In terms of public transport, you can get to Trinco by either bus or train.
Air-con luxury buses from Colombo take about 7 hours to arrive in Trincomalee. The timing can be affected if there are roadblocks and police checks, but these are pretty infrequent. Buses also travel between Kandy, Anuradhapura and other major cities.
Taking the train is cheaper than taking the bus, but it takes a lot longer. The best train is from Colombo, and it has sleeper cars. You can book a ticket online, or you can buy one at Colombo Fort Station. Go to counter 17, which is just to the left of the main entrance as you look from the front of the station. It is not actually a counter but a room with a series of counters. Make sure you get in the right line, as they move woefully slowly, and each counter is solely for one particular route. You can pay with cash only, no credit or debit cards.
You should ignore the whiteboard just to the left of the door as you enter. It supposedly shows what special carriages are full on the various trains, but it is not accurate. You need to check at the counter.
Once you get to Trincomalee, you can hire a tuk tuk or van to get to your accomodations or take you around town. One happy customer recommends that visitors use Sanju Tours to get around, citing fair prices, flexible pick-up times, knowledge of the city, and friendliness. They also have cars and vans and offer safari tours. You can find Sanju Tours on Facebook.
Editor’s note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about Trincomalee transportation.