Wherever you want to get in Sri Lanka, there will surely be at least one bus to reach that destination. Because of this, the bus is the main means of transport that you will use in Sri Lanka. As well as being able to reach any location, it is also very cheap compared to private drivers or tuk-tuk. We, in the two weeks we spent in Sri Lanka, had 9 bus trips (detailed below) and only one train (Kandy-Ella one of the most beautiful train trips in the world). We have taken several times the tuk-tuk, you can’t quite avoid it if you want to visit several tourist attractions in one day.
Our bus journeys through Sri Lanka
Negombo – Dambulla
Our first bus trip was from Negombo to Dambulla. Unfortunately, there is no direct bus between the two cities, so you will have to change the bus in Kurunegala. For this reason, when you look in Negombo after the bus, you will have to search for the Negombo – Kurunegala bus, which will be number 31 (the number is just for orientation because I saw the same number with another destination). So ask the driver or guy who takes your money if that bus really gets to the destination you want.
Negombo – Kurunegala costs 120 rupees (this price was in February 2019) and takes about 2-3 hours to arrive at the destination. It’s a pleasant trip, no serpentine and not very congested traffic (compared to other bus rides we’ve had).
Kurunegala – Dambulla costs 100 rupees and it also takes about 2-3 hours. You have to take the bus to Dambulla from the Kurunegala central station, where the bus you took from Negombo should normally leave you. Our bus stopped in front of the bus station and everybody got out, and the driver made us a sign to stay and took us in the back of the parking station. So, depending on the driver you have, you will need to walk a little to the main bus station for your bus to Dambulla.
Dambulla – Kandy
If the first time we took the buses directly from the central station, this time we stopped the bus directly in front of the accommodation. You just need to pick a portion of the road where the bus could stop and wave your hand when you see the bus. It will stop and take you, so do not worry.
On this road, we experienced the serpentines for the first time. To our luck, the driver decided to put a movie on exactly when they start, so everyone was watching the movie. And the length of the movie was well chosen, it ended just when we arrived at the destination.
The price of the ticket was 110 rupees (220 rupees for two people) for a trip of 2 and a half hours.
Ella – Tangalle
If after visiting Ella you want to relax on the wonderful beaches of Sri Lanka, then you will have a long bus ride. From Ella to Tangalle it takes about 3-4 hours. In the first portion of the drive, we had serpentines and in the last part, we enjoyed the coast. The ticket cost is 240 rupees per person.
We waited for the bus at the Ella bus station and we were not alone. The bus was already full, so just one of us got a sit. And to stand on this bus ride is very difficult. Besides the aggressiveness of the drivers, there are also narrow mountain roads with serpentines. This combination will work every muscle in your body :)).
Tangalle – Mirissa
Tangalle – Mirissa was a fairly easy trip. It cost 250 rupees per person and lasted up to 2 hours. The price we paid seemed quite expensive, but we do not know how much it should have cost. We probably paid the tourist addition :)).
Mirissa – Galle
In Mirissa we stopped 3 buses until we found the good one to take us to Galle. This trip cost 100 rupees per person and lasted about an hour and a half.
When we arrived in Galle, we tried to explain to the driver that we wanted to stop before the final station because we were just passing by our accommodation. Unfortunately, he didn’t understand us and we had to wait and get down with a local who had no problem stopping the bus.
Galle – Hikkaduwa
We had the accommodation at the edge of Galle, which helped us save some money on accommodation. But at the same time, it raised a problem, namely, finding the bus to the next town. After we stopped some buses to ask if they were going to Hikkaduwa, we were about to go to the central station in Galle, which was a few miles away. But at that moment we were lucky to have found a bus going to Colombo that was passing through Hikkaduwa.
The cost of the ticket was 50 rupees per person and we arrived in less than an hour.
Hikkaduwa – Colombo
From Hikkaduwa to Colombo you can also take the train. But for us, it was better to take the bus because the train was too early and we have had missed a few hours on the beach. The next one was only after 15 o’clock. So we took the bus, which was quite expensive, 350 rupees per person. Besides the paid price, the bus was full all the way, having to stand for an hour until we were able to find two sits.
Colombo – Airport
From Colombo, if you want to get to the airport, the cheapest option is to take the public bus in front of the Fort Railway Station. It does not have air conditioning and costs only 100 rupees per person. Remember that the bus has the station before the airport, so you’ll have to walk a few hundred meters.
General rules when traveling by bus in Sri Lanka:
- On the left of the driver, you have a small luggage storage place, that fills up pretty quickly. But the ticket seller will help you fit your backpack.
- If there is no luggage space in front of the bus, behind the bus there is a compartment that has access only from the outside. There are usually put the bulky luggage that does not fit inside.
- Drivers do not follow any rule (occasionally the red light of the traffic lights). They approximate how fast they drive (clocks on the board are rarely working, especially the speedometer). And they’ll throw you from one side to the other, putting the sudden brake and accelerating violently. Buses are the fastest vehicles on the road.
- There are a driver and a ticket seller who takes your money for the road. In exchange for money, you will receive a ticket or not, depending on his mood. Some have a portable cash register to ease their work, while others have only a notebook from which they tear tickets. Do not worry if he doesn’t ask you to pay in the first few minutes, it will make time to get your money 😀
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