There’s no shortage of modes of transportation in Sri Lanka, but which one you decide to take is usually determined by two things: how much time you have and your budget. Here’s a list of the most common ways of getting around Sri Lanka.
Tuk tuk/three wheeler: Tuks are the equivalent of taxis here on the island, minus the security of doors to protect you. But that’s all part of the fun! Zipping from point A to point B through traffic in three wheelers is an experience in itself but also the fastest option for short trips as they can weave through traffic the way cars can’t. Just make sure before you check that a tuk tuk has a meter; if not, negotiate the price beforehand. You can always ask your hotel to call a tuk tuk for you; they can sometimes negotiate a good price for you.
Local bus: Local buses are by far the most common way of getting around for the majority of Sri Lankans. They’re cheap and accesses all areas of the island. The only issue is they’re slow and can get quite crammed, but it’s a great option for those with time on their hands while on a budget. For long-haul buses, expect to stop around 2 to 3 times for washroom breaks. Get ready for a real Sri Lankan experience while you fly down roads at top speeds, watch the beautiful scenery pass you by, and get a peek into the lives of locals.
Local tip – All buses are decked out with sound systems that have the potential of causing tinnitus. And if that doesn’t cause it, the constant honking can. If you’d like to save your eardrums from possible damage, bring a pair of earplugs with you.
Luxury/air conditioned bus: If you’d rather pay for a more comfortable bus ride, opt to take a luxury/AC bus. These buses have air conditioning, reclining seats, and can be booked in advance online here. Depending on what bus route you wish to take, online reservations may be a good idea. The AC bus is also a great option if you’re hoping to visit Hambantota from Colombo as it takes the highway, cutting down your travel time significantly. Opt to take the Colombo – Kataragama bus route.
Private car: You can always hire a private car to get you to any destination during your time in Sri Lanka; it’s the most comfortable and quickest option, but also the most costly. It may be worth it depending on your schedule and budget. You can have your hotels arrange a private car for you for each leg of your trip, or you can hire the same private driver throughout your entire trip. This may be the more cost-efficient and flexible option of the two, and most high-end hotels offer private quarters for drivers on the premises.