Getting around Sri Lanka by taxi is a very safe and comfortable way of travelling on the island. Hiring a tourist taxi in Sri Lanka is very easy affordable compared to most other countries and it is very convenient, comfortable and time saving compared to the bus or train while they are often very crowded.
Getting Around Sri Lanka by Taxi
Where you need to travel may not easy and fun all the time, but when it comes to getting around Sri Lanka, at least, the island’s well-developed transportation system making it relatively easy and painless. Whether you are nipping around Colombo in a TUK TUK or head on to the interior of the country via motorcoach, train, or rental car, getting around in Sri Lanka is reasonably easy.
It is a good idea to plot the Sri Lanka tour in advance and consider the cost factor as well as the practicality of the travel decisions. Whoever wants to plan a drive in Sri Lanka, the most important piece of advice I offer as a native Sri Lankan is this: We have a left-hand drive system as opposed to most European countries. And it will be a bit awkward until you get familiar with it.
Below are several tips about getting around Sri Lanka
Flying to Sri Lanka
Most travellers arrive in Sri Lanka by plane, with a large number of international flights arriving in Sri Lanka’s international airports, Katunayake international airport and Mattala international airport. Katunayake international airport is the main international airport on the island and every international flight is landing here. Only a few selected flights are landing at Mattala international airport.
Many European, as well as Asian carriers, are flying to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka is well connected with major countries around the world and every traveller can find easy access to Sri Lanka from Dubai. There are many daily flights to Sri Lanka from Dubai.
The number of possibilities available for air travellers in Sri Lanka has improved in the recent past, especially after the civil way. Domestic air travel system was considerably hindered during the civil way, due to the safety reasons, the domestic flights were not operated to the airports in the northern and eastern Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has many airports covering northern Sri Lanka, eastern province, southern Sri Lanka and Colombo. Therefore domestic flights are capable of transporting goods and passengers to any part of the country. Recently introduced air taxi system (seaplanes) has become a very popular option among air travellers because it covers more ground than the other larger versions of domestic planes. There is a notable increase in domestic flights with the introduction of seaplanes because it enables improved access to many parts of the country.
Sri Lankan Air Travel Resources:
The most popular cruise liners from Europe call on to the harbour of Sri Lanka and they bring a large number of leisure travellers to the island every year. Most of these cruise liners operate their trip to Sri Lanka during the winter season (November to April) because most European travellers arrive on the island during this period, which is the best time to visit Sri Lanka.
The passengers arrive on cruise liners do not have much time to see the island and they have very limited time to explore the country because their ships docked only for a limited time at the harbour. Therefore most travellers who arrive on the island in cruise ships take part in short tours, mostly one day tours, Colombo city tour, Kandy tour etc. Some of the cruise ships call on to all 3 major harbours of Sri Lanka (Galle harbour, Colombo harbour and Trincomalee harbour) and allow their passengers to explore the area of each destination.
There are many travellers who participate in multi-day Sri Lanka tours such as 7 days tours and 10 days of tours. In that case, the passengers make either arrival journey from home country or return journey by cruise ship and they use air transport to fill the vacuum.
Travel by a private Taxi in Sri Lanka
Travelling through the verdant countryside of Sri Lanka can be a very exciting experience, bringing the towns and lush green countryside that Sri Lanka is famed for within easy reach of every traveller, without having a dependency on public transport. Most cities and Sri Lankan attraction are well connected with a well-developed road network giving easy access to everything from major cities such as Colomb, Kandy to remote villages.
Taxi is the most convenient, time-saving and hassle-free system for getting around Sri Lanka. Booking a taxi is quite easy in Sri Lanka and it is not expensive too. With a large number of travel companies such as seerendipity tours, you can book airport transfers and sightseeing tours at an affordable rate. In order to make sure your safety, it is always a recommended to book a taxi with a local driver, if you are a foreigner and travel around Sri Lanka on sightseeing tours, hire a taxi with a tourist board registered driver/guide. They are the professional staff trained by the Sri Lanka tourist board to educate tourist on the island, its people and Sri Lankan tourist attractions.
