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Train Travel In Sri Lanka: The Best Way To Travel


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Gabie Juarez



When it comes to exploring the stunning landscapes and picturesque destinations of Sri Lanka, train travel is undoubtedly the best way to immerse yourself in the beauty of this island nation. With its extensive railway network, traveling by train offers a unique and unforgettable experience, allowing you to witness breathtaking scenery, interact with locals, and delve into the cultural heritage of the country.


Sri Lanka’s train system dates back to the colonial era, and the British influence is evident in the architectural grandeur of some of the train stations. The railway tracks weave their way through tea plantations, lush forests, rolling hills, and coastal stretches, offering spectacular views along the journey.


One of the main advantages of train travel in Sri Lanka is the convenience it provides in accessing some of the island’s most popular sights and attractions. Whether you’re looking to explore the vibrant city of Colombo, visit the ancient city of Kandy, or witness the stunning Ella Gap, the train routes in Sri Lanka have you covered.


Not only is train travel a practical way to get from one destination to another, but it is also an experience in itself. The train rides offer a glimpse into the daily lives of Sri Lankans, as you’ll see locals going about their day, farmers tending to their fields, and children playing along the tracks.


With several classes of train available, you can choose the level of comfort that suits your preferences and budget. From first-class observation cars with panoramic windows to budget-friendly second-class compartments, there’s a class to fit every traveler’s needs.


In this article, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of train travel in Sri Lanka. We’ll explore the different train routes, discuss the types of train classes available, and provide tips for ticketing and reservations. Additionally, we’ll highlight some of the most scenic train rides in the country and offer alternative transportation options for those seeking different travel experiences.


So, grab your window seat and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the mesmerizing landscapes of Sri Lanka by train.


Sights and Attractions

Sri Lanka is blessed with a myriad of breathtaking sights and attractions, and traveling by train allows you to conveniently access some of the country’s most notable destinations. Here are a few highlights to consider:

  1. Ella Gap: Located in the picturesque hill country, Ella Gap offers magnificent views of dense forests, misty mountains, and cascading waterfalls. The train journey from Kandy to Ella is renowned for its scenic route, passing through tea plantations and charming villages along the way.
  2. Galle Fort: Situated on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that showcases the country’s colonial history. The train ride from Colombo to Galle allows you to appreciate beautiful coastal vistas and arrive directly at the heart of this historic fortification.
  3. Anuradhapura: For history enthusiasts, a train ride to Anuradhapura is a must. This ancient city is home to sacred Buddhist sites and ancient ruins, including the famous stupas and dagobas that speak to Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage.
  4. Horton Plains National Park: Catch the train from Nanu Oya to reach this enchanting national park, known for its diverse flora and fauna. The highlight of the park is the breathtaking viewpoint called World’s End, offering panoramic views of misty clouds descending into the lush valley below.
  5. Adam’s Peak: For those seeking a spiritual journey, taking a train to Hatton will bring you close to Adam’s Peak. Known as Sri Pada, this sacred mountain is revered by multiple religions and is a popular pilgrimage site. The trek to the summit to witness the sunrise is an unforgettable experience.

These are just a few of the many captivating sights and attractions that can be accessed via Sri Lanka’s train network. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or simply someone seeking adventure, the train routes in Sri Lanka offer a gateway to an array of destinations that will leave you in awe.


Train Routes

Sri Lanka’s railway network spans across the entire country, connecting major cities, scenic landscapes, and cultural sites. Here are some of the popular train routes to consider for your journey:

  1. Colombo to Kandy: This is one of the most popular train routes in Sri Lanka. The journey takes you through beautiful tea plantations, charming villages, and stunning landscapes as you make your way to the cultural capital of Kandy.
  2. Colombo to Galle: Traveling along the scenic coastal route, this train ride offers breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean and takes you directly to the historic Galle Fort.
  3. Colombo to Anuradhapura: This train route takes you to the ancient city of Anuradhapura, where you can explore the rich historical and archaeological sites.
  4. Colombo to Badulla: If you’re looking to experience some of the most spectacular views in Sri Lanka, take the train from Colombo to Badulla. The journey passes through tea estates, lush greenery, and charming hill country towns.
  5. Kandy to Ella: Considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world, this route takes you through stunning landscapes, including the famous Nine Arch Bridge and the mesmerizing Ella Gap.

These are just a few examples of the many train routes available in Sri Lanka. Depending on your preferences and itinerary, you can choose different routes to explore the diverse attractions and natural beauty of this tropical paradise.


It’s important to note that train schedules and frequencies may vary, so it’s recommended to check the Sri Lanka Railways website or inquire at train stations for the most up-to-date information. Planning your journey in advance will help ensure a smooth and enjoyable train travel experience.


