Sleeper Train to Colombo / Off the Grid

IMG_1063I am just spending my last day in Sri Lanka. The planned accommodation didn’t work out, so I’ve moved into a backpaper hotel. Cheap – 15 Euros a night – and since I can leave on my flip flops when taking a shower and still have a large stock of Sagrotan stuff, I am happy to have a clean, bug free bed, hot water and air con, and don’t worry about flaking paint, water damaged walls, and ant streets in the bathroom. Also, I haven’t (yet?) seen a cockroach, as some other guests have. And for my last afternoon today I am intending to impersonate a guest in a luxury hotel known to me and spend some time at the pool – keep your fingers crossed for me!

After Tuk-Tuk, car, public bus and 3rd class train travel there was one more transport mode to tackle – the sleeper train from Trincomalee to Colombo. I decided to splurge and bought a 1st class ticket for the equivalent of 8 Euros.

Buying the ticket was rather Sri Lankan: First one, then two station employees looked through the manually kept ticket book, looking very serious, glancing at me from time to time, conferring with each other, looking at me again, conferring… Finally, one of them told me what the problem was: There were only upper berths left for the day in question – was that ok for Miss? Miss informed them that yes indeed, this was ok, Miss was still nimble enough to master the challenge. They duly started to fill in some documents and making entries into the big ticket book. In the meantime, from the right an old man started to gently but determinedly push me away from the enquiry window, whilst a policeman was counter-pushing from the left. I felt a bit pressurized, and used my elbows to push both gentlemen away from me and try and pay my ticket.

After all that, I was pretty much completely on my own in the entire first class waggon – at some point, a policeman went into another compartment, and that was it. I therefore didn’t need to prove my nimbleness, and could really have moved to a different bed every half hour if I had so wished – it is an unsolved mystery what happened to the other passengers.
First class is a question of definition or standard – but at least I had a bed and a toilet, and even managed to sleep a bit on the 300 kilometre 9 hour journey. Once or twice the train stopped for longer, allowing passengers to buy food and water. I had a potato pasty and a sweet cinnamon pasty, both wrapped lovingly in newspaper, and both really tasty.


Overall, it was a rather normal journey. I was the only (obvious) foreigner and was therefore rather conspicuous, but can really recommend taking the sleeper train, especially at this price. A 2nd class journey (wide seats) costs around half, third class a quarter of the 1st class ticket price.

I’ll be flying back to Yangon on Tuesday night, and will probably not have internet for a few weeks – therefore, don’t fret if there are no more updates for a while. I’ll be looking for internet cafés to try and update you a bit about my experience with a horde of little children. I am planning to fly to Kathmandu on March 22nd.

I wish you all a good time, or as they say here: God Bless You.

8 responses to “Sleeper Train to Colombo / Off the Grid

  1. Wow, Gudrun sounds pretty amazing, although I dont think I could survive your 1st train journey, the places you are visiting I can only dream off, keep enjoying and telling us about your fantastic journeys, lots of love charlene xxx

    PS forgot to say my sis in NY had a baby about a month now, I’m an aunty again 🙂 I just returned home it was a very cold and snowy visit! I’m taking the kids to Trinidad & Tobago in July, something too look forward too, nothing exotic like your adventures!!!

    • Congrats on being an Auntie again, how wonderful! Trinidad & Tobago sounds pretty exciting and exotic to me, you’ll have a great time with your family, enjoy! xxx

  2. Hallo Gudrun, wir sind nun wieder aktuell und Du kannst uns ein Plus ins Betragenheft eintragen, denn wir haben Deine liebevoll und schön erzählten Geschichten und Berichte allesamt begeistert gelesen. Viel gestaunt, viel gelacht oder beides und auch der offensichtlich unvermeidliche Geschichtsunterricht hat nicht nur Spaß gemacht, sondern auch mitunter erhebliche Wissenlücken geschlossen. Danke dafür und bitte mehr davon. Nicht jeder Leser hinterlässt Kommentare, aber mittlerweile wissen wir, Dein Blog wird von vielen mit ähnlicher Begeisterung gelesen, auch wenn kein Kommentar hinterlassen wird. Ich denke, ich kann diesen Eintrag somit getrost im Namen auch all derer vornehmen, die “heimlich” lesen, aber nix hinterlassen. Wir wünschen Dir weiterhin tolle Erfahrungen und freuen uns auf die nächsten Einträge, Berichte, Bilder und Filmchen. Dein Humor, Deine Bereitschaft zur Selbstironie und die “Mal sehen, was kommt” und “kütt wie et kütt”- Einstellung werden dabei sicherlich hilfreich sein. Lieber Gruß Jürgen und Aliki – ach, und Kölle Alaaf!

    • Danke meine Lieben, euer Kommentar erfreut mich sehr! Lest kraeftig weiter (und hinterlasst hin und wieder mal einen Kommentar und gebt generell ein Lebenszeichen), und denkt immer daran: Es heisst HELAU!! 🙂 Lieben Gruss Gudrun

  3. Hallo Gudrun, es ist eine wahre Freude, Deine Geschichten zu lesen. Du kannst also außer fotografieren auch schreiben. Idee für die Zukunft? :-))
    Alles Gute weiterhin. Viele Grüße, Markus

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  5. Hi! Thanks for your blog post, was really interesting. I am thinking of taking the sleeper train from Colombo to Trincomalee in a few days but have heard scary reports of thieving and it being unsafe etc.
    Do you think the opposite journey would be similar to the experience you had? Did you buy your ticket on the day at the station or did you reserve it a day in advance?

    • Hi Jess, I would expect the opposite journey to be similar. You do have to be careful, but people also take care of you. As always, most people travel without a problem, but you usually hear about the few who had a problem, and think it happens all the time – I had the same concerns, but felt safe. I bought my ticket at the station, a day or two in advance. First class is less booked, and (relatively) cheap, plus maybe safer still.
      Have a great journey, all the best – Gudrun

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