How Do I use Trains in Sri Lanka?

For long-distance traveling you have a few options in Sri Lanka: the regular bus, the train or an expensive taxi. The bus is too small and cramped for us for the long journey. The train is cheap. There are three classes. But there are only a few luxury class trains.

The main train terminal in Colombo is Colombo Fort. From here you will find lines to the South (Galle, Matara), the mountains (Kandy, Ella), the North (Anuradhapura, Vavuniya), the East (Trincomalee, Batticaloa) and there are special lines to Puttalam and to the Kenali Valley (Avissawella)

Example 1: Colombo – Galle/Matera

– The Coastal Train

We take second class on the train. What could possibly go wrong?

We have to show the tickets when entering the station.

We started early and still have time until our train arrives. Sara and I wander through the train station to buy a few snacks for the journey. In the kiosk we find strange seeds wrapped in banana leaves. A man explains to us that you chew these nuts and spit them out. I suspect they are betel nuts.

Different country, different snacks

There aren’t that many people waiting on the platform. It is Saturday. Hopefully not many people take the train these days if they don’t have to work. Every now and then one or two trains stop on our track, but no one gets on. Our train is apparently late, but there is no announcement.

It wasn’t until later that I found out how people know exactly when the delayed Coastline train arrives. There are more or less reliable reports about train connections via the website and app. This train always seems to be about an hour late.

But suddenly hundreds of people appear out of nowhere. Where do they come from? What do they want on our train? Everyone rushes towards the opening doors.

The train will be full to the brim in just a few minutes. Where do people all want to go on the weekend? It seems like people are visiting their families in the coastal towns.

It’s not just cramped because of all the passengers. Every five minutes someone squeezes through wanting to sell bananas, pastries or water.

At least we managed to get a place where Maryam and Leon can sit. The little one falls asleep quickly. The heat in the train car isn’t helping his fever much. But he is brave and doesn’t complain.

We can see the sea from the windows. The railway line follows the coast down to Galle.

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