Train from Colombo to Tea Country on Sri Lanka Railways

The mid-morning train from Colombo, in Tea Country.

Train ticket booking for Sri Lanka railway

Train from Colombo to Tea Country on Sri Lanka Railways

See Sri Lanka by train...

Sri Lanka is a fabulous place, safe, friendly and remarkably hassle-free.  Sri Lanka's railways are a great way to get around and a real cultural experience.  The most scenic routes will be highlights of your visit, in particular the wonderful journey from Colombo to Kandy and up into Tea Country and the coastal train from Colombo to Dutch colonial Galle.  British visitors will find the stations, signal boxes and old red semaphore signals very familiar!  This page is a beginner's guide to train travel in Sri Lanka.

Train times & fares for key routes

small bullet point  Colombo - Kandy - Nuwara Eliya - Elle - Badulla

small bullet point  Colombo - Galle - Matara:  The Coast Line

small bullet point  Colombo - Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Trincomalee

small bullet point  Colombo - Anuradhapura - Talaimannar/Jaffna

small bullet point  Colombo commuter: Negombo, Mount Laviniya, Kalutara, Puttalam, Avissawella

Sri Lanka railway information

small bullet point  How to check train times & prices

small bullet point  Interactive route map

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  Colombo Fort station & how to find your train

small bullet point  Luggage, food & other tips

small bullet point  What are Sri Lankan trains like?

small bullet point  A journey in pictures, Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

small bullet point  Video Colombo to Tea Country by train

Other useful information

small bullet point  Useful country information: visas, time zone...

small bullet point  Recommended hotels in Colombo & Sri Lanka

small bullet point  Travel to or from Sri Lanka by sea from India

small bullet point  Flights to Sri Lanka

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data packages, VPN


Useful country information

Train operator:

Sri Lanka Government Railways.  www.railway.gov.lk.  Also try slr.malindaprasad.com & www.lktrains.com.  Ticket booking, see 12go.asia.

 

Time zone:

GMT + 5Ĺ all year.

Dialling code:

 

+94.

Currency:

£1 = approx 440 rupees,  $1 = 365 rupees     Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.srilanka.travel   Find hotels in Colombo, Kandy & Sri Lanka

Recommended guidebooks   Tripadvisor Sri Lanka page

Hotels:

 

Hotel search & suggested hotels in Sri Lanka

Visas:

UK and most other western nationalities require a visa to visit Sri Lanka.  The easiest option is to get an e-visa online at www.eta.gov.lk

UK residents can also get a visa from the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, srilankahc.uk.

IMPORTANT:  Check current travel advice at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sri-lanka

Page last updated:

8 February 2023


 

Interactive train map...

small bullet point Click a route for train times & fares

small bullet point  Or click this link for a larger, detailed zoomable map

Map of Sri Lanka railways

 

© OpenStreetMap contributors, available under the creative commons licence.

How to check train times & fares

Interactive route map...

Click a route for train times & fares

Map of Sri Lanka railways

© OpenStreetMap contributors, available under the creative commons licence.

Tickets for unreserved cars

Tickets for reserved cars

 

How to buy tickets

Back to top


Colombo Fort station

Opened in 1917, Colombo Fort is Colombo's main station, right in the heart of the historic Fort area, walking distance from all the sights.  All mainline & commuter trains go from here.  Colombo has a second main station one stop (2 km) to the east called Maradana, most but not all trains stop here, but Colombo Fort is the best-located station to use.  See a map of Colombo showing stations.

Colombo Fort station
 
Ticket counters at Colombo Fort   List of ticket counters at Colombo Fort station

Ticket counters...  To buy tickets for unreserved cars, go to the relevant counter on the day of departure.  A board shows which counter sells tickets for which route.  The counters are all accessed directly from the roadway in front of the station.

Reservations office at Colombo Fort station   Reservations office at Colombo Fort

Berth/intercity reservations office...  To buy tickets for reserved seats cars, sleeping-cars or sleeperetts, go to the reservations office, labelled as counter 17 & accessed from the roadway in front of the station towards the left hand end of the station facade.  Inside the office there are different counters for different routes.  Allegedly open 06:00-14:00 but possibly until 17:00, closed for lunch 12:30-13:00.

Platform 3 at Colombo Fort station

Inside Colombo Fort station...  That's the station building on the left of this photo.  From the front of the station, you walk through one of several passageways past a ticket barrier onto platform 3, which is the platform visible on the left of this photo.  The train on the right is on platform 4.  The central footbridge - from which this photo was taken - connects mainline platforms 3-6.  The eastern and western footbridges connect platforms, 3-10.  Platforms 1 & 2 are bay platforms located at the east end of platform 3, top left of this photo.  The electronic departures & arrivals board is just out of shot on the extreme left of the photo.


How to find your train

Colombo Fort departures board   Old departures board at Nanuoya

Departures board at Colombo Fort.

 

Departures board at Nanuoya...

Luggage, food & other tips

Luggage on a Sri Lankan train   Luggage on a Sri Lankan train

Luggage on overhead racks on a blue train.

 

Luggage stack in 2nd class car on a blue train...

