Colombo for Solo Travellers – Exploring Sri Lanka’s Capital in 1 day

I have to admit that I didn’t really like Colombo a lot when I landed here. Compared to other metro cities like Singapore, Bangkok and even Kuala Lumpur, Colombo was unorganized, confusing and hot. The public transport in Colombo was unapproachable because of language issues.

But this changed when I returned here a day earlier than I was supposed to and got a chance to explore the city again. 24 hours in Colombo can be really rewarding and while solo travelling here, I also caught a show of Captain Marvel in one of the movie theatres. The popcorn was only 50 rs.

Solo travelling in Colombo

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As an Indian solo traveller in Colombo, you’ll find a few things convenient. A lot of people speak broken Hindi and if you know Tamil then the whole city is yours. If you are couch-surfing in Sri Lanka then Colombo has a lot of hosts with good feedbacks from other travellers.

Colombo is divided into 13 districts. Colombo 1 or Fort Area is the center of the city and all the buses from airport will drop you here. The major religions of this city are Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists.

Colombo is a city worth exploring. Here are some of the must see attractions that you can visit in Colombo.

Galle Face Green

Galle Face Green is a long stretch of green accompanying sea promenade. It is a nice spot for evening walk and enjoy beautiful sunset. You’ll find a lot of locals relaxing here.

National Museum

National Museum was built in 1876 and is the largest museum in Sri Lanka. It was founded by the British governor of Sri Lanka. A beautiful green park surrounds this museum.

The museum is big and you’ll need 2 to 3 hours to explore everything properly. The museum have statues and exhibits from history and mythology of Sri Lanka on display. There are many items owned by the former royal family of Sri Lanka kept in this museum, this includes King’s golden throne and crown.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 18:00 (last entrance at 17:00)
  • Ticket price: Rs 250 for an adult, Rs 150 for a child

Independence Memorial Hall

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Independence Memorial Hall is close to National Museum. This huge stone building is surrounded by a peaceful, green. It is a monument to Sri Lanka’s freedom struggle. The statue of Sri Lanka’s first president, “The Father of the Nation” Rt. Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake stands in front of the structure.

Colonial Buildings of Fort Area

The Fort Area of Colombo has a number of beautiful colonial buildings that date back to the Dutch and British era. You’ll find a number of amazing buildings with impeccable architecture. President’s House along with homes of various ministers are also present here. This area used to be a real fort as it was surrounded by the sea on two sides.

Old Galle Buck Lighthouse, Sambodhi Chaitiya dagoba/ stupa, The Clock Tower, Central Point, Lloyd´s Buildings and Cargills Main Store are some of the remarkable structures in this area.

Gangaramaya Temple

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Gangaramaya (Vihara) is a Buddhist temple in Colombo. It consists of several buildings along with a number of heritage relics. The complex has a library, a museum and a display hall of gifts received from devotees and well-wishers over the years. The temple also has relic of Buddha’s Hair.

  • Opening hours: 05:30 – 22:00
  • Ticket price (donation): Rs100

Beira Lake

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Beira Lake is close to Gangaramaya Temple. Simamalaka Shrine is located in the middle of the lake. It connects with other lakes through narrow canals. The view of sunset from this spot is really pretty. The name Beira comes from Portuguese and it means border in English.

Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil

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This is Colombo´s oldest Hindu Temple. Its architecture takes inspiration from the traditional temples in South India. It has a beautiful Gopuram along with beautiful paintings. The walls and ceilings are decorated with really intricate artwork.

Opening hours: 06:00 – 10:30 and 16:30 – 18:00

Old Dutch Hospital

Constructed in early 1600, Old Dutch hospital restored heritage structure. It houses some really nice restaurants and cafes, and cool shops. You can visit Barefoot if you want to buy some souvenirs.

Pettah

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Exploring Sri Lanka is incomplete with going to Pettah. Whether you want to buy cheap souvenirs or some clothes, Pettah is where you should be. Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque is the most notable structure of this area. It is a beautiful red and white brick building dating back to 1909. There are a number of street side food stalls from where you can have some local snacks. Wolvendaal Church and Dutch Period Museums are also worth visiting.

