Anyone that visits Sri Lanka should experience a train ride. It is not only a wonderful cultural experience but also a great adventure. Out of all the train rides that you can choose in Sri Lanka, the Kandy to Ella train ride is the most fascinating. It is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, train ride in the world.
If this is the first time that you are reading one of my articles, you might not know that I am a Sri Lankan. I grew up travelling in trains. In fact, I went to school by train. I would be lying if I said, I enjoyed the four hours daily travel to school and home, however, it was so much better than taking a bus. I am sure I would have enjoyed it more if it had the same view as the Kandy to Ella train ride.
Enough about me. From today’s article I am going to share everything that you need to know about the Kandy - Ella train journey. Without any further ado, let’s get started.
1. Consider shortening the train ride
From Kandy to Ella on a train takes about 7 hours. In the final hours, you might be too tired to enjoy the train ride which is considered the most scenic portion of the journey.
Instead of starting the train ride at Kandy, start it from Nanu Oya station. For this you need to plan one or two nights for Nuwara Eliya, which is a picturesque hill country town known for its verdant tea plantations.
The train journey from Nanu Oya to Ella only takes about 4 hours. We often include this train trip in our tailor-made Sri Lanka holidays.
2. Train timetables
Here are the timetables of trains that operate in Kandy – Ella railroad. I have only given the train departure times from Kandy and Nanu Oya railway stations. If you want to check the departure times for any other stations, use this page on Sri Lanka Railway department website.
Kandy to Ella train timetable
|Train Number||Departure time from Kandy||Arrival time in Ella|
|1126||3.30 am||1.24 pm|
|1027 (Saturday and Sunday only)||7.45 am||1.28 pm|
|1001 (Friday & Saturday only)||8.47 am (Departure time from Peradeniya)||2.16 pm|
|1005||8.55 am||3.17 pm|
|1015||11.10 am||4.56 pm|
|1007||12.30 pm (Departure time from Peradeniya)||6.26 pm|
Important – Train 1001 and 1007 do not arrive at Kandy railway station. They only arrive at Peradeniya railway station which is just 7 km away from Kandy. That is why I have mentioned the departure times from Peradeniya station for train 1001 and 1007.
Nanu Oya to Ella train timetable
|Train Number||Departure time from Nanu Oya||Arrival time at Ella|
|1126||09.18 am||01.24 pm|
|1027 (Saturday & Sunday only)||11.00 am||01.28 pm|
|1001 (Friday & Saturday only)||12.00 am||02.16 pm|
|1005||12.45 pm||03.17 pm|
|1015||02.36 pm||04.56 pm|
|1007||04.08 pm||06.26 pm|
3. Which seat class to book for the Kandy to Ella train journey
In my opinion reserved 2nd class and the reserved 3rd class are the best seat classes to enjoy the scenic train ride from Kandy to Ella. Here is a brief description of each seat class, so you know what to expect when you get there.
- 1st class reserved – 1st class carriages are air-conditioned and very comfortable. However, it is not a very interesting option for tourists as the windows of air-conditioned carriages do not open.
- 1st class observation saloons (reserved) – These carriages can be seen in few of the trains that operate in the Kandy - Ella railroad. They have large windows and offer good visibility. Some of the observation saloons are airconditioned and their windows cannot be opened. Observation saloons that do not have air conditioning have large windows that can be opened.
- 2nd class reserved – 2nd class reserved has the best mix of experience and comfort. You do not have air conditioning, but you have large windows that open. They are more than adequate to keep you cool and excellent for enjoying the beautiful view.
- 3rd class reserved – Seats are not as comfortable as the seats in 2nd class, but you will find them adequate. No air-conditioning but has large windows that can be fully opened.
- 2nd class unreserved – These carriages are identical to 2nd class reserved. Only difference is there are no reserved seats. You have to find an empty seat or have to travel standing.
- 3rd class unreserved – 3rd class unreserved carriages are identical to 3rd class reserved carriages. As these are unreserved carriages, seats are not guaranteed. You have to find an empty seat, or you have to travel standing.
4. How to book tickets for the Kandy to Ella train journey
Please not only the train tickets for the reserved seat classes can be booked in advance. If you want to travel in 2nd class unreserved or 3rd class unreserved, just show up at the Kandy station about 1 hour prior to the train departure and buy them from counter number 5.
For reserved seat classes
For all the train routes tickets for the reserved seat classes become available for sale 30 days prior to each train journey day (at 10.00 am). Due to the extremely high demand for tickets on the Kandy - Ella train route, frequently all the tickets are sold out within 5 to 10 minutes.
Sri Lankan Railway Department does not have an online reservation system. Since you will not be in Sri Lanka 30 days prior to your train ride, you will need the help of a third party to book the tickets in advance.