Back to top


What are Sri Lankan trains like?

small bullet point  2nd & 3rd class on classic trains

small bullet point  1st class observation cars, Colombo to Tea Country

small bullet point  Chinese blue train, Colombo to Kandy & Tea Country

small bullet point  S11 diesel trains from Colombo to Galle & Matara

small bullet point  2nd & 3rd class in newer cars on the northern lines

small bullet point  Night Mail 1st class berths

small bullet point  Night Mail 2nd & 3rd class sleeperetts

Classic trains with 2nd & 3rd class seats

The typical Sri Lankan mainline train has 2nd & 3rd class unreserved seats in elderly brown coaches like this...  Doors and windows usually remain wide open, the trains seldom exceed 50mph...

Classic train at Colombo Fort

A classic Sri Lankan express train on platform 4 at Colombo Fort...

3rd class seats on Sri Lankan train   2nd class seats on Sri Lankan train

3rd class seats:  3+2 across car width.

 

2nd class seats:  2+2 across car width.

1st class observation car

A 1st class observation car is attached to the rear of train 1007/1008 on the amazingly scenic route from Colombo to Hatton, Nanuoya, Elle, Haputale & Badulla, and to several other trains on that route, see the timetable here.  It has comfortable (if old) reserved seats facing large rear windows looking back along the track.  It's very popular & usually gets fully-booked, so book ahead.  Some of these observation cars are not air-conditioned so the side windows open, ideal for viewing & photography.  However, some cars now have air-conditioning, yours may or may not have.  Don't expect any catering, so bring your own food & drink.  Luggage goes on overhead racks above your seat, or on the floor.

Inside a 1st class observation car   1st class observation car at Colombo Fort

Pictured above, the 1st class observation car at rear of the 09:45 to Badulla, on platform 3 at Colombo Fort...

The Man in Seat 61 says "If you can get tickets for it, the 1st class observation car is the best way to experience and photograph the journey from Colombo up into Tea Country.  The excellent view back along the track gives an unrivalled picture of how this wonderful railway is constructed, often hugging the hillside with overhanging rocks..."

The Chinese-built blue trains

Introduced in 2012, these modern Chinese-built class S12 trains operate the daily Podi Menike and Udatara Menike trains between Colombo, Kandy, Tea Country and Badulla, see the timetable here.  There's a power car and driving cab at each end of the train, between which there's one 1st class air-conditioned reserved seats car, one 2nd class reserved car, two 2nd class unreserved cars, three 3rd class unreserved cars (one with a small buffet counter) and one 3rd class reserved car.  2nd & 3rd class cars are not air-conditioned and come with large opening windows.  Luggage up to back-pack sized fits on the overhead racks, or in the 2nd class cars there's also a floor to ceiling luggage rack for larger items.

Class S12 blue train at Kandy   2nd class car on blue train

A blue train at Kandy...

 

2nd class car.

3rd class seats on a Sri Lankan blue train   2nd class seats on a Sri Lankan blue train

3rd class:  3 unreserved cars, 1 reserved car.

 

2nd class:  2 unreserved cars, 1 reserved car.

A S12 blue train   Air-conditioned first class seats

1st & 2nd class. Note the smaller windows in 1st!

 

Air-conditioned 1st class (AFC), 1 car, all reserved...

The Man in Seat 61 says:  "These blue trains are way ahead of other Sri Lankan trains in comfort - although if you can get a seat in it, a 1st class observation car on a classic train would still be my first choice for a journey into the hills. But a seat in the 2nd class reserved car on a blue train would be my next choice."

Tip 1:  The air-conditioned first class car (AFC) is almost up to western standards, with fabric reclining seats, seat-back tables & ceiling-hung video screens, fortunately with no sound.  So if you absolutely insist on air-conditioned western-style comfort, this is the way to go.  But before you make a knee-jerk decision to go first class, think it through.  In the AFC car you are sealed in behind small and slightly grubby windows and you won't experience the journey fully.  You can't take decent scenery photos unless you nip to one of the inward-opening entrance doors.  You will experience the scenery far better in 2nd class reserved seats with their large open windows.

Tip 2:  The second class reserved car (SCR) is great option, with comfy seats, armrests & drop-down seatback tables, and a breeze wafting in through open windows.  If you find the SCR car fully-booked, a seat in the 3rd class reserved car (TCR) is a good alternative, so don't knock it - you are better off with a guaranteed seat in the uncrowded 3rd class reserved car with no standees allowed than without a seat in a full-and-standing 2nd class unreserved car.

Tip 3:  Avoid waiting at the wrong end of the platform, especially at an intermediate station such as Nanuoya or Elle!  The AFC & SCR cars on these trains are usually at the Colombo (West) end of the train between Colombo and Kandy, and at the Badulla (East) end of the train between Kandy & Badulla - these trains have a driving cab at both ends and change direction at Kandy, which is a terminus.  So at Colombo Fort when you walk off the forecourt onto the platform, look to your right and the AFC & SCR cars will be towards that end of the platform.  When you board at Kandy, the AFC & SCR cars will usually be furthest from the buffer stops.

