Sri Lanka is smaller than neighboring countries such as India but it can be difficult to get around at times. Many of the roads on the island are narrow and transportation extremely crowded, with cars, cyclists, buses, and people trying to cross on foot. As such make sure you factor delays into any travel time and don’t expect to get anywhere fast.
Buses are a common way to get around Sri Lanka and run all over the island, but be aware that they are often old, uncomfortable, and crowded. Driving is not of a high standard and this means that this is not a particularly safe way to get around, although it is cheap and you will be able to get out into remote areas by bus. There are both government buses and private buses for you to choose from, and the private buses are marginally more comfortable, with some having air conditioning and padded seats.
The railway network in Sri Lanka was built by the British in the nineteenth century, which tells you everything you need to know. Much of the equipment seems to date from this period and service is incredibly slow, although there is a certain amount of charm in taking a train which offers some more scenic views than the bus routes. Depending on where you want to go, it can be worth trying out a Sri Lankan train at least once, and there are three lines, the coast line, the hill country line, and the northern line.
If you want to get around Sri Lanka quickly then flying can be the best choice, and Sri Lankan Airlines runs an air taxi service which uses water planes that can carry up to 15 people at a time and can land on lakes or in lagoons. These fly to a range of places and also offer scenic tours if you prefer.
As you walk around Sri Lanka you will find motorized rickshaws everywhere which are basically motorbikes with a few seats attached. These are good for short distances but uncomfortable and are also the root of many scams. If you want to take one then negotiate a price first and don’t be talked into paying more at your destination. Common scams include driving you around town on a tour you didn’t ask for and trying to get you to visit certain shops or cafes.