Types of Train Classes

When traveling by train in Sri Lanka, you have several options when it comes to choosing a class that suits your comfort level and budget. Here are the main classes available:

  1. First Class: First-class cabins offer the highest level of comfort and luxury. These spacious air-conditioned compartments come with comfortable seating, large windows for panoramic views, and additional amenities such as power outlets and complimentary refreshments. First-class is ideal for those looking for a more premium and relaxed journey.
  2. Second Class: The second-class compartments are the most commonly used by both locals and tourists. They provide comfortable seating, adequate legroom, and large windows to enjoy the scenery. While not as luxurious as the first class, second class still offers a pleasant and affordable option for most travelers.
  3. Third Class: Third class is the most economical option. The compartments have wooden seats and are generally more crowded. While they may lack some of the comforts of the higher classes, third class allows you to experience train travel in a more authentic and local way, interacting with fellow passengers and immersing yourself in the cultural ambiance.
  4. Observation Car: Some scenic train rides offer observation cars, which allow passengers to enjoy unobstructed views of the surrounding landscapes. These cars usually have large windows and open-air seating, providing a unique and immersive experience, especially on routes like Kandy to Ella.
  5. Special Trains: Occasionally, special trains are operated during holiday seasons or cultural events. These trains often have themed decorations, entertainment, and an enhanced travel experience. Keep an eye out for special train services and consider them for a unique journey.

It’s important to note that not all trains or routes may have all class options available. The availability of classes may vary depending on the specific train and journey you choose. The cost of tickets also varies by class, with first-class being the most expensive and third class being the most budget-friendly.


Regardless of the class you choose, train travel in Sri Lanka offers a chance to interact with locals, enjoy stunning landscapes, and create lasting memories of your journey through this beautiful island nation.


Ticketing and Reservations

Securing your train tickets and making reservations in advance is highly recommended, especially during peak travel seasons in Sri Lanka. Here are some important details to know about ticketing and reservations:

  1. Online Booking: Sri Lanka Railways offers an online booking system where you can purchase tickets in advance. The website allows you to select your desired train, class, and date of travel. It’s advisable to book your tickets as early as possible to ensure availability, especially for popular routes.
  2. Train Stations: Tickets can also be purchased at train stations. However, it’s important to note that popular trains and specific classes can sell out quickly, so it’s best to arrive at the station early to secure your tickets.
  3. Reservation Fees: Depending on the class and train, there may be additional reservation fees. These fees are usually nominal and can be paid along with your ticket purchase.
  4. Foreign Tourist Quota: Sri Lanka Railways allocates a certain number of seats in each class as a “Foreign Tourist Quota.” These seats are reserved exclusively for foreign tourists and can be purchased at selected train stations. It’s recommended to inquire about this quota and its availability when purchasing tickets.
  5. Valid Identification: When purchasing tickets, it’s important to provide valid identification, such as your passport or national identification card. Make sure to carry your identification with you when traveling on the train, as occasional ticket inspections may occur.
  6. Refunds and Exchanges: Sri Lanka Railways has a refund and exchange policy for train tickets, but it’s subject to certain conditions. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the refund policy, in case you need to make any changes to your travel plans.

It’s important to keep in mind that while reservations are recommended, there may still be instances where you can secure tickets on the spot, especially if you’re flexible with your travel dates or are willing to travel in a less crowded class.


By planning ahead and understanding the ticketing and reservation process, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free train travel experience in Sri Lanka.


Tips for a Comfortable Journey

Traveling by train in Sri Lanka can be a delightful experience, especially if you keep these tips in mind to make your journey more comfortable:

  1. Dress Comfortably: Wear light and breathable clothing as the train compartments can get quite warm, especially during the daytime. Also, consider carrying a light jacket or sweater as the temperature can drop in the evenings or in higher altitudes.
  2. Carry Snacks and Water: While some trains offer food and beverage services, it’s always a good idea to carry some snacks and water with you, especially for longer journeys or if you have specific dietary preferences.
  3. Bring Entertainment: Pack a book, magazine, or download your favorite movies or podcasts to keep yourself entertained during the journey. Although the stunning landscapes will captivate your attention, having some form of entertainment can enhance your experience.
  4. Charge Your Devices: If you’re planning to use your electronic devices during the journey, ensure that they are fully charged before boarding the train. Some class compartments may have power outlets, but it’s always better to be prepared.
  5. Carry Essential Items: It’s advisable to carry essentials such as hand sanitizer, tissues, wet wipes, and a small first-aid kit. These items will come in handy during the journey, especially if you’re traveling in more crowded classes.
  6. Plan for Comfort Breaks: During longer train rides, there may be scheduled stops or stations where you can take a break and stretch your legs. Use these opportunities to explore the surroundings, visit the restroom, or grab some refreshments.
  7. Respect Local Customs: Remember to respect local customs and traditions while traveling on the train. Sri Lankans are generally friendly and welcoming, so embrace the opportunity to interact with locals and immerse yourself in the cultural experience.
  8. Don’t Forget Your Camera: The scenic beauty of Sri Lanka is truly spectacular, so be sure to have your camera ready to capture those unforgettable moments. Whether it’s the rolling hills, tea plantations, or charming villages, you’ll want to capture the essence of your train journey.

