Bus routes cover about 80% of the nation’s 90,000km of roads. There are two kinds of bus in Sri Lanka:
Central Transport Board (CTB) buses These are the default buses and usually lack air-con; they ply most long-distance and local routes. You’ll also see buses with a Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) logo.
Private buses Independent bus companies have vehicles ranging from late-model coaches used on intercity-express runs to ancient minibuses on short runs between towns and villages. Private air-con intercity buses cover some major routes. For long-distance travel they are more comfortable and faster than other bus services. Note that completion of the Southern Expressway has sparked the introduction of express services in fully modern air-con coaches between Colombo and Galle.
In most cases, private bus companies run services parallel to CTB services. Intercity expresses charge about twice as much as CTB buses, but are more than twice as comfortable and usually faster. Fares for CTB buses and ordinary private buses are very cheap.
Bus travel in Sri Lanka can be interesting and entertaining. Many locals speak some English, so you may have some enjoyable interactions. Vendors board to sell snacks and gifts on long-distance routes.
Important considerations for bus travel: