Negombo is the gayest place in all of Sri Lanka!
This small unassuming fishing town, just 35km (23 miles) from the capital Colombo, has grown to become a liberal haven in what is a very conservative country.
Let’s get one thing straight…if you’re coming to Sri Lanka looking for big gay Barcelona Beach-style Circuit jamborees or those Palm Springs White Parties, you’re going to be a little bit disappointed! When it comes to a gay scene in Sri Lanka, it’s all very much underground thanks to the country’s anti-gay law, which it insists on keeping. Negombo, however, has managed to earn itself a name as a sort of pink oasis, with several adult-only hotels openly targeting the LGBTQ travel community and even a few queer-friendly spaces to hang out at, least of all by Negombo beach.
Beyond that, Negombo is a popular beach getaway, with water sports, beautiful Buddhist temples to visit and some pretty intense fish markets – a nod to the city’s large fishing industry. For avid wildlife lovers, there are also fascinating mangrove forests in the Negombo Lagoon filled with flora and fauna.
We’ve bundled all our findings together into this detailed Negombo gay guide following our many trips to the country, which we hope inspires you and aids with your travel planning.
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Is Negombo safe for gay travellers?
We found Negombo to be pretty safe for gay travelers despite the anti-gay law in place throughout the country, which doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in a hurry! Whilst no one has been arrested under Sri Lanka’s anti-gay law recently, its very existence is validation for homophobic crimes and for corrupt policemen to solicit bribes from LGBTQ locals around the country.
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Negombo has an overall more liberal attitude and even a small “gay scene” of sorts, albeit an underground one. There are even a growing number of hotels specifically targeting gay travelers, in particular, the Gomez Place guesthouse, as well as the Dickman and Binnacle resorts. We certainly had no problems getting a double bed in any of the places we stayed, whether they were large hotel brands or small family owned guesthouses.
The main thing we found was that despite the awful anti-gay law still in existence in Sri Lanka, the people are extremely welcoming and super curious towards foreigners whether straight or gay. We never felt in any danger for being gay, nor ever experienced any homophobia.
For a deeper insight, check be sure to check out our gay Sri Lanka guide.
The gay area of Negombo
Whilst there is no ‘official’ gay area in Negombo, we found that most gay guys would hang out in the area arounds around the Gomez, Dickman and Binnacle resorts, particularly on Negombo beach. During the day, Negombo Beach was quite cruisy, particularly during the busy tourist seasons of December to March. After sunset, look out for the “beach boys” (local name for escorts) cruising for clients along Negombo beach. It goes without saying that you should be super careful when going cruising and keep all valuables locked away in your hotel’s safe.
In terms of queer-friendly hangouts, we found a handful of bars in the area which had a young and almost hipster-like vibe, where we felt comfortable with the occasional PDA. Our favourites include the Rodeo Pub and the Serendib Pub. The best advice is to use gay dating apps to connect with LGBTQ locals as a way to “tap in” to the local gay scene. There are always gay underground parties happening, which are only announced by word-of-mouth – i.e. usually by knowing a gay local or finding out by chatting with locals on Grindr.
Heading to Negombo soon?
Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport doesn't have much in the way of public transport to Negombo, only taxis that may be difficult to organise, especially if you're arriving late at night after a long flight. We prefer to pre-book a private transfer from the airport directly to our accommodation in Negombo, so there's no confusion or stress when we just want to fall into a soft bed!
Gay hotels in Negombo
There are accommodation options throughout Negombo, but we found the main gay friendly ones to be closest to the main beach, makes sense since we gays sure love to work on our tans! Most of Negombo's gay scene is located in the Ethukala neighborhood, between Negombo Beach and Browns Beach. This area is also easy to reach via the Kattuwa train station if you're arriving by public transport.
Why we love it
- Colorful, campy and gay friendly
- Adults-only boutique resort
- Large eco-friendly swimming pool
- Very spacious rooms and suites
The colorful Dickman Resort is advertised as an adults-only resort rather than a gay resort, but with rainbow flags everywhere and an all-male staff, it definitely caters to the gay traveler to Negombo!
You may not find exclusively gay male guests staying here, but rest assured you will feel completely comfortable, accepted and relaxed during your visit.