Tip 4:  You usually board the AFC or SCR cars through the AFC doorway next to the SCR - the attendant may have locked other exterior doors to control access to the reserved cars.  Similarly, the internal gangway door between the AFC/SCR cars and the rest of the train will probably be locked, so don't expect to visit the buffet.  Bring your own food & drink, although the tea wallah has been known to make it into the 2nd reserved car - that hot sweet tea is lovely, do try it!

S11 diesel trains

Introduced in 2011, these trains operate key departures on the Colombo-Galle-Matara route - other departures are classic trains.  They have 2nd & 3rd class unreserved seats, with a power car at one end and a driving cab at both ends.  Like most Sri Lankan trains, the doors normally remain wide open while the train is moving.  The 2nd class seats are comfortable and have drop down tables and armrests.

S11 train at Kalutara South   2nd class seats on a Colombo to Galle S11 train

A class S11 at Kalutara South, en route to Galle...

 

2nd class unreserved seats...

Newer 2nd & 3rd class trains

Sri Lankan Railways has some newer Chinese-built cars like this, which you'll usually find on the northern routes, for example certain trains from Colombo to Jaffna, Talaimannar & Batticaloa.  A big improvement on the classic trains.

Newer cars on a Sri Lankan train

A train at Colombo Fort...

3rd class seats   2nd class seats

3rd class unreserved seats...

 

2nd class seats, reserved or unreserved...

Night Mail 1st class berths

A 1st class sleeping-car is attached to a handful of Night Mail trains.  The cars have lockable 2-berth compartments with separate toilet & washbasin.  The cars are old, fairly basic and a tad grubby, so manage expectations accordingly, but they are comfortable enough with clean bedding provided.  There's only one sleeping-car per train, they are very popular and usually get fully-booked soon after bookings open.  So book ahead, and have a plan B if you can't get a sleeper.  Pictured below is the distinctly-Indian design of sleeper on the Night Mail from Colombo to Badulla.

Corridor of Sri Lanka Railways sleeping-car   Sleeper on the Colombo to Badula Night Mail train   2-bed sleeper on Colombo to Badulla Night Mail train

Sleeper corridor...

 

A distinctly Indian-designed sleeper on the Night Mail to Badulla, at Colombo Fort...

Night Mail 2nd & 3rd class sleeperetts

Sleeperetts are reserved seats which recline to about 30-40 degrees.  Night Mail trains typically have one 2nd class reserved sleeperett car, one 3rd class reserved sleeperett car, and several unreserved 2nd & 3rd class regular seats cars.

Sleeperett cars on the Colombo to Batticaloa Night Mail train

Sleeperett cars on the Night Mail from Colombo Fort to Batticaloa...

2nd class sleeperetts   3rd class sleeperetts

2nd class reserved sleeperetts...

 

3rd class reserved sleeperetts...

Back to top


Colombo - Kandy - Badulla

The train ride from Colombo to Kandy and up into the tea plantations of Sri Lanka's hill country is truly wonderful, not just transportation but a classic journey that's easily the best train ride in Sri Lanka.  I recommend a reserved seat in the 1st class observation car if you can get one, failing that a seat in the 2nd or 3rd class reserved cars on one of the excellent new Chinese-built blue trains.  See the journey from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya in pictures & watch the video!

Sri Lanka Railways regularly tweaks its timetable, so check current times as shown here

 Colombo ► Kandy ► Nuwara Eliya, Haputale, Elle, Badulla

Km

Days of running:

Daily

Saturday

Daily

Sat, Sun

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Sat, Sun

Mon-Sat

Daily

Daily

Reserved seat classes:

O

1,2

1,2,3

1,2,3

O,2,3

1,2,3

O

1

-

1

-

1,2

-

Sleeper

 Unreserved seat classes:

2,3

-

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

-

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

Train number:

1126

1041***

1005*

1031

1009

1015**

1007

1019

1023

1029

1035

1037

1039

1045

0

 Colombo Fort depart:

-

05:30

05:55

06:30

07:00

08:30

09:45

10:35

12:40

15:35

16:35

17:10

17:45

20:30

115

 Peradeniya Junction

-

|

|

|

09:28

|

12:25

13:43

|

17:56

19:20

19:41

20:43

23:38

121

 Kandy arrive:

-

|

08:47

09:18

09:38

11:03

|

14:00

15:59

18:08

19:43

19:44

20:55

|

121

 Kandy depart:

03:35

|

08:47

-

-

11:10

|

-

17:00

-

-

-

-

|

173

 Hatton (for Adam's peak)

07:12

1038

11:39

-

-

13:19

14:36

-

20:03

-

-

-

-

02:20

207

 Nanuoya (for Nuwara Eliya)

09:18

12:07

13:04

-

-

14:31

16:04

-

21:19

-

-

-

-

03:39

246

 Haputale

12:15

13:53

14:43

-

-

16:04

17:32

-

-

-

-

-

-

05:28

271

 Elle

13:26

14:50

15:38

-

-

16:59

18:26

-

-

-

-

-

-

06:38

292

 Badulla arrive:

14:28

16:01

16:26

-

-

17:50

19:26

-

-

-

-

-

-

07:32

* Train 1005/1006 is the PODI MENIKE, modern Chinese-built blue train, recommended.

