Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island

Traveling to Sri Lanka? Landing in Colombo can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be.  Travel in Sri Lanka can be stress free if you know how to get around.  Whether you are headed for your next big surf trip or just to soak up the beach sun, study our ultimate Sri Lanka transportation guide to best enjoy this Indian Ocean island paradise.

Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island

Train:

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The Sri Lanka train system is old-school and can range from dreamy rides through the mountains with a whole car to yourself, to being packed in like sweaty sardines, unable to sit for hours.  The most iconic ride is between Ella and Kandy, which takes you through incredible mountain and tea plantations views and Horton Plains National Park.  It is perhaps the most beautiful train ride in the world.  You can start east of Ella if you want to ride over the Nine Arch Bridge, or just hike there from Ella town to get your picture.  Trains are separated into first, second, and third classes.  First class tickets can be bought online and you get a guaranteed seat.  Second and third class are similar and you can purchase them at the ticket office no more than 15 minutes before the train arrives.  You might get a seat, you might not.  Once on a packed train we sat in the doorway with our legs out the side of the train the whole journey.  Despite sore butts from sitting on the floor the whole way, it was a great way to enjoy the scenery!

Bus:sri lanka bus transportation

Local buses go everywhere in Sri Lanka.  If you are traveling for a long time and/or on a budget, this is your best bet.  Find the blue signs along the road which signify stopping points; they are every few hundred meters.  Be prepared to jump on while the bus is still moving!  The ticket sellers will sometimes try to over-charge you.  Once inside hold on for dear life, as the drivers are notoriously psychotic and get paid by the trip, not by the hour.  Bus fare in Sri Lanka are around 20 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) for a short trip or near 200 LKR from Colombo to the south coast (~5hrs).  For busing to/from Colombo, check out the special section in the bottom of the page.  Throw your backpacks in front by the driver or in the storage space in the rear, depending on how helpful/hurried the ticket guys are at the moment.  Buses are by far the most popular form of Sri Lanka transportation with the locals, so ride them at least once for the experience.

Tuk tuk:

Tuk Tuk sri lanka

These three-wheeled motorized rickshaws are a Sri Lankan transportation staple and you will find them all over the island.  They are fun to zoom around in, but the drivers are pushy and you always have to ask the price up front and negotiate; just please don’t be a dick because the price is 50 LKR higher than you’d like.  A good tourist’s tuk tuk fare is 75 LKR per kilometer, but expect to pay more late at night.  They have room for three people but will sometimes let you take more (for a tip) and generally have room for your luggage.  Check out the Tuk Tuk Safari that we did, which featured the nicest tuk tuk we’ve ever seen!  In Colombo there is a great app called Pick Me that you can use to summon your tuk tuk rides.

Motorbike:

motorbike sri lanka transportation

Buses and tuk tuks get old fast, and sometimes you just want t stop and get a coconut (or an ice cream).  Renting a motorbike is a nice change of pace and lets you explore more remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations.  Prices range from 800-1200 LKR per day.  In our opinion, this is the most fun type of Sri Lanka transportation.  Technically you need an international drivers license, along with your home country’s ID, and a special permit only obtainable in Colombo.  Most tourists who rent motorbikes do not have all or any of these documents, so just expect to pay a fine if you are stopped by the police.  Watch out for police roadblocks in every town.  We generally see them coming and hide behind the car in front of us.  The police aren’t trying to work too hard, and won’t chase you.

Taxi:

Taxis are useful in Colombo, or if you are on a quick trip/higher budget.  A trip from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to the south can cost between 7,000 and 12,000 LKR so be sure to do some negotiating.  If you have a hotel reserved, have them arrange a taxi for you, as they will get a better price and your ride will be waiting on your arrival.  If you need a ride to/from specific places, post sometime on one of the Sri Lanka traveler Facebook groups and many taxis will message you with deals.  Uber is a good option, but only works in Colombo.  Taxis don’t normally have signs in Sri Lanka, because they are usually are just some dude with a Prius.

