Supposedly one of the most scenic train journeys on the planet, a trip to Sri Lanka would not be complete without taking the 7 hour train from Kandy through to Ella. So here’s everything you need to know in preparation, plus our personal experience of the awesome day…
You cannot book tickets in advance at the station! So the only options are to try and pre-book online, which we couldn’t seem to do, or just turn up on the day an hour before departure…which worked perfectly for us.
You’ll be greeted by a queue of people doing the same, but there doesn’t seem to be a limit on the amount of tickets sold so don’t let that be a worry.
There are 3 trains that depart from Kandy towards Ella everyday so the options for travel are 3.30am (not sure why you’d take this one), 8.47am or 11.10am.
We heard that the 8.47am train is the best to catch because naturally, fewer people want to get up early. Plus it’s good to hit the road (well tracks) before the mid morning fog sets in.
Also keep hold of your ticket until you arrive, the ticket inspector WILL ask you for it when you get off in Ella.
Prices vary from around 150 rupees (3rd class) to 250 (second class) and up to 1000 for first class – air con being the big difference.
If you can get a guaranteed seat then it’s a bonus but chances are you’ll be fighting everyone on the platform just to get on the train, let alone sit down so don’t worry too much.
So we were up nice and early, just in time to have our poached eggs on toast, before catching a tuk tuk from Kandy City Hostel directly to the station.
We’d heard it was a struggle to make the train, purely because of the sheer amount of people that flock to the now tourist attraction, and sure enough the queue was out of the door when we arrived at 7.50am.
It soon died down though, and before we knew it all 6 of us were piling through the turnstiles, ready and waiting on the platform for the incredible views to begin.
After a lot of debating as to which side to wait on, and how we were ever going to make it onto the train with all these people, we decided to pull up a pew and chill for half an hour to prep ourselves for the mad rush.
The train eventually arrived, full of locals from its departing station in Colombo, and on we jumped. It was cramped, hot and smelly but we were on! Next stop Ella! But not before some breathtaking scenery…
So here comes the real honest part, the first 4 hours were a nightmare. Maybe it was because we happened to travel on a weekend or maybe it was just always that full, but we were up and down like a pogo stick looking for spots to try and snatch a glimpse of the view. Luckily enough the first few hours were nothing special and in the end we took a locals advice that after Nuwara Eliya most passengers would disembark and space would be created. So we held on for a while and snacked on some veggie samosas to see us through.
Eventually, around 3 and a half hours in, the crowd did in fact die down and we managed to get some awesome seats next to the window between a French family. So the six of us spread out between the coach seats and the doorways and enjoyed the main part of the show.
The trees and mountain views were definitely worth waiting for! We guess being on a train you don’t realise how much you’re ascending but suddenly we pulled out into views from such height that were so green and clean…beautiful would be an understatement.
We chilled and took it all in and to be honest nothing we write in this blog will do it justice but if you decide to skip the train journey from Kandy to Ella then don’t say we didn’t warn you! It’s certainly an experience!
We heard so many different things before getting on the train but we can now speak from experience to sit on LEFT when heading into Ella for the best views!
Grab a spot near the doorways early and hold it. One of the girls we were with squeezed through to the doorway and sat there for the entire duration of the journey. If you can hold down a spot and master when to let people past to exit without losing it then you’re onto a winner!