Getting there & away
Anuradhapura has ‘old’ and ‘new’ bus stations – the old bus station is further north, closer to the train station. Private express buses leave from near the old bus station. Buses heading south start at the old bus station and call by the new bus station, while buses heading north to Vavuniya and east to Trincomalee start from the new bus station. It is easier to get a good seat from the starting point. There are departures to Trinco (Rs 47, 3½ hours) from early morning; to Kandy (CTB/intercity bus Rs 75/150, three hours), via Kekirawa and Dambulla, every hour or so until about 5pm; and to Polonnaruwa (Rs 46, three hours) every hour from around 5.30am to 6pm. Buses to Kurunegala (CTB/intercity bus Rs 45/100, two hours) leave every 30 minutes from about 6am; those to Colombo (CTB/intercity bus Rs 107/210, five hours) leave every 30 minutes between 4.30am and 7pm. For Puttalam you may have to catch a bus to Kala Oya (private bus Rs 20), and then another bus on to Puttalam (Rs 27). Buses to Kala Oya go past the road to Wilpattu National Park (get off at Maragahawewa and change for Hunuwilagama).
Anuradhapura has two train stations; the main Anuradhapura station and the smaller Anuradhapura New Town further to the south. Trains to Colombo depart at 7am, 8.40am, 2.30pm and 11.40pm. First-class seats are available on the 7am intercity express and the 2.30pm and 11.40pm trains. It takes four to five hours to reach Colombo, all being well. Prices are Rs 102 for a seat in 3rd class, Rs 191/309 in 2nd class for a seat/sleeper and Rs 420/520 in 1st class for a seat/sleeper. For Matara (9½ hours) and Galle (3rd/2nd class Rs 154/291, 8½ hours) catch the Rajarata Rajini at 5am. You can also travel between Anuradhapura and Kandy by any train, changing at Polgahawela.