To save time for your Sri Lanka holidays and other activities as well as to make sure you get the best price on the taxi, it is best to book your taxi before arriving in Sri Lanka. Usually, the Taxi fee includes car rental, gasoline, known as petrol, parking charges, waiting charges, driver charges and all taxes.
The price of the taxi hires differs depending on the type of vehicle you get. A cheap small taxi such as Indian made Maruti cost around LKR 40 per km (around USD 0.30) while mid-range sedan such as Toyota Corolla cost around LKR 70 per km (around USD 0.50). A luxury vehicle such as Mercedez will cost around LKR 100 per km (around USD 0.65). Rates of other larger vehicles are higher and the rate goes up as the seating capacity increases.
There is an instance in which taxi drivers are demanding travellers to pay waiting fees and parking charges. But travellers are not required to pay them separately and it includes in the total package. And there are congestion-related fees applied in Sri Lanka as you drive in the city areas.
Renting a car and getting around Sri Lanka
Renting a car in order to get around Sri Lanka is very easy (though it is expensive), with several cars hire companies like Europcar and Avis, operating from Colombo. To save time and eliminate the complicated paperwork it is always recommended to book your taxi before leaving for Sri Lanka. Apart from the can rental fee, gasoline, known as petrol, is also very expensive in Sri Lanka (and you pay for a litre, not for a gallon). You also have to pay the pricey parking fee too. Most rental cars in Sri Lanka comes with auto transmissions, if you are not familiar with auto transmission make a request for a manual transmission car in advance.
Foreign citizens need to have an international driving licence to drive in Sri Lanka and also they should obtain the temporary permit from the Sri Lanka authorities. The minimum age to drive a car in Sri Lanka is 18 years. Note: public transportation between major Sri Lankan cities are very good and it is not essential to have a private car. One can choose a highway coach as well as intercity air-conditioned mini-buses to travel between major cities. Even the train is a very good option to travel to many places around the island. Trains are cheap and comfortable compared to the public buses as it is not as much crowded as buses.
Getting around Sri Lanka by Train
Perhaps train is the best way to explore the beautiful mountains of Sri Lanka, while you are on holiday in Sri Lanka. The train goes through the mountains, escapement, patches of forests and tea estates. Most of the time, the track is girdle with uninhabited patches of forests. Perennial waterways, cascading waterfalls, tea estates, vegetable gardens are frequent scenes during the train ride in the mountains. Train tickets are available in three categories third class, second class and first class and prices are varied depending on the category. First-class compartments are usually with AC and provide a comfortable ride with the luxury.
Southern railways track is another popular track among the holidaymakers in Sri Lanka. It provides easy access to many popular beach resorts such as Kalutara, Bentota, Galle, and Matara. Southern railway track connects Colombo, Galle and Matara and provides easy and speedy transportation between these cities.
Sri Lanka has a well-developed railway network and very useful to travel between major cities. In fact, the train journey in the mountain considered to be one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. But they do not provide access to most small towns in the interior of the country. The train network is operated under the government institution known as Sri Lanka railway department. It is mainly a service-oriented institution and aimed at providing the best service at the minimum cost. It is better to start your journey with https://eservices.railway.gov.lk/, where you can search for itineraries, prices and rail pass.
There are several options if you need to buy tickets, it can be done in advance through the website of the railway department or through the mobile telecommunication networks such as Mobitel or at the train station. It is highly recommended to book seats in advance if you wish to travel with comfort in 2nd class or 1st class compartments. The seats in those classes are limited and fill up very fast.
