A guide to two beautiful Sri Lanka train journeys

A guide to two beautiful Sri Lanka train journeys

Travelling by train through Sri Lanka is something of a ‘must do’ experience. We were not disappointed when we decided to book 2 of the most scenic train journeys to experience in Sri Lanka – the Colombo Fort to Candy service and the Candy to Ella train.

If you are wishing to purchase tickets from the UK for the Sri Lanka train journeys you need to use an agent to do so. However as we were staying with Airbnb we asked our hosts to arrange the tickets for us.

Sri Lanka train journey 1 – Colombo Fort to Kandy

Our first train journey was from Colombo Fort to Kandy. We left the booking completely in the hands of our host and he managed to get us seats in the First Class Air Conditioned carriage.   Wow, we thought, First Class for only 1000 rupees (approx. £5.00 for two tickets!!). We arrived at Colombo Fort and very easily found our way to the correct platform. There are lots of Guards to point you in the right direction and were all very helpful. Our train was no. 1019 leaving at 10.35am. This was a modern (ish) Chinese-built blue train and we quickly found our way to our seats 21 and 22. The first class carriage is the only one where no standing is allowed, so there’s plenty of room.

colombo-fort-station-from-outside - sri lanka train journeys




Places to see in Sri Lanka - Pearl of the Indian Ocean





However, because of the air conditioning the windows are sealed, which makes it difficult to take any photos of the amazing scenery. That being said, the 4-hour journey was very comfortable and there’s always somebody walking up and down the train selling food and drink.



What you need to know about booking AirBnb in Sri Lanka



Sri Lanka train journey 2 – Kandy to Ella

Our second journey a few days later, was the one we were most excited about – Kandy to Ella. We’d read so much about this journey and how it’s widely described as ‘one of the best train journeys in the world’. It certainly didn’t disappoint!!



Our top ten tips for visiting Sri Lanka




We were slightly apprehensive as our host in Kandy was only able to get us third class reserved seats. However, we needn’t have worried as this was probably the best option ever! At only 800 rupees (about £4.00 for two tickets) we joined many tourists and locals alike for the 6-hour journey to Ella. There were comfortable bench seats big enough to seat 3 people on one side of the carriage and 2 on the other side, with a table in-between. The windows were all open and ceiling fans blew a cooling breeze throughout the carriage.

Vendors often passed through the carriages selling things like tea, water nuts and samosas and we were prepared with snacks for the long journey.



The doors at the end of each carriage were wide open and passengers took it in turns to stand or sit in the open doorway. The train trundled along at what seemed like not more than 20 to 30 miles per hour and the tracks meandered their way through the countryside and slowly uphill towards Ella.


It’s difficult to describe, without sounding ‘cheesy’ but every twist and turn revealed one amazing view after another (keep your camera handy!) from tea plantations to waterfalls and tree covered mountainsides shrouded in cloud.



The stations we passed through were well sign-posted and we were able to keep track of where we were using the map in our Marco Polo guidebook.

Two train trips to do in Sri Lanka





the-train Sri Lanka

When we pulled into the station at Ella it became clear that it was a major stopping point as everyone seemed to get off and there was quite a queue to get out of the station.



train-tracks train journeys to take in Sri Lanka

All in all, we had an amazing time travelling by train and can thoroughly recommend it. Nowhere near as daunting as we thought it was going to be. We highly recommend these train trips to experience in Sri Lanka so if you have the time book your tickets!

the sign at the train station for ella - Two trains journeys to experience in Sri Lanka


TOP TIP – If you are planning to book any of these great Sri Lanka train journeys check out the best resource there is for train travel – “The Man at Seat 61”. He has up-to-date information about organising train travel around the globe.

Do you enjoy train travel? Have you travelled by train around Sri Lanka or considered which train trips to do in Sri Lanka

or like us is it something you are now adding to your ‘to do’ in Sri Lanka list?

Pin for later – Train journeys to experience in Sri Lanka

Top 10 great rail journeys to take around the world

Top 10 railway journeys around the world part 2

Top 20 gifts for train lovers

Author: Tracy

Tracy has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)

With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Come and join me as I travel the world one country (and train journey) at a time!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. October 14, 2016 / 10:18 am

    This looks like an experience of a life time. From what I understand, it’s better to choose the cheapest tickets since the windows and the doors are open, letting you take pictures – is that right?

    • Linda Tallett
      October 14, 2016 / 4:26 pm

      Hi Jurga, yes our 3rd class tickets let us experience travel like many of the locals whereas in first class we felt trapped! Yes it was comfortable but the ability to sit in the doorway and dangle your legs out and see the fantastic scenery was something I’ll remember forever ?

  2. October 14, 2016 / 7:53 pm

    What a result getting 1st class, and strewth, how cheap were those tickets??!! So glad that 3rd class wasn’t a disappointment and you were able to enjoy the cooling experience. Train journeys are relaxing when they are comfortable, it’s wonderful to look out of the window and enjoy the scenic views, especially the lush tea plantations. Thanks for sharing this information.

  3. October 14, 2016 / 11:54 pm

    It looks like a fabulous trip. I am interested in doing a lot more travel by train I just have to get hubby to agree to come along with me!

