Bandaranaike International in Colombo is well served by Sri Lankan Airways and Emirates and unusually the arrivals area is busy with a wide range of shops including electrical white goods and exchange bureaus. It was here that we met Lal our private driver who took us to our first accommodation Casa Heliconia and travelled with us to complete our Sri Lankan itinerary. It cost us approximately £300 for a 17 day trip.
We chose a private driver for a number of reasons, the roads are poor and there are few sign posts. It also meant we had a very knowledgeable local with us and we were in comfort in an air-conditioned vehicle. Journeys take at least twice as long as you would expect, 90 miles took five hours for example.
There are many bright blue Leyland and Tata buses which I know other travellers have used for local trips and longer journeys.
Tuks tuks are the local form of transport and typical of Asian countries, in Columbo there are both metered and non metered tuks tuks. Agree a price for your destination if unmetered and make sure that you tell them no stop offs for gem shops unless of course you want to! Tuks tuks now cost locals about £3000 to buy and in Columbo and Kandy there are many making picking up transport easy. They usually fit two adults and can be uncomfortable on uneven and dusty roads. The posh ones are made by Piaggio an Italian firm. Short journeys range from 100 to 500 Sri Lankan rupees.
We didn’t use the domestic air service or indeed the trains. We did hop onto the platform of Fort Railway station in Colombo but we were told the tourist routes are often booked in advance and difficult to get tickets for. I know other travellers were disappointed not to get the journey they wanted. I would be happy to add a paragraph here about the air or train service and credit accordingly if anyone can comment.
Returning to the airport from Columbo there is one of the better fast roads but it can be congested – our central hotel suggested to allow one and half hours at peak times but we actually managed it in half an hour at 6am! At peak commuter times city streets are gridlocked!