Colombo International Airport (also known as Bandaranaike and Katunayake Airport) lies in Negombo, 30km north of Sri Lanka's capital. It's a busy, sometimes overcrowded airport with two terminals:
In both terminals, Arrivals and Departures are situated on the same floor.
A new Terminal 2 is under construction, and will extend the capacity of the airport. It's due to open in 2017.
There's no train from the airport (though a high-speed rail is planned), so taxi or bus are your main transport options. Taxis are relatively inexpensive and reliable.
Go to the counter, tell the staff your destination, including the zone (1-15), and they'll print a voucher with the price. The journey takes between 30-60 minutes, depending on traffic.
Cost: LKR 2,300-LKR 2,700 without air-con, LKR 2,550-LKR 3,000 with air-con
Location: Taxi counter, immediately after leaving customs, on the right
A cheap, intercity bus service (187-E3) leaves for Colombo approximately every 30 minutes. The journey takes around 30-60 minutes via the Colombo-Katunayake expressway. The buses run regularly from 06:00-18:00 every day. Two buses run from 18:00-19:00, and after that buses will be available based on the number of passengers.
When heading back to the airport: Be aware that only these big blue buses go into the airport itself. Other buses may say 'airport' on them, but stop at a nearby bus station.
Cost: LKR 130
Location: Come out of the airport, turn left, walk to the end of building, cross the road and a big blue bus in the car park. There aren't any signs, so you may have to ask airport personnel.
If you want the authentic Sri Lankan experience, and don't have much luggage, take one of the local three-wheelers. However, the price will not be much different to a taxi.
The Serenediva Transit Hotel is located on the 2nd floor above the main departure/arrival pier. The hotel is in the transit area of the airport, which means you do not need an Electronic Travel Authorisation (required for clearing customs). The rate for a double-occupancy rooms is USD 55.00 for six hours and USD 15.00 for every hour thereafter. To get to the hotel, take the elevator to the left of passport control in the main transfer lobby. To book a room contact the Duty Manager by email: email@example.com.
Colombo International Airport is closer to Negombo than Colombo, so if you’re arriving after 20:00, it’s best to stay there. The town has a nice beach and restaurants and is only 10km from the airport. Check in to the Pledge 3 Hotel in Negombo – for USD 177 per night you’ll have a well-appointed room in a boutique hotel with complimentary Wi-Fi and access to a salt water swimming pool.
Mobile plans with data coverage are reasonably priced and provide you with good coverage throughout Sri Lanka. When exiting the baggage reclaim area, there are several phone company vendors. Ask around for the best rates at the time. The “tourist” packages go for around LKR 1,200 (USD 9.00) for a card with 2 GB of data and local and international calls.
Car hire desks are located in the arrivals hall.
You can book a car at the airport, or save money by booking online before you travel.
There is a charge of LKR 300 (USD 2.25) to enter the arrival halls from outside that must be paid by anyone who enters the airport to wait for passengers.
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