Getting there & away
Every form of transport that relies on carbon-based fuel generates CO2, the main cause of human-induced climate change. Modern travel is dependent on aeroplanes, which might use less fuel per kilometre per person than most cars but travel much greater distances. The altitude at which aircraft emit gases (including CO2) and particles also contributes to their climate change impact. Many websites offer ‘carbon calculators’ that allow people to estimate the carbon emissions generated by their journey and, for those who wish to do so, to offset the impact of the greenhouse gases emitted with contributions to portfolios of climate-friendly initiatives throughout the world. Lonely Planet offsets the carbon footprint of all staff and author travel.
Sri Lanka is on track to get a second international airport as early as 2013. Mattala International Airport (www.airport.lk/hia/hia.php) is being built 15km north of Hambantota near the south coast. The first phase will have a runway long enough to handle the largest jets flying nonstop to/from Europe. Service details were not clear at time of research but once open, it will be interesting to see how many people wish to fly directly to the southern end of the country. What seems likely, initially, is that Sri Lankan Airlines will launch true domestic service linking to Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo, and some charter flights filled with sun-seeking holidaymakers may fly direct from other nations. Don’t be surprised if the airport is formally named after a politician before it opens.
For the moment, however, Sri Lanka’s only international airport is Bandaranaike International Airport (www.airport.lk) at Katunayake, 30km north of Colombo. There are 24-hour moneychanging facilities in the arrivals and departures halls as well as ATMs. Compared to years past, the airport is much more orderly now and the throngs of touts that once greeted passengers are gone. Transit passengers and those checking in early should note, however, that the terminals remain quite spartan in terms of amenities.
Sri Lanka is well served by major Asian carriers, including Malaysian budget favourite Air Asia. Service from India is competitive between several carriers. Many visitors combine a visit to Sri Lanka with the Maldives. Sri Lankan Airlines and Emirates fly between Colombo and Malé.
Sri Lankan Airlines links Colombo nonstop with Frankfurt, London, Paris and Rome. But nonstop service by a European airline remains a holy grail of Sri Lankan tourism. Connecting through on a Middle Eastern carrier such as Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways and Qatar Airways is common.
Plans to resume ferry services between Mannar in northwest Sri Lanka and India have been rumoured for many years, but have yet to materialise. In 2011 Flemingo Liners (www.flemingoliners.com) began a much-hyped new service linking Colombo and Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) in India. The overnight sailings were economical and popular. However, a dispute with a vendor caused the service to be suspended at the end of 2011.