Trains in Sri Lanka : Everything You Need to Know.

Sri Lanka's railways were initially built by the British in the 1800s. The Sri Lankan Government barely ever touched it after the Brits left, except to you know, use it. Sure they fix it if something breaks, but only if. One of the reasons trains like the Colombo-Badulla one takes such a long time (approx 11 hours in some instances) is because it's SO CIRCUITOUS (because the Brits set it up to transport tea and coffee between the plantations and the capital of Colombo).

Long story short, our railways are slow, over-crowded, and more often than not, late and slightly irregular because we haven't done anything to improve it. There was an attempt to revitalize the railway industry back in 2010 which clearly hasn't made much of a discernible difference. Here's how to get around with it.

Maps & Schedules

Our simplified map of the major routes and schedules. 

Intercities and Express Trains

  • Intercities run on a daily basis from Colombo to Jaffna, Kandy, and Batticaloa. There's also one on weekends from Colombo to Nanu Oya.
  • There are Daytime Express Trains from Colombo to Badulla.
  • You can get the Nightmail from Colombo-Badulla, Colombo-Batticaloa, Colombo-Trincomalee, and Colombo-Vavuniya.

Luxury Carriages

Expo Rail (011 422 5050)

The Expo Rail runs along the Main, Northern, and Eastern Lines (more on these routes later). This basically means that you can get from Colombo to Kandy, Ella, Badulla, and Haputhale. You can book tickets online from here.

Viceroy Special (011 258 7996)

The Viceroy Special boasts of being Sri Lanka's only operational vintage steam train. Despite being vintage and all that, it does however provide airconditioning, WiFi, a bar, a smoking area, and other amenities.

Rajadhani Express (071 453 6840)

Like the ExpoRail, the Rajadhani Express is also attached to Sri Lankan Railways trains, and consists of a couple of compartments. Rides are available from Colombo to Kandy, Badulla, and Matara.

Railway Lines

There are nine railway lines in the island.

1. Main Line Colombo, Peradeniya, Hatton, Nanu Oya, Ella, Badulla
2. Coastal Line Colombo, Mount Lavinia, Wadduwa, Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Weligama, Mirissa, Matara

3. Matale

Peradeniya, Kandy, Matale
4. Northern Polgahawela, Kurunagala, Maho, A'pura, Vavuniya, Jaffna
5. Mannar Madawachchiya, Mannar, Talaimannar
6. Batticaloa Maho, Habarana, Gal Oya, Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa
7. Trincomalee     Gal Oya, Trincomalee
8. Puttalam Ragama, Negombo, Chilaw, Puttalam
9. Kelani Valley Lane Maradana, Avissawella


How to Reserve Seats

1. Go to the Fort Railway Station and buy your ticket in advance. Yes, you do need to physically go there and book your ticket.

2. Book through your Mobitel line, thus:

1. Dial 365 in your Mobitel Telephone
2. The Mobitel Call Centre Operator will answer
3. Give your requirement and reserve your seat
4. You will receive a Reference Number through SMS
5. Show ( or tell ) this Reference Number to the Station Master ( at Colombo Fort, Gampaha, Peradeniya or Kandy ) or to any of the Mobitel Billing Centres
6. Then, you will receive the Train Ticket ( M-Ticket )
7. Your Train Fare will be added to the Mobitel Bill.

You can also call these numbers up for more information:

Railway Station Contact Number
Colombo Fort – Reservation Office 011-2432908
Kandy 081-2222271
Badulla 055-2222271
Anuradhapura 025-2222271
Vavuniya 024-2222271

Points to Keep in Mind (when taking the regular trains)

  • Take care of your belongings. Trains can get INCREDIBLY crowded and it's not uncommon to have pickpockets in there.
  • The toilets are pretty bad. Especially the Nightmail's toilet. Wouldn't recommend it unless your stomach is going to implode.
  • Be nimble when getting in and out. 
  • Enjoy the views!

 If there's anything else you need to know, or anything you want to add, hit us up in the comments. 

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