Trains in Sri Lanka are all about the views, the carriage experience and hanging out of doors and windows tasting the freedom and excitement of being so close to the world as your train winds up mountains, through tea plantations and forests.
It’s such a fun experience to share with kids - make sure you take at least one in Sri Lanka.
We’ve taken two trains in Sri Lanka so far, from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and then from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. These routes boast some of the most beautiful scenery around, and you have the best view from the open doorway in the open vestibule.
The doorways can get very popular so we grab our spots after we get on and put our bags up. Everyone wants photos though so make sure to share so people can get their pics of their partners or friends hanging from the doorway or out the window, or just have a turn of watching the world go by. I think we hogged it a bit on our first leg, so from Nuwara Eliya to Ella we were much better at sharing.
People selling food and drinks jump on and off the trains so make sure to grab some local food and enjoy everything about this amazing ride.
I loved riding in the train! I got to sit next to my mum in the doorway and watch everything go past. Sometimes the weeds hit our legs. It was lots of fun. When we were in our seats we talked to people and we met really nice friends like Martyna and Mattew from Poland. Our seats had a tale too so we could draw and play games.
Here are some tips from us:
Third class reserved seats:
We bought these both times on our trip, once in advance and once at the last minute. It’s a really good option. When you buy your ticket you’ll be given a seat number - there is no standing in these carriages so you’ll have your own seat and lots of space. Seats face each other in groups of four or five so it’s great for families.
You’ll also find it’s a good mix of tourists and locals in the carriage and its a fun time sharing the experience together and also getting to know locals on the way. These carriages have comfortable seats with an overhead rack for bags and at one end is the vestibule with an open door on either side.
The windows in these carriages are open - great for pics! - and there are fans on the ceiling so you’re never hot.
Second class reserved:
Much the same, two carriages with reserved seating and no standing.
Third class and second class:
It’s every man for himself to get a seat, and if you miss out you’re standing.
First class and observation carriages:
These are the fancy pants carriages down the front of the train with super comfy seats, TV and aircon. But that means no open windows and being removed from the nature, the people and the experience - in my opinion. I took this option many years ago when I travelled by myself in Sri Lanka - and while it may suit some people the experience of being in amongst life in the back of the train is way more worthwhile.
When to buy tix:
You can get them from ticket offices at the stations 30 days in advance - but if you’re disorganised like us and don’t, and you then find out all the tickets are sold out, never fear, there is an allocation released on the morning of the train trip.
We bought our first train tix two hours before the train from Kandy, and as we expected the Kandy station to be super busy (it was, a line of at least 15) we headed to a station about 10 minuets away and just walked in, no queues and bought our tickets. Some of the people in the Kandy queue missed out so it pays to be a little strategic when getting tix
Where to buy tix:
You can buy your tickets online at sites like www.visitsrilankatours.co.uk or just head on down to any train station. There are distinct windows for each type of class, so head into the correct one and buy. We found the staff really helpful - they’re used to us tourists loving on their train trips.
And enjoy! We hope you love riding the trains in Sri Lanka as much as we did xoxo