest of the country, all the way down to the southern coast! These relaxing views can take away all the troubles on your mind and give you a stress free holiday in Sri Lanka.

98 Acres Resort and Spa is the place to be if you want premium accommodation in Ella along with these amazing views from your room. Apart from that, there are plenty of other budget accommodation options that you can choose to stay at in Ella.

Kalpitiya

On the west coast, the bay of Kalpitiya is an up and coming relaxing beach destination in Sri Lanka. In addition to golden sands, peaceful and breathtaking beaches, Kalpitiya is also the place to be if you want to learn the thrilling activity of Kitesurfing. The waters are perfect for kitesurfing here, which is why several schools are available to teach you the art and help add excitement to your relaxing holiday.

Kalpitiya offers several eco friendly tourism options such as Baywatch Eco Resort, Ruuk Village and Dolphin Beach Resort if you want to try out something new and different.