Colombo, Sri Lanka Report of what it's like to live there - 02/26/08
Personal Experiences from Colombo, Sri Lanka
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived 20 years abroad: Philippines in early 80s; Yangon, Myanmar 1990-94; Hanoi, Vietnam 1994-97; Vienna, Austria 97-99; Phnom Penh, Cambodia 1999-2004; Sri Lanka 2004-?
2. How long have you lived here?
Nearly 4 years.
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
There are direct flights from Europe (London or Frankfurt) that take about 11-12 hours or you can fly via the Middle East (Dubai/Doha) a bit longer.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I work for an NGO.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There is a good housing standard. Many expat families with children prefer to live outside of the city, close to the International School of Colombo in Battaramulla - commuting to and from the city can be slow (about 30-40 minutes in rush hour).
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There is high inflation. Imported items are relatively expensive but not exorbitant.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are several fast food places including McDonald's.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Most mail from abroad seem to get through. For important documents you should use courier service (DHL or similar).
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
About US$120-200 a month dependent on experience etc. Most are ready available but should come with references.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
There are several English newspapers as well as cable television.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is widely spoken.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be very difficult to move around on your own. However, people are very helpful.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Left, like the U.K.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Trains and buses are very cheap but rather basic. Expats are recommended to avoid buses and trains because of security concerns.
3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
About 2500 rupees a a month for ADSL (not very high speed).
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Phones available locally in abundance (but not all genuine brands). There is generally good coverage and good service.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Neither landline or mobile phone charges are expensive at least for calling Europe.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It depend on the work place. There is no strict dress codes; just use your common sense.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Exhaust from buses/cars and occassional burning of garbage in the street. Probably unhealthy in the long run.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, there is decades old conflict with bombs going off in Colombo and elsewhere. They are not targetted at foreigners though, who should still avoid public transport where most of the blasts have occurred.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There are several private hospitals with good doctors. In Colombo be aware of dengue fever.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and humid April - November. Pleasant December-March.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
OSC in Batteramulla is an international IB school from K-12, most expat children go there. Also there is a British school and two locally-based international schools of high academic standard.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Not much, I think.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes e.g., OSC,and other good Montessori schools.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There is not so much for kids and teenagers to do. Traffic is heavy and there are the security concerns. Activities tend to be concentrated at schools.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It seems so.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Travel -- to the mountains, national parks, beautiful beaches, luxury hotels...
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Interior design items.
9. Can you save money?
Probably, if you try.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Favorite brands of make up, swim wear.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
7. Do you have any other comments?
Its a good place to live. Friendly people and a a comfortable living.