There are a number of things, which tourists can buy in Sri Lanka. Gems, Readymade Garments, Batiks, Tea and Handicrafts are popular shopping itineraries among the tourists. Lacquerware, Furniture, hand made Silver and Brass objects are other articles that tourists can purchase. Ratnapura has been the main source of gems for many centuries and most of the Country's gem dealers are located in this town. Most gem cutting centers also offers gems to be set into jewelry by the visitors. Gems are also available at jewelry shops around the country. Kandy is the best place to buy most of the handicrafts produced in Sri Lanka. There are number of shops catering to the tourists. At Kundasale, about 4km from Kandy, a village has been established recently to settle local craftsmen and their families. Visitors could watch artisans at work and purchase their products on site. Sri Lanka is a major garment manufacturer and exporter of all kinds of clothing. Colombo is a major attraction for garment hunters. One can buy excellent selection of children's wear, beach wear, casual clothing for men and women and warm padded jackets at attractive prices from Colombo. As the producer of the world's finest teas there are many tea sales centers at most tourist destinations around the country and at main shopping centers in Colombo. Imitation of Dutch and British era furniture is also very popular among tourists.
Shopping Tips: Larger more established private and government shops across the island will have prices marked on each item for sale which is far easier for the customer. If you are browsing around antique shops, craft shops, bazaars and small shops in tourist towns like Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa then you'll be expected to bargain. You'll also need to bargain in jewellery stores. Make sure you research prices before making a purchase. Ask your driver or local friends to give you an idea about what the correct price should be. It is typical for prices for tourists to be significantly inflated. But if you bargain in a friendly manner then the prices will soon come down. Avoid being aggressive as this is likely to offend and will not secure the best price. When buying gemstones, ensure that you shop from a dealer that has a license from the government National Gem & Jewellry Authority.
What to Buy in Sri Lanka
|Handlooms and Bathik Items |
Bathik items are some of the most popular buys in Sri Lanka, its cheap, its lightweight, easy to pack and carry and most of all its beautiful. Batik items comes in various forms like shirts, sarongs, wall hangings, table clothes and as ladies wraps and dresses. These are really colorful items perfect for wearing in tropical countries which is why you will find many tourists wearing those. Batik wall hangings are also popular because the capture some of the things most unique to Sri Lanka. Wall hangings of the Kandy Perahera, Kandyan dancers, Elephants and Sigiriya wall paintings are some of the top picks when it comes to Batik wall hangings. These are made out of cotton, washable and durable making it a wise investment.
|Antiques and Furniture |
Most popular furniture among the tourists is the Dutch and British era reproductions.
Gemstones are the most sought after tourist item in Sri Lanka. From ancient times Sri Lanka has being renowned for its high quality gems fit for royalty. One of the reasons for high demand for Sri Lankan gems is that you can get a high quality product for a very low cost compared to countries like US and UK. Since gems and birthstone jewelry are expensive items the difference in cost is vast and buying it in Sri Lanka saves you a lot of money. Rough uncut diamonds can be bought around half the price compared to US,UK markets and prices of cut and polished diamonds can be ten times high in the UK. If you are buying jewelry with gems embedded in them the variation in price is even higher. So it is not surprising that gems are in high demand. Because of this high demand you will find few crooked salesman prying upon gullible tourists. The government has taken strict measures to cut down cheating and protect the tourists. There are gem testing centers in major cities popular for gem trading and since this is a considerable investment its advisable to get them tested for a price. If you can visit The National Gem and Jewelery Authority, they have test centers where you can get your gem tested for free. Another measure the government has taken to cut down on selling fake gems is licensing gem selling stores. If you are buying a gem in Sri Lanka it is always a good idea to buy from a licensed gem store. One of the best places to buy gems is the National Gem and Jewelery exchange in the world trade center, there are many shops there so you are sure to find somethings that matches your taste and because of the competition you can get a very reasonable price too. This is definitely a bit more expensive than buying from various other shops but you are guaranteed of quality and authenticity. The best and the most cheapest way is to buy it via a local who knows about gems. The trust factor plays a major part here but many foreign traders take this route because it is far more cheaper. A friendly chat with your hotels manager or someone you already know in Sri Lanka can lead you to such a guy, so always make sure to explore this option.
|Ceylon Tea, Spices and Tea souvenirs and Gifts |
Take home a packet of world famous Ceylon Tea. You have the choice of savouring different blends of tea in a hill country tea factory and purchasing directly from estates such as Labookelle Tea Estate close to Nuwara Eliya, Bogawantalawa Tea Estates in Dickoya, Dambatanne Tea estate in Haputale, and the Tea Research Institute in Talawakelle. These teas are also marketed in specialist tea centres and grocery stores such as Cargills Food City and Keells Super in the main towns across the island. We highly recommend the world renowned Dilmah Teas and Mlesna Tea.
