Sri Lanka is often described as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, and we could not agree more.
We’ve recently spent a month traveling around this beautiful island starting in Negombo and taking a circular route visiting places such as the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the vibrant hill country towns of Nuwara Eliya and Ella, Yala National Park and last but no means least the tropical beaches of the south.
Before we arrived we had been frantically searching Google to find the best way to explore Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, public transport isn’t the most reliable, the buses hardly run to a schedule and are usually jammed packed and stuffy, and with us carrying two bags each it wouldn’t be an easy task. As for the trains, the popular routes are usually booked far in advanced, unless you like to travel in unreserved 2nd or 3rd class, which of course can be a great way to chat to the locals, but not the best if you have to stand for five hours. Another option is to hire a car and driver, and while it’s usually fairly priced if you’re on a low budget you can forget this option.
Just as we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have to travel around on buses and trains we discovered Hop On Lanka.
Hop On Lanka, so who are they?
Hop On Lanka is Sri Lanka’s first and only hop on hop off bus service. They cover the majority of the island’s top tourist destinations in a 1,200 km circular loop, starting in the capital city Colombo and finishing in the beach town of Negombo. The circular route is split into four different sectors, with one bus travelling along one sector each day stopping at a number of locations so you can hop On and off at your convenience.
Sector 1 – Colombo ⇒ Negombo ⇒ Wilpattu ⇒ Anuradhapura ⇒ Sigiriya ⇒ Habarana
Sector 2 – Habarana ⇒ Dambulla ⇒ Kandy ⇒ Nuwara Eliya ⇒ Ella
Sector 3 – Ella ⇒ Kataragama ⇒ Tangalle ⇒ Mirissa ⇒ Unawatuna ⇒ Galle
Sector 4 – Galle ⇒ Hikkaduwa ⇒ Bentota ⇒ Colombo ⇒ Negombo
For a full list of Hop On Lanka’s route stops and timings please check out their timetable here – Hop On Lanka Timetable
How much does it cost?
To travel with Hop On Lanka you need to purchase a travel pass in advanced before your planned trip. Hop On Lanka currently offer two different types of passes;
Flexi Pass – $115
The Flexi pass provides unlimited rides over a 2 month period, this allows you to catch the bus any day between any location that Hop On Lanka travels to. You don’t need a planned itinerary and you can reserve a seat as you go. Ideal for the spontaneous traveller who has no set plans.
Value Pass – $100
For travellers visiting Sri Lanka on a schedule or know exactly where you want to visit the Value Pass is the choice for you. Again the pass provides unlimited rides but unlike the Flexi Pass, you have to reserve your seat and provide your full itinerary with dates before you depart on your first trip.
For more information on the different types of passes and up to date information check Hop On Lanka’s Travel Passes.
What modes of transport do they offer?
Hop On Lanka have a fleet of modern transport consisting of coaches that seat 41 passengers and minivans. As Hop On Lanka are a new company they are currently just using the minivans because of course, you wouldn’t run a coach to ferry 4 or 5 people around the island. The coaches will be introduced at a later date once needed.
Each mode of transport has air conditioning, free WiFi which is excellent, luggage storage and USB charging stations. Most importantly the minivans are spotlessly clean, comfortable and are driven by safe, happy and reliable drivers.
Our experience with Hop On Lanka
Right from the word go Hop On Lanka conducted their business in a professional, friendly manner. We sent a series of emails with questions we had on the service provided by Hop On Lanka, each email was answered quickly with all our questions answered thoroughly. We knew we had picked a great company to transport us around Sri Lanka. We already knew where we wanted to go in Sri Lanka so the value pass was ideal for us, we emailed over our itinerary with dates and within 48 hours we received an email with our travel tickets and complete itinerary with drop off and pick up points with times.
Our planned departure was from Negombo, from there we planned to visit Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Tissamaharama, Tangalle, Mirissa, Bentota and finally Negombo. The only section where we didn’t use Hop On Lanka was between Kandy and Ella, instead, we caught the train (unfortunately for us it was a wet, cloudy day but a beautiful route to take when the sun is shining!).
Each pickup day we would check out of our accommodation and reach the pickup point with the driver and vehicle there already waiting, which is ideal as you do not want to be standing near a road in the heat with all your bags being hassled for a tuk-tuk! Also worth a mention that all drop off points (apart from a few) are either at hotels or hostels or conveniently close. We found this particularly useful if like us you like to see what accommodation there is available on the day. On a number of occasions throughout the trip, we ended up staying in the said accommodation. In Dambulla, the drop-off point was Takeshi inn, which was not only very reasonably priced and within our budget but the bus stop for Sigiriya is just across the road, which was very convenient and easy to catch. Mirissa, Colombo and Seeduwa drop-offs are located at Hangover Hostel, a great place to stay and you also get 10% discount via Hop On Lanka.
Overall, we had a great time using Hop On Lanka and we certainly got to see and do more things during our visit due to the efficiency of their pick up and drop off times always being early so never was a day wasted on transport. Not to mention feeling safe (some drivers in Sri Lanka are totally mad!) and this enabled us to relax and enjoy the country and not having the hassle to worry and think about how we are getting to the next place, and in some instances even where to stay.
If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka we highly recommend getting in contact with Hop On Lanka, the service they provide is second to none and always with a smile. It is the best way to explore Sri Lanka. You won’t regret it.
Want to find out more?
Then head to Hop On Lanka’s website which can be found here – Hop On Lanka
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Thank you to Hop On Lanka for hosting us on this trip, as always our honest opinion is our own.