Sri Lanka – disco buses and hanging on the outside of trains

Sri Lanka is not that big, it’s easy to travel around. Whether you choose to go by bus or train when you’re travelling around Sri Lanka, you’ll have a great time!

Sri Lanka Jaffna cow in street night
A cow chilling in the streets of Jeffna

How to travel around Sri Lanka

From crazy tuktuk rides in Colombo to “oh my god I’m going to die”-taxis, Sri Lanka has it all!

Disco buses and suicidal mini buses

“Is he seriously using his horn now?”

We were on our way from Hikkaduwa to Colombo. The traffic signal was red. There was nowhere to go. Yet the driver was honking like a maniac.

The last couple of hours had been a mix of constant aggressive honkin and loud yelling at every stop to attract more passangers. All seats taken? No problem, just stand!

Sri Lanka local bus
Sri Lanka local disco bus

The bus ride from Hikkaduwa to Colombo is usually 4 hours. Both the big local buses and the smaller mini buses (they have AC!!) runs on commision. Faster driving = more money = totally crazy driving!

The big buses also drive like there’s no tomorrow. What they lack in maneuverability, they make up for with speed, heat and loud music. Really loud music! Heck, we took the morning bus once from Colombo to Hikkaduwa once. 5 am, people were going to work, music blasting! Amazing! We were sitting in awe the entire way. So much fun!

Between the bigger cities you can also travel with bigger tourist buses. They’re comfertable, with AC and good leggroom.

Be aware of cows in the road!

Do I recommend travelling by bus in Sri Lanka?

Most definitely! It’s so cheap to travel by bus in Sri Lanka and they go everywhere! It’s also a nice way to get close to the locals, which is always cool.

Trains in Sri Lanka – amazing views and a cockroach or two

Sri Lanka train to Ella
The scenery on the trainride to Ella is beautiful

Should you take the train between Ella and Kandy? Yes! It is as beautiful as you expect! Just remember to book your ticket as early as possible. Every major train station in Sri Lanka can help you out. Don’t bother with the booking agencies. They charge a massive overhead.

Some other fun facts about riding the train in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka hanging outside train to Ella

It’s quite OK to hang on the outside of the trains. Makes for pretty cool pictures.

We took the train from Kandy to Colombo. With 2nd class tickets (we bought the ticket 1 hour before departure), we had no seat reservation and the train was really full. People were standing. Everywhere! Luckily we got to sit in the doorway, dangling our legs outside the train enjoying the beautiful sunset.

On a late evening train from Colombo to Hikkaduwa, we scared a couple of cockroaches. So yes, there are cockroaches on the trains. Not really a fun fact, I guess.

So, should you travel by trains in Sri Lanka?

Once again, yes!

Sri Lanka crowded train

The trains in Sri Lanka are often crowded and sometimes late. They’re humid and chaotic.

But they’re so much fun! And the scenery outside is often breathtaking! And it’s cheap, so just do it!

Or you could just rent a car and driver

But it’s so boring! Yes, you’ll get to where you’re going very fast and comfortable. But you will miss out on all the cool stories and no bragging rights.

And it’s expensive. Well, not really if you compare it to the prices at home. But compared to other means of transportation in Sri Lanka, it’s really expensive.

Another cow in the street

Do not rent a car in Sri Lanka and drive yourself! They drive like crazy! You’ll die, or kill someone. However, if you’re from Albania, go ahead and you’ll probably feel right at home ?

FAQ on getting around in Sri Lanka

Where do the buses go from?

You’ll find bus stations in all major cities, and bus stops pretty much everywhere else. Some have a schedule, other leave when they’re full.

No mention of tuk-tuks?

No point! You’ll take many tuk-tuk rides. They’re fun and cheap.

Will I have to pay the “tourist price”?

In short, yes. All tuk-tuks overcharge tourists, but it’s still cheap. But always haggle for a lower price.

Where do I book a car and driver?

If you ask your hotel for recommendations, you will ususally get an OK price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *