Last updated: Mar 05, 2020

Contents

Overview | Train | Bus | Taxi

 

How to get from Colombo to Jaffna?

When travelling the 395km distance from Colombo to Jaffna, the best option is to take the train. This train journey takes a little less than 7 hours and costs 1,500 Rs ($8). Other options include taking a bus (8 hours) or a taxi (7.5 hours).

Taking the train is our favourite option when travelling from Colombo to Jaffna because it’s a convenient and nice way to travel like a local. It will also give you a closer look at rural life in Sri Lanka.

The bus is the second option you have and costs 1,080 Rs ($6) for a local air-conditioned bus and 1,985 Rs ($11) for a tourist bus. This bus journey takes at least 8 hours.

Traveling with a group? You can also hire a taxi starting at 23,000 Rs ($126). With a taxi, you can get from Colombo to Jaffna in 7.5 hours.

Schedule from Colombo to Jaffna

Transport ModeDurationCostsAvailability
Train6h 40min1,500 Rs ($8)Check train tickets
Bus8 hours1,985 Rs ($11)Check bus tickets
Taxi7h 30min23,000 Rs ($126)Book a taxi

 

train icon

Colombo to Jaffna by Train


Duration: 6h 40min
Costs: 1,500 Rs ($8)

We recommend taking the train from Colombo to Jaffna for a comfortable 7-hour journey.

If you take a daytime train, the fastest travel time is 6h 40min. You can also take the quicker evening train, but than you will miss the views during the ride and arrive in the middle of the night in Jaffna (what we won’t recommend).

See here the arrival and departure stations of the Sri Lankan Railway train

Booking your train tickets

It gets hotter as you travel your way up North from the capital city, so if you prefer some more luxury, it might be better to travel with an air-conditioned 1st class seat. This costs 1,500 Rs ($8) when you buy them at the train station.

However, since reserved 1st and 2nd class seats often sell out fast, you might want to reserve your tickets online at least 30 days before. They are more expensive, but they will save you a lot of worry. A 1st class seat bought online costs 5,175 Rs ($28.50). If you rather save $10, 2nd class seats are still comfortable enough and they cost 3,090 Rs ($17).

If you missed this 1-month deadline you can likely still buy your tickets at a local agency or very cheap (2nd or 3rd class) unreserved tickets at the railway station in Colombo.

Unreserved tickets are unlimited and you can easily buy them at the train station on the day of your trip. However, take in mind that you will have to compete with hundreds of locals for a good seat. There’s a great chance you will be standing for the first 3 hours of your journey until Anuradhapura, where many passengers get off.

Check out the Sri Lanka Railways website to see the schedules for 2nd and 3rd class seats. For more info and other train booking options, check out this train guide for Sri Lanka.

Train schedule from Colombo to Jaffna

Train ClassScheduleDurationCosts
1st Class05:45-23:51
06:35-15:00
11:50-18:30
18h 6m
8h 25m
6h 40m
5.175 Rs ($28,50)
2nd Class06:35-15:00
11:50-18:30
20:30-01:40
8h 25m
6h 40m
5h 10m
3,090 Rs ($17)

Check Sri Lanka Railway Tickets

*Train tickets for 1st class seats are also sold on 12Go.Asia for a few dollars less. However, we recommend booking with BookAway as they don’t add a booking fee, time schedules & info are more reliable and the customer support is far better.

 

Bus icon

Colombo to Jaffna by Bus


Duration: 8 – 11 hours
Costs: 1,985 Rs ($11) or 1,080 Rs ($6) 

Taking the bus from Colombo to Jaffna might be even cheaper than the train, but take in mind that it will be a very long journey of 8 to 11 hours.

When you still want to travel to Jaffna by bus from Colombo, you have 2 options: you can take a tourist bus starting at 1,985 Rs ($11) or the cheaper local air-conditioned bus for 1,080 Rs ($6).

Colombo to Jaffna by Tourist Bus

Duration: 8 hours
Costs: 1,985 Rs ($11)

Tourist buses can take you from Colombo to Jaffna more than 2 hours faster than local buses (8 instead of 11).

They are also cleaner and much more comfortable with reclining seats and charging sockets. Well worth to spend some extra dollars on!

You can choose from 3 tourist bus operators: Avro Travels and Tours, Prince Travels and Sri Murugan Travels.

Rates range between 1,985 Rs ($11) and 2,350 Rs ($13), but all three companies are well-reputed companies.

Bus Schedule from Colombo to Jaffna for Tourist Bus

Bus OperatorScheduleDurationCosts
Prince Travels07:00-16:00
20:30-05:00
22:00-05:30
9h
8h 30m
7h 30m
1,985 Rs ($11)
Avro Travels & Tours08:00-16:00
22:00-06:00
8h2,165 Rs ($12)
Sri Murugan Travels21:05-05:058h2,350 Rs ($13)

Check Tourist Bus Tickets

Prince Travels

  • Departs from Colombo-Jaffna Bus Station, south of city center
  • Arrives at Jaffna Bus Stand in the city center

Avro Travels & Tours

  • Departs from Visakha Pillaiyar Kovil along International Buddhist Center Road, south of city center
  • Arrives at Jaffna Bus Stand in the city center

Sri Murugan Travels

  • Departs from Visakha Pillaiyar Kovil along International Buddhist Center Road, south of city center
  • Arrives at Jaffna Bus Stand in the city center

 

Colombo to Jaffna by Local Bus

Duration: 11 hours
Costs: 1,080 Rs ($6)

In Colombo, you can find intercity buses to any point in the country. When going to Jaffna, you can take Route #87.

Most Sri Lankan local buses do not get good reviews. But if you really want to go local, taking an air-conditioned bus can make your journey a little bit more comfortable. A seat costs 1,080 Rs ($6).

Ordinary and semi-luxury buses with hard wooden seats and no air-conditioning are also available, but not recommended for a 10-11 hour journey. If you still want to try these options, they cost 540 Rs ($3) and 810 Rs ($4.50) respectively.

  • Departs from Colombo Central Bus Stand in the city center
  • Arrives at  Jaffna Bus Stand in the city center

 

Taxi

Colombo to Jaffna by Taxi


Duration: 7.5 hours
Costs: 23,000 Rs ($126)

The taxi from Colombo to Jaffna costs around 23,000 Rs ($126) when you book via Uber, but fares can be slightly cheaper or more expensive depending on availability. Hoping for cheaper rates? You can also check the taxi apps PickMe and TaxiGo. But, unfortunately, these apps have very limited availability outside the capital city, Colombo.
PRO-TIP: Use the code “hpam1ue” or this link to order your first ride with Uber for free!
Sometimes none of the above options work, and in that case, we recommend to book a taxi via BookAway. Fares start at 28,500 Rs ($156).

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