Getting to/from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport:

Keep in mind that Sri Lanka only has one international airport, located in Colombo.  Most travelers choose to skip Colombo or leave it until the end of their trip, after getting more comfortable with the country.  Leaving the airport is one of the most expensive parts of travel in Sri Lanka.  There are several options to get you where you need to be:

Bus – When walking out the main exit during daytime hours, you will see a blue bus directly in front of the exit.  This takes you to the main bus station (150 LKR – 1hr) near the Colombo Fort and train station.  This main bus station is for local buses which depart to all parts of the island for a very cheap price.  However, if you’re headed to the south we’d recommend taking the highway bus to Matara (500 LKR – 2hrs) which is air conditioned and gets you there in half the time of the local bus. These nicer buses leave from a different bus station called Maharagama in south Colombo.  They depart every 15 min or so when full.  There are also highway buses directly to Galle, although they leave less often than the Matara buses. To get to Maharagama either take a bus from the local bus station, or taxi/Uber straight from the airport (45 min, recommended).

Taxi – If you are only in Sri Lanka for a short time and your first stop is outside Colombo, we recommend just taking a taxi straight from the airport to your destination.  Set it up with your hotel in advance to save money and have someone waiting for you.  Keep in mind that if you are arriving late at night or early in the morning, taxi or Uber might be your only option for getting anywhere.

Tuk tuk – if you are spending the night in nearby Negombo, you can take a tuk tuk to your destination.  The tuk tuks are not allowed into the airport pickup area but you just need to walk across the street to flag one down.

Sri Lanka transportation is easy, however sometimes it can be crowded and hot.  We call it “character building” as my favorite athlete Alex Honnold would say.  Just keep your cool and everything will be fine!  What’s to worry, if all else fails while traveling Sri Lanka, you’ve still got your Chevrolegs and your thumb!

Don’t want to worry about anything while traveling in Sri Lanka?  Check out our upcoming Sri Lanka Surf & Yoga retreat through Bigger Life Adventures!  We take care of everything so you can focus on the fun!

Enjoy this post about Sri Lanka transportation options?  Check out our archives for other guides and helpful advice for travelers all over the world!  And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

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What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka? The party is over.

What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka?  The party is over.  After the infamous assault of Dutch tourists on Mirissa Beach in April, 13 locals were arrested and parties and party places were closed across the south coast of Sri Lanka.  Several bars tried to organize events but were shut down by the police.  However, travelers were still coming and expected something to do, being surprised at the lack of party scene and moving on quickly once they realized it was not what they had read about.  Soon the situation escalated even more, as most of the Mirissa beach bars have been destroyed by government bulldozers.

The newest development happened quickly.  On May 11th government bulldozers rolled into Mirissa town, along with more than 100 police officers, heavily armed soldiers, and a water cannon to fight back riots.  The government proceeded to knock down 21 structures deemed “illegal”.  This included nearly all the bars and restaurants leaving a big mess of mental, concrete, and other industrial waste along the beach.  Check out this article to read more from a local news report.

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All that’s left of the popular beach bars

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This might be another case of a story which goes a little deeper.  Only a few bars in Mirissa actually had a license to sell alcohol.  These places are still standing after the bulldozing.  Most beach bars in Sri Lanka choose to operate illegally, paying bribes over the obnoxiously priced and hard to get liquor licenses.   These licenses have a price tag of near one million Sri Lankan Rupees and take years of dedication through the proper channels to obtain.

There is also the factor that several large hotel chains have recently been “banging on the doors” of Mirissa.  It will be interesting to see if these large corporate companies are awarded the licensing that the local people were so long denied.

The government’s official reasons for the deconstruction was that A) the structures are illegal, and B) they are causing an environmental impact along the coast.  After the buildings were knocked down, there was no plan in place to clean up the destroyed structures.  These are still lining the beach, slowly getting picked though by the locals, hazardous asbestos roofing sheets thrown about in the sand.  Was this really the most environmentally safe solution, or did the authorities start a plan without a real finish in mind?

With the beach party scene being the reason most people came to Mirissa, Sri Lanka, we suspect it will take years for the town to recover.  Many honest and hardworking locals will be without work, not to mention the tremendous economic loss to the hundreds of local hotels and tourism businesses.

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This is why you should still visit Mirissa!

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We still recommend people go to Mirissa for the surf and awesome beachfront.  And don’t forget the sunsets!  Whatever ends up happening with all of this, hopefully in a few years Mirissa Beach will be in a better place because of the changes, however drastic that they were.  What do you think?  Did the government make the right decision?  Will you help us to have a clean up day, making the beach beautiful again?  Comment below!

