Trincomalee, often just called Trinco, is a city in North Eastern Sri Lanka. The city saw a lot of fighting during the civil war and remains an area of Tamil majority balanced by a large military presence, conflict mostly restricted to organization of crime, passive resistance, sabotage, and psychological operations. You'll see graffiti, you'll be under surveillance.
Now developing tourist locations, Trinco is famous for its nice beaches in the nearby Uppuveli (6km) and Nilaveli (12km) north of the city.
The Bus Station is located directly in town across the street from the clock tower and the market. The main cities serving Trincomalee are Dambulla and Anuradhapura (via Bus 835) to the east, as well as Kalmunai via Batticaloa to the south. There are even frequent buses from major cities such as Colombo(LKR300) and Jaffna in the north. From Dambulla or Batticaloa it costs about LKR150-200 to get here. Passengers flag buses to get on - so it can get rather cramped.
The Train station is about 1km North of town. Even though the train is an option, the bus is faster due to straight and flat roads (no mountains). Train journey from Colombo could take up to 9 hours. Two trains per day: 06:05 & 21:30. The day train changes at Galoya Junction for the last two hours. You can book 1st(on the Night Mail) and 2nd class tickets in advance but these usually go fast. You may need to book days in advance.
An Airbase is located about 7km south west of the town. The Sri Lankan Air Force operates commercial flights from Colombo (Ratmalana) to Trincomalee (China Bay), there are also private seaplane operators flying the Colombo- Trincomalee route.
Air Taxi Cinnamon Air , a domestic airline in Sri Lanka, operates flights from Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport to Trincomalee. Along the way, it makes a stop at Sigiriya. The total duration of the flight is 1 hour and 15 minutes. One-way fare per person is USD 227 (without tax).
Trincomalee is a very compact town but walking invites a tremendous amount of begging and street harassment, often from other tourists. The old town is particularly bothersome due to an opium tourism and long history of prostitution among colonials.
For longer trips tuk-tuks (ie three-wheeler rickshaws) are available at nearly every corner. The tuk tuk drivers you may meet in Trincomalee can be charming, the influence of street gangs isn't as strong, but the crooked guys do seem to have the best spots staked out. Recommend finding one good driver and staying with that trusted person the duration of your trip.
To go to Uppuveli (LKR20) or Nilaveli (LKR50) catch a bus from the bus station in town. Returning bus may not stop at Nilaveli if you are only one waiting.
You can also rent a bicycle or a motorbike for one day to go around Trincomalee city and the beaches, it's a nice way to discover the area.
- Fort Fredrick is an old Dutch fort located on a peninsula east of the town centre. It still has a strong military presence from the war - the whole peninsula is basically a military base - but it is quite friendly and a nice place to explore. There is a nice Hindu temple atop the cliff at the end of the peninsula with spectacular views.
- Uppuveli beach is about 6km north of the town and is a wonderful nearly pristine beach. To reach the beach take the bus north and get of at the church on the west side of the road 5-6km north of Trincomalee (watch the Kilometre Posts along the road). Directly after the church there is a side road leading directly to the beach along which there are already some hotels.
- Nilaveli, slightly farther north, is similar to Uppuveli but less crowded. There is a big military base right in the middle of Nilaveli, but the nice beaches make up for it. The main Nilaveli beach is long and pristine with no crowds.
- Pigeon Island national park, 1km offshore, can be reached with local tour operators (just ask your hotel or guest house) and is preferred for its white sand, rock pigeon breeding grounds and shark sights. It should be about LKR2000-3000 for the boat, National Park entrance, processing fee and VAT.
- Marble BeachGet the Mutur bus to Kinnia and ask for the Marble Beach Junction just before the bridge to Kinnia., 40ruppees or so. Ask the conductor to tell you when to get off. You must travel the rest of the way by tuk tuk - there is an army checkpoint and they will not let you walk the 2k to the beach.It is a set 150rupee fare and the ride takes you through beautiful countryside with monkeys peacocks and water buffalo. You will be stopped again at the Airforce checkpoint where you pay 20 rupees and they will give you a receipt. Keep this because you will need it about .5k further on when you get to the beach car park. There is a public beach to the right or you can get your tuk tuk to drop you at the spa to the left. All you have to do is order lunch and you can use the changing and showering facilities along with the beach shelters and sun-beds. Beautiful bay, shallow safe swimming with marker buoys for safety. Well worth the 1200 for fish and chips - which can be served at your sun shelter or in the restaurant once you have changed. To get back to the main road ask for a tuk tuk from the duty airforce soldier who took your ticket at the car park, he will call for one for you.
- Some interesting Temples can be found in Trincomalee, one close to the bus station on Dockyard Rd before the cemetery, and one on the inner harbor side along Custom Rd parallel to Post Office Rd (Kachcheri Rd). The latter temple is famous for its giant phallus symbol.
- Deer are a very distinct and local attraction in Trincomalee. They were brought in by Europeans and are visible everywhere on the Fort peninsula and close to the bus station.
