Daily fresh produce, the magnificent scent of indigenous spices, cultural arts & ambitious crafts are typical for Sri Lanka flea markets.These local flea markets in Sri Lanka are either recommended for the off-the-beaten-track kind of backpacker or for other backpackers who want to interact with the local culture in Sri Lanka. And, for those travelers who want a good chance to buy affordable and good-quality souvenirs.
I decided to write this complete guide to Sri Lanka flea markets because I want to convince you to go visit a Sri Lankan market at least once on your backpacking trip on the island
Mind that at first sight, Sri Lanka flea markets might not seem like the most typical points of interest for most tourists. But personally, I liked that fact a lot.
In general, mostly local Sri Lankans visit these Sri Lanka flea markets, so get ready for an amazingly native Sri Lankan experience on your journey on the island.
Table of contents
- Sri Lanka flea markets
- Top local markets in Sri Lanka
- Buy your tea at the local markets
- The central market hall in Kandy
- Tips and tricks for bargaining
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Tip: Keep in mind that you always have to haggle for the best price for goods in all Sri Lanka flea markets. Bargaining is a most common habit in Sri Lankan culture and it helps to reduce the cost of buying goods.
Sri Lanka flea markets
Sri Lanka flea markets stock a grand range of delicious foods, lovely spices, herbal brews, crafts, textiles, and tea. Whilst the markets focus on selling products to local Sri Lankans, they also sell goods to tourists. I highly advise you to go visit them on your backpacking journey on the island. They will definitely offer you something of quality value to take back home. Sri Lanka flea markets are packed with goods that will be perfect for a good souvenir.
Tip: The average cost of goods in Sri Lanka flea markets can be 200-300% lower compared to the higher prices in tourist shops.
Top local markets in Sri Lanka
I listed my top 5 of recommended Sri Lanka flea markets for you below. If you are in the area close to one of these markets on your backpacking trip, don’t hesitate to give one of these Sri Lanka flea markets a try. You might come back with your hands full of cheap, best-quality souvenirs to take back home with you.
This market is well known in the area for an abundant supply of daily caught fresh fish. Every day, local fishermen get up early in the morning, take their boats and go out in search of fish in the Indian ocean. Also, lobster, prawns, and crabs are being caught in the lagoon next to Negombo. This local market is recommended for any traveler that likes seafood and fresh fish. In conclusion, a short visit of 30 minutes max will be enough to see the whole place.
This open market offers about anything from jewelry & electronics to fresh produce. The market’s location is in a quite busy district of Colombo and is worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood. Every street of this local market is dedicated to a different trade. Make sure to be able to spend at least half a day if you consider giving Pettah market a try.
This local marketplace mainly sells quality arts & crafts and organic fresh produce. This market labels itself with the motto “good for the planet, good for the country, and good for you”. It has a well-deserved place in this list of recommended Sri Lanka flea markets. Also, it’s a good choice for backpackers that want to buy healthy, socially responsible and eco-conscious goods. You will need at least 1-2 hours to explore the whole marketplace.
Jaffna local market is a unique local market in the North of the island. The flea market is famous for many sweets and other local goods. In conclusion, you will need at least 1-2 hours to explore this option in the list of all Sri Lanka flea markets. It is a good “place to go” for when you are in the Jaffna region.
The central market in Kandy is an important shopping place amongst local Sri Lankans. This authentic flea market is situated on Kandy’s oldest market square and sells many interesting goods. Hence, you will be able to read about more details of the Kandy local market further below in this article. Mind that you will need at least 1-3 hours to properly explore this option from the list of Sri Lanka flea markets.
Buy your tea at the local markets
A few local Sri Lankan people advised me more than just once to buy my tea at the Sri Lanka flea markets. A fact is that as a tourist you pay a much larger amount of money for the same package of tea at the tea factory shops. The tea in Sri Lanka flea markets is of high quality and you get to choose from many different kinds. Ask the local stallkeepers in Sri Lanka flea markets for more information and they will be glad to tell you more about their products. The same principle applies to spices, ayurvedic herbal balms, oils and many other local products in Sri Lanka flea markets.
The market stall keepers will be very happy to see you passing by. Keep in mind that they can be quite convincing sometimes wanting you to buy something. They do have some quite persuasive sales skills. Also, Always think about the fact that you have to bargain for a good buy in all Sri Lanka flea markets. Because stall keepers, at first, will almost always ask a much higher price for a product. Haggling at Sri Lanka flea markets is considered as a standard habit. Shopkeepers expect shoppers to bargain about the price of items in order to bring down the cost to a reasonable amount for both parties.
Tip: When you buy goods at Sri Lanka flea markets keep in mind that you are supporting local people and their families by buying goods from them directly. As a result, you will be supporting a much better cause compared to buying goods at the bigger supermarkets in Sri Lanka.
The central market hall in Kandy
The cultural heritage city of Kandy has a ‘secret’ hidden-for-tourist market hall right in the center of the town. It’s next to the clock tower bus station across the central plaza with tropical trees. This central market hall in Kandy is a splendid place to buy cheap, best-quality goods and for shopping amongst friendly locals. I highly recommend you to visit it when you are in Kandy on your backpacking trip. The local market in Kandy was one of my favorite Sri Lanka flea markets.
I visited the Kandy Central market hall quite often when I was staying in Kandy for 3 months in 2016.
The first floor of the market hall offers goods such as local food, tea, spices, fruits and other snacks. The top floor offers a wider variety of clothing, textiles, books, souvenirs and gifts. At the back of the first floor, there is a section for meat and fish. Outside the back of the market hall, there are market stalls that sell many fresh fruits and colorful, tasty vegetables. The Kandy central market hall is my personal favorite option in the list of all Sri Lanka flea markets. You should definitely go there when you are in Sri Lanka.
Tips and tricks for bargaining
- Shop around the Sri Lanka flea markets to find out what locals pay for certain products. In such way, you will have a clear idea about the correct cost for a product before you start bargaining your way to a good price.
- Mind to refrain your enthusiasm when you start talking about a price. Bargaining in Sri Lanka flea markets is all about remaining neutral. This method will help you to get a good price for your souvenirs.
- Ask for a deal on multiple items. Hence, you might get a better price per product.
- Show the merchant your money that you want to spend on the item.
- Name a price that is 20%-50% lower than the original price the shopkeeper suggested. After that, he probably will come back to you with a lower price. That’s the moment when the real bargaining process begins.
- If the requested cost remains too high, say “no, thank you” and leave. The shopkeeper might run after you and might offer you a lower price.