If you’re living in an apartment, your utilities will already be set up and you will be billed according to your usage. But if you have decided to live in a house, there will be utility bills that you will have to set up and pay.
The typical utilities that you will have to set up are electricity, water, cable TV, and internet. Electricity and water are most likely to be set up in your landlord’s name so make sure you’ve clarified with your landlord or property management company about when to expect the bills and how they are to be paid.
Cable TV and internet, you will need to set up in your name. When going to set these up, you will have to produce your passport and have proof of address, for example: a lease agreement.
There are several ways to pay these utilities; We at T&T highly recommend paying online, either at the utility’s website or via online banking; it will save you a lot of time. If you want to pay cash, you can do it by going in person to the utility office, your local bank, or one of the major local supermarkets, where most utility bills can be paid , but for a fee.
Additionally, there may be some maintenance companies that you will need to set up monthly payments toward, for things such as drinking water, gardening, pest control, and pool maintenance. It is common that bills for these types of services will be brought to the house on a monthly basis and need to be paid in cash, though this can be negotiated based on the company.
Rubbish (garbage) and recycling services are provided by the government. You are required to separate your recycling and food garbage according to the government’s guidelines. A good rule of thumb is to separate your food waste, paper waste and plastic waste. Each area of Colombo has certain days on which different categories of waste are picked up. There are signs in every neighbourhood, designating the days for that area. These services are free, but sometimes consistent garbage pick-up becomes an issue. It is sometimes expected that you “tip” the garbage person so that they pick up consistently, this is not always the case for locals so if you are friendly with your neighbours, perhaps speak to them and see if they pay and if not, ask the rubbish men why they are demanding tips from you only. Also, note they will ask for money at Christmas and Singhalese New Year. It is customary to give maybe between 1000- 3000 Rs. FYI if you are looking to recycle, recycling points are popping up around the city, and their is a collection bin for recycling batteries at Body Bar Gym (3 Jawatte Avenue) .
Phones (landline, mobile (cell) and Internet
You can get your mobile from a variety of places; Dialog, Airtel, Etisalat and Mobitel being the most popular. You can easily get a pay as you go sim card and the bills are usually very cheap. Note, that data and phone usage are often separate. Some people keep two phones, their home country phone and a Sri Lankan one; just remember it is easier to keep one WhatsApp number.you may need your passport when purchasing a sim card.
The same companies are available for your internet. The internet uses 4G and SLT offer fiber-optic, which can be very costly but worth it if you are here for a while.
Obvioulsy, don’t FORGET YOUR PASSPORT WHEN PUCHASING A NEW SIM CARD!!
In an apartment block, gas is typically supplied by piping, this doesn’t apply to older apartment buildings, only the newly built ones. Most houses still use gas-cylinders which you will need to purchase typically every few months depending on usage. These can easily be picked up from distribution shops and selected petrol stations. The types (and providing companies) of gas cylinders available are: Laugfs, Shell and Litro Gas. You can arrange a home delivery service, or you can take the empty cylinder to an outlet and exchange it for a new one. You put a deposit down when you initially get the gas-cylinder itself, after that you are only paying for the gas.
The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will supply your electricity. They are the only electricity provider. Be prepared, electricity is very expensive here, so if you are paying your own bills be very cautious in the first month before you get a bill.
There is lots you can do to reduce your energy bill: Turn things off at the plug socket when not using them; or when buying any electrical appliances, make sure they have invertors or use as little energy as possible.
Solar panels are an option, particularly if you are here for a while. You could offer to install and split the cost with your landlord.
Most apartment buildings will have back-up generators, but if you are in a house it’s worth considering buying a generator because even in Colombo there are power cuts, especially in the months building up to the Monsoons, if there has not been enough rain. For any problems or queries you can get in touch with the CEB.
The Sri Lanka Water Board supplies your water. There are occasional water cuts, but these are infrequent and mostly brief. Most buildings have a back-up storage facility, so you probably won’t be affected.
It is not recommended that you drink the tap water, but it is absolutely fine for brushing your teeth, washing etc. If you boil the water then it is fine, and you can find several different water filters at Arpico, Abans and Singer (large appliance retailers). If you prefer bottled water, you can order from the following suppliers. They will provide the dispensers and deliver large bottles to you on a weekly basis.