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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

How can one travel within Colombo?

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Wondering how to browse through this capital city? Colombo has a well-established road network with radial routes connecting the city centre to the surrounding district centres and orbital routes which link the radial routes. Commuting from one place to another shouldn’t be a problem, though the traffic might be a headache. Here are the different ways; you can get around the city:


  • Bus

    Travelling in Colombo is a bit costlier if you compare it with India. Colombo has so many interesting places to visit that travelling around takes a toll on your pockets, especially if you are travelling on a tight budget. Buses are the cheapest mode of transport over here (LKR 9 for 6 kilometres). There are several buses plying around the city, so the connectivity is great. The main hub of all the buses running within the city is the Central Bus Terminus in Pettah which can be directly accessed via two main roads viz. Bodhiraja Mawatha and Olcott Mawatha.

    Tip: In buses, the first two seats behind the driver are reserved for
    Buddhist priests. It is a common courtesy to offer those seats if a monk boards the bus. And women are not supposed to sit beside them.

  • Tri-shaws / Tuk-Tuks

  • These are the most commonly used mode of travel within the city. There are two types of tuk-tuks which run here - metered and unmetered. As a tourist you should always opt for the metered ones (though most of the time meters don’t work), as there are less chances of you being ripped off. Due to a recent price hike, the rates have become exorbitant. Sometimes the drivers ask for as high as LKR 50/kilometre and LKR 200/hour waiting charges. You will be lucky if you can come down to LKR 30/kilometre, but in any case you’ll always end up paying more. Try to catch the tuk-tuks which are going in the direction you wish to take, as the ones waiting at the the stations or tri-shaw stands, will always ask for more.

    There are tourist friendly tuk-tuks (the colourfully painted ones) authorised by the
    Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) which run on meters and offer more reasonable rates. They can be booked by contacting the All Island Three-Wheeler Drivers Association at the following numbers: +94-71-2500800 and +94-77-2299299 (lines open 24X7). The price starts at LKR 50 for the first kilometre, followed by LKR 30/kilometre, with a LKR 90 waiting charge.

  • Mini cabs

    If you do not want the hassle of haggling, opt for the metered taxis, which are a little costlier than tuk-tuk, but more comfortable and safe. You find several TATA Nano cabs running within the city which charge about LKR 40/kilometre with A/c. For regular taxis the fare starts at LKR 90 for the first kilometre, followed by approximately LKR 50/ kilometre. The waiting charges are around LKR 60 per hour. There is a very nice man who goes by the name of Mr. Mohammad. He owns a taxi service and all his drivers are good, dependable and know Colombo well. The cabs are air conditioned and metered, so you will pay only about 10-15% more than what you would have paid, had you haggled with a tuk-tuk driver. He can be reached at +94-77-7311840.

  • Rental cars

    This option is not recommended for tourists who have no experience of driving in the city before. Apart from the traffic rush, you have to deal with rude drivers, lane changes, pedestrians and stray animals walking in the middle of the roads, etc. A better option will be to hire a driver along with the car. The chauffeurs can be booked at quite reasonable prices, and they can also act as your tour guide. Apart from cars, bikes are also available for rent on a daily or monthly basis. The going rate for vehicle hires is LKR 3800 to LKR 5100 per day. Rajagiri Tours (+94-11-2-793510) and Abans are two good companies which provide these services. Your hotels might also offer these services at a premium.


You should always remember to opt for the metered taxis. If you do not know the distance to your destination, ask a reliable local for help. If you keep in mind these suggestions, you are less likely to get ripped off. Choose the option that suits you best, and let the journey begin!

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