The slow train is the way to go in Sri Lanka. Not only is it cheap — think a few bucks for a three-hour train ride — but it also offers gorgeous views of the countryside. While residents hang out of windows and doors for the best views and breezes, they’re happy to wave and smile for the camera-toting tourists. As we read in our guidebook, trains are often so late that Sri Lankans measure the time until the train arrives in quarters of days. But waiting a few hours for a train just means more time to people watch and relax. No one’s in a hurry in Sri Lanka.
Train travel tips: Try to book 1st or 2nd class train reservations when possible as they’ll be much more comfortable. This means going to the train station a few days to a week before you need to leave and buying them at the station. We did take a 3rd class train from Colombo to Kandy because the others were sold out, and it was not as bad as I’d feared. However, there is no air conditioning or fans, and seating is first-come, first-served. People run as the train is pulling into the station and jump on the moving train to get seats. So, of course, we did this too and managed to get a seat. But even with a seat, you still get packed in three people to a non-padded bench seat, so plan your trip accordingly.