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Bus Travel in Colombo

How, where, and why to use the bus in Colombo.

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Colombo is a thriving metropolis that serves as a sort of financial waterhole where people from all walks of life hustle to make a living. 
But how does one circumnavigate their way through the trecherous labyrinths of Colombo's districts? If you choose to take the dangerous path of the Common Man, then the first thing you need to do is educate yourself on how the public transport system works. 

If you're clueless as to which bus to take where, there's a great app called developed by a local company that shows you which bus to take. You just have to enter your current location and your destination and voila! Download it here.

You could also check out routemaster for a more detailed description on which buses to take to go to your destination. 

Also check out the YAMU page where we've concisely summed up the main Colombo bus routes via infographic.


  • They're cheap. It's incredible how a tuk-ride from my house to work costs approximately Rs.450 but the total amount by bus comes to Rs.60. You don't have to worry at all in terms of money.
  • Depending on the times, they're quite fast. If you're on a bus during peak traffic hours, then there's a lot of competition between different buses and they'll employ their usual madman driving skills, basically flying through the streets and occasionally missing a few stops.
  • You get to reduce your carboon footprint: no extra fumes!
  • Going somewhere new by bus is a great way to experience the sights and the people of the city, without having to worry about directions or the like.


  • Buses aren't exactly a smooth, quiet ride. Expect it to be packed when you get in in the mornings or far worse at about 5:00PM - 8:30PM since that's when everybody gets off work. More people = less air, less seats, and more body odour.
  • You can't always expect a seat. It's pretty much first come first serve, so prepare to stand during busy times.
  • You must ALWAYS have your bus fare in cash (and change). They're not going to take the time to give you change, and sometimes the conductors might even get pissed off. 
  • Sometimes the drivers are alarmingly bad, they'll cut through tiny spaces and leave you gasping for breath. 
  • Chances are high of you getting groped or having some horndog pervert hump your shoulder while you're seated. If this happens, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself as most people are aware of unpleasant experiences like this happening and will help put a stop to it should it ever happen.

Bus etiquette:

  • DO give up your seat for a monk. Front row seats are usually reserved for the gentlemen of the robe, so if you want to be culturally appropriate/respectful then it is advisable to offer your seat. 

  • DO offer your seat to a pregnant woman/woman with a baby. There are stickers that show which seats are reserved for either the pregnant women/mothers.

  • DO offer your seat to an elder person. This isn't really an enforced rule as most people don't really care, but out of common courtesy you'd be doing them a favour. 

  • DO keep your bags guarded at all times. If you choose to use the overhead shelves to store your bags, then remember to keep an eye on them at all times. Theft count is very low here but it's good to be prepared.

  • DO hold on TIGHT if you're standing, as riding the buses while standing is an experience equivalent to a roller-coaster. You don't want to be flung around in a moving bus, it isn't exactly fun.

  • DO dress APPROPRIATELY when you're on a bus. Wearing stilettos while some poor guy is trembling in his slippers isn't a good idea. Also the bus is home to many creeps so try your best to not wear a bodycon dress in an overly crowded bus. I'm all for female empowerment but the stares, if not the gropes, will make you deeply uncomfortable.

  • DON'T forget to carry change. Bus conductors are busy people and they'll get impatient if you present a Rs.1000 note for a Rs.10 ride. Always keep your bus fare in the Rs.50 and under range.

  • DON'T EVER stand at the ENTRANCE/EXIT on the bus. This is DANGEROUS and the consequences can be fatal. 

So have a nice trip, you'll get used to the craziness in time, and happy travels! Please contact us via comment or email at if you have more questions. 

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