Check out our archives for other guides and helpful advice for travelers all over the world!  And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

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Surf & Yoga Mirissa and Ahimsa Vegan Cafe

We discovered the amazing Surf & Yoga Mirissa during our second visit to Sri Lanka when we were looking for a place on the south coast to chill, get some work done, and live close to nature.  Surf & Yoga Mirissa’s property is right in the jungle just 1km down the road from Mirissa’s main beach.  The retreat features clean spacious rooms with super-comfy beds, hammocks to lounge around in all over the property, a surf shop and yoga studio, all the activities you could possibly want to do in south Sri Lanka, and the amazing Ahimsa Vegan Cafe!

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Huge room with a jungle view

There’s also breakfast and dinner available (vegan and non-vegan options) for guests, three yoga classes per day, and surf lessons available for all levels with awesome, experienced instructors.

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Surf’s up!

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The yoga instruction is also top-notch, with a variety of styles being taught and teachers who can cater to all levels!  Honestly, it’s the perfect place to jump headfirst into the yoga+surf life!

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Ahimsa Vegan Cafe, the super-cool shipping container restaurant on site, has amazing healthy plant-based offerings!  It’s open every day except Sunday from 11-3:30!  Be sure to try the signature Ahimsa Bowl – a mix of roasted veggies, salad, veggie protein, and delicious homemade peanut sauce!

Ahimsa

 

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Delicious, seasonal, Ahimsa Bowl
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Tofu chickpea scramble with homemade hummus and toast!

Mirissa Surf & Yoga also strives to be as eco-friendly as possible, with composting, recycling, and regular “karma yoga” beach cleanups!  The owner, Priyal, and staff of Surf & Yoga Mirissa can guide you to all the best sites and activities in the area!  They’re a super-friendly crew of surfers who will be sure to make you feel at home in Sri Lanka!  There’s also no less than FOUR cute, friendly doggies who call this place home.  So there are lots of furry friends for those of you who miss your pets so much, like us!

 

Check out their awesome video for more of a taste of this amazing place!

Services Included:

All meals available

Fast WiFi

Air conditioning in select rooms

Fans

Book library and games

Hammocks and a slack line

Surf lessons and tours available

Yoga classes available

Laundry available

Tours available

Surf shop on-site

Massages available

 

Address: Ulugedara Villa, Galle road, Bandaramulla,, Mirissa 81740

Website: www.surfnyogamirissa.com/

Prices:  Various packages available depending on the time of year and what services you want to include.  See the packages here.

 

 

 

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Songkran Thai New Year Water Gun Battle in Chiang Mai, Thailand!

We had a very wet, exhilarating blast of a time during our first Songkran Thai New Year celebration!  In Chiang Mai, people converge around the Old City‘s moat with water guns, hoses, buckets, and refill barrels!  Our friends from the USA picked Songkran week to visit us in Thailand so they could join in on the madness!  We had tons of fun acting like kids, dueling with Thai families, dodging water gun fire all around us and sneak-attacking unsuspecting tourists!  Who’s coming to Thailand for Songkran next year?

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Enjoy this post about Songkran Chiang Mai? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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Bunkyard Hostel in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Bunkyard Hostel in Colombo, Sri Lanka is a place that is doing things right. With its “junkyard” up-cycled decor, the hostel is a photographer’s dream with Instagramable objects in nearly every room.  The owners and managers are extremely friendly and you can tell that they really want you to have a good time!  Trying to find the best word to describe Bunkyard was hard, but eventually I chose “FUN!” because it’s true!

Bunkyard Hostel Colombo

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Murals everywhere!

The rooms are super clean, and we really enjoyed the thick, soft mattresses. Many hostels unfortunately skimp on the beds, leaving you tossing and turning. Bunkyard remembered that the main reason you are at their hostel is to sleep, and stocked the ‘yard with cozy beds.  There is A/C in all the rooms and the dorm beds also have reading lights and USB charging hubs.

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Night night!

The top floor’s dorms have an awesome, big patio overlooking the street.  The bottom floor features the reception area and a nice hangout space. As you walk farther into the building you walk past a small shop that sells cool board shorts, hats, yoga pants, and our favorite super-colorful, traditional Sri Lankan shirts made by Gitano (Instagram @gitanoshirts). The back of the first floor has two kitchens, one for the restaurant and a shared one for guests. There is also a refrigerator for your leftovers and hot water with free tea and coffee!!!!