By considering these tips, you can ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable train travel experience in Sri Lanka. Sit back, relax, and prepare to be enthralled by the remarkable sights that await you along your journey.


Safety on Trains

While train travel in Sri Lanka is generally safe, it’s important to keep a few safety tips in mind to ensure a smooth and secure journey:

  1. Secure Your Belongings: Keep your personal belongings secure and within sight at all times. Avoid leaving valuable items unattended, especially in crowded compartments. Consider using a small lock to secure your bags if needed.
  2. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings: Pay attention to your surroundings and fellow passengers. While most people are friendly and helpful, it’s always a good practice to stay aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts.
  3. Keep Important Documents Safe: Keep your passport, identification, and other important documents in a secure place, such as a money belt or a hidden compartment in your bag. It’s advisable to carry photocopies of your identification as a backup.
  4. Avoid Overnight Travel: It’s generally recommended to avoid traveling overnight on trains, especially if you’re alone or unfamiliar with the route. Opt for daytime journeys whenever possible for increased safety and visibility.
  5. Follow Safety Instructions: Pay attention to safety instructions provided by train officials, especially during emergencies or when crossing platforms. Follow any guidelines or directives given by the staff for your safety and the safety of others.
  6. Be Cautious at Train Stations: Train stations can get crowded, so be cautious of pickpockets or any suspicious activity. Keep your belongings close to you and be mindful of your personal space.
  7. Emergency Contact Information: Carry a list of emergency contact numbers, including local authorities and embassy information. Having these numbers readily available can be helpful in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
  8. Travel Insurance: Consider obtaining travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, lost belongings, and trip cancellations. Having insurance provides an added layer of protection and peace of mind during your journey.

By following these safety tips, you can enjoy a safe and secure train travel experience in Sri Lanka. Remember that being aware, prepared, and cautious can go a long way in ensuring a worry-free journey.


Food and Refreshments

When it comes to food and refreshments during your train journey in Sri Lanka, there are a few options to consider to keep yourself nourished and hydrated:

  1. Onboard Food Services: Some trains in Sri Lanka offer onboard food and beverage services. You can enjoy snacks, beverages, and even hot meals on selected train routes. However, availability and menu options may vary, so it’s a good idea to check beforehand.
  2. Station Vendors: Many train stations have food vendors selling a variety of local snacks, fruits, and bottled drinks. If you have time before the train departs, consider exploring the station area and trying some local delicacies from these vendors.
  3. Packed Meals: For longer train journeys or if you have specific dietary preferences, you can opt to pack your own meals. Carry snacks, sandwiches, or even a picnic-style lunch to enjoy during the journey.
  4. Water and Hydration: It’s vital to stay hydrated during your train travel. Carry a refillable water bottle, which you can fill up at train stations or purchase bottled water from vendors. Staying hydrated will help you stay refreshed and comfortable throughout the journey.
  5. Local Cuisine: If you have the opportunity, consider trying some local Sri Lankan cuisine on your train journey. Some stations may have food stalls or vendors selling regional specialties, allowing you to savor the flavors of the country.
  6. Snacks and Refreshments from Home: Before your train journey, you may want to pack some of your favorite snacks or comfort foods to enjoy on the train. This can be a great way to have a taste of home while immersing yourself in the scenic landscapes of Sri Lanka.

Regardless of the option you choose, it’s important to remember proper food safety practices. Ensure that perishable items are properly stored and consume food from reliable and hygienic sources.


By planning ahead and considering your food and beverage needs, you can enjoy a delightful culinary experience and stay refreshed during your train journey through Sri Lanka.


