Getting there & away
The bus station is directly south of the clock tower. For Kandy, intercity buses (Rs 255, 4½ hours) leave every 45 minutes from 5.30am; normal buses (Rs 98, six hours) take longer. Buses to Colombo (Rs 300, 10 hours) leave regularly between 4pm and 8pm, some looping north via Kandy, others passing through Monaragala and Ratnapura. The Colombo buses can be prebooked.
For Arugam Bay you could minibus-hop via Akkaraipattu (Rs 32) and Pottuvil. Or, more attractively, leave before 1.15pm on any southbound bus to Siyambulanduwa and change there. For Batticaloa, minibus-hop via Kalmunai (Rs 30).
For the Hill Country there’s a 2.30pm service to Nuwara Eliya (Rs 80, 2½ hours), while 6.10am and 2pm buses to Badulla take a superbly scenic country route via Bibile. There are 10 daily buses to Buttala and Monaragala, several continuing to Matara on the south coast.
For scenic, weather-dependent hops to Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, Sri Lankan Air Taxi (019-733 3355; www.srilankan.aero/airtaxi) flies from a small military airport 5km northwest of Ampara town. Planes leave according to demand, most frequently on Mondays and Fridays. It’s US$200 per person (50 minutes), or US$800 for the whole plane.