Updated: April 2014
Distance from Colombo: 115km
This guide tells you how to get to (and from) the hill city of Kandy.
||2:30 - 3:30 hours
||Rs. 187 - 400
||Rs. 180 - 1,450
||Roughly Rs. 3000 worth petrol
||Rs. 20,000 (about)
||Services are frequent, you can just show up at the Colombo Fort bus stand.
||Generally need to go in advance to the station.
||Not a fun drive, leave early in the morning
||Best way to go, but expensive.
Travelling by road is the most common way to get to Kandy, though at the same time many would agree that it’s the most stressful. Until the Colombo-Kandy Expressway is built, most of us have to take on the Kandy Road. Also known as the A01, Sri Lanka’s first A-grade road, the Kandy Road is famous for its tiresome traffic and frequent accidents.
City-dwellers head to Kandy on the A01, passing through Kelaniya, Ambepussa and Kadugannawa while suburbians from Battaramulla and Kaduwela drive on the New Kandy Road which joins the A01 at Belummahara. The journey usually takes around 4 hours with traffic, but the proposed expressway aims to reduce that to just over an hour, so there is hope.
That being said, the E03 (Colombo-Katunayake Expressway) offers another route that should get you to Kandy in 3 hours if the roads are clear. Once you get off the expressway, drive past the airport and head to Kurunegala and then onwards to Kandy. The roads are wide, well-carpeted and a pleasure to drive on. Plus, you’ll be avoiding all the traffic piling up on the A01.
If you're renting a car, Malkey is a good option.
Buses between Colombo and Kandy are both common and frequent, running right throughout the day and night with even more buses in operation during Perahera Season.
The No. 01 bus leaves from Pettah and stops along the A01, costing Rs. 155 for a normal bus and Rs. 310 for an A/C bus. The No. 17 on the other hand, leaves from Panadura and stops along the Galle Road before turning off at Dehiwala to head towards Nugegoda and Ethul Kotte to take the New Kandy Road. These buses run less frequently and cost Rs. 187 for a normal bus and Rs. 281 for a semi-luxury one.
The E03 route is a more stressful journey because you’d be taking a number of buses. From Colombo, hop on to the E03 bus from to Katunayake (Rs. 150), then the No. 5/245 bus to Kurunegala (Rs. 99) and finally the No. 609 to Kandy (Rs. 69 for normal, Rs. 140 for A/C). All together, the journey would cost Rs. 318 or Rs. 389, depending on whether or not you choose to take the normal or A/C bus on the last leg of the journey. Note that even the cheapest fare here is more expensive than a direct A/C bus to Kandy, so there’s no real value for money. Additionally, because you’re bus-hopping on routes that are less frequent than the No. 01 bus, you might end up either waiting for hours on end to catch the next bus, so the journey might take much longer than you expected. It all comes down to your luck at the end of the day. But if you’re up for the adventure, go for it.
If you’re brave enough to take on the A01 on three wheels, Godspeed. It should set you back about Rs. 3500 – Rs. 4000 if you’re willing to spend for the adventure.
Taking the train to Kandy is both fast and affordable, making it one of the most preferred methods of getting to the hill capital. Plenty of trains operate between Fort and Kandy, so a day-trip is feasible as long as you time it right. Early morning trains are also available on both ends, more so for Colombo, especially if you find yourself rushing back to make it in time for work. Although the scenery on the upcountry line is unmatched, the line to Kandy gives you a decent sneak-peek considering both lines share the same tracks from Colombo. The sunset on the evening intercity express back to Colombo is worth mentioning. The twilight sky and Bible Rock in the distance makes for a beautiful photograph if you’re lucky enough to get a snap.
Fares start at Rs. 180 for a third class ticket, Rs. 280 for a reserved seat in second class and Rs. 500 in the Observation Saloon or an A/C carriage. There are also the more luxurious options, with daily services from ExpoRail and Rajadhani. The ExpoRail runs on the 7:00 AM train to Kandy and the 3:00 PM train back to Colombo, costing Rs. 1450 one-way for an adult and Rs. 1150 one-way for children aged 3-11. The Rajadhani Express on the other hand, runs on the 3:35 PM train to Kandy and the 6:15 AM train back to Colombo at Rs. 1100 for a one-way ticket.
You can order ExpoRail online and regular train tickets if you have a Mobitel cell phone. Otherwise you need to go to the Fort Train station, well in advance for the Rajadhani or special trains.
Colombo To Kandy
Kandy To Colombo
|7:00 AM (E)
||Sat, Sun, Holidays
|3:35 PM (R)
||Friday - Sunday
||Mon - Sat
|6:15 AM (R)
|3:00 PM (E)
||Sat, Sun, Holidays
Cinnamon Air hops from BIA to Water’s Edge for a 20-minute layover before heading to Kandy. At USD 153, this is the most expensive option but also the fastest and probably the most scenic. Flights to Kandy touch down in the Polgolla Reservoir, about 6km away from the city centre.
What It Is
Often referred to as the hill capital of the island, Kandy is the capital of the Central Province and also the 2nd largest city in the country. Located between the Knuckles and Hanthana mountain ranges, the city serves as the ideal gateway to the central highlands. At 1526ft above sea level, the weather is pleasant and more importantly, cooler than Colombo. Over the years, Kandy has both cultivated and experienced its fair share of history and culture - so much so that in 1988, UNESCO declared the entire city a World Heritage Site. The city also maintains a strong association with Sinhalese royalty, never forgotten as the last capital of the ancient kings before it fell to the British Empire in 1815. No trip to Kandy is complete without a visit to its most famous landmark, the iconic Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) where a relic of the Buddha’s tooth is protected. The temple also hosts the world-famous Esala Perahera in July or August every year, attracting visitors from around the world to witness a pageantry of decked-out elephants, fire dancers and traditional drummers among many other spectacles.