Sri Lanka, although a tiny island has many new expressways which has made travelling easier in much lesser time. There are many options for travel around the country such as car, bus and train and air. What to choose depends on your budget, where you want to go and the amount of time you have.
However, the most convenient and quick way to get around Sri Lanka is by hiring a private car with a driver and for short distances, it is recommended to take a city taxi or tuk tuk which is a fun way of travel.
To experience the beautiful landscapes and rural culture of Sri Lanka, we do highly recommend taking a train ride!
Book a car with Epic
Our services at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays give options of hiring a car with a chauffeur in which you can use for your travel around the country. Book with us and we can help make your Sri Lanka trip easy and hassle free.
Main Highways of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has two main highways that help connect every traveller to all parts of the island from the Bandaranaike international airport or Colombo.
Southern Expressway – E01
This expressway starts from Kottawa which is about an hour’s drive from Colombo and continues all the way up to Matara which sits on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. This expressway will help you reach all the beach destinations along the south west coast and the south coast including the safari destination of Yala which is accessible from Hambantota. From Matara there is newly constructed road in which you can take from the end of the expressway all the way to Hambantota passing through Tangalle.
Outer circular expressway – E02
This newly opened expressway connects from Kadawatha to Kerawalapitiya which is the common link from the Katunayake expressway (E03) to the southern expressway. This is ideal for those travelling directly from the airport or Negombo to the south coast.
Katunayake Expressway – E03
This expressway connects from Katunayake, where the Bandaranaike international airport is located to Colombo. This highway provides easy access for those travelling to Negombo, Puttalam and Anuradhapura from Colombo since it helps lessen the time to travel as opposed to travelling along the normal road.
Bus from BIA Airport – Every 15 minutes from the Bandaranaike international airport, public buses leave for Colombo by reaching the central bus station in Pettah.
There are 2 types of bus transport in Sri Lanka which are Sri Lanka Transport Board or Central Transport Board (CTB) buses – these are the normal buses that are non air conditioned and go for long distance routes and then there are private bus operators which are independent bus companies having buses that vary from the latest model coaches that are used a intercity express and then the old mini buses which usually operate on short distances between towns and villages. However the intercity express air conditioned buses do cover most of the main routes and they are faster and comfortable for long distance travel as opposed to other bus services.
Most of the long distance buses depart from Colombo. The private buses leave from Colombo Private Bus station which is on Bastian Mawatha, Pettah and the CTB buses leave from Central Bus Depot in Colombo fort. The short and medium distance buses leave from different locations in Colombo.
In most of the major cities, there are bus stations and in smaller towns there would be sheds on the road and you just need to walk to the nearest shed to catch your bus.
Buying tickets – for public buses you will have to purchase your ticket after getting onto the bus and in cash and it is recommended to have change to be ready to pay to the conductor. The prices vary according to distance and type of bus service whether normal bus, semi luxury or luxury. It starts at Rs 12 for normal bus fare. For example from Colombo to Kandy, the normal bus fare is Rs 180, semi luxury is Rs 270 and luxury is Rs 360. You can buy tickets online for semi luxury and luxury buses at BusSeat.lk
Transfer – You cannot buy a single ticket to cover all your destinations of transfer since you have to purchase an individual ticket for each leg. For example – you cannot go directly from Kandy to Galle, therefore you will need to embark on a bus from Kandy to Colombo Fort and then take another bus from Fort to Galle.
City Taxi Services
Sri Lanka has many city taxi services and here are some recommended services which are Kangaroo Cabs, Uber and PickMe. You can download their apps and plan your trip. For long distance travel it is advisable to check with your hotel and book a taxi with a good rate or contact us at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays and we would arrange a taxi for you.
Tuk Tuk Rides
A fun way to travel for most of our travellers is by tuk tuk known as three wheelers which are aplenty all over the country. You will find a lot of tuk tuks outside hotels, shopping centres and major tourist attractions and they may charge quite high rates if they don’t have a meter so best is to check for those that have a meter so as to be charged a normal rate.
Renting a scooter or cycle
Explore Sri Lanka on two wheels; another fun way of travel. There are many scooter rental companies that offer scooters for hire. You can book from one day to several weeks. These scooter rides are very popular in places like Arugam Bay and Ella since one can observe the beautiful scenery in openness.
Cycling around Sri Lanka is a popular way of exploring the island and there are many bike rental shops and if your place of accommodation does not hire any bikes they may assist you in contacting a bike rental company. Long distance cyclists will enjoy the scenery by cycling through the highlands, ancient sites of the Cultural triangle such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya, countryside of Habarana and Galle where one can witness rural Sri Lanka seeing village and agricultural life; and much more.
