My buddies and I seem to have a thing for Sri Lanka. We went there a couple of years ago and had a darn good time, but we barely scratched the surface so we thought why not go back for a second visit.
This train ride is not merely a way to get from A to B. It’s a 7-hour cultural experience that must be up there as one of the greatest train journeys in the world. They say the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is the best, but for me this was as good as it gets!
Riding Past Lush Tea Fields and Friendly Faces
Sri Lanka’s railway system was constructed by the British in 1864 to transport tea from the Hill Country to Colombo for shipping overseas. The British also introduced the great game of cricket to the country – and you see no shortage of cricket grounds floating about.
I must admit I am a sucker for a good train ride. Unlike other forms of transport; on trains you can walk around, meet travellers and locals, have a yarn and watch the world go by peacefully from your window. The views and scenery are spectacular to say the least.
Imagine riding past lush tea fields with colourfully dressed pickers raising their heads to wave hello, and then stopping at stations where street vendors offer you all kinds of fresh fruit, curry and poppadum’s. The food in Sri Lanka is top of the wozza – I recommend the street food above all! It’s worth the risk for a bit of a tummy rumble.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
If you want a guaranteed seat then you will need to book a first-class ticket. Most people book a second or third class ticket either in advance or on the day. There are many ways to buy tickets: you can book a through a travel agent or visit the station on the day.
The best part about riding second class, like we did, is that you get to mix with the locals. You also get a better chance to take the classic head-out-the-door photo that you see on Instagram. It is a risk though, as you might get a hectic day and could be standing for the entire 7-hour journey.
Our ticket cost around 200 Rupees, if my memory serves me rightly, and third class tickets are even less. Cheap as chips mate. That’s one of the best aspects of Sri Lanka is that once you arrive and have paid for your accommodation, you’ll be hard pressed to spend more than $10 a day.
The highlight of our trip (apart from all the delicious street roti) was stopping at the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella. The bridge is located on the Demodara loop and spans 91 meters with 9 gorgeous arches, making it a photographer’s dream. You simply can’t take a bad photo there!
How Sri Lanka’s Tourism Has Blown Up
Visiting Sri Lanka for a second time I was surprised just how much the tourist scene had blown up. After our train journey, we scooted down to the coast and went to the famous palm tree rope swing at Dalawella Beach which was vacant last time we were there. This time there was a line and payment! It had turned into a little business haha.
As Instagram has taken off over the last couple of years, places like the famous swing rope have gotten their fair share of social media attention. The same can be said about Sri Lanka as a whole. Yes, there are more tourists to compete with but the place still has a raw vibe to it.
Eating street food, chatting away to our tuk tuk drivers, readjusting to the little toilet shower they use instead of toilet paper – these are the reasons you travel. And why Sri Lanka is such a wicked place to visit.