As some of you may know, we are lucky enough to currently be undertaking the Tuk Tuk Tournament in Sri Lanka! This is an epic two-week, “Amazing Race”- style adventure across the island. Our chariot is the humble tuk tuk, the wheels of Sri Lanka’s poor and in general underprivileged people. 18 teams are taking part from all over the world. The event begins in Hikkaduwa on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast, with a mid-party in the central mountains, and finishing in the capital of Colombo.
We have been chosen to represent Good Travel Program, a sustainability initiative which aims to connect sustainable businesses across Sri Lanka. Besides trying to win the rally, we also have our main mission which is to promote “good traveling” and introduce the world to many of the folks working hard on sustainable projects and helping the local communities. We will be savage in our efforts to educate the masses on the harms of plastic waste and hope to lead by good example to create a better future for us all.
We have just finished the tournament! Thank you to everyone who supported us along the way! Stay tuned for more videos, the sharing has just begun!
Want to get rent your own tuk tuk and drive it around the island? Go to tuktukrental.com and enter AVENTURA at checkout to receive 5% off your rental!
Want to get into Tuk Tuk Tournament 2019? Sign up before the end of November to get 30% off!MAKE SURE YOU TELL THEM THAT WE SENT YOU OR YOU WON’T GET THE DISCOUNT!!! That’s a great tukin’ deal if you ask us!
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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The Amazing Adventure Bangkok puts on several super fun tours around the city. They organize these trips like scavenger hunts, giving you new missions as you go, along with opportunities to collect bonus points. My tour choice was The Gastronomic Trail, a food tour which started at Suan Plern Market in Rama 4 Mall at 10am, and lasted until about 2pm. It took us too several different neighborhoods using many different transport options. Full disclosure: I got to go on the tour for free as a travel blogger ambassador, but my opinion is totally genuine and it is that this tour is awesome!
Our first mission on The Amazing Adventure Bangkok was find a ride to the Khlong Toei Market, the biggest fresh food market in Bangkok. Once at the market we had to round up all the ingredients to make “som tum”, the classic Thai spicy green papaya salad. At the start of the adventure you are given a purse with all of the money for the tour. By negotiating the prices and finding cheap alternatives, you can score more points by having more funds remaining at the end of the day.
We took a bus to the market because we had five people on our team (an awkward number for a taxi or tuk tuk ). The Bangkok local buses are super cheap and pretty easy to navigate; use our guide to get yourself around the city! Once at the market we split into teams, each taking half of the salad list. The market was a very local type of place, with every type of food you could imagine (and more). We searched for ingredients for our salad, first picking up a green papaya, some limes and chilies, peanuts, tomatoes, then the palm sugar. Along the way we found some fish in a bucket. One of the bonus points was to “kiss a live fish” so it was of course my job to complete this task.
With all of our salad fixings assembled, we split up into two tuk tuks and had a race to the next destination. We drove like mad and our tuk tuk won of course. We walked down a street to a small restaurant where they had some cooking tools set up for our salad-making. They showed us how to grate the papaya, how much palm sugar and fish sauce to add, long beans and garlic as well as tamarind paste, limes, chilies, tomato, and peanuts. Everything gets put into a giant mortar and pestle-pounded a little bit, releasing the juices which become the delicious sauce. I got extra points for eating the whole thing– not really a challenge for me.
Our next mission was the cross the Chao Phraya River. On to a ferry we went and minutes later we arrived on the far bank. This area was Bang Krachao, “the green lungs of Bangkok.” So close to the city, Bang Krachao seemed so far away. Small elevated sidewalks connect the villages and everything is slower paced. The peacefulness of the area made me feel happy and calm, the hustle of the city fading away.
After being dropped off by the ferry it was time for a bonus challenge. I had to eat a whole century egg. Century eggs are fermented in clay, lye, and salt for several weeks to a month until they turn deep black and become the texture of jello. The flavor is salty and fermented, the texture hard to overcome, especially when you get to the black, runny yolk. However, I won the challenge and we continued on to our next destination.
Mounting bicycles we rode for 5-10 minutes to a small lake. Waiting for us was a local woman with a basket of lotus flowers. She proceeded to teach us how to fold the flowers to reveal their beautiful insides, like a natural form of origami. The lotus flower is the most sacred flower in Buddhism, so after folding them we paced the flowers into our bike baskets to take to the temple later.
