During our visit to Sri Lanka in March 2014, we stayed in the beach resort of Hikkaduwa on the island's south-west coast, about 2 hours south of Colombo. Whilst there, we were keen to visit the nearby town of Galle, famous for its fort walls and international cricket ground, located about 20km away.
We could have hired a tuk tuk to take us there (there was no shortage of willing drivers on Galle Road!), but decided instead to take a ride on the local bus – not only would it be cheaper, but it would also be an interesting experience.
The following details are meant to provide an overview of our journey to and from Galle by bus and are not intended to be a definitive guide to the regions buses.
Hikkaduwa to Galle
We caught a bus on Galle Road, the main road running through Hikkaduwa, at around 3:15pm on a Monday afternoon.
We didn't worry about timetables as buses were seemingly passing by every 5 minutes or so during the day. There are bus stops at regular intervals along Galle Road.
The bus that we caught was a number 388/1 which travelled between the towns of Ambalangoda and Galle, via Hikkaduwa and several other villages. We discovered that we could also have caught the number 388/3 bus, which just travels between Hikkaduwa and Galle. There may well be other buses plying this route too.
The bus that we boarded was relatively quiet and we had no problem getting a seat. We had seen overfilled buses passing by at busier times of the day, but in the mid-afternoon it was fine. The bus was a fairly dated Lanka Ashok Leyland bus, but it looked to be in decent enough condition, but for a few worn and torn seats.
After we had taken our seats, a conductor came around the bus collecting fares. We paid 30 Rs / £0.15 each for our tickets to Galle.
The journey from Hikkaduwa to Galle took around 30 minutes and was an exciting mix of gorgeous coastal scenery, lively villages and lots of near-misses! Our bus (and lots of other vehicles too) seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on the wrong side of the road, undertaking ill-advised overtaking manoeuvres and loudly sounding its horn. It was pretty frightening at times; I was certainly glad that we were in a bus and not in one of the flimsy little tuk tuks that were taking their chances weaving in and out of the buses on this busy stretch of road.
We disembarked at Galle Central bus station. From here it was just a short walk (a little over 5 minutes), across a busy road, around the side of the cricket ground and through the main gate leading into Galle Fort.
Galle to Hikkaduwa
We arrived back at Galle Central bus station at around 8:20pm after an afternoon exploring the town.
We made our way to the bay where the Hikkaduwa buses departed from (we had scoped this out upon our arrival earlier in the day) and figured that a bus would be along within a matter of minutes.
However, it soon became apparent that it wouldn't be as easy as we thought. Amid confusion, locals were attempting to tell us that we were in the wrong place and needed to go back out of the station to find a bus heading towards Hikkaduwa. The 388 numbered buses had apparently finished operating for the day. Instead, we would have to go back across the busy road that we had just crossed and wait for bus # 2 which was heading for Colombo but would stop at Hikkaduwa en-route.
We did as we were told and the bus arrived within 5 minutes. It was much busier than the bus we came on. We managed to squeeze (quite literally!) into a couple of vacant seats, although this meant an uneasy climb over an elderly gentleman who was sitting in the aisle seat. It was a very uncomfortable ride. Not only was the bus busy, but it was also loud. Very loud. Sri Lankan/Indian pop music (which was very Bollywood-esque) blared out of the bus' speakers at a cacophonous level. The interior of the bus was decorated with Buddhist icons, many of which were lit up with flashing LED fairy lights.
The conductor came around to collect our fares. It was slightly more expensive than the outbound journey; 50 Rs / £0.25 each.
The journey again took around 30 minutes and was characterised by some manic driving. At least it was dark on the way back so we couldn't see the near-misses quite so clearly!
The bus didn't stop as often on the way back. We pressed the bell when we were on a stretch of Galle Road that we recognised, but the bus carried on for several more minutes before eventually letting us off just before Hikkaduwa bus station. The 388 buses would have stopped several times along Galle Road to let passengers alight.
Whilst I had arrived in Galle on the train (see separate tip), I departed by bus and took a couple of daytrips by bus when I was there. Galle Bus Station seems to be slightly more organised than the usual Sri Lankan set-up even though it is pretty large and has a useful information desk. Although the guy in there did not appear to understand me (hardly surprising given my accent), he immediately summoned his mate who told me exactly which stop I needed and even the bus number. Nice work, guys.