From the moment we arrived the gay friendly staff went out of their way to ensure we had an amazing time, from bringing us complimentary fruit beside the pool to showing us the adorable little baby tortoises in the garden! We especially love how colorful the Dickman Resort is, not only are there rainbow flags hung proudly throughout the premises, all the rooms are painted in different hues of a main colour. The beds are romantically draped with mosquito netting and you will either have direct pool access or a balcony overlooking the pool or garden area.
The swimming pool was one of our favorite parts of the gay resort, it's eco friendly which means there's no chlorine, instead they clean it with a natural salt solution. There are also plenty of sun loungers and bungalows, for relaxing beside the water or working on your tan. There are only nine rooms at the resort, so it never feels crowded with other guests. The main beach of Negombo and all the excellent restaurants are also just down the end of the road.
Each morning we enjoyed a sumptuous “Royal Breakfast” in the mango garden breakfast terrace, feeling like Tarzan and Tarzan as we feasted on a huge fruit platter in what feels like a tiny secluded jungle. The lovely chef also cooks fresh omelettes and coconut roti if you need something more substantial.
Why we love it
- Stylish and gay friendly guesthouse
- Lovely owner and staff
- Free breakfast included
- Beautiful garden and swimming pool
Gomez Place is a charming guesthouse that, like Dickman Resort, isn't advertised as an exclusively gay property but is still known for being very gay friendly and popular with gay travelers.
The owner Gomez is a real character, somehow managing to make every guest feel like visiting royalty that he happens to know personally. He's full of tips on things to do in Negombo and goes out of his way to talk to everyone.
As well as Gomez himself, all the staff here are lovely and there's a very welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. The gay friendly property features gorgeous wooden detailing and while the swimming pool isn't huge, it's a nice spot to cool down or relax on one of the deck chairs. The guesthouse is nestled among pretty gardens, with quirky statues and romantic lighting at night. A yummy breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs/omelette, fresh fruit juice, toast, coffee and tea is included in the room rate.
Our room was spacious and cool, which is definitely needed in the hot Sri Lankan weather. The bathrooms are huge too and many of the rooms feature direct garden access or a private balcony. Staying at Gomez Place really feels like you're in a home away from home. There are plenty of restaurants and shops nearby (as well as the beach!) plus the staff team are happy to organise tours or even airport transfers.
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Why we love it
- Modern and stylish budget accommodation
- Gay friendly and welcoming
- Groovy swimming pool and garden
- Close to beach but still peaceful and quiet
Binnacle Negombo is a fantastic option for gay travelers to Negombo who don't want to spend a huge amount on accommodation but still want a nice place to stay.
This affordable boutique guesthouse is impeccably clean and comfy, with modern styling throughout. It's very gay friendly as well, we felt completely accepted and welcome throughout our time here.
We found Binnacle to be very relaxing, with lots of peace and quiet – perfect for those looking to chill out a bit after a busy holiday exploring Sri Lanka. The garden/terrace/swimming pool area has plenty of comfy chairs for relaxing and here we ate our tasty breakfast each morning. We also enjoyed taking dips in the modern and cool swimming pool which features a fancy standing waterfall wall feature.
The bedrooms are big and airy, with more modern details. We definitely recommend getting one with a balcony, so you can sit outside and enjoy the parrots flying overhead or try to spot the cute squirrels in the garden. As with all the places we've included, the staff here are wonderful and with 24-hour reception, you'll be able to check-in no matter how late you might arrive.
Gay bars in Negombo
Whilst there are no official gay bars in Negombo, there are a handful of queer-friendly spaces that are unofficially known to be more welcoming to the LGBTQ community than others. We summarise these here, but as ever, as a general rule, be extra cautious with PDAs in Sri Lanka.
Not only is the Dickman Resort well known for being very gay friendly, it's also home to a pretty amazing cocktail and juice bar which opens in the afternoon. The bar is right on the lawns of the garden and the charming barman was happy to make any of our favourite cocktails or a delicious fresh juice. There's also a pool table where we enjoyed our drinks with a friendly game while getting to know some of the other guests.
