Buses, Trains, Planes, Hire Cars, & Tuks Tuks.
These pages are designed to help our volunteers make the most of Sri Lanka. We volunteer 4 days on, 4 days off, 4 days on, 2 days off, which means our volunteers have the energy to give 100% on their placements, and have the chance to get around this amazing and safe country. We are based in Anuradhapura for many reasons and transport links is one of them, and as this is arguably the most important centre of Buddhist pilgrimage in Sri Lanka, we are at the heart of the road, and rail networks.
Travelling around Sri Lanka can be a great deal of fun, and a great part of your Sri Lankan experience. Whilst the roads between towns are tarmaced only 3, are what we would define as motorways / freeways./ dual carriageways, and these, all in the South, are relatively empty. These are the airport road from CMB to the northern outskirts of Colombo; the expressway from the southern outskirts of Colombo to Galle; and a short stretch across the south. Many roads off the main roads are dirt tracks, which most tourists won't go down. But our volunteers may well do.
The information below will be updated as we go, and is designed for use by our volunteers, our Fig and Gecko visitors, and we are pleased for it to be of use to everyone.
Bus routes, timetables, and advice.
This link takes you to a website with (as far as I can tell) all of the long distance (called 'long service' in Sri Lanka), bus routes in Sri Lanka. The search bar on the site pulls up each of the main urban destinations. Places to the urban centres, possibly on the 'short service' buses, or which the long distance buse pass through, do not appear to be searchable. However, once you have identified the main routes, you can identify the places the buses go along the way, and of course, once in a location, you will be able to ask how to get to somewhere
There are a number of options from Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), as well as to Ratmalana Airport (southern Colombo), for internal flights . (See 'Planes' below for internal flight options.'
This link takes you to the list (which appears to be the complete list) of bus timetables for Sri Lanka. Used with the route maps above, you may well be able to plan your journeys effectively, which is perhaps the cheapest way - if not always the best way - to travel Sri Lanka.
Our volunteers will of course be able to use our local knowledge to get to volunteering centres, as will guests of our Fig and Gecko, as we will be able to speak with you in person.
Advice FOR OUR vOLUNTEERS
This 'advice' takes you to a page designed to assist our volunteers and Fig and Gecko guests journey around Sri Lanka, both when volunteering locally, and when going out and about exploring.
The above will give you the full daily service.
Using the online schedule
The train service is the same each day. Therefore when inputting times, your start time is 00:00, and your end time is 23:59.
You may wish to go from Anuradhapura to Unawatuna.
Inputting that will draw a blank.
Input the principal sations: Anuradhapura - Colombo Fort, then Colombo Fort - Galle or Colombo Fort - Unawatuna
Galle is the principal station a short distance from Unawatuna, from where you can get a tuk tuk to Unawatuna. Unawatuna may have a limited service.
The Mount Lavinia Station (Colombo) goes straight through to Anuradhapura at certain times of the day
Advance Ticket Booking
Self Drive / Hire Car and Driver
in order to drive in Sri Lanka you will need to bring with you an International Drivers Licence, which you convert into a licence to drive on Sri Lankan roads at the AA office in Colombo (before you ask, I have no idea why AA Colombo is named AA Snooker here on Google Maps). The licence will cost you about £20.
You can then take this licence and hire vehicles.
Self-Drive Cars may be hired from about £15/day, but the vast majority of car hire places have no web presence. Expect those that have, and charge in USD$, to charge more. We can arrange self-drive car hire for you from
Car and Driver
We at Fig & Gecko Hostel and Tours can arrange a car or minibus for you for at LKR 60/KM, plus LKR 3,000/day, which includes food (LKR 1,000), accommodation (LKR 1,500), and overnight allowance (LKR 500) for your driver.
We always advise paying separately and up front for the driver's food, otherwise it is most likely that he will sit with you at each mealtime, expect you to pay, and order off the a la carte- at a far greater cost than this (Remember, Sri Lankan establishments - hotels beds, and food - add 10% service charge plus 15% tax on each bill). This is a common complaint we hear from westerners who are too polite to say to the driver that they wish to eat alone.
We can also help you with route planning, and hotel bookings,
Fig and Gecko Hostel and Tours has been set up to support local people in the tourist industry, train students, and introduce you to the real Sri Lanka to support income growing in rural villages. Find out More.
Things to watch out for.
Many drivers have been doing this a long time, and get commission from restaurants, tourist attractions, and hotels for taking you to them. So if you do hire a driver independently, ensure you have a good idea of where you are going, and what you want to do. And remember, you can say a polite and firm, No! when asked to visit 'friends', 'relatives', or 'cousins' who have shops.
Three Wheelers / Tuk Tuks
Planes, Sea Planes, and Helicopters
And why not ... what better way to see Sri lanka than from the air,
There are 3 operators that we know of, listed below:.
Helitours is operated by the Sri Lankan airforce offering regular flights on fixed wing aircaft to certain military airfields (e.g. Trincomalee to Ratmalana), as well as chartered aircraft to other military airfields not having a regular service (e.g. Anuradhapura). They also offer a helicopter chartering service.
The cost of the regular flights is affordable, and they operate to and from Ratmalana airport in the south of Colombo, which is easy to access by road, but traffic congestion msut be considered when planning your journey there.
In our experience, booking online has not worked, and so we have booked at the airfield (they have opened the booking office especially for us!). You will need to go to the airfield with your passport, and the full fee in cash. To find out which services run regularly, you can use this flight selector , and call them. If you have any questions, or wish to try to book online or over the phone, please call them; we have always found them to be very helpful.