Tips For New Expats Living in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Hub Writer

Sri Lanka is becoming increasingly more common among expats who relocate to work in the tourism industry, NGO’s, and the education sector. Most expats come to the capital city of Colombo while some others settle in other locations around the country. New expat families have to figure out the city and their surroundings quite quickly to be able to settle down comfortably and with the least amount of setbacks. These 11 insider tips will help any new expat getting accustomed to Colombo. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Getting Around

Tuk Tuk

The easiest and fastest way to get around anywhere in the city is by tuk tuk. The tuk tuks In Sri Lanka are commonly called “three wheelers.” In every neighborhood, at almost every other corner, you will find a group of tuk tuk drivers that hang around there. Once you get to know them, they will know your routines and you won’t have to explain the route every single time. This will save you a lot of time and once they are your friends you will also feel safer with them.

If You Aren’t a Great a Driver, Don’t Try Driving

Colombo traffic is some of the craziest in the world. The biggest rule is to not follow any rules! Nobody breaks smoothly, creating a “back and forth” effect every few meters that is difficult to not copy, because everyone is doing it. The big public buses come hammering at all speeds while honking their horns from all directions and it takes years to get used to it. It’s better keep your nerves calm and take three-wheelers and taxis around the city. You will enjoy it more that way.

Only Take the Bus If You Are in For an Adventure

If you want to have an adventure in the city, why not take the bus? There are buses that can take you anywhere, but you have to ask around about where to catch them since there are no bus stop signs. Non-air-conditioned buses will have the windows open and the more expensive AC buses will have the windows and door closed until a passenger gets on or off. If you will be traveling by bus, try to not wear flip flops and get ready for some running to get on it and lots of jerking around once you are in!


The produce at the supermarkets like Keels and Cargills are okay, but who doesn’t love a farmer’s market? Every Saturday in the Racecourse parking lot, the Good Market sets up tents and stalls where you can get all sorts of organic produce. Apart from fruits and veggies there are plenty of other organic products and some household items as well. If you cannot make it to the Good Market on Saturday, there is a flagship store across the street that opens every day. Visit The Good Market online for more information.

There is nothing better than being able to order food from home and get it delivered quickly. Foodie can be accessed from your computer or your phone. They have hundreds of restaurants in their database and you can order at any time of day. Some restaurants only deliver in the evenings but Foodie will let you know when each restaurant is available for delivery. Visit for more information.

Getting Support or Finding Things

Join Facebook Groups

Colombo is one of those places where you can get pretty much anything you need. For some reason, though, some things are harder to find than others. There is no better way to find things in the city or find out how to get something done than by asking in the Facebook groups for expats in Sri Lanka. The EPFS Community on Facebook is full of expats and locals who are willing to help newcomers find what they need. The Colombo Expats group is also very helpful as is the Expats in Colombo group.

Going Out

For the Ladies; Don’t Go Out Alone Late at Night

There are lots of bars in Colombo where you can have a good time. There are even some wonderful rooftop ocean front bars which are amazing at sunset. But please don’t go out alone late at night, especially if you are a woman. Always move around in a group, preferably with at least one local man. It is unfortunate, but it is known that women are harassed constantly by the late night tuk tuk drivers. Don’t take the risk and never take a tuk tuk alone very late at night.

Be Modest With Your Clothing Choices

Sri Lankan women usually wear long saris and men wear long pants. Their legs are almost always covered and so are their shoulders. While it is ok for an expat to wear what they wish, it is best to keep some level of modesty if working with Sri Lankan locals or while visiting temples. Colombo and the rest of Sri Lanka are becoming more modernized also in the way the young people dress but the older generation is still very modest. Depending on where you work, try and do as they do and they will appreciate you for it.

Check the Schools Out Before Enrolling Your Kids

There are plenty of international schools in Sri Lanka. Do your research beforehand to know which ones are really international and which ones just use the word to their advantage. Some schools that claim they are international are actually more like local schools that follow an international curriculum. Visit the schools and meet the teachers, your kids will be glad you did.

Find the Good Playgrounds

There are some great indoor and outdoor playgrounds that your kids can enjoy. There are more and more playgrounds opening in Colombo and the rest of Sri Lanka. Some of the favorites are Super Kids, Fun Factory, and the Victoria Park playground and water fountain.

Always Have Good Mosquito Repellant on Hand

It’s better to be safe than sorry with the mosquitos in this part of the world. There is repellant available in all drug stores and some stores will have natural sprays and even stickers to put on kids’ clothing. If going to any place with a body of water like a lake or the park, it’s best to always wear mosquito repellant and stay clear of Dengue fever.

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