In Sri Lanka transportation by bus cannot be compared with that in Western countries. Buses are not as comfortable as you might expect and there is no special place to store your luggage. Occasionally you may pay the conductor for an extra seat to put your baggage on.
Except for the Highway buses, public buses are mostly overcrowded and you cannot reserve a seat, especially during rush hours and around 1.30 pm, when the schools close. The frequency of services is high. There is a state owned bus company, the CTB (red buses) and numerous private owned buses. Most of the buses drive at high speed; despite the heavy traffic and dangerous situations overtaking maneuvers take place. Yet, compared with the great number of buses in the country, there are not so many bus accidents. Private buses are cream coloured and intercity buses can be recognized by the blue coloured destination signboard on the bus. There are normal buses and semi luxury buses, but don’t expect any luxury. Moreover the difference between normal and semi luxury buses is hardly noticeable. Bus fares are very cheap; for example for a normal bus from Colombo to Galle (110 km) you pay about Euro 0,82 for a 3 hours journey.
Apart from the big normal buses there are so-called A/C buses. They are much smaller than the big buses, but more comfortable and have air conditioning, but they charge almost double the price from a normal bus. Long distance buses (more than 110 km) usually stop somewhere on the way for a tea break.
The central bus stands in Colombo are all in Pettah. There is a separate bus stand for government buses and a separate one for buses to the up-country. Airport buses also depart opposite the Fort Railway Station.
Nowadays there is a fast and very comfortable nonstop touring car service from Maharagama (on the outskirts of Colombo) to Galle and Ambalangoda, the only highway in Sri Lanka. A ticket will cost you about Rps. 500 (Euro 3).
There is also a daily night service between Colombo and Jaffna (the northern most city in Sri Lanka). The journey by luxury touring car will take about 9-10 hours and cost around Rps. 1500 (Euro 10). These buses leave from the Galle Road in Wellawatta (opposite the IFS building), as well as from the Lake House (near the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel). Reservations can be made at booking agents in that area.
Public transportation inside Colombo is good. There are numerous bus services, government (red) buses, as well as private buses. However, sometimes it is difficult to find the right bus for your destination. The easiest bus ride is along the Galle Road, connecting Pettah, the area near the Fort Railway Station and Mount Lavinia ((Moratuwa and Panadura destined buses). In rush hours the buses are very crowded. If you don’t know which bus to take, it will be better to take a three-wheeler instead.
Ample buses are available from regional towns to the surrounding villages. After 7.00 pm services are limited or not available. Services by regional buses on the intercity lines are mostly taken to travel to smaller places on that route. The travel time is longer, but it is easier to get a seat and the traveling speed can make your journey more relaxed.
All bus fares, within the cities, as well as intercity and regional buses are very cheap, but take into consideration the limited space for your luggage.