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Three Little Sri Lankan Birds…

En-route to the Maldives, we had a long stopover in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Long enough to justify leaving the airport to explore at least a little of the surrounding area. We’d read and heard decent things about Negombo Beach, a mere 30 minute auto rickshaw journey away, and so we exited Bandaranaike International Airport (not without more than a little trouble from the power-tripping immigration officials, despite our pre-applied for and accepted transit visas), and made our way past the taxi touts, and towards the line of auto rickshaws just outside the airport fence.

After negotiating a price that was obviously still too high, but much less than what the taxi mafia required, we were on our way to the beach.

We drove through air thick and heavy with moisture, pollution and the odour of King coconuts, and arrived seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Aside from a few ultra touristy souvenir stores and the overpriced, but air conditioned, gelato shop we took refuge in, the streets of the little town around Negombo beach were void of energy, people, or any real reason to visit. And unfortunately, the beach didn’t fare much better.

The only saving grace? This trio of black birds posing for all the world to admire.

Pity there wasn’t another soul on the beach to see them.

sri lanka

Do you leave the airport during long stopovers, when you travel, or stay put? Have you had good or bad experiences? Tell us all about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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20 Comments Post a comment
  1. That was a really quite trip around Negombo beach. Maybe it was the weekend, or maybe it was a day of the week where the town didn’t work. I don’t usually have long stopovers in airports. If I do, I’m usually content to stay in the airport and try to find free wi-fi and catch up with what’s happening around the world ๐Ÿ™‚

    November 24, 2015
    • It really felt like a ghost town there…I’m guessing it was low-season because there wasn’t much stuff open, but to be perfectly honest, having seen it, I’m not sure it’s a place I’d choose to hang out. Def much better options in Sri Lanka! I usually stay in airports for layovers less than 4 hours, but any longer and I feel like I should get out and explore. Lol…sometimes it doesn’t work out though… ๐Ÿ™‚

      November 25, 2015
  2. Thus far I never had any long stop over except when a connecting flight was delayed by half day in Beijing due to hard rain storms in 2011. We didn’t go to the city but I ly to the hotel the airline provided us to sleep as it was a long restless flight from Zurich to Beijing

    November 24, 2015
    • Such a treat when an airline provides a hotel on long delays or stopovers! Unfortunately, it’s never happened to us haha. We always go as budget as possible, so sometimes we even schedule long enough stopovers ourself so that we have time to check into a cheap transit hotel overnight and rest. We also do it purposely so that we can check out a little bit of a new place.

      November 26, 2015
      • Well I guess they had no other chance but to provide a hotel as the entire airport was packed (no plane could leave Beijing airport for nearly two days till that day already…). Probably they got us a hotel as there was no space for any further human being inside the airport ๐Ÿ™‚

        November 26, 2015
  3. You were brave to venture out of the airport in Colombo when you had another flight to catch. Even short distances take ages there! Sorry it didn’t work out but I’m sure it was more exciting than hanging out in the airport for hours. ๐Ÿ™‚

    November 25, 2015
    • Getting around really is terrible in Sri Lanka, isn’t it?! I have to say that there really wasn’t much to do in Colombo airport, not even free wifi! so leaving was definitely the best choice, since we had about 10 hours to kill. Immigration almost didn’t let us out though, which would’ve been truly awful and so tiring.

      November 26, 2015
  4. I try to venture out, but I do get a little nervous about it sometimes. How much time do you consider long enough to leave the airport? I’m toying with doing it in Panama in December. Fingers crossed!

    November 25, 2015
    • Hmm good question! I think it really depends on the country and it’s transport infrastructure. Like in Seoul, I’d say it’s totally doable to leave the airport, even for a 5 hour stopover because we have a high-speed express subway that takes you from Incheon (a whole other city), into Seoul in 40 minutes, but in less developed countries, it’s a crapshoot. I also get nervous in certain countries…even Canada and the US feels risky to me because getting through security is so time-consuming and service is so slow. How long is your Panama stopover? Our Sri Lanka one was about 10 hours, so we had plenty of time!

      November 26, 2015
      • I think maybe 5 hours, so kind of pushing it. Will let you know if we attempt it! I’m usually pretty aggressive, but my fellow travelers may be too nervous.

        November 28, 2015
  5. Soon baby will make 3 for your growing family. Best wishes…

    November 25, 2015
  6. I don’t usually leave the airport as I’m worried about getting lost! Will have to give it a go next time though ๐Ÿ™‚

    December 3, 2015
    • I have the WORST sense of direction, and maybe wouldn’t attempt it if I was alone, because I would, for sure, get lost. :p

      December 7, 2015
  7. A yes or no for me. Some I stayed, some I left the airport. My most favorite layovers were Singapore and Hawaii. ๐Ÿ˜€ There’s plenty of problems with touristy places. The problem with very non-touristy places is the fact that you went out to explore other things but only to find common sceneries, and the feeling of being out of place. An honest post, Shelley.

    December 10, 2015
  8. Negombo beach doesn’t look that nice.. I went to Sri Lanka this past February and we spent about 12 days exploring beautiful coastal towns of Sri Lanka (we left out Negombo due to some average reviews I had read..). But you did take advantage of long layover! I so regret not taking a 24 hours transit in Male when flying to Sri Lanka this past Feb. One such long layover I had in the past was in Istanbul and we had a great afternoon checking out the city! This coming Feb, we’re having a 13 hour layover in China when going to Philippines, so we’re excited to see at least a bit of Chinese city Guangzhou! ๐Ÿ˜€ One big lesson I learned from not taking 24 hour transit in Maldives was to always take the long transit and explore one more new place, ha ha.

    November 28, 2016
    • I am a huge fan of the long layover. Extra cities for the same price! But honestly you didn’t miss much in Male. It’s really not very nice…though it is of course surrounded by gorgeous water. U could stop there though and take a trip out to Hulhumale, which at least has a gorgeous beach to hang out on. ๐Ÿ™‚ We visited Sri Lanka just after the war ended and it was such an amazing experience. The locals were so welcoming, and there was not a single tout to be found. I think it’s changed a bit since then, and I’d love to head back to check it out again one day.

      November 29, 2016
  9. This is an interesting post, how long was your stop over in Sri Lanka. Tbh there isnt much to do around Negombo but you missed out on the rest of what Sri Lanka have to offer. I travel there annually and love it too much to often want to leave

    August 15, 2018
    • Shelley @Travel-Stained #

      We were only there for about 8 hours enroute to the Maldives for our babymoon… but I had been to Sri Lanka previously just after the civil war ended and toured the whole country with Sri Lankan friends that live in Colombo. It was an incredible experience! I loved Unawatuna and Ella – and often wonder how much it’s changed since I visited…

      August 15, 2018

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