Travel times between main tourist destinations in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a tiny country. It is 268 miles (432 km) long and has a maximum width of 139 miles (224 km). How much time can it take to travel this tiny island? Well, do not get fooled by the small size of the country. Travelling is a real time consuming task in Sri Lanka due to the narrow roads, steep hills, sharp bends and city traffic.

The average speed of Sri Lankan roads is about 40 kmph (25 miles per hour). If you are planning to use buses and trains, it will be even slower.

Google Maps are excellent for checking the distances. However, the maps are still not very accurate when it comes to travel time estimations. So, we thought of preparing few charts for travel timings in Sri Lanka.

The first chart of this Travellers Isle article compares the travel times between private transport and public transport. The second chart gives the travel times between all the popular tourist destinations by car.


Travel time by car  Travel time by bus / train
Airport to Negombo (11 km) 30 min 1 hour by bus
Negombo to Kandy (104 km) 3 hours 5 to 6 hours (Negombo to Colombo by bus, Colombo to Kandy by train)
Kandy to Ella (137 km) 4 to 5 hours 7 hours by train
Ella to Tissamaharama (88 km) 3 hours 4 hours by bus
Tissamaharama to Unawatuna (150 km) 3 to 4 hours 4 to 5 hours by bus
Unawatuna to Colombo (124 km) 2 hours 3 to 4 hours by bus
Colombo to airport (33 km) 1 hour 2.5 hours by bus

Note - We recommend reading Travellers Isle itinerary planning articles along with this article.


chart showing travel timings of Sri Lanka

How many days are required to tour Sri Lanka?

If you are hiring a vehicle and driver, you can visit a considerable portion of Sri Lanka within 14 days. If you want to see the entire island, you will need minimum of 21 days.


What is the best method for travelling around Sri Lanka?

The best method for travelling around Sri Lanka is hiring a vehicle and driver. As you see in the chart, public transport is very slow in Sri Lanka. It is also very tiring to travel using public transportation.

If your tour involves daily travels, it is less expensive to hire a vehicle and driver full time. If you only need a vehicle once or twice during the tour (if you were visiting Sri Lanka for a beach stay, for example), it is less expensive to hire taxis.


Is it possible to drive yourself in Sri Lanka?

There are couple of companies that provide rental cars, however, you should only drive in Sri Lanka, if you have some experience in driving in Asian countries like India. Sri Lankans are pleasant friendly people, but not very disciplined drivers. You do not save much by trying to drive for yourself in Sri Lanka.

(Vehicles are absurdly expensive in Sri Lanka due to high vehicle taxes. Rental companies charge high rates for rental cars.)


Is Sri Lanka worth visiting?

Absolutely! Sri Lanka is well worth visiting. Plan your itinerary right and hire an air-conditioned vehicle to travel around the country. It is guaranteed to be a holiday of a lifetime.


According to our experience the number one mistake that travellers make is underestimating the travel time between locations in Sri Lanka. We hope this article helps you to plan more realistic itineraries.

Feel free to leave a comment, if you have any questions. If you like to get our assistance to prepare your itinerary, please drop us a message. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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