Sri Lanka railway help desk number 1919 (through a local network)
Colombo Fort – Reservation Office 011-2432908
Rajadhani express is a private institution provides service for luxury seekers, usually, they maintain one compartment of the train which has luxury seats. It is an air-conditioned compartment has free WIFI. Rail network is the quickest to reach any destination along the western and southern coast. It is fast, convenient and cheap too. The maritime railway line connects all beach resorts such as Galle, Unawatuna, Bentota, Kalutara, Negombo with Colombo. Same times upcountry railway track provides easy access to major places such as Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Badulla.
If you wish to travel to the east coast or Northern Sri Lanka during your Sri Lanka tour again you can resort to the train travel as it provides daily many trains to those destinations. Please bring Sri Lanka currency in order to buy tickets, credit cards are not accepted, only the local currency is accepted. Travel cards not available and return tickets can be obtained only in selected railway stations such as Kandy, Colombo.
Getting around Sri Lanka by Bus
Buses are one of the best ways to getting around Sri Lanka and it is a viable alternative to taxis and trains and a very cost-effective way of getting around Sri Lanka. It definitely reduces your transport budget with a great amount of your holiday. Buses are available in all corners of the island, buses plying frequently between major cities but a number of trips connecting cities and remote areas might be much less as opposed to the number of trips between major cities.
Buses are available in three flavours normal buses and air-conditioned luxury buses and highway coaches. air-conditioned luxury buses and highway buses are much more comfortable than normal buses but the rates are about 2 times higher than the normal bus rates. Passenger must pay the fare onboard with cash, only Sri Lankan currency is accepted. The conductor does offer change, but it is advisable to present the correct fare as much as possible. Be careful when receiving the change and always ask for a ticket, to know the exact amount you have to pay.
Travel cards are not available in Sri Lanka and so the hassle of paying onboard can be expected, having a good pocket of loose coins make the life easy. Buses are operated either by private bus owners or Sri Lanka transport board. Buses are a great way of getting around Sri Lanka, but it might take much more time to get from A to B than taxis or trains and it is the biggest shortcoming of public buses in Sri Lanka. Ticket for long-haul bus journeys and highway buses can be booked in advance through the booking websites.
Sri Lanka bus travel resources
Getting around Sri Lanka by TUK TUK
TUK TUK is a motorized rickshaw that developed from the pulled rickshaw. This is a very popular way of getting around Sri Lanka and most controversial transport method in the country. Theoretically, cheaper than the traditional taxi. TUK TUK has a small passenger area and can accommodate 2 persons, this is the taxi of poor people. If I am not put a note on this mischievious motorized rickshaw the article is not complete, I think. Getting around Sri Lanka by TUK TUK can be fun and is a novel experience for most foreign travellers.
TUK TUK is the most widely available taxi on the island, used by beggars to millionaires. TUK TUK is good for a drive of a few kilometres but not suitable for a long drive (even though you can do it). There are many shortcomings in TUK TUK compared to other travel options and it is always good to be away from TUK TUK as much as possible. The main reason to avoid TUK TUK is the lack of safety, it is a just small structure made of iron pipes and covered by a leather sheet. In case of an accident, it is only the leather sheet supposes to provide you with the protection.
Most TUK TUK drivers put a lot of gas on the small engine and drive fast, in some cases they maintain the speed of 70-80 km per hour, which is far more faster than they allowed to, 40km per hour. Since they have only 3 wheels it can easily be toppled, due to the lack of balance, I have seen many toppled TUK TUK on Sri Lankan roads. There have no doors, no windscreen on the passenger side and no air-conditioning.
TUK TUK scam
It is a widely known fact that TUK TUK drivers charge the customers far more than what passengers pay for the journey. If the customer is new to the driver he tries to manipulate the situation and turn it to his benefit and charge the passenger 2-3 times higher the normal rate. It is not only happening to foreigners but also for local passengers. Due to the large complaints received by the government now meters are compulsory in all TUK TUK’s. Believe me, but still, there are TUK TUK’s without meters.