Location: Dickman Resort, 26/7 A.K. Schnakenberg
Open: From 4pm every day until the last guest leaves!
The Lords Restaurant Complex is a fun and gay friendly group of bars and restaurants close to the beach in Negombo. While the food is excellent here (more on that later!) we also really loved the fun LBW (Leg Before Wicket) Bar for some cheeky cocktails. If you're not a cricket fan you may not get all the references at the Lords Complex, but you'll have fun anyway. The décor is very quirky, with lots of purple lighting, wrought-iron furniture, plants and sculptures. Happy ‘hour' is between 9-11pm every day and it draws a young, hip, open-minded crowd.
Open: Every day from 1pm until 11pm
Location: The LBW Bar is inside the Lords Complex at 80 Porutota Road
Ok, so Tastees Banana while technically being a restaurant (and having a quirky name) is still one of our favorite spots for a drink as they have a very extensive selection including cocktails! They boast the largest spirit collection in town and also luscious fruit juices or bubble tea. Tastees Banana is very gay friendly too, so we enjoyed coming here for a few drinks of an evening, especially when they have live music. It's also right on the beach, so we could watch the sunset while sipping on something tasty.
Open: Daily from 8am until 11.30pm
Location: 39B Porutota Road
Gay clubs in Negombo
As with the bars, there are no official gay clubs in Negombo. Therefore, late-night party boys may struggle to find anywhere to hang out at in the evening. We did however stumble on two excellent resto-bars that are open late and well known for being pink havens for the LGBTQ community in Negombo to come and boogie the night away:
Serendib is a fun bar and restaurant right on the Negombo beachfront. There's both a happening DJ area as well as a quiet terrace at the back with a nice sea breeze if you prefer something more chilled. Sitting outside near the beach is lovely, but we also enjoyed the interior which is decorated with a kind of “Wild West” theme, a cool lion mural above the main bar and twinkly colored lights strung above the outdoor area. Patrons here also didn't give a hoot about this gay couple having some fun on the dance floor.
Open: Daily from 9.30am until midnight
Location: 35A Porutota Road
We're not sure why, but apparently they like the wild west/rodeo theme in Negombo, as the other best spot we found for late-night partying is the Rodeo Pub and Restaurant. This one feels more like a saloon though, with rustic wood beams, yellowish walls, high stools and a variety of cowboy-style art and animal skulls hanging on the wall! There's a DJ every night of the week except Thursday, which then has live music instead. The crowd is young and fun, with a mix of locals and tourists enjoying the weekly drinks specials.
Open: Daily from 10am until midnight
Location: 35A Porutota Road (yes it's the same address as Serendib but they're next door to each other)
Gay saunas, spas and cruising in Negombo
When it comes to gay saunas, you’d be hard pressed to find any in Negombo, let alone anywhere in Sri Lanka. The closest you’re going to get to an adult-only spa experience is at the Dickman Resort’s onsite spa and wellness centre, which offers a range of massage services and personal trainers.
If you’re looking to safely hook up with locals, your best bet is to use gay dating apps, in particular Grindr, Hornet and Scruff. For gay cruising, Negombo Beach is famous for being the hot spot for the gay boys to head to in order to find a bit of good old-fashioned hanky panky! Local “money boys” are known to hang out at Negombo Beach in the late afternoon looking for Western ‘clients’, so be cautious of this if that’s not your thing. As ever, be super careful when cruising and leave all valuables locked up in your hotel’s safe.
Gay events in Negombo
Negombo doesn’t (yet!) host any gay events or Prides. The closest thing we found in terms of a gay event is the Pride in Colombo, organised by Equal Ground – the only LGBTQ organisation in Sri Lanka.
Equal Ground aim to organise a series of events each year from forum groups, music/dance festivals and gay film festivals. They are totally worth checking out, if anything to help support the Sri Lankan LGBTQ community as well as the local gay friendly businesses supporting each event. Find out more on the Colombo Pride Facebook page and the Equal Ground Twitter profile.
