Train trip from Kandy to Ella, Sri Lanka: How to plan this trip

A viagem de Kandy para Ella é uma das viagens de comboio mais recomendadas e divulgadas em todo o mundo. As paisagens exuberantes é talvez um dos motivos que coloque o Sri Lanka na mente de quem planeia uma viagem.

It is a dream trip, and the more we look for information, the more photos we see, the more we are convinced that Sri Lanka is the ideal destination and the journey from Kandy to Ella, a compulsory trip.

After the initial idea, you started to plan, the trip was scheduled and, upon arriving, something unexpected happens: exhausted train passes. Here begins the understanding of a very different dynamic from what is found in countries like India or Thailand.

Railway Station in Kandy - Sri Lanka - Happymind Travels
Railway Station in Kandy – Sri Lanka

Transports in Sri Lanka are not yet ready for massive tourism. The good news: It is already possible to book and buy train tickets online, with an average term of 30 to 45 days before.

In the same way, you can always go to the train station, buy the ticket the same day and wait for somewhere to sit down. Otherwise, the whole path will remain standing, which is not pleasant at all.

In the train journey from Kandy to Ella, also known as Elle, that’s precisely what happens. Without reservation in advance, there is the purchase of an average 2nd or 3rd class last minute ticket. Said without reservation, chaos is installed.

Kandy Railway Station Placard - Sri Lanka - Happymind Travels
Kandy Railway Station Placard – Sri Lanka

There are several train schedules available. But as the journey takes 7 hours, the sooner you go, the sooner you reach Ella. It is not interesting to travel at night since from 18h it starts to get dark.

Above all, it is a journey of 156 km, but lasting between 6 and 7 hours in a row. There are two main stops: the first in Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya) and the second in Ella. If you continue the route, the train goes east and passes through the bridge Nine Arches Bridge.

Nine Arches Bridge in Ella, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Nine Arches Bridge in Ella, Sri Lanka

The journey from Kandy to Ella is rich in diverse landscapes, from the most mountainous, to the train passing through the vegetation, with almost perfect curves, creating very geometric images and beautiful.

Perfect train curve on Kandy's Trip to Ella, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Perfect train curve on Kandy’s Trip to Ella, Sri Lanka

And when the dream becomes a nightmare?

But since the beauty of the trip is put in question, with the stocking and discomfort of it. Maybe it’s lucky or unfortunate to get a good seat, with good visibility and sitting, of course.

It can be in a bank or even at the entrance of a door because the train goes very slowly. But let’s get back to the beginning.

This journey begins in Kandy, one of the main cities of Sri Lanka, quiet enough and welcoming, offering many exciting things to do or visit. It is there that it concentrates the starting point for the mystical journey of Kandy for Ella.

It is in Kandy where you buy the train ticket, and you are immediately obliged to choose between the 2nd and 3rd class without reservation. The locomotive is, and the place of waiting for the train determines where you will enter.

Confusion inside the Kandy train for Ella - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Confusion inside the Kandy train for Ella – Sri Lanka

Soon you begin to see a lot of people accumulating. Intuition tells you that the train will fill up in its entirety. But the result will be far worse than this initial imaginary thought. Of course, everything depends on the competition on that day, but the usual thing is to always be very intense.

Moreover, it is not only tourists who travel on this train. The vast majority of passengers are Sinhalese residents in their normal routine. Not to mention those who go out for a nature tasting tour of their country.

Couple blocking the landscape on the journey from Kandy to Ella - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Couple blocking the landscape on the journey from Kandy to Ella – Sri Lanka

The train does not arrive in Kandy empty, as it comes from other stops. Almost no passenger descends, and the crowd enters the locomotive in utter despair. You who come from a civilized country, behave as such, open and seek a place calmly without being trampled.

The Sinhalese are the first to reach the first vacant seats. Or when they find a busy person, they ask if the seated passengers are thinking of going down in the next seasons.

Gate blocked by other tourists on the trip from Kandy to Ella - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Gate blocked by other tourists on the trip from Kandy to Ella – Sri Lanka

This is all in the local language, without you noticing. Then you will drop the token when you see their reaction, but then it is late, because, nicely, you let the child, woman or man pass and you lose your place.

It’s a little jungle in there.

With some misfortune, you’ll be in the crowd for most of the trip, barely able to see the scenery. The good news is that in Nanu Oya (station near Nuwara Eliya), a lot of people come down and the situation improves a bit more.

What is the best solution?

