Nightclubs and bars in Sri Lanka

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Most Viewed Nightlife in Sri Lanka

  • Maxus's Profile Photo

    House Party: Bring your own!

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    A Sri Lankan night can be a magical experience but if you want western style nightlife you are probably in the wrong country. In Colombo there are casinos and clubs, which tend to cater for the more affluent (often rather unpleasent VIPs with their bodyguards and men looking for the company of exploited female hostesss') and small towns may have a local bar (catering for the more desperate) but these are probably not the sort of place you will want to frequent.

    Your hotel management will do their best to entertain you as you sip your overpriced after dinner drinks with your fellow Europeans but believe me the novelty will soon wear off and even the most love-struck couples will be eager for a change of scenery by the end of the first week.

    Touts or beach boys can be a pain in the arse, but do not let that stop you getting to know the locals and if you get invited to visit a Sri Lankan home jump at the chance. Unless your new found friends are Muslim they will almost certainly agree to share a beer with you of an evening so if you enjoy your daytime visit (i.e. if you are not asked for money) suggest getting together for a drink after dinner one night.

    The locals may know a reasonable local bar but for a real treat get yourself invited to their home to share a few beers with their family and friends (their friends will turn up anyway so you might as well include them in the invitation). Arrange a time and place for them to pick you up in a three-wheeler (only tourists call them tuk tuks), grab your bug spray and enjoy your evening. It gets lively and even though you will be buying all the beer it is a relatively cheap night out.

    Dress Code: Go casual but smart; Sri Lankan's know good clothes and will appreciate it if you make an effort when you are visiting their home. It's customary to take a small gift when ever you visit a Sri Lankan house, a cake will do but anything from your home country will be particularly appreciated (although in Sri Lanka it is considered rude to examine a gift in front of the giver so your gift will be put out of sight as soon as you hand it over).

    PS: While relatively cheap to westerners, booze is a luxury item to most Sri Lankan people which they simply cannot afford on a regular basis so expect to pay for all the beer that you and your friends are likely to drink. Give them the money to go and buy the booze because anywhere in Sri Lanka a white face can sometimes lead to a sudden bout of price inflation.

    If you do not get invited out but want to escape your hotel, ask a friendly three-wheeler driver, they usually know what is going on. (if you are in Bentota try Wunderbar, it is a gem)

    Drinking alcohol tends to be a male affair A night out with the boys The women may join you for a lemonade
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  • Hmmmm's Profile Photo

    Anywhere..: Arak and Toddy: The Local Brews.

    by Hmmmm Updated Dec 29, 2003

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    Okay the lowdown on the local brews.

    Toddy is a sort of beer made from coconut milk. And Arak is the destilled version. Barrels are carried on thatched bullock carts, meandering across the road as drivers refresh themselves en route. Even bullocks lose their mournful demeanour towing the toddy home. For every five hundred rupees you invest, you reach a state of total alcoholic collapse more quickly with toddy than any other beer. Also, toddy can be turned into arak, a spirit popular for its fiery strength and flavour, very useful for clearing blocked sinuses and cleaning engines.

    The fascination of toddy is not that it tastes like an old puddle. If a drink contains as much sediment as the Ganges, its nutty texture has little appeal unless you have watched someone risk his life to collect it. Toddy is not for the air-conditioned wine-bar tourist. Toddy is for travellers in coconut groves, using a cracked coconut shell dipped into a leather bucket. But you can be a lot more sophisticated when partaking of arak. To this you add some lime and and cocnut milk. Its almost yummy.

    Middle Eastern culture has a long history with arak. Countries like Lebanon and Turkey are famous for their arak. In Eastern India arak is produced by distilling fermented sugar cane juice. In Malaysia and Sri Lanka, arak is made by distilling the juice of palm trees.

    This man had a few Araks the night before. ADI

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  • Maxus's Profile Photo

    Watch what you smoke

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    Lots of dope or 'Ganga' is smoked around the tourist resorts, the beach boys will offer you it and it is smoked fairly openly in some of the more secluded bars. Penalties for possession and trafficking of drugs go as high as the death penalty but you are more likely to be caught up in a scam which ends up with you making a hefty donation to a local policeman. The dope here is very very strong so for one reason or another you need to tread carefully.

