How to Travel Around Sri Lanka

Transport Tips for Sri Lanka

 

 

Travelling Around Sri Lanka

by Bus, Train, Tuk Tuk, and Bike

Best ways to Travel Around in Sri Lanka

Getting around the small island of Sri Lanka is quite easy. Distances between towns are relatively short. Sri Lanka has plenty of transport options and the fares are pretty much pocket friendly even though the trains and buses are often delayed. The transport system is outdated and is gradually being modernised.

If you are still planning your trip to Sri Lanka and don’t know the best way to travel around the country then this short guide to Public Transport in Sri Lanka will help you.

There is so much to see, packed into this small Indian Ocean nation, that Sri Lanka has become a favourite destination for many.

If you haven’t yet been to Sri Lanka, I hope this blog post helps you all to travel around and enjoy the Island of Sri Lanka. 

If you have been to Sri Lanka, please tell me about your favorite places, experiences and modes of transport in the comments below.

I’d love to hear about your travels. 

A bus journey in Sri Lanka
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Travel Sri Lanka By Bus

Buses are the principal mode of public transport. Service is provided by the state-run Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and privately owned buses. The SLTB has urban and rural routes; in many rural areas, it provides service which would be unprofitable for private operators.

State run buses are coloured red usually with two seats each side of the aisle and private buses are blue with three and two seats each side. Locals say that the State run buses are safer as the drivers do not drive as fast as the privately owned bus drivers.

An elephant crosses the road ahead of a bus in Sri Lanka
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Buses are the most popular mode of public transport on the island and can be divided into three categories :-

Ordinary buses which travel on almost every rural road in the country between towns and villages. They are very slow as they stop everywhere. They get quite crowded and you could have a problem finding room for any luggage you may be carrying. Fares are low between Rs10 and Rs 50.

Semi luxury buses are long distance buses which travel Point to Point between towns, not usually picking up passengers en-route. The fare is more expensive than the ordinary buses. They aren’t as crowded and you can prebook your seat. 

A/C buses are as you might think. More comfortable than the Semi Luxury buses and a little bit more expensive. They travel long distance between towns and only pick up passengers at their designated stops. You can prebook your seat on these buses too.

Elephant crosses infront of a bus in Sri Lanka
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By Train

If you love train travel and saving your money, then the railway is a fantastic way to get around Sri Lanka. Even though the trains are not that comfortable you will be kept busy gazing at a lot of interesting scenery you pass by. There is no better way of exploring Sri Lanka than by train! It is inexpensive and it’s safe.

Vendors selling cheap and delicious traditional snacks are numerous and can be found everywhere, so you will never go hungry and will get to taste many new foods.

Map of Sri Lankan Railways
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Trains are the best way to travel the hill country, no matter what your budget is, as you’ll witness a lot of beautiful scenery along the way – Tea plantations, waterfalls, lush green mountains, mist and the dark tunnels….

Train service in Sri Lanka allows you to pre-book seats 30 days in advance. You can also buy a ticket at the railway station for unreserved cars and take a chance of getting a seat or not.

If you have already planned and know your DIY itinerary I recommend you pre-book your seats online before arrival in Sri Lanka.

Riding a train in Sri Lanka
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How to Buy Train Tickets

Every train has three classes —

  • 1st class – Perfect, if you don’t like to get disturbed by the crowd and don’t mind missing the true Sri Lankan train vibes. The fare is more expensive compared to the normal train fares, and is reserved seats only with no standing allowed.
  • 2nd class – Less crowded than 3rd class but double the fare. Reserved seats with no standing, or unreserved pot luck.
  • 3rd class – It is where local people travel. 3rd Class is cheap and can get very crowded. There are reserved seats available on some trains.

.Try to avoid trains around office hours as they can be really crowded.

Tickets for Unreserved Cars

Nearly all trains have unreserved cars in 2nd and 3rd class. Unreserved cars get really crowded and you may not get a seat. Tickets are available from one hour before departure. So you can just arrive at the station, buy a ticket and board the train.

Tickets for Reserved Cars

There are reserved cars in all three classes and tickets are available up to 30 days in advance. Tickets sell out quickly. There is no standing in a 2nd class reserved car.
If the ticket office tells you that the train is full, this only means that the reserved tickets are sold out. So you should now ask for a ticket in a 3rd class reserved car where you are guaranteed a seat. This is much better than standing in an unreserved crowded 2nd class car.

passengers playing cards on a Sri Lanka train
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crowded train in Sri Lanka
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More information about train schedules can be found on Sri Lankan Railways.

Tuk Tuk – or Motorised Tricycle

Tricycles, known in other parts of Asia as tuk-tuks, or autorickshaws, are parked on nearly every corner. Be sure to agree on the fare before to get into the Tuktuk. You will need your best bargaining skills. Some drivers will also offer to take you on a tour to the tourist sites. Be careful as they may include additional stops at “Family” businesses

The main public transport throughout the country are tuk-tuks. Locals prefer to use tuk-tuks than buses, because the prices for them are very low. For tourists, tuk-tuks are also the best way to move short distances, but prices for tourists are different than for a local.

For a guide to fares,Tuktuk’s should cost no more than Rs 200 per kilometre, but this depends on your bargaining skills. In Colombo.tuktuks may use meters so there is no need to bargain, as the rate is fixed.

Tuktuks and taxis waiting outside hotels and tourist sites usually charge higher-than-usual fares. Walk a few hundred metres and find one away from these areas.

Tuk Tuks are popular form of transport in Sri Lanka
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Sri Lanka transpport Tuk Tuks
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Rent a Motorbike

Renting a motorbike or scooter in Sri Lanka is fairly common, but finding such a service is possible only in the most popular tourist areas on the coast. In the center of the country to rent a bike is very difficult.

The rental price is between $6 (RS 700) to $10 per day. Always try and bargain and be sure to ask for a discount if you rent the bike for a few days. The longer the rental period the bigger the discount. Rental includes unlimited mileage and helmets.

 Driving licence 

Sri Lanka and does not recognize international and national driving licences, Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that requires you to get your licence verified in-country before you can drive. This means, driving on an IDP or foreign national license is illegal in Sri Lanka.

Foreign Driving License holders must obtain a temporary Sri Lankan Driving License from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Werahera (30 minute drive from Central Colombo) to be able to drive legally in Sri Lanka. The process takes about 30 minutes. The DMV is open Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 3 PM.

 The motorbike also needs to be insured and proof of payment of taxes offered by the owner of the motorcycle. Make sure you have a copy of  these documents, otherwise the problem will be not only the owner, but you, if stopped by the police.

Hire a scooter or motorbike in Sri Lanka
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SILVERBACKPACKER

Essential Travel Guides

 

How to Travel Around
Sri Lanka

How to Travel to Sri Lanka?

There is only one way to enter Sri Lanka and that is to fly in. Sea travel was banned years ago.

Bandaranaike International Airport, also known as Colombo International Airport, is the main hub in Sri Lanka. Over 30 airlines serve this airport including many budget airlines, like Air Asia, making travel to Sri Lanka affordable.

I flew with Air Asia from Bangkok on one of their promo flights and my experience was good. There are many airlines flying to Sri Lanka so just search for the best one for you.

You can also search HERE by clicking the link

Do I need a visa for Sri Lanka?

Most likely yes. Most travelers need a visa to enter Sri Lanka, unless you are a national from Singapore, Maldives or Seychelles. All other nationals need to apply for an ETA.
The process is easy and straight forward, you can apply online here.

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