Colombo has a good range of shops, and a day trawling through the city’s handicrafts emporia and chic boutiques can be an enjoyable way to end a visit and offload surplus rupees. You’ll find the best of Sri Lanka’s modest traditional handicraft production on sale at various places around the city, as well as at characterful modern shops, such as Barefoot, which offer chic contemporary takes on traditional designs – everything from stationery and stuffed toys to fabrics and kitchenware – and all at bargain-basement prices. The only fly in the soup is the fact that in virtually all establishments (except Barefoot) you’ll be tailed obsessively during your browsing by the shops’ under-employed sales assistants – though whether this is so that they can be of immediate service when required or because they suspect all foreigners of being closet shoplifters remains unclear. Colombo also boasts an excellent selection of bookshops, a plethora of jewellers and, of course, plenty of tea shops. When buying handicrafts, remember that the export of antiques (classified as any object more than fifty years old) is prohibited without a licence (see Average monthly temperatures and rainfall).

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