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Expat Life in Sri Lanka, Colombo
I recently visited the beautiful island of Sri Lanka and discovered a country full of surprises.
Sri Lanka is located in the south of India, on the edge of the Indian Ocean. Tea plantations, once known as the Dominion of Ceylon and often referred to as the land of tea, dot the island, while spice gardens, banana and coconut trees grow randomly, creating a jungle of natural resources.
People, animals and vehicles seem to exist side by side without hostility towards each other. Dogs wandering through aimlessly or basking on the side of the road, cows and goats roaming around, even on the beach (which I thought was hilarious), people everywhere, whether walking, biking, using tuc-tuc, motorbikes In a taxi, bus, car or truck, each person straddles 5 people, and each person takes up not too wide a road space. But they did co-exist, without the rage of being stuck in the back of a truck, just honking briefly to say I’m here, thinking about it, being polite, with a friendly look and voice, in a country that desperately needed help rebuilding itself after a tsunami. People are poor, but happiness is everywhere…not only for children or people close to them, but also for foreigners and tourists.
Tourists flock to resorts, and some may opt for an area slightly away from these areas to experience a quieter, less disturbing vacation. A small number of expats can be found, all over the country. Met these guys, chatted about life on the island, nothing to complain about. Yes, sometimes the water or electricity is turned off, and yes, the internet isn’t as fast as they’d like it to be. Isn’t that how most people in the developed world feel: the faster it gets, the faster we want it. In this little piece of paradise, expats aren’t too worried about taking longer to get things done here, people are prepared to wait and don’t rush things. There is a lot of talk and concern about elections and security in the country, there are still road blockades and police/military roaming around with guns, keeping the peace if necessary. However, 70% of the population are Buddhists, and life is peaceful and simple.
From an expat perspective, I cannot fault the lifestyle. As mentioned above, yes, something is really missing, slower speeds, 4-6 hours from Colombo to Galle, similar to anywhere about 200km apart. I can’t say the roads are in particularly good condition, but in the 10 days I’ve been there, I haven’t seen a single accident. Difficulties could include not being able to get from one part of the island to another quickly, lack of fast internet connection, maybe human waste/garbage which makes the influx of flies, dirt left behind and finally, lack of funds to rebuild the country to what it was before the tsunami state.
Having said that, I had to look at all the good stuff you find there, the beauty of the natural resources, how nationals and expats are trying to rebuild the country, the beaches, the game parks and the mountains. It really is a beautiful place in the world.
Expat Cost of Living Summary
The currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee LKR
The exchange rate is On January 15, 2010, USD 1 = Rs 114.217
I’ll break down the cost of living based on some basket items:
Alcohol and Tobacco: Bar drinks, beer, cigarettes, locally produced spirits, whiskey, wine
Cigarettes (20) – $3.14 to $9
Domestic Beer (500ml) – $2.50
Imported Beer (330ml) – $5.80
Wine at the bar – $6 per glass
Wine from the store – $15 (750ml bottle)
Hotels tend to raise alcohol prices because it’s a way for them to make a profit. There are many small hotels and restaurants that create a competitive edge for your stay.
clothing: Business suits, casual clothing, children’s clothing and footwear, coats and hats, evening wear, shoe repair, underwear
Casual Long Sleeve Shirt (Men) – $12
Casual long-sleeved trousers (men’s) – $20
Shorts (men’s) – $11
T-shirt (Men) – $6
Casual Shirt (Women) – $7
Casual Dress (Women) – $12
Kids’ Jeans (Boys) – $5
Kids’ Jeans (Girls) – $3.50
Kid’s Shirt (Boys) – $5
Kid’s Shirt (Girls) – $4
Clothes are very cheap and in Colombo one can get most of the designer clothes at factory shops for quite reasonable prices.
communicate: Home phone rental and calling costs, Internet connection and service provider fees, mobile/cell phone contracts and calling
Monthly Phone Rental – $4.36
Phone Charges – $0.05 for local calls
Internet Line Connection Fee – $104 (all equipment purchased and installed)
Internet Service Provider Fee – $17 (free 1 geg thereafter)
Monthly Mobile Contract Fee – $2.18 (Full Year)
Mobile/cell phone call rate – 90% of calls are prepaid,
100 minutes of calling on mobile – $38
– $0.012 – $0.05 SMS Peak Hours
With many nationals working overseas sending money home, communication costs are minimal and there are often specials or no charges involved for the actual call.
educate: Nursery/preschool fees, high school/university fees, elementary school fees, higher education fees
Nursery Annual Fee – $4.36 per month
Primary School Annual Tuition – $260 – $436 per month
Annual High School Fees – $260 – $436 per month
Annual College/University Fees – $260 to $436 per month (depending on
the private school they attended)
Private schools are the most expensive schools on the island for expatriate children to attend, but compared to other countries, the cost of private schools is reasonable. The expats I met spoke highly of the country’s education system and were satisfied with the private education their children received.
