Local buses are the easiest and cheapest way to travel in Sri Lanka. Not always the most comfortable but it is the way you can connect with locals and save a bit of money. At around 9am we jumped into the bus in Negombo (directly in front of our hostel) and drove around 1 1/2h to Colombo.
Catch the Bus: Local buses are cheap and the connections are mostly really good, all 10-15 min. All buses have signs but you have to know your destination and its name. For example Colombo is referred to as “Fort” on the bus sign (Fort is the central business district of Colombo in Sri Lanka). So if you are not sure ask in your hostel, a local at the bus stop or the bus drivers for advice. The cost for the bus depends on where you go and how far it is. Unfortunately I can’t remember the exact price from Negombo to Colombo but it was between 30-60 Rupee.
We arrived in Colombo and went all together to the train station to get information about time and tickets to Hikkaduwa and afterwards to Chris hostel in the center of Colombo to store our luggage. We had around 2 1/2 hours before our train to Hikkaduwa left. This train ride along the coastline was recommended on a few blogs that we had seen, so it was something we looked forward to experience. Colombo itself is a very big city with a lot of things to see but for us a short sight seeing tour with some highlights was more then enough. We all looked forward to get to the beach :). After we dropped our bags at Chris hostel we tried to organize Tuk Tuks (not as easy with 5 people). Most of the tuk tuk drivers wanted way to much money but Hakan accepted the challenge to find a good deal. Sometimes this can be a bit time consuming and with only 2 hours to go, we had to hurry up. Finally he found 2 drivers and started our tour.
- The Gangaramaya Temple – This one does not look very spectacular from the outside but is definitely worth the visit and with your entrance ticket and a 300 Rupee “Donation” (we would call that a entrance fee because it is not a choice) you get also free entrance to
- the Sima Malaka Meditation Center just show your ticket when you go there afterwards – It’s an open building floating on water. It is located on the east side of the Beira Lake and a peaceful place surrounded by buddha statues. Our next stop was
- Vihara Mahadevi Park with an big golden Buddha Statue right at the entrance where we took photos and had some drinks.
- Our last stop was the Red Mosque close to Chris hostel and the train station.
The two hours where over in no time and we felt we had seen a fair bit of Colombo in the short time we had. After picking up our bags and saying good bye for now to Chris, we went to the train station. The train stations here are just packed with little shops, people and signs we can’t read so being in a group of four provides you with a good amount of eyes to spot where you have to go…. or you just ask because people here are super helpful.
We left around 2.30pm in a already full packed train with no place to sit because apparently the train before broke down. I spent most of the train ride in the toilet, not because I felt sick but it was the only place I had space and a window to take photos. People were standing everywhere and luggage was pilled up in corners. But despite all this we had a good time…. no space but a good time. We talked to the locals (with hand and feet) and Hakan even got his music box out to put on some local music. Looking out the window was not always fun because you can see in what conditions people live close to the railway. Lots of rubbish everywhere and many stray dogs and cats.
Train to Hikkaduwa: The train is like the bus a very cheap way to travel. The train from Colombo to Hikkaduwa was around 160 Rupee. But be prepared that you not always get a place to sit. Tickets are not numbered and people are even stand on your feet to squeeze into the train. if you are uncomfortable with this, train and bus is not for you but it is definitely a great experience if you wanna travel like the locals and are on a budget. Here is a link to >>Sri Lanka train schedules<<
Sri Lanka – My Route Guide