Sri Lanka by Train

Train travel in Sri Lanka can be an adventurous experience. One fabulous way of exploring the tea country is to jump aboard the train. The morning railway journey from Kandy to the highlands of Nuwara Eliya, Ella or Dickoya, climbing uphill up to 6,000 ft above sea level, is one of the greatest railway journeys in the world: the dramatic landscape of the highlands stirs the senses as you wind past lush tea plantations, majestic peaks and rushing waterfalls. The Sri Lanka Railways – the government railway network, which was first started in 1864 during the colonial period – covers a wide network of routes that spreads across the island.

Sri Lanka trains have first class, first class observation, second class and third. First class is sometimes fitted with an observation deck, a/c, sealed windows and small television monitors and also has a flushable w/c. The first class observation carriage is air-conditioned and has seats looking out to the scenery and rail track as the train journeys. Second class has fairly spacious seating and toilet facilities. Third class is the cheapest option and is similar to second class, but tickets cannot be reserved in advance so having a seat cannot be guaranteed.


For the ultimate in luxury old world train travel you can even travel on Sri Lanka’s only passenger steam train, the 75 year old Viceroy Special. The private train has two air-conditioned observational saloons furnished in period style with 64 plush reclining seats and individual adjustable tables, and each saloon has an adjoining smoking lounge and modern toilet. There is a restaurant carriage complete with Edwardian ribbed fans and teak trimmed wood panelling. Speak to one of our travel consultants for more details.


Colombo to Kandy by train

The Colombo to Kandy line becomes more attractive as the journey extends. Journey times average about three-and-a-half hours which is almost comparable to rush-hour journeys by car on the busy Kandy road. Kandy station is off a 4km branch line from Peradeniya and after reaching the hill country capital then returns to Peradeniya top head off into the hills to its eventual stop in Badulla. As on all lines, delays are always likely.


Colombo to Galle by train

Colombo to Galle is an underrated tourist route, probably because it has no Observation Car and the trains can be crowded. At around three-and-a-half hours, it’s much slower than taking a chauffeur-guide drive down the highway and roughly comparable to the old coast road in the same fashion, but if you don’t mind the limited comfort and want to see the West Coast slowly unfold before you, it stays tight to the coastline for virtually the entire route as you enjoy the sound of the surf and the rattle of the train. Stations en route often include the tourist towns of Bentota and Hikkaduwa. It’s hard not to be reminded as you pass low-level sections protected by boulders of the damage wreaked by the 2004 tsunami.


Colombo to Jaffna by train

The train from Colombo to Jaffna also stops in Anuradhapura, on the north-west edge of the Cultural Triangle and one of the highlights of this region. The journey to Anaradhapura is a long one however you do it. Expect around six hours to Anaradhapura and another two to Jaffna, or split the journey by road and car and meet your chauffeur-guide wherever you choose.


Colombo to Trincomalee by train

The train line from Colombo to Trincomalee is an arduous way to reach the East Coast. It’s around six-and-a-half hours to get to Polonnaruwa in the Cultural Triangle, so to go the whole way requires large reserves of stamina. And that’s if it runs to schedule. If you are a holidaymaker seeking an uplifting experience, travelling with a chauffeur-guide and spending at least one night in the Cultural Triangle is so much more relaxing.


Pre-booking train tickets

Our company is an online travel shop for holidays in Sri Lanka, which means we sell any aspect that makes up a holiday. This includes train tickets.

Booking train tickets in a country such as Sri Lanka can be a tricky and time-consuming business, as the procedures and technology are outdated. It is important that we give priority to our own holiday customers who expect and deserve high levels of service. We regret that we must therefore request a minimum spend of US$300 on travel and accommodation to seek to book train tickets on a customer’s behalf. We are sure you will find our prices competitive and our standards high.


When pre-booking tickets with us please note of the following:

  • We regret that we must therefore request a minimum spend of US$300 on travel and accommodation to seek to book train tickets on a customer’s behalf.
  • We can book first class (observation -class) and second class train tickets in advance. Third-class can be purchased on the day of travel.
  • Full payment is required in advance (as part of the total cost of your tour).
  • We require client passport details for purchasing train tickets.
  • Tickets can only be confirmed 14 days before the start date of your holiday. We will refund in full, and as a priority, if we fail to obtain tickets.
  • Tickets are issued on a first come-first serve basis and cannot be booked online.
  • Government officials have priority, which means that tickets are sold strictly subject to availability, even after they have been confirmed.
  • Train tickets are non-refundable once successfully purchased.
  • Delivery arrangements will be stated on your Travel Voucher. Most often your tickets will be given to your assigned chauffeur-guide, but we can also arrange for delivery to your hotel (Colombo only) or for the tickets to be held at the station for collection.

Please note that first-class train bookings are notoriously difficult to secure during the following holiday periods due to high local traffic, but we will always endeavor to secure your booking:

  • Christmas Holidays: 20 December – 5 January
  • Sinhala and Tamil New Year: 1 April – 20 April
  • Perahera season: July and August

First-class tickets can also be difficult to obtain in February, as it is peak season for tourists.


Passenger Safety

Traveling on the train is at your own risk. We cannot take responsibility in case of an emergency, but you could get in touch with our Operations team who will assist in any way possible. Trains in Sri Lanka do not have slide-open doors – there are no doors at all – therefore please consider your safety and do not lean out of the train during the course of the journey.


Ticket Prices

To arrange pre-booking, we have to pay a supplement to a third party. Our train ticket prices are therefore set above the basic ticket price and are as follows:

  • Ticket price per journey (including admin fee): US$25 per person
  • Hotel delivery Charge (within Colombo only): US$ 10 per group
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