Tuk Tuk to Sigiriya Rock

Man it was hot when we stayed in Habarana. The day we went to Sigiriya Rock it seemed hotter than ever.

To be fair, we’d only been in the country for about two and a half days, but it was definitely the hottest day yet. Well, apart from that first evening in Colombo…


Our Habarana tuk tuk driver, Indika, had pestered us to allow him to take us to Sigiriya Rock. We had agreed to go by tuk tuk because we had read that Sigiriya was close to Habarana and that it was hard to get there otherwise. I mean, there are buses to Sigiriya from Habarana but they’re few and far between. Plus, Sigiriya is not on a main bus route like other places.

Sigiriya, although famous, is really just a tiny place. Apart from the rock itself there’s nothing but a dusty road with a few bars and a shop to constitute the “town”.

tuk tuk to sigiriya rock

View of Sigiriya Rock from the tuk tuk

We’d been a bit vague with Indika about going to Sigiriya when he picked us up from Habarana’s train station because we didn’t know if the price he was quoting us was right and we didn’t want to commit to a particular day or time just yet, so I put his phone number into my Sri Lankan phone and agreed to give him a ring to confirm when we’d sorted ourselves out and settled in. He wasn’t overly pleased with such a vague arrangement but it was the best he was getting.

The problem was that we didn’t want to just visit Sigiriya; we wanted to visit Pidurangala too (yes, on the same day – it can be done and it was – by us) and we wanted to take our time without rushing or being bound to a particular return time.

Indika was quoting us 2,000rs (13€) to take us, wait three hours and then bring us back. Obviously during those three hours he’d be available to ferry other tourists around in and around Sigiriya – don’t think he’d just be sitting around twiddling his thumbs.

So we had his offer in mind and had decided to talk it over and see how we could adjust it to fit what we actually wanted. (It’s always easier to do this when you don’t have a tuk tuk driver in your face).

Anyway, after we checked in at our guesthouse and went to explore Habarana, thoughts of our next plans were put to the back of our minds as we became occupied with other things in the here and now, like seeing wild elephants.

We didn’t worry about how we would get to Sigiriya again until that evening when we were walking along the busy Habarana-Polonnaruwa road into town for something to eat when we heard the toot-toot of a tuk tuk.

Every tuk tuk that passed us toot-tooted and slowed down just in case, but this one actually skidded to a stop right in front of us.

“My friends!” came the shout from inside…

This was nothing new either. Everyone is your friend here.

It wasn’t until the driver stuck his grinning face out of the tuk tuk and we saw the wavy, flowing hair that we realised it was Indika.

Oh damn, we’d forgotten to phone him.

“Tomorrow, Sigiriya,” he grinned. We smiled half-heartedly back. We hadn’t priced up other options. We hadn’t even looked at other options.

There was no getting away from this; it was time to start bartering. And we did want to go to Sigiriya the next day.

I tried to explain to him that we wanted to go to Sigiriya and Pidurangala.

“Yes yes, Pidurangala too.” He positively beamed, dollar signs appearing in his eyes. “I take you to Sigiriya, wait you, take you to Pidurangala, wait you, bring you back to Habarana…”

Every time he said take you or wait you, I could feel the 1,000s being added to the price.

“No no, we want free time,” I said. “No wait you.” I was adamant we didn’t want to be bound be time frames from tuk tuk drivers. At $30 a pop we wouldn’t be coming back to Sigiriya any time soon and we wanted our money’s worth.

Plus, what if we found enlightenment at the top of the rock and wanted to stay up there meditating?
Okay, that wouldn’t be very likely, but you never knew.

“Get in, get in,” said Indika, indicating his tuk tuk.

We looked at each other. We had read about tuk tuk drivers saying that they were going the way you were going and would give you a lift and then try to charge you when you didn’t even want a tuk tuk in the first place.

“Come on,” he said impatiently. “You’re walking to town [there was nowhere else we could be going] and I am also going that way.”

Toni and I looked at each other in silent understanding and mutual indecision.

“Come on,” he said again.

Ah well, what were warnings for if not to ignore? We shrugged at each other as we climbed aboard, knowing that we were both thinking the same thing: if he even dreamed of trying to charge us, not only would we not pay, but the Sigiriya deal would be off the table.

Of course Indika didn’t try to charge us for the three minute ride into town which we didn’t want.

He did pull over into the dust just before we reached the town and turned around to face us, a serious look on his face.

“So, I take you tomorrow. We go Sigiriya, I wait you, we go Pidurangala, I wait you. Then we come back. Okay? What time I pick you up?”

I said: ” you take us, you leave us, we call you, you come back and pick us up. How much?”

“Yes, yes,” Indika said. “We go Sigiriya, I wait you, we go Pidurangala, I wait you, then we go Habarana.”

I tried again. He didn’t get it. I wanted to be dropped off and call him when we wanted to be picked up. I didn’t know if it would be at 1pm, 3pm or 5pm.

“Yes, I wait you,” he grinned.

I started banging my head against the inside of the tuk tuk. What had I done to deserve this? Get me out of here! I begged Toni to help me. Toni tried and got the same grin, nod and “I wait for you”.

Then Indika came up with a genius plan when we were clearly not going for his current plan: “I take you to Sigiriya and then you call me and I come get you.”


“Yes!” We both cried. “How much?”

We got out of the tuk tuk with puzzled looks on our faces as we realised we had just bartered for 1,000rs each way: exactly the same as he was going to charge us in the first place including three hours waiting time. Still, we were so happy to get out of there and go and get something to eat.

And it seemed that the very next day we would be going to Sigiriya Rock… Yay!

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  1. Miranda says:

    Hi Lisa

    We are planning a trip to Sri Lanka and wondered whether you had a suggested itinerary that you used? Did you prebook a car and driver at any point?


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