Four routes by train in Sri Lanka

Four routes by train in Sri Lanka

The island’s railway routes are considered among the most beautiful in the world. Imagine: you are standing on a step in an open vestibule, and the bright green jungle and foggy tea plantations of Ceylon float past you. Then the train enters a tunnel and drives straight into the cloud that has covered a mountain village… Where to go for such impressions and to In this article we will tell you which Sri Lankan city to take the train to ensure a picturesque journey.

How to get there

Direct flights from Moscow to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, are operated by Aeroflot airline. Travel time will be 9–10 hours. Prices – from 55,000 rubles* one way with luggage.

Flights with one or two transfers from Qatar Airways, Gulf Air Emirates, FlyDubai, SriLankan Airlines will be more affordable. Tickets cost from 33,000 rubles* one way.

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Entry rules

All COVID restrictions have been lifted. To enter, you will need a tourist visa; it can be obtained in advance electronically or upon arrival. At the airport, a visa is issued for a period of up to 30 days, the cost is 60 US dollars (approximately 4,500 rubles), payment only in cash. You’ll also have to wait in line.

Online visa application must be submitted through the Sri Lanka Immigration Department portal. There are two types: for 30 days with double entry and for 180 days, but double entry is allowed only in the first 30 days. The fee is 50 US dollars (3,700 rubles) regardless of the duration of the visa. Payment is accepted only by foreign bank card.

Four routes by train in Sri Lanka

How to travel around the country by train

Information about routes and train numbers is available in English on the Sri Lanka Railways website. You can also reserve seats in first-class carriages there, but you still have to print out your ticket from the mTicketing machines at the stations. The most reliable way is to buy it at the ticket office at the railway station a few days before departure. Ticket sales for most destinations begin 30 days before the travel date.

The classes of carriages on Sri Lankan trains differ in their level of comfort. First class is equipped with air conditioning, displays, comfortable seats, and no standing room. Second class carriages are slightly simpler, but they can still accommodate you on soft seats, and the third class benches are reminiscent of electric trains. Also, the last carriages are most often overcrowded, since tickets are sold in unlimited quantities.

To make your train journey comfortable, you should bring water, a snack and hand sanitizer with you.

From Colombo to Galle, 120 km

Four routes by train in Sri Lanka

This two-hour route snakes along the west coast from the capital to the southern city of Galle, founded by the Portuguese and rich in Dutch colonial architecture. Along the way, tall buildings give way to shacks with corrugated iron roofs, and here and there they part to reveal views of sandy beaches and the clear blue Indian Ocean.

In some places the railway runs almost along the shore, so we recommend sitting on the right side to enjoy the best views of the ocean landscapes, coastal towns and flocks of surfers racing the waves. As you approach Galle, you’ll also catch glimpses of fishermen perched on stilts and wooden perches.

Where to stay in Halle:

The Bend (score 9.0) is a small hotel in the center of the old fortress, a standard room per night will cost 2,900 rubles*.

Sirène Galle Fort (rating 9.0) – a guest house with a friendly hostess and large breakfasts near the lighthouse, a standard room with a king-size bed and breakfast costs 3,400 rubles* per night.

From Anuradhapura to Jaffna, 195 km

Four routes by train in Sri Lanka

This route has a turbulent past: due to the civil war, the railway line was closed from 1990 to 2014. After decades of conflict, the route from Sri Lanka’s ancient capital to the famous Hindu colonial city has been restored. Since Jaffna is known as the City of Temples, trains on this route are often filled with pilgrims or religious fanatics.

Before your trip, be sure to visit the archaeological sites in Anuradhapura. Historians believe that the city was founded in the 10th century BC, making it one of the oldest settlements in the world. And Jaffna, in addition to temples, boasts uncrowded wild beaches.

Where to stay in Jaffna:

Allens home stay (rating 9.6) – a cozy guest house with responsive hosts, a night in an economy class room will cost 1,400 rubles*.

FOX JAFFNA by Fox Resorts (rating 9.0) – a stylish resort hotel with a terrace and a swimming pool, a deluxe room with air conditioning and breakfast costs 5,400 rubles* per night.

From Colombo to Kandy, 125 km

Four routes by train in Sri Lanka

This railway was built in the 1860s to transport coffee and tea from the capital of Sri Lanka to the coast. A three-hour journey through rolling hills through rice paddies, jungles and villages will take you from the official capital to the spiritual, from the hot coast to the tropical cool.

Where to stay in Kandy:

Mahaweli View Inn (rating 9.3) – the rooms of this mini-hotel offer panoramic views of the river and mountains. A standard triple room will cost 1,300 rubles* per night.

Hanthana House (rating 9.2) – a hotel in a picturesque location in the Hanthana area, a night in a standard room with breakfast costs 2,700 rubles*.

From Kandy to Badulla via Ella, 165 km

Four routes by train in Sri Lanka

This journey takes approximately 7.5 hours and is considered the most scenic train route in Asia. Book a seat on a carriage with panoramic windows to see emerald green hills, tea plantations and tea pickers dressed in colorful saris. On the last part of the journey, the train passes over the famous nine-arch brick bridge, which connects the slopes of a deep gorge and “floats” above the jungle. Many people end their journey in Ella, but it is worth continuing the journey to Badulla with fewer tourists in the carriages. If you do get off at Ella, be sure to take a walk to the bridge – it is most beautiful (and quietest) at dawn.

Where to stay in Ella:

Rivinu Holiday Resort (rating 9.7) – a separate house with a veranda in the middle of a tea garden, a deluxe room with a balcony and breakfast costs 1,300 rubles* per night.

Tea Forest Lodge (rating 9.1) – a quiet guest house in the jungle, a standard room with breakfast will cost 1,500 rubles* per night.

*Prices are current at the time of publication.

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