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Things to do in Negombo
Negombo may not be high up on the list of your Sri Lanka Bucket List, but beyond the liberal gay friendly haven it offers to LGBTQ travelers, we found a bunch of really cool things to do. We summarise some of our favorites here to inspire your travel planning:
Negombo Lagoon and fish market
As well as the long stretch of beach, Negombo is famous for the Negombo Lagoon and a centuries-old fishing tradition. You'd be hard-pressed to visit without taking a photo of one of the traditional fishing canoes, made from tree trunks. We explored the lagoon and main fish market on a local fishing trip, which was very fun. Nothing makes you feel more self-sufficient than cooking and eating your own fresh catch… then going back to our air-conditioned hotel before Seby has a tantrum!
Explore the Dutch canals
Negombo was first colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century when they took over the cinnamon industry and introduced Catholicism to the locals. The Dutch later captured Negombo from the Portuguese, and the many ways they shaped the city can still be seen to this day. Negombo's Fort was destroyed and rebuilt by the Dutch, who also built extensive canal systems to link Puttalam to Colombo via Negombo. Exploring these pretty canals by boat is a relaxing way to see Negombo's history. Hamilton Canal is the main one that runs through the city and very picturesque.
At the southern end of the Negombo Lagoon is an area of marshland known as the Muthrajawela wetlands. It's home to around 209 different types of animals, around 102 species of birds and many creatures that are native to the marshland. If you like wildlife-spotting as much as us then you can combine a boat tour through the Dutch canals to the lagoon and wetlands. Watching thousands of birds lift up from among the mangroves is just breathtaking!
Hang out on Negombo Beach
I mean c'mon, you wouldn't expect us to stay somewhere with a fabulous beach and NOT spend most of our time there now, would you?! Negombo beach faces west, so it's perfect for romantic sunset cocktails and photos. The beach is very wide and lined with many of the bars we've already mentioned. The water is quite warm, so we had fun dipping in and out in between watching the world go by. After a wild ride through Sri Lanka, catching up on some rest here was just heavenly.
Local cooking class
We love trying out all the different cuisine when we travel somewhere new, and Sri Lanka definitely offers up a veritable feast of flavors to enjoy. We nearly always join a local cooking class when we get to a new country, so we can learn how to make our favorite local dishes again and again once we go back home. We definitely recommend finding one to take part in (your accommodation staff should be able to give you advice on what's available) so that you can also learn to make some of Sri Lanka's most yummy food and drinks.
Where to eat in Negombo
Sri Lankan food is so rewarding – one of our favorite cuisines in all of Asia. They make the tastiest curries, full of spice and plenty of flavor. Negombo is also a fishing hub, so the perfect place to get some fresh seafood, in particular the famous hot spicy devilled prawns. Here are a few of the best restaurants we found in Negombo which we recommend you check out:
We mentioned the LBW Bar at the Lords Complex already, but there's also a fantastic group of restaurants in the complex, all themed around cricket! Everything about this place is amazing, from the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere to the delicious food, including extensive options for vegans or those eating gluten-free. They serve lots of freshly prepared Sri Lankan cuisine (like curries and epic seafood platters) as well as international favorites. What's more, the owner runs a program to save stray dogs and cats – mouthwatering meals with a side of good deeds? Yes, please!
Dolce Vita is a coffee shop and restaurant that's gay friendly with plenty of delectable treats. We loved coming here for some of the best coffee in Negombo, and you can't have a coffee break without some cake or pastries now can you? Dolce Vita also does main meals with Italian, Sri Lankan and international dishes along with live music on Friday nights. Most evenings we would find a gay and lesbian mixed crowd having a meal while looking out over the beach or boogying down with some drinkies.
For some authentic (and delightful) vegan and vegetarian cuisine, we headed to the poolside Koththamalli by Rohan restaurant in the Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions. Koththamalli is a traditional Sri Lankan drink used to treat colds in the Ayurvedic tradition, and the Koththamalli restaurant follows in that tradition, with dishes that have been inspired by Ayurvedic recipes. We had some very tasty vegetarian curries with rice, as well as soup, bread and a divine salad of beetroot with mango!
Before you go
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Negombo. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: If you're already in the country then you can get to Negombo via rail or car but if you're just arriving in Sri Lanka by air then the Bandaranaike International Airport outside Colombo is actually closer to Negombo than Colombo. From here you'll need to get a taxi to Negombo or a bus to Colombo and then a taxi. We prefer to book a private airport transfer so that we don't have to work out public transport or haggle with drivers and can just relax with a professional, English-speaking driver to take us directly to our accommodation in Negombo.
