Getting there & away
Colombo is the international gateway to Sri Lanka, and it is also the centre of the island’s bus and rail networks. You may find leaving Colombo by train is easier than by bus, though trains are usually less frequent and a little more expensive than buses. There’s more order at the train stations than at the bus stations, and there’s often less overcrowding once on board.
Colombo has three main bus terminals, all just east of Fort train station on the south edge of Pettah. Long-distance buses leave from chaotic Bastian Mawatha station and Saunders Pl station; Central Bus Station on Olcott Mawatha is where many suburban buses start and stop.
The main train station, Colombo Fort, is within walking distance of the city centre. Trains in transit often stop only for two or three minutes.
There’s an information office (244 0048; 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat), in fact a branch office of JF Tours, at the front of Fort station. The helpful staff know everything about transport in and out of Colombo. Or you could try the information desk in the station. There is left-luggage storage at the station’s cloakroom (per bag per day Rs 20; 4.30am-11.30pm). Fort station is crawling with touts waiting to hook you up with their ‘uncle’s’ hotel in Kandy or down the coast.
Colombo’s domestic airport is at Ratmalana Air Force Base, south of Mt Lavinia. There is no public transport to or from this airport, but AeroLanka runs its own shuttle bus. Because of the air force presence security is heavy and you need to check in two hours before takeoff.
Expo Aviation (257 6941; firstname.lastname@example.org; 464 Galle Rd, Col 3) and AeroLanka(250 5632; www.aerolanka.com; 500 Galle Rd, Col 6) operate flights between Colombo and Jaffna (one way Rs 6900), while AeroLanka also flies to Trincomalee (one way Rs 4890). At the time of writing, however, AeroLanka had temporarily suspended flights to Trinco.
Bandaranaike International Airport is at Katunayake, 30km north of the city and about 2km east of the Colombo–Negombo road.