** Train 1015/1016 is the UDARATA MENIKE, modern Chinese-built blue train, recommended.

** Train 1041/1042 is the ELLA ODYSSEY, modern Chinese-built blue train of latest type, recommended.

O = 1st class observation car with reserved seats, may or may not be air-conditioned, recommended.

1 = 1st class air-conditioned car with reserved seats.

2 = 2nd class seats.

3 = 3rd class seats.

Sleeper = NIGHT MAIL with 1st class sleepers (2-berth compartments), 2nd & 3rd class reserved sleeperetts (reclining seats), 2nd & 3rd unreserved seats.

Always check train times for your date of travel as shown here, and check all times locally.

How to buy tickets, reserved & unreserved explained      Luggage & other tips      Suggested hotels in Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya

Peradeniya Junction is 6 km (3Ĺ miles) from Kandy.  Take a tuk-tuk or bus here to board trains for Hatton, Nanuoya, Elle & Badulla if they don't call at Kandy.

Several trains a day link Kandy & Matale, check times as shown here.  Kandy is essentially a terminus, but platform 1 is a through platform used by Matale trains.

 Badulla, Elle, Haputale, Nuwara Eliya ► Kandy ► Colombo

Days of running:

Daily

Mon-Fri

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Sunday

Sat,Sun

Daily

Mon-Fri

Sat,Sun

Daily

Reserved seat classes:

2

-

2

-

-

1

1,2,3

O,2,3

1

1,2,3

1,2

O,2

O

O

-

Sleeper

 Unreserved seat classes:

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

-

2,3

2,3

2,3

1,2,3

2,3

Train number:

1038

1040

1030

1036

1520

1024

1016**

1010

1020

1006*

1042***

1032

1008

1596

1028

1046

 Badulla depart:

-

-

-

-

-

-

05:45

-

-

08:30

09:15

-

10:15

11:00

-

18:05

 Elle

-

-

-

-

-

-

06:42

-

-

09:24

10:25

-

11:12

12:05

14:45

19:01

 Haputale

-

-

-

-

-

-

07:41

-

-

10:17

11:16

-

12:14

13:45

15:18

20:17

 Nanuoya (for Nuwara Eliya)

-

-

-

-

05:00

06:00

09:15

-

-

12:00

12:50

-

13:55

16:05

17:05

22:15

 Hatton (for Adam's Peak)

-

-

-

-

05:00

07:20

10:40

-

-

13:24

14:16

-

15:13

17:40

18:11

23:35

 Kandy arrive:

-

-

-

-

07:48

10:14

13:03

-

-

15:53

16:22

-

|

20:37

20:11

|

 Kandy depart:

04:30

05:00

06:15

06:20

-

10:40

13:10

15:00

15:25

16:00

16:35

16:50

|

-

-

|

 Peradeniya Junction

04:41

05:12

06:25

06:37

-

10:52

13:21

15:10

15:48

16:11

16:44

17:05

17:17

-

-

02:11

 Colombo Fort arrive:

07:12

08:07

08:50

09:45

-

14:05

15:47

17:36

18:50

18:57

19:20

19:40

20:16

-

-

05:24

 How much does it cost?

 Example fares in rupees

3rd class

seat (reserved)

2nd class

seat (reserved)

1st class

observation car

1st class

air-con car

1st class

sleeper berth

 Colombo-Kandy

900

1200

1500

2000

-

 Colombo-Nanuoya, Elle, Badulla

1500

2000

3000

3000

3000

£1 = approx 440 rupees, $1 = 365 rupees.  The prices shown are for the best Chinese blue trains, slower trains may be cheaper.

Children under 12 pay half fare with Sri Lanka Railways, children under 3 travel free.  Sleeperetts on the Night Mail train costs the same as a reserved seat.

Buy train tickets

Nuwara Eliya...

Nuwara Eliya (the City of lights) is a colonial hill station 2,000 metres above sea level, surrounded by tea plantations  It's easy to reach, just take a train to Nanuoya station, 6 km from central Nuwara Eliya.  You'll find plenty of taxis and tuk tuks available at the station.

What's the journey like?  See it in pictures & watch the video!

Train 1007 in tea country

Train 1007 from Colombo to Badulla heads through the tea plantations between Hatton & Nanuoya.

Kandy station

Kandy railway station

Kandy station.

Reservations counter at Kandy station   Inside Kandy station

Reservations are made at counters 1 & 2...

 

Inside Kandy station...

Visiting Kandy

St Paul's Church, Kandy   Kandy lake

St Paul's Church...

 

Kandy Lake, across the road from the excellent old Queen's Hotel.

Temple of the Tooth, Kandy   The Garrison Cemetery, Kandy

Kandy's top attraction, the Temple of the Tooth...

 

The old Garrison Cemetery, Kandy...

