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Not yet in Sri Lanka, but have a ton of questions! (Colombo)

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Hello everyone,
My husband and will need to leave our home in Abu Dhabi in the next
two months and we have zoomed in on Sri Lanka as our next port of call
on the journey to semi-retirement. We are both US/UK citizens.
I am now looking for any bits of information on the following:

1. Recommendations for areas to live in
We'd like reasonable access to the international airport, some amount
of expat vibe, preferably not rampant tourism in the high season (but
some is ok), and a good rural-urban vibe (for instance, being in a
house with a garden but still within walking distance of town-like
stuff). Our first thoughts are Negombo and Colombo.

We'll only be able to make one recce trip before we have to take a
decision, so any assistance in narrowing down the field would be
greatly appreciated.

2. Recommendations for letting agents
I've seen from the google group that Mimi Weerasinghe at Z Homes comes
highly recommended. I can contact her through LinkedIn and will do
so. Any further recommendations from personal experience would be
helpful, as well as hints on how to avoid paying inflated holiday
property prices!

3. Information on the Resident Guest Visa Scheme (for professionals,
not investors)
Even the consular services fellow at the embassy here doesn't really
have much experience with this one! We are just short of the 55 year
retirement limit, and as I am an academic, I'd prefer coming in as a
Resident Guest professional so that I have an option to do some
teaching or educational consulting. ANYONE with personal experience
on the Resident Guest scheme, please chime in!

4. Logistics of renting a house while still on a visit visa
Finally, realising that we have to enter Sri Lanka on a visit visa and
subsequently apply for the Resident Guest visa, can anyone tell me
what is generally required when renting a property? In other words,
can this be done while still on a visit visa?

I hope I don't sound too scatty -- we've just gotten notice and we
have to have someplace for a 40-foot container to go in April!

Ideally we will be coming to Sri Lanka for a recce trip sometime around the second week of March.

Thank you in advance for the help. (and many thanks to Jessica for inviting me to the Internations community!)
Christina

Colombo Forum