Central Bus Station.
Rather confusingly, there are three main bus stations in central Colombo, all within close proximity at the edge of the Pettah (market area) just East of Fort train station. This tip deals with central Station which is the arrival and departure point for most suburban buses although the airport bus did also deposit me here.
It is situated to the Northwest of the junction of Olcott Mawatha and Saunders Place and is a typically South Asian bus station with all the attendant noise and fumes. The best thing about it is the Information Office (shown) where English is spoken and they are extremely helpful. Realistically, it would be very difficult to find the correct stand unless you have been using the place for a long time. Be aware that some buses (including the 100) actually leave from the broad outside the station proper.
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Let the train take the strain.
If you are making any sort of train journey to or from Colombo, you will inevitably end up in Fort Station which is the hub of the entire system. The fabled hill line trains complete with observation cars depart here as do all the overnight sleepers. I am writing this tip during my trip to Sri Lanka and have been through here several times. I have no doubt I shall be through it many more times and so I shall amend the tip as necessary.
The station stands on Olcott Mawatha which is unsurprisingly in the Fort area of the city. Construction was begun in 1917 as part of an ongoing re-organisation of the railway system in Colombo. It replaced an earlier Fort station in a different location which dated from 1877 and replaced the now disused Terminus Station which now houses the Railway Museum (see separate tip).
It is a typically Asian main railway station with a lot of bustling activity and noise and is the kind of place I love. It has ten platforms and apparently serves 200,000 passengers a day although sometimes it feels like they are all in there at once!
The website states that there are cafeterias inside the station although I have yet to find them, or at least any that are open. It also states that there are facilities for disabled travellers but I really cannot see how a wheelchair user could negotiate this place. At time of writing (January 2014) the problems are exacerbated by construction work taking place on some of the platforms which makes it difficult enough for the able-bodied traveller. Hopefully, the images give some idea.
The ticketing system here differs from UK in that there is a different ticket window for each line and even different destinations on the one line and yet other windows for different classes of tickets. Your best bet is to always go first to the Information Office to the front of the main entrance as you look. The English speaking staff there are very helpful and will assist you as to departure times and which ticket window to go to.
The toilets are adjacent to platform one and are not as gruesome as some others I have seen in Asian stations. One thing to beware of is touts and scammers who appear to operate occasionally inside the station itself despite the large numbers of Railway Police who are always about.
If, like me, you love rail travel you will probably love this place and if not you will probably find it appalling.
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This is only half a tip!
I am writing this tip whilst in Sri Lanka and so have only experienced the arrivals part of the airport. I shall complete the information whenever I sadly have to depart from this lovely country.
Unless you are arriving in Sri Lanka by cargo vessel or in the fortunate position of sailing in on your own yacht, you will have to go through Bandaranaike International Airport. The ferry service that briefly plied between the island and India has been discontinued due to lack of passengers.
Like many international airports, although it is called Colombo, it is actually some distance out of town to the North near the town of Negombo. It is the only international airport in the country and appears to serve both civil and military purposes. In the brief time I was standing outside, I saw three fighter planes flying overhead. In the interests of not duplicating effort, I shall cut and paste an edit from my blog here which is slightly more narrative than my normal tips but I hope will be of value.
"We arrived pretty well on time in Colombo and the deplaning was relatively easy. They rather cleverly funnel you through an arrivals duty free area, at least 90% of which appeared to be electrical and even white goods. Who in Heavens name buys a washing machine in the airport? Somebody must although the place looked generally fairly quiet. Still, it was early in the morning. I went to the appropriate baggage carousel and waited in the scrum, for such it was. Apparently, Sri Lankans don't have any social taboo against elbowing you in the ribs, dropping suitcases on your feet and so on. Well, I am used to that kind of thing in Asia so it doesn't bother me overly.
I waited and waited and then I waited some more. When I had finished doing that, I waited. The crowd began to thin a bit, although it did take an age for the baggage to arrive but it was not good. I got bored and went back upstairs to take a few photos of the scene and found myself engaged in conversation with a couple of young salesmen from the duty free shops who were obviously as bored as I was. I had a wander around, looking for a bar or coffee place to pass the time but there did not appear to be any (the website confirms that there are no refreshment facilities in arrivals). I watched the same few forlorn bags going round and round, evidently in totally the wrong airport and I knew instinctively what had happened. An overly-optimistic 55 minute connection in Doha had stranded my bag there.
