For travelling from one city to another and shuffling from one attraction to the other, public transport is the primary form of transportation in Sri Lanka. As a well-connected city, Sri Lanka connect places via, road, air and water. For the road, there are railways and roadways through cars, tuk-tuks and buses in Sri Lanka. It has indeed a cheaper expenditure aspect than hired taxis for moving around in the city. If any traveller wants to get closer to the culture and daily life of Sri Lankan people, availing public transportation like a bus where people from different communities commute together, is a good option.
CBT and Private Bus Operators
Bus services operators in Sri Lanka are mainly of two types. One is Sri Lanka Transport Board, also known as Central Transport Board. Another is Private Bus Operators.
The difference between the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) or the Central Transport Board (CTB) and Private bus operators is that CTB is central-owned services, which are provided and maintained by the government. On the other hand, Private bus services are used for public transportation only but owned privately by individuals. In the case of CTB, the fares are significantly cheaper than that of privately-owned bus services.
Central Bus Depot and Private Bus Stations
Buses in Sri Lanka, both CTB and private buses are available from their respective bus stations. CTB buses are available throughout the country. Most cities have CBT Central Bus Depot with bus stops even in small towns of Sri Lanka, while private buses are not available everywhere.
Fares also depend on the distance covered. In case of the interior and the services provided, the CTB buses are filled up with basic amenities and are not as luxurious or comfortable as private buses which are up to date with new innovations leading to higher prices. In the case of covering a long distance journey, private buses are faster and generally have fewer stops.
CBT Routes and Fare
CBT buses in Sri Lanka covers almost all the routes in the entire country. There is a Central bus depot in Colombo fort from where on any traveller can get on to any bus, standing in a line, which goes to their preferred destination. Distance less than 100 KM generally costs less than LKR 150.
Some common bus routes in Sri Lanka with their fares are given below. However, it must be taken into account that only a few routes might be helpful for a traveller.
Few important routes of buses in Sri Lanka across the country are:
1. Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport to Colombo Fort route - The distance from the Airport to Colombo fort is approximately 34 KM. There are CTB buses in Route 187 in Sri Lanka from Katunayake Bus Terminal via Katunayake Expressway. It would take near about 40-50 minutes. The fare is almost LKR 120. In case of air-conditioned buses, the fare is not more than LKR 200. These buses are available outside the airport and not in the Arrival area of the airport. One can also avail tuk-tuk to reach the bus terminus.
2. Negombo to Colombo route - The distance from Negombo to Colombo is approximately 37 KM via Katunayake Expressway. Both, normal buses and expressway buses are available. The bus route no is 240. In case of normal bus routes, these buses in Sri Lanka takes 1 hr 45mins of time. Whereas, expressway buses are comparatively expensive and reach the destination in 1hr 15mins. Normal bus fare is below LKR 100 and Expressway have LKR 250 fares.
3. Colombo to Kandy route - The distance from Colombo to Kandy is approximately 115 KM. Both luxury and normal buses are available. From Colombo, one can avail these buses in Sri Lanka from the Bastian Mawatha Bus terminal. The bus route number is Route 1 Colombo -Kandy bus. The usual fare for normal buses is less than LKR 250. Luxury air-conditioned buses have a fare within LKR 400. From Kandy, one can vail normal buses from the Goods Shed Bus Stand and for air-conditioned buses from the Kandy-Colombo Intercity bus station.
4. Kandy to Nuwara Eliya route - The distance from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is approximately 76 KM via A5. Normal CBT buses of Sri Lanka are available in this region. The bus route number is route 47. Buses from Goods Shed Bus Stand for Kandy-Nuwara Eliya is available in every 30 mins. The fare is within LKR 200. Air-conditioned bus fare is about LKR 400.
5. Nuwara Eliya to Ella route - The distance from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is approximately 55 KM via A5. Anyone can avail CBT buses of Sri Lanka from the Nuwara Eliya Main Bus Station. The route number that moves towards this destination is route 31. The bus fare is within LKR 200 and requires almost 3 hrs of time.
6. Colombo to Ella route - The distance from Colombo to Ella is around 206 KM. There is no direct bus from Colombo to Ella. One can avail buses from Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal from Colombo. The bus route number is route 99. One needs to take the Colombo - Badulla bus that would cost around LKR 400. Air-conditioned luxury buses might cost around LKR 700. After getting off at Kumbalwela junction, one can again avail local buses up to Ella.
7. Colombo to Galle route - The distance from Colombo to Galle is around 127 KM. Expressway, normal and air-conditioned buses - all are available from the country’s capital to Galle. For normal CBT buses in Sri Lanka, availing from Colombo, one can approach Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal. The bus route number is route 2. From there Colombo - Galle buses are available at a fare of within LKR 200. Air-conditioned buses are also available which has a fare of around LKR 400. The latter takes less time around 3 hrs, while the former might require 3hrs 45 mins to reach the destination. Expressway buses are also available but not from Colombo Fort Bus station. One needs to avail these bus to Maharagama suburb in Colombo. Then from Maharagama Highway Bus Station, one can avail Ex1 buses whose fare is around LKR 450. It is much faster than others and will reach the destination in a maximum of 2 hrs. However, to reach Maharagama, it might take another 40 mins in any CBT bus in Sri Lanka’s Colombo.
8. Colombo to Mirissa route - The distance from Colombo to Mirissa is around 152 KM. No direct CBT bus route is available for going to Mirissa from Colombo. The bus route number is route 2. These buses are available from Colombo’s Bastian Mawatha Bus terminal. One needs to take the Colombo - Matara bus first, which would require around 4hrs 30 mins to reach Matar. From there on one needs to take the Galle- Matara bus. The bus route number is route 350. This would take one to Mirissa in around 30 mins. The former bus fare is around LKR 250 and later is LKR 50.
9. Hikkaduwa to Galle route - The distance from Hikkaduwa to Galle is around 20.5 KM. There is Hikkaduwa Bus Station in Hikkaduwa city, from which one can take Hikkaduwa to Galle Bus. most of the buses are frequently available within an interval of every 30 mins. Other than that any bus passing off as Colombo - Galle route can also be availed. In both cases, it would almost take 45 mins to reach. The fare is within LKR 150.
Dambulla to Anuradhapura route - The distance from Dambulla to Anuradhapura is around 64 KM. Anyone can avail CBT route buses from Dambulla Bus station. Busses to Anuradhapura are available at an interval of every 40 mins approximately. It would generally take 2 hrs of duration with a fare less than LKR 200.
Tips for Travelling on Buses in Sri Lanka
One must try to keep with themselves the exact fare of the tickets while travelling in buses of Sri Lanka.
Most of the CBT buses operate on fixed mentioned routes. So prior to travelling, one must confirm about the destination and the bus route with the help of the persons available at the bus station.
One must be aware of pickpocketing.
In most of the normal buses, there is almost no space for the luggage. Be aware of placing the luggage properly. If possible, one can also buy separate tickets for luggage storage purpose.
It is preferable to avoid the first two seats on the bus. Generally, it is reserved for clergy purpose.
To get confirmed seats, it is advised to be a bit early before the crowd starts boarding the bus. Then one can be able to choose their own seats. Window seats will be perfect to enjoy the ride, though.