Furniture and Appliances: DVD player, fridge freezer, iron, kettle, toaster, microwave, light bulbs, TV, vacuum cleaner, washing machine
DVD Player – $87
Refrigerator/Freezer – $489 (LG/Whirlpool – 4-year warranty)
Iron – cheap $12 to top $35
Kettles – $20 on the cheap to $37 on the top
Microwave – $191
21″ TV – $244 (2 year warranty)
Washing Machine LG – $570
Negotiable discounts with store on all items
Groceries purchased at the grocery store: Baby consumables, baked goods, baking, canned goods, cheese, cleaning products, dairy, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, juice, frozen meals, meat, oils and vinegars, pet food, prepared meals, sauces, seafood, snacks , soft drinks, spices and herbs
Infant formula (400g) – $7
Plain Biscuit (100g) – $0.20
White Loaf (200g) – $0.70
Cake Flour (1kg) – $2.80
Baked Beans (415g) – $1.92
Tuna (185g) – $2.75
Cheese: Cheddar (250g) – $6.63
Chips: Pringles (139g) – $2.50
Autowash Laundry Detergent (750g) – $1.57
Dishwashing Liquid (500g) – $0.87
Fabric Softener (2l) – $5.40
Breakfast Cereal (250g) – $2.45
Butter (227g) – $2.18
Milk (1 liter) – $1.40
Eggs (12) – $1.80
Orange Juice (1 L) – $2.80
Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1kg) – $6.20
Cooking Oil (1 L) – $3.22
Olive Oil (500ml) – $8.28
Can of Coke (355ml) – $1.00
Local Soda (1 L) – $1.30
Local natural mineral water (5 liters) – $1.08
Tea Bags (200g) – $1.85
Instant Coffee (100g) – $6.75
Local Ground Coffee (200g) – $3.66
Salt (400g) – $0.26
Pepper (400g) – $0.35
Prices were obtained from local grocery stores, no major department stores to shop at.
health care: GP consultation rates, hospital private room daily rates, tariffs, over-the-counter medicines, private health insurance/Medicare payments
GP Private Medicine Visit Rate – $3.50
Hospital Private Room Rate – $28 per day
Dental – Tooth Extraction – $4.35
Most expats use Bupa or the Sri Lankan equivalent
family: Home/Apartment Mortgages, Home/Apartment Rentals, Household Electricity Consumption, Household Gas/Fuel Consumption, Household Water Consumption, Local Property Taxes/Taxes/Levy
Rent 2 bed apartment downtown – $700
Rent a 2 bed apartment outside the city center – $600
Electricity, Gas, Water, Trash – Average $80-$90 per month
family, which is expensive in the family
consider air conditioning
Gas/Fuel – 12 ½ kg bottle – $14
Local Property Tax – 8% to 10% of property value
Expats cannot buy property directly, this must be done through a lawyer who owns the property. Mortgages for locals are 4/5%. This is where most expats find the costs escalate, running air conditioning and water are both very expensive.
Different kinds: Housekeeping, dry cleaning, bedding, office supplies, newspapers and magazines, stamps
Domestic rate – full time per person – $80 average
1 black inkjet printer cartridge – $14
1 Color Inkjet Printer Cartridge – $21
500 sheets of printer paper – $5.23
Local Daily – $0.17
International Daily – $0.45
International Magazine – $20
International Air Stamps – $0.22
Domestic Stamps – $0.12
Housekeeping is inexpensive and most staff live on or near the hotel. Office supplies are reasonably priced and CDs and DVDs are free on the street where most locals buy.
personal care: Cosmetics, hair care products, moisturizer/sunscreen, diapers, pain relievers, toilet paper, toothpaste, soap/shampoo/conditioner
Body Lotion (400ml) Vaseline Intensive car – $4.53
1 ply per roll of toilet paper – $0.50
Toothpaste (200g) – $1.92
Shampoo (200ml) – $2.40
Some items that can be purchased can be expensive, such as face creams, sunscreens, and beauty creams. Brand-name products are the most expensive.
Recreational Culture: Books, camera roll, movie tickets, DVDs and CDs, sporting goods, theater tickets
Paperback – $10
Movie Ticket – $0.50
Imported DVD/CD – $2
Cricket Tickets – $0.50 to $8
Theater Ticket – only in Colombo – $30
Hardcover books are expensive in China, but paperback books are about the same price as in the US and UK. Movie tickets are cheap thanks to cheap DVD copies available on street corners. International cricket tickets are also cheap for locals.
Restaurant/Eating Out/Hotel: Business dinners, restaurant dinners (non-fast food), hotel rates, drinks and snacks to go (fast food)
Non-alcoholic business dinner – $22 per person
Dinner/Lunch at a local restaurant – $8 per person
McDonald’s Big Mac – $4.10
Hotel Rates 3* – $8 to $50 pppn
Hotel Rate 4* – $80 to $120 pppn
Hotel Rate 5* – $140 pppn and above
Take Away – Can of Coke x 1 – $0.70
Medium Pizza – $3.50
Hamburger – $2.00
Coffee – Pot x 3 Cups – $1.40
How much a meal costs in most countries depends on where you go, local restaurants have great local food as well as international, we found a great vegetarian restaurant in Galle, well worth the trip and All prices are fair and cheap. Some restaurants do take advantage of the tourist population and serve sub-par meals. However, most restaurants have good portion sizes and meal plans.
transportation: Rent-purchase/lease vehicles, petrol/diesel, public transport, service maintenance, tires, vehicle insurance, vehicle purchases
Rent/Lease Car – Sedan Toyota Corolla – $37.14 per day for 1 week
Rent/Lease Car – Toyota RAV4 – $46.71 per day for 1 week
Per liter of unleaded petrol – $1.23
Diesel per liter – $0.64
Bus ticket (one way) – $1.00
By taxi – per kilometer – $0.50
Tuc Tuc – 10km ride – $6.00
2nd Class Train Ticket – $1.57
If you are visiting I recommend using the local taxis and tuc-tucs, driving can be a headache and unpleasant if you are not used to the local norms. However, on larger roads the speed will not exceed 80kph and overall it is a safe place to drive.
The above details are some of the items on the basis of the cost of living indices for each basket group in the Xpatulator calculator, which are then used with their indices and exchange rates to calculate the cost of living in different locations.
For more information on Sri Lanka, visit www.xpatulator.com/outside.cfm.
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