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Expat Life in Sri Lanka, Colombo
I recently visited the wonderful island of Sri Lanka, and found a country full of surprises.
Sri Lanka is located just south of India, in the Indian Ocean. Once known as the Dominion of Ceylon and often referred to as the land of tea, tea plantations flourish in abundance across the island, with spice gardens, banana and coconut palms growing haphazardly to create a jungle of natural resources.
People, animals and transport seem to coexist side by side without hostility towards each other. Dogs wonder aimlessly across or sleep in the sun on the side of roads, cows and goats roam everywhere, even on the beaches (which I found quite funny) and people are everywhere, whether walking, cycling, using a tuc-tuc, a motorbike. with 5 on horseback, in a taxi, bus, car or truck, each takes up space on the not-too-wide road. But they co-exist, there is no anger at being stuck behind a truck, just a short honking of the horn to say I’m here and would like to pass, politeness abounds and the expression and sounds are all of friendship, within a country that desperately needs help to renew itself since the tsunami. People are poor and yet happiness is everywhere…. Not only for the child on the hip or the person at their side, but also for expats and tourists.
Tourists flock to the resorts and some accidentally the areas slightly outside these areas, to experience a quieter less disturbed holiday. Small pockets of expats can be found dotted throughout the country. When you meet these people and chat about life on the island, there’s not much to complain about. Yes, sometimes the water is off or the electricity, yes the internet is not as fast as they would like. Isn’t that how most people feel in developed countries anyway: The faster it gets the faster we want it. In this little paradise, expats don’t mind too much that it takes a little longer to do things here, the people are willing to wait, not too hasty to move too fast. There was a lot of talk and concern about the elections and security within the country and there are still roadblocks and police/military personnel with guns roaming around to keep the peace if necessary. However, with 70% of the population being Buddhist, the lifestyle is peaceful and life simplistic.
From an expat perspective, I couldn’t fault the lifestyle. As stated above, yes certain things are missing, things are slower, it takes 4 – 6 hours to go from Colombo to Galle and similarly to anywhere around 200km apart. I can’t say that the roads are in particularly good condition, but in the 10 days I visited, I didn’t see a single accident. Difficulties could include the lack of being able to quickly get from one part of the island to another, the lack of a fast internet connection, perhaps the human waste / garbage that allows the influx of flies, the dirt that is left around. and finally the lack of funds to rebuild the country to what it was before the Tsunami.
Having said that, I have to look at all the good things you find there, the beauty of the natural resources, how the nationals and expats are trying to rebuild the country, the beaches, game parks and mountains. This is a really beautiful part of the world.
Summary of the cost of living for foreigners
The currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan rupee LKR
The exchange rate as at On January 15, 2010 it was 1 USD = 114,217 Rupees
I’ll break down the cost of living by some of the basket items:
Alcohol and Tobacco: Alcohol at the Bar, Beer, Cigarettes, Locally Produced Spirit, Whisky, Wine
Cigarettes (20s) – $3.14 to $9
Domestic Beer (500ml) – $2.50
Imported Beer (330ml) – $5.80
Wine at bar – $6 per glass
Wine at shop – $15 (750ml bottle)
Hotels tend to increase the prices of alcohol because it is the only way they can make a profit. There are many small hotels and restaurants that create a competitive advantage where you can stay.
Clothing: Business Suits, Casual Wear, Children’s Clothing and Footwear, Coats and Hats, Evening Wear, Shoe Repairs, Underwear
Casual Long Sleeve Shirt (Men) – $12
Casual Long Sleeve Pants (Men) – $20
Shorts (Men) – $11
T-shirt (Men) – $6
Casual Blouse (Women) – $7
Casual Skirt (Women’s) – $12
Kids Jeans (Boys) – $5
Kids Jeans (Girls) – $3.50
Kids Shirt (Boys) – $5
Kids Shirt (Girls) – $4
Clothes are extremely cheap, in Colombo a person can get most of the name brand clothes at quite reasonable prices in Factory Outlets.
