In this post we share with you essential tips to help you travel from Colombo to Galle, cheaply and comfortably. You might be questioning if you should take the Colombo to Galle train or if a taxi from colombo airport to Galle might be easier. Read on to find out about our favourite and recommended option.
We had 3 options to travel from Colombo to Galle – taxi, bus or train – and after some research here’s what we discovered.
Travel from Colombo to Galle by Car + Driver = Comfortable but not cheap
You can hire a car and a driver to take you to Galle from most hotels and even directly from the airport. If you’re going from Colombo airport to Galle you can book a car to pick you up from the airport and take you directly to your Galle hotel.
– Hassle free, quick way to get to Galle. Great if you are short on time.
– You get to travel in an air-conditioned car
– You are guaranteed a seat.
– It’s the least green way of getting from Colombo to Galle
– It costs a lot more to travel this way.
– You miss out on the adventure of getting there by public transport
– You miss out on one of the most scenic train journeys in Sri Lanka
– It can still take up to 3 hours to do this journey if you get stuck in traffic.
A good way of getting to Galle if you are short on time or if you are travelling with children and need an easy way to get from Colombo airport to Galle.
Travel from Colombo to Galle by Bus = Not so cheap or not so comfortable
You can catch a high speed bus from Maharagama Bus Station to Galle. Maharagama bus station is to the South East of Colombo City Centre.
You can either take a taxi which costs around Rs 3600 / $27 from the airport, and Rs 1400 / $10 from Colombo Fort or you can take the 112 and the 138 bus to get there from the centre of town. The bus to Maharagama station (where you get a second bus to Galle) takes around 75 minutes and can be quite uncomfortable. Plus the drivers aren’t too happy with big luggage being taken on the bus.
Southern Express Buses leaving Maharagama to Galle run from 5am every 20 minutes daily with the last bus leaving Maharagama at 16.45pm. A ticket costs Rs375 / $2.8. They take around 90 minutes to reach Galle, taking the total trip to at least 3 hours.
– Guaranteed seat
– Air conditioned
– Journey to bus station is either expensive or uncomfortable
The cost or discomfort of actually getting to the station takes away the appeal of this option.
Train from Colombo to Galle = Cheap, comfortable AND full of adventure
I guess the title gives away that this is our favourite way to get to Galle… with one caveat!
You are likely to be closest to Colombo Fort station and will be tempted to get the train from there. Don’t. The Colombo to Galle train will already be full and you will have a very uncomfortable 3 hour journey standing on a packed train. You cannot buy tickets in advance and unfortunately you cannot book a seat (unless you opt for Option 2 below).
To have a better chance of travelling in comfort you have two options:
Start your journey from Maradana Station. A tuk tuk here from the centre costs Rs200 / $1.50. It’s a couple of kilometres further than Colombo Fort station but it’s where the train from Colombo to Galle starts. You are much more likely to get a seat from here (although it’s still not guaranteed).
When we got to the station a well dressed Sri Lankan guy approached us and offered to help us buy our tickets. As we didn’t know what to expect at the station we followed him. He bought us the tickets and used our money to buy himself one as well. We didn’t want to argue with him over a dollar but thought we’d caution you over it.
A second class train ticket from Maradana to Galle costs Rs180 / $1.36 (no that’s not a misprint!) There’s no first class – except for one train, see Option 2. There’s no AC on the train but the fans on the ceiling worked and the open windows let a nice breeze in which made the temperature comfortable.
We do have to warn you, when it comes to boarding the train the normally polite, well mannered, gentle Sri Lankans turn highly competitive. Everyone tries to get on the train first to nab a seat. It becomes a bit of a battle. We got the 2.30pm train and despite the battle, which took us by surprise, we managed to get two seats. Hoorah! We also got the seats right at the back of the carriage which meant that we could stash our back packs in the space behind us.
The journey itself is one of the most scenic train journeys we’ve been on. And given that we’ve been on a lot of trains, that’s saying something. The journey is mostly along the coast, with open sea views for the majority of the way. There were a few sellers selling water, fruit and delicious snacks on the way which made the journey even more interesting.
If, unlike us, you don’t mind waking up a little early you also have the possibility of travelling in a first class carriage AND pre-booking your seat.
Rajadhani Express attach an air-conditioned carriage on the 6.30am train to Matara, which starts at Colombo Fort and stops in Galle. You can book your ticket through their site here. There is one train every day of the week, except for Thursdays. Tickets cost a very reasonable Rs1100 / $8.3. Try to book a couple of days in advance as there are only 48 seats available. (Please note as of September 2017 Rajadhani is temporarily closed to refurbish their trains).
– Greenest way to travel from Colombo to Galle
– Beautiful scenic journey
– An interesting journey travelling like a local
– A very cheap way to get from Colombo to Galle
– Easy and comfortable
– No guarantee of a seat, unless you take a first class train at 6.30am.
Our preferred way to get from Colombo to Galle. We really enjoyed this train journey and we hope you get to do it one day.
Here are a few highlights of our trip.
ACCOMMODATION in Galle
BUDGET: Green Wood Garden This homestay has an excellent reputation for service and cleanliness. The place has free wifi, bikes and a garden.
MID-RANGE: Pedlar 62 Guest House If you want to be in the heart of the action, then this guesthouse is for you. The food and hospitality are second to none. There is free wifi and a/c in every room.
LUXURY: Jetwing Lighthouse We have stayed in Jetwing properties in the past and loved them. They truly are eco-luxury hotels with everything you would expect from a top hotel with the added benefit that by staying here you are also helping the planet and the community. Highly Recommended.
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If you are heading to Sri Lanka then check out our Best Places To Visit In Sri Lanka post to get some ideas on where to go.
If you are staying in Sri Lanka for a while, why not volunteer there? Check out our Volunteering in Sri Lanka Page
Karen is a trained psychologist and coach. But really she’s an adventurer who believes travel can be one of life’s best teachers. She writes to inspire you to take the leap and travel in a way that is memorable and meaningful.