After 20+ years, I finally made it back to Kandy, the town that I first lived in when my family moved to Sri Lanka in the 90s. The traffic between Colombo to Kandy is infamous, but the brand spanking new Blue Line Express Train plans to make it as easy and comfortable as possible.
There was a running joke between my girlfriend and I after I had moved back to Sri Lanka in 2017 that we would go to the hillside town of Kandy. Kandy was the first town my family lived in after moving to Sri Lanka back in the 90s. For whatever reason, I haven’t made the effort to go back since leaving in the late 90s.
After almost 20 years and a running joke later, I finally made it back to Kandy. One of the reasons that made it possible was the introduction of
The Blue Line Express is a rebranded carriage of the old Rajadhani Express that used to serve this route. I’ve never been on that one so I have nothing to compare it against.
WHERE TO BUY A TICKET
The train has a website that didn’t work at the time of writing this post. I also couldn’t find any other way to purchase this ticket online. The side of the carriage advertised the possibility of reserving a train ticket by dialing 365 on a Mobitel equipped phone but no one I knew had a Mobitel phone so we were out of luck there.
A friend of ours bought it the old fashioned way by visiting the Colombo Fort Railway Station a few days prior to departure. At the station, she asked someone there where one could buy “express tickets for Kandy” and was pointed to a ticket booth. I wouldn’t mention “Blue Line” or “Luxury Train” as I doubt anyone will know what you are talking about.
When you are buying a ticket, you will want to get a window seat with full access to the window. Some window seats have a partially obstructed view which you want to avoid completely.
If you are in the end most cabin, some good seats to get include 01 – 02, 05 – 06, 09 – 10, and 23 – 24.
The JOURNEY To Kandy
On our leg to Kandy, we opted for the afternoon train with a departure time of 3:35 pm from Colombo Fort Railway station. It was another sizzling Friday afternoon in Colombo but the train station was not as busy as I had expected.
We showed our ticket to the usher who informed us that the Express Train was arriving on Platform 2. We made our way to the platform with the train arriving on time shortly after we had gotten there. The stars must have aligned for us on that day because being on time happens quite rarely in Sri Lanka in my experience.
As the train pulled in, we weren’t quite sure which cabin we needed to board. We followed some other people to the air-conditioned cabin located towards the end of the platform, closest to the station. We crammed ourselves in only to find out we had boarded the wrong one!
The correct one was actually located on the other side, the last carriage furthest away from the Fort Railway station. The Blue Line carriage sticks out compared to the others with its gold paint job so look out for it and make sure you don’t make the same mistake we did.
We finally got on board and settled in. I was really impressed with the carriage and the seats! The air conditioning was working and I finally stopped sweating after waiting on the platform in the sweltering heat.
The carriage consisted of two sections with each containing a set of 24 seats facing in opposite direction. On the journey to Kandy, seats 01 – 24 were forward facing whilst seats 25 – 48 were in reverse (and vice versa for the journey back to Colombo).
The seats were arranged in a 2-2 configuration with luggage racks on top, a power outlet to accompany each row, and pull down shades for each window. It is a comfortable seat that reclines as well. My 5’8″ frame fit pretty easily with plenty of legroom to put a bag on the floor by your feet if you opt not to put it on the luggage rack above.
As the train pulled away from Colombo Fort Station, the carriage started to shake pretty hard for the first 45 minutes or so. I usually don’t mind it but it was a lot bumpier than usual, almost plane-like turbulence. I was planning to get some work done but I put my laptop away as the bumpy ride didn’t make it conducive at all.
With my laptop in my bag, I settled in and started staring off into the distance, zoning out with my music. All of a sudden, one of the attendants came out with cold towels for everyone, a welcome surprise after such a hot day. I’m used to this on airplanes but seeing it on a train was a nice perk.
But wait, there’s more! The attendants then came out again with a tray of food which contained a slice of the best damn butter cake I’ve ever had, half a cheese sandwich, a Sri Lankan “Chinese Roll”, a bottle of water, utensils, ketchup, and two packs of sugar (huh?).
The only knock I would give the seat is the lack of a tray table which would have made handling this tray of food easier. Props to the train operator for giving everyone a nice wooden tray table to eat on, but trying to balance it on a lap with the carriage shaking hard was a challenge.
The lack of a tray table was made very evident when everyone did not know what to do with their tray after they were done eating. I looked around for an attendant and couldn’t find one so I followed suit and put it on the cabin floor. Oops.
With the snack service out of the way, I zoned out properly and stared out of the window. As the train climbed higher, the views were pretty marvelous and lush green with the hills bordering it in the distance.
At the halfway mark, I was surprised again with the attendants walking around the cabin and filling up mugs of tea for everyone. I definitely wasn’t expecting this but it was around tea time and I was grateful that there was tea service on board, with ceramic mugs no less!
Out of curiosity, I looked on Google Maps to see how long this journey would have taken if we had driven. On that particular day, a drive would have taken almost 4 hours. I’m glad we decided to take the train which was scheduled to take just over 2.5 hours. If you go on this route with some regularity, taking the train between the two cities is definitely the way to go.
At around the
The Journey Back To Colombo
After a refreshing weekend in Kandy, it was time to board the same train back to Colombo. Again, we opted for the afternoon departure set at 3pm from Kandy Railway Station.
Just like in Colombo, the train was at the platform on time. Does lightning really strike twice? In this case, it did! We made sure we got on the correct carriage this time, which was the one closest to the station. As soon as we walked in, the cabin was boiling hot. An attendant was walking around frantically opening everyone’s window because the air conditioning had apparently gone out.
They tried valiantly to revive the AC but failed. Everyone onboard let out a big groan and began to settle in for a hot journey back.
The experience going back was largely the same with cold towels, snacks, and tea service for everyone. On the way back, we were in the same cabin which meant we were now reverse facing. This time around, a different route was taken and the journey overall was less bumpy than on the way to Kandy.
2 hours and 20 minutes later, we got off at the penultimate stop – Maradana Station, as it was closer to where we were staying in Colombo 7. Before getting off, we were refunded LKR 500 (~US$2.80) for the inconvenience of not having air conditioning for the entire journey. Hats off to Blue Line Express for being proactive with their customer service on this one.
Yay Or Nay?
Huge thumbs up from me! If you are planning to visit Kandy from Colombo, taking the train is the most convenient way to get there. There are much cheaper train tickets than the Blue Line Express but if you want the most comfortable train journey to Kandy, there is no better option.
There was wifi along with a bathroom onboard, neither of which I got to try in either direction so I can’t comment on them.
Lastly, cross your fingers that the air conditioning is working because it can get hot despite the windows being open if you take the late afternoon trains between Kandy and Colombo.
Have you taken the Blue Line Express yourself or other train types between Kandy and Colombo? What did you think?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Travel + Technology Content Creator
Nico is a third culture kid extraordinaire who has spent time living in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and the U.S. He travels the world looking for the best stories, views, and eats.