Sri Lanka’s infrastructure and public transportation systems are continuously increasing, making independent travel simpler over time. However, owing to local driving customs, many roads are still severely potholed and, at times, frightening. Buses may not seem like the most attractive mode of transportation for some, what with their sometimes huge crowds (particularly on holidays), frequent lack of baggage room, and occasional harassment of women traveling alone. Nonetheless, they provide excellent chances for contact with people, are inexpensive, abundant, and come in a variety of quality.
Sri Lankan Airlines provides seaplane service to Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Galle, and other locations. This is ideal for photographic excursions since it provides a bird’s eye perspective of the island and takes less time to reach a location than driving. The seaplanes also land on the island’s beautiful lakes and tanks.
Domestic flights are operated by Aero Lanka between Colombo City Airport to Ratmalana, Jaffna, and Trincomalee.
Buses are available for people on a tight budget. They may be crowded and unpleasant at times, but they transport you around for practically nothing; a half-way trip across the island costs around a $1. If you want to splurge, AC buses provide air conditioning and a guaranteed seat on most routes for double the price. They are, nevertheless, nonetheless uneasy. Bus terminals, particularly large ones, may be perplexing, but usually everyone will be happy to try their English and assist you. Also, while traveling by bus, it is customary to offer or give up the very first passenger seats to members of the clergy such as monks or priests if they are present. As a foreigner, you may be overcharged by the bus attendant; request a written ticket if one is available to see the actual price. If there isn’t a ticket machine accessible, try asking a female traveler for the fare price, since women are generally truthful. If you’re on a limited budget, the basic public buses (CTB) lack air conditioning and are often packed, but they’re dirt cheap by Western standards and operate all the time. You may be overcharged as a foreigner; just ask for a ticket to your location to receive the proper price. Private buses cost approximately twice as much, although they are still inexpensive and typically feature air conditioning and guaranteed seats. Your best option is to notify the destination of your departure as soon as you arrive, and if feasible, reserve a seat in advance. Arrive early in all situations and, if possible, travel light. If you have a lot of baggage, you may need to get a seat for your backpack if you don’t want to carry it on your lap or beneath your feet.
Except for the north, Sri Lanka boasts an extensive railway infrastructure that serves all major towns and cities on the island. When approaching the hill region, the railway system in Sri Lanka is beautiful due to the meandering lines over the slopes, particularly on the Badullu-Nanu Oya line. If at all possible, seat on the right side of the train for a better view. Traveling by rail is an experience in and of itself, whether it be to Central Sri Lanka or along the coastline line. Traveling by rail outside of Colombo is highly recommended. The Hill train ride to Badulla is breathtaking. Choose express trains wherever possible, and attempt to get a reservation ahead of time if possible. Tourists may take in the sights from special observation vehicles. Trains may be slower than buses, depending on whether you are on a route that provides fast trains or not, but they are more pleasant and even less costly.
There are three types of railway carriages, but the first and second classes are only accessible on certain Intercity and Express trains. Traveling in third class isn’t as terrible as it sounds. Often, the only difference between third and second class is the absence of an armrest between seats.
Trains may be busy at times, particularly in the morning and late afternoon. In addition, observation car seats on major tourist lines (such as the Colombo-Kandy line) are often sold out many days in advance during peak season.
Privately operated train services such as Exporail and Rajadhani Express provide air-conditioned and served first-class railway carriages to key locations on a regular basis. While it is more expensive than taking an air-conditioned bus, it is much less expensive than renting a vehicle and includes amenities such as online bookings, courteous on-board services, roomy seats, on-board food, and wireless internet.
When available, trains are an excellent option, and ordinary trains are just slightly more costly than private buses, if at all. One benefit is that first and second class rail tickets may be booked many days ahead of time. Sri Lanka Railways maintains an English-language website. To some of the locations, there are even more costly private trains with first-class carriages and excellent service. These are clearly more expensive, but they remain a viable and practical choice for travelers on a mid-range or higher budget, with a journey from Colombo to Kandy costing about LKR1700/USD13.
The most prevalent form of transportation in Sri Lanka is a three-wheeled vehicle, sometimes known as a three-wheeler (Tri-Shaw). Due to the loudness of their engines, they are also known as Tuk-Tuks. These function similarly to taxis and are a handy and cost-effective method to move about in many circumstances. However, safety is a problem since none of them have seat belts and are exposed to the sides. Three-wheelers are common in Sri Lanka. You won’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes on any given street for one to pass by that you may wave down. If you’re traveling with baggage, you may search for somewhat bigger three-wheelers with extra room for your stuff. While it may be the most innovative mode of transportation, it may not always be the most cost effective. Public transportation is much less expensive, and most Three-wheel drivers over-price foreigners, so never accept to the first estimate. For short trips, the best price is about Rs. 50-75 per kilometer, while for lengthy journeys, the best price is around Rs. 30-50. ( more than 15 km). If you come across a metered Tri-Shaw, make sure it’s turned on. Taxis are somewhat more costly, but they are unquestionably safer. Having said that, unless you go in one, you probably haven’t seen all Sri Lanka has to offer.
Rented vehicles are often less expensive than three-wheelers, are less prone to traffic accidents, and are suggested by the majority of hotels. Rented vehicles are often accompanied by their own drivers. The vehicle itself is often free, but the driver will demand a fee for his services. Some drivers/guides are government-licensed, while others are highly informed and multilingual, specialized in historical and cultural knowledge, as well as environment/natural history for your excursions to ancient sites and natural reserves. Driving oneself is dangerous since the driving style differs greatly from that of richer nations. Of course, if you’re not on a budget, and particularly if you’re short on time, hiring a vehicle with a driver for the whole or a portion of the trip may be a handy method to follow this schedule, allowing you to visit two locations in one day in certain instances. Depending on the kind of vehicle you choose and whether you book via a hotel or travel agency that takes a commission, daily prices range between LKR5000 and 10,000 per day excl. petrol.
You may also hire a vehicle without a driver, but you must have your international driving license and have it certified by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka in order to drive on your own. You may pay an agency in advance to accomplish this for you; otherwise, you must do it in Colombo, which will take a day. International vehicle rental businesses may be found at Colombo Airport, as well as several local companies in Negombo’s beach area.
Tour companies would gladly arrange you a van and a driver to take you around the island, but be aware that the roads are rough and sluggish. If you book on the spur of the moment when you arrive, ask to be shown a map of where you are going before consenting to any ‘tour’ of the island, and do your research before you come so that you have a clear notion of where you may like to go. Backtracking to prolong the journey and raise the cost is a genuine risk, as is a driver’s desire to take you on unnecessary shopping excursions in order to earn commission. Travel websites specializing in Sri Lanka are easy to find and have significantly expanded the options accessible to independent travelers looking for tailor-made trips. The best will create clearly defined travel plans, and some will be flexible enough to make last-minute adjustments to schedules. Request a copy of their booking terms and anti-fraud procedures.
Taxis are a better method to travel about Colombo than three-wheelers since, owing to metering, they are typically less expensive. Rates are about USD0.55, and full day packages (around 8 hours and 80km) are around USD 40. They will also transport you outstation for about USD 0.30-0.35 per kilometer, with no waiting costs. You may also create your own itinerary and move about that way rather than relying on what the tour company suggests.