Things you need to know before travel

Train Tours

Our Rating

5/5

Must do

Activity Level

Easy

Best Time

Anytime of the day

Total Time

30 minutes

The Beautiful Train Trip From Ella To Kandy

Taking the train is the most comfortable way to travel, in my opinion. You can walk around whenever you want, go to the toilet, have some food, meet other travelers and locals, read, listen to music, relax, and watch the landscape go by peacefully outside.

Train travel in Sri Lanka is a beautiful and affordable way to see the country. No trip is more scenic than the train from Ella to Kandy or the reverse train from Kandy to Ella!

The scenery is fantastic! You will see beautiful green hills covered with tea plantations, mountains, lovely old bridges, waterfalls, small villages, and you are greeted by lots of local kids running along the train tracks.

Taking the train to or from Ella is the most famous stretch of train travel in Sri Lanka, and is nearly a tourist attraction in itself.

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Why is the Kandy to Ella train journey so amazing?

The views on both sides of the railway are breathtaking. The train winds through the mountains overlooking farms and villages and of course vast tea plantations. The scenery continually changes throughout the trip. Often at times, you are looking out at an entire green view than the next minute you are in the middle of a woodland forest. It’s a beautiful region to view from the train and there are also so many places to visit in Kandy when you step off the train as well!

The Sri Lankan Railway System

The Railway system in Sri Lanka was initially built by the British in 1864. The main reason was to transport tea and coffee from the Hill Country to Colombo for shipping internationally.

Today there are train tracks between some of the biggest cities in Sri Lanka.

Train schedules/timetables, and ticket prices when buying tickets at the train station can be found on the Sri Lanka Government Railway Information official web site.

Most trains have different government-run classes/ carriages that you can choose from:

  • 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 full 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.
  • 1st class sleeper carries sleeping-berths and is available on a few overnight 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.

You can, however, not open the windows at 1st class since it is air-conditioned. So if you want to take those famous and spectacular (and a bit dangerous….) photos out of the windows, you should buy 2nd class tickets.

On our trip from Polonnaruwa to Colombo, we traveled 2nd class in a government-run train car, and that was also perfectly fine, and incredibly cheap. There was no food or water included.

How To Buy Train Tickets In Sri Lanka

At least on this popular stretch, Ella – Kandy, Kandy – Ella, and Kandy – Nanuoya (Nuwara Eliya), I recommend that you buy tickets in advance as the trains usually get fully booked especially on weekends. So try to avoid the weekends if possible.

The Sri Lanka Railways don’t, unfortunately, have any online booking yet. Tickets for the Ella to Kandy train and the other way around go on sale 30 days in advance. The tickets are, however, usually snapped up by travel agents and tour companies.

There are two ways to book train tickets in Sri Lanka:

1. Book Online Train Tickets In Sri Lanka At 12Go

The only place you can buy online tickets for trains in Sri Lanka is at 12Go. You can also book a private driver/ taxi and buy bus tickets here.

You can, however, only book train tickets in Sri Lanka at 12Go 37 days or more in advance. Unfortunately, you can not book any train tickets in Sri Lanka closer than 37 days prior to your train travel date at 12Go. If no train tickets pop up when you search at 12Go for a specific train distance, check the date and make sure that you search for a date that is 37 days or longer from today’s date.

The prices at 12Go are a little bit more expensive than you will pay at the train station. But it is worth it, in my opinion, since you have secured your tickets on your travel dates. You don´t have to worry about it or get any hassle of getting tickets when you arrive in Sri Lanka.

2. Buy Train Tickets At A Train Station In Sri Lanka

Buy train tickets as soon as possible when arriving in Sri Lanka. You can buy train tickets for any route at any train station in Sri Lanka. So if you plan on visiting Colombo first, you can, for instance, buy train tickets from Ella to Kandy at Colombo Fort Train Station.

Tickets for government-run trains in Sri Lanka can be issued only 10-30 days (or shorter) before departure date depending on the route. For the route, Ella to Kandy, and the other way around, the train tickets are put out for sale 30 days ahead. You can buy tickets at the train station right up until departure unless the train is fully booked.

