Touch travel card in Sri Lanka: long overdue but lots of future opportunities

How does the Touch Travel Card Work?

The touch travel card is a fast, secure payment method for transportation in Sri Lanka. At present, the technology has been implemented on buses. To understand how the technology works, check out this short video:

So what does this mean for the average commuter? Read on for more.


1. Improved Efficiency: A ‘Tap and Go’ system where a prepaid card automatically pays the exact bus fare is a big improvement from the current system, where it can be a messy process to get change from the bus conductor (if at all). This means that lesser time is spent in the ticket/funds exchange process, which allows for shorter stops at bus halts, and faster journeys overall.

2.No More Carrying Cash: If you are one of those who worries about carrying the exact bus fare, worry no more. The technology ensures that all you need to do is to simply ‘tap’ the card against the device, and it acts like a debit card, but you can add money to it and the bus fare gets deducted from the card.

3. Secure payment system: This particular technology has been used in numerous cities around the world to great effect. This allows Sri Lankan commuters the peace of mind in knowing that they will not be overcharged.

touch travel card
The Touch travel card in action. Pic credits: Readme


1. Troubleshooting: As of right now, Dialog has a dedicated number should the technology fail. It’s imperative to iron out the kinks before its launched on a big scale, and then have appropriate support services (ie: dedicated troubleshooting telephone lines) to deal with problems/customer queries and complaints when they arise

2. Training: Bus drivers and ticket conductors will need to be trained to operate these devices, which will understandably take a little time.  However, once they are aware of the technical skills required to operate and repair the device, it should make getting on and off buses a lot faster.

3. Lack of awareness among public: Although the Touch Travel card has been available for some time, few people are still aware of it. Perhaps the bus conductors ought to promote the travel card to their passengers or put up internal signage on their buses to improve awareness among passengers.

Updated 23rd March: Dialog has a dedicated 24 hour hotline for Touch travel cards. Contact 1415 for more information on where you can purchase the cards. (free call if its a dialog mobile, if you are calling from a non-dialog number, standard charges will apply)

4. Recharge Stations: In a similar way, reports suggest that the card can be purchased and ‘reloaded’ via communication shops. However, if there is a lack of awareness, customers will not purchase these cards. Again, store signage and shop owners ought to show that the cards are available (Rs.200, where Rs175 is a refundable deposit.) and it can make life easier for frequent commuters.

Yal Devi, trains, sri lanka trains, jaffna,
Could Touch Travel Cards be implemented on trains like the ‘Yal Devi’?

Future ideas?

We have now laid the groundwork for a ‘tap and go’ mechanism of transportation. This gives rise to new opportunities in the future:

  • Student and Senior Citizens Travel Cards: A possible suggestion could involve a price discriminatory system where senior citizens and university students (who have less disposable income) could be charged a concessionary rate due to their lower earning capacity.
  • Tourist Travel Cards: Given that there are a number of tourists which arrive into Sri Lanka annually, selling these cards at airports could allow tourists the chance to use local transport to ‘see the country’ through the eyes of locals.
  • Expansion to Railways and the Southern Expressway: At present, these cards are only used for buses. It could be a viable solution to introduce these cards for railways as well as for individuals using the southern expressway/highway : which would mean fewer people waiting in queues in the train station and less cash handling when travelling on the Southern expressway.

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Disclaimer: The views shared in this blog are based on the macro economic conditions & industry status quo as per the time of publishing.

11 thoughts on “Touch travel card in Sri Lanka: long overdue but lots of future opportunities

  1. ThaNa Ñ Jayan March 21, 2015 / 1:54 pm

    It’s a good system to reduce the misunderstanding with conductors.


  2. Sam Baheerathan March 22, 2015 / 9:54 am

    This is a much needed system for public bus transport and i personally think this will solve many problems. Where can i buy these cards ?Problem is still conductors in the buses which have Touch stickers on them, don’t even provide tickets and they don’t have any ticket machines with them so how i’am i supposed use the card in those buses ?????


    • HNB Assurance March 22, 2015 / 10:13 pm

      Hi Sam, from what we know you can purchase cards from any ‘Touch’ branded communications shop


      • Sam Baheerathan March 23, 2015 / 9:33 am

        But i never seen any ‘Touch’ branded communications shops ??? don’t think that i’m living in mars :P. I live in colombo if u can give me a any specific location it will be much appreciated :).


      • HNB Assurance March 23, 2015 / 11:05 am

        Hi Sam, give a call to Dialog on 1415 (its a dedicated, 24 hour hotline for Touch travel cards). they have a list of places where you can buy the cards.

        Note: If you have a dialog phone its a free phone call, otherwise standard call charges apply. Hope that helps!


  3. Nabeel March 22, 2015 / 2:50 pm

    Where can i get this card from?


    • HNB Assurance March 22, 2015 / 10:15 pm

      Hi Nabeel, from what we know you can buy them from any ‘Touch’ branded communication shop. If you haven’t seen any, call Dialog on 1415 (its a dedicated, 24 hour hotline for Touch travel cards). they can tell you where to purchase the cards. (Its a free call if you have a Dialog mobile, otherwise standard call rates apply).

      Hope this helps you Nabeel!


  4. Aslam March 23, 2015 / 1:30 pm


    what’s the price of the card?


    • HNB Assurance March 23, 2015 / 2:18 pm

      Hi Aslam, its Rs. 200 as mentioned in the article above


  5. Suresh June 8, 2015 / 10:46 am

    These bus fellows won’t accept it but they pasted stickers on bus “you can use Touch travel card here” :/


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