Ampara, Batticaloa, and Trincomalee districts each have small regional airports that are predominantly serviced by Helitours, an airline owned and operated by the Air Force. Flights from Colombo to all three airports take less than an hour by plane, or two hours by helicopter.
Helitours runs flights to/from Ampara and Batticaloa once a week in a twin propeller plane with 12 seats or a helicopter with 28 seats. Flights to/from Trincomalee run three days a week. However, the flights from Colombo leave from Ratmalana Air Force base in the southern part of Colombo, around 50km from Bandaranaike International Airport (a drive of 90 min to two hours traffic dependent).
In addition to the Helitours flights, Sri Lanka Airlines (operated by Cinnamon Air) offers a flight from Colombo’s international airport to Batticaloa via Sigiriya four days a week. Cinnamon’s flights are significantly more expensive, one-way including tax is USD $258 compared to Helitours’ $75.
Trincomalee and Batticaloa have trains from Colombo, but no rails linking them together. The only connection between Batticaloa and Trincomalee is to take the train back to Galoya Junction and change trains. Trains to Batticaloa run twice a day, once in the early morning and once overnight. There is one overnight train that runs between Colombo and Trincomalee. The train to/from Trincomalee takes approximately 10 hours. The train to/from Batticaloa takes approximately 8 hours, which is similar or longer than the drive by car depending on traffic in Colombo. The Batticaloa route comes via Polonnaruwa and also stops in Valachchennai (Passikudah’s closest town). Ampara district has no trains.
Trains in Sri Lanka tend to be slower but more comfortable than bus travel.
Full time tables are subject to change. The most recent times and rates are available from Sri Lanka Railway.
Colombo connects to Eastern Sri Lanka with several daily bus departures to destinations in Ampara, Batticaloa, and Trincomalee. Major coach companies offer tourist-class buses with air conditioning, televisions and on board restrooms. Overnight buses are available. From Colombo, Trincomalee is roughly 5.5 hours, Batticaloa is roughly 6.5 hours, and Ampara is roughly 7 hours by bus.
The three districts that make up the Eastern Province have similar levels of infrastructure. There are no highways in the Eastern Province. All of the main roads are two lanes. A main road artery runs the length of the province parallel to the coast. Car rental is readily available in Colombo. In many cases, it is more economical to hire a car and driver than a car alone. This is the recommended approach as driving in Sri Lanka can be stressful for inexperienced drivers due to heavy traffic and the poor state of some major roads. Traffic drives on the left side of the road.