- Arumbugal Foundation ([email protected]), ☎ +94 773 174 692. Arumbugal is an organization that employs people with disabilities. These people make handicrafts that are sold onsite and in some gift shops around Sri Lanka. Their mission is to provide a livelihood and stability for people with disabilities. It is a very enriching experience to visit the foundation and see and meet these people. Highly recommend stopping by to see. Give Mr. Krishnaa a call to arrange a time +94 773 174 692. Chayablue road, Alasgarden, Uppuveli, Sri Lanka. To raise funds, they also have two rooms for rent.
- A snorkelling trip to Pigeon Island is an interesting way of spending time in Trincomalee. There are local boats that will take you to this island for a fee of about USD30 (return). You can see the abundant sea life - sadly the coral is not respected much by the locals. The snorkelling should be done with great caution as some areas here are very deep, up to a thousand metres in depth.
- There is also dolphin and whale watching available from most of the guest houses on Uppuveli beach.
- Diving, Uppuveli, Nilaveli. Several dive centres in Uppuveli and Nilaveli can arrange diving tours, PADI dive courses, and they also provide water sports gear. Diving season here is around Mai to October (according to the weather). Great diving around Dutch Bay, underwater walls and caves.
- A Bus trip to Muthur will cost you LKR60 each way and take you for a 90 minute ride around the harbour. Picturesque scenery. Muthur is on the South Head of Trincomalee Harbor. Nothing much to do in the town itself. Walk to the Jetty. (During the Civil War the rebels fought for this town to deny the Sri Lankan Navy access to the Trinco Navy Dockyard). Buses every 30 mins.
Most guest houses and hotels will offer to prepare meals for you.
- There is an overpriced North Indian food restaurant at Green Park Beach Hotel to the south of the city centre on the beach.
- The Gem Hotel (3km north of town at the Uppuveli Rd and N Coast Rd junction) and Gem Family Restaurant (less than 1km north of Gem Hotel) serve huge portions of nice and loud Khottu Rotti for about LKR250.
- The dinner buffet at Chaaya Blue hotel at LKR 2,300 + service is good but drinks are expensive. Drinks are cheaper at Aqua bar at Fernando's which is a few min walk from the hotel.
- Homestay JohnAnthony, 16 Green Road (See the Sleep section for directions), ☎ +94 776 952 779. Local food, local price, friendly family. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also have cheap beer and ice creams, fresh drinks, rolls, samosas, coffee, tea, etc. Lunch/dinner LKR100-150.
- Ceylon Seafood Cafe (CSC), 12, Sarvodaya Road, Alles Garden, Uppuveli, Trincomalee (200 meters from main road), ☎ +94765689179. 7 am to 11 pm. Famous seafood restaurant that serves fresh seafood, live crabs and lobsters for sale. Self cooking facilities. Action cooking, BBQ and Live music. from Rs.100/=.
You can choose to stay out of town in some more quiet and relax places where you can really enjoy the tropical beaches; In Uppuveli and Nilaveli just walk along the beach and choose the guest house or hotel that fits you best. Shop around as the prices vary greatly.
If you want to stay in Trincomalee itself, you'll find an increasingly large number of guest houses south of Fort Fredrick along the beach. Once again shop around as prices vary greatly.
A few hotels and guesthouses are situated on Post Office Road and Green Road (just past the cemetery when you are coming from the bus station, 10-15 minutes walk).
- Sun Flower, 154 Post Office Rd (Kachcheri Rd), Trincomalee, ☎ 222 7078. A good option to stay in Trincomalee, located on the inner harbour side to the west of town. (October 2014) LKR1200-2500.
- Sunshine Hotel, Green Road, Trincomalee. checkout: 12:00. A nice and clean hotel in Trincomalee with a wide choice of rooms and prices (AC/fan), starting at LKR1200 for a single en suite room non air-con. Free Wi-Fi. (October 2014) LKR1200-2500+.
- Hotel De Arlis, 497 Dockyard Road, Trincomalee (Exit Bus Station right and walk 100m to Clock Tower. Under the Nestle Sign), ☎ 071 9552842. 3 double rooms with fan and attached bathroom - just a stones throw from the Bus Station. (June 2016) LKR800+.
- Homestay JohnAnthony, 16 Green Rd (From the outside it just looks like a little grocery-shop. Get inside and ask for John Anthony. It is very easy to get there from the bus station : When you exit the bus station, head left on Dockyard Road, you'll pass the Hindu temple on your right, the street market on your left, then the cemetery on your right, then straight at the end of the cemetery you turn right, now you are on Green Road, just walk another 20-30m, you'll see the shop on the right side of the street (second one). It takes about 10 minutes (walking) from the bus station.), ☎ (+94)776952779 ([email protected]). They also have a little restaurant, selling local food. Snorkelling gear, motorbikes and bicycles for hire. Well situated in the centre of Trincomalee, 10min walk from the bus station, 300 meters from the main beach (Dutch Bay), close to the market and Hindu temple. Free Wi-Fi. (July 2015) LKR700 / $5.