If you get into a TUK TUK that has no meter, there is a high possibility of paying far more than what you should. Because you can not figure out how much you should pay. If you wish to have a short journey and do not want wait for a bus TUK TUK is a handy option but get into a metered TUK TUK, in the first place ask the driver to turn the meter on and make sure the meter reading is zero. Thereby you can make sure that you get the maximum what you pay for.
TUK TUK travel resources
Check the fair fare for your taxi ride
Cycling is an unpopular method of travelling among travellers in the country. Despite the good road network, still, lots of travellers are choosing the other form of travelling such as coaches and rail. Sri Lanka is a beautiful tropical island with tropical vegetation all around the country. Cycling is the best method to explore the mountains, escapements, forests, beaches and near-desert areas of the island. Take a ride along the beautiful beaches of west and southern coastal belt. Enjoy the sea breeze and the beautiful scenery along the way.
There are hundreds of rivers on the island and many of them are over a hundred kilometres long. This ways water can be used to explore the beautiful tropical vegetation and uninhabited wilderness of Sri Lanka. You can paddle through the Sinharaja rain forest, and the kayak is one of the best ways to explore this primaeval rain forest on the island. Madu Ganga (second largest wetland of Sri Lanka) is an ideal place for novices to have a paddling experience. There are more than 100 islands in the wetland; many are located close to each other, therefore it is possible to glide from one to the next with ease.
Several canals and rivers on the island are being used for transporting goods and passengers on the island. Sri Lanka possessed a well-developed web of a canal that used for transport goods using boast during the Dutch colonial period. Some of them are still being used, for instance, Dutch canal in Negombo. Boating in the Dutch canal is an unforgettable experience while it gives you a unique experience with the mixing of many facets of the local village life. It gives you access to the busy countryside, patches of forests, lagoons, pretty villages, the fishing community and near-desert areas of North-west Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka provides a large number of walking trails in the remote areas, mountains, rainforests and forest reserves in many parts of the country. One can have an adventurous walk in the mountainous areas such as Nuwara Eliya, Kitulaga and Kandy. If you are a foreigner you might be interested in exploring the historical cities of Sri Lanka, walking is the best way to explore most archaeological sites. Most historical places such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa occupy the vast land area. However the most important historical monuments are concentrated in a small area, and walking is the best way of going one monument to the other.
Tourist taxi in Sri Lanka vs Normal taxis
There are a number of possibilities with regards to travelling in Sri Lanka such as Buses, trains, self-drive cars, motorbiking as well as taxi. Sri Lanka taxis is one of the significant transport facilitators on the island, undoubtedly which is the most popular way of getting around the island for foreign travellers. However, if you are a foreigner it is best to book a tourist taxi in Sri Lanka. Taxis are available in a local taxi as well as tourist taxis. You can get a tourist in the city as well as there are many taxi operators provide service through the internet.
However, most taxi operators serve local customers. Most drivers of local taxis are not able to communicate in English and they are not trained to work for foreign travellers. Therefore, if you are a foreign traveller it is recommended to book a tourist taxi in Sri Lanka.
The drivers of tourist taxi in Sri Lanka can effectively communicate with foreign travellers and they are specially trained to serve the foreign travellers. Usually, they are undergoing special training under the supervision of Sri Lank tourist board.
Sri Lanka tourist Taxi is a very safe and comfortable transport method compared to the bus or train while they are often very crowded. Taxis are a not only safe but also very comfortable way of getting around Sri Lanka.
Usually, the drivers of tourist taxi in Sri Lanka have a lot of experience working with foreign travellers. Therefore they are well familiar with places of attractions and hotel. These guides of tourist taxi in Sri Lanka can help you with sightseeing as well as information on the island and its people.
Charges for tourist taxis
The charges for tourist taxi in Sri Lanka are higher than the charges of usual taxis. Because the tourist taxis are modern vehicles and they are well maintained. However, the normal taxis that are available in cities can be very old and they can not match the standard of tourist taxis.
