Travel to Vanni or Jaffna by road

18.05.03 These are few tips for those who intend to travel to Vanni or Jaffna from Colombo by road. There are several ways of doing this. There are buses leaving from Pettah in Colombo. It is quite safe to travel by bus. The only disadvantage is for those who take with them heavy luggage. The bus operators try to impose some restrictions depending on the operator. There is no uniformity among them. Even at the check points at Puliyankulam and in Muhamalai one will face some difficulties in carrying their own bags for examination. The other alternative is to take a train to Vavuniya and hire a van or a car from there to your destination. But hiring a vehicle in Vavuniya is not that easy. Hence it is best to contact someone in Vavuniya to arrange the vehicle in advance. The third alternative is to hire a car or a min-van in Colombo itself. A mini-van with air-conditioning will cost around Rs.9000.00 to Rs.10,000.00 for one way trip. I wish to emphasise that any vehicle with air-conditioning is a must not because of its cooling effect but such vans will have to have their windows closed and this helps in keeping the dust away. The roads past Vavuniya are in a bad state and there are several places where only gravel roads are found. And this makes the travel awfully dusty, unbearably dusty. Some van owners charge on a daily basis. The cost is around 15.00 or Rs.2250.00 if you were to keep it for a minimum number of days.. In January I had it for twelve days and paid Rs.30,000.00 plus food for the driver of course. The final alternative is for the sick and the elderly. They could seek the assistance of the Red Cross Society. But this has to be done well in advance. I am appending the address details for information for those who need it. Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Off Park Road Vavuniya Sri Lanka Tel :- 024 22447  (from overseas - 00 94 24 22447) Now I come to the dangerous part of hiring cars or vans. One should go to reputed places for hiring these vehicles. There are nefarious elements operating in Colombo. They could easily cheat you. I shall cite two examples for information and to evaluate the gravity of the situations and possibilities. One family hired a van for a sum of Rs.7500.00 much lower than the market price to go to Jaffna. Everything went well until they reached Murukandy, where they got down, did their prayers and came back to the van only to find that it had left without them with all their bag and baggage. The worst part is that they did not know even the name of the driver let alone the rest. In the other incident the driver stopped the vehicle in a quiet place off the highway, and at the point of a knife got the occupants to get off the vehicle and drove away leaving them high and dry. Hence look out for unscrupulous elements. I would suggest the following:- 1.  Go to reputed places to hire the vehicle. 2.  Get an official receipt for the advance paid. 3.  Note down the registration number of the vehicle. 4.  Check out these details and the ownership with the relevant documents. 5.  Note the I.D. card number of the driver. 6.  Leave these with someone you trust in Colombo and take only the photocopies with you lest these documents are taken away by force from you. My final, fervent and humble request is when you are passing Kilinochchi, please drop in at a few of the institutions like Gurukulam, Sencholai, Vennpura etc. etc. You could stay at the A-9 Lodge in Kilinochchi. Their phone number is 07134 5629. I am not suggesting for anyone to make any donation as such. But just take those children in your arms, give them a good hug and squeeze them a little and enjoy the celestial experience. It is an experience you will never forget in your life. I am telling this fom my own experience. That is why I go there so often - not to give but to receive. Wish you all a happy and safe journey. K.Mylvaganam