First, the train leaving Kandy comes from Colombo. So catching the train in Kandy may not be the best solution.

Try to book train tickets well in advance, and get someplace in the reserved second class. We have a super complete article on how to do this and the maximum time you need to know more about transports in Sri Lanka.

Moment of Joy on Kandy's Journey to Ella - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Moment of Joy on Kandy’s Journey to Ella – Sri Lanka

The first class is by far not worth it because you will not be able to open windows or doors because it is an air-conditioned area.

And if you still can not get the 2nd class reserved, there are other options:

  • Be quick and find your place. As soon as the train stops, you will quickly enter and run to book your place;
  • It goes from tuk-tuk to some of the cities before Kandy, like Ladugannawa and then you get the train there for Ella.

Do not think that this last idea is entirely original, there are risks. Still, you can find many people in the queue, or who already come from Colombo.

What’s more, the trip takes almost 7 hours from Kandy to Ella. Getting into the train many hours before is perhaps not the most pleasant idea.

The Best Spot on the Train on the trip from Kandy for Ella - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
The Best Spot on the Train on the trip from Kandy for Ella – Sri Lanka

Another option is to make the reverse course, from Ella to Kandy. The landscape is precisely the same. But when planning your trip, you will have to decide and adjust to the destinations you will visit in Sri Lanka.

The truth is cruel. Do not expect, however, to find the train empty. On the contrary, it may be equally full.

Sri Lanka is a small country, and most of it is concentrated in that part of the country.

What classes exist on the train and which one to choose?

Were you a little confused about the carriage classes? Now we will explain in more detail, and what is the 1st class, a 2nd class reserved, 2nd class not reserved and 3rd class.

  • 1st class – it is more “cultured” and quiet. It has air conditioning, so forget the idea to open the windows and enjoy the breeze of the route. Another issue is that seats are numbered, it is usually recommended for long trips to be able to rest.
  • 2nd class booked – it’s busier, but it’s more recommended, even if you book in advance. The seats have more comfortable cushions. Also, the biggest advantage is to be able to put your head out the window and have that close contact with nature, or open the door and take beautiful pictures of the lush landscapes.
  • 2nd class and 3rd class without reservation – usually have the lowest prices, but is less comfortable to withstand the fact of traveling for 7 hours in a row. The 2nd class does not have much difference with the 3rd class without reservation. Worse still, the chances of you sitting down are almost zero. Practically that you will not be able to take many photos, much less appreciate the landscapes because you will be massacred by the locals. So the best solution remains to buy the tickets in advance for the second class booked.

How to buy train tickets from Kandy to Ella online?

Save time and guarantee your reservation in the second class reserved, thus ensure a seat available. You can track availability and schedule the routes you want.

Landscape on the Train Trip from Kandy to Ella - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Landscape on the Train Trip from Kandy to Ella – Sri Lanka

It is advisable to buy online on the site 12go.asia between 30/45 days in advance. At first, you will see that the prices are higher online, but your seat will be guaranteed. While leaving to buy at the last minute, this dream can turn into a nightmare.

Which side of the train do you choose to contemplate the beautiful scenery?

Choosing the best place to marvel at the scenery depends on you and your script. You will see how well you can get on either side of the train and have incredible visions.

The right side of the train offers the best scenery from Kandy to Nanu Oya. From mountainous areas, through small villages, you can see in the distance. Also, the narrow paths closest to vegetation are lush that almost enter inside the train.

Percurso estreito na Viagem de Trem de Kandy para Ella - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Narrow route on the Train Trip from Kandy to Ella – Sri Lanka

After Nanu Oya, the landscape on the right side remains superb. As soon as you approach Ella, the left side of the train offers such a vibrant scene, full of mountains and breathtaking nature!

If you choose the 2nd class without reservation or 3rd class, unfortunately, it will be difficult to find a place. The more you change sides in the middle of the trip because they are overcrowded.

On the other hand, if you opt for the reserved 2nd class carriage, it is much quieter, and with freedom of movement, so you will have all the conditions to change sides.

Delicious landscape on the Train Trip from Kandy to Ella - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Delicious landscape on the Train Trip from Kandy to Ella – Sri Lanka

If you take Ella’s route to Kandy, then you just have to swap sides. Although the journey is a little calmer do not think that you will be free of the confusion.

Our primary goal is to be transparent with you and to make clear the benefits of a well-planned train trip from Kandy to Ella. Enjoy the buzz, and leave your doubt in the comments that we will be happy to answer you!

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