Scenic Train Rides

Sri Lanka is renowned for its stunning scenic train rides, offering breathtaking views of lush greenery, rolling hills, tea plantations, and picturesque landscapes. Here are some of the most notable scenic train routes to consider:

  1. Kandy to Ella: Considered one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, the route from Kandy to Ella takes you through stunning vistas of tea plantations, waterfalls, and mist-shrouded valleys. Highlights of this journey include the iconic Nine Arch Bridge and the panoramic viewpoint of Ella Gap.
  2. Colombo to Badulla: This picturesque journey takes you through the mesmerizing hill country of Sri Lanka. Marvel at the lush tea estates, rolling hills, and charming towns as the train winds its way through the beautiful countryside.
  3. Nuwara Eliya to Ella: This captivating train ride traverses the scenic highlands, offering breathtaking views of the emerald-green tea plantations and misty mountains. Be prepared to witness stunning landscape transformations around every bend.
  4. Ohiya to Pattipola: This short but scenic train ride takes you through the highest elevated railway station in Sri Lanka. Enjoy panoramic views of mist-covered valleys, deep ravines, and dense forests as you travel through the pristine natural beauty of the Horton Plains.
  5. Colombo to Galle: While the coastal route from Colombo to Galle may not be as mountainous as the hill country, it still offers captivating views of the Indian Ocean. Witness golden beaches, palm-lined shores, and the iconic Galle Fort as the train glides along the picturesque southern coastline.

These scenic train rides are not only about the destination but also about the journey itself. The slow pace of the trains allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Sri Lanka’s landscapes, capturing memorable moments and experiencing the country’s natural splendor firsthand.


It’s important to note that certain parts of these train routes can get particularly crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. Consider booking your tickets in advance and arrive early at the station to secure a good seat by the window for optimal views.


Embark on a memorable adventure and be prepared to be mesmerized by the stunning vistas that unfold before you on these scenic train rides in Sri Lanka.


Alternative Transportation Options

While train travel is a popular and captivating way to explore Sri Lanka, there are alternative transportation options available that provide different experiences and allow you to reach specific destinations with ease. Here are a few alternatives to consider:

  1. Buses: Sri Lanka has a well-developed bus network that connects cities, towns, and remote areas. Buses are a cost-effective mode of transportation and offer flexibility in terms of routes and frequency. However, be prepared for potentially crowded conditions, especially during peak hours.
  2. Tuk-Tuks: Tuk-tuks, the iconic three-wheeled vehicles, are a popular mode of transportation for short distances within cities and towns. They offer a convenient and affordable way to navigate through busy streets and allow you to explore local attractions at your own pace.
  3. Taxis and Ride-Hailing Apps: Taxis and ride-hailing apps like Uber and PickMe are available in major cities and towns in Sri Lanka. These options provide a comfortable and convenient way to travel, especially for longer distances or when time is a priority. Make sure to negotiate or use the app’s fare calculator to avoid overpaying.
  4. Private Cars or Rental Vehicles: Renting a car or hiring a private driver gives you the freedom to explore Sri Lanka at your own pace. This option is ideal if you prefer a more personalized and flexible travel experience, allowing you to visit off-the-beaten-path destinations and have greater control over your itinerary.
  5. Domestic Flights: For longer distances or when time is limited, domestic flights are a convenient option to consider. Sri Lanka has several domestic airports, and flights can be booked to reach various parts of the country quickly and comfortably.

Each alternative transportation option offers its own advantages and considerations. It’s important to assess your travel needs, budget, and comfort preferences when deciding which mode of transport is best suited for your specific journey.


Combining different modes of transportation can also be a viable option to optimize your travel experience. For example, you can take a train for the scenic portions of your journey and then utilize taxis or tuk-tuks for local exploration.


By considering these alternative transportation options, you can tailor your travel plans to match your preferences and have a memorable journey exploring the diverse landscapes and attractions of Sri Lanka.



Exploring Sri Lanka by train is an incredible way to experience the beauty, culture, and diversity of this captivating island nation. From the scenic train rides that traverse through tea plantations and misty mountains to the historical and cultural destinations accessible through the railway network, train travel offers a unique and immersive journey.


In this article, we have covered various aspects of train travel in Sri Lanka, including the sights and attractions you can access, the different train routes available, the types of train classes to choose from, and the ticketing and reservation process. We have also provided tips for a comfortable journey, emphasized the importance of safety, and discussed food and refreshment options for the trip.


While train travel is undoubtedly an excellent choice, it’s worth mentioning that there are alternative transportation options like buses, tuk-tuks, taxis, and domestic flights, which provide different experiences and flexibility in your travels.


Whether you opt for a leisurely coastal ride from Colombo to Galle, a scenic journey through the hill country from Kandy to Ella, or any of the other captivating train routes, you are in for a treat. The breathtaking landscapes, the interactions with locals, and the enchanting cultural experiences will leave you with lasting memories.


So, prepare for an adventure of a lifetime, sit back, and let the rhythmic sounds of the train and the stunning vistas outside your window take you on an unforgettable journey through the wonders of Sri Lanka.