Sri Lanka: Flights

Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Cheap Flights to Sri Lanka

Finding discount airline flights to Sri Lanka is no easy task. To make this task simpler, we carry out a daily airfare search to provide you with the latest flight deals and special airfare offers for Sri Lanka. Whether you are traveling for a weekend business trip, a short city break or a long relaxing holiday, you will find the cheapest Sri Lanka flights. While we opt for the cheapest airfares, we also select sponsors and airlines that offer the most direct flight routes, ensuring your comfort at all times.

How to Find Flight Deals to Sri Lanka

Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates!If you're inflexible with your dates you probably will not be able to take advantage of any of the pricing variations airlines use. Airfare prices always fluctuate depending on the day and time of the week. It is always cheaper to fly mid week than on a weekend for example, or late at night rather than during the day. It has also shown to be cheaper to fly out after major holidays than before. That week after Christmas is when you can take advantage of cheap flights because people don't prefer to fly when they are with their families and New Years Eve is around the corner. Oddly enough, flight prices drop a bit on Tuesday nights too.

Local Travel Info

Local Travel Info in Sri Lanka

Internal Flights and Major International Airports in Sri Lanka

The only international airport in Sri Lanka is Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, 30km north of Colombo. Sri Lanka isn’t quite on the A list for major airlines. Of the bigger European carriers, only Lufthansa flies there. Most of the airlines flying between Europe and Sri Lanka are from the Middle East. A better range of airlines flies between Sri Lanka and Asia (with connections elsewhere). The only regular domestic flights are the flights between Jaffna and Colombo. Flights to Trincomalee were added a few years ago but were suspended again following the drop in tourism after the 2004 tsunami. The flights are likely to start again if tourism picks up.

Getting to and from the Airport in Sri Lanka

Colombo Bandaranaike (CMB) (Katunayake) is 29km north of the city. Buses service the airport with regular shuttles going to the city regularly, which take roughly one hour. Taxis are also readily available, although markedly more expensive. There are trains to Maradana Station too, located 1.6km from the city centre (journey time is again around one hour).

Travel Costs in Sri Lanka

Most Sri Lankan cities and towns are connected by the Sri Lanka Railways, the state-run national railway operator. The first railway line was inaugurated on April 26, 1867, linking Colombo with Kandy. The total length of Sri Lankan roads exceeds 11,000 km, with a vast majority of them being paved. The government has launched several highway projects to bolster the economy and national transport system, including the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway, the Colombo-Kandy (Kadugannawa) Expressway, the Colombo-Padeniya Expressway and the Outer Circular Highway to ease Colombo's traffic congestion. There are also plans to build a major bridge connecting Jaffna to the Indian city of Chennai.

The Ceylon Transport Board is the state-run agency responsible for operating public bus services across the island. Sri Lanka also maintains 430 kilometres (270 mi) of inland waterways. It has three deep-water ports at Colombo, Trincomalee and Galle. There is also a smaller, shallower harbour at Kankesanturai, north of Jaffna. There are twelve paved airports and two unpaved airstrips in the country. SriLankan Airlines is the official national carrier, partly owned and operated by Emirates Airline. It was voted the best airline in South Asia by Skytrax. SriLankan Air Taxi is the smaller, domestic arm of the national carrier, while Expo Aviation and Lankair are private airline companies. The Bandaranaike International Airport is the country's only international airport, located in Katunayaka, 22 km north of Colombo. If you're looking for a cheap mode to get around, buses make the best deal. In big cities, you can find air-conditioned buses that are little expensive than non-ac ones. However, the latter one is easily available in small towns around the country. Interstate buses usually have fixed rates, while intrastate buses charge fares according to the distance covered. In cities, taxis are generally metered but drivers don't use the meters frequently and charge high rates. If travelling by taxi, prefer settling a price prior to getting in, though a surcharge of 50% is levied between midnight and 6am. In small towns, taxis usually charge a fixed rate.

Renting Cars in Sri Lanka

Self-drive car hire is available in Sri Lanka, but it is far more common to hire a car and driver for a day or more when travelling short distances. If you’re on a relatively brief visit to Sri Lanka on anywhere around a midrange budget, the expense of shelling out for a car and driver can be surprisingly affordable. Also, most airports often have car rental that comes at a much cheaper rate than most of the major hotels. Getting a car at the airport will not only be cheaper and definitely much easier, you can pick it up when you get off the plane and drop it when you leave. No need to worry about a transfer from the hotel to the airport (which sometimes you have to pay for). You should not have to book ahead unless it is a major holiday. There are numerous car rental desks and agents waiting around the doors to the airport. There are also several motorcycle-hire agencies in Hikkaduwa and Kandy. In addition to a cash deposit you must provide your passport number and leave your airline ticket as security.

For cheap car hire in Sri Lanka, view our Car Hire in Sri Lanka links which are updated hourly to provide all Ok Alpha readers with the latest deals and special rates online.

Drivers License Requirements in Sri Lanka

Visitors wishing to drive must possess a valid Driving Licence or International Driving Permit.