The train is a wonderful and cheaper way of travelling in Sri Lanka especially to see its beautiful scenery that changes from place to place. The trains are operated by Sri Lanka Railways and there are three main railway lines and the most popular and scenic routes are the southern and eastern lines.
South Rail Line – This route starts from Colombo Fort towards the south along the coast through Hikkaduwa, Galle, Mirissa and ends in Matara. A very scenic route since you can see the beautiful beaches along the way.
East Rail Line – A beautiful route starting from Colombo Fort through Kandy and hill country passing through Hatton, Nanu Oya, Ella and ends at Badulla. The section from Nanu Oya to Ella has been revered as the world’s most beautiful train ride which takes you through gorgeous landscapes of misty mountains and valleys and the view is breathtaking.
North Rail Line – This route takes you to the Cultural Triangle and to the North. It leaves Colombo Fort passing through Anuradhapura then Mannar and ends up at Jaffna. There is a branch that goes east to Trincomalee, therefore taking you to the east coast and another branch goes to Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa.
Other Lines – The Puttalam line runs north along the coast from Colombo, but you must take rail buses between Chilaw and Puttalam. The Kelani Valley line runs inland and east from Colombo to Avissawella (a 60 km long rail line).
You can find train timetables and train schedules for all trains in Sri Lanka at the official website of Sri Lanka Railway.
Train tickets – Ticket prices depends on the type of class or cars that you choose. You can buy online tickets for all train destinations at 12Go Asia or contact us at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays and we can arrange for you.
1st class observation car (reserved seats) is available on some trains during the daytime hours, mostly on the East rail line like for trains going from Kandy to Ella and is a very popular choice among tourists. This observation car gives a wide view of the scenery and is generally at the back of the train.
1st class air-conditioned seats (reserved seats) are available on certain intercity express trains. These carriages are air conditioned.
1st class sleeper (reserved seats) carries sleeping carriages and is available on selected overnight trains.
2nd class seats (reserved and unreserved seats) are applicable for all intercity trains. 2nd class has fans, and you can open the windows. Tickets for this class is sold on the same day of travel at the train station and do not sell out.
3rd class seats (mostly unreserved seats, but some trains also have 3rd class reserved seats) are available on all trains. You can sit wherever you want if there is an available seat, or you will have to stand. 3rd class unreserved seat tickets are sold on the same day at the train station, sometimes even just an hour before the train departs. These tickets never sell out, so you will always these tickets.
Exploring Sri Lanka by air is a beautiful experience although expensive but it gives you a bird’s eye view of the tiny island’s ever changing landscapes.
Daily domestic flights or air taxis are operated by Cinnamon Air, a leading supplier of Air taxis in Sri Lanka and has different carriers and routes across the island. It has exclusive charter flights to Jaffna and scenic tours around Sri Lanka, whatever you need – contact us at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays to make all bookings and arrangements for you.
Cinnamon Air Daily flights
The daily flight times depends on the season either summer (May to October) or winter (November to April) in which you can refer to the schedules provided at Cinnamon Air.
Routes from Colombo – Bandaranaike International Airport:
East Coast – there are daily flights to Trincomalee and Batticaloa
Cultural Triangle – Daily flights to Sigiriya
Kandy – Daily flights to Kandy at Victoria reservoir
Hill country – Daily flights to Castlereagh (Hatton)
South coast – Daily flights to Koggala and Dickwella giving close access to Galle
Yala – Daily flights to Hambantota which also gives quick access to Tangalle
Cinnamon Air Charter flights
You can plan your trip to any destination of Sri Lanka with Cinnamon air charter flights. Contact us at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays to plan your trip.
Daya Aviation – Daya Aviation is a domestic air travel company offering a range of domestic flights in Sri Lanka, including charter services for corporate or leisure travel. They have the most high-tech helicopters which are presently in operation that includes the Airbus EC130T2, so you can travel with absolute comfort.
Helitours – Helitours is a subsidiary of the Sri Lanka Air Force and is also one of the leading domestic flights providers in Sri Lanka, offering flights thrice a week from Ratmalana air force base to Palaly in Jaffna and Trincomalee and once a week to Ampara and Batticaloa. They also offer helicopter transfers and some scheduled flights.
Other air travel companies that offer helicopter and planes are Simplifly, Senok Aviation and IWS Aviation. Contact us at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays to plan your trip.