It’s quite a mystery how and where to reserve tickets for the famous train ride from Kandy to Ella, or the other way around. I asked my hotel in Kandy to buy the ticket for me before I was heading to Sri Lanka, so it was waiting for me at the reception. I booked a reserved seat in 3rd class and paid €2.30 for it! My hotel arranged this for me free of charge. In this blogpost I will share all my practical tips for this impressive, bucket list, train journey!
It is wise to reserve your tickets at least one month before the departure date. This train ride has been named one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world and tickets are extremely popular. You can take the risk and just buy a ticket at the station in Kandy or Ella, but then you are not sure of a seat…. You can book a ticket online up to a month before departure at: https://www.visitsrilankatours.co.uk/ To be honest, I would just book the ticket through your accommodation in Kandy or Ella if you can.
On this website you can see the scedule/ departure times: https://www.seat61.com/SriLanka
Tea plantations | Train ride Kandy – Ella | Sri Lanka
The different classes
* 3rd class reserved seats: as far as I’m concerned the best option, because these tickets are the cheapest and you have as much comfort as in 2nd class. There are no fans, but because of the open windows you don’t need these anyway. In this class you can take the famous ‘casually hanging out of a train’ photo.
* 3rd class non-reserved seats: the busiest class, because all the locals travel in this class. So it can be tricky to find a seat.
* 2nd class non-reserved seats: the same seats as in 3rd class reserved – fans – open windows and doors.
* 2nd class reserved seats: exactly the same, but with reserved seats. The only difference is that the doors are not open here. Windows can be opened though.
* 1st class reserved seats: better seats – air conditioning – TV – closed windows and doors.
Train ride Kandy – Ella | Sri Lanka
Try to book the first train departing around 08:45. This one was already fully booked, so I had to take the train at 11:00 and then you’re in the fog for the last part of the journey and it’s dark.
In the weekends the train can be extremely busy, so try to avoid these days. You can also choose to hop on the train a station earlier or later than at the main station in Kandy or Ella.
My train departed from platform 2. You can board the train from 2 sides. | Train ride Kandy – Ella | Sri Lanka
The trip usually takes between 6 and 7 hours, but it took 8 hours untill we arrived in Ella. You’ll get there when you’ll get there haha. On the way the train has to wait several times for another train connection. This caused a lot of the delay… The train breaks down sometimes too.
You can choose to make a nice stop to visit Nuwara Eliya, hike at Horton’s Plains, or stop for the famous Adam’s Peak: a place of pilgrimage for Sri Lankans.
Watch out for obstacles if you want to hang out of the train!
On which side should you sit – Train ride Kandy – Ella
The first part of the journey, untill Nuwara Eliya, you should sit on the right side. From Nuwara Eliya to Ella the left side is the best. A lot of people leave the train at Nuwara Eliya, so if you stay seated you can sometimes switch to the other side.
Bring a warm sweater for the cooler part of the trip.
Buy something to eat and drink at the shop on platform 1. The train ride is often considerably delayed. On board you can buy some food, but it is smart to bring your favorite snacks. Try the warm peanuts with salt and chili on board for 200LKR!
Bring a book and some music, so you won’t be bored when the ride takes longer than expected.
The beautiful landscape….
You can board the train from 2 sides. Almost all tourists are on the right side, but I walked to the other side of the platform and was able to find my seat much faster. My reserved 3rd class seat was located at the beginning of the blue train. In the first compartment seen from the station. There are people walking around who wil help you. The seat numbers are above the seats.
The train ride
Along the way you see waterfalls and stunning tea plantations. Try to sit in one of the doorways! This is such a unique experience! The train does not run very fast. Pay attention to trees and obstacles along the way. Especially if you want to throw your hair into the wind. Being beheaded in Sri Lanka is probably not on your bucket list… The last part of the ride can be very chilly. Even with my sweater on, I was still a bit cold, so bring some warm clothes.
Train ride Kandy – Ella | Sri Lanka
Tip 1: bring some toilet paper. The 3rd class toilet was not too bad at all.
Tip 2: If you want more space, you can try to book 2 chairs next to each other. I spent half the journey with the neighbour’s drooling baby on my lap…
Tip 3: With the app Maps.me you can download the map of Sri Lanka, so you can always see where you are when you are offline. This way you can see exactly at which stop you are and how far you still have to go.
Tip 4: Keep your train ticket with you! You have to show it when you leave the station in Ella.