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Get around in Sri Lanka

Posted by in on 5-28-13

Three-wheeler

The most common mode of transport in Sri Lanka is via a three-wheeled automobile appropriately referred to as a three-wheeler (Tri-Shaw). Also known as Tuk-Tuks from the noise of their motors. These operate in a manner similar to taxis, and in many situations are a convenient and highly cost-efficient way to get around. Safety is a concern however, as none of them have seat belts and they are open to the sides.

Three-wheelers are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka. On any given street, you’ll hardly have to wait more than a couple of minutes without one going by that you can wave down. If you’re travelling with luggage, there are slightly larger three-wheelers with more space for your bags that you can look for.

While it may be the most novel way to get around, it may not be the most cost efficient in every situation. Public transport is cheaper by far, and most Three-wheel drivers tend to over-price foreigners, so never agree to the first estimate. The best price you can get is about Rs. 50 – 75 per Km for short jouneys and about Rs. 30 – 50 for long journeys ( more than 15 km). If you do come across a metered Tri-Shaw make sure the meter is switched on. Taxis are slightly more expensive but surely a lot safer. Having said that, you probably have not experienced everything Sri Lanka has to offer until you travel in one.

By car

Rented cars usually turn out cheaper than three-wheelers, and are less prone to road accidents–and are recommended by most hotels.

Rented cars often come with their own drivers. Often the automobile itself is free, whereas the driver will charge a fee for his services. Some drivers/guides are government-licensed; some are extremely knowledgeable and multi-lingual, specializing in historical and cultural knowledge, and environment/natural history for your visits to the ancient sites and the natural reserves.

Tour operators

Tour Operators are happy to get you a van and a driver who will take you all over the island but beware, the roads are bumpy and slow. If you book off-the-cuff when you arrive, ask to be shown on a map where you are going before agreeing to any ‘tour’ of the island and research before you arrive so that you have a clear idea of where you might like to travel. Senseless backtracking to lengthen the trip and increase the cost is a real danger, as is a driver’s wish to take you on unwanted shopping expeditions in an effort to gain commission. Travel websites specialising in Sri Lanka are easily found and have greatly increased the choice that is readily available to independent travellers seeking tailor-made tours. The best of them will produce clearly-stated travel itineraries and some are flexible enough to make late changes to itineraries. Ask to see their Booking Conditions and anti-fraud policies.

Fun Travels is a highly reliable tour guide. They are renowned for their all-in-one packages, which allows you to cover all the hotspots of Sri Lanka in one trip.

Also check the prices from http://www.journeylankaholidays.co.uk from united kingdom where you can get reasonable price for your Sri Lanka Holidays.

Responsible Travel

Ecotourism is a form of alternative travel that aims to tackle social and environmental issues thanks to national and international tourism. As Sri Lanka is a developing country, many communities are glad to benefit from the tourism incomes.

The Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation is a national non-profit organization that is creating a very complete and trustworthy ecotourism network throughout Sri Lanka. They provide ecotourism certifications for local companies and make sure the environment conservation issues and respect for the cultural heritage are managed efficiently. The foundation has received Presidential Tourism Awards For Sri Lanka Tourism 2010 ‘Outstanding Contribution for Tourism Sri Lanka’. That is possible to make affordable ecotours with the foundation, but also to make “voluntourism” projects (traveling throughout the island while directly helping the local communities).

You can learn more about the projects of the foundation and how to contact them through the link http://www.ecotourismsrilanka.net/

Taxi companies

Taxis are a better way of getting around Colombo than three wheelers as, due to the metering, they often turn out to be cheaper. Rates are about USD0.55 and they have full day packages (approx 8 hours and 80km) for around USD 40.

They will also take you outstation for around USD 0.30-0.35 per km with no waiting charges. You can also set up your own itenary and travel around that way as opposed to whatever the tour operator tells you.

By bus

For those on a budget, buses are everywhere. They’re sometimes crowded and uncomfortable, but they get you around for almost nothing; it costs about a dollar to get half-way across the island. If you’re planning on splashing out, AC buses run most routes for twice the price, which offer air-conditioning and a guaranteed seat. However, they’re still uncomfortable. Bus stations are confusing places, especially the big ones, but almost everyone will be delighted to practice their English and help you. Also, when travelling by bus, it is local etiquette in most buses to provide or give up the very front passenger seats to members of the clergy such as monks or priests if they are present.

By train

Sri Lanka has an extensive railway system serving all major towns and cities in the island except for the North. There are special Observation cars for tourists that like to take in the scenery.

Trains can be slower than buses, depending if you are on a line that offers an express train or not, but more comfortable and even less expensive than buses.

You can look up train schedules on the official site: [17] or using one of the two Android Apps available: [18] [19]. Be advised, however, that these will only give you results for direct connections between stations.

There are 3 classes of railway cars, although 1st and 2nd class are only available on some Intercity and Express trains. Travelling 3rd class is not as bad as it may sound. Often the difference between 3rd and 2nd class is only a missing arm rest between seats.

Trains are sometimes crowded, especially in the morning and late afternoon. Also, observation car seats for the lines popular with tourists (like the Colombo-Kandy line) are often booked out several days in advance in the high season. So whenever possible you should get a reservation beforehand: see [20] and [21] for more information

The Railway system in Sri Lanka is very picturesque when entering the hill country because of the winding tracks along the mountains especially on the Badullu-Nanu Oya line. Make sure, if you can, to sit on the right side of the train, as it offers the better view.

Travel by Train is itself a journey to remember, be it travelling to Central Srilanka or travelling on the coastal line is just amazing.Highly recommended to travel by train if you are travelling outside Colombo. The Hill train to Badulla is a amazing journey. Preferably choose the express trains, and try to get a reservation beforehand, if you can.

By plane

Sri Lankan Airlines operates small Seaplane service to destinations such as Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Galle and many more locations. This is perfect for Photography trips because you can get a bird’s eye view of the island and takes less time to get to a destination than using the road. Also the seaplanes land on picturesque lakes and tanks around the island.

Aero Lanka operates domestic flights between Colombo City Airport – Ratmalana, Jaffna and Trincomalee

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