Image: The Free Press Journal
The British built the Railway System in Sri Lanka back in 1864 for coffee and tea transportation between Colombo and Hill Country. Train journey in Sri Lanka has its own charm. The most exciting part of the journey is the experience of sitting by the window, breathing in the cool breeze and looking on the lush green forest and enjoying the sight of localities working in the fields.
Sri Lanka is a beautiful country that’s ideal for train trips. The route from Ella to Kandy is considered the most picturesque in the whole country. It is quite a tourist attraction and you can expect to experience local life and make new friends along the way. Enjoy local treats like mango achcharu, freshly cut pineapple and crispy isso wadai, boiled corn and many more.
Some useful tips for train travel in Sri Lanka
1) Sri Lanka Railways offer several classes for all kinds of travelers. Low cost 3rd class seats are not so comfortable and compartments are crowded but they are available on all trains. 2nd class seats can be found on inter-city trains. 1st class seats are comfortable and available on some routes. 1st class observation car can be found mostly on the Main Lines.
2) Check the train times and fares well in advance to save time. You can do so from the official Sri Lanka railways website. Checking the time locally by calling is the best option as schedules may change without being updated on the websites.
3) Sri Lanka Railways 2nd & 3rd class unreserved cars cannot be booked in advance. Tickets are only sold on the day at the ticket office, sometimes only an hour before departure. The unreserved cars are often crowded, whether you get a seat depends on whether you’re joining at the starting station or somewhere along the way, and how busy that day or time is.
4) You simply take your luggage with you onto the train and put it on the overhead racks above your seat. The overhead racks will take anything up to a large backpack or hefty roll-along size. Luggage isn’t usually an issue, nobody weighs it or worries about what you take.
5) Finding your train in most of the Sri Lankan railway stations can be a bit troublesome as they don’t have departure indicators or destination boards displayed clearly on trains. However, you will find an electronic arrival and departure board at Colombo Fort Station. Keep in mind that only the final destination is displayed and not the mid stops. For example, if you are going to Ella, your train’s destination might display Badulla.
6) It’s advisable to buy some snacks and a few water bottles in advance unless you are willing to try what is sold by Sri Lankan vendors. In each station you will get vendors selling a variety of inexpensive snacks known throughout the country as short eats. At each station, a new cast of vendors would step in, walking the length of the train calling the name of their offerings in a loud, voice.
A budget train tour in Sri Lanka is a very adventurous travelling option and also the best way to explore the natural beauty of the country. If you wish to take the train from Ella to Kandy, be prepared for an experience of a lifetime.