How to get from Kandy to Dambulla by Air-conditioned Bus
We struggled hard to figure out how to get from Kandy to Dambulla on an Air-conditioned bus. There was basically nothing useful online and the tourist information offices in Kandy weren’t helpful at all. They preferred to focus on referring us to their own overpriced Taxi services instead (7000 LKR was quoted to us compared to the local buses that go for 70 LKR).
So read on if you want to know how to catch a local non a/c bus or an air-conditioned bus from Kandy to Dambulla…
How to Catch a non a/c local bus from Kandy to Dambulla
Catching the normal non a/c bus is easy (once you find the bus station).
If you’re at the train station then you just need to go out of the parking area in front of the exit and then up the street around to your left (it is the street to your right if you’re looking at the station from the road). The local buses are a short walk up this street just after you cross the tracks on the left hand side of the road.
The longer distance buses including the ones to Dambulla leave from over the road and slightly further down. If you’re looking on Google or talking to locals, it is Goods Shed station that you are looking for. Here’s an excerpt from Google Maps to show you what I mean.
Prepare to dodge traffic as you get over to that side of the road here as there are A LOT of buses driving around.
There are a bunch of regular buses to Dambulla so all you need to do is make it to the bus station and find the buses clearly marked with Dambulla (although some stop there without being marked on the front of the bus as the end destination is further along). Each bus has a driver plus an attendant who takes your money so your best option if you don’t find a Dambulla bus straight away is to just lean in to a bus and ask one of the attendants. They are helpful and will point you in the right direction.
These local buses have basic bench seats without much padding, are pretty packed and don’t have much room for luggage. They are also HOT as there is no air-conditioning so you’ll have to rely on the breeze coming through the window.
There is no pre-booking here, just turn up and pay on-board. The price should be about 70 LKR.
How to Catch an Air-conditioned bus from Kandy to Dambulla
Dayna being pregnant and travelling with our big backpacks made us want to find an air-conditioned bus instead of the cheaper local buses (even ignoring the heat, we had read and seen how packed the local non a/c buses were so didn’t think we’d be able to fit our bags on there comfortably anyway). We managed to find out on forums that we should expect to pay about an extra 200 LKR for the privilege of having air-conditioning but we struggled to find anything else to guide us.
It is pretty easy though. No pre-booking required, you just turn up on the day. Once you’ve made it to the bus station (just around the corner from the train station as mentioned above), you should head to the covered platform. If you then turn right and walk to the end of this platform (towards the little shops) you should find the area the Dambulla air-conditioned buses leave from (the one we caught was parked as the last bus next to the shops there).
These buses apparently leave about every 25 minutes so you shouldn’t have to wait too long and they are clearly marked “A/C” on the front in case it isn’t obvious from the closed windows. They allowed us to bring our mountains of luggage on and fit it in at the front of the bus in a pile.
The air-conditioning did as we hoped and kept the bus nice and cool and the journey out there took a bit under 2 hours (even with this being an “express” bus). We paid onboard and it cost us 180 LKR per person. The bus did pick up people on the drive but we still had seats plus a spare for some of our bags for the whole drive. Worth the extra for the cool ride!
On the way back to Kandy from Dambulla we were dropped at the central Dambulla bus depot to get on a bus but this was not where the air-conditioned buses actually leave from. They come from a town further down the road but the buses do all stop there.
After watching a few of the cheap, packed, non a/c Kandy bound buses come and go, an a/c bus turned up (clearly marked at the front). The bus that pulled up looked completely full but they managed to squeeze us and our bags on board folding out extra seats to use the aisle space as well.
We were charged 330 LKR per person on the bus back to Kandy so we think we were stung with a bit of tourist pricing there when compared to the 180 LKR there. We stopped being grumpy with that when we realised we’re talking about less than £2 difference.
Looking for a great place to stay in Dambulla?
We loved our stay at Sevonrich Holiday Resort and couldn’t recommend it high enough for a stay in Dambulla. They will give you everything you need including delicious food and free extra touches like pickups, drop offs and daily trips up to a beautiful spot for sunsets. The beautiful home-made dinners were some of the best food we’ve had in Sri Lanka. Great value for money too!
*Some of the links used above are affiliate links – there is no difference in cost to you but we do get a small commission if you book or buy through the link. As always, we only ever recommend and link to accommodation that we have stayed at and thought was good or things that we use ourselves.