The Amazing Adventure Bangkok continued the gastronomic trail to our next challenge; a blind-folded taste test. We tasted two dishes and it’s amazing how hard it is to tell what food is without seeing it. My group-mates knew I was a chef so they put a lot of faith in me, but it was the Thai people who were way better at picking out the flavors. I could not distinguish between fish sauce, oyster sauce, and soy sauce…ah! Maybe in time.
We made our way back to the ferry, ditching our bikes at the shop on the river’s edge. Back in Bangkok we went to a nearby temple where we left our lotus flowers for the Buddha. The guides explained to me about the Kau Cim sticks, in a bucket near the altar. After kkneeling and praying, you pass the sticks around incense three times and then begin to shake the sticks, focusing on your question. After shaking harder and harder, eventually a single stick pops out. On this stick is a number which corresponds to a paper you draw from a basket to get your fortune. From here you find the paper with your number which then states your fortune. I liked parts of mine, but I’m not sure if I did the process right.
Traditionally after receiving your stick you should toss the Jiaobei blocks which have a round side and a flat side. A correct fortune will result in both stones facing opposite directions, while two rounded sides up means NO or that the gods are displeased with the question. Two flat sides up can mean NO or that the gods are laughing at you. If you get this you should repeat the process. My number was 13 and my Thai guides said “interesting”, but they didn’t go so far as to tell me what that meant!
One last mission of the Amazing Adventure Bangkok was to get back to the starting point and order lunch in Thai. The five of us, much better friends now, crammed into a four seat taxi. Very soon we were back at the beginning and we sat in the food court. Our last challenge was to use Thai words to order certain foods. All the signs were in Thai as well so we had to ask around, finding certain dishes. We got some Tom Yum soup, an omelet, and some stir-fried pork and basil leaf. The food was delicious and as we ate I tried to learn some new Thai words.
The Gastronomic Trail tour put on by The Amazing Adventure Bangkok was a fantastic time! Much more than I expected, the price of the tour includes everything listed above, even the large meal at the end. I really couldn’t have eaten any more. The guides were very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about the city, going to some places that I wouldn’t have found without the tour. Check out their website for prices and a list of other tours which they put on. The tour would be especially great if you only had a few days in the city. Being able to experience the local market and Bang Krachao are things that a normal three-day-tourist can’t accomplish.
Thanks Amazing Adventure Bangkok for a perfect tour!
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Figuring out how to get around Bangkok, Thailand can be overwhelming at first. Navigating the big city can seem impossible, until you figure out the different transportation systems. The options are many and all have their time and place and ideal use. Taking advantage of the right method can save you time, money, and headaches.
HOW TO GET AROUND BANGKOK
1 – Taxi
Metered taxis can be the cheapest way to get around the city. They are best when the roads are less busy (before 7 am), midday (10am-2pm) and after 8pm. Taxi’s should always be running the meter. If the driver offers you a price upfront then move on to the next driver because he’s trying to rack up the price. They usually will only do this during rush hour when the meter price isn’t worth it for them to drive you. At these times it’s best to take another mode of transport anyhow because it could take you hours to drive a few miles. Sometimes the taxis around the very touristy areas will also refuse to use the meter. If you just walk a couple blocks out of the super touristy area you should be able to find a taxi not trying to scam you.
Uber is another decent option. They are usually a little more expensive than the meter taxis but you get a set price in advance. You need a Thai phone number to do this, as the drivers usually like to call you in advance. Set yourself up in front of a 7 Eleven to make it easy for the driver to understand. Just say “Farang 7 Eleven” and they can usually find you. Your hostel can usually help you talk to the driver as well. You can use the code zackm5528ue to get 50 Baht off of your first ride.
Grab is an app like Uber, but more popular in Asia. Most of the metered taxis also run this app. It is usually a little cheaper than Uber and a good option during busier traffic times when the drivers don’t want to run the meter. Same as Uber, they will usually call you so be prepared to communicate with someone who has rudimentary English skills. Most taxi drivers at least know basic English though, so don’t fear.