Being on the main coast road South from Colombo, it is well-served with buses in both directions which mostly terminate in the capital to the North and Matara to the South although there are a decent number that continue on the either Tissakaharama (Tissa as everyone calls it) or even Kateragama if that is your destination. Do ask though as it may be quicker to get the first bus to Matara and change. Also note that if you are going North to Colombo you now have two options now with the opening of a new expressway. The journey by the old coast road takes between three and three and a half hours but the express bus along the expressway is only one hour 15 minutes. There are only a few a day and are considerably more expensive. Also, you'll miss the lovely scenery along the coast, so you need to decide on your option, speed over scenery.
A few sample frequencies and times will give you an idea. Hambantota - every 30 minutes, three hours 30, Hikkaduwa - every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, Matara - every 15 minutes, one hour 15, Tangalle - every 30 minutes, two gours 30, Tissa - every 30 minutes, four hours 15.
There are plenty of hawkers about the place and even on the buses plus a good selection of "coolspots (drinks places) and eating houses dotted all around the vicinity.
As I have mentioned numerous other places on my pages about Southern Sri Lanka, this building is new as it had to be rebuilt after the appalling tsunami of 26/12/2004 although it took until 2011 for it to be officially opened by the President. Interestingly, it is the lngest bus stand (as they are called here) in Sri Lanka at 161 metres and services an amazing 700 buses a day. There are separate waiting rooms for men and women and, most surprisingly in this country, a lounge for disabled people so full marks for that. I am still not sure how someone with serious mobility issues would get on or off a bus here but it has to be seen as a positive.
Phone: +94 011 258 7372
- Budget Travel
I have no doubt that the bus from Colombo is faster and certainly much more frequent than the train but it is no secret here on Virtual Tourist that I love train travel and so that is what I did. The journey from Fort Station to Galle took me about two and a quarter hours although it can run anything up to nearly three depending on the service.
In the way of Sri Lankan trains, it was very crowded and many people had to stand for much of the journey although I was lucky enough to find a seat which was just as well with my bad back. I had nearly actually put my back out trying to force my not overly large kitbag into the rather narrow luggage racks but that was the only option. You certainly could not have put it in the aisle.
As is the way on Asian trains, there were vendors the whole way, mostly selling peanuts, fruit and cold drinks (no alcohol). If you are on an extremely tight budget the train is generally speaking about half the price of the bus but both options are literally only pennies. There is no first class or reservation available for this service, only second and economy and it really is paying the few extra rupees for the second class.
I did not have to use the toilet facilities but there was the odd whiff coming from that direction so maybe best avoided!
There are some gorgeous sea views as you pass along the coast as the track follows it quite closely and I really enjoyed my journey.
- Budget Travel
The Bus Station is in the Central part of Galle, close to the train station.
I took a intercity bus to Colombo from there, and also used an intercity from Matara to Galle.
These are very comfortable with A/C, and not expensive. One of the best ways of getting around.
- Budget Travel
The train and bus stations are next to each other near the cricket ground, with the fort about a ten-minute walk away on the other side of the cricket ground. There is a Food City supermarket just in front of the bus station where you can stock up on snacks if you have a long journey ahead. Many trains leave for Colombo in the early morning; the schedule seems to cater mostly to commuters. There are no trains between about 10:20am and 2pm, but you can always catch a bus, which takes about three hours to Colombo.
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
You can choose either public slow big bus or express private mini van to colombo from Galle. The journey for minivan was 3 hours. It gets very crowd and there is no place for the lugguage. So you have to pay extra ticket for the luggage which is Rs130 per person. Even a small aligning exit area can put up 4 people!! So try to get a seat not close to the exit door nor in the front or middle. It is a long journey and you should pick a good seat. Frequency of bus is full to go.
All you can found in Galle Train station. I found the manual train departure chart is interesting. See more pics.
We went Galle in A Tuk Tuk from Beruwela. Very Cheap, it is quite a slow way to travel so Ideal for taking photos along the way
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel