Overview | Train | Taxi | Bus


How to get from Kandy to Jaffna?

The best way to travel the 320km distance from Kandy to Jaffna is via train. This train journey requires one transfer at Polgahawela Junction. The entire journey costs 900 Rs ($5) and takes around 8 hours, excluding transfers. Alternate options include taking a taxi (6 hours 40 minutes) and taking a bus (10 hours).

Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka receives very few visitors compared to other provinces in the Tea Country, but it has been slowly gaining tourist popularity after the civil war. From Kandy, the only direct option available is via a quite uncomfortable bus ride.

Train, Taxi or Bus?

Transport ModeDurationCostsAvailability
Train8 hours900 Rs ($5)Check train tickets
Taxi6h 40min20,100 Rs ($110)Book a taxi
Bus10 hours668 Rs ($3.70)Read article for info

Our most recommended option is to take a train from Kandy to Polgahawela and then transfer to another train going to Jaffna. This double train journey will take around 8 hours, excluding transfer time. Apart from taking the 1st half of this journey via train, you can also take either a bus or a taxi. Below, we give you a more detailed step-by-step guide.

Taking the taxi is the fastest yet most expensive option with fares starting at 20,100 Rs ($110). It is a good alternative option if you are travelling with a small group and prefer to travel door-to-door.

We don’t really recommend making this journey via bus. Only non-aircon buses operate from Kandy to Jaffna and they can be very uncomfortable for a 10-hour journey. You can also take air-conditioned buses via Colombo for 14 hours, excluding transfer time. Bus rates range between 668 Rs ($3.70) and 1,450 Rs ($8).


train icon

Kandy to Jaffna by Train

Duration: 8 hours, excluding transfers
Cost: 900 Rs ($5)

When taking the train from Kandy to Jaffna, there are 2 steps. First, you have to get to Polgahawela Railway station. Second, take a train from Polgahawela to Jaffna.

Step 1: Kandy to Polgahawela Junction by Train, Bus or Taxi

From Kandy, you have 3 options to get to Polgahawela Junction: via train, bus or taxi. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you choose your best option when going from Kandy to Polgahawela.

Kandy to Polgahawela Junction by Train

Duration: 2h 2min
Cost: 100 Rs ($0.60)

Unreserved seats are easily available at the train station on the day of your trip, with fares starting at 100 Rs ($0.60). But if you want to be assured of a seat, you have to book your ticket online at least a month before.

If you plan to book reserved seats for your connecting train ride to Jaffna, you have to be at Polgahawela before 13:00. You can choose from 3 trains that depart from Kandy in the morning, although only Train #1036 is available to book online.

  • Departs at 06:20 from Kandy Railway Station
  • Arrives at 08:17 at Polgahawela Railway Station

Note that if you take the train from Kandy to Polgahawela, you will have to wait 5 hours for the train going to Jaffna. You can use this time to go around the nearby temples or have an early lunch near the station.

Also, keep in mind that Polgahawela does not appear in online booking websites so you will have to book a train journey from Kandy to Colombo. You can also book a different train via other means as long as you arrive in Polgahawela by noon. Read further to find out the best way to score seats on unreserved trains.

See below our proposed schedule via Train #1036 from Kandy to Polgahawela. You can book your train ticket online via 12go.Asia in the link below.

Train ClassScheduleDurationCosts
2nd Class06:20-08:172h 2m2,890 Rs ($16)

Check Sri Lanka Railway Tickets

Kandy to Polgahawela Junction by Bus

Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 561 Rs ($3.10)

If you don’t want to wait 5 hours for a train transfer, you can also take the bus to Polgahawela Railway Station and time it well to arrive around noon. Travel time is 1 hour, including a taxi transfer. Make sure to allow extra time for traffic.

Take non-aircon Bus #662 for 45 minutes and costs 71 Rs ($0.40).

  • Departs from Goods Shed Bus Station, west of Kandy city center
  • Arrives at Kegalle Bus Stop in the city center

In Kegalle, hail a taxi to take you to Polgahawela Railway Station. This taxi journey takes around 20 minutes and costs between 490 Rs ($2.70) and 636 Rs ($3.50).

Kandy to Polgahawela Junction by Taxi

Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 3,450 Rs ($19)

An easier but more expensive option is to take a taxi from Kandy to Polgahawela. This is a good option to consider if you are travelling with a group.

You can hail one from the street or ask your hotel to get one for you. Fares range between 3,450 Rs ($19) to 4,540 Rs ($25). Travel time takes around 1 hour, but allow extra time for traffic.

Step 2: Polgahawela Junction to Jaffna by Train

Duration: 5h 46min
Cost: 800 Rs ($4.40)

From Polgahawela Station, several trains going to Jaffna operate daily. As you are making a transfer from Kandy, it would be best to take train #4017.

  • Departs at 13:01 from Polgahawela Railway Station
  • Arrives at 18:47 at Jaffna Railway Station

There are other trains operating from Polgahawela to Jaffna, but we recommend the above schedule if you want to book reserved 1st class air-conditioned seats. It gets hotter and more humid as you head north, so it can be uncomfortable on a non-aircon cabin.

Note that you have to book your tickets at least a month before when booking online. You can choose between a 1st class seat for 5,175 Rs ($28.50) and a 2nd class seat for 3,090 Rs ($17). Sri Lanka Railways operates on this route daily, but you will not find Polgahawela on any booking website. Book a train ticket for Colombo to Jaffna instead.

See below our suggested train schedule from Polgahawela to Jaffna via Train #4017.

Train ClassScheduleDurationCosts
1st Class13:01-18:475h 46m5,175 Rs ($28.50)
2nd Class13:01-18:475h 46m3,090 Rs ($17)

You can also check other train schedules via the Sri Lanka Railway website.

Check Sri Lanka Railway Tickets

*Train tickets are also sold on 12Go.Asia for a few dollars less. However, we recommend booking with BookAway as they don’t add a booking fee and time schedules & info are more reliable.

Unreserved seats

Booking unreserved seats is easy as you only need to buy tickets at the train station on the day of your trip.

From Kandy to Polgahawela, tickets for a 3rd class seat cost 55 Rs ($0.30) while 2nd class seats cost 100 Rs ($0.60). From Polgahawela to Jaffna, a 3rd class seat costs 340 Rs ($1.90) and a 2nd class seat costs 550 Rs ($3).

These tickets may be unlimited, but the seats are not! There’s a great chance you will be standing for a huge part of your journey, not exactly the kind of adventure you have in mind while taking the train.

Instead of risking it on an unreserved seat, we recommend that you book via a trusted local agency instead. Their tickets are much more expensive, but you will be guaranteed a good seat. Visit our page on How to Book Train Tickets in Sri Lanka for more details.


Taxi icon

Kandy to Jaffna by Taxi

Duration: 6h 40min
Cost: 20,100 Rs ($110)

You can get a taxi from Kandy to Jaffna for around 20,100 Rs ($110) when you book via Uber, although fares can be slightly cheaper or more expensive depending on availability. If you want to do everything in order to find the cheapest rates, you can also check the taxi apps PickMe and TaxiGo. However, these apps have very limited availability outside the capital city, Colombo.
PRO-TIP: Use the code “hpam1ue” or this link to order your first ride with Uber for free!


Bus icon

Kandy to Jaffna by Bus

Duration: 10 hours
Cost: 668 Rs ($3.70)

Direct buses are available from Kandy to Jaffna, but we don’t really recommend this option. The journey takes about 10 hours depending on traffic, and only non-aircon buses are available.

An alternate option is to take a longer route via Colombo, where more comfortable air-conditioned buses are available. This bus journey will take 13.5 hours excluding transfers, but it is a good alternate option if you want to visit the capital anyway.

Option 1: Kandy to Jaffna via Direct Bus

Duration: 10 hours
Cost: 668 Rs ($3.70)

Direct buses operate from Kandy to Jaffna every 2 hours, but this schedule can change so it’s best to visit the bus station early for current departure times.

Only non-aircon ordinary and semi-luxury buses are available for this route and they cost 445 Rs ($2.50) and 668 Rs ($3.70) respectively. If you really want to take the direct bus, we recommend that you go via a semi-luxury bus as they have better seats.

  • Departs from Goods Shed Bus Station, west of Kandy city center
  • Arrives at Jaffna Bus Stand in the city center

Option 2: Kandy to Jaffna by Bus via Colombo

Step 1: Kandy to Colombo by Bus

Duration: 3.5 hours
Cost: 350 Rs ($2)

First, you have to take a bus from Kandy to Colombo. This bus journey costs 175 Rs ($1) for an ordinary bus and 350 Rs ($2) for an air-conditioned bus. Travel time takes 3.5 hours.

  • Take bus route #01 from Goods Shed Bus Station, west of Kandy city center
  • Arrive at Colombo Central Bus Stand in Colombo city center

You can also check out our page for Kandy to Colombo for more details.

Step 2: Colombo to Jaffna by Bus

Duration: 10.5 hours
Cost: 1,100 Rs ($6)

When travelling from Colombo to Jaffna via bus, you have 3 options: an ordinary bus costs 540 Rs ($3); a semi-luxury bus costs 810 Rs ($4.50); and an air-conditioned bus costs 1,080 Rs ($6). Travel time takes 10.5 hours.

  • Take bus route #87 from Colombo Central Bus Stand in the city center
  • Arrive at Jaffna Bus Stand in the city center

See our page for Colombo to Jaffna for more info.


More routes to Jaffna

Colombo to Jaffna

More routes from Kandy

Kandy to Colombo

Kandy to Ella

Kandy to Negombo

Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

Kandy to Sigiriya

Most popular routes in Sri Lanka

Colombo to Galle

Colombo to Jaffna

Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

Colombo to Kandy

Kandy to Colombo

Kandy to Ella

Kandy to Nuwara Eliya


Was this post helpful?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 4

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

COVID-19 Limitations: Transportation services have limited availability and schedules might be less frequent. Please check our recommended booking websites for the most recent schedules.
COVID-19 UPDATE: Due to recent travel restrictions, most of the transportation services are currently unavailable or subject to change.