After about 90 minutes or so, I was approached (along with the other half dozen or so bereft travellers) by a very personable young man with good English, winkle picker shoes and a totally improbable hairstyle who asked me a couple of questions and then directed me to the baggage handling desk which was run by Air Sri Lanka on behalf of all visiting airlines. A very pleasant young lady asked me some more questions, filled out a load of forms and checked her computer which singularly failed to locate the missing item. I thought these things were meant to be damn near infallible. Yes, I was totally hacked off. I was tired, feeling slightly grubby as I always do after two long flights despite a brief feshen up on the plane, and I literally had the clothes I stood up in which were getting a bit ripe. I was going to let rip at the young lady but what was the point? It's not her fault and she must have one of the worst jobs in the world listening to people like me screaming at her all day. Thankfully, I had all my important stuff in my carry-on and I knew I could buy whatever I needed locally if the worst happened." I was re-united with the baggage later that evening.
A few other things to note. There is no alcohol sold in the airport except in the transit lounge and there is no place to buy tobacco or alcohol on arrival although foreigners are allowed to do so. Should you need the information desk, exit the arrivals door and turn left, it is about 50 yards on the left with helpful staff who speak good English.
I shall finish this tip in a couple of months.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
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From the airport to Colombo.
I always try to avoid airport taxis as even the official ones always seem to be a rip-off. I suppose they work on the principle that they have a more or less captive audience. As there is no train connection I had decided to take the bus. My guidebook (published late 2012) indicated that I would have to get a free shuttle bus to a nearby bus station and then a bus to Colombo. This is inevitably the problem with guidebooks, they are out of date before they even go to press. Such is the nature of travel writing. I should point out that the official website is similarly out of date and does not appear to have been amended since 2009. I found an information booth where a very helpful lady, resplendent in a sari informed me that there was now a direct bus to Colombo and pointed out the relevant spot across the road where it departed.
To find it, exit the arrivals area and turn left, walking to the end of the terminal building. Cross the road and you will see an area at the side of the road where the buses reverse in. If there is not one present, you will know the place by the people standing around. Again, a cut and paste from my blog will prevent duplication of effort.
"The bus backed into the appointed spot and then the scrum began again as it had at the baggage carousel. For people who are so incredibly polite and friendly the concept of the queue seems to be totally alien and it was made all the more unbelievable by the fact that there were clearly not enough people there to half fill the bus. I stood well back and then got on and easily found a seat. Compared to some of the old rust buckets that ply the Galle Road, this one was pretty modern with air blowers to keep you cool but it had the usual Asian problem of not being designed for a 6'5" Briton. Still, not too bad and a fairly uneventful run along the newly opened expressway deposited me in one of the three bus stations in the Pettah which is a typically manic market area in the old part of town."
The journey took slightly less than an hour and I do not remember the exact fare but it was very cheap as I remember thinking it was much less than £1 Sterling. This is definitely the option for those on a budget.
- Budget Travel
RELIABLE TRANSPORT & FRIENDLY GUIDE
Once you are in COLOMBO or if you want to make any round trips or day excursions to the vast variety of attractions SRI LANKA offers, you need a experienced and trustworthy GUIDE & Transport. LAKSIRI FERNANDO is a well experienced TOUR GUIDE LECTURER approved and Licensed by the SRI LANKA TOURISM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY and greatly recommended by the Guests who have visited through many leading Travel Agents time & again. He has a very reliable and very comfortable NEW TOYOTA HIACE KDH 200 VAN with dual Air-conditioner and very comfortable seatinf for 5 - 6 passengers. The charges are very Economical when you contact him direct and has many packages. He could recommend very good hotels at reasonable rates.
- Family Travel
Early Colombo mini buses to Intl Airport
For early morning flights from Colombo Airport (Sri Lanka), wait on the main road outside Central Bus Station.
Mini buses pull in here, before 06:30am, to pick up passengers.
They display the number 187, and charge 200 Rupees, and link up with the free shuttle, which then goes to the airport terminal. A tuk-tuk would charge 1500, private vehicles 2000 Rupees. Trip takes around an hour, as many locals get on & off along the way.
