Part of travelling the world is experiencing the true lifestyle of locals, and what better way to do that than public transport.
Public transport is conducted through Trains and Buses. Taxi cabs, Tuk-Tuks, Shuttle buses do operate as well, but all of those operate under private owners and hence will be discussed in a separate post.
- This is the CHEAPEST way to get around.
- You CANNOT and DO NOT HAVE TO reserve seats or tickets on public transport. Whether it’s called luxury or 1st class or whatever, it’s first-come first-serve. Since very recently, limited number of trains include privately operated cabins that offer much comfortable service, but they operate outside “Public Transport” domain.
- Public transport is always packed. Every route has its own peak hours and there is nothing you can do to avoid them. You could end up spending hours standing up hanging from rails or jam packed into a tiny seat.
- Huge luggage will be frowned upon. No consideration has yet been given for heavy and large luggage. You will have to make it fit on the overhead racks, or on your lap. Busy routes are over crowded as it is, so it’s a easy choice whether to take in another passenger or a same size luggage!
- Thieves do exist. Locals despise thieves, so much so that when caught they are usually black and blue from all the street justice they receive before police arrives! Risk is higher on long distance journeys.
Buses run all over the country, through just about any road that is wide enough to pass through. This is by no means a choice for joy rides, but rather an option “Better than walking”.
Bus stops are clearly marked on main roads. Nevertheless locals will be happy to show you the way.
There are no strict timetables. Consult a local before making your plans.
There is a conductor, who will come to you while in the bus and sell you the ticket. Ticket machines are used by almost all conductors, so no reason to not receive a printed ticket. Try to bring change. Bunch of 20 LKR notes recommended. DO NOT bring notes bigger than 1000 LKR.
This is the choice for the commoner. So the service is bad, conductors are rude and passengers are angry. There are no legal actions or Yelp reviews for public transport.
Trains, in a way, are much better organized compared to buses. Maybe it’s because trains operate 100% by the government, or maybe the railway network is so limited not as many people use it.
Trains operate under a schedule. Here is the official website (NOTE: The site tends to crash sometimes, so always check and record information beforehand) Still delays and breakdowns are commonplace.
You will buy a one-way ticket from the ticket counter at the Train Station. The prices will be clearly displayed. You must produce the ticket stud at the end station, so keep it secure through the journey.
Most trains offer two classes. 3rd Class and 2nd Class. Long distance trains also have Sleeper cabins. Luxury Class carts are also available in a limited number of trains.
If you need clarification or assistance, please send me a message through the Contact page.