In Transit: What I did with 2 stopovers in Colombo

They say the journey is only as important as the destination. This is why, as a traveler, I feel that visiting a new city or country is as important as trying out its local airlines or flag carrier. It’s just a personal thing – I want to have the comparative advantage whenever I’m given the chance to choose which airline I’ll fly in.

I was lucky enough to have been booked in SriLankan Airlines (SLA), one of the best airlines in the region, during my first trip to South Asia last December. On the way to Kerala, India, I had to transit in Singapore and Colombo.

I had fun during my transit in Singapore (because it’s Singapore) and my stopover in Colombo was made extra special because of SriLankan Airlines.

A night in Colombo

On the way to Kerala, I had 11 hours of transit time in Colombo. We arrived at 8pm Sri Lanka time at the Bandaranaike International Airport and immediately headed to the SLA transfer desk, as instructed by the organizers of our tour.

A few minutes later, we were already given our hotel slip and were instructed to present them to a booth on the way to the exit.

Sri Lankan transit visa stamp on the right side. The transit visa is valid for 2 days.
Sri Lankan transit visa stamp on the right side. The transit visa is valid for 2 days.

Next stop: Immigration.

I read in their website that Filipinos going to Sri Lanka need to secure a travel permit (even for transit purposes) before arriving. I applied – for free – and was granted a transit visa (in only 30 minutes) through e-mail, a few weeks before I traveled. But it turned out that the immigration officers didn’t even ask for one.

I don’t know if this is because we booked through SLA and they gave us a hotel slip, but that definitely sped things up in the immigration.

Stamp stamp and we’re outside Colombo. We went to the assigned booth, waited a few minutes, and were escorted to the van going to our hotel.

Catamaran Beach Resort was the name of our hotel and it was located right by the sea, some 30-minute drive from the airport. We had our own rooms and were even served a detectable Sri Lankan dinner. It was a perfect place to rest after a day of plane rides!

My room in Catamaran Beach Resort in Negombo Beach.
My room in Catamaran Beach Resort in Negombo Beach.

I actually got to talk to the hotel owner and he said a room there would cost 90 euros a night. I’d imagine it would be that expensive given that Negombo beach is right outside the hotel. But since it wasn’t peak season, the owner said most of the guests they have are transit passengers. I guess they have a deal with Sri Lankan Air.

Since our flight to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) was at 7:45am, we had to leave the hotel around 5am. Being me, I woke up to the banging of the doors and with one of my fellow bloggers shouting my name from the window. It was 5:15am and they’ve been trying to wake me up for 30 minutes. The staff actually thought I was dead so he was panicking.

A 30-minute ride after, and we found ourselves waiting for our flight to Kerala! The immigration process went smoothly since we already had our boarding passes in Singapore so we had a lot of time to drink coffee and go about Bandaranaike International Airport.

Outside the arrival area in the ground floor of the Bandaranaike International Airpor.
Outside the arrival area in the ground floor of the Bandaranaike International Airpor.

We took our last SLA flight and then woosh – Namaste, India!

Around Bandaranaike International

After spending the time of our lives in Kerala, India, it was time to go back home. Naturally, our first stop in our inbound journey was Colombo.

Inside the executive lounger of the Bandaranaike International Airport
Inside the executive lounger of the Bandaranaike International Airport

We arrived at the airport at 5:30pm and our flight to Singapore was at 1am. Since it was a 7.5-hour transit, we thought we can get a transit hotel like the last time. Unfortunately, the SLA transfer desk said it was too short and we will lose our time in the notorious Colombo traffic. We were directed to the executive lounge though it wasn’t free.

We had to pay 15 USD to stay in the lounge for 3 hours. I think it was worth it since the lounge had comfortable sofas, a nice comfort room, unlimited soft drinks, and we were also given a decent meal.

After our time was out, I went around the airport shops. Bandaranaike International is a relatively small airport but it has all the amenities you’d need – smoking areas, shops, restaurants, and lounges. You can find many cute local SriLankan souvenirs here. The one that caught my eyes was the world-renown Ceylon Tea (for only 5 USD a box!)

This transit was definitely faster and we were already boarding our flight to Singapore in no time!

Some shops inside the pre-departure area in the airport.
Some shops inside the pre-departure area in the airport.

On my Project 25 list

See you again soon, Sri Lanka!
See you again soon, Sri Lanka!

My 4 flights on SLA were some of the most comfortable I’ve had ever. The landings were really smooth and though there was a bit of turbulence, I managed to sleep through. The service was excellent and the food was amazing.

Because of my short transits in Sri Lanka, this country is already in my Project 25 list. I’ve heard so much of this small country and what small things I saw while there made me want to get to know it more.

I’d definitely fly SriLankan Air again, when I return to Sri Lanka. Though it can be pricey, it is definitely worth trying.

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