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Local transport

Local Transport

Many Sri Lankan towns are small enough to walk around. In larger towns, you can get around by bus, taxi or three-wheeler.

Bus

Local buses go to most places, including villages outside main towns, for fares from Rs 10 to 50.

Taxi

Sri Lankan taxis are common in all sizable towns, and even some villages. Only some are metered (mostly in Colombo), but over longer distances their prices are comparable to those of three-wheelers, and they provide more comfort and security. You can count on most taxi rides costing around Rs 60 to 100 per kilometre.

Hotels and restaurants can usually get you a ride for a modest cost. In Colombo you can count on taxis dispatched via apps such as Uber.

Three-wheeler

Three-wheelers, known in other parts of Asia as tuk-tuks, bajajs or autorickshaws, are waiting on nearly every corner. Use your best bargaining skills and agree on the fare before you get in. Some keen drivers will offer very extensive tours; use your discretion.

As a rule of thumb, a three-wheeler should cost no more than Rs 200 per kilometre, but this can prove elusive depending on your negotiating skills. Note that three-wheelers with meters are somewhat prevalent in Colombo.

Three-wheelers and taxis waiting outside hotels and tourist sights expect higher-than-usual fares. Walk a few hundred metres to get a better deal.

Getting Around in Sri Lanka

Some useful points to consider when getting around Sri Lanka:

  • Domestic flights in Sri Lanka are quite limited, distances are not vast and new expressways are shrinking travel times.
  • Travelling on public transport is a choice between buses and trains: both are cheap. Trains can be crowded, but it’s nothing compared with the huge number of passengers that squash into ordinary buses. Standing on a train is better than standing on a bus.
  • On the main roads from Colombo to Kandy, Negombo and Galle, buses cover around 40km to 50km per hour. On highways across the plains and to the North, it can be 60km or 70km an hour. In the Hill Country, it can slow to just 20km an hour.
  • All public transport gets crowded around poya (full moon) holidays and their nearest weekends, so try to avoid travelling then.