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Getting Around Sri Lanka [Complete 2020 Guide]

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last Updated:
June 10, 2020
Travel stories
Need a guide on everything you need to know about getting around Sri Lanka? Then look no further! I've got you covered with all you need to know right here
Getting Around Sri Lanka
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Sri Lanka is one of my favourite destinations in the world. It’s small, but mighty!

Bursting with amazing things to do and see, you’ll never go bored on a Sri Lankan adventure. Actually, being small is one of it’s great points.

It’s super easy to get around!

Below I take you through all the best ways to get around Sri Lanka. 

Okay, so when it comes to getting around Sri Lanka, you’ve got a couple of different options. 

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Getting around Sri Lanka by Train 

This is one of the most popular ways to get around Sri Lanka for backpackers. Simply because it’s the cheapest option.

The Sri Lankan train network is quite well established and you can get around to most places via train. 

You’ve probably heard of the famous train journey between Kandy & Ella and seen the pictures of the tea fields and people “hanging out the train”.

This train journey is actually quite long, because the trains move pretty slow, but it’s cheap and very scenic. You can book the train journey here. 

But a couple of tips: 

  • You can do half the journey, so do Nuwara Eliya to Ella, and get the same views 
  • You don’t have to go via train to get the views either, the road runs alongside the train and you’ll get the same views via road transport AND you’ve got the bonus of actually stopping off to get pictures and visit the tea fields for an amazing cup of tea! 
train travel in sri lanka

Getting around Sri Lanka by bus 

When Bradley and I visited Sri Lanka, bus transport between different towns and cities wasn’t as popular, but there are a few options in places. 

You’ll also have two types of buses: long distance buses which take tourists and locals between major towns, and local buses which will take you around the area you’re visiting.

Honestly bus travel is cheap, but overcrowded, not exactly on time, and probably a little claustrophobic.

So if it was an option between bus and train, I’d personally opt for the train. 

But, you can check out and book buses in Sri Lanka right here. 

tea fields in sri lanka

Getting around Sri Lanka via moped 

Because Sri Lanka is a relatively small country, it would be possible to get around the country with your own moped.

You could hire one out for a couple of weeks and it would sort your transport needs within a city and to your next destination. 

We didn’t see a lot of people driving around Sri Lanka in mopeds, but we did see people renting them at specific locations.

For example, Ella & Unawatuna are popular locations for moped rental and perfect if you’re taking day trips to nearby waterfalls and beaches. 

Getting around Sri Lanka via Tuk Tuk 

Okay, so I’ll come straight out and say this was the BEST way to get around Sri Lanka and it’s what Bradley and I did.

We rented a Tuk Tuk in Colombo from the only reputable company (Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka) and drove our Tuk Tuk around Sri Lanka in 3 weeks.

It was fantastic! 

The Tuk Tuk is easy to drive once you get the hang of it, they’re safe because they can only go a certain speed limit and the police WILL pull you over if you’re breaking the rules, and it’s so much fun when the locals see you driving the Tuk Tuk.

Plus, you’re driving a tuk tuk!!

It was awesome and the perfect way to get off the beaten track, explore new places and generally have fun.

You can get money off (5%) your rental here when you book with our code: DreamBigTravelFar. 

And you can read ALL about renting a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka and our experience.

PS, if you don’t rent a tuk tuk for your own use, it’s easy to use tuk tuks within towns to get around.

Tuk tuk travel is a cheap way to get from A to B and you’ll find them all over the country. 

tuk tuk rental sri lanka

Getting around Sri Lanka via private driver

This isn't a common travel option in Sri Lanka, but if money is no object to you, then it's certainly a comfortable way of travelling.

You can actually book private drivers via 12Go Asia, or if you chat to your hotel they'll probably be able to arrange someone for you too.

We came across a travelling couple who had a private driver taking them around Sri Lanka, to the safaris, different hotels etc, and Sri Lankan hotels do offer "driver rates", so you're driver basically comes with you on your adventures!

Getting from A to B

I’m quickly going to provide you some advice from getting to and from the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka

getting around sri lanka by tuk tuk

Getting from Colombo to Anuradhapura 

You can either get a bus or a train. The cost of a first class seat on the train is around $24 & the bus is $13. They both take a similar amount of time, around 3 hours. 

You can search and book right here. 

Getting from Colombo to Unawatuna 

You first need to get a train to Galle then get a tuk tuk or local bus to Unawatuna (it’s only 20 minutes away). The train will cost you $18 for a 2.5 hour trip and you can book that here. 

Getting from Colombo to Ella 

You can fly close to Ella internally, but it’s around $250 so I don’t think it’s worth it, but it takes only 45 minutes. OR, you can get the train which takes around 9 hours and will cost from $16-25 depending on the class of ticket you choose. 

You can search and book right here.

driving a tuk tuk in sri lanka

Final few tips for getting around Sri Lanka

  • Most trains in Sri Lanka don’t require months ahead of booking, however the exception is the famous “Kandy to Ella” train ride which can book up. You can book ahead of time here. 
  • Have some small change when using Tuk-Tuks & don’t be afraid to throw in a tip! 

So there you have it, my guide to getting around Sri Lanka. Since it's such a small country, you'll be relieved when you reaslise just how easy it is to navigate. If you need more inspiration for your adventures in Sri Lanka then just check out these posts...

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