Traveller's reports

Traveller Antony Smith reports  "All the windows in the 1st observation car opened fully so, though it was a baking hot day, the carriage was wonderfully breezy and naturally cooled. And yes there are only two pairs of seats with uninterrupted views through the rear observation window, but to be honest the best views are to the sides anyway rather than back down the track.  And there's a great child-like pleasure to be had from sticking your head out of an open side window, which you can't do in the seats directly in front of the rear observation window. I do agree about not wanting to be locked into a 'tour bus' environment with only other tourists for company, but passengers in the 1st observation car on the day we travelled were a real mix of Westerners and Sri Lankans."

Traveller Graeme Thorley reports "I thought the observation car to Kandy was okay although it requires you to travel backwards (in my case at least) which is not to everyone's taste. It also got incredibly hot (36įC at one point) due to the large window and there were only a limited number of seats that had a really good view. Rather irritatingly on my outbound trip two of these were occupied by people who slept for most of the trip..! The other point is that the carriage was occupied almost entirely by Westerners - this might be considered a good thing but personally I felt it left me more remote from the travelling experience.  On the train to Anuradhapura several locals stopped to chat, practise their English, exchange complaints about the delays etc. I also bumped into one of the families I had met on the train whilst sightseeing (they recognised me) and we had another chat. I find that sort of thing an important part of travelling."

Traveller Paul White reports "Donít panic if you canít get a ticket for the 1st class air conditioned trains to Kandy.  2nd class is more than adequate, but do try & get a window seat. The best side to sit on for scenery is the right hand side as you face forward from Colombo to Kandy, as this will give you the best views once you get past Rambukkana.  Do be brave and try the food on the trains! Many vendors will wander up and down selling cold drinks, fruit, spicy snacks and so on at reasonable prices."

Back to top


Colombo - Galle - Matara

Galle - pronounced Gawl in English or Gaar-ler by the locals, is a real gem and the fort area with its Dutch colonial buildings should not be missed.  Plan to stay there if you can - see some suggested hotels here - but if you can't then at least do a day trip to Galle from Colombo.  The best way to get to Galle is by train, using the coastal railway which runs all along the coast from Colombo, past the Indian Ocean surf, palms and beaches.  A treat!

Sri Lanka Railways regularly tweaks its timetables, so check current times as shown here.

 Colombo ► Galle ► Matara

Km

 Days of running:

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Mon-Fri

Mon-Fri

Daily

Mon-Fri

Daily

Reserved seat classes:

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Unreserved seat classes:

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

 Train number:

8050

8040

8086

8056*

8058

8096

8760

8764

8766

8775

0

 Colombo Maradana depart:

06:25

-

-

14:30

15:40

16:40

17:25

17:45

18:10

18:45

2

 Colombo Fort depart:

06:50

08:35

10:30

14:40

15:50

16:46

17:30

17:51

18:17

19:30

14

 Mount Lavinia depart:

07:09

08:51

10:46

14:56

|

|

|

18:12

|

|

44

 Kalutara South

07:55

09:34

11:28

15:30

16:33

17:43

18:21

18:56

19:18

20:40

63

 Bentota

08:23

09:57

|

15:49

|

|

18:43

19:28

|

21:24

116

 Galle arrive:

09:19

10:53

12:42

16:39

17:34

18:46

20:09

21:27

20:40

22:58

159

 Matara arrive:

10:43

12:00

13:54

17:53

18:21

19:41

-

-

21:53

-

185

 Beliaththa arrive:

11:21

-

14:35

18:28

-

20:11

-

-

22:30

-

 Matara ► Galle ► Colombo

Days of running:

Mon-Fri

Daily

Mon-Sat

Mon-Fri

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Sat, Sun

Reserved seat classes:

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

Unreserved seat classes:

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2,3

2.3

2,3

2,3

Train number:

8311

8320

8327

8097

8059

8057*

8085

8039

8051

8061

 Beliaththa depart:

-

-

-

04:15

-

05:25

08:45

-

12:50

15:30

 Matara depart:

-

-

-

04:49

06:05

06:12

09:20

13:40

14:05

16:00

 Galle depart:

03:15

04:35

05:00

05:53

07:03

07:27

10:25

14:45

15:35

16:55

 Bentota

04:44

05:44

06:31

|

|

08:20

|

15:39

16:40

|

 Kalutara South

05:25

06:16

06:57

07:11

08:21

08:45

11:42

16:08

17:11

18:08

 Mount Lavinia arrive:

06:15

06:58

|

|

|

09:22

12:26

16:50

17:53

|

 Colombo Fort arrive:

06:42

07:28

08:01

08:10

09:16

09:40

12:42

17:11

18:11

18:51

 Colombo Maradana arrive:

06:49

07:34

08:08

08:17

09:23

09:47

-

-

18:18

18:57

Unless shown otherwise, trains run every day.  Suggested hotels in Colombo & Galle

* = Train 8056/8057 is a Chinese-built Blue Train of the latest sort delivered 2019.

2 = unreserved 2nd class seats.

3 = unreserved 3rd class seats.

Most trains on this route are classic trains, but several afternoon departures from Colombo & several morning departures from Matara & Galle are S11 diesel units.