- Methodist Church Nilaveli, Nilaveli Road, Trincomalee (Approx 9th milepole, gps=8.679545407137166,81.19543971266285). checkout: price=. Absolute cheapest. Abandoned orphinage on the church grounds, outside shower and toilet. Very basic but good value for money. Rotating fans. Beach nearby. LKR250 per person (May 2016: Nobody there seemed to know of this. There is a two storey building behind the Church - but it's surrounded by an iron fence and padlocked) (8.679545407137166,81.19543971266285)
- Nilaveli Beach Hotel, . Great hotel nestled right in front of Nilaveli beach.
- Pigeon Island Beach Resort, 11th Milepost, Nilaveli, ☎ +94 26 49 20 633, . It offers 36 rooms (both air-con and fan), all of which have Internet, piped music and satellite TV facilities as further entertainment. Yoga centre, spa and fitness centre for adults, play room, reading corner and a secure outdoor playground for children. Best rates on official website start at USD68.
- Chaaya Blu Resort, . Fabulous resort hotel, situated just north of Trincomalee at Uppaveli village, a walk along the beach from Trincomalee. Great rooms on the ground floor with a simple walk out onto the beach and a great variety of food in the restaurant.
- The Residence (The Residence Nilaveli), Nilaveli Beach, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka (just off Pulmoddai Road, Nilaveli Beach), ☎ +94 765 404 846, . checkin: flexable; checkout: flexible. Situated a stone’s throw away from the infamous Nilaveli Beach right in the middle of the peninsula between the ocean and the lagoon, for years Nilaveli has been considered one of Sri Lanka’s most perfect beaches. It certainly has that feeling of paradise-island remoteness, with plenty of bending palms swaying over the golden sand. Owing to Sri Lanka's volatile past, this beach and the area is relatively untouched and mostly yet undiscovered making it even more attractive to exploring travellers and those who truly wish to get away from the madding crowds for an abundant dose of relaxation, sun and mesmerising sights at every turn. USD16-27.
- Alex Rooms (Alex Rooms Uppuveli), Uppuveli Beach, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka (just 2 minutes walk from the Uppuveli Beach), ☎ +94 77 66 35 639. checkin: flexible; checkout: flexible. Alex Rooms is a nice and quiet homestay only 2 minutes from the beautiful and quiet beach of Uppeveli. Some rooms have AC and all of them have a good WI-Fi. Some bathrooms may be a bit dirty, though. The family living there is really nice and the lady will cook you breakfast for 400 Rs and an excellent traditional rice & curry for 400-500 Rs. Rooms are from 1500 to 5000 Rs. If your budget is very low, you might be lucky to get a room for 1000 Rs with shared bathroom. Rs 1500 - 5000.
- Whistle Stop Cafe & Guesthouse, No 38/10 Beach Road, Alas Garden, (Uppuveli, Trincomalee), ☎ +94 77 584 2827, . checkin: 2 pm; checkout: 1 pm. Guesthouse is located in a very quiet area in Uppuveli. You can reach the Beach in 3 Minutes and the Main Road is just a stone’s throw from there. They currently have 3 Double rooms with attached clean Bathrooms / (1 Room has A/C), and are planning to get more ine the coming year (2016). The family is very friendly and relaxed, speak very good english. The lady is growing an organic garden, and cooks delicious, cheap, srilankan vegetarian meals. They can also give a lot of exellent tips about what and where to do everything. They do not arrange tours, so do not take commissions, which makes their tips totally reliable.
- Nature Inn (Chayablue road, Alasgarden, Uppuveli), Chayablue road, Alasgarden, Uppuveli, ☎ +94 773 174 692.. A great option to stay in Uppuveli, located near the beach. Profit made go to the Arumbugal Foundation, which has its shop co-located here. (September 2017)
There is decent and clean internet available at the public library for LKR40-60 per hour. The library is located on Dockyard Rd after the cemetery heading south.
The Bus Station is located directly in town across the street from the clock tower and the market. Main cities served from here include Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Kandy to the west, as well as Batticaloa via Passikuda to the south, Jaffna in the north. It costs about LKR200 to get to Dambulla or Batticaloa and takes 4-5 hours. Buses run frequently during the day. Note that these are public transport buses so you cannot take large pieces of luggage. However, a backpack or a small case could be placed on a seat next to you, subject to one being available and the conductor letting you do it (most will) and you paying the normal passenger fare for that seat.
The Train station is about 1km North of town. Train timetable available at http://www.railway.gov.lk/.
The bus journey to Colombo is very long, crowded and uncomfortable. The trains do not run frequently, at this time no more than once a day. Either mode of transport is hazardous from a tourist crime perspective. It is quickest and safest to simply go by rented or private car in Sri Lanka, avoiding the autorickshaw pirates as well.