Travelling around in Sri Lanka by Car

My family travelled to Sri Lanka & this site tells our first hand experiences.

Tell others about Sri Lanka

Read about our holiday experience in Sri Lanka, Egypt, China, New York and Niagara, Yellowstone and Montana, Turkey and Bosnia

Recommend this page on Google

Arriving at Colombo Airport

As the plane gently touches down at Colombo Airport, we get our first view of this tropical country. It is not particularly awe-inspiring; it’s a dull cloudy morning and not much can be seen beyond the bounds of the airport. The weather seems particularly disappointing – we’ve been expecting hot sunshine and our choice of light clothes seems momentarily as mistake. However stepping out onto the tarmac (although I understand that most flights to Colombo use the new air bridges), the heat is oppressive - its 29 degree and very close. We cross the airport into the terminal building and then have a long wait in a rather dull security area for passports and to receive our visas.

Then with rather nervous anticipation we emerge from security, walk through the friendly but overly enthusiastic money changers who are perfectly positioned to ensure that you have to pass them and out to meet our driver, Chrisantha, who is waiting patiently at the entrance of the terminal building.

Chrisantha our driver in Sri LankaChris, as has likes to be known, is a quiet and friendly. Dark skinned with slightly reddened, tired eyes and a constant friendly smile, the family immediately feel comfortable with him and indeed by the end we regarded him as one of our family. On his recommendation, I decide to go back to the mass of money changers and change some of my sterling into local currency as the rate is particularly good, compared to the hotels we will be visiting.

Chris immediately takes control of our luggage and helps us towards the pick-up point. There is no shortage of help at the pick-up point, in fact, the help is a little over the top. We are engaged in conversation by around 5 or 6 people, some with official clothing explaining that their help comes at 50 Sri Lankan Rupees per item, other clearly not official but equally willing to help. Chris advises all of them that there is no need for their help but they continue to hang around and as he goes off to get the car, we have a continual stream of offers to help as well as number of enquiries about whether we have any “English Coins”.

Chris loads up the luggage and we quickly hide ourselves in the large Toyota, away from the friendly but rather overly attentive “helpers”.

Driving around Sri Lanka by Car

Our first view of “real” Sri Lanka is not particularly encouraging. Chris drives out of Columbo and stops at some local shops to get us some water. Some local rundown shops on the way out of Colombo AirportThe shops in question are little more than concrete bunkers with glass at the front which is covered by stickers and posters. To our immense relief, Chris gets out and buys the water for us and we drive on to our first real stop in Sri Lanka – the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage.

As we drive to the Orphanage we sleep, or at least we try to! If you’ve ever complained about the roads where you live, you should try those in Sri Lanka. To say they were bumpy would be the understatement of the year. We bounce around as we drive, literally being lifted 10cm from our seats. The bumping is pretty constant, never really relenting and as a result, progress is slow.