Also included in your stay at Bunkyard Hostel in Colombo is free breakfast.  Free is a word you almost never hear in Sri Lanka, so this added huge value to our stay.  You get the choice of omelette or fruit + yogurt.  They have a few more options as well if you want to add on for a small price.

Bunkyard Hostel ColomboBunkyard Hostel was a breath of fresh air in the busy city of Colombo.  It was refreshing to stay someplace so funky but clean, and well managed.  The owners treated us super kindly and we wish them lots of success on their future projects.  Definitely check this place out whenever you’re headed in or out of Colombo!

Services Included:

Free breakfast

WiFi

Air conditioning

Games and books

Kombucha and soda for sale

Special breakfasts and smoothies

Homemade lunch for sale every day, occasional dinner specials

Address: 20A Guildford Cres, Colombo 00700

Website: www.bunkyardhostels.com

Prices:

6 Bed to 12 Bed Dorms (Mixed and Female Only) – 1700 Rupees – 2100 Rupees

4 Bed Family Room  – from 9300 Rupees

Double Bed Private Rooms – from 8500 Rupees

 

 

 

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Thai Smiles – A Guide To What NOT To Do in Thailand

Thailand is a land of respect and “non-confrontational culture” where losing your cool is frowned upon and everything revolves around keeping a smile on your face.  This is a list of what NOT to do in Thailand!  Follow it if if you want to keep those Thai Smiles on the local’s faces.  Mistakes happen, but trying goes a long way in keeping the locals on your side!

What NOT To Do in Thailand – A Guide to Thai Smiles

1 – Disrespect The Royal Family:

A Guide to Thai Smiles - What NOT To Do in Thailand

The Thai Monarchy is all-powerful in Thailand.  As a foreigner, you shouldn’t voice any opinions about the King unless they are very positive.  You should always give the Royal family your utmost respect.  This includes not staring at posters of the King, standing up in the theater when the pre-movie film about the King is played, and standing still at 8am and 6pm when the national anthem is played over every speaker in Thaialnd.

2 – Get Upset:

Getting visibly angry or annoyed is considered bad form in Thailand.  Keeping that Thai smile on your face is the best way to get the most out of a bad situation.  Thai culture is based on respect and it goes both ways.  It isn’t always easy, especially when you come from a place like the United States where you get upset with people every day.  Test it out the next time you are about to lose your cool; a little respect goes a long way.

3 – Leave Your Shoes On:

what not to do in thailand

Going into someone’s house or business usually requires you to take off your shoes.  Thai people (and most Asian countries) think that shoes are super gross.  If you see shoes at the front door, leave yours there too.  It’s handy to wear sandals everywhere, making the removal process a lot easier.

4 – Ride the Elephants:

thai smiles - don't ride elephants

Elephants belong in nature, not cooped up as vehicles for your enjoyment.  Most of the elephants that are ridden were taken from their mothers as babies, broken of their animal spirit and destined to miserable lives in cages.  DO NOT RIDE elephants, EVER.  Also, many of the elephant “sanctuaries” are just zoos where the animals are treated very poorly for the enjoyment of uneducated tourists.  There are several places in Thailand that have more ethical sanctuaries, however these are a small majority and in general you must question the reason that any elephant is not in the wild.

5 – Eat Shark Fin:

no shark fin soup - thai smiles

Many places in Bangkok, especially Chinatown, serve shark fin.  When the sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and the rest of the fish is thrown back into the sea.  This is a very wasteful and unethical practice.  Sharks are one of the most important parts of the ocean ecosystem and when their population declines it reeks havoc on all aspects of sea life.  World fish populations are in drastic decline throughout the world, reduced by more than 50% since 1970.  Keeping the top predators alive and thriving is the best way to support healthy marine environments.

6 – Touch the Monks:

what not to do in bangkok thai smiles dont touch monks

Monks should be treated with the utmost respect.  Never should you touch a monk, and always give them space in a crowded situation.  Most transportation systems have special seats for monks so they can avoid contact with others.  This is especially important for women.  A woman touching a monk can bring the monk great shame and hurt his standing among the other monks.  Women should also never hand anything directly to a monk, but instaed hand it to a man first who then hands it to the monk.  Your best bet is to giv them as much space as you can to avoid awkward situations.

