Tag Archives: Buses

Internal Travel in Sri Lanka
Internal Travel in Sri Lanka

Sri lanka is 65,610 square kilometres of consistently breathtaking beauty. The journey to and from cities are as much of a destination in themselves as beaches, forests and waterfalls slip by your window in a gorgeous green and yellow haze. So what are the best ways to savour these views during internal travel? Here are your options:

Car

Sri Lanka’s roads are consistently good across the country, but they don’t have a the system of highways that most of us take for granted. This means slow traffic even on long journeys. While renting a car on your own is an option, it’s better and easier to find one that comes with a driver attached. This will be more expensive, about 30-50% more than in India. This is worth it though–all included you’ll only be paying around USD 60 a day for a car that can fit three passengers. This includes road tolls, fuel and the drivers stay, food and pay as well. If you want, you can always leave a tip, but that’s the only extra amount you’ll be paying. Cars make everything more convenient with end-to-end comfort and great flexibility in timings and journeys. Since it’s more expensive though, we’d recommend it only for those areas that are hard to reach by public transport, or for older (and richer) travellers

Our experience: Both the instances when we rented a car, the car was clean and comfortable. The driver was polite, drove safely and spoke adequate English. Roads in Sri Lanka are good! They might not all be express highways, but at least they’re not riddled with potholes.

Local trains

Local trains in Sri Lanka are a gift from the universe. Comfortable, full of friendly locals and dotted with incredibly adorable railway stations all along the way. They’re incredibly cheap, priced at about the same as Indian ones. While the trains are punctual, comfortable and clean, the network isn’t very extensive. They’re great for travel between cities and towns, and very affordable. There are 3 classes, though the 1st class (air-conditioned) is not available on all trains. The 2nd class is just as great, and the lack of air conditioning means open windows that bring you even closer to the view. First class costs about USD 15 for a 4 hour journey, and the 2nd class only about USD 4. There are some routes that area once-in-a-lifetime experience in themselves, like the route from Galle to Colombo that’s almost 70% coastline. The inland routes to Nuwara Eliya or Ella from Kandy climb up the hills through tea plantations and lush fields, past waterfalls and farms. For these routes we’d recommend you book in advance so you can be assured of a window seat.

Our experience: We took our first train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and travelled unreserved 2nd class. The 80km, 4 hour journey cost us a little over one euro each! The compartment was airy and comfortable. We got a seat one hour into the ride.  We took another 3.5 hour train from Thalpe to Galle! Another scenic ride coastal route and the ticket cost us approximately USD 2 each,

Local buses

Buses have a far more extensive network, but the distances obviously take longer to cover. They’re not often crowded so you can be assured of a seat, but you cannot book them in advance or online. Head down to the local bus station and check the timetable. Once your bus arrives bystanders will be happy to help you find it. Buses are incredibly cheap, at around USD 3 for air-conditioned and USD 1 for non air-conditioned coaches going on 4 hour journeys. They may not always deliver you straight to your destination, but they’ll take you to a lot more places than the trains. You’ll be restricted by the infrequent timings for less-common destinations. Many of these buses are smaller than usual and may not have a trunk for your luggage. It’s standard practice to request passengers with backpacks to purchase an extra ticket and place their bags on that seat instead. If you’re somewhere on the coast we’d recommend the bus even for very short journeys to save money so you can really savour the view.

Our experience: We took a local A/C bus from Anuradhapura to Kandy, a distance of 135 kms that took a little over three hours. The bus cost us around USD 3 each. However, the bus did not have a boot and our backpacks sat an additional seat we had to pay for. In total less than ten dollars for three seats on an A/C bus! The bus was comfortable; if it were a longer ride I would have needed more leg room. Overall, no complaints. We took a bunch of local buses over a distance of 20-30 kms to explore towns nearby and each ride cost us less than 50 cents. We always had a seat, these buses were non air-conditioned.

Two wheelers

These can easily be rented especially on the coast. Just let the manager of your hotel or homestay know. While a license isn’t asked for, it’s better to be a seasoned and confident driver as the traffic on all roads is fast and often heavy. It costs about USD 4 per day.

Internal flights

These are few, and expensive. We didn’t take any since they’re quite unnecessary in a country of this size.

Tuk-tuks

Colourful, exciting and all-round awesome. You’ll find these everywhere and the drivers are all well-mannered even if they don’t speak English. Since there’s rarely a fixed price, it’s best to check with your hotel manager what the average price should be for your journey and then bargain for it. They’re perfect for moving about within the city and good for distances up to 35-40km as well.  


