Smell the scent of spices in the air and experience the bustle of the street whilst you buy a stylish artwork. There are so many great things you can pick up from precious gems and jewellery through to fine handicrafts and great clothes. Take a peek at what is on offer when you go shopping in Sri Lanka.
The spice gardens of Sri Lanka are a massive tourist draw and you can visit the spice gardens on tours to see where and how spices are produced. You won’t find a bargain here though. Of course, it is nice to buy a memento of the gardens you visited but the spices here are often overpriced. If you want to buy excellent quality spices at a bargain price then look no further than the local supermarkets.
Clothes in Colombo
The capital city has clothes with price tags you won’t believe. You will find Odel’s at 5 Alexandra Place, Lipton Circus and this has great fashionable clothes at really amazing prices. Alternatively, the House of Fashions on Duplication Road is also a fine place to find clothes at good prices. Looking for even lower prices? Try the factory warehouse in Dickman’s Road, Colombo 5. If you are staying a little further out of the city then take a taxi or tuc tuc, for a small fee they will take you to the door and wait for you while you shop.
There are handicrafts everywhere in Sri Lanka but there are a few restrictions on what and how you can buy things. Marine products are illegal and contribute to the destruction of the environment. It is also illegal to export antiques without a licence, this means anything over fifty years old, so it is wise to bear both these restrictions in mind when shopping. Look out for quality, as with a lot of tourist destinations the quality of the handicrafts can be spotty with mass production in recent years. However, there are still excellent quality handicrafts if you take the time to look for them. Colombo has some great boutique craft shops if you are looking for genuine craftsmanship and quality products.
The process of producing batiks is time consuming and a work of art. The craftsman will put wax on the area of fabric that they do not wish to be dyed. Then they dye the fabric and remove the wax and fix the dye. This is repeated several times with the same cloth to produce some really fantastic cloth artworks. Good batiks can be found in Ambalangoda alongside the masks.
Found everywhere across the country, masks are traditionally used in the kolam dance and exorcism rituals to appease bad spirits. Production takes place in Ambalagoda, which is on the west coast, and here you can visit the workshops and watch the masks being made. You are most likely to find the best quality masks here.
Galle is famous for its lacemaking and you can marvel at the intricate and painstaking work involved in the hand production of lace. Metal work is huge in the Kandy area and tends to be intricate and fussy but beautiful, with articles such as candlesticks and dishes popularly produced. Sri Lanka is also famous for its leatherwork and you can find a great selection of bags and shoes among other leatherwares.
There are huge numbers of precious stones in Sri Lanka as the country is one of the world’s biggest gem producers. Sapphire, ruby, garnet, topaz and moonstones are just a few of the beautiful precious gems you can find here, so this really is a great place to buy gems and jewellery. You will find jewellers just about everywhere, but Negombo, Galle and Colombo are particularly good for jewellery and gem shopping.
A market really lets you get a feel for a country and its people, and there is nothing quite like wandering through a market to find great local trinkets and treats. There are many markets in Sri Lanka specialising in crafts, food, spices, and clothing, but for a really great taste of the island try The Good Market in Battaramulla; it is a real foodies dream. This farmer’s style market has herbs, vegetables, chutneys and teas, as well as crafts and paintings. Open Thursdays from noon until 8pm.
The variety of tea on offer in Sri Lanka is amazing. Not only that, but the quality is second to none. If you are a tea fan then pick some up in a vast array of flavours. Surprisingly the best way to buy tea is from the supermarket, you can even find unblended single-estate teas here. There are also a few specialist tea shops including the Mlesna tea shop chain, which can be found in a few different towns including Colombo and Kandy.
Remember to haggle. Haggling is the norm with street and market sellers, and you can pick up some good bargains this way. You are most likely to find bags and trinkets here, but make sure to barter well, it is expected. You can also barter in the smaller shops, but go a little easier here and you will probably get a small discount. With the larger and smarter boutiques it is possible to get small discounts if you ask for a ‘special price’ but this can often be a fruitless effort.