Travelling in trains is both a beautiful and affordable way to see the Sri Lanka. The train trip from Ella to Kandy, or the reversed way, is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent train rides in the world. This train ride is 7-hours long and takes you through lush green jungle, stunning landscapes of terraced tea plantations and soaring mountain views.
First things first: the Kandy to Ella train is breathtaking. However, when you are embarking on one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, which has become an Instagram sensation, it only means one thing: lots of people. It’s not just tourists, but also a popular mode of transport for locals.
Nevertheless, taking the train is the most comfortable way to travel and least possibility of getting scam compared to bus rides. You can walk around whenever you want, go to the toilet, have some food, meet other travelers and locals, listen to music, and watch the different landscapes go by peacefully outside.
Getting Train Tickets
The train trip Ella – Kandy, and Kandy – Ella is in high demand, at all times. I would highly recommend that you buy tickets as soon as you enter Sri Lanka. We tried to get the tickets about 20-days in advance while in Colombo, but all dates were already sold out. In the end, we got ourselves a pair of first class tickets with the only date available.
There are 3 trains that depart from Kandy towards Ella everyday: 3.30am, 8.47am or 11.10am.
On the day we travelled the Sri Lanka railway prices for a reserved seat on the train from Kandy to Ella were:
1st Class – 1000 rupees (USD6)
2nd Class – 600 rupees (USD4)
3rd Class – 400 rupees (USD3)
**You might have read or seen cheaper price somewhere but bear in mind that those are for unreserved seats.
Different types of train carriages:
- 1st class observation car is available on certain daytime trains, mostly on the Main Line like the trains between Kandy and Ella, and is very popular among tourists. The observation car provides a wide view of the scenery and is usually at the rear of the train but occasionally behind the locomotive.
- 1st class air-conditioned seats are available on occasional inter-city express trains.
- 2nd class seats are provided on all inter-city trains and are available as either unreserved seats or reserved seats. 2nd class has fans and you can open the windows.
- 3rd class seats are available on most trains. This class can get very crowded and carries only basic facilities.
Most travellers would advise you to get 2nd class ticket, which is probably the safest bet. First class comes with air con which means no windows to get those shots out of, and third class looked seriously like a refugee camp which definitely not suitable for snapping away.
We actually glad that we had the first class seats. So what if we didn’t get a window shots? You can do it in any of other train rides! As our carriage was filled with matured travellers, so there’s no one fighting with us for the spot at the doorway! We got to hold on to the spot for 6-hours to ourselves, taking turns to eat and rest our butts on those comfy seat.
To find out more about getting around in Sri Lanka by trains, you may refer to this comprehensive guide by Seat61.
TIPS BEFORE YOU GO
It matters which side you sit on – Sit on the right side when heading to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya), and sit on the left when heading into Ella for the best views!
Grab a spot at the doorways early and hold it – We were lucky that the first class seats’ passengers preferred their comfy chairs and we had the doorway spot all by ourselves!
Getting the perfect shot – Trust us, it was not easy to get those instagrammable shots. You have to find the right timing with lesser heads, hands and legs popping out, watch out for branches and long grasses, and holding on to your dear life while the train is speeding away!
Avoid weekends and holidays – If getting a ticket is already hard on normal weekdays, let alone weekends and holidays where we have to fight spaces not only with tourists, but the locals as well.
Buying second class seats does not guarantee a seat – If you think you got lucky getting a second class seat ticket on the day itself, take note that you are likely to have a second class unreserved. Holding on to this ticket means there is a chance you have to stand for 7-hours, or sit along the aisle (if it wasn’t too crowded). However, you might get real lucky if there are locals getting off in between the stops.
The train trip between Kandy and Ella is definitely one of the highlights of Sri Lanka and we love it! ♥