If you are using a travel agency for any of your tour arrangements, you may ask them to book the train tickets for you. We offer this service to our guests and there are many other travel agencies in Sri Lanka that offer the same. If you are not using a travel agency, you may use a company like 12Go Asia to book the train tickets. They will charge you the a small service charge in addition to the ticket fee.
5. What to do if the reserved seat classes are sold out for the Kandy to Ella train journey
As mentioned earlier, reserved seat classes get fully booked within minutes. Even if you placed an order well in advance there is no guarantee that you will get any tickets. Have a look at what 12Go Asia say about the train ticket availability.
If you could not secure tickets using a third party, there is one way to improve your chances of getting a seat from unreserved 2nd class or 3rd class.
Instead of getting into the train from Kandy, drive to Peradeniya station and get into the train from there. Peradeniya is the station that comes before Kandy. When the train arrives at Peradeniya station, there should be some seats available for you.
6. Frequently asked questions related to Kandy to Ella train journey
I) Is the Kandy to Ella train ride suitable for toddlers?
I would not recommend the 7 hours long Kandy to Ella train ride for families with young children. Instead take the train to Ella from Nanu Oya. It covers the most scenic portion of the Kandy – Ella train ride and it only takes about 4 hours to complete. Make sure to get reserved seats. Unreserved carriages are usually very packed for this train journey.
If you are still at the early stages of planning your family itinerary, refer to our article “How to plan a Sri Lanka itinerary that kids love”. It will help you to plan a nice child friendly itinerary for your tour.
II) Are train rides recommended for a pregnant woman?
I would not recommend a train journey for someone in their late months of pregnancy (6 to 9 months). A short train journey can be recommended for someone in their early months of pregnancy.
III) Which side of the train has the best views in the Kandy to Ella train journey?
If you are taking the train from Nanu Oya to Ella, you do not need to bother about which side of the train that you are going to sit. That portion of the Kandy to Ella train journey has equally beautiful views on both sides.
If you are starting the train ride from Kandy, try to catch a seat on the right side of the train, as the first half of the train ride has better views on the right side.
Note – The application that Sri Lanka railway department use to accept bookings does not clearly indicate which side of the train the seats are located. Therefore, it is not possible to choose sides when reserving train tickets in advance.
IV) Is it okay if I take the train from Ella and end it in Kandy?
There is no disadvantage to taking the train ride in the opposite direction. It is the same train route. Therefore, the views are the same.
V) Should I send my driver back after reaching Kandy, as I do not need a driver for the Kandy to Ella journey?
Do not send your driver back when you reach Kandy, as it is more expensive to hire two drivers for the tour.
If you hire a vehicle and driver up to Kandy, the driver will also charge you for his empty return to Colombo. The second driver that you hire from Ella will also charge you for his empty return to Ella.
Now compare it to hiring one driver for the whole journey. There is virtually no extra charge for empty returns since the driver is starting and ending the tour from the same place, the airport.
Instead of hiring two drivers, hire one driver for the whole tour from a reputed travel agency. The driver can bring your luggage to Ella while you take the train to Ella.
VI) Is there enough space to store luggage in the train?
The overhead racks in the trains are usually spacious enough to store large backpacks. If you have large luggage with you, send them with your driver to Ella. If you do not have a driver, you will have to keep them on the floor next to you.
VII) Do I need to bring snacks from outside?
You will find couple of vendors that roam around the train selling vade, samosas, mangos and tea. However, it is advisable to buy some snacks before you onboard as the options are very limited.
Always check that the foods are fresh. I have had guests who got food poisoning after eating samosas during their train ride.
VIII) Are there toilets on the train?
Yes, there are toilets in each carriage. However, I would try to avoid them as much as possible. Train toilets in Sri Lanka have bidet showers. You have to bring your own toilet papers and hand wash.
IX) Is it possible to do a full tour of Sri Lanka by train?
The Sri Lankan railway network is limited to a few regions of the country. It is not practical do a full tour of Sri Lanka just using trains. You have to combine trains with busses or taxis. Please refer to our article “how to get around Sri Lanka” for more information.
X) Are there any particular days that I should avoid when planning my train journey to Ella?
If you are planning to travel unreserved, try to avoid weekends and public holidays as the trains could get quite packed during those days with local travellers. If you have reserved seats, this will not be a problem for you, as reserved carriages only carry passengers up to their seat capacity.
I hope this article helped you to get a clear picture of the Kandy to Ella train journey. If you have any questions regarding your train ride or planning your Sri Lanka holiday, please drop us a message. To finish off, here is a small summary of what we discussed in this article.
The Kandy to Ella train journey is the most beautiful train journey in Sri Lanka. The full trip will take you about 7 hours. If you feel it is too long, you may start the train journey from Nanu Oya. This way you will be able to shorten the train ride to 4 hours. For most travellers it is advisable to get reserved seats as trains are usually very crowded for the Kandy to Ella train journey.
Happy traveling !