The Kandy to Ella train Sri Lanka is one of the most famous and scenic train rides in the world. The iconic blue train allows travelers to hang out of the doors as it passes through tea plantations and between mountains. You’re sure to witness some incredible landscapes while on this 7 hour journey.
Where to stay in Ella
Ella is a small town with many of the accommodation options being located in or close to the main strip. We stayed at Relaxing Home stay and definitely recommend it! The owner was lovely, it was in a perfect location and the room was the size of a studio apartment. It’s also super affordable. Another nice place to stay is Hotel Onrock which has spacious rooms and awesome views of the surrounding mountains.
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Kandy to Ella Train Sri Lanka timetable
There are 3 trains departing daily from Kandy. The first leaves at 3:30am, the second leaves at 8:45am, and the third leaves at 11am. The 8:45am train is definitely the most popular option among tourists and also the train that we got. If you get the 8:45am train, be sure to get there early to avoid waiting in the long ticket queue and to secure yourself a ticket. By 8:30am the line is out the door.
The train takes roughly 7 hours to reach Ella from Kandy.
Kandy to Ella Train Tickets and Classes
You can purchase 1st, 2nd and 3rd class tickets for the Kandy to Ella train Sri Lanka.
In the 1st class cabin there is air conditioning so the windows are sealed shut and doors are closed. This means you won’t have the joy of hanging out the window or doors to admire the view and the train. A 1st class ticket costs 1000 Rupees ($8 AUD)
2nd class is the most popular option. In 2nd class there are single seats and the windows and doors are always open. This will allow you to have a comfortable and more scenic journey. A second class ticket costs 230 Rupees ($2 AUD).
In 3rd class you will mainly find locals and the seats aren’t single. Instead, the cabin has benches which face each other. This means it’ll be a tight squeeze as people try to make room to sit together on the long seats. If you’re looking to meet some locals then this would be a perfect way! A third class seat costs 150 Rupees ($1.20 AUD)
Unfortunately you can’t book tickets online which means reserving yourself a seat can be a challenge. Reserved seat tickets are known to sell out up to weeks in advance in peak season. The only ways to book a reserved seat ticket is to purchase it at the train station up to 6 days before you travel, through a travel agent who will charge a hefty fee or you can try find online vendors who aren’t associated with the railway.
On the day we traveled, we tried our luck and asked if they had any reserved seats. First class was available although most people turn down 1st class due to not being able to hang out of the train windows.
How to get the best seat
Once you arrive to your platform, ask the train conductor where your carriage stops. We noticed all the 2nd class ticketed tourists bunched together. Instead of following the crowd, stay slightly to the side. Stand close to the edge of the platform and jump on and try secure a seat.
Note: the best side of the train to sit on if you’re going from Kandy to Ella is the right side. The left side gets some nice views towards the end of the journey but nowhere near as much as the right side.
Everything else you need to know
There is no doubt why the Kandy to Ella train Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. You’ll pass through small villages, dense jungle and witness insane mountain views and tea plantations. The 7 hour trip itself is quite tiring but you’ll have no shortage of views to look at on the long journey. We visited during rainy season which meant it rained occasionally on our train ride. Although this made it even more magical!
If you’re worried about food on the train then there’s no need to panic. There are multiple locals throughout the train who walk around with small Sri Lankan pastries, different drinks and even hot tea.
On our journey, we expected the train to be full from the start and get quieter as the journey went on. We actually found that the train got busier with every stop. Towards the end it got so busy that there was no way to reach the bathroom. If you want to walk around the carriage and have a look out the doors, it’s best to do this early on in the trip before Nuwara Eliya. This is just our experience so maybe it will be quieter towards the end for you!
While you’re in Ella, don’t forget to check out the top 3 Ella spots you can’t miss!