Taking Your Luggage Onboard Trains In Sri Lanka

There is no luggage size or kilograms limit on Sri Lankan trains. You can take your bag on board the train no matter how big or heavy it is.

However, bags are usually placed on the overhead racks above your seat, so it helps if you can lift it. Otherwise, if your luggage is too big and heavy to lift, you can place it on the floor or ask the staff to help you, and they will place it in another carriage.

Is Food Included In The Sri Lanka Railway Ticket?

If you buy tickets on regular Sri Lankan government trains (1st class, 2nd class, or 3rd class), the ticket does not include any food, drinks, or meals. Some trains have a restaurant carriage, but I recommend that you bring your own food and beverages. Local food vendors usually enter the train at some train stations, selling drinks and snacks.

Sri Lanka Train From Ella To Kandy

You will have amazing views no matter which side of the train you sit. But if you can choose, it is best to sit on the left side of the train from Ella to Kandy as the views are slightly better on that side. We sat on the right side, however, and we still had some spectacular views.

The train journey from Ella to Kandy, through Sri Lanka’s Hill Country, takes about 6-7 hours in total.

If you think this train journey is too long, you can break it up and do a stopover in Nuwara Eliya along the way. Spend a couple of days in this beautiful mountain and tea plantation village. The train trip from Ella to Nuwara Eliya takes about 2,5 hours (see information further down). There are plenty of fun things to see and do in Nuwara Eliya, so it is worth a stop.

There are two government-run express trains a day from Ella to Kandy, and one VIP train run by 12Go:

  • Departure from Ella: 06:40 – Arrives in Kandy: 12:38 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Ella: 09:24 – Arrives in Kandy: 15:51 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Ella: 11:57 – Arrives in Kandy (Peradeniya Station): 18:15 

Sri Lanka Train From Kandy To Ella

The best way to travel to Kandy is by train, either from Colombo (a 3-hour train journey) or from Ella. The train from Kandy to Ella takes 6-7 hours. The distance between Kandy and Ella is about 65 km, while the road/train track distance is about 150 km.

You get beautiful scenery no matter where in the train you sit. But it is best to sit on the right side of the train from Kandy to Ella as the view is even more breathtaking on the right side.

There are two government-run express trains a day from Kandy to Ella, and one VIP train run by 12Go:

  • Departure from Kandy: 08:47 – Arrives in Ella: 15:14 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Kandy: 11:10 – Arrives in Ella: 17:16 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Kandy/ Peradeniya Station: 12:35 – Arrives in Ella: 18:27
Ella Station

Sri Lanka Train From Ella to Nuwara Eliya

If you, however, find seven hours on a bumpy train between Ella and Kandy to be a bit too much. Then you can always opt for the half-way train ride from Ella to Nuwara Eliya, or the other way around, of course.

The train trip from Ella to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Train Station) takes about 2,5 hours. The distance from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is about 65 km, but the train tracks are old and slow, and the train has to cross several mountains.

The closest train station to Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya (or Nanuoya), located approximately 8 km outside of Nuwara Eliya, or a 10-min taxi or tuk-tuk drive.

There is one daily government-run express train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Train Station) and one VIP train run by 12GO:

  • Departure from Ella: 09:24 – Arrives at Nanu Oya Train Station: 12:02 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Ella: 11:57 – Arrives at Nanu Oya Train Station: 14:35

Sri Lanka Train From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

If you, however, find seven hours on a bumpy train between Ella and Kandy to be a bit too much. Then you can always opt for the half-way train ride from Ella to Nuwara Eliya, or the other way around, of course.

The train journey from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station, 8 km outside of Nuwara Eliya) to Ella takes about 2-3 hours and goes through a beautiful landscape of tea plantations.

You should sit on the left side of the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella as this side is the most scenic. It is, however, beautiful views no matter where on the train you sit.

There are four daily government-run trains from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station) to Ella, and one VIP train run by 12GO:

  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 09:18 – Arrives at Ella Station: 12:31 – Mixed Trains (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 12:45 – Arrives at Ella Station: 15:14 – Express Train (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 14:50 – Arrives at Ella Station: 17:16 – Express Train (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 15:51 – Arrives at Ella Station: 18:22 – Express Train (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 15:55 – Arrives at Ella Station: 18:27
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