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Travel Tips

Arriving in Sri Lanka

Currently Sri Lanka has only one International Airport; the Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake (30km north of Colombo). The moment you step out of the airport, you will feel the heat of Sri Lankan weather. Be prepared with lots of water and loose clothing as throughout the year the temperature only varies from 22oC to 36oC.


Transport can be arranged prior to arrival or even on arrival. Check with the hotel or the travelling agency you are using to arrange transport or just ask for an airport taxi, which will take you anywhere you want to go.

Distance from Colombo to

Km m
Galle 116 72
Hambantota 238 147
Matara 160 99
Hikkaduwa 99 61
Tissamaharama 254 157
Yala 305 189
Kataragama 283 175


There are three common languages in Sri Lanka: Sinhala, English and Tamil. Town pronunciations might be difficult as they are not said the way they are written at times. It’s better to learn the basics of Sinhala or have a translator.


The currency used is Sri Lankan rupees. There are ATMs placed throughout most of the major cities and if you are travelling to rural area, it is recommended to carry some cash with you.

Mobile phones

There are four main mobile networks available; Dialog GSM, Mobitel, Airtel and Etisalat. Check with your local network shop whether your mobile is blocked. If it is, then you will have to overwrite it or buy a new mobile. When you are purchasing a new sim card, check with the provider about charges and international calling facilities.


In general vehicles of on the left side of the road, so if you are from a right side driving country, make sure you check the proper side before crossing.


Tuk tuks are the most common way of getting around if you don’t own a vehicle. They can squeeze through tight spots and manoeuvre its way around very well. Make sure you clearly state exactly where you want to go and bargain a price BEFORE you get in. Meter taxis are available now and they work the same way as taking a cab, but cheaper. There will be several companies offering cheap tuk tuks that run on meter. They are cheaper than the normal tuk tuks by a large margin. For long trips, meter tuks are the best option. Tuk tuks usually won’t be able to break large notes such as 1,000 or 2,000. Therefore ask if they have change, and if not, change it from somewhere along the way.


Buses are the cheapest way to get around the country. Bus stops are marked with a white square drawn, but usually you will have to flag it down. Usually they are extremely crowded. Be prepared to be a bit pushed around and keep your wallet close. The conductor will come around asking where you are going and collect your fare.Have an idea of where you want to get down, as the conductor will not point it out and the bus stops are not marked anywhere.

The bus might not stop completely at a stop, so be ready to jump off when it slows down near your stop.

For long distances, make sure you take an express air conditioned bus.


Trains usually leave the Colombo Fort station and you can pretty much get your destination from there, unless your destination has no railway facilities. Then plan your trip so you can get the train at least halfway and then take the bus from there.

Distances and Modes of Transport to the Destinations within Southern Province

Place From Galle (km)  



From Matara (km)  



From Hambantota (km)   



From Galle From Matara From Hambantota 
Bentara 54 98 176 Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Ambalangoda 31 75 153 Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Hikkaduwa 16 60 138 Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Unawatuna 7 37 115 Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Rumassala 10 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Koggala 15 29 107 Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Neluwa 60 80 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Dooli Ella 66 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Kaneliya 31 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Adahalena Dola 48 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Kaludiya Pokuna 71 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Matara 44 75 Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Sinharaja Forst 77 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Mulatiyana 31 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Hathmala Ella 75 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Hambantota 120 75 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Mulgirigala 40 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Hummanaya 29 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Rakawa 46 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Ussangoda 68 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Kirinda 33 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Madunagala 83 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Bundala 12 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Yala 46 Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi Bus/Taxi
Mirissa 30 14 Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Train/Taxi Bus/Taxi


As with most developing countries there are also many people trying to scam you. Touts, or scam artists, usually hang out in tourist areas or train and bus stations. Never get into a vehicle with him if he offers to show you around. Chances are he’s trying to scam you and get a big sum of money. Remember though there is always the chance that this person is just trying to be friendly. So try not to miss out on some natural Sri Lankan hospitality.


Beggars are everywhere. Give them small change if you would like, but don’t be scared to politely decline them as well.


Bring a mosquito repellent or a cream with you when you come and apply it daily. Citronella based repellents work best. Mosquito coils are available in any shop and is a very good way to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Dengue fever is endemic in Colombo, and if possible take the vaccinations beforehand.


Bottled water is available most everywhere. Be careful with ice (if there is any available). The large tourist hotels are usually safe.


The electric current in Sri Lanka is 230 – 240V, 50Hz, and varies. If you bring sensitive electronic equipment to the country (e.g. a laptop) buy a voltage stabilizer when you get here. There are not always 2-pin sockets available so you will have to get an adapter called a multiplug (about Rs 100), available at any hardware store and many small kiosks. Most electrical sockets in Sri Lanka are round. So be sure you buy the multiplug with the round prongs (as opposed to the rectangular ones).

Temple Etiquette

When visiting a Buddhist temple you have to remove your shoes, hat, sunglasses, and, if carrying an umbrella, furl it. Your legs and shoulders should be covered, never enter a temple in beach wear. You should never take a photo of a monk without asking permission. In the more visited temples you will likely be pestered for donations. The traditional practice is that you make a donation only if you wish. If you would like to give something, never hand money directly to a monk, give it to a responsible layperson. In Hindu temples follow same rules as in Buddhist temples. Bathing Public nudity is absolutely not allowed anywhere. You will notice people bathing in streams and tanks all over the country. But you will also notice that they do so covered with thin cloths.


Tipping is optional. If you tip, about ten percent of the bill is usually fair.

Quick check list!

Cell phone with coverage unblocked

ATM Card on any of the major networks

Lots of t-shirts (preferably cotton)

Bathing suit

Sun block and after sun cream


Tevas or some other all-weather sandal


Rechargeable AA batteries and charger that runs on 220v

Mosquito repellant

Insurance for the whole stay (medical and travel), vaccination against hepatitis.

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