Stay options in Colombo for Solo travellers

 

During my time in Colombo, I stayed in two hostels and didn’t like either of them. The hostel quality goes down if you go further away from District 1. Most of the times, you’ll be the only one in that hostel. The second one was just an apartment with some bunk beds. The room didn’t even have an AC.

Make sure that you choose a hostel in District 1 or C1 as it says in Hostelworld.

Where to eat and drink in Colombo

Colombo has a lot of nice restaurants and cafes. If you are not staying around District 1, you’ll be disappointed because most of the popular eating joints are in this area. You can go to Dutch Hospital if you have a high budget or walk around Pettah for some awesome vegetarian and non vegetarian snacks.

Next Destination after Colombo

Most travellers don’t stay in Colombo if they land early morning. There are buses for Galle from airport as well as private taxis available for Dambulla, Sigiriya and Yala National Park. You can also go to Maharagama Bus Station to catch bus for Galle or Pettah bus station to catch bus for Kandy or Matara. If you want to get to Unawantuna then get on a bus to Matara and ask them to drop you at on the highway from where you can catch a tuk tuk for the hotel or hostel where you are staying.

Is Colombo Safe for Solo Travellers?

Colombo is safe for Solo travellers and backpackers. If you stay in C1 area, you’ll be close to everything important. You can wander till late evening and then return to your place to rest. Make sure that you confirm the prices with tuktuks and buses because the drives often tend to cheat you.

After the 2019 terrorist attacks, the security checks at airports have been increased. So make sure that you are at the airport an hour earlier.

Drones are not allowed at many places in Colombo so take proper permits before flying one recklessly and getting in trouble.

Check with your country’s foreign office for latest updates on travel advisory status and contact your travel insurance provider to enquire about coverage.

Hope this blog on Colombo Solo travel and best places to visit helped you plan your trip in future. For more information, connect with me on Facebook and Instagram. Also subscribe to this blog to stay updated with my new posts.

12 thoughts on “Colombo for Solo Travellers – Exploring Sri Lanka’s Capital in 1 day

Add yours

  1. I would really like to visit Colombo to learn more about the history of Sri Lanka. From your list I would try to spend a couple days to make it to all the sites! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have always wanted to visit Colombo, but of course safety is one of my concerns. It is inspiring reading about you travelling alone to this city ! Thanks for sharing tips on where to stay, i.e. C1 area. Will keep it in my notes for future planning ! =)

  3. That’s so great you had the opportunity to return to Colombo and your mind was changed about it! It sounds like there is quite a lot to see and do, so it is worth planning in a stop there. Also good to know about the cheap movie theatres too as we love going to watch films in other cities especially on a rainy day or when you just want to take it easy 🙂

  4. Wow, you even had time to watch a movie even if you stayed in Colomba for only 24 hours! haha… You know what, we totally forgot that Sri Lanka was occupied by the Dutch sometime in history. Always thought that it was only the Portuguese and Brits!

  5. It’s interesting that your first impression of Colombo wasn’t that good. I’ve been to cities that are a lot more confusing, like every city in West Africa! I found it quite easy to get around Colombo as a solo traveller and had no problems with language. Maybe I just got lucky and all the English speakers were around while I was there!

  6. There is so much to see and experience in Colombo. We too took in the main sights of Colombo when we had a layover. But we need to head back to experience more of Colombo and Srilanka.

  7. Oooh goodness you managed to fit a lot in within 24 hours, especially as you had time to go to the movies too!

    I really like the look of the Gangaramaya (Vihara) temple as well as the Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil. It must be such a contrast to see their architecture near the colonial buildings!

  8. So many activities in so little time!

    The temples look so beautiful!

    And thanks for the reminder to give places a second chance. It’s easy to judge a place from a first look.

  9. I haven’t made it to Sri Lanka yet but it is on my list! Thank you for your honest review of your experience there as a solo traveler. Sounds like 24-48 is enough time to allocate to the city when I make a trip in the future!

  10. I haven’t made it to Sri Lanka yet but it’s on my list! Thank you for your honest review of your time there as a solo traveler and for a great list of suggestions on what to do there for the day for when I do make the trip happen!

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