Many additional Colombo Commuter trains link Colombo with Mount Lavinia & Kalutara South, these aren't shown here.

Always check train times for your date of travel as shown here, and double-check train times locally.

 How much does it cost?

 One-way adult fares  

3rd class

unreserved

2nd class

unreserved

1st class

reserved

 Colombo - Galle

Rs.240

Rs.500

Rs.1,100

 Colombo - Matara

Rs.300

Rs.600

Rs.1,400

£1 = approx 440 rupees, $1 = 365 rupees.

Children under 12 pay half fare with Sri Lanka Railways, children under 3 travel free.

How to buy tickets

One train per day on the Colombo-Galle-Matara route has an all-reserved 1st class car which needs to be booked in advance, but all other trains just have 2nd & 3rd class unreserved seats with tickets sold on the day of travel, no reserved seats, no 1st class.  Turn up, buy a ticket at the station and hop on.  Tickets cannot sell out!

Tip:  Rather than board at Colombo Fort when most of the seats may already be taken, if you board at Colombo Maradana you stand a good chance of getting a seat, even a good seat on the coastal (right hand) side of the train.

A train ride from Colombo to Galle

Maradana station   Maradana station

Colombo Maradana station.  Most trains to Galle & Matara start here before calling at the main Colombo Fort station.  If you board here as soon as the train is platformed you can usually get a seat, ideally a window seat on the right hand side for the ocean views.  If you board at Colombo Fort, most seats may already be taken when the train rolls in.

The train to Galle runs all along the sea

The train to Galle leaves Colombo and is soon swishing right alongside the Indian Ocean.  This part of the coast was hit hard by the tsunami of 2004, including the railway itself, but it's now back in action...

River estuary seen from a Colombo-Galle train   Beach seen from a Colombo-Galle train

The train crosses several river estuaries & and various beaches.  Look for all the dried fish hanging from fish stalls on the road next to the railway, and traditional wooden boats on the beach...

Galle station

Galle railway station

Galle railway station.  Galle is a terminus, Colombo to Matara trains change direction here.

Inside Galle station   Locomotive runs round its train at Galle

Inside Galle station...

 

Locomotive running round its train at Galle.

Visiting the old fort area in Galle

All Saints Church, Galle   Dutch Reformed Church, Galle

The distinctly British All Saints church of 1871, Galle.

 

The famous Dutch Reformed Church of 1755, Galle.

Walking the old fort walls at Galle   Old town street in Galle

Walking the walls of Galle Fort.

 

Street in Galle's delightful fort area.  Suggested hotels.

Flag Rock, Galle

The southern tip of Galle - Flag Rock.

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Colombo - Trincomalee / Batticaloa

The train to the east coast...

 Colombo ► Trincomalee, Batticaloa

 

 

 Trincomalee, Batticaloa ► Colombo

Km

Days of running:

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Days of running:

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Daily

Reserved seats:

-

-

-

1,2,3

Sleeper

Sleeper

Reserved seats:

1,2,3

-

-

-

Sleeper

Sleeper

Unreserved seats:

2,3

2,3

3

2,3

2,3

2,3

Unreserved seats:

2,3

2,3

2,3

3

2,3

2,3

Train number:

6011

7490

7491

6075

6079

7083

Train number:

6076

7886

6012

7887

7084

6080

0

 Colombo Fort depart:

06:05

(06:05)

-

15:05

19:00

21:30

 Trincomalee depart:

-

06:50

-

11:20

19:00

-

210

 Habarana arr/dep:

11:17

(11:16)

-

18:43

|

03:02

 Batticaloa depart:

01:30

|

06:10

|

|

20:15

227

 Galoya Jn. arr/dep:

11:45

12:00

15:30

|

00:30

03:22

 Polonnaruwa depart:

03:45

|

08:32

|

|

22:28

260

 Polonnaruwa arrive:

12:30

|

|

19:47

01:39

|

 Galoya Jn. arr/dep:

|

08:38

09:19

13:22

21:10

23:25

350

 Batticaloa arrive:

14:45

|

|

21:52

03:55

|

 Habarana arr/dep:

04:48

(09:36)

09:41

-

21:31

|

296

 Trincomalee arrive:

-

13:40

17:07

-

 

05:30

 Colombo Fort arrive:

08:45

(15:15)

15:15

-

03:30

04:53

Sri Lanka Railways regularly tweaks its timetables, so check current times as shown here.

(06:05) = Depart Colombo 06:05, arrive Galoya 11:36, change trains, depart Galoya 12:00 for Trincomalee.

(15:15) = Arrive Colombo at 15:15, having changed at Galoya Junction from local train into the express.

Train 6011 uses the newer type of 2nd & 3rd class seats.

Sleeper = NIGHT MAIL with 1st class sleepers (2-berth compartments), 2nd & 3rd class reserved sleeperetts (reclining seats), 2nd & 3rd unreserved seats, buffet car.

Always check train times for your date of travel as shown here & double-check all train times locally.

 How much does it cost?

