From Bandaranaike international airport to Dambulla

March 1, 2021Niry Fidelis

Ever wondered what’s the cheapest way from Bandaranaike international airport in Katunayake to Dambulla? The secret lies in the fact that you should start using the Sri Lankan public transportation.

As I have already written in many of my articles about Sri Lanka, all the Sri Lankan cities are well connected by buses and trains, so if you start using them you can really save a lot of money. It really makes no sense to use taxis for your long distance trips and spend 300 times more unless you are carrying a lot of language or you are at an advanced age.

In this post titled “From Bandaranaike International Airport to Dambulla” I will give you a step- by-step procedure to reach Dambulla once you have landed at the Bandaranaike airport.

Here I would like to take a moment to say that unlike what people think the Bandaranaike International Airport is not in Colombo but in a city called Katunayaka. Katunayaka is 32 km north of the capital Colombo, or about an hour drive. This little fact is very important because you should take into consideration some routes which don’t involve passing through Colombo since it’s a chaotic city that could waste plenty of your time.

Step 1: From Bandaranaike International Airport to Dambulla.

At the exit of the airport there is a regular free shuttle bus to the Katunayaka bus station. The ride takes not more than 25 minutes.

Step 2: From Bandaranaike International Airport to Dambulla.

Once at the Katunayaka bus station catch the bus to Kurunegala. There are plenty of buses leaving for Kurunegala, one after the other; the ticket costs 90 Rupees (€0, 47) per person and it takes two and a half hours to reach Kurunegala. The red bus number five is the fastest one and it comes for 200 Rupees.

Step 3: From Bandaranaike International Airport to Dambulla.

Kurunegala is a main port of access to the centre-north cities. Here you will find the bus leaving for Dambulla. I caught the bus number 48, but there are many more options. Ask around if you need help; people are ready to help you out. The ticket from Kurunegala to Dambulla costs 86 Rupees (€0, 46) and it takes less than two hours.

In short, within five hours you can reach Dambulla with only 176 Rupees, meaning less than one euro.

Alternative to Step 1.

At the Bandaranaike International Airport there is a fixed price taxi counter. Book your ride here up to Minuangoda. It will cost you about 500 Rupees which is around 5 Dollars. This is the cheapest taxi option you can find. The journey up to Minuangoda will take 20 minutes.

Tell the driver to drop you close to the Kurunegala bus stop.

Read Also: The Ultimate 10 day Sri Lanka Itinerary for the lazy traveller

Using public transportation in Sri Lanka may sound a bit challenging but once you try it you will enjoy the real Sri Lankan culture. And, as you have already read here, it is the best way to save money while you vacation in Sri Lanka.

Know that there are no fixed timetables but don’t worry, buses run often. If I’m not mistaken, it’s every 15 minutes.

Comments (15)

  • Sophia

    April 14, 2018 at 7:50 am

    I Never knew cheapest way to Dambulla from the Bandaranaike international airport, until now!

  • MuNie

    December 15, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    is the bus operated at night?

    1. Me With My Suitcase

      December 16, 2018 at 7:09 am

      Yes, Sri Lanka has a fantastic night bus service as well!

  • Bryan

    June 17, 2019 at 1:14 am

    Hi Niry, this is good information thank you. If I arrive at the airport 10.00pm , do you recommend I take the shuttlebus to Katunayaka or the taxi to Minuangoda? I want to be in Kurunagala in the morning to take the train to Jaffna.

    1. Niry Fidelis

      June 17, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Hi Bryan, I suggest you the taxi, since it is faster and you don't have to waste too much of your time in the middle of the night. I'm sure that there are night busses from Colombo but I suggest you upon arrival to check at the airport if there are operating night busses from Minuwangoda as well.

    2. Bryan

      October 14, 2019 at 10:48 am

      Hi Niry, How do I find out if there are night busses from Minuangoda to Kurunegala? Do you think busses will be running around midnight or 1.00 am?

    3. Niry Fidelis

      October 14, 2019 at 3:07 pm

      Hi Bryan I'm not sure about the night busses from Minuangoda but I'm sure there are busses from Colombo.


    July 9, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Niry, thanks for your information. We're landing at the international airport at 17.25 (local time). We want to sleep at Dambulla the same day (we've just booked the hotel). Do you think that at this time is it possible to take a taxi to Katunayake and then a bus to Dambulla and arriving there before midnight? How often these buses leave? Thank you very much!

    1. Niry Fidelis

      July 9, 2019 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Maria, if you are landing in Katunayaka at 5.25 pm consider sleeping in Negombo the first night. You won't be able to reach Dambulla the same day. The day after catch the bus to Kurunagala and from there to Dambulla. There are no straight busses to Dambulla without a stopover in Kurunegala.

  • Rozalia

    December 11, 2021 at 6:48 pm

    Hi Niry, Im so grateful I found your website! I land at 2am. Would you suggest staying overnight in Negombo or going straight to Dembulla by train?

    1. Me With My Suitcase

      December 11, 2021 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Rozalia, glad to help you!
      I’d suggest staying overnight in Negombo.

  • Shreeyanka Kumthekar

    February 6, 2022 at 8:05 am

    We are arriving from India to Bandaranaike Airport around 2.30am. How much time would be required for Visa processing? What time in the morning do the buses towards Dambulla start? If we take upto 4am at the airport itself, do you suggest going directly to Dambulla rather than stay in Negombo? We plan to stay for 1 day in Dambulla. Please know your thoughts.

    1. Me With My Suitcase

      February 9, 2022 at 11:13 am

      Good Morning Mr. Shreeyanka. Thank you for getting in touch. Visa processing will take about 30 minutes. Busses are running also during the night time so, it is really up to you deciding. I suggest you go straight to Dambulla, if that is your first wanted destination. Meanwhile if you want to relax a bit consider staying a night in Negombo before starting your Sri Lankan trip. (I would do this)

      One day is pretty enough for Dambulla but where do you want to go next? While being based in Dambulla, you can also consider visiting Sigiriya. In this case, you should stay at least 2 days in the area.

      Hope this helps.

  • Vishwas

    March 8, 2022 at 6:38 am

    We will be arriving in Colombo international airport (CMB) afternoon at around 1 PM. Can I get an AC bus to Dambulla around that time?

    1. Me With My Suitcase

      March 8, 2022 at 8:03 am

      Hi, ckeck for AC bus services once at the Katunayaka but station.

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