Communication: Home Phone Rental and Call Charges, Internet Connection and Service Provider Fees, Mobile/Cell Phone Contract and Calls
Monthly phone rental – $4.36
Telephone rate – $0.05 for a local call
Internet line fee – $104 (purchase all equipment with installation)
Internet provider fee – $17 (1 gig free after)
Monthly cell phone contract fee – $2.18 (for the year)
Mobile / cellular calling rate – 90% of phones are prepaid,
Cell Phone 100 Minute Call – $38
– $0.012 – $0.05 sms peak times
With so many nationals working abroad to send money home, communication costs are extremely low and there are often special offers or no cost involved in the actual call.
Education: Kindergarten / Preschool Fees, High School / College Fees, Primary School Fees, Tertiary Study Fees
Annual Growth Fee – $4.36 per month
Annual elementary school fee – $260 – $436 per month
Annual High School Fee – $260 – $436 per month
Annual 1st Year Tertiary/University fee – $260 to $436 per month (depending on
private school they go to)
Private schooling is the most expensive on the island for expat children, however the rates compared to other countries are reasonable. Foreigners I met spoke highly of the education system in the country and were happy 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 – $12 cheap to $35 top of the range
Kettle – $20 cheap to $37 top of the range
Microwave – $191
TV 21 inches – $244 (2-year warranty)
LG washing machine – $570
Discounts can be negotiated with stores on all items
Groceries purchased at a grocery store: Baby Consumables, Baked Goods, Baking, Canned Foods, Cheese, Cleaning Products, Dairy Products, Fresh Fruits, Fresh Vegetables, Fruit Juices, Frozen, Meat, Oil and Vinegars, Pet Foods, Prepared Meals, Sauces, Seafood, Snacks, Soft Drinks, Condiments and Herbs
Powdered baby formula (400 g) – $7
Plain crackers (100g) – $0.20
White bread (200g) – $0.70
Cake Flour (1 kg) – $2.80
Baked Beans (415g) – $1.92
Tuna (185g) – $2.75
Cheese: Cheddar (250g) – $6.63
Pastries: Pringles (139g) – $2.50
Autowash laundry powder (750g) – $1.57
Washing up liquid (500g) – $0.87
Fabric softener (2l) – $5.40
Breakfast Cereal (250g) – $2.45
Butter (227g) – $2.18
Milk (1l) – $1.40
Eggs (12) – $1.80
Orange Juice (1 l) – $2.80
Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1 kg) – $6.20
Cooking oil (1l) – $3.22
Olive oil (500 ml) – $8.28
Can of Coke (355ml) – $1.00
Local Hard drink (1l) – $1.30
Local Natural Mineral Water (5l) – $1.08
Tea Bags (200g) – $1.85
Instant Coffee (100g) – $6.75
Local Ground Coffee (200g) – $3.66
Salt (400 g) – $0.26
Pepper (400 g) – $0.35
Prices were obtained from local grocery stores, there are no large department stores to shop.
Health care: Doctor Consultation Rates, Hospital Private Ward Daily, Tariff, Non Prescription Medicine, Private Medical Insurance/Medical Aid Contributions
GP Private rate visit with medicines – $3.50
Hospital Private Ward rates – $28 per day
Dentistry – Tooth Extraction – $4.35
Most expats use Bupa or the Sri Lankan Equivalent
Household: House/Flat Mortgage, House/Flat Rent, Home Electricity Consumption, Domestic Gas/Fuel Consumption, Domestic Water Consumption, Local Property/Taxes/Taxes
Rent 2 Bed Apartment Downtown – $700
Rent 2 Bed Apartment outside Downtown – $600
Electric, Gas, Water, Garbage each – $80 to $90 per month on average
household, this is expensive when taking a household
air conditioner in consideration
Gas / Fuel – 12 ½ kg bottle – $14
Local property Rates – 8 to 10% of property value
Foreigners cannot buy property directly, this must be done through a Lawyer who owns the property. Mortgage for locals is 4/5%. Here most expats find the costs a steal, running the air conditioners is extremely expensive as is the cost of water.
