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Getting there & away

Local transport


A convenient and relatively good value way to visit Jaffna’s hinterland is to rent a van or taxi. If you do this through a guesthouse or travel agent you’ll rarely pay more than if you hire one off the street, and you might also get a driver who speaks a modicum of English. Costs range between Rs 2750 and 4000 per day for up to 100km. Add Rs 25 to 35 per kilometre for extra mileage. Around 130km covers virtually every ‘sight’ on the peninsula except the offshore islands.

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An extensive CTB network covers the Jaffna peninsula, and routes are duplicated by helpfully numbered private minibuses that leave from a stand behind the bus station. Useful, frequent services include bus 750 to Point Pedro via Nelliady, bus 751 to Point Pedro via Valvettiturai (VVT) and the northbound bus 769 to Dhurkhai Amman Kovil via Chunnakam (for the Kantarodai Ruins). Confusingly, an altogether different bus 769 runs eastwards to Mukamalai (LTTE checkpoint) via Kandy Rd. Take this bus to go anywhere in Sri Lanka beyond the Jaffna peninsula; after crossing the LTTE-controlled Vanni region you’ll emerge eventually at Vavuniya in around 5½ to seven hours, depending on waiting times. While this is not too difficult, those who don’t want to make three changes of bus can buy tickets to Colombo (Rs 1100 to 1200, roughly 12 hours) on direct air-con buses or vans. All direct bus services leave Jaffna between 7am and 8am; the return service leaves from Colombo at around 10pm. Agencies that sell Colombo tickets:

Atlas (222 5464; 77 KKS Rd; 6.30am-9pm)

Sethu Travels (222 2822; Three Star Hotel, 162 Main St; 7am-10pm)

SNJ Travels (222 2837; Hotel Rolex, Main St)

In Colombo, many agencies on Galle Rd in Wellawatta, including Sadu Communications (077 325 3017), sell these bus tickets. Or contact SNJ(232 1449; 160 Wolvendaal St, Col 13).

Note that when done in hops, the Jaffna–Colombo trip costs under Rs 500. That’s less than half the price of a direct bus, and southbound it can even prove quicker!

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Both Expo Aviation (/fax 222 3891; www.expoavi.com; 1E Stanley Rd; 8.30am-6.30pm Mon-Sat, 9.30am-5pm Sun) and AeroLanka(Hospital Rd 222 3916; 13 Hospital Rd; Serendib Inn 222 3984; 86/1 Point Pedro Rd) fly to Colombo’s Ratmalana Air Force Base (one way/return Rs 6700/12, 000, 75 minutes). Both currently depart daily around 9am, though schedules change frequently. Palali airport is 17km north of Jaffna, but don’t try to go to there independently; it’s a military installation in an otherwise closed high-security zone. Airfares include a bus shuttle. This departs from an unlikely-looking tin-roofed shelter (Hospital Rd) at the Sinhala Maha Vidyalaya. Arrive there three hours before flight departure time for security checks. Bring your own refreshments. Coming from Palali, the shuttle drops arriving passengers on Clock Tower Rd.

Several agencies sell air tickets. Try Manoj Express (222 3916, 077 780 1038; 32 Clock Tower Rd; 8am-6.30pm) and, for AeroLanka only, Thampi Travels (222 2040; Kandappasegaram Lane; 8.30am-6pm) or Serendib Inn. Jaffna to Trincomalee flights have been suspended.

Ceylinco Travels & Tours (222 5063; www.cey linco.lk/travels; 1 Stanley Rd; 8.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri, 8.30am-1pm Sat) are agents for SriLankan Airlines. It has proposed a new SriLankan Air Taxi (019-733 3355; www.srilankan.aero/airtaxi) shuttle to Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (US$250).

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