One of the best forms of travel in southern Asia is by train. One of the best places for train travel is on the island country of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has 1,561 km (969 miles) of railway with around 396 trains. The trains are used by tourists and are the main commute system for the people of Sri Lanka. These trains carry over 3.72 million passengers every day.
There are a variety of trains in Sri Lanka, but as a traveler you will mostly deal with the local and long-distance trains. The local trains are a free-for-all. You buy a ticket and you can generally sit wherever you like. But if you didn’t know, Sri Lanka is very close to the equator, which means it’s very hot in the coastal regions. Many of the trains, including the local trains, do not have air conditioning. But the views from the train are worth the sweat.
The longer distance trains do have assigned seating. The trains are generally separated into four classes: A/C first class, second-class seating, second-class standing, and third class. The most expensive is the A/C first class and the price decreases with the class. The A/C first class is reserved seating. However, that A/C in this car can be overpowering and you may find yourself outside of the car trying to warm up. The windows in the A/C car do not open, but if you prefer this class or have health issues then this is a good option.
The second-class seating is arguably the best option all around. This car is not air conditioned, but you have the ability to open and close your windows. Also, you do have assigned seating, so you don’t have to fight for your seat. Second-class standing is the same as second-class seating, but there is no reserved seating. There are seats, but they are first come, first served. If you aren’t the first people in the car then you will likely find yourself standing in the aisle for the duration of the ride or until someone leaves.
Third class is a giant free for all with no assigned seating and barely any seats. This car is the cheapest, but you will be packed into the car and will be standing the entire time. Locals and backpackers generally use this class because it is the cheapest and easiest ticket to get.
Buying tickets for Sri Lankan trains is rather easy. You can buy tickets online, but only for first and second class reserved seating. For unreserved seating and third class, you must buy the tickets at the train station. The reserved seating does fill up very quickly, so you should buy your tickets well in advance. This is especially true for the train between Kandy and Ella.
The train between Kandy and Ella is not only world famous but also an amazing cultural experience. The center of Sri Lanka is very mountainous and many of those mountains are covered in tea plantations. The most famous train that travels this route is the blue train. This is the best train to take to capture the amazing pictures in the mountains. Make sure to take the morning train because the train from Kandy to Ella takes at least 7 hours and you don’t want to miss the views.
The second-class car is the best option for this route. You have easy access to taking pictures and seeing the landscape. The train winds itself over, under, and on the side of mountains. Many times during the ride, the train butts right up to the edge of the mountain with a cliff on the other side. If you can fit it into your itinerary, Nuwara Eliya is a great stop on the Kandy to Ella train.
Train rides are one of the best ways to see a country cheaply and effectively. Sri Lankan train rides are an amazing experience to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
Guest Author: Chris Slack
Chris is a travel and lifestyle blogger who left the legal field and office world in 2017 to experience the world around her. Chris has traveled to 25 different countries and is looking to travel to more in the future. Chris’s blog, Wandering Feathers, focuses not only on her travels and experiences but also how these travels have affected her day-to-day life and future. Check out her blog: http://wanderingfeathers.com/