- Budget Travel
fly to colombo from malaysia/singapore
If you are living in malaysia or singapore, you can fly to colombo with Air Asia, MAS, SIA , sri lanka airline or cathay pacific. Air asia is a budget airline and the cheapest. This airline fly from KL early morning and arrive in colombo at about 7.45 am. the journey takes 3 1/2 hour . So you have plenty of time to visit colombo on the same day. The colombo airport is about 30+ km to city centre and spare your time about 1 hour for the journey. the colombo airport is very convenience and if you are a muslim traveller, there is a muslim prayer room at the 1st floor. Anyway sri lankan are very friendly. Just ask anything if you are not sure , they are very willing to help you…
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From Colombo to Popular Destinations
Kandy -------------> No: 1
Galle --------------->No: 2
Trincomalee -----> No: 49
Polonnaruwa ----> No: 48
Anuradhapura ---> No: 4, 15, 57
Kurunegala -------> No: 6, 5
Sigiriya -------------> No: 47
Badulla ------------> No: 99
Nuwara Eliya ----> No: 79
Matara ------------> No: 32
Ratnapura -------> No: 3
Batticaloa --------> No: 48
Ampara -----------> No: 98
Negombo --------> No: 240
Int Airport -------> No: 187
Main Bus Stop in Colombo is at Pettah/Fort Station
- Budget Travel
To and From the Airport
The most cheapest way to get to the City from Airport is the BUS.
Turn left after coming out of the arrival lounge and walk until the end of the shades passing the TAXI Booking counters, and wait just few minutes, or you may find a red color shuttle bus already there, its free of cost and will take you to a nearby Bus Stop, take Bus Number 187 (This is not special Airport Bus and there is no Space for Big Luggage) if you take the second last seat on the left side there is enough space to put your luggage. Travel Time is around Hours and a half or little more.
This Bus will take you to Pettah (Fort Railway Station) the standard fare is SLR31.00 but but some time they charge extra if your luggage occupy another seat.
From Pettah to Airport or vice versa, there are Air conditioned VANS 22 seater (Same Number 187) If you have big luggage, yo may have to buy 2 seats, cost SLR 75 each, this Van will take you to the transportation center near the airport from there you have to get the Free Shuttle Bus (as mentioned above)
Metered Taxi's are non existence and what they call Taxi is rented automobile and may cost around SLR2000 to 2500 to get to the city which is just 35 kilometer.
- Budget Travel
Tourist info at Colombo airport - recommended
There is a tourist info desk at Colombo airport that I recommend of you don't have a transfer arranged for when you land. The tourist info people can give you info on the bus services from the airport (the public buses cost peanuts) and also on taxis. When you step past the barrier outside arrivals you will be met with people after your business for the best price they can get. Use the tourist info desk so that you are equipped with the right info to make the best decision for yourself in the face of prospective rip offs.
I had the destination in my mind and I asked for a few directions, got the required bus to reach there and then i was at liberty to roam around. Get into any bus for a joy ride doesnt matter where it takes you. Keep asking for directions so that you can come back from where you started.
What is really great about these rickshaw drives is that they can take you to any place fast.
It's rather safe and if you've got really good skills you can bargain and get very good price.
This is actually what you should do always :)
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Private bus to Airport
For Rs40, you can take the private minivan No. 187 from Pattah ( Bastian Mawatha Bus station) to airport. It leaves regualarly. However, the one that I took did not stop at the departure terminal. Instead, I had to walk about 100-200M from bus stop to terminal. Take note of this.
As you may note all minivan tends to be very overcrowded, even the stepway. Sometimes the bus may charge you extra for your lugguage.
Traveling by Bus
Traveling by Bus is really easy way travel around the island and not only that it is chepest way rather than Privet Taxi services, Sri Lanka possesses an extensive network of bus service to all parts of the Island, offering a reasonable quality. There are 2 type of service available,
one is the bus service which are maintaining and handling directly by the government and the other type is the Privet buses, it is maintaining by the privet owners, normally quality and the servicesd vise the government Bus Service is superb, but they have very limited buses, but the privet sector having large number of buses and their servive some times cost of both kinds of bus is very cheap, and services are often crowded.
Train trip around the Sri Lanka
Train trip around the Sri Lanka it is a enjoyable way to see Sri Lanka. You can go and visit to all foremost traveler towns by trains, in the Railway Department has few first-class carriages, air-conditioning and dining cars are available.
The government to operate on the principal routes launches new fast services,
including an inter-city express service linking Colombo with Kandy, the histry of the Ceylon Railway was started 2 centenaries ago,
The Railway, then known as Ceylon Government Railways, was imagineed in the 1850’s as an device to expand and amalgamate the country. Service began in 1864, with the structure of the Main Line from Colombo to Ambepussa, it was expanded to the east. The first train ran on 27 December 1864 and the line was formally unlocked for traffic on 02 October 1865.
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