Planning your next holiday to the small, yet beautiful island in the Indian Ocean? Your first question probably is which flights will take you there? Or what route would require least travelling? Or what would be your cheapest option? Let us answer all your questions in this brief article about airports in Sri Lanka and which flights will take you there.
Airports in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has two international airports – one in the western town of Katunayake and one in the southern province in a town known as Hambantota.
Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA)
This is the busiest airport in Sri Lanka, and one of the busiest in South East Asia as it handles about 8.5 million passengers annually (according to reports from the year 2015). Most airlines choose to fly to this airport rather than the one in the south. BIA is about 30kms (one hour’s drive) from the capital city of Colombo and just 15 minutes away from the popular coastal city of Negombo. The airport has money changing facilities that are open 24 hours in both arrivals and departure halls, in addition to ATMs, mobile network operators, taxi services and more.
Arriving at the airport is rather hassle free – all you have to do is go through the immigration line, walk down to the luggage belt and once you’ve collected your baggage, the exit is just there. If the custom officers inquire about your travel destinations and request you to open your luggage, being nice and cooperating with them is the best solution to get out of the airport faster.
During departure, if you happen to arrive early at the airport, you could browse around the duty free, hang out at one of the many restaurants & cafes such as Pizza Hut, Burger King and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Foot spas are also available if you would like to treat yourself to a massage while you wait for your flight. Exclusive lounges are located on the way to the gates where you can buy yourself a pass and enjoy the delicious food, comfortable seating and other luxury amenities available there.
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA)
MRIA is the airport located about 15kms from Hambantota, in the southern coast of Sri Lanka. This airport has a very large terminal but is not very popular in the international market as most carriers choose to fly to the BIA. Currently only one Middle Eastern flight operates to and from MRIA – one flight a day. So if you are connecting to Sri Lanka from the Middle East and want to start exploring Sri Lanka from the southern coast, then landing at MRIA is a viable option. Because of the low traffic at MRIA, it is best for you to pre-arrange your transport before you land at the airport.
Sri Lankan carriers
Currently, Sri Lankan Airlines is the only national carrier in Sri Lanka. Bandaranaike International Airport is the carrier’s hub and it operates an extensive network all around the globe. Mihin Airlines was a budget airlines that was launched in 2007 but that too merged with Sri Lankan Airlines at the end of the year 2016. The national carrier has a safety record that is on par with international carriers.
The airlines also provide local networks in partnership with Cinnamon Air. So if you want to begin your holiday in Sri Lanka from the east coast for example, once you land at the BIA on Sri Lankan Airlines, they can provide you an onward flight connection to Batticaloa so that you can reach there much faster than by road.
From Australia & New Zealand
If travelling from East of Sri Lanka, i.e. countries such as Australia and New Zealand, you have to look out for a connection through Asian carriers like Thai, Malaysian or Singapore.
Sri Lankan Airlines has a direct flight to London Heathrow. While this might be a slightly expensive option, you could choose other connections such as British, Emirates, Austrian, Qatar, Etihad, Kuwait or Turkish which will bring your to Sri Lanka via one or two additional stops.
The Asian flight network is very well connected to Sri Lanka by Sri Lankan Airlines and several other carriers. Direct flights to Sri Lanka can be easily found for reasonable fares from most Asian destinations in the world. The most popular budget flight is Air Asia while other competitive options such as Jet Airways, Malaysian and Thai are also available.
Many tourists to Sri Lanka like to combine their holiday in Sri Lanka with the Maldives. For this route, Sri Lankan or Emirates would be a good option as only these two carriers fly between Colombo and Malé.
American tourists to Sri Lanka are literally travelling half way across the world. You could choose to route your flights from Canada or USA and go through the west coast – Asian destinations, or you could choose the east coast – from Middle East or India.