A scenic delight. Recently renovated, runs past Aluthgama and Hikkaduwa to Galle and Matara.
North from Colombo
Through Anuradhapura to Mannar and also to Jaffna on rebuilt and renovated track. One branch reaches Trincomalee on the east coast, while another serves Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa.
To the Hill Country, through Kandy, Nanu Oya (for Nuwara Eliya) and Ella to Badulla. A beautiful route, the portion from Haputale to Ella is one of the world’s most scenic train rides.
The Puttalam line runs along the coast north from Colombo, although rail buses run between Chilaw and Puttalam. The Kelani Valley line winds 60km from Colombo to Avissawella.
Comes in three varieties: coaches, sleeping berths and observation saloons (with large windows). The latter are used on the line east from Colombo and are the preferred means of travelling this scenic line. Some have large rear-facing windows and vintage interiors.
Seats have padding and there are fans. On some trains (but not to Galle) these seats can be reserved in advance.
Seats have little padding and there are no reservations. The cars accommodate as many as can squeeze in and conditions can be grim.
2. Always make a booking for the 1st-class observation saloons, which are very popular.
3. Reservations can be made at train stations up to 10 days before departure. You can book a return ticket up to 14 days before departure.
4. If travelling more than 80km, you can break your journey at any intermediate station for 24 hours without penalty. You’ll need to make fresh reservations for seats on the next leg.
2. Most stations have helpful information windows.
3. The Sri Lankan Railways website has a useful trip planner.