Scenic Train Ride Through Central Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a lush, mountainous island off the coast of India. A totally unexpected destination on my backpacking trip, I stumbled upon Sri Lanka randomly thanks to a good flight deal. My first impressions of the island was a train ride from Colombo to Kandy.

How I got here?

I had absolutely no intention of stopping here. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. But, when I was searching flights to Kathmandu from Dubai a couple weeks ago, the prices were insanely high. Like $685. Um, no, considering I paid $835 to get from Chicago to Istanbul. So I did some research on Kayak about other, cheaper places to fly from DXB. And sure enough, Sri Lanka shows up. I was able to book a flight for $122 from Dubai to Colombo, and then a second flight from Colombo to Kathmandu for $325. The money I saved covered my Visa and a couple of nights at the hostel. I’d say it was a good choice!

Just a colorful train station
Just a colorful train station


I arrived at the ungodly hour of 5:30am to Colombo airport after a painless red eye flight from Dubai. I was lucky enough to meet another solo female, Lara, on the flight, and we decided to spend the day together. We wanted to head inland to Kandy, since Colombo is a largely urban and non-tourist friendly city. So after some questioning of the locals, we found out the best way to get there was to take a bus to the train station and then catch the intercity train. I was surprised right away by how friendly and helpful the locals were. I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, because people around the world are nice, and just want to help. I firmly believe this, yet I am still surprised and incredibly grateful when people help you out.


After a short 30 minute bus ride, we arrived to the train station and booked our tickets. Only 100 ruppes (less than a dollar) for a 3 hour ride! We hopped on, only to be yelled at by a woman for sitting in her seat. We didn’t know they were reserved! Hehe. So we wandered back to our seat, which was thankfully next to the window. There was no AC on the train, and in the 80 degree humidity, we were both dripping. And then off we were.

After 3 weeks in the Middle East (and 3 months for Lara), we were both a little in shock by the bright green, lush colors of the Sri Lankan countryside. It is just soooo green! Like everywhere and everything! This is a little jungle packed onto one tiny island. The train wraps around moutnains and farms and through rock outcroppings. It was so scenic. I was happy we sat on the right side of the train, because we definitely had the better view. At one point, we came out of this tunnel to a spectacular mountain and valley view, carpeted with palm trees and other tropical trees (I’m obviously not a botanist, I couldn’t identify any others…).


Riding the Train

Even without the AC, the train was very comfortable, and it was cool to travel like the locals. All these photos are taken from my window seat. People were hanging out the doors and windows, and even jumping off and on with the train still moving! It was like something out of a travel movie, I couldn’t believe how comfortable they were with it! No way was I doing that! We arrived at our destination, Kandy, right on time, and took a Tuk-tuk or rickshaw, to our hostel. Just on the outskirts of town, the Kandy Downtown hostel is going to be my home for the next 5 days. I will use it as the jumping off point to check out the center of the island, since i will unfortunately not have enough time to see the entire island. But a solid visit to some really cool sites. Stay tuned!

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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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