Your guide to Mumbai’s Public Transport System
Your guide to Mumbai’s Public Transport System

Mumbai has a population of 11.98 million people, with thousands more moving in everyday. With traffic like that, you’ll understand why our local train system is lovingly called the lifeline of the city. At the outset, I’d suggest you download mindicator, an app that’ll help you out with the schedules of trains and buses in the city as well as the accurate fare for an auto or taxi across a certain distance. It’s similar to travel apps in London or Paris and is quite easy to follow.

Local trains

This is one of those quintessential Bombay experiences you cannot miss out on. amateur musicians, vegetable vendors and trinket sellers will keep you occupied throughout if the constantly changing views and myriad people can’t hold your attention.

Choosing a route

  • Avoid travelling during peak hours, it can be very dangerous for the inexperienced traveller
  • There are three lines: The Central, Western and Harbour lines. The Central and Harbour cross over at Dadar junction if you need to make a change.
  • Find out which station is nearest to your destination and check that it’s on the same line as the one closest to you. Google maps will help you in this
  • Check the train schedule on mindicator and opt for a slow train for less of a crowd

Buying tickets:

  • Tickets usually cost upwards of Rs 10 all the way to 30-35 to get to the very edge of the city
  • Purchase them at dedicated counters outside the station or on the foot over bridge. Fellow passengers will be happy to direct you. DO NOT buy them from a third party standing outside the counter, they might be counterfeit
  • Keep your ticket with you until you exit your destination station, you may be asked to show it to a ticket checker
Buses

These may be a little more inconvenient to figure out but the view they offer is second to none, as their rambling routes will take you around the city often for less than Rs 20. You’re in for a real treat if you manage to catch a double decker!

Choosing a route:

  • This is the really tricky part. uses tend to have their numbers and destinations displayed on the front, but only in Marathi, the English version is on the left hand side near the back door. This can be a pain because the bus only stops for  few moments and may move on before you’ve had time to see if it’s the one you want. Ask for help. Fellow commuters or the designated ticket checker will be happy to oblige.
  • Once again, you can figure out which bus number to look out for from mindicator.

Buying tickets:

  • A conductor on the bus will ask you for your destination and give you your ticket and your change. Don’t hesitate to ask him to let you know when your stop is about to arrive.
  • Tickets usually range from Rs. 10-30 depending on the length of your journey.
Metro

The monorail is spanking new and still only available in the suburbs, but it’s a great ride, and one many Europeans will feel at home in. It cuts perpendicularly across the railway lines to help you get to the far reaching corners of Andheri and Juhu where all the really cool cafes are. Air conditioned, quiet and startlingly well-behaved, it can provide respite from the hot, crowded streets below.

Choosing a route:

  • The routes are quite straightforward, with stops every few minutes. Just make sure you’re going in the right direction

Buying a ticket:

  • The monorail operates on the token system. Unfortunately, it does not have weekend or tourist passes for brief stays and you will have to purchase either a single or return token only, or a full monthly pass
  • Ticket prices range from Rs.20-40 for a single journey
  • If you purchase a return token LOOK AFTER IT
Taxis

While the kaali-peelis (black and yellow taxis) are recommended for the sheer authenticty of it, I’d recommend downloading a radio cab app (like Ola cabs) for security reasons. In case it’s very late at night or you’re in a hurry and can’t seem to hail a cab, these will assure you of a ride with additional security features as well.

Choosing a route:

  • The local cabs will do their best to overcharge, because in their minds, they think you can afford it and they need the money more than you do. Don’t hold it against them. They are very often wonderful people who will give you some of the greatest conversation of your life. That said, try and follow the route on google maps to ensure they aren’t taking you the long way round. Before you leave your hotel, ask the reception for an estimated fare, and ALWAYS travel by meter, no matter what they insist.
  • Mumbai’s cabs are a blessing compared to the rest of the country. Despite frequent strikes, we still have the lowest strikes and the least complaints of being overcharged or refused. You may have a different experience if you look very obviously foreign, but appeal to their better side and be firm on following the meter
  • Taxis and rickshaws are the most convenient

Prices:

  • As of 2016, the minimum fare is Rs. 22 and increases at the rate of rs.1.5 per additional kilometer.
Auto-rickshaws

Unless you stop to take hundreds of photos of yourself in one of these, have you really been to Bombay? Super convenient and outrageous in their driving skills, they suffer all the same pricing issues as taxis. They’re more widespread, though they’re not allowed in the old part of the city in the South. The base price here is Rs. 17 and they seat only three passengers by law.