Colombo Airport

What to do when you arrive at Colombo Airport

This is just a short, practical post about exactly what happens when you first land at Colombo Airport for people who are planning to visit Sri Lanka.

colombo airport

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Colombo Airport

First of all, Colombo airport is small and modern. It is well-organised and everything is well-signposted so I don’t think you are going to have any trouble.

The first thing you need to do after disembarking the plane is go through immigration. So follow signs for that.

Necessary Documentation at Colombo Airport

Everyone needs a visa and a landing card to enter the country. The landing card will be given to you on the plane. Make sure you fill it out on the plane so it’s done. If you don’t know the name of your first accommodation make it up.

Don’t wait until you reach Colombo Airport to obtain your visa (although you can). Instead, do it online here a week or so before you leave. It costs $30US, which is cheaper than if you do it on arrival. The online visa is called ETA.

You cannot exchange money until after you have been through immigration, so that’s one more reason to have done it online already as you’ve already paid.

You don’t need to print the email confirmation of the ETA. You just present your passport and your landing card.

Baggage collection at Colombo Airport

To reach the luggage belts you walk through the duty free where you can buy a nice fridge or washing machine (just what you needed for your backpacking trip around Sri Lanka) and follow the signs.

Baggage collection at Colombo Airport is the same as at all airports, so you just wait by the belt and grab your bag when it comes around.

There are porters with an official badge at Colombo Airport if you need help with your baggage.

Money Exchange at Colombo Airport

When you leave the baggage area into the main arrivals hall you will see many places where you can exchange money and get yourself some rupees already for your first days.

As expected, the exchange rate is not the best at the airport so just change a small denomination.

There are ATMs at the airport too.

Organising a SIM card for your trip

All the mobile companies have stands in the arrivals hall. You first need to fight your way through the gauntlet of drivers waiting with name cards for their clients. If you have booked transport from the airport then look for your name on the way past.

If you do not have transport from Colombo Airport, read this post.

The mobile company that we used was Dialog. I had already decided that I would buy the SIM card from them as I had read that they were reasonably priced and with the best coverage throughout the country.

The SIM card from Dialog cost 1,300rs (10$) and came with credit and internet. We didn’t need to top it up during the whole stay and we used it frequently.

Then it was time for us to find our driver and get the hell out of there and onto the crazy streets of Colombo…

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