7 – Dress Inappropriately in the Temple:

A Guide to Thai Smiles - What NOT To Do in Thailand

Temples throughout Thailand and Asia in general are places of modesty and should be treated with respect.  Men and women should wear pants below the knees, while women should always cover their shoulders and chest.  Ignoring these rules is extremely disrespectful and puts a bad face on tourists.  Also, the images of the Buddha should never be used in appropriate ways.  The Buddha should never be displayed in a bar, or put on your body in the form of a tattoo.  If you have a Buddha tattoo and it is visible when entering Thailand, Thai customs agents can deny your entry into the country and permanently ban you from entering the Kingdom.

8 – Display Affection in Public:

no kissing in thailand - thai smiles - what not to do in thailand

Thai people are very modest in public and couples should avoid displaying affection on the streets.  Holding hands is frowned upon, while kissing with tongue in public is illegal.  Keep your hands to yourself and save the smooching for your hotel room.

9 – Shake Hands:

thai smiles from mcdonalds

Shaking hands is a very western thing.  Asians are very clean people and dislike spreading germs through touch.  Opt instead for the classic Thai wai.  Many Thai people will wai you and this should generally be returned.  Do this by placing your hands like a prayer at your chest and bowing your head until your nose touches your finger tips.  Don’t wai people of lower social status than you, as this is embarrassing to everyone around you.  This includes waiters, service people, and anyone who is obviously younger than you.   Don’t forget those Thai smiles with your wai!!!

10 – Point at People:

Pointing at things or especially people should is considered extremely rude in Thailand.  This is especially true when pointing with your feet. Use your head to direct attention in a certain direction.

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There are more things that could have been added to this list.  For instance, it’s bad luck to whistle at night, don’t dress sloppy, and don’t push too hard for the best deal.  The most important thing is to always keep those Thai smiles on your face and things will work out just fine!

Enjoy this post about what NOT to do in Thailand – a guide to Thai smiles? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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Ayutthaya Temples- The Second Capital of Thailand

Ayutthaya, Thailand rests just north of Bangkok along the Chao Phraya River.  Founded around 1350, the city eventually became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai.  Because of it’s central location with easy access to the rest of Asia, Ayutthaya became one of the must important trading centers in the world.  By 1700 the Siamese capital was the world’s largest city with over 1 million inhabitants. Today the Ayutthaya temples and temple ruins are some of the most impressive in all of Asia, drawing huge crowds to the small city.

Ayutthaya successfully held off many western invaders and Thailand was never colonized.  However, the Burmese successfully sacked the city in 1767, riding on elephants and knocking the heads off of every Buddha statue they could find.  The occupation was short lived, as the Chinese had seized the opportunity to move their armies into Burma.  The Burmese forces retreated to their homeland with a majority of the Thai gold, burning the Ayutthaya temples in their retreat.  The following years were plagued by civil war in Siam until control was taken by King Rama I.  The founding member of the Chakri dynasty, which still reigns in Thailand to this day, Rama I relocated the Thai capital from the ruins of Ayutthaya to present day Bangkok.

Today Ayuthhaya is home to some of Asia’s greatest temples, and the history of the place is intruiguing.  The Ayutthaya tempes are an easy day trip from Bangkok by bus or train, taking less than two hours to travel by either.

Renovations at our first temple stop
An ornamental bull

We booked a room at Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe just outside the old city.  They had bikes for rent which we took advantage of and soon found ourselves among the temples.  I purchased a large rainbow bag of corn puffs which I though would be funny to cruise around with in my bike basket.  They tasted terrible and I was a bit disappointed until I was told that the puffs were actually fish food for children to throw into the river.  We went to the river and threw some in as giant catfish swarmed all around.  We laughed about this for a little while, then biked across the river to the more famous Ayutthaya temples.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

There are temples all over the city, but the best area for biking is inside the old city’s moat where the temples are more numerous.

Wat’s Up?

One of the most popular temples for tourists is Wat Mahathat which contains the famous Buddha Head in a Bodhi tree, where one of the knocked-down Buddha heads became entangled in the roots of a giant old fig tree.

Another of our favorites was Wat Ratchaburana which you could climb inside of.  After heading down a very steep set of stairs you reach the crypt which has some ancient paintings on the walls and bats in the ceiling.

Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Ratchaburana
The view from Wat Ratchaburana.
It’s always yoga time for this aspiring yoga teacher
Headstands anyone?

Enjoy this post about Ayutthaya temples? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

Here is a good website to book your transportation from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.

 

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