Colombo - Post Report Question and Answers
How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Local fruit, vegetables, and seafood/fish is cheap and plentiful. International foods are available but require some know-how to get them, either by going to international markets or joining an expat WhatsApp group for various companies that sell good quality bread and cheeses. There is a commissary at the U.S. Embassy that sells a lot of American staples (flour, sugar, etc.), junk food, and alcohol. Local household cleaning products are fine and inexpensive. But liquid clothing detergent and dishwasher detergent can be very expensive locally. - Sep 2020
There are modern grocery store chains (e.g., Keells, Cargills, Arpico), specialty markets, and wet markets. You can find most things if you look hard enough, but probably not all in the same place. Food is not particularly expensive, with the exception of imported items. - Apr 2020
After some time you will be able to find most of what you need in Colombo. If you tend to eat more like the locals i.e.: curry everything. You will find groceries inexpensive. If you tend to eat like a westerner, they are a little more pricey. Fresh produce is available and inexpensive. Items like toilet paper and paper towels are available, but we have them shipped over from Amazon. We use local cleaning supplies for some things, and I use a lot of white vinegar that I brought with me. It's here but it's pricey. Beef is not a good quality here, although you can find some from Australia but it is pricey. Chicken is our main staple and there is seafood, of course. Overall, we spend slightly more on groceries here than we did back home but that is because I have a tendency to cook more American-style foods. - Sep 2017
You can find almost anything in Colombo. The US embassy has a commissary which supplies some great additions to what is available on the market. I would definitely say go local! The fish, seafood, fresh vegetables and fruit are out of this world, so take advantage. There are grocery stores all over and on a side note, you can pay your mobile bill, Internet and cable at any big chain grocery store - don't wait in line at the designated mobile phone shop!
Local cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, etc are available although more expensive then the US. This was a consumables post for US government employees, though I am not sure if that is still the case. If so, bring your favorite brands of shampoo, soap, cleaning supplies and snacks. What is available here is coming out of the UAE and Thailand and not what you are used to - if you need that!
Sri Lanka is not a big dairy consumer, however they do make great ice cream (Il Gelato near Odel) and mini cups of ice cream located near the mosque and Galle Road. Cheese imported or average, milk is UHT but one can find fresh, local milk suppliers if you want.
There is a great fruit/veg local market called Kolpetty. It is more expensive than others (like the one on Kirimandala going to Nawala), but it is close and fresh and you will find surprising things there! Upstairs from the fruit/veg part is fish and above that are 2 grocery stores that have a lot of specialty items! Beema's and Brana's?? - Mar 2017
It can be expensive if the item is imported. The Embassy has a small commissary that is open to some of the other overseas missions as well. - Sep 2013
Imported items have a HUGE tax added, as they are "luxury" items. Cheese, washing powder, booze. Most electrical items are the same price as in the West - yet the average salary is just $3,500 a year. - Sep 2012
There are grocery stores now - Cargill's and Keell's; and Arpico is a "super" market. They were building a new large Arpico when I left Sri Lanka; and the smaller markets were offering more western food choices. Household supplies are difficult to find, it is easier to bring these things with. - Dec 2011
Imported goods are expensive as is the case everywhere. Local produce is relatively cheap and of decent quality. Not everything is available all the time so sometimes you have to stuck up on items like canned tomatoes, frozen corn or cream cheese. But if you are not a planner, and can go with whatever is available in the supermarket that day, it is not a big problem. - Feb 2010
Expect Western food to be just as expensive as at home. Cargill's supermarket is dependable but don't expect to find good beef and seafood is subject to histamines from poor refrigeration. There is a good seafood market on Duplication Road and near the U.S. embassy. - Sep 2008
There is high inflation. Imported items are relatively expensive but not exorbitant. - Feb 2008