How to get around in Sri Lanka

Getting around in Sri Lanka is easy, safe and comfortable if you are prepared. It tends to get hot and humid during the day, therefore, stick to comfortable cotton clothing as much as you can and always use a good mosquito repellent. Carry a bottle of water with you and keep yourself hydrated. Remember to carry an umbrella or a raincoat, during the rainy season.

1. When you arrive

As soon as you arrive in Sri Lanka, there are few things you can do to save time effort and money, before exiting the airport.

When you book a tour with Olanka, our Airport Representative will assist you with these. They include getting some local currency from a bank, ATM or currency exchanger, and purchasing a pre-paid SIM for your mobile phone for your local calls and Internet usage.

2. Travelling to and from the airport

Again, when you book a tour with us at Olanka, we can provide you with a comfortable vehicle and a driver/tour guide who will drive you around safely at a reasonable cost.

To book a private car with a driver in Sri Lanka, contact us here:

Alternatively, you can hire a taxi from the taxi /tour operators right outside the arrivals lobby at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). They have published rates cards. Airport also provides a shuttle bus service to Colombo Central Bus Stand from where you can catch a bus to any part of the country- not recommended though, for first time travellers to South East Asia.

For further information:

3. Dealing with money

Carry local currency in small denominations, such as LKR 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 notes, for your purchases around the country

ATMs are not hard to find in the major cities. Inform your bank in advance that you will be using your card in Sri Lanka, to avoid the possibility of being blocked out by its automated fraud protection system when you try to use the card here. You will find plenty of Authorized money changers in tourist areas.

4. Traveling around Sri Lanka

To get around Sri Lanka there are many options depending on your budget, time you have, and how adventurous you are.

The most convenient way to travel around the country is in a comfortable car driven by a professional driver, a service which Olanka can provide at a reasonable cost. You will enjoy peace of mind, comfort and convenience if you choose to do so.

Traffic especially in Colombo can be unpredictable. A short trip of 5 Km could take as little as 10 minutes or much as 45 minutes by TukTuk. As a general rule, it is wise to consult your tour guide or driveror use a travel time app such as Google Maps prior to embarking on your journey.

You can easily walk around and explore Sri Lankan towns and villages. However, stay hydrated and wear comfortable clothing.

Local buses are a cheap and interesting way to travel to most places, including villages outside main towns. They can be crowded and you might have to remain standing till the end of your journey during high traffic times. In spite of these shortcomings, it is an excellent way to mingle with the locals and understand a side of Sri Lankan life.

For more information:

Sri Lanka Railways operates with train routes connect the main cities of all nine provinces in the country. Colombo is the main node of the network. The railways network covers one of the most scenic landscapes in the world, the best of which is the Colombo-Badulla main line. Trains too can be crowded, but they are a relatively faster option for travelling between cities.

Visit the following sites for more information and useful tips:

Several taxi services are available in most towns in Sri Lanka. In large cities there are some run by reputed taxi companies and tour operators but in smaller towns and villages taxis and three wheelers are mostly operated by individuals.

If you prefer to hire a car and drive (can be costly due to insurance costs and deposits), please visit the following sites to get more information about license requirements:

Visit the following sites for details of popular taxi services.

In Colombo you can count on taxis dispatched via apps such as Uber and PickMe.

You can find TukTuks or three wheelers as they are known in Sri Lanka almost everywhere. Ensure you get into one that has a taxi-meter, and ask the driver to turn the meter on. If you get into a three-wheeler without a meter you might need to bargain for a good price.

Taxi dispatching app PickMe, is also a good way to call a three-wheeler especially in Colombo

5. In an Emergency

Important emergency numbers you might find useful to even store in your phone:

Emergency ambulance paramedic service: 1990
Tourist Police: 0112-421451
Police Emergency Service: 119
Government Citizen Services Information Line: 1919

6. Other Useful Links

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