Sri Lanka

How to Book Train Tickets in Sri Lanka (At Station or in Advance)

There are two easy ways to book train tickets in Sri Lanka. You can book direct at a train station, or you can book via an online reseller if you’re outside of Sri Lanka.

How to book train tickets at a train station in Sri Lanka

Here’s a quick look at the scene around Fort station.

The cheapest way to book a train ticket is to book it yourself at a train station in Sri Lanka.

I’ll show you exactly how to book at the Fort station in Colombo.

Sri Lanka Railway Tourist Information Centre Colombo Fort Station
The Government-run Railway Tourist Information Service Centre. The people there are really helpful.

The best thing about booking at Fort station is that there’s a great tourist information centre. We went there, and the man explained the entire process and helped us plan our trip – all for free.

Trains can sell out quickly in Sri Lanka, so make sure to book 7-30 days in advance.

Room 17 for buying tickets at the Colombo Fort Station
The entrance to the Reservation Office at Fort station.

Booking a train ticket is really simple, you go to Room 17: Reservation Office. Enter the AC’d room, request a booking form, fill it in, take it to the correct counter and they’ll issue you a ticket.

Sri Lanka Train Booking Form
The train booking form looks like this. You fill in the train departure time, starting point and destination, phone number, number of passengers, proposed travel date, passport number, and signature.
Inside Room 17 for booking train tickets at Colombo Station Sri Lanka
Inside the Reservation Office, different counters are issuing tickets to different destinations.
Buying a ticket to Galle from Colombo at Colombo Fort Station Sri Lanka
We were going to Galle, so we went up to the Matara/Galle counter and the man helped us fill in the booking form and issued us the tickets.

If you’re not in Sri Lanka or want to book in advance, you can use an online reseller.

Beware of tourist scammers while travelling, they look for tourists around railway stations.

How to book Sri Lankan train tickets in advance online

I booked my train ticket for Colombo to Jaffna when I was in Nepal. I did some research and booked with 12Go.

Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan Railways don’t have a direct online booking system. So you have to pay a middle man to go down to the station and buy your ticket for you at an inflated price.

My Colombo to Jaffna train ticket that I bought via
My Colombo to Jaffna train ticket was delivered directly to my hotel.

The original price of my train ticket was Rs. 1700, but 12Go charged me USD $33.57, or Rs. 6,800 for the ticket delivered to my hotel. Exactly 4 times as much as buying directly from the train station!

The benefit is I didn’t have to go down to the station, it can be busy. And I was able to book in advance, so I didn’t miss out on a ticket.

Consider taking the train to Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka, I really enjoyed it there.

Please leave a comment if this post has helped you.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

4 replies on “How to Book Train Tickets in Sri Lanka (At Station or in Advance)”

Just booked tickets in advance as you suggested and arranged for them delivered to the hotel, thank you for the advice.

Very helpful article! do you know if the trains in the first class get very busy and if the tickets are sold out very early? We also want to go from Colombo to Jaffna and are intending to buy the ticket at 7.00AM for a train at 4.00PM.

Great article , thank you. We are planning to travel on the 29th Dec 12.19 or 12.45 train Nanu Oya to Ella. we are on a budget so don’t want to have to pay the higher fees to book in advance via an agent.We arrive in Colombo on 25th December can we buy in advance there for a reserved ticket? At Nanu Ola station could we go early morning and buy the tickets in advance? Do you think they will have tickets available?

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