Colombo, the busy and often chaotic Capital of Sri Lanka is most people’s arrival destination. While there are a few sights to see in and around Colombo you’ll soon want to head out and one of the more popular routes is from Colombo down to Galle. On the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, Galle is the provincial capital of the aptly named Southern Province. A longtime popular destination for Dutch, Portuguese and British explorers and traders it has found renewed fame with tourists. There are multiple ways to get to Galle from Colombo, including bus, train, and road, we look at how to get to Galle, costs and where to stay in Galle on arrival.
All information is intended as a guide only, based on personal opinion and experience. Please check all information thoroughly for yourself.
Colombo to Galle
Colombo to Galle Distance
Colombo is 126 Km ( 78 miles approx) from Galle if you take the fairly direct road route – the Southern Expressway – the highway. The highway does have a small toll fee. The journey should take just over 2 hours, traffic allowing. The train and coast road hug the coast. If you choose the train your journey will be maybe sub 2-4+ hours, there are faster and slower trains, see train information below.
Colombo Airport to Galle
Colombo airport – Bandaranaike International Airport – is quite a way outside Colombo city – it’s 32 Km north of the city. Fort train station and the Colombo bus stations aren’t exactly nearby. If you plan on travelling directly from Colombo airport to Galle, the only way, really, is to take a taxi or private car. There is a taxi office inside the airport which makes this very simple for you. Cost should be under $100 – to give you an idea. Alternatively you could take a taxi or tuk-tuk into Colombo to catch the train. We’ve taken the bus to Colombo airport from nearby but it wasn’t very convenient, the stop is a fair way away. Tuk-tuks were usually found outside the airport perimeter fence. If you’re happy to pay for a taxi, you’ll most likely be staying in a hotel, try to find one with a free airport transfer including, beware paying for hotel transfers, organising your own taxi on arrival will probably be cheaper.
Colombo to Galle by Bus
One of the easiest and quick ways to get to Galle is by the local bus. With the new expressway, you have two options as opposed to just the coastal road. The coastal road takes longer but is much more scenic and the journey is on older buses. The express buses which, as the name suggests, follow the expressway to the south has new buses that are more comfortable and have A/C.
Bastian Mawatha Bus Station
Bastian Mawatha Bus station is centrally located just down from Fort railway station in central Colombo. Most long-distance buses leave from here and for both minibusses and the larger public buses you will find a ride here. The frequency is about every 20 minutes from 5 am. During peak hours this will increase as will the number of people trying to get on.
The cheapest are the government-run buses followed by private buses and then the minivans. The government buses are probably in the worst condition followed by the private buses and minivans. It’s worth noting that if you’re over 6 feet tall the minivans are very crowded with the middle seats folding down. Legroom can be non-existent which can make a 3-hour trip terrible. We tend to gravitate towards the larger private buses although have caught minibusses for shorter trips.
Costs for the trip are as follows and these figures were accurate at the time this post was published. It isn’t uncommon for drivers to try and charge more and these are approximate. As you can see public transport in Sri Lanka is ridiculously cheap so it isn’t worth worrying about 50 cents here or there. More important to make sure you’re happy with the bus and the driver.
Normal fare Rs.155 , $1.00usd
Private buses Rs.230 , $1.50 usd
Air Conditioned buses and mini vans Rs.300, $2.00usd
Maharagama Bus Station
Maharagama bus station isn’t near the city centre, in fact its 15 km to the south. This can make getting there a real issue and this may take as long as the trip to Galle. Peak hour traffic is to be avoided at all costs in Colombo. From Fort railway station you can catch bus 138 for Rs.35 , 25 cents but be warned they don’t like bulky luggage and the journey can take at best 30 minutes or worst up to 3 hours. Getting a taxi can be a better option, especially if you’re not at Fort station. Uber plus a host of taxi companies operate in and around Colombo so it won’t be hard to find one.
The bus station gets a bad reputation as there is no shelter from either the sun or the rain. Both are likely depending on when you go. Food vendors are also thin on the ground. The bus won’t stop so stock up before you leave.
From the bus station the express buses head south on the Expressway. There isn’t much to see as the road heads inland and straight down. It is approximately 90 minutes to Galle via this road. Significantly quicker than the coastal road but not nearly as scenic or satisfying. The buses are of a better quality and the cost will reflect this.
A lot of commuters will use this to travel daily to Colombo for work. Avoid peak times to make sure you get on the bus. Frequency is similar to the coastal route. A 5 am start with 20 minute intervals.
