Traveling Sri Lanka by public transportation.
Most of the tourists we met along our way in Sri Lanka preferred to use private car-with-driver or taxi for their roundtrips and long distance transfers and three-wheelers (tuk-tuk) for short distances.
For our trips in Sri Lanka, we favoured using public transport instead. At first glance it sounded challenging and stressful. But as the days went by, in very little time, getting around Sri Lanka by local bus became easy and it was absolutely a great way to experience the real Sri Lankan culture.
The trick that was most helpful was learning the directions. Take the Sri Lankan map and point out from where to where. For example if you have just done your whale watching in Mirissa and you want to move from Mirissa to Jaffna, all that you need to understand is that you are moving from the South to the North. This is one of that point that should be very clear to you. After you have done this, go to the bus station.
Once at the bus station you can ask for others to help. You can ask anyone because the Sri Lankans are so used to traveling by public transportation that they all know the directions really well. Moreover they are always ready to help you out.
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That said, here for you are 11 good reasons why you should travel Sri Lanka by local busses
1. Sri Lanka is well connected by bus. The Sri Lankan bus routes cover more than 90% of the country so they can take you everywhere.
2. Public busses in Sri Lanka are frequent; most of the time they leave every ten minutes.
3. Traveling Sri Lanka by bus will help you feel the real Sri Lankan culture which you normally don’t experience in its entirety at the touristic places.
4. It is a kingdom for photographers; a shot is waiting at every single corner. Sri Lankan busses are a perfect place for street photography.
5. Sri Lankan busses have a functional night service, busses are also frequent during the night. We travelled a lot during the night.
6. Traveling by bus means seeing the main bus-stands of the various cities which are in the centre of the cities in Sri Lanka.
7. There are so many interesting vendors getting in and out of the bus often, selling local items that you will never see in the touristic areas.
8. Traveling by bus is an excellent way of orientation and memorization of places.
9. Sometimes the bus journey takes the same time as any private vehicle. Especially if the route is short.
10. Traveling Sri Lanka by bus day or night is safe and people are very kind and polite, always ready to help you out.
11. The last but the most important point is that they are extremely cheap.
At this moment there are 4 main kinds of bus services in Sri Lanka: CTB Government Busses, Private Government Contracted Busses, Private Luxury and Semi Luxury Busses and Express Highway Busses.
CTB Government Busses
(Central Transport Board), long distance red coloured ones. They are fast and they are more likely to follow the timetables. They always issue receipts on board. They don’t stop everywhere, only at the designated bus stops. For this reason they are faster. They stop running by around seven pm.
Private Government Contracted Busses
white ones with tribals of any unimaginable colours; they have many more stop-overs. Sometimes they stop also to collect passengers even if the stopover is not planned. The conductor just collects the money without issuing receipts. No worries, they have a great talent of remembering who hasalready paid. They aremore frequent than the CTB busses, if we are not mistaken every five minutes. Like the CTB Busses, they stop running around seven pm.
Private Luxury and Semi Luxury Busses
A/C and Non A/C coaches and minibuses. They have very limited stops and very good night services, for what they were worth. They are a little bit expensive compared to the others but in any case it is an accessible amount. They don’t allow standing passengers so when the bus is full you may have to wait for the next one. They run frequently, every 15 minutes even during the night, so waiting was not boring. They give receipts. They depart from private bus-stands. Hotel management can easily guide you there.
Express Highway Busses
they run along the highway, they have a starting point and an arrival point. Before entering the highway, if there are still any seats available they stop along the way to pick up passengers and once they exit the highway they stop to drop people off, especially seniors, even if they were not at the final stop. Like CTB busses and Private Luxury and Semi Luxury Busses, they issue a receipt. From Colombo to Galle it took about 2 hours. We paid Rs 500.00 for this trip. They also depart from private bus-stands.
Again, all the Sri Lankan cities are well connected by busses and trains so if you start using them you can really save a lot of money.
At the beginning it might sound impossible but once you try you will enjoy the thumping Sri Lankan beats, the flashing lights on the dashboard, religious symbols and much more.