If you are going to Sri Lanka chances are you want to see Sigiriya rock and the Dambulla Cave temple. There are two ways for how to visit these places. First, you can stay at Sigiriya village if you want to spend a lot of time, or second, do a Kandy Day Trip.
The best way to do the day trip is to hire a private driver a it will be cheaper than online tours (assuming you are more than 1 person). We paid Rs 9000 for 10 hours for a private driver and the tours online cost more than $40 a person. This way the driver can stop whenever you want to take a picture or buy lunch and it is more comfortable to travel by a car than a bus.
We actually just hired the taxi driver who took us from the train station to the hotel. It was pretty easy for us, and I’m sure your driver will make you a similar offer as it is a way for them to make a good income. You can also use an app called “Pick me” where you can select the car size and order it. They will sometimes try to call you and ask for more money, just try to haggle and get the best deal you can or you can ask your host to help you to get a private driver.
Our driver picked us up at 7 AM and we went on our journey. It took three hours to get to the Sigiriya plus some hour we spent in the Spice garden along the way. That wasn’t our idea to make a stop at the gardens, but the driver came up with some weird excuse to pull over there. It was later that we understood that the driver was getting a commission out of what we bought from the spice garden. If you don’t want to waste time just say that you already have been to a Spice garden and bought everything you wanted. If you haven’t been to a spice garden you may as well see it as the tour is free, just don’t buy anything because prices are way more expensive than in a local market.
When you get to Sigiriya village you can of course hike the Sigiriya rock, but if you are on a budget, or would rather have a view of Sigiriya instead, then I suggest you to hike Pidurangala. This hill is not more than 10 minutes away, and it offers you a beautiful view of Sigiriya and the rest of the surrounding area. You can read my article about Pidurangala for more. If you are taking a private driver they will be more than happy to take you here instead (plus you save money on parking along with the expensive Sigiriya entrance ticket).
Sigiriya village is about a half hour from the Dambulla cave temple, which is an important landmark to see. The hike up to the caves takes about 20 minutes and is all steps. Entrance is 1,500 Sri Lankan rupees plus a 50 rupee tip for the shoes attendant.
At any point on your day trip from Kandy you can have the driver find you a place for lunch. Our driver took us to a great little local eatery where we had fresh coconut roti and tea, since our host at the Bee View Kandy made us a pack lunch before we left.
Location of Sigiriya: Thalkotta Rd, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Location of the Dambulla cave temple: Unnamed Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka
Private Driver: 9,000 Rupees
Dambulla Cave Temple x2: 3,100 Rupees
Pidurangala Entrance x2: 1000 Rupees
Tea and Roti: 100 Rupees
Tip (Optional): 1,000 Rupees
Total for 2 people: 14,200 Rupees