The train rattles along the track then comes to a halt. It starts to reverse back past the rice paddies we just saw and stops. Traffic line up at the boom gates dotted with coloured tuk tuks. People jump out and food sellers jump in. The calls of the food sellers can be heard down the carriages. Always a surprise of what their baskets will be laden with. Another train passes and then we get back on our route. We are traveling for 9 hours over just 260kms from the East Coast of SriLanka in Trincomalee to the capital city, Colombo.
Yes we could have driven or even flown but what fun would that be?
There is a huge variety of transport over this island and we tried all of them!
Here is an overview of our adventures traveling as a family of 5.
Cost : 2000 LKR
We used a taxi from the airport to our accommodation in Negombo. The ride was just 15kms and about 20 minutes. We were able to dismantle Coopers wheelchair and pop it in the boot along with our three carry on backpacks. It was an easy gentle introduction to our travels as we arrived in Colombo just before midnight.
2. Transport: Private van
Cost: $100 AUD ( $77 USD) a day plus a few incidentals. The van had 6 seats.
We used a private van and driver for 4 days as we explored the cultural triangle area from our base in Dambulla. We then drove to Passikudah where we said good bye to our lovely driver and friend.
It was convenient and comfortable to have access to the car and expertise of Malin to share his stories along the way. We drove for 5 hours from Negombo to Dambulla. Then 3 hours from Dambulla to Passikudah along with driving everyday to different sites.
3. Transport: Public/local bus
Cost : 275 Rupee ( around $2.80 AUD) for 5 of us. 3.5 hours to travel 70kms.
Standing on the side of the road we waited for the bus just hoping we would get 1 seat for the kids ( mainly Cooper) to sit down. The bus pulled in with a sign to Trincomalee on its dashboard and full of people hanging out the door. Somehow we managed to throw the bags in the back part and climb on just in time for the bus to take off again. People moved aside and we got 3 seats for the five of us. Andrew was standing for half the trip hanging onto Coopers wheelchair frame while others held onto bags of rice or cement. Food sellers jumped on board and we had one rest stop.
4. Transport: Tuk tuk 3 wheelers.
Cost: anything from 200 rupee to 500 rupee depending on distance/time. We were happy paying what we did for lovely friendly service ( you can of course negotiate price from 50rupee)
With our luggage and wheelchair we needed 2 but for just the family we could squeeze into 1.
We would use the 3 wheelers for little trips or for local sightseeing. We loved the openness of the vehicle and all the amazing sites you can see just cruising around in one. The kids loved the variety of colours they came in.
5. Transport: Boat
Cost: Tours for snorkelling and dolphin watching ranged from $20-$25 a person ( adult) we usually paid for 3 adults counting the 3 kids as an adult. Prices are open for negotiation. Tours were between 2-4 hours.
We had two great experiences out on the Indian Ocean from Trincomalee. We explored Pigeon Island for snorkelling and further out for dolphin watching. There are a variety of tour operators on both Trincomalee, Uppeveli and Nilalaveli beaches.
6. Transport: Train.
Cost: We travelled just over 200kms from Galoya to Colombo in reserved 2nd class. It cost $30 AUD. I am unsure of the breakdown but I think it was 5 adult seats. For the shorter trip the kids paid 1/2 fare. ( this was Trincomalee to Galoya junction) 250 rupee in 3rd class not reserved. Other trains do have a bigger variety of carriages/classes including 1st class with AC.
The train is a great way to interact with locals and see behind the scenes as you catch glimpses into villages and communities along the way. A car trip would have cost around $150 and while no doubt more comfortable and cool it would not have been the adventure we were after.
7. Transport: Ox drawn cart.
As part of a village tour from Dambulla.
Andrew got to drive us in this Ox drawn cart down a dirt road to a lake. It was very bumpy but very fun even though he was quite bruised the next day!
8. Transport: Catamaran./double canoe
As part of the village tour from Dambulla.
We traveled across the lake from one side to the other to see traditional village life. The driver of the boat even stopped to pull lillies from the water to make necklaces for the kids.
9. Transport: Safari Jeep.
Cost: 3 hour safari in Minneriya National park. $50AUD 6am-9am. Plus National park fee of $25 per adult and half price for children.
10. Transport: Plane.
Cost: Our flights from Melbourne to KL ( 8 hours) with Airasia cost $1300 return for the 5 of us. The flights from KL to Colombo ( 3.5 hours) cost $500 return for the 5 of us. We travel carry on only and do not prebook seats. The time difference is 5.5 hours from Melbourne.
Extra costs: We did book 3 meals at $5 each.
We booked our flights around 9 months before our holiday during a sale.
*We spent 3 weeks in June/July exploring SriLanka with 3 kids aged 11,7,4. *1AUD=108LKR