Stopover in Negombo (Sri Lanka)

For a stopover or short stay in Sri Lanka, there is a free 2-Day Sri Lanka Transit VISA on arrival. Very easy to organise. Turn up at the airport (Bandaranaike International Airport) and go direct to the VISA desk next to airport immigration and exit. If planning to stay longer than 2 days VISA should be arranged in advance on the Sri Lanka VISA website.

Where to Stay near Colombo Airport?

During our recent visit (April 2013) we arrive at 05.00am with a pre-booked hotel (Agoda hotel list here) in Negombo. Negombo is 10km from Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) and to reach Colombo it is a 30km drive. Colombo is not really worth the journey on a quick stopover. The nearby Negombo Lagoon is by far the best option on a Sri Lanka Transit VISA. For taxi to and from the airport expect to pay around 1,500 Rupees ($11US) and at 5AM we find no problem arranging a taxi. We arrive at our Waterfront hotel in complete darkness and the hotel check-in has to be opened for us. We will be back to the airport for a 1AM flight the following morning.

Negombo Lagoon

Despite relative anonymity Negombo is Sri Lanka’s 4th largest city. A beautiful city dubbed Sri Lanka’s Little Rome. For our quick stopover we chose Residences in the Negombo Lagoon Area over the Resorts on nearby Beaches. Reason being; resorts house tourists while we prefer an authentic local experience. This paid off at Choy’s Waterfront Residence. We wake early to idyllic balcony views of St. Mary’s Church on one side and Negombo Lagoon on the opposite. Authentic local life on our doorstep and a quick walk finds the beach. An added bonus as a food fiend; the hotel doubles as a restaurant (Choy’s Restaurant) with top-notch Biryani and Sri Lankan Curry. Out front sits an extremely popular vadai street food stall.

13 thoughts on “Stopover in Negombo (Sri Lanka)”

  1. Hey.. We’ll be having some 6-7 hrs halt at colombo arriving at 4.39 pm and departure at 11.30pm. Will we be eligible for transit visa? And what are the places we can visit in such a short time. . Thanks in advance. .

    1. Yes. Grab a free transit VISA on arrival. It takes 30 mins to acquire. Also arrive back i’m guessing 1 hour 30 mins (at least) before boarding. It can take an hour to reach Colombo itself (and an hour back) so 4 hours wasted for Colombo doesn’t sound worthwhile. Stick to Negombo. You should be able to negotiate a cheap Tuk-Tuk / rickshaw to tour Negombo. Check out the beaches, lagoon and eat some biryani and Sri Lankan curry 🙂 Hope all goes well. A

  2. Hi, I will be traveling to kuala lumpur, in oct end via Colombo, i will be having 12hrs halt in airport, can someone give suggestion on this. about transit visa and places to visit.

    Any good suggestions are welcome.


    1. Grab a free transit VISA on arrival. Takes 30 mins to acquire. Arrive back 1 hour 30 mins (at least) before boarding. Gives you 10 hours which again is probably best for Negombo. My suggestion would be grab a Tuk-Tuk, taxi or minivan driver and arrange a half day tour of nearby areas; the Lagoon, Beach, cute villages. Depends on your interests really. Shouldn’t be so expensive. Enjoy your trip>>

  3. Hi! For a long stopover in Colombo, arrive at 5:30 pm and depart at 1:30pm the next day, is it advisable to stay overnight in a hotel in Colombo and do a short city tour? I can also avail of the free transit visa, right? Thanks.

    1. Yes you’re good the free transit VISA and Colombo is doable although the Negombo option maybe better. There won’t be much time for a city tour in Colombo.

      1. Thanks Allan. We already got the transit visa from the website. Is it not worth it to go to Colombo, maybe go to a nice restaurant in the evening and do a quick city tour or visit the market early in the morning? How long is the travel time from the airport to the city now? I read from one site that now it’s at least 30 minutes. Is it true? Thanks again.

  4. Hi Allan,
    We are British citizens,
    We have a 12 hour layover in Colombo airport, arriving at 12.45 in the day and flight at 1am. Will we be able to leave the airport? And is it worth it for only 12 hours?

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