Airports & Airlines
On paper, Sri Lanka has two international airports, but in practice, almost all airlines fly into Bandaranaike International Airport.
Bandaranaike International Airport
Sri Lanka’s primary international airport is Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, 30km north of Colombo. There are 24-hour money-changing facilities in the arrivals and departures halls as well as ATMs, mobile-phone dealers, taxi services and more.
Arriving is fairly hassle-free as touts are mostly kept away. Transit passengers and those checking in early should note, however, that the terminals remain very spartan in terms of amenities.
The airport is the hub for the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, which operates an extensive network to Asia and the Middle East. It has a safety record on par with other international carriers. Local connections are provided by Cinnamon Air.
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (www.airport.lk/mria) is 15km north of Hambantota near the south coast. A notorious white elephant, it normally has one scheduled flight a day, on a budget carrier to Dubai. Media reports note that these flights often carry no passengers. The large terminal is shiny, but normally there are no services. If you are flying in, be sure to have transportation arranged in advance.
Departure tax is included in the price of a ticket.
With increased air service to Sri Lanka from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, there are many competitive airfares available.
Sri Lanka is well served by major Asian carriers, including budget favourite Air Asia. Service from India is competitive between several carriers.
Many visitors combine a visit to Sri Lanka with the Maldives. SriLankan Airlines and Emirates fly between Colombo and Malé.
Australia & New Zealand
Connections are on Asian carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways. Using Emirates requires major backtracking.
SriLankan Airlines links Colombo nonstop with London. Connecting through on a carrier such as Austrian, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines is common.
You’re literally going halfway around the world from Canada and the USA; from the west coast connect through Asia, from the east coast connect through the Middle East or India.
It is not possible to travel to Sri Lanka by land.
It is not currently possible to travel to Sri Lanka by sea. A service linking Colombo and Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) in India lasted only a few months in 2011. Prior to the civil war, a ferry service linked Mannar in northwest Sri Lanka to Rameshwaram in India; there has been talk of reviving this route for several years, but there are few signs that this might actually materialise.