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Sigiriya Rock is Sri Lanka’s most popular icon and one of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka and I knew I wanted to start my Sri Lanka Backpacking trip here, however a quick google search on ‘how to get from Negombo to Sigiriya’ will tell you that were are no buses or trains direct from Negombo to Sigiriya, in fact you need to get 3 public buses! This put me off a little but the journey was actually simple and fine and I’m going to break the journey down in this post to help you get to Sigirya by bus so you can plan your Sri Lanka trip well.
First off, if you want to go to Sigirya first in your trip, which works well as a route around Sri Lanka, let’s touch on where the best place to stay is when you land at Colombo Bandaranaike Airport and why I’m suggesting leaving from Negombo rather than Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city.
If you want to visit Colombo, you should head from the Airport to Colombo and stay for a day or two. If you don’t fancy visiting a big and busy city as soon as you visit Sri Lanka you should stay in Negombo because it’s much closer to the airport, only 9km away in fact.
I was wondering ‘is it best to stay in Colombo or Negombo?’ but when I realised I wanted to leave for Sigirya the day after I landed, it made much more sense to stay in Negombo as it’s closer to the airport and it has a bus station with buses leaving in the direction you want to go in!
Some people stay one or two days in Negombo, if you want to do this it would be better to stay by the coast, however, if you want to stay for one night only as I did, stay at a hotel near Negombo Bus Station. I stayed at Visal Homestay which I’d recommend as it’s 1 minute from the bus station, has a lovely owner, is comfy and a good price.
First off you need to know that it will take you three buses to get to Sigiriya from Negombo.
Bus 1: From Negombo take bus 34 to Kurunegala.
Bus 34 is clearly shown in the bus station at the end of one of the bays. Negombo bus station isn’t too big. With all of these buses you just need to look up at the signage in each bay.
The bus from Negombo to Kurunegala takes about 2 hours. I was on an AC bus which are generally not the buses many locals take. There is a local bus too. It just so happened that the one leaving when I got there at 9:10 am was an AC bus. The bus cost 230Rs / £1.07 / $1.29 USD. Had I got the public bus this would have been much cheaper but it was nice being in AC and it not being in a packed bus! There wasn’t much room for my bag and it had to sit in a seat next to me but because the bus didn’t completely fill up this wasn’t a problem.
Bus 2: From Kurunegala to Dambulla.
I got dropped off outside Kurunegala bus station at 11:20 am and had to walk to the other side of the station where the buses going to Kandy and Trincomalee are. It’s likely none of the buses will say Dambulla on them as Dambulla is just a passing point so look on the signs for Kandy and Trincomalee.
I found that the guys hanging around the station were really helpful too so if you get stuck, always ask for help. By 11:50 am and a toilet stop in the bus station I was on my way to Dambulla in a local, public bus.
My biggest tip for getting local buses around Sri Lanka is to try and get your backpack to go in the space next to the driver at the front, they are happy to do this and it saves you trying to squeeze it into another part of the bus because there’s really no space anywhere else.
The bus from Kurunegala to Dambulla took me 1.5 hours and cost just 96Rs / 45p / 54c, so cheap! As long as you can get a seat on this bus, you’ll be ok. If not, be sure to hang on!
Bus 3: From Dambulla to Sigiriya.
This is where you need to watch out, my bus didn’t stop at Dambulla Bus Station and instead just passed through the city but thankfully the man selling the tickets on the bus told me to get off here, and you’ll find this a lot on the buses in Sri Lanka. The best thing to do is to ask to ticket guy or driver if you’re close to the front to tell you when you’re there. I also use the app maps.me to track where I am easily.
I got dropped off in front of a lot of tuk tuk drivers. I said I wanted to go to Sigirya and the tuk tuk driver told me the next bus wouldn’t be until 14:30 and it was 13:20 now. I knew this was bulls**t because I had just seen how regularly these local buses go and I knew that Dambulla to Sigirya and Sigirya to Dambulla by bus is a popular route for tourists and locals.
I walked off and walked to Dambulla Bus Station down the road, walked to the last bay and saw the public bus to Sigiriya which was bus 32. I jumped on at the station and we left pretty much straight away! We did wait out on the road for a bit but we were soon on our way and this journey cost me 40Rs / 18p / 22c and took about 30 minutes!
If you are over the public buses by this stage, you can easily get a tuk tuk from Dambulla to Sigiriya, there are plenty around and it will cost you about 1000Rs / £4.65 / $5.62 USD.
I actually stayed a bit further out from Sigiriya so I got off the bus early in Kimbissa to get to my accommodation in Sigirya called Kings Village Sigiriya which I really recommend.
Travel Insurance for Sri Lanka
Have you got travel insurance for Sri Lanka yet? Make sure you take insurance out before you go! I am insured with World Nomad’s who I really like because they designed by travellers, for travellers, you can even purchase insurance with them once you have left for your trip. Whilst you’re thinking about it, get a quote from them here!
Another one of the big questions I had was ‘is it best to stay in Dambulla or Sigiriya?’ I knew I wanted to see the Dambulla Cave Temple, located in Dambulla, but also Sigiriya Rock, located in Sigiriya.
In the end, I decided on Sigiriya as you can see, and I can confirm that it is definitely best to stay in Sigiriya, not Dambulla. Firstly, Dambulla is a city and it’s so nice being out in the countryside around Sigiriya. Secondly and most importantly, if you want to climb Sigiriya Rock at sunrise which is the most popular thing to do in Sigiriya, or do what I did which is to climb Pidurangala Rock at sunrise which is so amazing because you actually get to see Sigiriya Rock in the distance and it’s a 10th of the price you want to stay in Sigiriya. If you stay in Dambulla you will have to get up very early to get to Sigiriya for sunrise and pay a pricey fare for a tuk tuk!
Watch my YouTube video here to see Sigiriya at Sunrise and how to do it!
If you’re coming all the way from Negombo to Sigiriya Rock it makes sense to stay in Sigiriya and then if you want to go and see Dambulla Cave Temple you can catch the bus back into Dambulla to do this later in the day and walk from Dambulla Bus Station to Dambulla Cave Temple in about 15 minutes. Note that Dambulla Cave Temple is one of the only things to do in Dambulla which is another reason I suggest not getting accommodation in Dambulla.
Sigiriya offers lots of accommodation from fancy hotels to eco-lodges and homestays. Check the best accommodation for you in Sigirya on Booking.com here.
If the above seems too much for you or you are short on time, it is possible to visit Sigiriya Rock from Colombo on a day trip, you’ll also be taken to Dambulla Cave Temple so it will be a full day out.
This is the day tour to Sigiriya from Colombo I recommend:
Aside from getting a taxi or private car, this is the best way to get from Negombo to Sigiriya on budget, the local way!
To read more of my Sri Lanka posts see:
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
NOV-DEC: PROBABLY INDONESIA
If you want to join or read more about the details of the group tour.