Anuradhapura is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

Get in

By plane

By bus

Buses travel along A9 highway, you can find buses from/to Colombo in Bastian Mawatha Terminal in Fort (five hours, every half hour, until 08:30) for a non-airconditioned public bus, costs around Rs. 350, Kandy (three hours, every hour two or more, until 18:30), Dambulla (hourly, until 18:30), Trincomalee (3 ½ hours, morning) and other destinations from the bus station in the Anuradhapura New Town.

By train

There are also two train stations in and around Anuradhapura, which can take you to/from Colombo (4 ½ hours, four each day), a first class seat cost around Rs. 500. To Kandy (change at Polgahawela).

Train service also runs to Anuradhapura from Matara (8 ½ hours, early morning), Galle (7 hours, morning). Two stations being in and near Anuradhapura.

By road

It is possible to get to Anuradhapura on the A9 highway from Kandy 166 km. The drive from Colombo is approximately 4 hours by private vehicle.

Get around

Tuk tuks and buses are abundant. The New Town is relatively small, and can be walked from one end to another in half an hour. The Old Town (archaeological site) is quite large, and you can get around by tuk tuk.


The ancient city of Anuradhapura was first settled ca. 900 B.C., and served off and on as the capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom until ca. 1100 A.D., when the capital moved further south. The city was quite large in its heyday, and so there is a lot of archaeology to see.

A 30 USD ticket covers admission to all the sites of Anuradhapura itself, and admission is included in the Cultural Triangle ticket($50 USD). South Asian nationals receive substantial discounts of USD 15 on entrance fees, Therefore, if you have a South Asian passport, make sure to carry it with you on your visits. Tickets can be purchased at the Archaeology Museum or at the entrance. Alternatively, most tuk-tuk drivers can get you in without paying the ticket but it is not recommended. Some of them offer to take you in and tour you around for a price lesser than the price of the ticket. Decide for yourself between supporting local economy and your budget or supporting maintenance of historical monuments. This old town' is quite large, so get a tuk-tuk if you want to cover all the sights in one day. Alternatively, some hotels in Anuradhapura can provide you with a bicycle, allowing you to roam around on your own. The old town is open to visitation until 5 pm.


Apart from seeing the archaeology of the ancient city, it is possible to explore the area, and to spend time in the Anuradhapura New Town. There are many shops in the New Town, as well as a market, and the interested visitor may wish to patronize some of these.


Souvenir vendors are abundant at the popular sites within the Anuradhapura old town, as well as at Mihintale. You can go to them to purchase postcards, replica artifacts, carved wooden figurines, earrings, masks and any number of other items. Vendors will also often follow you around, and will sometimes not leave you alone when you say that you are not interested. Some vendors attempt to sell authentic ancient artifacts. It is illegal to remove items older than 100 years old from the country, and you may face up to three years in Sri Lankan prisons if you are caught attempting to do so. Besides this, the looting of archaeological artifacts can lead to the destruction of archaeological sites, the loss of important artifacts, and ultimately, the loss of valuable archaeological knowledge. Please do not support looting by purchasing authentic artifacts. The vendor should confirm that they are replicas, and they should be priced as such.

There are numerous shops in the Anuradhapura New Town. Apart from food markets, there are photo shops, sari shops, and several others. Essentials can be purchased from Cargills Food City or at one of several pharmacies. Zam Zams has a wide assortment of products, from DVD-R discs to tupperware, and is a good place to look for anything you may have forgotten.


There are many hotels (Sri Lankan English for a small restaurant) in the Anuradhapura New Town, which offer an authentic Sri Lankan meal, at quite a good price. Smaller boutiques offer quick eats, such as pastries and rolls, which are also quite good and cheap. Stores and small markets in the New Town and surrounding area often carry snack food such as chips, chocolate bars and nuts, as well as cold drinks. Some also have fresh baking, and many markets sell fresh fruit. Lunch packets, generally sold between 11:00 and 14:00 are excellent for lunch. Unless you are a fan of spices, ask the staff not to put too many chiles, as authentic Sri Lankan food is very spicy.