How to book a tourist taxi in Sri Lanka?
Tourist taxis are available in tourist hotels and local tour operators are also provide the tourist taxis in Sri Lanka. If you like to book a tourist tax in Sri Lanka for your arrival (from the airport to the hotel), it is recommended to book the taxi before landing at the airport. However, there is a possibility of reserve taxi upon arrival at the arrival lounge, the rates could be a bit higher than usual.
Unlike a few decades ago one can find a well-developed network of taxis in the country today. Taxis can be obtained in cities around the island. It may be difficult for foreign travellers to identify the taxis in Sri Lanka since they have no distinct colour or Taxi sign on the roof of the vehicle. Most of the time the number of taxi facilitator can be observed on the body of the vehicle with a Taxi sign and it is clearly visible to the outside.
The most popular method of ordering a taxi in Sri Lanka is through the telephone and one needs to wait 10-15 minutes before the taxi arrives. The prices are charged for the distance and prices are varied depending on the taxi facilitator.
Can I book a tourist taxi at the hotel?
Taxis are provided with taxi counters in all hotels in Colombo and other leading hotels around the country. Finding a Taxi service provider on the island is not a daunting task, because there are a hundred of Taxi service providers on the island. Some of the Taxi service providers offer island-wide taxi service with branches in most Sri Lankan cities and some other taxi service providers have only a few branches in major cities like Kandy and Colombo.
Booking a taxi in the city
There are taxi stations in the cities, where one can get taxis but it seems to be difficult to find the exact place where the taxis are stationed, especially for foreigners. By paying some attention in places such as railway stations, bus stands, religious places one might be able to find the taxi stations while they are mostly located in such places.
Most of the taxis in Sri Lanka are air-conditioned but there are some none air-conditioned taxis as well. Prices may change the availability of air-conditioning in the vehicle. Taxis can be hired only for a particular hire or for a, for even months.
There are few international companies on the island that offer self-driven vehicles, even though it is not a very popular way of travelling in Sri Lanka for most foreigners. These international Self-driven taxi providers are mainly confined to major tourist hubs such as Colombo, Kandy and Galle.
However, the popularity of self-driven vehicles is on the rise among the local people, therefore many local self-driven vehicles providing companies, as well as a large number of individuals, who are providing this service, are scattered around the island. Therefore it is not a daunting task to get hold of the self-driven vehicle on the island anymore.
Air tourist taxi in Sri Lanka
Air Taxi service on the island was completed ceased indefinitely after the terrorist attack on a few aircraft by the terrorist in northern Sri Lanka. Same times the government suspected on a possible terrorist attack in the island using small aircraft. However, the air taxi service is available on the island as the terrorist problem is eliminated since 2009.
Air taxi service is offered by only a few companies, however, they have regional offices in major cities like Kandy, making it easy to book air taxi to travel around the country. This is the most expensive mode of transport, however, it is comfortable and fast.
Tul Tuk as a Taxi
TUK TUK, a small vehicle with three wheels is another popular transport method in Sri Lanka and they are to be found in all corners of the island. The TUK TUK can be considered as a motor-driven rickshaw, which stands on three wheels. Unlike in rickshaw, the pulling power is coming from a small motor, fixed into the rear part of the vehicle.
TUK TUK is mostly found in Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Thailand, this small vehicle is known as the Auto-Rikshas in India. Sri Lankan people call it TUK TUK, because it makes a “TUK TUK” sound once the engine is started.
TUK TUK is a very economical transport method though they considered not being comfortable or safe as normal taxis. Many TUK TUK’s do not carry taximeters, making it expensive and difficult for passengers on most occasions, because this TUK TUK’s do not have a standard rate on the ride, it is strongly advised to discuss on the fare with the driver before commencing the journey in this kind of situation. TUK TUK can be recommended for a short drive rather than a long journey. TUK TUK is not installed with air-conditioning while the commuters get the fresh breeze from outside through the opened doors.