Cost to Galle via Expressway
Upwards of Rs. 400 , $3 usd. Still ridiculously cheap.
Getting From Colombo to Galle by Car
With the new inland highway this is the quickest way but it is up to you whether you take it or the more scenic coastal road. Both have pros and cons and it come down to personal choice.
This is by far the most expensive way of getting from Colombo to Galle but if time is limited can be the best way. My first time here we arrived close to midnight and weren’t stopping in Colombo so headed straight from the airport to Galle via the coastal road (the new expressway wasn’t built). You will need to pre-arrange a car to take you from either the airport or Colombo. The airport has a desk where you can do this and the price is set. Hotels can arrange this in Colombo or you can use one of the many apps or websites that are now available. Currently Uber only operates in a 30 km radius of Colombo. Kangaroo cabs often comes up as a company that covers the whole island. Specify if you want to go via the coast as most will use the expressway and price accordingly. The coastal road will quite likely cost more due to the added time.
Cost of Getting From Colombo – Galle by Taxi or Car
Costs are still competitive but not like the public transport. This is for the expressway route. Prices are a guide only and were correct at time of publication – please check.
Expect to pay Rs.10000 , $65 usd from Colombo City centre to Galle
Expect to pay Rs.12200 , $78 usd from Colombo airport to Galle
Getting From Colombo to Galle by Train
The train journey along the coast is beautiful and takes you through the coastal villages that dot the coast. The train also passes through a number of major cities and towns like Kalutara, Beruwala, Aluthgama, Bentota, Balapitiya, and Hikkaduwa and offers views of modern and colonial Sri Lanka from the comfort of your seat.
This is definitely my preferred way of travel in Sri Lanka and especially the Colombo to Galle route. You don’t have to worry about the peak hour traffic but be mindful you may not get a seat if the train you catch has come down from Kandy or further north.
There are now tourist carriages that operate on the interstate and express trains. Offering food, wifi and allocated comfortable seats the carriages are part of the normal train but come with an increased fair and in someways isolation from the joys of train travel in Sri Lanka. They are all run by 3rd parties contracted to Sri Lankan rail.
The following are a guide to the costs for a ticket from Colombo Fort to Galle. There are 3 classes although you’d not want to travel in 3rd as it is extremely crowded and stops at all stations making the journey too long. The prices, like the bus, are incredibly cheap. If you want first-class it pays to book as early as possible as there aren’t many seats and they go quickly.
Its worth noting that nearly all the trains continue on to Matara which is about 90 minutes along the coast past Galle. If you’re staying on that side of Galle the stations after Galle may be better suited to alight. Just make sure that the train stops.
Train Costs For Colombo to Galle
These train prices are a guide only, to compare relative proces of train, bus, taxi etc. Please dounble check as prices change. These were current prices at time of publication.
Rajadhani car Rs.990 , $9 USD. ( Only one a day currently)
2nd Class Rs.180 , $1.30 USD
3rd Class Rs.100 , $0.75 USD
How to Book Train Tickets in Sri Lanka
There are only 3 ways of booking train tickets in Sri Lanka:
- Pay an agent or tout a fee.
- Go to the train station yourself
- Use 12Go Asia to book online here , tiny fee, tickets can even be delivered internationally.
From Colombo to Galle by Plane
There isn’t an airport close to Galle. The nearest besides Colombo (which is actually the closest) would be Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Mattala. That is 150km due east with Colombo only 120km north. It has been named the emptiest international airport. Few flights operate from here and most still fly via Colombo.
Pinterest Image – How to Get From Colombo to Galle
This beautiful blue building is in Galle. You can save this to Pinterest using the red buttons
Best Places to Stay in Galle
Galle has a host of accommodation options at nearly every price point. From five star resorts to simple homestays and everything in between. There are a few boutique hotels within the Fort itself, some hotels and hostels in Galle town and some lovely villas in the hills around Galle.
We use various hotel booking engines to find the best deals. Agoda are the experts for Asia and we find they usually have the best selection. To see all the hotels Agoda offers in and around Galle Click Here If you prefer Booking.com please Click Here . Hotels Combined is a comparison site, it will check multiple online booking engines ( not Agoda, check them separately) if you’d like to give them a try, Click Here
We hope you enjoy Sri Lanka, it’s one of our favourite travel destinations. We’d really recommend the train, but whichever method of getting to Galle from Colombo you pick, try to enjoy the journey and the views along the way. We highly recommend booking your tickets through 12 Go, it’s simple, no fuss, minimal expense and reliable. They also handle bus ticket bookings and better rates than any agent will give you. We use them, we recommend them.