How to Get around the City of Colombo, Sri Lanka

This blog post features links and information which have been obtained on a press trip. However, as always, all opinions shared in this post are my own.

Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka, and somewhere you’ll likely spend at least one night. Therefore, when planning a trip to Sri Lanka, you’ll need to consider how you’ll get around the city. 

Since most people visit Colombo before and/or after a flight, you’ll need to think about both:

  • Getting from Bandaranaike International Airport to Colombo
  • Getting around Colombo

The transport methods used to get to/from Bandaranaike Airport to Colombo differ from those used to get around the city. I’ve therefore dedicated a separate article to travelling from Bandaranaike Airport to Colombo.

That leaves the focus of this article purely getting around Colombo city of which there are three key ways:

  1. Walking
  2. Tuk-tuk
  3. Pick Me (Uber alternative) 

Public buses are available in Colombo, but I would not recommend taking them – even if you’re travelling on a budget. Buses are a great way of saving on a longer journey around Sri Lanka. However, the cost of the short distances around the city in a tuk-tuk or a Pick Me is so cheap and a lot less hassle.

The heat and humidity mean you won’t want to spend much time walking in Colombo, especially during the day. Instead, when it comes to travelling between sites in the city, you’ll want either a Tuk-tuk or Pick Me. 

Tuk-tuks (bajajs) are the main form of transportation in Sri Lanka. As such, there are thousands of them in the capital city of Colombo. 

Hailing a tuk-tuk from the side of the street is quick and easy. However, the same can’t always be said for pricing a journey.

Tuk-tuks have a meter that should start at Rs 100/km (April 2024), but drivers will often try to charge more or avoid using the meter altogether.

Even when overcharged, the journeys are very cheap when translated into Western prices. So it’s up to you whether and how hard you want to haggle for the price. 

If haggling for prices doesn’t appeal, consider Pick Me, Sri Lanka’s version of Uber. Setting up Pick Me is easy, but you will want access to mobile data to use it. 

I used an e-sim for mobile data in Sri Lanka. It’s affordable, easy to install and a great way of staying connected.

Pick Me uses your phone GPS to input your location; you can then add your destination and choose from:

  • Bikes
  • Tuk-tuks
  • Cars
  • Minivans
  • Luxury cars

The great thing about Pick Me is that the price is agreed upon upfront, so no haggling is required. Plus, you’ve got a third party to contact should anything go wrong.

You can use Pick Me on short journeys in and around Colombo and for longer journeys around Sri Lanka. I also use Pick Me for quotes to see how much a trip should cost when negotiating with drivers on the street.


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