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    Beach Bars

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    Your hotel management understandably want your cash in their tills so will not encourage you to go out of an evening but there is not a lot to keep you in the hotel except overpriced drinks and the odd pretty dire cultural show. Even if you are all inclusive it's worth getting out to see something a bit more 'real'.

    The main resorts all have locally owned small bars and it would be a mistake not to venture out of an evening, there really is nothing to be scared of. Drinks are a fraction of the price you pay in your hotel and the company is often better. Bar owners know where their bread is buttered, they want you to come back and will do their best to see you have a good night. The best are open air so you can see in, try a drink inone and if you don’t like it move on.

    You maybe offered arrack, its not a particularly nice drink and does not always bring out the best in people so if in doubt leave it out. Imported spirits are expensive in Sri Lanka, most bars have local alternatives.

    A Beach Bar at Bentota
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  • mafi_moya's Profile Photo

    Put it all on red

    by mafi_moya Written Jul 21, 2004

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    An integral part of Sri Lankan nightlife, particularly in Colombo, is the casino. Sorry for the stereotype but Asians are generally tremendous gamblers and Sri Lankans are no exception. Rich Sri Lankans anyway, as poor ones won't get past the doormen. The casinos vary wildly from serious high-stakes glitzy halls to cheap, fun dives - some friendly, others a bit intimidating. Overall the casinos, often open 24 hours, are very fun places - somewhere I spent a considerable amount of night time (and money!)

    For more info see my Colombo pages

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  • mafi_moya's Profile Photo

    Oh no... karaoke!

    by mafi_moya Written Jul 22, 2004

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    The aural nightmare that is karaoke arrived in Sri Lanka pretty late and it's probably still at the height of it's popularity. There are karaoke bars pretty much everywhere and it's a common destination on a night out. There are two main types of places that I went to:

    First up there's the family places where kids and couples and grandparents come, have something to eat, and have a good old family sing-song. If they don't serve alcohol you can usually bring your own but some people do what I never thought was possible - sober karaoke. There's usually a mix of Sinhalese and Western music to sing along to. As the western music is often mostly Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion I'm quite pleased that the Sinhalese stuff is generally most popular!

    Then there's the late-night karaoke bars, open till the early hours and often for men-only. Here the singing is usually dominated by one or two drunks as it takes second place to drinking. No actually third place in importance as the bars are also full of beautiful hostesses to make the customers feel welcome. There's no prostitution on the premises but phone numbers are often swapped and arrangements made for later dates. It's also quite common for guys to find proper girlfriends here (girlfriends rather than future wives - there's an important distinction!)

    There's no pressure though and it's a good place just for a late night dance and to have a laugh with some of the girls. Watch out though and keep track of what you're paying for - some places (not all) will present you with an astronomical bill at the end of the night.

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  • Lucy-'s Profile Photo

    Blue Water hotel: What Night Life

    by Lucy- Written Jun 5, 2004

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    I am afraid that if you are after night life then i am afraid Sri Lanka is not for you. We amused ourself in the bar most nights and playing pool! My dad went to a so called night club once that only had 4 people in so I didnt bother!

    A few nights the hotel put on traditional dancers or crab races but that was it. Usually we dragged dinner in the restaurant on as long as possible! which was OK as the food was great!

    Dress Code: The restaurant does have one policy that men must wear long trousers for dinner but there was no code for the women.

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  • mafi_moya's Profile Photo

    Nights are for sleeping!

    by mafi_moya Written Jul 21, 2004

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    Sri Lanka isn't generally the liveliest country in the world. If it's 24 hour beach parties you're after or wild hedonistic raves then it's probably not the place to come. But things are changing.

    Two decades of war and curfews have meant a generation of Sri Lankans got used to going to bed early and staying at home. But the peace process has meant more people are venturing out at night, and more places are opening for them to go. Colombo obviously has the greatest choice in terms of nightlife and there are now all night casinos, nightclubs open until 6am, even coffee shops on Galle Road open until the early hours of the morning. New bars are opening with increasing regularity, although most nightclubs are still connected to large hotels. It's not exactly the most happening place in Asia but it is getting better.

