Best Ways To Travel Around Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a small island in the Indian Ocean with a good road network including many main roads and large number of smaller roads. People of Sri Lanka also enjoy the convenience of highways. Average road condition in the island is at a satisfactory level, but there can be traffic jams in major cities such as Colombo, Kandy and Gampaha due to the increasing number of vehicles. There are many ways of traveling around the country during your holiday in Sri Lanka and some of them are discussed below.

How To Get Around Sri Lanka

Get Around Sri Lanka

Get Around Sri Lanka | (c) Photo By Kangaroo Cabs / Enspirer

Hiring A Private Vehicle in Sri Lanka

Hiring a private vehicle with a driver is the best and safest option to travel around the island for foreign travelers. Vehicles can be hired for a day or several weeks depending on your requirements. It might be the best option, when it comes to doing a round tour of the country. Most hotels have their own fleet of vehicles with drivers for in-house guests. So you can easily book a vehicle with your hotel. Alternatively you can hire a vehicle and a chauffeur with a travel agent. This way you can explore the country and save lot of time as well because these drivers are well aware of the country’s attractions. The chauffeurs employed by travel agents hold the license from Tourist Board of Sri Lanka in order to work as chauffeur guides. It is a requirement of every chauffeur guide. Travel agents are also capable of providing chauffeurs with knowledge of English and some other languages. Hiring a private vehicle is the stress-free way to enjoy what this country has to offer.

Should I Hire A Self-Drive Car?

Vehicle Hire Sri Lanka

Vehicle Hire Sri Lanka | (c) Photo By YourCarAngel

There are many companies where you can rent vehicles for self-drive. You need to have an international driving license and the passport to rent a car. The company may demand you for a cash deposit in some cases too. In Sri Lanka, self-drive may not be the best transportation option. Quite a few Sri Lankan drivers, especially tuk tuk drivers have their own set of rules on the road. All vehicles are left-hand drive, but drivers overtake vehicles on both sides (left and right). To top it up, they usually don’t check for opposite traffic while doing so or obey the traffic lights in some cases. It has become a norm to keep driving while amber is on before it becomes red or green. That being said, this behavior is changing fast due to strict observance of traffic rules by the police. Due to the increasing number of road accidents the police have taken measures to minimize the damage caused by vehicles, and large numbers of policemen are employed on the road. For a foreign driver, it may take few days to get used to it.

Should I Use A Taxi?

Taxi Hire Sri Lanka

Taxi | (cc) Photo By ChippedMug

Hiring a taxi can be a handy decision, if you need the vehicle only for a short journey. It is one of the easiest modes of transportation here. A taxi can be arranged by a phone call. They usually inform how long it takes to pick you up. Unlike other type of car rentals, taxis charge a waiting fee. Therefore, be aware of the cost if you leave the vehicle parked for a long time during your journey. Taxi drivers are not capable of disseminate trustworthy information about the island since they are not trained to do so. The rates of the taxis depend on the company. Usually the rates starts from LKR45.

Other Modes of Transport

Train Travel in Sri Lanka

Train Travel in Sri Lanka | (cc) Photo By Chamal N

Other than what is mentioned above, there are few other options to get around Sri Lanka. Buses, trains, inland flights and TUK TUK are the other popular transport modes among tourists. TUK TUK is a mini vehicle with open sides operating on 3-wheels. It can be a good solution for a short drive but not suitable for a long journey. Even though they are less convenient to travel, it’s widely available on roads. You can find metered TUk TUKs and non-metered ones but rates come as close as for a luxury vehicle. Hiring motorcycles is also an alternative to travel around Sri Lanka although it’s quite risky due to existing driving habits. Therefore, it’s best to avoid hiring a bike. Buses and trains are less convenient and usually take more time than you can afford to give. But, it gives you the best value for money. Long distance trains can give you some great views of the island. Inland flights are also a good traveling mode to reach a destination with very limited time although it is the most expensive method of transportation.

Enjoy your holiday in Sri Lanka!

This is a guest post by Sri Lankan travel blogger Sanjeewa Punchihewa.

19 Responses to “Best Ways To Travel Around Sri Lanka”

  1. I’ve met quite a few Sri Lankans from my kids’ preschool and the pictures they’ve shown me were amazing. I’ve always wanted to visit and I’m glad to know there are quite a few different options to travel. I think I’d prefer the train for a scenic view without all that driving hassles.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural HistoryMy Profile

    • Salika Jay says:

      Train is pretty much the traffic-free group traveling option here. The scenery you get, especially when you travel to hill country is unmatched compared to driving.

  2. Traveling in Sri Lanka is also not so much costly if you have right info about everything. Thanks for sharing such a useful info. Travel information and means of transport process is one of most necessary thing anyone must know while traveling.

  3. Sophie says:

    Sri Lanka is high in my list, would love to visit. Thanks for this useful post.
    Sophie recently posted..Munch at Oslo airportMy Profile

  4. Agness says:

    We really loved travelling by trains in Sri Lanka. Although they were always hot and over-crowded, we met amazing people there, didn’t pay much and enjoyed the incredible scenery. Recommend it to everyone!
    Agness recently posted..10 Reasons to Visit AntarcticaMy Profile

    • Salika Jay says:

      There are different coaches – 1st class, 2nd class, observation deck etc. These are more expensive than 3rd class and seats need to be booked in advance, so they don’t get overcrowded. Third class coaches is what almost all daily travelers use, hence it gets crowded. Now they have long distance luxury air conditioned coaches with electricity outlets to charge your laptops, cellphones etc., WIFI and catering service yet cost less than $20.

  5. This is great info! I wonder how much it would cost to hire a private driver. What a luxury to be able to hire someone to chauffeur you around the island!
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted..Time to Smell the Flowers at the Carlsbad Flower FieldsMy Profile

    • Salika Jay says:

      Prices depend on the base you hire – day trip, one week etc. Back in 2008, I took a 3 hour journey from the capital to hill country for $150.

  6. I love train rides and heard the view on \ train travel in Sri Lanka is so spectacular. I’ll definitely don’t want to miss that one.

    • Salika Jay says:

      Most popular train ride is the one that goes to hill country. Scenery is amazing. Beach lovers will love the train ride to down south where the sandy beach is visible almost throughout the ride.

  7. Beth says:

    This is great info, since I’m planning a trip to Asia in 2014 (I know I have tons of time, but I’m so excited that I’m already reading about it!) Thanks for the details, and safe travels!!

    • Salika Jay says:

      Hi Beth, Welcome to my blog! I think you’ll be well prepared when it’s time to travel in Asia. After all, planning and preparing ahead is a good thing :)

  8. I like the idea of travelling in trains. I prefer sitting back and watching the countryside. Also you get to meet some interesting people on the trains who can tell you about various places.
    Shalu Sharma recently posted..Your custom made holiday to IndiaMy Profile

  9. I want to take one of those nano cabs home! :D
    if it were just me, id probably take like a motorbike or tuktuk, if i had my daughter with me — probably a taxi. if my mom and stepdad were with me. it would be a hired car for sure :D

    • Salika Jay says:

      Sounds like you have it planned well :) Only thing I would not recommend is motorbikes. Although it’s quite safe, with some driving habits it could become dangerous, unless you get familiarize with how traffic work first :)

  10. Leigh says:

    In many countries I’ve visited I am happy to hire a local driver. I find it’s less stressful plus speaking with the driver gives you some local insight into the customs of the country.
    Leigh recently posted..When Travel Plans Go Badly AstrayMy Profile