How to Fly into Sri Lanka

How to Fly into Sri Lanka

By Candice SongUpdated Aug. 12, 2021

Sri Lanka is an isolated island nation, and the most convenient way to get there is by taking a flight. Sri Lanka has a busy international airport in the capital Colombo, known as Bandaranaike International Airport, which has flights to and from major countries of the world.

Sri Lanka’s International Airports

Major International Airport

Sri Lanka Airport Sri Lanka AirportLights at a Diwali market in Jaipur

On paper, Sri Lanka has five international airports, but in practice, almost all airlines fly into Bandaranaike International Airport. It is the main airport terminal serving Sri Lanka, about 30 km (20 miles) north of Colombo, and is commonly known as Colombo International Airport (IATA: CMB, ICAO: VCBI). There are many taxis and commercial buses that connect the airport to the city. The trip to the city center will take you about 45 to 60 minutes by car.

Bandaranaike International Airport has non-stop passenger flights scheduled to 53 destinations in 25 countries. Most flights are operated by one of the following carriers: SriLankan Airlines (UL), Air India (AI), China Eastern (MU), Cinnamon Air (C7), Vistara (UK), IndiGo Airlines (6E), Saudia (SV), Korean Air (KE), and China Southern (CZ).

Other Airports That Are Less Used

Ratmalana International Airport was the first international airport in Sri Lanka. It is located 15 km (9 miles) south of Colombo city. This airport mainly serves private international flights and low-cost airlines (normally one scheduled flight a day).

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is located in the town of Mattala, 18 km (11 miles) from Hambantota. Due to the low number of flights, it has been called "The World"s Emptiest International Airport," and now it’s proposed that it will offer long-term aircraft parking services as well as flying schools and maintenance services.

Batticaloa International Airport is a military airbase known as Sri Lanka Air Force Batticaloa or SLAF Batticaloa. The airport is located in Puthunagar village, on Thimilathiu Island, 2 km (1 mile) south-west of the city of Batticaloa. This airport is expected to be ready for international flights by January 2020.

Jaffna International Airport is located in the town of Palaly near Kankesanthurai, 13 km (8 miles) north of the city of Jaffna. It is also a military airbase known as Sri Lanka Air Force Palaly or SLAF Palaly. In early October 2019, the airport was made a regional airport, and was renamed Jaffna International Airport. This airport has flights to some cities in India, such as Mumbai and Chennai. Flights to the Maldives have also been proposed.

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Getting in from Different Districts Across the World

Flying from North America

Destination Non-stop / Need Transit Flight Time Recommended Airlines
North America No direct flights; fly via London in the UK 11 hours and 50 minutes SriLankan Airlines
North America Fly via Guangzhou / Shanghai / Hong Kong in China 5–7 hours Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong; China Southern Airlines via Guangzhou / Shanghai
North America Fly via Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Singapore, and Bangkok in Thailand 3.5–4 hours Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur; Singapore Airlines via Singapore, Thai Airways via Bangkok

 

Asia Highlights tips: If you are traveling from North America, you"re going halfway around the world. From the west coast, the best transfer stop is one of the Asian countries (China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand). From the east coast, the best transfer stop is one of the Middle Eastern countries (Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Oman) or India.

Flying from Europe

Destination Non-stop / Need Transit Flight Time Recommended Airlines
Europe Year-round direct flights from London in the UK 11 hours and 50 minutes SriLankan Airlines
Europe Year-round direct flights from Moscow in Russia 8hours Aeroflot
Europe Seasonal direct flights from Zürich in Switzerland 10 hours Edelweiss Air

Asia Highlights tips: If you are traveling from Europe, SriLankan Airlines is the best option, as it offers non-stop flights from London to Colombo. Connecting through a carrier such as Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines is common. Scheduled fares from London to Colombo start at around 500 EUR return year-round.

Flying from Australia / New Zealand

Destination Non-stop / Need Transit Flight Time Recommended Airlines
Australia / New Zealand Year-round direct flights from Melbourne in Australia 10 hours and 45 minutes SriLankan Airlines

 

Asia Highlights tips: In addition to direct flight options from Melbourne, there are also a few one-stop options from New Zealand via Melbourne, Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. The most regular services are with Qantas and their budget subsidiary, Jetstar, which operates flights to Singapore (from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane) and Bangkok (from Sydney and Melbourne), from where there are direct connections to Colombo. Scheduled fares from Melbourne to Colombo start at around AUD 1000 return year-round.

Flying from Asia

Destination Non-stop / Need Transit Flight Time Recommended Airlines
Asia Year-round direct flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Tiruchirappalli in India 1–3.5 hours SriLankan Airlines / Air India
Asia Year-round direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in China 5–7 hours Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong; China Southern Airlines via Guangzhou / Shanghai
Asia Year-round direct flights from the Maldives in Malé 1 hour SriLankan Airlines / China Southern Airlines / Emirates
Asia Year-round direct flights from Jakarta in Indonesia 4 hours and 35 minutes SriLankan Airlines
Asia Year-round direct flights from Singapore Approximately 4 hours SriLankan Airlines / SilkAir / Singapore Airlines
Asia Year-round direct flights from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia 3 hours and 35 minutes SriLankan Airlines / Malaysia Airlines
Asia Year-round direct flights from Bangkok in Thailand 3 hours and 25 minutes SriLankan Airlines / Thai Airways

 

Asia Highlights tips: Sri Lanka is well served by major Asian carriers, including budget airlines like Air Asia. Service by SriLankan Airlines is competitive with several carriers. Many visitors combine a visit to Sri Lanka with the Maldives.

Flying from the Middle East

Destination Non-stop / Need Transit Flight Time Recommended Airlines
Middle East Year-round direct flights from Kuwait City, Muscat, Doha, and Dubai 4–5.5 hours All SriLankan Airlines, Kuwait Airways via Kuwait, Oman Air via Muscat, and Qatar Airways via Doha

Asia Highlights tips: Normally, the best way is to fly via Doha or Dubai, as these flights offer more options at a better price, nice flight service, and a comfortable seat. Scheduled fares from Dubai to Colombo start at around US$ 400 return year-round.

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On Arrival

Airport Airport

You can then stroll through the duty-free shopping area and descend the escalator to the baggage claim area to retrieve your luggage. You can also shop in the duty-free shopping area before going through customs. Walk into the arrivals hall and you"ll find currency exchange, travel, hotel, and telecommunications services. Local sim cards are available at the airport, and cost approximately LKR 1300 for 5 GB of data and LKR 300 worth of talktime.

Other Information

Travel to Sri Lanka by ferry: Though Sri Lanka is not reachable by train or road, there used to be ferry services from India to Sri Lanka in 2010–2011. Now, Sri Lanka is pushing for resuming ferry services with India. Once operational, it will help tourists from both sides to travel at a very low cost.

Travel to Sri Lanka by cruise: Several cruise operators, such as Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Costa Cruises, offer itineraries that include Sri Lanka, with most docking at Colombo.

 

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