Kandy was the last kingdom of Sri Lanka, and the Kandyans are proud of it. With its centuries old architecture and the inner city, Kandy is not a hard place to navigate. There is no labyrinth of streets and malls etc., but until you get used to it you may find it just a long walk up and down the streets. Because, being a mountain area Kandy is not symmetrical, nor is it a modern planned city. The city today has been built around as and when people settled down there and businesses kept expanding.
And then there are the other subtleties to master in navigating the city. There are some hotspots where random people would start casually appreciating your visit which will extend into giving you “instructions” until eventually he would start to follow you and demand a huge amount of money for their “services.”
If you have read my article about Kandy, and about some places to eat at, then this part will help you in understanding exactly how to navigate Kandy during your visit of 2 weeks in Sri Lanka. But if you an enthusiast in history then you may hire a licenced guide from an established tour company, not from the roadside.
Tourist Police Kandy
There is a police office in Kandy for tourist and it is located near the clock tower on the upper road near the bridge over the railway line. But you can also contact any other police officer in any emergency and they are usually quick to respond, that is in Sri Lankan standards of course.
Where does Kandy city start at?
The city of Kandy starts from the Peradeniya Bridge on the Colombo Kandy main road if you are coming from Colombo. The real rush of shops start somewhere around Mulgampola, approximately around the Heeressagala junction near Kingswood College. This would go up to the Temple of Tooth Relic, and then there will be some calm and quiet around the lake. Or if you are going towards Katugasthota, the city atmosphere will continue until the Katugasthota bridge.
The old city of the king is what you find around the temple of tooth relic, comprised approximately of Dalada Veediya and the streets branching away from it, and the Bogambara area where the prison and the stadium are. I will add a map of the area here.
Where is the centre of the Kandy city?
Do not confuse this with the shopping mall named KCC, or the Kandy City Centre.
Usually the centre of the city is either the clock tower or the Goods Shed area where you find the train station and the main bus station for long distance buses. The reason is mainly that when you come in a bus your last halt is either near the clock tower, or at the Goods Shed bus station.
What are the shopping areas in Kandy city?
As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog Kandy doesn’t have much as a shopping destination but that doesn’t mean that there’s no shopping malls in Kandy. KCC or the Kandy City Centre is the main shopping mall with some shops selling branded items. Here you will find Softlogic a company selling Samsung and other brands, Odel a shopping brand that sells high quality garments and fashion items, WAD Silva a name synonymous with high quality watches, and many other shops. There is also a food court with a wide choice of delicacies, Basking Robins, and a Burger King restaurant.
If you are looking for standard grocery items from a supermarket, the best place to go is the Arpico Super Market on Peradeniya road which is around 1.5 kilometres away from the train station. You may take a bus which will only take about 5 minutes to reach there, and the bus fare per person is 12 LKR. A trishaw might take around 100 LKR but you should always ask before hopping in. Please check it on the Google maps to see the exact location.
Peradeniya road also has some cheap shopping malls such as Kotuwe Kade (pronounced ko.tu.weh ka.deh) which sells essential items for cheap prices. If you are looking for cheap electronics such as an inexpensive rechargeable torch, or looking for cheap linen, or cheap fancy items, then Kotuwe Kade is worth going to.
Apple and Samsung in Kandy?
Yes they are, and with genuine warranty. Softlogic is one of the agents for Samsung in Sri Lanka, and they are present in the KCC shopping mall. Futureworld is an authorized seller and service provider for Apple, and they have an outlet in the KCC as well. If you want to buy an iphone or a macbook in Kandy, then Futureworld is the place to go.
Clothing items in Kandy?
Thilakawardhana Textiles is one of the most popular clothing shops in Kandy, and it is situated on the D.S.Senanayake Veediya. You can just ask someone where it is, or where the Trinity College is, and the shopping mall is located very close to the Trinity College. It is just a 2 minute walk from the Temple of Tooth Relic.
Odel is known for leading fashion brands, and their outlets are in KCC and the Queen’s Hotel Kandy right opposite the Temple of Tooth Relic.
There are many other clothing shops in Kandy along almost every street but be careful to ask for the price and then compare it with other shops’ prices. Sometimes a cheap quality item will be sold at a high price for which you could have bought a branded item. I always advise you to observe caution not because I suspect everyone but because I have seen how the shop owners price their items looking at the buyer. In the bigger shopping malls the prices are standard, and no one forces you to buy an item.
If you are looking for genuine leather footwear there is a family run business named “Banda’s” located on the DS Senanayake veediya (the main road running in front of the temple). They are known for affordable hand crafted genuine leather footwear for decades. When I was schooling the shop was known as Banda’s Boot Works and the shoe maker was the founder himself. I will mark it on Google maps if possible.
Buses in Kandy
As I said there are two main bus stands in Kandy. One is called the Goods Shed bus stand, and the other is called the clock tower bus stand. Goods shed bus stand is the main hub from which long trip buses set off while the clock tower bus stand starts buses on some short distance buses.
From Goods Shed you can take buses to Colombo and to other southern cities such as Galle and Matara. Buses to Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Trincomalee etc., also start from here. Buses to other destinations too such as Badulla, Hatton, Nuwara Eliya, Kataragama etc., start at the goods shed bus stand.
Clock tower bus stand is where you should go for short distance buses, while the Peradeniya buses start from a few metres away behind the Torrington Park.
Here are maps to all those bus stations.
Vegetable and fruit market in Kandy
Kandy municipal market is located conveniently in the centre of the city and you can enter it from many roads. The main entrance is facing the clock tower, an old looking building with many sellers doing their business outside the building too. You can go there and bargain, and feel free to walk the full length of it checking out what is available. But only if you can bear the noise of sellers calling people for attention at the top of their voice. Remember that you do not need any guide to visit this place as you will not get lost on your way.
This same market has the meat and fish stalls too.
Taxi services in Kandy
Uber and Pickme are the two popular taxi services in the major cities, and they are available in Kandy. But there are no-go areas for them as the other taxi drivers gang up against the Uber and Pickme drivers as the prices are metered and much cheaper than the other roadside trishaws. One such major area is the Train Station where the trishaw mafia have banned the cheap taxis coming to the premises. If any Uber or Pickme driver happened to pick you up at the train station they will be harassed and chased away by the trishaw mafia. But the solution is to just come out on to the main road and take an Uber from there. It is just a few metres, and you can see the main toad from the train station. Also noteworthy, don’t be fooled by the “approved taxi” or “tourist taxi” or any other boards displayed on trishaws as those boards are there to show that they can be trusted but the case is not so when it comes to the prices you will have to pay.
Another good way to find a reasonable taxi is to call your guest house in Kandy and let them send one for you. Some guest houses offer free pick up from the Kandy train station.
Best times to visit Kandy
You can visit Kandy all year round, and there won’t be much difference, except, of course during August when the famous Kandy Dalada Perahara takes place. During this month the prices of accommodation will double up or go even higher, and you will find it really hard to find accommodation within the Kandy city limits unless you reserve them well in advance. The traffic will be restricted and therefore the streets will be crowded at times, and buses will not start from their usual bus stations. Vehicles will be re-routed to other roads as some of the roads in the vicinity of the Temple of Tooth Relic will be off-limits for vehicles.
But that is no reason to be intimidated as you will be free to walk around the city during day time when the Perahara is not taking place. When the Perahara starts, however, you will find it very hard to find a place to enjoy the view of it. Usually the locals reserve their spaces a few hours before the night falls, and sit and wait there until the Perahara starts. It is a huge part of the local culture. So if you are interested in cultural events, August is the best time to visit Kandy.