2 – Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuks are little motorized rickshaws that are on every street corner in Bangkok. Slightly more expensive than the metered taxis, tuk tuks are SUPER FUN to zoom around town. The price starts at about 100 Baht for a 10 min ride and you always have to negotiate to get a decent deal. Ask your hostel before you start for a fair price. They hold three people comfortableyand up to six if you want to get super cozy with your friends after a night out. They are best to use at night for bar hopping when it’s cooler and you care less about the lack of A/C. Keep in mind that you will get wind in your hair and the dust from the street may irritate your eyes a little, but it’s totally worth it for the experience. Everyone who comes to Thailand has to take a tuk tuk at least once.
There is also a really cool app called Tuk Tuk Hop. It’s like Uber for tuk tuks, and takes you around the historic temple area of the city. You pay a set price and get unlimited rides for the day. It’s really nice because you don’t have to negotiate or search for vehicles. Check out our article HERE for more information about this app.
3 – Moto-taxi
Mototaxis are the scariest way to travel in Bangkok. The drivers are crazy and you might spend the whole time praying that you live to see the next day. However, during rush hour this is sometime the ONLY WAY to get places because the mototaxis will cut between the traffic. Look for the guys with orange vests and the price usually starts at 50 Baht and foreigners usually have to negotiate.
4 – BTS, MRT, ART (Skytrain, Metro, Airport Rail)
The train system is by far the easiest and safest way to get around. It goes to most of the most popular Bangkok neighborhoods and get your their fast. You can pay as you go or purchase a re-loadable card for 100 Baht. The hard part about the trains is that there are three different systems and each has it’s own top-up card. Also when transferring between lines you usually have to leave one station and navigate around a corner to the other. Use the trains during rush hour or on weekends when the roads are clogged up.
5 – River Boats and Canal Boats
River Boats – The best way to get to the temples from central Bangkok. Just take the BTS to Saphan Taksin station and walk down to the Chao Phraya River. There are several options of boats that can take you across to Wat Arun for around 50 Baht as well as a free boat at night to the Asiatique Market.
Canal Boats – These boats cruise through the small canals in central Bangkok. This is the best way to get from the BTS to the Golden Mount and Khao San Road. The boat is a 9 Bahtt flat free and cuts your travel time in half over the bus, even more at rush hour. Buuuuuut, the downside is that these boats stop running at 7pm.
6 – Bus
Public buses run all over Bangkok and are the cheapest form of transport. They are pretty much useless during rush hour, so keep that in mind. They also are not air conditioned but have open windows. Just wait at the bus stop, get on and sit down. Someone will come around to collect your money. The best way to figure out which buses go where is with Google Maps– it’s usually accurate enough.
7 – Songthaew
These are pickup trucks with bench seats installed in the truck bed. Less common in Bangkok, they are very popular in Chiang Mai and other cities throughout Thailand. They usually have a set route and a cheap price. Just flag them down, hop in, and pay at the end.
8 – Bicycle
Bicycling in Bangkok can be downright scary when traffic is crazy. However, cycling around the temples at night can be an amazing experience. Check out the Bangkok Night Bike Tour put on by Grasshopper Adventures. Also, biking is the best way to get around Bang Krachao, the “green lungs” of Bangkok. Take a whole day to explore this neighborhood and escape from the grind of city life without going too far from the urban center.
9 – Walking
Walking is always our favorite way to get around. You see more and interact more with the local people. Some nice places to walk in Bangkok include Lumphini Park, Chatuchak Market, and Khao San Road. Use the maps.me app listed below for nice downloadable maps to show you how to get around Bangkok by foot. There is also a free walking tour by Take A Walk BKK once a week. Check their Facebook page for more info. Note that if you walk more than two blocks by choice, Thai people will laugh at you in a lighthearted way. The concept of walking by choice for exercise or sightseeing is pretty foreign here. Thai people jump on moto-taxis to go two blocks!
Other Useful Advice
Maps.me – The most useful app for world travelers. Just download the country map of wherever you are going then you are all set once you arrive. It navigates you around without using data. The app picks up location data from pinging WiFi signals, giving you constant location updates in towns and cities. It’s very handy to make sure the taxi driver is taking you in the right direction, or just for general exploring of a new city. This is the app we use the most while traveling, don’t skip it.
Sim Card – Get yourself a Thai number. You can pick one up at any 7 Eleven for 49 Baht then just top it up 100 Baht at a time to keep yourself connected in case of emergency. If you phone is locked you can get it jailbroken at many phone repair stores for a cheap price, or just buy an old used phone to use as a travel phone.