7 Important things to know about ( Almost every thing to know)
If you visit Sri Lanka, “Train Ride” is a must. Not that Sri Lanka has zero transport options, but it will be an unforgettable experience for you. In fact, I being a regular passenger of Galle- Colombo trains, it has always been a refreshing journey for me. Even after the establishment of Southern express way, I prefer the coastal railway ride. Just because I love it.
1. Train traveling basics
Train journey from Colombo to Galle, usually takes two and half hours. “Yes” It is time consuming and not so comfy; yet, ” really cheap, like really really cheap”. Plus, the scenery background to the journey are tropically delicious. The very smell of the Indian oceans, salty winds and crispy airs stimulate your island desires. Besides, seas and sand, you will see green patches here and there on the way. Those are mangrove forests and lush green thickets of the low land wet zone. D
on’t forget to bring your camera with you to take some lovely pictures of the cranes and other migrant birds, you see in them. The thickets you will pass through are bird sanctuaries. That’s what I mean when I told you that these train rides are almost free. Simply, “Free wild life safaris.”When you are having a ride, don’t bother to find a corner seats. The door steps do fine too. But, be careful. I know that you will be captivated by breath taking views. Still, please be careful. Always tightly hold on to steel bars; avoid door locks or handles. These trains have very bad breaking systems. Because, trains always pull their breaks in unexpected moments and push you away from the train, from the coach or from the seat, unless you are a very strong person. Majority of the victims of this situation are newbies to the train. The regular passengers are used to these random shocks. So, they know where to hold tight and where to loose. As to my experience, my advice for you is ALWAYS be prepared for breaks, especially, when the trains leave a station or arrive at a station.
2. Train food culture
Galle- Colombo trains do not have canteens in them. However, the “Wade ( A spicy snack) sellers”, “Ratakaju ( Peanut) sellers” and plenty of other mongers who sell fruits, water, soft drinks, snacks, Milo, cool water, toys, balloons, accessories, incense sticks, story books, astrology books and calendars, full fill the need of a food corner and a grocery shop. So, if you forget to bring some snacks, don’t worry, you can buy them, there. Your slight expression of interest will be enough for these sellers to come to you. Their food are good. But can’t guarantee. Better, if you could take food with you.
3. Train schedules
When you travel from Galle to Colombo, avoid office trains such as, 6.50 a.m Ruhunu Kumari Express train from Matara to Maradana and office train from Maradana to Matara in the afternoon, (specially 3.50P.M train,) which are super crowded trains. Sitting is a dream in these trains and on some days I have traveled like a korawakka ( a local bird) from Colombo fort to Kaluthara, standing on one leg. As (we)Sri Lankan people have got accustomed to these rides, we are capable of reaching home despite of the breathing problems, body pains and high adrenaline levels.
However, for a foreigner, I advice to avoid office trains, unless you badly need to experience real over crowdedness in a South Asian country. Otherwise, lack of fresh air, sweaty bodies, fainted pheromone mixed perfume smells will ruin your journey here. So, always avoid early morning or afternoon trains. Still, 7.25 a.m Sagarika train from Galle to Maradana and 10.55 am Rajarata rajini train will always be a good idea. Anyway, when you plan to travel here alone, please take a good look at the coastal railway lines in the map and get an idea about the railway stations on your route. Similarly, before you take the train, check the Sri Lanka Train Schedule.
(https://eservices.railway.gov.lk/schedule/homeAction.action?lang=en or http://slr.malindaprasad.com/) . I can assure that these sites will be helpful. Know your destination, first. If you could speak English, Don’t hesitate to ask local people, they are warm and will be willing to help you.
4. Local Passengers
What do you know about Sri Lanka? Is it a dark image come to your mind? With thieves, harsh, rough people, dark skinned sweaty bodies, robbers, rapists and terrorists in it. Believe me, you are wrong. This is not an exaggeration. But most Sri Lankans are innocent and harmless. Local people in the train may smile with you or try to share a snack with you. Just because they are friendly, no hidden agendas. Usually, they care. They help. You may meet bad guys on your way. Thus, use your instinct to identify them. Most of the time, I find very nice people in economy class. If you are standing, they will make some room for you to sit. So lovely of them. If you have already read the design of Robert Frost, you may understand what i have tried to tell.
What had that flower to do with being white,The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
5. Train culture
Sometimes the coastal railway journey may feel like a full rigged ship on deep blue seas. The train swings and I find it enjoyable. Inside this ship, you find plenty of singers, beggars, mongers, magicians musicians, charity workers and variety of entertainers. May be they are a little annoying. Just ignore the offensive part and entertain yourself . If you like, you can read a book or listen to music while travel or you can observe people like I do. By the way, don’t get offended by long stares. Feel the diversity.
6. What to wear?
Actually, a comfortable cotton clothes will be perfect for the sunny climate, unless you are travelling in the first class. No air conditioners are available in economical or second classes of Sri Lankan trains. But, there are fans, windows and doors. Although, it is a little hot inside the train, the atmosphere will always be fresh and lovely. In the seasons of south west monsoons, the situation will be kinda different. That’s why you need to have an umbrella with you, if you visit here in between May and September. Anyway, it is up to you. “Wear anything you are comfortable with.”
Wash rooms are available in these trains. There are racks on both sides. There are steel bars to hang or you can lean against seats. In third class, there are face to face seats. In second class, regular seats with a little dining stand and a net. Lights and fans are available, too. No air conditioners are available, except in the first class coaches. There are old trains and new trains. The old ones look really bad, with dusty red, yellow and green lines on the surface. The sounds they make and the blackened doors and windows and corridors may make you think that those trains belongs to museum. However, although they are few centuries old, they are pretty good.
Bring a map with you. Again, know the destinations, be attentive to the boards and announcements, Don’t trust GPS. Bring water. Wear a simple cotton dress. be careful and patient when you are going to get on to the train. Don’t forget to keep your ticket safe until you step out of the last railway station. keep a smile on your face. speak a little with locals. Be kind. Ignore the annoying part and enjoy your extremely inexpensive, enchanting train ride. keep calm and cool. If you plan to visit Sri Lanka, try the rail ride to down south. Trust me, you will never regret it. Good luck travelers.