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Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city of Sri Lanka. According to the Brookings Institution, Colombo metropolitan area has a population of 5.6 million, and 752,993 in the city proper. It is the financial centre of the island and a popular tourist destination. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to the Greater Colombo area which includes Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, the legislative capital of Sri Lanka and Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia. Colombo is often referred to as the capital since Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is within the urban area of, and a suburb of, Colombo. It is also the administrative capital of Western Province, Sri Lanka and the district capital of Colombo District. Colombo is a busy and vibrant place with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins. It was the legislative capital of Sri Lanka until 1982.
The international airport in Sri Lanka is the Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, which is located 34 kilometres North from the capital Colombo.
The national carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines (flight code UL) flies to 45 destinations in 25 countries. Sri Lankan is one of the largest foreign carriers operating to India, with 90 weekly flights to 11 destinations. It is also the largest carrier to the Maldives with direct flights from Europe.
Some other international carriers serving Colombo are Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Czech Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Expo Aviation, Gulf Air, Indian Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Oman Air, Qantas Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian Airline, Royal Nepal Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
Car Rental and Driving
Driving is easier and a much more pleasant experience when you are away from the congested main cities, but always carry a good road map and phrase book.
To drive in Sri Lanka, you will need an International Driving License or a temporary Sri Lankan license which can be obtained from the Automobile Association of Ceylon (tel: +94 11 242 1158), 40, Sir Mohamed Marcan Markar Mawatha, just off Galle Face Green in Colombo.
Unless you absolutely have to drive, the best option would be to hire a vehicle along with a driver – this doesn’t cost a lot more than hiring a car on its own.
Climate – Visitors to Sri Lanka will be completely fascinated by the rather unusual climate of the country, where it is possible to come across hot and humid tropical weather, cool and misty conditions and dry and parched areas all within the same day. There are no visible seasonal changes although there may be a slight drop in temperature towards December/January.
The two main seasons are based on the monsoons – the Southwest monsoon and Northeast monsoon. The former blows in from the Indian Ocean, bringing with it heavy periods of rain which may last from May to September. This season usually starts with a month of heavy rain followed by periods of shorter showers. At this time of the year the seas are rough and the coastal tides are rather dangerous; swimming in the sea should be strictly avoided at this time of the year. Even fishermen refrain from going out to sea during this time.