The Nuwara Wewa Guesthouse has quite nice, though somewhat westernised meals. Non-guests can eat at the restaurant. There are numerous other similar guest houses, and the Tissa Wewa guesthouse gets good reviews.Also try at Hotel Shalini for tasty Rice & curry.

Cargills Food City is a small grocery store which carries many Western products, as well as fresh produce and meat. You can get all the essentials for preparing your own meals here.


The drinking of alcohol in public is not an acceptable practice in Sri Lanka. There are not many bars, and they tend to be somewhat secluded. Westernised guesthouses have a full bar, and Lion and Carlsberg are the most common beers. There are two alcohol shops in the Anuradhapura New Town, where you can purchase arrack, a spirit made from coconut which is popular throughout Sri Lanka, as well as rum, whisky, beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks.

Non-alcoholic drinks are abundant. Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, and Elephant soft drinks are sold at small shops everywhere, and water, juice, and other drinks can also be purchased at these. It is advisable to not drink unfiltered tap water, so it is a good idea to buy bottled water from small shops, or to buy large bottles from Cargills if you will be staying for a while.


There are numerous guest houses Anuradhapura new town, and many more budget accommodations. Prices at hostels start from Rs 1,500 to 2,000 per person for a night.

If you don't have and idea of where you'll be staying, any tuk-tuk driver will be happy to offer you rooms that he or his brother is renting, usually offering very basic comfort at a reasonable price (A price negotiation is necessary). Usually he'll take you to see the room for free before committing to rent one.


It is respectful, and indeed necessary, to remove shoes and hats when walking around sites of Buddhist veneration. The ground, especially the sand, can get quite hot, so step lightly and seek shade if you must.

It is also polite to circumambulate to the right; that is, walk to the left around the object so that your right hand, considered to be the clean hand, is constantly facing the object.

Women's shoulders should also be covered when exploring Buddhist sites, and respectful clothing should be worn. Sri Lanka is a very polite society, so please dress appropriately. One is also not supposed to turn their back towards a representation of the Buddha.

It is generally fine to take pictures, but be careful not to take any pictures of people in front of images of the Buddha.

Stay safe

Beware of the monkeys. Monkeys, particularly macaques (small, red-faced monkeys) can get quite aggressive, and have been known to steal personal belongs, including cameras, if left unattended.

Stay healthy

Anuradhapura has more malaria than just about anywhere else in Sri Lanka. Certainly the most in places frequented by tourists. it is advisable to consult a doctor before departure, as there is little prevention available within Sri Lanka, and it must be started in advance. In last 2-3 years there are very few case malaria have been reported in Sri Lanka, and there is no need to have prophylactic treatment for malaria when visiting Anuradapura, on the hand wherever in Sri Lanka there is a risk of Dengue fever.

Also, be careful not to become a snakebite victim. Avoid high brush without proper clothing, and don't stick your hand into dark or dim holes (including stone and masonry). If bitten, seek prompt medical attention regardless of whether there is pain and swelling.


There are many internet cafes in the Anuradhapura New Town. Anuradhapura New Town and suburbs are covered by most broadband internet service providers in Sri Lanka. Therefore reliable, low cost, high speed internet connections are available in many places.

There are numerous places from which to place an international phone call. Look for the "IDD" sign. There is a post office in Anuradhapura, as well.

However, pre-paid GSM mobile connections are almost free and charges are dirt cheap in Sri Lanka. It is more advisable to bring in a compatible handset and buy a new connection. It provides you instant access to IDD calls and high speed internet.

Go next

Nearby to Anuradhapura:

There are numerous other small towns and villages in the area around Anuradhapura, and it is possible to come across modern-day monasteries and temples, as well. It is worth exploring the area, as there are some beautiful and picturesque areas around Anuradhapura.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, October 29, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.