Traveling around Sri Lanka by train is one of the best ways to explore the country, from breezy coastal routes to lush tea country. Key hill country routes include scenic rides from Colombo to Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Badulla while trains from Colombo to Galle and Matara run along the coast from the western province to the southern part of Sri Lanka. You can also take a train to Batticaloa or Trincomalee in the east coast of Sri Lanka or travel from Colombo to the historical city of Anuradhapura and on to the northern peninsula of Jaffna
Most Popular Routes:
- To the Hill Country : Colombo – Kandy – Hatton – Nuwara Eliya – Ella – Badulla
- To the South: Colombo – Galle – Matara
- To the East: Colombo – Galoya – Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Trincomalee
- To the North and North Central areas: Colombo – Anuradhapura – Talaimannar/Vavuniya – Jaffna
- Colombo commuter: Negombo, Mt Lavinia, Kalutara, Puttalam, Avissawella
How to Buy Train Tickets
The two ways of purchasing your tickets would be to reserve them in advance or buy them at the station just prior to departure. While booking in advance ensures that you get seating in a compartment of your choice – 1st, 2nd or even 3rd class, you will still be able to get on any train with unreserved tickets that can be bought at the station even minutes before the train leaves. Reserved seating is most often limited and sells out soon but it is very rare for all unreserved tickets to be sold out, especially on long distance trains. Unreserved carriages are bound to be crowded and often may not have adequate seating, however there will be plenty of standing space and might even offer better views.
Tickets for 1st, 2nd or 3rd class reserved seat cars can be purchased at counter 17, the Berth/Intercity Reservations Office at the Colombo Fort station. The Sri Lanka Railways website through their partner website now offers Online Purchasing / Reservation of Train Tickets. There are several tour operators who will provide this service for you as well. These tickets can be booked up to 30 days in advance. Commuter trains and a few other trains will not take advanced bookings.
Unreserved tickets are only sold on the day at the ticket office, on some routes tickets are made available only an hour before departure.
At Colombo Fort station, specific ticket windows are designated for specific routes:
- Counter 1 for Anuradhapura, Vavuniya, Talaimannar & Jaffna.
- Counters 2 or 8 for Kandy, Hatton, Nanuoya, Haputale, Elle, Badulla.
- Counter 3 for Batticaloa or Trincomalee.
- Counter 4 for any station, 1st & 2nd class tickets only.
- Counters 13 or 14 for Galle & Matara.
What is The Train Journey Like?
- Sri Lankan railway stations are mostly old fashioned and do not use electronic boards to announce arrival and departure times. The Colombo Fort station does have one main electronic board. It is always safer to walk up to the information counter when you reach the station to double check on the platform number and timing of the train you are hoping to catch.
- Once you do get on board the drill is very simple. You can stow your bags away in overhead compartments and take your seats.
- You can carry your own food and beverages which is recommended, especially water. But most stations will have vendors selling snacks and both hot and cold drinks.