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Sri Lanka: trains, buses and tuk tuks

tuk tuk paddle boards sri lanka

We used various different methods of transport whilst we were in Sri Lanka, our favourite has to be the tuk tuk though, even if it was a squeeze getting the paddleboards on top! Public transport isn't always a particularly easy option in Sri Lanka, and for one of our journeys it wasn't feasible to use public transport with the amount of time we had, so we looked into taxi prices. However, we were then offered a tuk tuk at a much cheaper rate; yes it would take a little longer, but it was so much fun!

The most stressful part of our holiday was probably navigating the buses. It was very difficult to work out which bus went where, there were no bus numbers that we could recognise and the bus station in Kandy was a bit of a free-for-all. We unfortunately arrived around rush hour which didn't help at all and every bus stop was packed with buses two/three deep. To get on a bus, we had weave between the waiting buses and listen to the buses which were slowly driving by with conductors shouting out the locations very quickly as they went past! Given that we didn't know the final destination of the bus we needed (and there was no assistance with this), this proved somewhat tricky. Thankfully, just as I'd lost all hope of getting on a bus, a lovely chap asked if we needed help, and he then took us along the row of buses, asking each one where they were going before getting us safely on board. Although the bus journeys were stressful, they were extremely cheap (about a 50th of the price of a tuk tuk for a tourist in Kandy!) We later got a bus from one side of the island to the other for less than £2, so if you're on a budget it's an extremely good way of travelling.

The best route that we took has to be the Ella - Kandy train journey though, what scenery! It takes you through the mountains and tea plantations and is just beautiful.

When we arrived in Ella, we were advised to book our onward travel as the trains get booked up quickly. The next day, we went to book our train tickets for two day's time. However, the observation seats, first class and second class seats were already fully booked. We were apprehensive about what the third class carriage might be like, but we didn't have much option. However, we could not have asked for a better journey! There are two different types of third class: third class and third class reserved. The reserved seats, as the name suggests, are kept just for those who book ahead. As a result, there were only a handful of locals on our carriage - much better than being in a carriage crammed full of other tourists! The local people were really friendly and we shared food with each other on the journey.

The third class seats were also a fraction of the cost of the other seats. If we were to do this trip again, we'd definitely go third class reserved, it was perfect. There was plenty of room for our luggage too.

The main thing we would say when you're planning your route though, is if you're going by road, presume it's going to take a lot longer than it suggests on Google maps! The roads aren't great and it takes a long time to get anywhere. As long as you're expecting that though, it isn't a bad thing as the views are stunning. We were even treated to an elephant crossing the road in front of us on one taxi trip (the one occasion we were pleased not to be in a tuk tuk!)

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