I love a good train trip, especially when it is dubbed the “world’s greatest.” I have experienced the world’s most luxurious train in South Africa and the world’s best foodie train in Portugal. So naturally, of all the things I was looking forward to with my time in Sri Lanka, taking the Kandy to Ella train trip, the world’s most scenic, topped my list…and it almost didn’t happen. Here’s why.
About the Kandy to Ella Train
Winding its way some 150 kilometres through tea leaf fields and lush green mountains, the train between Kandy and Ella is often described as the most scenic in the world. This seven-hour plus ride offers amazing views and the ability to dangle your legs out of the slow-moving cars.
This journey has become Instagram famous and is quickly becoming the hottest ticket in the country.Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say at TripAdvisor
Getting Tickets for the Kandy to Ella Train
Securing tickets for this popular ride can be a challenge, to say the least. There is no official online booking system making getting the tickets in advance a roll of the dice. You can, however, book through local travel agents. They physically send people to purchase tickets as they become available and then resell at an inflated price. The catch is you have to request is a minimum of 30 days in advance. I miss read this as you couldn’t book until 30 days out. This left me scrambling.
UPDATE! You can book your Kandy to Ella train tickets online now!
In the end, I booked through Sanota Walkers, the company I had hired to take me from Colombo the Kandy via Sygira Rock. They did the legwork and, much like buying scalped tickets to a concert, got us our train tickets last minute outside the venue.
Leason here is to book in advance. Going to the station the day of is also an option although from my experience that won’t necessarily get you a seat!
Since returning I discovered 12GO ASIA offers online booking! They even have a private luxury car that runs every Thursday. You can book instantly without the hassle and headaches I faced.
Class of Service
The train between Kandy and Ella offers three classes of service:
- 1st Class – air-condition car with assigned seats;
- 2nd Class – fan cooled car with assigned seats;
- 3rd Class – free-for-all hot box.
Knowing half the fun of this slow ride is to stick your head out of the window, we opted for 2nd class seats. 1st class windows do not open given the car has A/C. 3rd class is a mad dash to claim a spot.
This mad dash and confusion resulted in a nightmarish ride for one middle-aged couple from France. As we were boarding I saw them frantically rushing to the front of the train. They must’ve thought that this was third class as one-stop in they were being escorted to the third class car which was directly behind our seat. There was no seats or space left and they spent the seven-hour trip between train cars. It was hard not to look back at and locks sad eyes with them as they were pressed up against the car window.READ MORE: The World’s Best Foodie Experience is on a Train!
Again, book in advance.
If you are reading this too late to get your tickets in advance there is one last-ditch effort for you. Instead of getting on the train at Kandy station, take a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride to Peradeniya Station and be sure to arrive at least 30-minutes before the train arrives. Once you have tickets, board the train BEFORE it gets to Kandy. The train also passes Peradeniya on the way to Ella and by this point, as the French couple pressed between cars found out, all seats will be gone.
At 230 LKR (~$1.50), unreserved seats are the cheapest way to go. That said, they are not guaranteed and I would not risk it personally so I suggest you book ahead!READ MORE: How to cover India’s highlights by luxury train!
Kandy to Ella Train Schedule
If you are looking to take in the scenery between Kandy and Ella, there are only two trains a day you can take, both in the AM:
- Departing Peradeniya 8.32 and 10.55
- Departing Kandy 8.42 and 11.03
- Arriving in Ella 15:15 and 17:28
Food and Drink
At the stops along the way, vendors selling snacks and drinks board the train. I recommend stocking up on supplies before heading out but in a pinch grab a samosa or two! Cash only and be sure to have small bills or change.
Tea fields and Mountains
With the chaos of booking over, we were able to settle in and enjoy the ride. The scenery doesn’t open up until a couple of hours out of Kandy so I suggest resting till then. Once the train starts its slow climb make your way to the space between the cars. There you are free to dangle your legs out of the train and take in the view unobstructed.
A word of warning: Although the train is slow-moving, the ride can be bumpy. Be sure to hang on tight and be safe. No Instagram post is worth getting hurt over.READ MORE: What’s it like taking the world’s most luxurious train?
Kandy to Ella Train Conclusion
There you have it. My tips and experience from taking the most scenic train ride in the world. All said and done, as much as I love the train from Kandy to Ella, I was happy to arrive at our destination. Seven-and-a-half hours is a long haul, and I had a seat! As scenic as the views are, it’s certainly not worth being crammed in between cars over. Last time I will say it, book ahead!Compare airlines, dates and prices on flights to Sri Lanka all in one place with Skyscanner
Where to Stay in Kandy and Ella
In Kandy, I highly recommend the Theva Residency for its amazing views and infinity pool. You can read my full review here or check the latest rates below.
In Ella, we stayed at the Okreech Cottages. It was the perfect place to listen to the rainfall, read a book, and relax. It is also super close to the main strip so accessible to everything!
What say you?
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