Archives for posts with tag: bus

Ok, so this month I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve had my Sri Lankan driving licence for a year, and I think I have finally worked out the ‘unofficial’ road rules! Ha!


1. There is no need to use an indicator – unless you’re in the right lane, and you want to turn left. Then you must use the right indicator.

colombo-182. There is no need to turn on your headlights until way after the sun has set. And then put them on high beam and keep them on high beam – no matter what.

3. It is OK to overtake 4 cars, 2 trucks and an ox cart on a bend with a double white line, and expect everyone to slam on the brakes and pull over to the side of the road when you have to squeeze back in because there is a speeding bus coming the other way.

4. It is not mandatory to follow lane markings – the middle of the road is an extra lane, the side of the road is an extra lane.colombo-3

5. As a bus driver you don’t have to worry about bus stops – you can stop anywhere.  Actually you don’t even have to stop – the conductor will pull the passengers on as they run along side the bus.

6. One way roads – as long as you choose which one way you’re going, you’re fine!

three wheeler-17. Use of horn is mandatory – and has many meanings – I’m behind you, I’m overtaking, I’m turning, get a move on, watch out! It is particularly important to use when the car in front of you cannot move – but you want to let them know they need to get out of your way!

8. As soon as you see the police, slam on the brakes, and go 20 km below the speed limit. As soon as you’ve passed them, go back to doing 20 km over the speed limit!

9. If you have to ride a bicycle at night, make sure the bike has no lights, that you’re wearing dark clothing, and that you’re riding on the wrong side of the road.

10. But in the end – you can’t take this post, or driving in Sri Lanka too seriously! 🙂 You have to just go with the flow!colombo-9




colombo-9Ok, I’m probably being a bit cynical here but I am beginning to wonder if there is ever a good time to drive in Colombo?!

Speaking to locals and long term residents, one ends up with such a long list of when NOT to drive in Colombo:colombo-3

  • don’t leave at 4.30 pm – you’ll get caught in peak hour traffic;
  • and forget about 12.30 – 1.30 pm – that’s when school is finishing for the day and buses and tuk tuks are doing the school run!

three wheeler-1

  • then of course there’s the morning school run…
  • the rain always causes havoc – no matter what time it is!
  • at any time the president could be coming through with road blocks and diversions and police everywhere – or it could just be a family member or some other VVIP…
  • leaving town for a long weekend, or returning at the end of a weekend is painful too…

colombo-7I’m sure there are a few more conditions that could be added to the list!

As I seem to have been caught in all of these situations recently, I begin to wonder if there is ever a good time to drive in Colombo? Maybe at midnight?

colombo-6Saying that you’re stuck in traffic is always a valid excuse in Colombo!

But it does provide some great people watching and photo opportunities!! Belching buses, overloaded tuk tuks, white gloved police officers strategically placed at busy intersections so that all vehicles ignore them, bikes and motor bikes weaving in and out of the traffic, overloaded trucks bearing down on pedestrians and of course over all of this, the constant sound of horns blaring at a range of pitches!colombo-7

colombo-18All this providing a colourful snapshot into daily life in Colombo…

I’m now in Kandy, and everyone around me is preparing for the 2 day New Year celebration later in the week. The streets were so crowded today that every corner was blocked with pedestrians trying to get through with their shopping!

Yesterday was a travel day, as I made my way from Galle in the south, to Kandy in the hill country. 120 kilometers to Colombo by bus, and then another 120 by train to Kandy. Doesn’t sound that far. Well I got the bus from Galle at 9am and arrived in Kandy at 4pm. Because of the roads, and the amount of traffic, you have to plan very differently for travel in Sri Lanka. But it all adds to the adventure!

Two things happened that still make me smile as I think of them.

After getting the luxury A/C minibus to Colombo, I found myself at Fort Station – Colombo’s main rail terminal. I knew there was a train mid-afternoon with 1st class as well as an observation carriage and I thought that would be a nice change after traveling 3rd class the other day – and the air conditioning wouldn’t go astray either! But after a bit of back and forth between various counters I discovered there were no reservations available for the 3.30pm train. The attendant suggested I get the 12.40pm train in 2nd or 3rd class – but I needed to decide then as the train was about to pull in! So yes! Why not?

Walking onto the platform amidst the crowds, I asked a young guy who was changing track numbers for a nearby information board, which end the 2nd class carriages would stop. He indicated not far from where I was standing. As the train pulled in there was a surge of people pushing and shoving to get into the doorway and to find a seat! Next thing the guy who had just helped me, leaped ahead of everyone and seemed to jump over seat backs indicating that I should follow him! I made my way, slightly slower, to find him guarding a window seat for me – he had opened the window and also found a spot for my bag. I can’t believe how quickly it happened! And I’m not sure where I would have ended up if he hadn’t done that! It was more than worth his tip! And even as I think about it now I burst out laughing!

Of course we sat there for another 15 minutes, and the train continued to fill up. It was so stifling hot in those carriages! Sweat running down my back, and everywhere I put my hands, another damp patch would appear. Everyone sighed with relief as we finally pulled out of the station and the overhead fans began working and we had the natural movement of air from all the wide open windows.

I hadn’t eaten much the day. The original plan had been to eat lunch between the bus and the train. About half way through the 3 hour train trip, as we were winding slowly through the hills, getting higher and higher, the traders began to make their way through the train. With 4 spicy samosas, a bottle of water, and some Indian-style sweets that the gentleman next to me shared. What a simple lunch but what a delightful way to be enjoying it! The samosas were wrapped in the re-used pages of a child’s math notebook – as they were calculating how to turn fractions into percentages.

I have a few days in Kandy, and then hope to get across to the west coast. But travel may be difficult over the next few days as everyone goes home for the New Year celebrations, and many things close or have altered schedules. So we’ll see how it goes! I’ll keep you posted.