  4. October 15, 2016 / 12:34 am

    How awesome is this! It pretty brave for letting basically strangers to organize your tickets, but it sounds like it worked out well! I would love to do that second train journey as it seems the scenery really was magnificent! Ahh maybe one day:) I have pinned it for the future!

  5. October 15, 2016 / 10:15 am

    Train really seems to be a great way to get about Sri Lanka, especially with the open doors like that. Splendid views of the countryside and the train looked far more modern than I was expecting. Looks like you had a lot of fun!

  6. October 15, 2016 / 1:31 pm

    That countryside is beautiful! Sounds like you had quite an adventure. Love traveling by train even if it isn’t ‘luxury”. Good for you for trying this!

  7. Linda Tallett
    October 15, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    Thanks everyone! Travelling by train in Sri Lanka really was easy and cheap!!! Come back to Tracy’s blog next week for my post on our accommodation through Airbnb ?

  8. October 17, 2016 / 8:05 am

    I love this! Great to see pictures how it is to travel with the train. I would have had my doubts but it seams to be safe enough. A great way to travel. My last visit to Sri Lanka was about 30 years ago!

    • Linda Tallett
      October 17, 2016 / 7:25 pm

      Hi Marcelle, we were complete novices at travelling and we never once felt unsafe anywhere in Sri Lanka. Just go for it and enjoy the experience- we certainly did!!

  9. October 17, 2016 / 6:00 pm

    Great post, looks like you had a real adventure by rail in Sri Lanka! We had fun in China last year on their overnight trains, so can appreciate a little how you felt!

    • Linda Tallett
      October 17, 2016 / 7:28 pm

      Hi Garth we’ve got a lot to learn but it’s given us an appetite to travel independently. China sounds lovely. My husband worked in Shanghai for a short while and he’d love to go back and show me the sights. It’s on my bucket list!!!

  10. October 17, 2016 / 9:31 pm

    What an amazing couple of experiences. The photos from the leg to Ella are beautiful. I would have been in heaven. And I can’t get over the price. It costs me £90 for a standard class ticket for a three hour journey between Devon and London! Thanks so much for linking with #MondayEscapes

    • Linda Tallett
      October 19, 2016 / 5:38 pm

      Thanks Claire, train travel in Sri Lanka is certainly a bargain! We couldn’t believe how cheap it was and the scenery is amazing too! Another post due tomorrow on Tracy’s Travels in Time on our Airbnb accommodation in Sri Lanka. Don’t forget to come back and look!

  11. October 19, 2016 / 5:27 pm

    Ooo – this post has left me so excited. Sri Lanka is my next travel destination and I’m planning to take at least 1 train journey – the views sound incredible. I am going to go for the lower class seating as I love a more local experience. Amazing!!

    • Linda
      October 20, 2016 / 7:43 pm

      Hi Ali, definitely recommend the Kandy to Ella trip! Come back next week for my Top Ten Tips when visiting Sri Lanka 🙂

  12. October 19, 2016 / 6:47 pm

    I love travelling by train! You get to so so much more of the country and can totally relax!

  13. October 21, 2016 / 5:59 pm

    What a great post! Love the pictures! Train is my absolutely favorite travel transportation. Looks like you have lots of fun in Sri Lanka!

    • Linda Tallett
      October 24, 2016 / 3:00 pm

      Thanks TravelBlond, travel by train certainly is a great way to see the country – love it!!!

  14. October 21, 2016 / 9:03 pm

    Wow, I remember taking this trip whilst I was growing up in Sri Lanka – it was a long time ago. They seem to have replaced the trains, but the scenery is just as fantastic. So glad you enjoyed it. #wanderfulwednesday

  15. October 23, 2016 / 4:56 am

    Train travel in Sri Lanka is so unique! I traveled through tea country as well but at sunrise – it was absolutely spectacular watching the colours change. Loved all your photos!

    • Linda Tallett
      October 24, 2016 / 3:08 pm

      Thanks Flo, wow what an amazing journey that must have been to see the sunrise! Luckily only had about 5 mins of rain as we got higher up into tea country but the rest of the journey was great ??

  16. October 23, 2016 / 10:20 pm

    Looks like a fantastic way to experience this beautiful country. The landscapes are stunning and you’ve managed to get close to the locals. Great way to see Sri Lanka! Thanks for sharing

    • Linda Tallett
      October 24, 2016 / 3:04 pm

      Hi Travel Lexx, you’re right – we sat next to some locals on the train who had brought their lunch with them, all wrapped up in a banana leaf and newspaper – it was great to see!

  17. October 28, 2016 / 1:00 am

    Oh wow, looks like such a great way to explore Sri Lanka! I enjoy trains too; going up and down the west coast through Amtrak is so beautiful! Thanks for joining #FlyAwayFriday, see you next week!

  18. November 3, 2016 / 6:10 pm

    This is amazing!! I’ve heard so many good things about the trips you can take by train in Sri Lanka and wnat to experience it so bad! I’ll have to keep this in mind whenever I make it to Sri Lank!!!

  19. April 15, 2017 / 7:10 pm

    What an amazing journey and experience, some of my favorite interactions with people happen on public modes of transportation. I think even if I had an unlimited amount of money I would choose to travel this way. Sri Lanka by train wasn’t on my list (which is always growing) but now I will definitely have to make it happen 🙂 I love your little opening picture by the way! Great article, I can’t wait to read more! 🙂