 One-way adult fares

3rd class

unreserved

3rd class

reserved

2nd class

unreserved

2nd class

reserved

1st class

reserved

 Colombo-Trincomalee

Rs.460

Rs.1200

Rs.950

Rs.1800

Rs. 2900

 Colombo-Batticaloa

Rs.520

Rs.1400

Rs.1050

Rs.2000

Rs. 3000

£1 = approx 440 rupees, $1 = 365 rupees.  2nd & 3rd class sleeperetts costs the same as reserved seats.

Children under 12 pay half fare with Sri Lanka Railways, children under 3 travel free.

Elephants at Habarana Huluru Eco Park

Habarana & elephants:  Habarana station is a tiny single-platform station 3.5 km from Habarana town, but there are tuk tuks available.  In Habarana town you can hire a jeep and driver to take you around the Habarana Huluru Eco Park to see elephants in the wild, a fabulous experience.  For a different sort of elephant experience I highly recommend a short stay at the Elephant Freedom Project, located a short tuk tuk ride from Rambukkana station where all Colombo-Kandy trains stop.  It's close to the well-known Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, but you should read up on concerns about Pinnawala before visiting.

Batticaloa railway station   A train at Batticaloa

Batticaloa station. These photos courtesy Osala Lanith

 

The morning train to Colombo at Batticaloa.

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Colombo - Talaimannar / Jaffna

Trains should link Colombo with Anuradhapura, Vavuniya, Talaimannar & Jaffna.  In 1990 trains stopped operating to Jaffna or Talaimannar Pier (once the ferry terminal for India) because of longstanding security problems, but in September 2013 trains were reinstated as far as Kilinochchi, from early 2014 as far as Pallai and finally the line to Jaffna reopened in mid-October 2014.  The trains to Jaffna were then extended as far as Kankesanthurai.  Trains were restored to Talaimannar town & Talaimannar Pier in April 2015, although there's no ferry to or from India.  However, in 2023 we seem to be without trains again, presumably yet more problems.

 Colombo ► Anuradhapura, Talaimannar, Jaffna

Km

 Days of running:

-

Reserved seats:

-

 Unreserved seats:

-

 Train number:

-

0

 Colombo Fort depart:

-

207

 Anuradhapura arr/dep:

-

337

 Talaimannar Pier arr:

-

256

 Vavuniya arrive:

-

332

 Kilinochchi arrive:

-

356

 Pallai arrive:

-

398

 Jaffna arrive:

-

Sri Lanka Railways regularly tweaks its timetables, so check current times as shown here.

IC = InterCity.  Sleeper = NIGHT MAIL, 1st class air-con seats car, 2nd & 3rd class reserved sleeperetts, 2nd & 3rd unreserved seats, buffet.  This train has no 1st class berths.

O = 1st class observation car with reserved seats of the newer type.

1 = 1st class car with reserved seats, usually the newer type, but train 4021/4022 is an all-air-con-1st class version of an S12 blue train.

2 = 2nd class seats, reserved & unreserved, usually the newer type.

3 = 3rd class seats, unreserved, usually the newer type.

Always check train times for your date of travel as shown here.    How to buy tickets     Hotels in Sri Lanka

 Jaffna, Talaimannar, Anuradhapura ► Colombo

 Days of running:

-

Reserved seats:

-

 Unreserved seats:

-

 Train number:

-

 Jaffna depart:

-

 Pallai depart:

-

 Kilinochchi depart:

-

 Vavuniya depart:

-

 Talaimannar Pier depart:

-

 Anuradhapura arr/dep:

-

 Colombo Fort arrive:

-

 

 How much does it cost?

 One-way adult fares

3rd class

seat

2nd class

seat

1st class

seat

1st class

observation car

1st class a/c

on night train

 Colombo-Anuradhapura

-

-

-

-

-

 Colombo-Jaffna

-

-

-

-

-

£1 = approx 440 rupees, $1 = 365 rupees.

Children under 12 pay half fare with Sri Lanka Railways, children under 3 travel free.  Sleeperetts on the Night Mail train costs the same as a reserved seat.

Anuradhapura railway station

Anuradhapura station...  Photo courtesy of Chris Rowland.

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Colombo Commuter

A train at Batticaloa   A train at Batticaloa

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Recommended hotels

In Colombo, top-end Galle Face Hotel

The famous & luxurious 4-star Galle Face Hotel in Colombo is fantastic, a firm favourite of mine, but price-wise it's a real steal by western standards.  Fully modernised, but still brimming with old colonial charm, it's just south of Colombo city centre, a 5 minute tuk-tuk ride from Colombo Fort station or you can walk into town in 20 minutes along the Galle Face Green promenade.  Many famous guests have stayed here, from Alec Guinness and Duke Ellington to Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.  You'll photos of celebrity guests in the hotel museum on the 2nd floor, along with HRH Price Philip's first car, bought in Ceylon in 1940 for £12.  The hotel features an excellent outdoor swimming pool with lido alongside the Indian Ocean, a spa, and very affordable breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets served on the veranda under whirring ceiling fans.  Rooms have free WiFi, tea & coffee facilities, valuables safe, air-con.  The best place to stay in Colombo, close enough to visit the city centre yet you feel like you're staying in a resort.  Check prices & book.  Also worth mentioning as it's another famous classic luxury hotel, this time a short commuter train ride south of Colombo, is the Mount Laviniya Hotel.

