Getting to Sri Lanka’s South Coast: everything you need to know

Sri Lanka’s South Cost has long been famous for it’s beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees and fantastic surf. Galle, Unawatuna, Weigama, Mirissa, Talalla, Tangalle… there are so many great spots to choose from.

Make the most of your precious time and budget with our essential guide on how to get to the South Coast of Sri Lanka.

Hammock on Tangalle Beach
Wake up to breakfast with views like this on Tangalle beach

1. Private Transport

By Private car

Hiring a driver with a car or van is an easy and common option for travelling around on longer trips. It’s normal to hire a driver for the entire holiday who will stay with you, or to book one just for certain journeys.

The relatively recent highway has made getting from the airport to the south coast much quicker, it’s now possible to zip down in only 2 hours to Galle or Matara (the two main exits of the express way).

This is the most expensive option though. A car (up to 4 people) will cost from LKR 9,000 ($57) and you shouldn’t pay more than LKR 14,000 ($89). Alternatively, vans (4+ people) are also easily available and a great option if you have lots of luggage or surf boards.

Midigama empty beach
A perfect spot for lunch! One of many beaches off the beaten track near Midigama.

2. Public Transport

By Bus

The first step is to get into Colombo. Take a taxi (alternatively check out the Uber & PickMe apps) or a local bus to Colombo Fort or Maharagama bus stands.

Both have regular ‘luxury’ buses that take the express way down south. Don’t expect any real luxury travel but they do have AC, a blessing in this humidity.

Whilst on board, you’ll get a glimpse of rural life in Sri Lanka as you ride past water buffalos in paddy fields, hillside temples and low-range tea fields.

The EX01 bus goes direct from Maharagama bus station. In fact it’s less a bus station and more a parking area in the middle of the road. But it’s well known and easy to get to in a tuk tuk.

There are express buses to Galle and Matara. Pick the right bus depending on the destination you’re aiming for:-

  • Unawatuna (Galle)
  • Thalpe (Galle)
  • Midigama & Weligama (Mid-way, Galle or Matara)
  • Mirissa (Matara)
  • Talalla (Matara)
  • Dikwella (Matara)
  • Tangalle (Matara)

Both buses go from in front of the fruit & snack stall in the middle. Join the correct queue and wait for the bus to turn up. They come every 20 minutes during peak hours and typically every 40 during off peak.

Either route will take around 2 hours to reach the destination. A one-way fare should be LKR 500 ($3).

Once there, hop on a local bus to reach your destination. Most fares should be under LKR 100 ($0.60).

Sunset over the beach
Enjoy stunning sunsets night after night on Sri Lanka’s south coast

By Train

The train from Colombo Fort to Galle is beautiful, but not the quickest option. It can take a good 4-5 hours to reach Galle. It’s possible to continue from Galle towards Welligama on a slow local route, but this requires a change.

Having said that, the scenery is beautiful and if you’re not in a rush, rumbling along past palm trees and feeling the ocean breeze is a great introduction to Sri Lanka.

For everything you need to know about train travel in Sri Lanka, check out our must read guide here.

That’s all folks!

If you have any specific questions on travel routes, add a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Golden sunset in Welligama

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