There is an expansive network of government (SLTB – Sri Lanka Transport Board) and privately owned buses, a railway system, privately operated luxury and budget taxi services and the unique motorised rickshaws (tuk-tuks), which cater to the bulk of Sri Lanka’s inland public transport needs. Chauffeur driven cars and luxury tourist coaches are the most popular and commonly used modes of tourist transportation, catering to the needs of individual and group travellers. However, taking an occasional adrenaline pumping and nerve-wrecking tuk-tuk ride through a busy shopping precinct in Colombo or taking a breath taking train ride through the scenic landscapes, from Kandy to Ella or Colombo to Galle can be very rewarding experiences too.
Buses reach every city or village nook in the island, as it is the main mode of transport, of Sri Lanka’s middle class. If taking the bus, there is no need to buy tickets in advance. Arriving at the bus stop a little early is all that is required to catch the next service. Buses are often crowded and do not run to scheduled timetables. The inter-city-express buses make limited stops and accept only limited passengers; hence these tend to be quicker and more comfortable than others.
Travelling by train offers great views of picturesque landscapes and villages at reasonably cheap prices. Most trains have only second and third class carriages while air conditioned first class carriages can be found on a few inter-city services. It is always recommended that you pre purchase tickets and reserve your carriage/seat prior to travelling by train. Especially on the most scenic routes to Ella, Galle, etc which are in high demand.
Many international and local companies operate budget and luxury taxi services in Sri Lanka offering a comfortable and convenient transport option, with competitive pricing. The budget tuk-tuks on the other hand offer a unique travel experience altogether. They are best utilised for short ad hoc travel needs.
If you are individual travellers, hiring a chauffeur driven car is by far the better option, which provides the best access, comfort, and flexibility. Driving in Sri Lanka can be rather challenging for tourists who are not familiar with Sri Lanka’s road rules, road conditions or the gridlock traffic in the main cities during busy hours. You need to obtain an international driving licence and an additional driving permit if intending to self-drive in Sri Lanka.
The seaport of Colombo handles the bulk of Sri Lanka’s shipping. International cargo is also handled by the ports at Trincomalee and Galle.
The national carrier is Sri Lankan Airlines, which operates regularly between its base in Colombo and many other major cities of the world.