No trip to Sri Lanka would be complete without taking the world’s most beautiful train ride. The journey by train from Kandy to Ella is seriously, jaw-dropping amazing. The old, slow and steady train winds through towering green mountains, lush tea fields, picturesque villages, clusters of misty clouds, and over crashing waterfalls.
The doors are wide open the entire journey, allowing you to swap your seat for a fresh view, or hang out of them for a minor adrenaline kick.
What to Expect
When taking any train in Sri Lanka, you can expect a long journey. Kandy to Ella is particularly long, taking 7 hours total. Sure, you can take a bus or taxi, which will cut your travel time almost in half (and cost you a pretty penny in comparison). But, how could you pass up the most beautiful train ride in the world?
Three trains run daily, departing at 3:30 AM, 8:47 AM, and 11:10 AM. You should arrive early, especially if you weren’t able to get a Ticket with a reserved seat. As trains are slow, oftentimes there are delays, so you might be waiting at the platform for a bit.
How to Get Tickets
So, how does one acquire tickets for the most beautiful train ride in the world?
Truthfully, it may not be as easy or straightforward as you had hoped. But, with a little flexibility, proper planning, and perhaps a small dose of luck, it is completely doable.
Unfortunately, tickets cannot be purchased online in advance through the official railway website. You must go to the train station on the day you are planning to embark on your journey in order to buy them. This is what I did, and I had zero issues getting two reserved seats in third class. Although, it did require an early start to my day, arriving at the train station for 7:00 AM, before the rest of the crowd.
BUT, depending on what time of year you are travelling to Sri Lanka, this might not be an option for you. During peak season and holidays, tickets are sold out weeks in advance. Tour operators and travel agents snatch them up in bulk and sell them at a much higher cost. So, if you are travelling on a tight schedule, you might want to consider securing your seats this way. Click here to book with Sri Lanka Tours.
Read the bonus tips section for an alternative solution that MIGHT work out in your favour. Good luck!
These are the prices of tickets when purchased in-person at the Kandy train station.
- 1st Class: 1250 Rs ($10 CAD)
- 2nd Class: 650 Rs ($5 CAD)
- 3rd Class: 400 Rs ($3 CAD)
Hold on to those tickets! Once the train is on its way from Kandy, someone will walk through the cars to make sure you’re in your seats and in the correct car. If not, you will be asked to leave and to go to the appropriate car.
What to Bring
What will you need to survive a long 7-hour train ride?
Load up on snacks and water before or at Kandy Station. I found the prices slightly more expensive for drinks and snacks at the train station, but it’s all still very reasonable.
Pocket Change for Vendors
What if the snacks run dry on the train ride? This is always a primary concern of mine. But, don’t worry. Vendors hop onto the train at each station, bringing on with them huge baskets of all sorts of local treats – sweet fruits, spiced nuts, crispy samosas, hot chai, and more. I highly recommend the warm, spiced nuts. They were seriously good. Bring small bills with you, as vendors usually won’t make change for larger denominations.
Each car has its own toilet, which are not really maintained throughout the journey. Come prepared and bring your own TP, or you’ll be sorry!
Well, of course! How else are you supposed to show your friends and family that you went on the most beautiful train ride in the world?
I never thought in a million years I would recommend bringing a selfie stick anywhere (maybe I’ve lived in Asia for too long now). But, for this trip, you’re going to wish you had one. You can take some pretty sweet looking shots, especially when trying to capture the entire train while hanging out a doorway.
Don’t have one? The Fugetek FT-568 is super durable and is designed for Android and Apple phones, action cameras, as well as DSLRs – and, it’s super reasonable at only $18.99. Click here to get yours!
If you’re constantly snapping photos and capturing footage of your journey, you’re going to wish you had one of these. I always bring two with me, whenever I’m on the road.
Seven hours is a long time for any type of travel. You will most likely doze off more than once. And, because the seats aren’t the most comfortable, I am SO happy I packed one with me.
Check out these two awesome travel pillows if you don’t have one already!
For those looking for chin support, the Chin Supporting Travel Pillow by BCOZZY for $29.99.
For those who want neck support, the Neck Supporting Travel Pillow by Trtl for $29.97.
Although the scenery alone is enough to keep you entertained for the entire journey, I’m happy I packed a few things in my bag to change things up a bit.
Have you ever played Monopoly Deal? It’s the most addictive card game you will ever play. Seriously, I’ve begun to bring it with me on every trip I go on. My boyfriend and I spent 3 hours straight playing this quick, fast-paced version of Monopoly by Hasbro, when the rain picked up during our train ride.
Click here to get your own Monopoly Deal game! This is the best $6 investment you will ever make!
As the train winds deeper through the mountains, the carriages can start to feel a little chilly, especially with all of the windows and doors wide open. If it rains during your journey, it can become especially cold. Pack a sweater just in case!
Does the thought of spending 7 hours straight on a train seem pretty unbearable? I’ll admit, about halfway through the journey, I was starting to feel pretty restless. If your schedule allows for it, you might want to consider making a stop in Nuwara Eliya (at about the 4 hour mark) for a night or two. Here, you can explore lush green tea plantations, learn more about tea on a factory tour, dive into natural pools and bask under waterfalls, and hike some epic trails (Adam’s Peak and World’s End). It seemed as if a lot of people had the right idea, as half of the carriage I was sitting in cleared out at this station.
This might be the best way to secure a spot on the train if buying a ticket on the day of your journey. That being said, there is still no guarantee, especially during peak season and holidays. From Kandy, take a tuk tuk early in the morning to Perideniya Station, about 10 minutes depending on where you are in Kandy. Perideniya is the stop before Kandy, with significantly fewer people boarding the train here. Although, more and more people seem to be figuring this out, and are heading there first thing in the morning.
Best Seats On The Train
Whether you sit (or stand) on the left or right side of the train, the views are absolutely amazing. Some people argue that the left side is the best, which I found to only be really true from the middle of the journey, onwards. I sat on the right side of the train and found the scenery to be absolutely stunning the entirety of the journey – especially the first few hours. Either way, don’t stress. Getting yourself a ticket is the most important part. Wherever you end up sitting, you can walk freely to the open doorways at the end of the carriage whenever you want to experience the best of both sides.
If you are so lucky to have a choice as to which class ticket to buy, make your decision carefully, as you cannot walk between different carriage classes. I was given a ticket for third class, which turned out completely fine. Although I didn’t experience second class for myself, I did get a quick peek through the windows and it seemed pretty comparable. First class might be ideal for those who can’t stand the heat. But, if you want the whole train experience of hanging out of doors and windows, you won’t be able to do it here, as they’re shut the whole time. In second and third class you get a nice breeze coming in through the windows anyways, with the carriages becoming cooler the deeper you travel through the mountains.
If you are visiting Sri Lanka and planning to make the trip from Kandy to Ella, you absolutely must take the train. Nothing I can write in this post, nor any of the photos I snapped truly do this train journey justice. You’ll have to experience all of its beauty and magic for yourself! And hurry! Before even more people find out about it and tickets become even more difficult to snag!
The post The World’s Most Beautiful Train Ride: Kandy to Ella appeared first on A Broader Tale.