|Handicraft, Silverware, Sculptures and Local crafts (Masks) |
Handicraft and silverware are another two items popular with tourists. When it comes to handicraft wooden masks ( devil masks ), wooden carving of Elephants, artwork done using tree roots ( "Ruk Kala" ), wooden wall hangings, carved jewelery boxes are some of the most popular items. Elephants are like a symbol of Sri Lanka so you will find many tourists buying those and you will find various beautifully carved Elephant statues. These items can be found in almost any tourist attraction site and in major cities like Colombo, Kandy, Dambulla and Galle. Usually it is much cheaper to buy them near tourists attraction rather than buying them in shops in Colombo and other major cities. There are cities and towns specialized for different kind of handicrafts ( eg :- wooden masks -> Ambalangoda ), so if you can visit one of those cities or villages then you can buy it much cheaper.
When it comes to silverware and brass items brass elephants, wall hangings and jewelery boxes are considered top buys. Kandy is the best place to visit if you want to buy silverware and you can get them for a much cheaper price too. Although not as common as wooden and straw handicrafts you can find them near major tourist attractions too.
|Clothes, Accessories, Bags, Perfumes, Cosmetics and Shoes |
Sri Lanka is one of the largest exporters of finished garments in the world and you can buy clothes at a very reasonable price in Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lanka is a tropical country where there is no need for winter clothing,I have seeing tourists who buy winter clothing from Sri Lankan shops. The number of clothes shops in Colombo area is unbelievable and you are sure to find something to match you in those shops. Odel is one of the top places visited by tourists for clothes and other accessories shopping because they offer top quality branded clothes for a reasonable price. If you are looking to buy something truly Sri Lankan you can buy hand woven clothes at various shops, specially set up targeting tourists in mind, and usually they cost a bit more in those shops. House of Fashion is another good place to visit because they have all types of clothes under one roof, including winter clothing.
Where to Buy in Sri Lanka
|Colombo Shopping |
The state run-handicrafts emporium in Sri Lanka is called Laksala and has a number of branches all over the country. The one in Colombo is the biggest and the best and is located on 60 York Street. It is open from 09:00 in the morning to 17:00 in the evening. On Saturdays it closes an hour earlier and is closed all day on Sundays. You can pick up anything here and objects made from brass and silverware, wooden artifacts, buffalo horn, natural fibres, and even rush and reed abound. There are also products made from coconut shells, cane, and bamboo as well as toys, pottery, artificial flowers and costume Jewellery.
At Olanda, you can chance upon some antique furniture. Retailers ship to anywhere in the world and also make fake antique furniture which is much cheaper. Of course as with everything else you need to negotiate well to get a good price but please note that shipping charges are more or less fixed and there's little you can do about them.
|Kandy Shopping |
There are many shops in central Kandy selling antique jewelry and silver belts. Make sure that you bargain! There is also a government-run emporium called Lasala that showcases arts and crafts. It is located on the west side of Lake Kandy. It is not as well stocked as the one in Colombo but it is cheaper. You can also have a made-to-order Batik Wall hanging made at any of the factories that adjoin the shops. You can also pick up readymade batik clothes. Again, remember to go to a place which has a good reputation as you don't want the colour on your brand-new shirt to run on the very first wash. Naturally, considering that it is a tea-producing town you will have a number of local brands competing with international ones. You can pick up graded teas or some downright cheap ones at the local market. Take your pick; they also make great souvenirs for the folks back home. If you are interested in ancient temple paintings and statues or even some relatively modern replicas the best place to visit is Waruna Antiques. This outlet has masks, jewelry, materials and textiles. The owner Waruna and his Japanese wife Yumi are friendly and helpful. They also don't push hard for sales so you can enjoy browsing the shop and the conversation. It is located at 761, Peradeniya Road.
|Bentota Shopping |
National Holiday Resort Complex is a good place to visit if you are looking for some specific bargains. Also there is a Monday market held weekly in Althugama from 07:30 in the morning to about 15:00 in the afternoon.
|Beruwela Shopping |
There is a persistent beach sales force at work trying to sell you everything from doormats to leather goods. The locals are very determined but certainly not rude or violent and for many of them this is the only means of supporting their families.
Negombo Shopping |
While the regular shopping items such as clothes, tea and knick-knacks are available you can also pick up some interesting jewelry in Negombo. The handmade pieces are often charming and there is something for every budget.
|Nuwara Eliya Shopping |
Given that the tea gardens literally surround the place one of the best souvenirs that you can get from Nuwara Eliya is Ceylon Tea. The tea factories generally offer different-sized packs that make it easy for you to buy tea as gifts and for personal consumption.
|Sigiriya Shopping |
There are the usual tourist souvenir shops with a few worthwhile articles but make sure you bargain for every item that you buy; most of them will be overpriced to start with. Warm clothes (secondhand) are also available, in case you've forgotten to pack in the woolens.
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