The change in weather had spoiled our plans to go diving and sunbathing on the south coast of Sri Lanka so we decided to head back to Negombo to give this place a second look (it was our first stop in Sri Lanka) and to see if the clouds would clear for us.
We decided to get the bus in the end, as the train times would have us waiting about after checking out from the hotel. We jumped on the Colombo bound bus (one of the smaller AC. varieties) direct from Mirissa and sat on the bus for about five hours till we arrived in Colombo. Our hopes of weather improvement were to be dashed as we got off the bus the heavens opened to a torrential downpour.
After changing buses, we hopped on the back seat of the local bus to get us to Negombo and quickly realised a flaw in our seat choice, as water poured in the rear doors. The bus was packed and this drenching of ourselves and our bags continued for most of the one and a half hour trip to Negombo.
We grabbed a tuk tuk at Negombo bus station, the rain made the decision easy of bus versus taxi. The driver took us to a guest house a little farther south than we stayed last time and after a bit of negotiation we were happy with the price, location and amenities. We liked this area; it has a few more local shops and lower priced restaurants than the northern end of town near the Jetwing resorts. There are more guesthouses to choose from here starting around the 1500 to 2000 LKR price range, which was our maximum after our flashpacking tour around Sri Lanka.
The beach here is the same as the north, not brilliantly clean, but not filthy either with plenty of places to drop your towel, beach mat and enjoy the peace and quiet on the beach. You will get very occasional visits from the local fisherman and odd seller, but they won’t linger for long.
Our pick of Negombo restaurants
We ate a few times at the Sea Joy, one of the cheapest we found on the strip (400 for breakfast and basic noodle and rice dishes to 600 if you want a meat/prawn dish) and the food was good. The waiter lacked any sort of customer service skills slapping plates down on tables and barely listening to requests from diners but got away with it as he was cheeky and we ended up rather liking him.
A Day Out in Negombo
In our first post in this series about Sri Lanka we looked at tuk tuk and taxi tours, so we decided in the end to wander by ourselves around Negombo town.
We got the local bus to the fish market for 16 rupees and hopped off at the busy general market. From the bus stop we weaved our way through a whole range of wonderful fruits and vegetables laid out on the floor by the local farmers, all yelling their marketing pitches to the passing Sri Lankan shoppers. As you near the sea the smell of the fruits, veg and spices is overtaken by rather less pleasant smell of fish. Not fresh fish, but the concentrated odour of dried fish which is not one of our favourite smells. As we meandered further along the coast we discovered the source as we witnessed literally thousands of drying fish carcasses laid out along as far as the eye could see.
It was a spectacle we had never seen before and was worth the assault on your nose just to watch the industry going on before you. Fishermen were gutting and beheading the freshly caught hauls and transporting it to the main drying area where it was laid out to sizzle in the baking sun.
There were small fish, big fish and any number of workers turning and tending to the fish as it dried and prepared for transport and packaging on the other side of the market. We ended up spending quite a bit of time wandering here as it was such a pleasantly picturesque if not scented experience.
From here we made it further into town via the Old Portuguese fort and the lagoon of Negombo which is lined with fishing boats and a smattering of pleasure craft. The going rate for a trip around the lagoon seems to be about 3,000 LKR per boat.
The views along the lagoon are pretty and there is an area in town being developed as a jetty where we stumbled upon a group of police and plain clothed security preparing, as we found out, for a visit by the son of the president to promote tourism in the area. We were asked to come onto one of the boats, but it was too hot for us to wait around to see him so we continued into town and checked out the shops and markets in search of air conditioned buildings to cool down in. We’ve become quite acclimatised to heat, and it has never really bothered us, but the heat was scorching here. and I had forgotten my hat so my bald spots were beginning to resemble the dried fish.
There are some small temples around the market area which you can visit if you feel the need for a little religious culture, but we didn’t bother.
Negombo Beach Boat ride
If you want to go out on one of the traditional photogenic fishing boats any of the fishermen on the beach will gladly sail you around the bay for an hour for around 3000 LKR.
There are less traditional speedboats who charge a similar figure, but as they are faster they will squeeze in a lagoon tour too. So you can take your pick over speed or traditional wind power.
Getting a drink in Negombo
There are plenty of places to get a drink in the tourist focussed bars, but if you have a balcony or are staying in one of the cheaper places in town they won’t mind you bringing your own back to drink in the guest house communal areas. Wine shop beer prices can be seen on the image below but they add on 30 rupees per bottle if you buy glass rather than cans which you will get back if you return them.
We got some half decent Australian imported wine for 1300 a bottle which is not bad for Asia.
Smoking in Sri Lanka
As a result of increasing government taxes smoking in Sri Lanka will cost you around 500 LKR per pack of 20 local Gold Leaf brand and around 40 rupees more for Dunhills. The government has also banned duty free tobacco into the country so you are not supposed to bring any with you other than one open pack.
Getting to the airport from Negombo
The local tuk tuk cartel will charge you about 600 -700 LKR to get to the airport from Negombo, but we decided to see how easy it was to do by bus. We got the local number 905 bus to Negombo station then from there we hopped on the airport bus, total cost 41LKR each. The bus dropped us just short of the airport so this left a five minute walk to the terminal. If you want there are plenty of tuk tuks as you get off the bus who will take you the last few metres for 100 LKR.
Sri Lanka Travel Itinerary
You can see where we visited and things we got up to in Sri Lanka by looking at our Sri Lanka Travel Itinerary. We have also provided some basic cost information about the different costs of independent travel around the country here, but you’ll find more detail about prices and what to do in Sri Lanka in our travel blog posts. If you found any of the information useful, or have any updates don’t forget to leave a comment and share the pages over the internet.