    Not a lot happening here!

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  • casinos: what nightlife ?

    by fitzdubai Updated May 8, 2007

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    the only nightlife in colombo are the casinos.the casinos are well run and safe they have poker,blackjack,ect.All three casinos are run by the same company. There is a free shuttle bus from one casino to the other,also free food and drinks.

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  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo

    Echelon Pub and Blue Elephant nightclub: Colombo

    by call_me_rhia Written Dec 23, 2004

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    How can I best describe this well-known Colombo Pub? Let's try fishing opinions off the net.
    Opinion 1: this can be a fun watering hole. Pool table and live music on weekends.
    Opinion 2: this is a colonial-style ''English'' pub. It has that convincing atmosphere. This ornate bar is where Colombo's night-time action can be found.
    What can I say, except: "oh, really?". Reality as I experienced it is quite different: a european couple in their 60ies, 6 British gals and guys busy getting drunk, 4 local lads of the upper class with a couple of body-guards and a score of whiskey bottles, two western men in their late 70ies and two badly dressed over-50 prostitutes.
    The Blue Elephant nightclub was just as boring as the pub, and with a similar cllientele, minus the old men and related prostitutes

    Dress Code: Smart casual - officially

    hilton fun

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  • nuovo(earlier known as Onyx) at taj: Check out Colombo Nightlife!

    by sher656 Written Dec 25, 2007

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    I agree that there is NO nightlife outside Colombo in Sri Lanka but in Colombo nightlife sure exists!!
    You can find a huge number of srilankans clubbing and partying at happening clubs like H20, Nuovo(Onyx),tabu.. RnB in duplication road is good for retro music lovers and its another happening club that gets all crowded late at night..

    Clanceys which is an irish pub n restaurant provides good food n good music as there are many more ways to enjoy your nights in Colombo!!!

    Dress Code: Clubs like h20 and Nuvovo - slinky clubwear

    RnB - a hot top with pants for ladies n even denim jeans are ok 4 both guys or gals

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  • trisanna's Profile Photo

    everywhere: Try some arak

    by trisanna Written May 9, 2005

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    Coconut Arak is the local alcoholic drink of Sri Lanka. You can drink it straight or have it in cocktails. In Kandy, i had a nice cocktail with coconut arak, pasionfruit juice, and soda water. Quite nice after a hard day of sightseeing.

    I recommend you picking up a bottle of coconut arak before you leave. We bought an extra two bottles for friends. They cost around 390 rps, about 4 usd each.

    having a coconut arak cocktail, Kandy

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  • freya_heaven's Profile Photo

    Kandy Dancers: Kandy Dancers

    by freya_heaven Updated Apr 6, 2004

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    In Kandy we went to a Kandy Show. There was drumming, fire eating, plate spinning and Lots of Dancing with each dance telling a different story. It was very good & The evening was finished of with some fire walking.

    Not the best scanned in photos, I know, so enlarge the photo

    Kandy Dancers
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  • RocknRolla's Profile Photo

    The Bavarian: One of the few good options in Colombo

    by RocknRolla Written Feb 9, 2010

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    Nightlife in SL sucks everywhere...In colombo if u go to any pubs all u'll find is prostitutes...

    But there is this German pub which is bang opposite to Galle Face Hotel...the ambience is pretty good...ther's a couple there who play guitar nd sing along...Food ...just like all other places is good and so are the cocktails!!!

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  • Maxus's Profile Photo

    Off Sales

    by Maxus Updated Jan 24, 2009

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    What bars there are outside the tourist resorts tend to be exclusively male affairs and can be a little grim, however most villages will have a ‘wine store’ or ‘beer shop’ selling local and occasionally imported beers and spirits for consumption off the premises and assuming your guesthouse doesn't have a bar (Government Rest Houses and the ever-increasing number of wedding halls usually do) your guest house owner probably won’t mind you bring a few beers back for a drink in the evening.

    Of course your hosts may object on religious grounds, although I've never come across this but either way it’s polite to ask, in some areas (like Kataragama) and on some days, including Poya Day and other religious holidays alcohol is banned but in most cases if you tell the manager what you want during the day and he’ll often offer get it for you.

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