Galle Face Hotel, Colombo   Room at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

The historic Galle Face Hotel nestles below the high-rise blocks at the southern end of Galle Face Green.

Galle Face Hotel swimming pool   Galle Face Hotel museum

The Galle Face pool...

 

HRH Prince Philip's first car, in the hotel museum.

In Colombo:  Grand Oriental Hotel

If you're on a budget but still want a classic historic place to stay, Colombo's other famous old colonial hotel is the Grand Oriental Hotel, known locally as the G.O.H.  In former times, when you stepped off the steamer from Blighty and walked out of the Port Authority Building, the P&O Building would be across the road on one side of York Street, the venerable G.O.H. on the other.  The G.O.H. hasn't had the upmarket western-style makeover like the Galle Face, so it's less than half the price - faded grandeur on a budget.  But it's very comfortable and perfectly located amongst the old colonial buildings of the Fort area, 15 minutes walk from Colombo Fort Station.  Cheap breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are served in the restaurant on the 4th floor with great views over Colombo harbour.  There's a valuables safe in your room, air-con, room service, tea & coffee facilities and free WiFi.  The deluxe rooms even feature a four-poster bed.  Check prices & book.

Grand Oriental Hotel, Colombo   Deluxe room at the Grand Oriental Hotel, Colombo

The G.O.H.  Note the rickshaw statue...

 

A deluxe room...

In Kandy Queen's Hotel

Sticking with the faded colonial grandeur theme, the inexpensive Queen's Hotel in Kandy also has a long and venerable history.  Built as a residence for the Governor of Ceylon and a barracks for the Ceylon Rifle Regiment, famous guests include Lord Mountbatten of Burma who stayed regularly when Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia.  The hotel is perfectly located across the road from both Kandy Lake and Kandy's top attraction, the Temple of the Tooth, and just a 15-minute walk or 5-minute tuk-tuk ride from Kandy station.  Like the G.O.H. it hasn't had the upmarket western-style makeover, so it's relatively inexpensive, just don't expect the red carpet up the stairs to be spotless.  It's a favourite with independent travellers and best of all has an open-air swimming pool and lido adjacent to the wood-panelled bar in the centre of the buildings, an oasis in the heart of the city.  Rooms have high ceilings, tile or teak floors, ceiling fans, air-con, tea & coffee facilities, safes, and free WiFi.  Check prices & book.

Queens Hotel, Kandy   Queen's Hotel Kandy:  Twin room

Queens Hotel, Kandy...

 

Twin room...

Queens Hote bar   Queen's Hotel Kandy:  the swimming pool

The bar, open to the pool & with a small museum area...

 

The pool, an oasis in the heart of urban Kandy...

In Nuwara Eliya:  The Grand Hotel

Still amongst the best hotels in the hill station of Nuwara Eliya, the venerable Grand Hotel is both classy and historic, you can read about its history at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Hotel_(Nuwara_Eliya).  Even if you don't stay here, at least have a drink in the bar...  Check prices & book.

Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya   Grand Hotel lounge

Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya...

 

Grand Hotel lounge...

In Galle

There are a whole host of boutique hotels and guesthouses in the old historic Galle Fort area, which is where you'll want to stay. Top of the heap is the absolutely wonderful but silly-money (even by western standards, at £500+) Amangalla Hotel, perfectly located a few yards from the Dutch Reformed Church.  Formerly the New Oriental Hotel, it has a long 140+ year history.  At least have a cup of tea on the veranda!  Also excellent, upmarket and not cheap, but half the price of the Amangalla is the nearby Galle Fort Hotel.  For something much more affordable, potentially under £100, but still deluxe, boutique and perfectly located in the historic fort area, try Fortaleza or the Fort Printers.  On a tight budget, try the Antic Guesthouse, at under £50.

Allow for taxes when booking Sri Lankan hotels..

When booking Sri Lankan hotels, note that Sri Lankan national & city taxes often aren't included in the price you see, unlike prices shown for hotels in Europe.  This can add 25%-30% to the price you see.

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

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Sea travel to Sri Lanka

Ferry service to/from India re-started in June 2011, suspended again in December!

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Flights to Sri Lanka

1)  Check flight prices at Opodo, www.opodo.com...

Sri Lankan airlines fly direct from the UK to Colombo, and are very good.

2)  Use Skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines...

skyscanner generic 728x90

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Guidebooks

Rough Guide to Sri LankaI recommend a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide...

Even in the age of the internet, it makes sense to invest in a guidebook, both for planning and carrying when you're there.  Don't expect the internet to tell you everything, especially when on the move with sky-high mobile data costs!  For independent travellers, I consider the best guides are the Rough Guides or Lonely Planets.Amazon logo

Buy Lonely Planet guide to Sri Lanka online at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Rough Guide to Sri Lanka online at Amazon.co.uk

 

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flagwww.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flagwww.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

  US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility listMaya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Always carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from Buy from Amazon.com.


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