Sri Lanka Travel Tips

I’m writing this post as a followup to my experiences in Sri Lanka outlined in my previous blog posts. Note that all references to costs etc. are as of October 2011.


At the time of writing, tourists get a 30 day VISA on arrival. This was supposed to change as the Lankan Immigration department upgrade their website to accept online applications. More information can be sought on the following links

Sri Lankan Immigration DeptTravisa

2. Currency

There are several currency exchange counters at the airport which will happily exchange US$, euros, pounds and some other currencies. Unfortunately they don’t do INR. However I found that in Colombo, several establishments and taxi drivers will accept Indian Rupees. It is possible to get a better rate than the airports with local jewellery shops. However advise caution since most of these will not give you a proper money conversion receipt. I completely relied on such jewellery shops and did not have any problems.

3. Travelling – road

You will either travel by tuk-tuk or taxi to most places that you want to visit. If it’s tuk-tuk count on anything between 60-100 LKR per kilometre based on where you are going. For a taxi, multiply this by anything between 1.2 to 2. For example we paid 1600 LKR for a taxi from the airport to Fort Station (Colombo). On return we paid a tuk-tuk 1300 LKR for the same. For day trips around most cities like Kandy & Colombo expect to pay around LKR 6000 for a taxi.

Most roads in Sri Lanka are small, but in good condition. However the traffic is excruciatingly slow on roads leading to bigger cities like Colombo. You might prefer to go by train in such cases. Most tourist cities are connected by bus, but be prepared to fight for a seat or travel standing on routes with heavy traffic. If you are pressed for time and can afford a taxi, dont think twice.

4. Travelling – Train

Rail journey is a pleasant experience, especially on the Colombo – Kandy route. The service is regular, albeit slightly slow. However the scenic views on most routes more than make up for the long journey. Second class tickets can be usually booked a few hours in advance, unless you want to travel by the ‘Observation Car’, which is a special coach attached to some of the routes. The coaches are old-style but the ride is comfortable. I would recommend doing a couple of train journeys on a trip to Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan railways recently upgraded their site and its now much more usable than the previous one. Additionally I learnt a few days ago that a private company, Exporail also does online bookings on a few routes. A second class Colombo-Kandy ticket costs 220 LKR, and the observation car costs about 500 LKR for the same route. Check these sites for railway timetable and information

Sri Lanka Railways | Railway Timetable | Exporail (online booking)