Getting Around In Sri Lanka
Tourists and locals in Sri Lanka rely too much on ground transportation due to lack of domestic flights. The country roads are narrow and potholed, often obstructed by unexpected cattle herds and dogs that cause traffic nightmares. A constant attention to the road is required if you are driving around.
From The Airport
Arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport and take the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway (E03) if your destination lies in western or southern Sri Lanka. It also connects popular coastal cities like Bentota, Mirissa, Galle and Unawatuna.
1. Cab From The Airport
Pre-book a cab and have the driver hold a board with your name on it or book a prepaid airport taxi to get a ride at the best rates.
2. Bus From The Airport
Hop on to a public bus that shuttles every 15 minutes between airport and Central bus station in Colombo.
Explore Sri Lanka By Varied Forms Of Transport
1. Hire A Car And A Driver
Travelling by road is the most efficient and convenient way to commute in Sri Lanka. You can hire cabs and drivers for one destination, to last the entire journey or just for a part of the journey.
- Local drivers can double up as tour guides and take you to offbeat destinations with lesser touristy crowd.
- You can plan a customized package according to your flexibility that can accommodate last minute changes.
- The most expensive way to travel, costing between Rs.8000- Rs. 15,000 for 200 k.m./day for budget cars and vans respectively.
- Rental charges go waste when the taxi is not fully utilized on days having itineraries like island hopping and train rides.
2. Take A Local Taxi Or Tuk-tuk
The best way to commute short distances within the city is by renting a cab or hailing a tuk-tuk. Charging around Rs.60-100/k.m., cab providers like Uber, Pickme and Taxiyak have mobile applications to help you book rides around Sri Lanka. While local tuk-tuk rides are metered, bargain the best rate starting from Rs. 200, for half a day or full day packages. Since rides around the hotels can be costly, walk down the main road to hire at a cheaper cost.
3. Use Public Buses
Public bus is a very pocket-friendly option to reach places that take one or two hours of travel-time and is a great way to experience the country like a local. While the drivers whiz around town at an alarming speed, travelling by local buses is an exhilarating experience, not for the faint-hearted tourist.
- Public buses operate on routes that connect all the small towns and villages otherwise inaccessible by trains.
- Ticket fares are affordable starting from Rs. 20 and covering a good distance.
- Commuting via bus is not recommended while travelling with heavy luggage.
- Travelers that want to ride with comfort, beating the tropical heat may not prefer these non A/c buses with open windows.
4. Travel by Train
This island is well connected to all popular tourist destinations by railway lines running along the southern, eastern and northern coastlines. The route covers some breathtaking views of the towering mountains, cascading waterfalls and the lush tea hills that are picture perfect and splendid to look at.
- Do not miss the scenic train rides from Colombo to Kandy, Kandy to Ella and Colombo to Galle, stunning and highly recommended.
- Enjoy travelling with locals and learn about their culture while munching on the delicious snacks sold on trains.
- Reserving a seat during Christmas, New Year and public holidays can be challenging.
- Do not rely on these slow-moving trains for the entire journey as catching up with the next connecting trains can be difficult if delayed.
Be adventurous and explore new locations either on a bicycle or a motorcycle at an affordable price. It is important to plan the travel budget and decide on the places of interest so as to explore Sri Lanka within a very conservative span of travel time.