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I am planning a trip to Sri Lanka in December (early December) and wanted to book the InterCity train from Colombo to Kandy and then from Galle back to Colombo.

From my research, it seems one cannot book a ticket on these trains in advance. Is that true? What is the alternative?

  • Many hotels will be able to send someone to the station to book tickets for you. Otherwise, you ought to be able to book a few days in advance and still get a ticket (even if not the best ones) outside of peak times – Gagravarr Oct 25 '15 at 12:34
  • You can book the Colombo to Kandy train in advance from Colombo railway station. If you want to come in on a flight and connect directly to the train this could be difficult. If you are staying overnight you should be ok. – WW. Oct 25 '15 at 22:15
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    Seat61.com suggests multiple ways to book in advance as well. – SpaceDog Oct 26 '15 at 6:28
  • Just a warning so you don't get caught out too. When I was last there a few years back, we were told by one train official we could pay on the train. This turned out not to be true, and sure enough there then became demands for money not to be taken to the police for not purchasing tickets at the station. Lots of arguing later we had it sorted, but it was an unnecessary stress. – tea4two Jan 9 '16 at 12:34
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Booking Sri-Lankan Train Tickets Online

The Man in Seat 61 says that to date the only tickets that are bookable online are those for the ExpoRail and Rajadhani carriages for the Colombo-Kandy-Badulla journey. The regular trains cannot be booked online (quoting from The Man):

How to buy tickets...

  • The privately-run ExpoRail & Rajadhani carriages Colombo-Kandy-Badulla can be booked online at www.exporail.lk & www.rajadhani.lk.
  • The regular Sri Lanka Railways trains cannot be booked online, but it's easy to buy tickets when you get to Sri Lanka at the station. In Colombo, there is a special ticket window for tourists in the 1st & 2nd class advance booking office at the east end of Colombo Fort station.

Since you wish to travel on the Colombo-Kandi stretch, you'll be able to book that part of the journey on the Rajadhani in advance. Here is the official webpage showing timetables, costs and online booking procedures. If you'd rather take the InterCity train, then you'll have to go to the ticket office in person or send someone on your behalf. Also note that reservations open 45 days before departure (quoting from The Man):

  • Reservations for trains with reserved seating such as InterCity Express trains open 45 days in advance (extended from 10 days in late 2013). Seats in the 1st class observation car from Colombo to Kandy can get fully-booked from time to time, so book a few days ahead if you can, but you may well find seats available on the day of travel. Other trains (shown as having unreserved seats) don't require a reservation, you just buy a ticket on and hop on.

Purchasing Tickets in Advance

The Man in Seat 61 suggests one possible alternative to online booking: using local travel agencies. The linked site has a few agencies listed. Note that these will obviously charge a fee for the booking.

Gagravarr suggests to call your hotel and ask them to send someone to purchase the ticket on your behalf. This is also a valid option, which will probably require you to pay an extra fee to the hotel, or at least tip the staff. The Man also mentions this on the linked page.

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    If you're booking the observation saloon on a government owned carriage to Kandy or Badulla (not expo or rajadhani), go for seat numbers 21,22 or 43,44. They are in the rear and have the best views imaginable. – toing_toing Jan 8 '16 at 5:04
  • Thanks! I was there from Dec 7 - 19 and I can confirm that there is no way to book tickets in advance on the regular trains online. One can book these tickets only by physically going to the station. – Sriram Jan 11 '16 at 10:19

protected by Community Mar 2 '17 at 12:44

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