How to spend 1 day in Kandy with a personal driver

In Kandy, we stayed in Kandy City House. The owner, Lucky, offered us a day trip with one of his friends. We would go to the elephants in the morning, followed by a visit to the tea factory, spice garden, botanical garden, a big Buddha statue, the temple of the tooth and we’d finish at the Kandy dance. Total price would be 6000 LKR for both of us (which is €33 or $37,5) plus 600 LKR entrance fee to see the Buddha statue.

We doubted a bit because it’d surpass our day budget, but we agreed eventually.

A few minutes after 7 am our personal driver arrived. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? He listened to the name Lala and was super friendly!

His English wasn’t that good, but we understood what he wanted to say. Only while he was driving, it was sometimes a bit too difficult because of the surrounding noize as he was obviously sitting in front of us.

We left at 7:20 as Katrijn still had to finish her freshly brewed coffee. The drive to the elephants should’ve been 1 hour, but we arrived around 8:35 as Lala stopped from time to time to show or explain us something. We saw the railway museum, the highway museum and at a certain moment he stopped on a bridge and pointed to the trees. ‘Bats’. And indeed hundreds, if not thousands of bats were hanging in the trees. Some were even flying around.

The elephant orphanage

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Once we arrived at the elephants it was clear to us that we didn’t go to the wild elephants (as Lucky kind of told us), but that we arrived at the orphanage. Before we arrived in Sri Lanka we said that we wouldn’t visit an orphanage because of the elephant riding etc.

Prices of the elephant orphanage

Lala told us that the entrance price was not included in the total price. Great.

Prices at the entrance were:

  • 5000 LKR pp for feeding, washing and riding the elephant.
  • 3000 LKR pp for a medium ride on the elephant
  • 2000 LKR pp for a short ride (20 mins!)
  • 1000 LKR pp to just see the elephants

1000 LKR is €5,5 of $6,25. You do the math… 😊

We told Lala that we didn’t want to go in because we didn’t want to support people who allowed elephant riding for fun. He then drove us to an even bigger orphanage that didn’t allow people to ride on the elephants.

Not riding elephants

At the second orphanage (Pinawalla) there was only one entrance price for foreigners: 2500 LKR. They assured us that you could not ride the elephants so we paid the 5000 (€27 / $31). People from SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) only have to pay 700 LKR.

At that elephant orphanage, they have a daily schedule for the elephants:

  • 8:30 Orphanage opens
  • 9:15 Bottle feeding
  • 10:00 Walk to the river
  • 12:00 Return from the river
  • 13:15 Bottle feeding
  • 14:00 Walk to the river
  • 16:00 Return from the river
  • 17:00 Bottle feeding
  • 18:00 Orphanage closes

When we went in they just started feeding the elephants. That means around 50 elephants were brought in front of the visitors where they could eat some palm leaves. 2 employees were guarding them with a nasty stick, which you can see below and another one was running around with a gun, just in case. We did not like this, at all, but at least they didn’t use them.

Whenever one of the elephants tried to leave the perimeter one of the 2 guards would point his stick toward him/her and he/she would turn around. You could clearly see that they were afraid of them. We were sad that we paid them 5000 rupees, but we kept positive.

Food for thought

One of the older elephants was separated from the group and brought to some kind of ranch with a stage. People gathered around the stage. On the stage were bananas, pineapples and watermelons. You could buy a basket of these fruits for 250 LKR to feed them. Nice, something positive!

The downside is that it is only 1 elephant who got fed. Or I should say who got stuffed. From time to time he turned his head around to give himself a break from people stuffing fruits in his mount whilst taking a picture for their Instagram. We obviously only did the latter 😉


It was almost time for their bath. Some other elephants came back from the river and were brought to the same ranch. They started taking sand with their trunks and they were throwing it on their back. Apparently, they use mud as sunscreen to protect their skin from the sun rays. Adults will often stand over their calves to cast shade and protect them from the sun.

Bathing time!

The only thing we looked forward to, as the animals could drink and bath. An adult elephant has to drink over 200 litres of water, each day! They drink about 60 litres of water at once. The elephants were lead across the street, through a shopping street, towards the river. All of the shops had to take their stuff inside as there were about a 100 elephants passing.

First one of the employees used a huge hose to blast water over the elephants and afterwards they could stay in the river for about an hour. At least we left with a happy thought.

Not spicy, please. Not spicy!

Lala was waiting for us at the parking and started his tuk-tuk again. When we were driving for 5 minutes he asked Yentl if he wanted to drive the tuk-tuk. Another 2 minutes later Yentl was driving like a real Sri Lankan. Lala’s words: “You good driver, you can work for me.”

After 15 minutes Yentl decided it was enough. Good call as we passed the police 500 meters down the road and we didn’t have our driving license with us.

We arrived at a spice garden. Guides will show you around in exchange for a fee, but we decided to walk around by our own. Lots of herbs and spices to taste and smell and we saw some special fruits too, like red bananas!

Tea for two, please!

Next up was a tea factory. Kadugannawa Tea Factory Garden Centre is the one we’ve visited. A guide will show you around for free and explain you the whole process in English. It’s English they’ve learned by heart and is well understood, but questions are hard as they’re not really good at talking in English. When the tour is finished you get a nice cup of fresh tea, served with Jiggery. Small cubes of honey you have to bite a chunk off and then drink your tea. So tasty even Yentl loved the tea! You can then buy some stuff at their local shop or give them a tip.

Botanical gardens

Another expense we didn’t foresee. The botanical gardens cost 1500 LKR (€8/$10) per person. We walked for 2 and half hours through the gardens and saw lots of beautiful flowers, cactuses and trees. It’s well worth the money. These gardens are free for the Sri Lankans and thus an often used meeting place for young couples. You can see them hugging and kissing their loved ones everywhere.

Did we mention wild monkeys? 

Buddha everywhere

There must be millions of Buddha statues in Sri Lanka, but the big ones are always special. This time it was a huge, white Buddha sitting on top of a building (Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue). Entrance is 250 LKR pp. You can climb the stairs behind Buddha and enjoy the fantastic panoramic view. Don’t forget to cover your legs and shoulders and to take off your shoes.

Temple of the tooth

Normally the next stop would’ve been the famous temple of the tooth which houses 7 teeth of Buddha. Entry is 1500 LKR per person. It’s an amazing building, but you can only see a golden casket in which one of these 7 teeth is placed. As we visited the temple the evening before we skipped this, but you should definitely go to the temple. You don’t have to enter the temple, you can go on the domain for free and not enter the temple. Make sure you’re covering your legs and shoulders. We had to return to the hotel for other pants the evening before… 😊

Kandy dance

The final stop of the day was the famous Kandy Dance. Lala dropped us in the street and told us to go behind a house, where we would find the famous place. A local showed us the way and told us that it was 1000 LKR entrance per person and that we could check out the place first. On the outside, it looked like an abandoned house on the outside, but inside it was a huge hall with lots of chairs and a theatre kind of stage.

We decided we had spent enough money for the day and that we were tired enough of the nightly prayers next to our hotel that we went back to the hotel.

What did it cost?

So instead of the 6 000 LKR we paid 15 000 LKR (6 000 driver + 5 000 elephants + 500 tea tip + 3 000 botanical gardens + 500 buddha). If we would’ve gone to the temple and Kandy dance it would’ve been 20 000 LKR. A whopping €110 or $125.

But it was worth it. It would’ve been nice if we knew the total price in advance, but then again.. welcome to Asia! 🙂

If you want to do the same trip, you can stay at Kandy City House or find a driver in Kandy. 

A day tour in Kandy, Sri Lanka
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