Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Budget-traveler's Guide to Polonnaruwa

Hi friends!

I hope you are planning to visit Polonnaruwa next weekend. If your budget is a bit tight, you might be thinking of a way to overcome the situation. Don't worry. I too faced the same difficulties, but managed to balance everything successfully. Read this, and decide for yourself:

Polonnaruwa Moonstone


Do not hire vehicles. You can rely on public transportation. There is a good traffic of private and SLTB buses to the ancient city now. Catch one of them. If you start off from Colombo, Kandy, or a main city as such, you would certainly get a seat until you get to Polonnaruwa. That's comfortable enough.

When you reach Polonnaruwa, get down at the Bandaranaike Circus (Pola Junction). This is where you get tourist accommodations. Here you can choose from a cheaper ‘Pilgrims Rest’ to a hotel room which is more expensive, according to your budget.

The road deviates to two directions from Pola Junction; one towards Polonnaruwa New Town, and the other (road to Batticaloa) runs towards Kaduruwela where the hospital, Railway Station and the Main Bus Stand is situated.

View Larger Map


Look for good and cheap accommodation. When you visit Polonnaruwa, your aim is to visit the historical sites. Therefore you won’t be staying much at your accommodation. So, why waste money on a room that you would only use to keep your baggage and to sleep in the night? You only have to get a room at a place very close to the historical sites and the main bus route, so that you would not need to use hired transportation (such as Three-wheelers) to get to the place you stay. That’s saving money! There are guest houses, cheap (but ok) hotels, and pilgrims’ rests near Pola Junction and on the First Canal Road. These places are the closest to the historical sites of Polonnaruwa.


Visiting the historical sites too can be enjoyable, time-saving, and money-saving, if you manage the task carefully. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa spreads over 16 to 20 square kilometers, and that makes it impossible to walk and see everything there. The high temperature in Polonnaruwa would dehydrate you easily. If you are traveling alone, the best option is to hire a bicycle and ride all over the ancient city at your own pace. If you have a small family (you, your spouse and a small child) best thing is to hire a motorcycle (Scooty-Peps are there for hire at the entrance to the historical site).

I always prefer a motorcycle to a Three-wheeler because, a Three-wheeler would charge the same or more than the amount charged for a motorcycle; but on the motorcycle you are the rider and that gives you freedom of traveling and choosing where you need to stop and spend time. They would charge about 1500 for a Scooty-Pep from a local tourist. This amount can be a little more from a foreigner. Remember to take a bottle of water one-and-half litre size, especially when you choose to ride a bicycle. Enjoy a few drinks of freshly made orange-juice from the village ‘Cool Spots’ along the roads within the ancient city. Orange juice helps keep you re-hydrated.


When you are a budget traveler it is important to choose a good place to get your meals. It is always advisable to not to get meals from the hotel or guest house you are staying, because they bill you at the end of your stay. Meal charges get added up and you get a ten per-cent service charge plus a few more taxes over it. On the other hand, the meal prices too can be higher than ordinary at those hotels. At Polonnaruwa I had meals from a place called “Gemi Gedara” which offer buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner at quite reasonable rates. This restaurant and a few others are there at the Bandaranaike Circus, so you can try meals from one of them and save some money. There is also a vegetable-soup seller selling soup in a white Three-wheeler every evening, right by the side of the 1st Canal Bridge. His soup is tasty and can be considered a meal itself!