Miscellaneous: Home Help, Dry Cleaning, Linens, Office Supplies, Newspapers & Magazines, Stamps
Domestic Rates – full time per person – $80 average
1 Black inkjet printer cartridge – $14
1 Color inkjet printer cartridge – $21
500 sheets of printer – $5.23
Local Daily Newspaper – $0.17
International Daily Newspaper – $0.45
International Magazine – $20
International Airmail Stamps – $0.22
Domestic Stamps – $0.12
Domestic help is cheap and most staff either live on the property or nearby. Office supplies are reasonable, with CDs and DVDs freely available on the street where most locals buy them.
Personal Care: Cosmetics, Hair Care, Moisturizer/Sun Block, Diapers, Pain Relief Tablets, Toilet Paper, Toothpaste, Soap/Shampoo/Conditioner
Body lotion (400ml) Vaseline Intensive Car – $4.53
Toilet paper 1 ply per roll – $0.50
Toothpaste (200g) – $1.92
Shampoo (200ml) – $2.40
Some of the things that can be bought can be expensive, such as creams, sunblocks and cosmetic creams. Name brand products are the most expensive.
Entertainment and Culture: Books, Camera Film, Movie Ticket, DVD and CDs, Sporting Goods, Theater Ticket
Paperback of books – $10
Movie ticket – $0.50
DVD/CD Imported – $2
Cricket ticket – $0.50 to $8
Theater Ticket – only in Colombo – $30
Hardcover books are expensive in the country, but paperback books are of similar cost to the US and UK. Movie tickets are cheap due to the availability of cheap DVD copies that can be bought on street corners. International cricket tickets are also kept cheap for the local population.
Restaurants / Dining out / Hotels: Business Dinner, Dinner at a restaurant (not fast food), Hotel rates, Takeaway Drinks and Food (fast food)
Business Dinner excluding Alcohol – $22 per person
Dinner / lunch at a local restaurant – $8 per person
McDonalds Big Mac – $4.10
Hotel Prices 3* – $8 to $50 per person
Hotel Prices 4* – $80 to $120 pppn
Hotel Rates 5* – $140 pppn more
Take Away – Can of Coke x 1 – $0.70
Medium pizza – $3.50
Hamburger – $2.00
Coffee – pot x 3 cups – $1.40
As in most countries how much you pay for a meal depends on where you go, the local restaurants have great local food as well as international flavours, we found a fabulous vegetarian restaurant in Galle, well worth a visit and all the prices were quite. cheap Some restaurants take advantage of the tourist population and serve substandard meals. However, most restaurants were good with their portions and meal plans.
Transportation: Vehicle Hire Purchase/Rental, Petrol/Diesel, Public Transport, Service Maintenance, Tires, Vehicle Insurance, Vehicle Purchase
Rent / Rent a car – Sedan Toyota Corolla – $ 37.14 per day for 1 week
Rent / Rent a car – Toyota RAV4 – $46.71 per day for 1 week
Unleaded gasoline per liter – $1.23
Diesel per liter – $0.64
Bus Ticket (one way) – $1.00
Taxi ride – per km – $0.50
Tuc Tuc – 10 km ride – $6.00
Train Ticket 2nd class – $1.57
If you are visiting I would suggest you use the local taxis and tuc-tuks, driving can be a headache and unpleasant experience if you are not used to the local standards. However, speeds do not exceed 80km on the larger roads and it is generally a safe place to drive.
The above details are some of the items that form the basis of the cost of living indices for each basket group in the Xpatulator calculators, these costs are then used with their indices and exchange rates to calculate the cost of living in different areas.
For more information about Sri Lanka read more at www.xpatulator.com/outside.cfm.
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