Driving Rules in Sri Lanka

Traffic drives on the left in Sri Lanka. Flashing lights mean that the driver is asserting right of way. Avoid remote areas and travelling at night. Distances are relatively short and some of the roads are a motorcyclist’s delight; the trick is to stay off the main highways. The quieter Hill Country roads offer some glorious views, and secondary roads along the coast and the plains are reasonably quick.

Buses in Sri Lanka

Bus routes cover about 80% of the nation’s 90, 000km of roads. There are two kinds of bus in Sri Lanka – Central Transport Board (CTB) buses and private buses. CTB buses are usually painted yellow and ply most long-distance and local routes. Private bus companies have vehicles ranging from late-model Japanese coaches used on intercity-express runs to decrepit old minibuses that sputter and limp along city streets or short runs between towns and villages. Private air-con intercity buses cover all the major routes; for long-distance travel they are by far the most comfortable option.

Bus travel in Sri Lanka can be interesting. Vendors board to sell all sorts of snacks and even books on long-distance routes. Blind singers sometimes get on and work their way down the aisle, warbling away and collecting coins. Beggars may approach passengers with a litany of misfortunes – which they may also sing. Buses sometimes stop at temples so the driver and passengers can donate a few coins. The first two seats on CTB buses are reserved for ‘clergy’ (Buddhist monks) and this is never ignored. If you want to guarantee a seat, you’ll need to board the bus at the beginning of its journey; Sri Lankans seem to know when to sprint after the right bus as it pulls in, and throw a bag or a handkerchief through the window to reserve a seat. In most cases, private bus companies run services parallel to CTB services. Intercity expresses charge about twice as much as CTB buses, but are more than twice as comfortable, and usually faster. Fares for CTB buses and ordinary private buses are very cheap. The journey between Kandy and Colombo costs Rs 70 on a CTB bus, Rs 80 to 120 on ordinary private buses and Rs 140 on an air-con intercity express. A bus trip from Colombo to Kataragama costs Rs 146 on an ordinary private bus and Rs 280 by intercity express. Most buses have unbelievably small luggage compartments and they rarely have storage on the roof. For your own sake, travel light. If you have a large pack, you can buy an extra ticket for your bag. Local buses go to most places, including villages outside main towns, for fares ranging from Rs 4 to 25. Their signboards are usually in Sinhala or Tamil, so you’ll have to ask which is the right bus.

Taxis in Sri Lanka

Taxis are readily available all across Sri Lanka and generally metered but beware drivers who don't use the meters: they frequently do so in order to charge higher rates. If travelling by taxi, ensure you have settled on a price prior to getting in, though be aware that a surcharge of about 50% is levied between midnight and 6am. In small towns, taxis usually charge a fixed rate. ‘Three-wheelers’ are also an option: known in other parts of Asia as túk-túks, bajajs or auto-rickshaws, are everywhere: turn a corner and you’ll find one. Agree (or haggle your heart out) on the fare before you get in. Some keen drivers will offer to take you to the moon, but it’s no fun being in a three-wheeler for more an hour. You may think that the driver is not obeying any road rules; and if so you are probably right. As a rule of thumb, a three-wheeler should cost no more than Rs 40 per kilometre. Three-wheelers and taxis waiting outside tourist hotels and similar places expect higher than usual fares.

Cycling in Sri Lanka

Holidaymakers who love cycling are sure to find Sri Lanka an absolute joy, aside from the steeper uphill sections around Hill Country and the major roadways out of Colombo. When leaving Colombo’s city limits, for safety reasons it is recommended to take a train beyond the urban corridors before you begin cycling.

When cycling in Sir Lanka’s hinterland, it is a good idea to start early in the day to avoid the heat and traffic. However, the distances you cover will be limited by the state of the roads – be prepared to keep on eyes on the road (literally).

If you elect to bring your own bicycle, ensure that you also bring along a ready supply of spare tyres and tubes as these can suffer from the poor road surfaces. Keep an eye on your bicycle at all times and use a good lock. When taking a bicycle on a train, every part has to be described on the travel documents, so you should deliver the bicycle at least half an hour before departure. At Colombo’s Fort station you may want to allow even more time (up to two hours). It costs about twice the 2nd-class fare to take a bicycle on a train. In terms of hired bicycles, those with gears are the exception rather than the rule. You’ll find that most range from merely adequate to desperately uncomfortable with dodgy brakes. Bikes imported from China and India are the norm. You should seriously consider bringing your own gear.

Water Transport in Sri Lanka

Plans to resume ferry services between Mannar and India come and go with the tide. Any schemes to relaunch the route must wait until the ports are repaired, however, so check with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority for the latest information. A passenger-ferry service between Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) and Colombo has also been on the drawing board for some years, but has still not materialised. There has also been talk of ferry services between Chennai and Colombo, and Kochi and Colombo, but no plans have yet come to fruition.

Hitchhiking in Sri Lanka

Although hitchhiking is a not uncommon method of transport for travellers in Sri Lanka, the potential dangers are huge and cases of violence and abduction not unheard of so it is not a recommended form of travel.