Visa requirements: Sri Lanka uses an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system which means visitors from many countries can apply online for a tourist visa and not have to bother going to an embassy. Residents of some countries do need to apply for a visa in person at a diplomatic mission, so make sure you allow plenty of time before you book anything in Negombo to check your personal visa requirements and get any documents you may need.
Getting around: If you want to venture further afield than the easily walkable area near the beach and attractions we've mentioned, then get a tuk-tuk! There will usually be plenty of them outside the hotels so any time you don't feel like walking you can use this fun and affordable travel option in Negombo.
Power Plugs: Sri Lanka uses power plug types D, M and G. Unless you are travelling from the United Kingdom, India or some countries in Africa, then you will need to bring a travel adaptor with you to Negombo.
Travel insurance: We never travel without the security of travel insurance and recommend you do the same for your journey to Negombo. You never know when you might face difficulties like missed flights, lost luggage, accident or illness. We love using World Nomads Travel Insurance because they offer affordable and comprehensive cover, plus we know it's easy to make a claim online when we need to.
Vaccinations: Travellers to Sri Lanka should be up to date with all routine vaccinations such as measles, mumps, rubella. The CDC also recommends getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Depending on whether you are planning to explore further afield, you may need other vaccinations, so make sure to check the CDC website and speak to your doctor before you book anything to travel to Negombo.
Currency: The currency used in Negombo (and the rest of Sri Lanka) is the Sri Lankan rupee. The currency code is LKR and it's written as Rs. $1 US converts to about 181Rs, €1 is about 200Rs and £1 makes about 227Rs.
Tipping culture: There is a strong tipping culture in Sri Lanka, mostly owing to the fact that wages are low, and in touristy Negombo, it's even more expected that you would tip than if you're in more rural areas. Generally, if you receive good service, you would tip 10% for a restaurant bill and tip hotel staff around 1000Rs per day (which is about $5 US). Here is a detailed guide on tipping in Sri Lanka for more information.
Internet access: Free WiFi is usually available in hotels and hostels in Negombo, although the signal might be patchy. If you want reliable access to the internet, or know you will need to use a lot of bandwidth for work, we recommend hiring a portable WiFi device during your trip. You can pick this up and return it at Colombo airport.
Online privacy: After communal violence in Sri Lanka in 2018 and 2019, the government dramatically increased censorship online, which included blocking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube. If you want to be able to reliably (and privately) access the internet while you're in Colombo, we recommend using a VPN service. Nothing worse than not being able to share your photos on Ig!
Accommodation: For more accommodation options in Negombo, make sure you check out the choices at Booking.com. We always use them to find the best prices, plus their excellent online customer service is available 24/7. Many listings also offer free cancellation if needed, which is perfect if you like to be a little spontaneous and flexible when traveling.
Sightseeing and adventure: When looking for fun things to see and do in Negombo we like to use GetYourGuide. With an easy to use online booking system, 24/7 online support and so many choices, you'll always find the best activities according to your own interests.
When to visit: The monsoon season near Negombo falls between June and September, so unless you want to be sweaty and drenched during your holiday then you'll probably prefer to visit at a different time of year. Luckily the rest of the year is generally pleasant and warm, so you can easily plan your travels around holiday time or for a specific event.
Gay map of Negombo
Here's a gay map of Negombo which includes all the gay bars, clubs, hotels and sightseeing highlights we've mentioned in this post. Use it to plan your own amazing gay trip to Negombo!
For more inspiration:
- Find out what it's like to grow up gay in Sri Lanka in our interview with Kaluu from Colombo
- Here's our guide to trekking Ella Rock in Sri Lanka
- Read about how to get from Nuwara Eliya to Ella via train
- As well as our guide on getting from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya by train
- We got to see elephants, leopards and more during our safari to the Udawalawe National Park
- Use our guide to decide between a safari in Udawalawe or Yala National Parks
- You can even spot Blue Whales in Sri Lanka in Mirissa!