Sri Lanka Transportation

At present, visitors cannot reach Sri Lanka by road or sea, which means that they can only take flights to go there or leave. Sri Lanka has a pretty sound transportation system for tourists to travel around the whole country. They can travel by flight, train, city bus, taxi, long-distance bus and Tuktuk.

How to travel to Sri Lanka - By Air

There are two international airports in Sri Lanka: Bandaranaike International Airport and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.

Bandaranaike International Airport is located to the north of Colombo, about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the downtown area. The airport operates direct flights to/from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Riyadh, Dubai, London, Melbourne, Seoul, Bahrain and Doha.

No airport shuttle buses are available here. Usually, it takes about 40 minutes to travel between the airport and the downtown area by taxi. The ticket fare may be up to 4,000 rupees. Or, visitors can take bus no. 187 at the airport to Colombo Railway Station and Fort. Ticket fare is about 120 rupees. Besides, many tourists may choose to transfer in Negombo, which is only 20-minute Tuktuk journey from the airport.

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, also called Hambantota International Airport, is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from downtown Hambantota. Fewer flights are operated here. International flights to/from Bangkok, Beijing, Male, Riyadh, Chennai and Dubai are available here.

How to Travel around Sri Lanka

The most common ways to travel inside the country should be by train and long-distance bus. The most comfortable way is by chartered cars, but ticket fare is much higher. The most convenient ways to travel inside a city should be by taxis and Rickshaw. Due to the underdeveloped domestic airline network and poor road condition, few tourists take flights to travel around or take self-driving tours.


Train is a quite convenient way to travel between major cities. The detailed train routes can be found at the official website of Sri Lanka Railways. Different kinds of trains are provided in Sri Lanka, including the luxury express, commuting train and old green train. The facilities and services differ a lot for trains along different routes. Besides, private train companies such as ExpoRail and Rajadhani equip their own carriages along Colombo - Kandy - Badulla route, which have better facilities.

Train seats are divided into first, second and third classes in most cases, while some commuting or short-distance trains may have second and third class seats only. Usually, it is advised to book first-class train tickets in advance, especially for those who travel along popular train routes to Nuwara Eliya. Tickets for second-class seats on some trains can also be reserved beforehand, but they are limited. The third class seats are unnumbered seats, so if not taking a seat at the departure station, visitors may need to stand all the way to the destination. Those tickets requiring reservation can be purchased 10 - 14 days earlier before departure at the special windows in the main railway stations. Other tickets can only be purchased 10 - 15 minutes prior to departure. The tickets for private ExpoRail and Rajadhani trains can be booked online.

1. Carriages for second and third class seats may be rather crowded in peak season, so you need to be prepared.
2. Train tickets will be taken back when getting out of the station, so please keep the tickets all the way.
3. There are two distinctive rail routes in the country, including "train on the sea", the Colombo-Kandy section, and "one of the most beautiful train routes all over the world", the Haputale-Ella section. Tourists should not miss them.

Train, Sri Lanka
Rail Road from Colombo Fort to Winds

Tuktuk, Sri Lanka
Rickshaw also Called Tuktuk in Sri Lanka

Long-distance Bus

To be honest, long-distance buses are more convenient and cost less compared with trains. More importantly, visitors can even take long-distance bus to some remote regions which are unreachable by train. Long-distance buses are the same as the ordinary public buses in appearance, but facilities on long-distance buses are poorer and no air-conditioners are provided. If tourists take large and heavy luggage, they should find a place for it as soon as possible because of the narrow space on buses. Besides, be prepared for the crowded bus and take good care of your belongings. The long-distance buses between major cities have dense departures and each long-distance bus station provides detailed schedule. If tourists want to head for a remote city, please inquire at the station and confirm the detailed schedule and the transfer city. Tickets are usually purchased on bus.

1. Long-distance buses stop on the way for passengers to have a rest at canteens or toilets. If getting off, please take care of your belongings.
2. Prepare some change for buying tickets.

Private Bus

Private buses are provided for some hot travel routes. Usually, small-sized minibuses with air-conditioners are available. The advantage is that tourists will have seats, but the ticket fare is much higher accordingly. The narrow carriage may not be enough to place luggage and the air-conditioner may not work well.


Rickshaw, also called Tuktuk, is mainly used for short-distance journeys inside a city. They are available in avenues and alleys. Renting a rickshaw for half-day or one-day tour is a good option because of its reasonable price. Usually, tourists can bargain with the drivers. If no hotels are reserved in advance, tourists can also ask help from the Tuktuk drivers and they may help find a satisfying place.


Usually, tourists are not advised to travel by taxi unless they take too much luggage or they are awash with money. Except in Colombo, taxis don't meter in most cases and ticket fare is about 60 - 100 rupees per kilometer. Kandy and Colombo provide chauffeur services by phone calls.

Chartered Car

Those who want to make a more comfortable and pleasant trip can charter a car, but it may cost a lot. Usually, airports have a special counter where tourists can rent a car. Or, they can find a travel agent or ask the hotel to help rent a car. Usually, it may cost 7,000 - 9,000 rupees per day. If the driver provides excellent service, visitors can pay 10% tip.

Further Reading: 

Things to Do in Sri Lanka   Sri Lanka Weather   Useful Travel Tips