About the Sri Lanka railways
Back in 1864, the Sri Lanka railway system was built by the British in order to transport tea and coffee from the countryside to Colombo. There it was then transported internationally by boat or later by airplane. Nowadays the railway is still in operation and offers a great network of train connections to transport locals and tourists through the island.
While winding their way through the country, most of the train routes provide incredible views of Sri Lanka’s landscape. Traveling by train in Sri Lanka has become a very popular and comfortable way to travel around the island. It is also the cheapest way of traveling around Sri Lanka, but definitely not the fastest way. So if you’re planning to travel by train, make sure to have enough time as the trains are sometimes delayed (for an hour or more!).
Kandy to Ella train journey itinerary
The Kandy to Ella train travel time will take roughly 7 hours and is absolutely worth every minute! But if you split up your train journey and you make a stop at Nuwara Eliya, it will take 4 hours from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and 3 hours from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. The Kandy to Ella distance is about 140 kilometres by road and will take 4 hours by car.
The Kandy to Ella train ride forms one section of the main line which goes from Colombo Fort train station to Badulla. Because there are many key tourist stops along this train line, you will not only see Sri Lankan locals but also many other travelers.
Other stops of the Kandy to Ella train journey where you might want to consider to hop off are Hatton and Nuwara Eliya. These towns are located in the misty and hilly country side of Sri Lanka and are surrounded by beautiful green tea plantations.
If you hop off at Hatton, you might have planned to hike Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada), because Hatton serves as a gateway to Adam’s Peak. You can also easily visit many waterfalls in this area like Laxapana Falls and Aberdeen Falls. The area around Nuwara Eliya and Hatton is full of waterfalls!
Read more in these blog posts:
Best things to do in Nuwara Eliya
Waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya
Kandy to Ella train route map
The best way to orientate on the Sri Lanka train routes to have an idea of where you’re traveling is to have a look at the train route map. The map below of the Sri Lankan railways will show you the main Sri Lanka train and rail network with the main Kandy to Ella train stops. But the train will stop at many other smaller train stations, like Hatton and
For the Sri Lanka or Kandy to Ella train times, have a look at the train times schedule in the next paragraph.
Kandy to Ella train times
It is important to realize that not all trains from Kandy to Ella are blue. So take notice of the blue train times, especially if you want to make pictures of this famous blue train which is super photogenic in the lush green landscape. The times with a * behind it are with the blue train. The other times an old, mostly red, train will bring you to your next destination. Find below the time schedule for the Colombo to Kandy train, Kandy to Ella train. In the second column you will find the Ella to Kandy train times.
From Colombo towards Kandy and Ella with Badulla as end point. * = the blue train
Colombo Fort | 05:55AM*, 08:30AM*, 09:45AM, 20:00PM (doesn’t stop in Kandy)
Peradeniya Junction | 08:32AM*, 10:55AM*, 12:31PM, 23:06PM (doesn’t stop in Kandy)
Kandy | 03:30AM, 08:47AM*, 11:10AM*, 17:00PM
Ella to Badulla | 06:06AM, 13:36PM, 15:15PM*, 17:28PM*
From Badulla towards Ella and Kandy with Colombo Fort as end point. * = the blue train
Badulla | 05:45AM*, 08:30AM*, 10:00AM, 11:00AM, 17:50PM (doesn’t stop in Kandy)
Ella | 06:40AM*, 09:24AM*, 10:57AM, 12:06PM, 18:55PM (doesn’t stop in Kandy)
Check the most up to date Railway time table in Sri Lanka on the Sri Lankan Railways website here.
Not all Kandy to Ella trains are blue!
How to get tickets for the Kandy to Ella train
There are a few options to get your Kandy to Ella train tickets. If you want to be sure to have the train tickets on time because you have a tight schedule, you can pre book train tickets via your ho(s)tel, travel agent or you can book the Kandy to Ella train tickets online. But be aware that you can’t book the train tickets directly on the Sri Lankan Railways website. However, you can purchase your tickets on third party platforms like 12GoAsia. You can also choose to book your Kandy to Ella train tickets on the day that you travel. Just make sure you arrive on time at the train station and to avoid weekends.
Should I buy Kandy to Ella train tickets online or at the train station?
If you want to be really sure to have a train ticket, then you might want to consider to buy your train tickets online. Or if you have the time, you can go to the train station the day before to book your reserved seat. But this also depends on which class you want to book for the Kandy to Ella train journey!
And just because the online train tickets are sold out on several websites doesn’t mean that the train is fully booked. If you don’t manage to book a ticket online beforehand you can also purchase your Kandy to Ella train tickets on the day that you travel, and it will also be considerably cheaper. Around $1,5 vs the $12 you pay online. However bear in mind that these tickets don’t come with a reserved seat, so you will have to rush on the train to get one and might end up standing for the whole 7-hour journey.
Which class to book for the Kandy to Ella train?
When it comes to buying tickets for your train ride in Sri Lanka, it might get a bit confusing. There are so much different ticket options and classes for which you can reserve or not. The most important thing to realise is that if you want to hang out of the open doors of the train, you have to buy tickets for the second or third class. Because the first class only has air-conditioning, they won’t open the doors and windows. Below you will find a quick breakdown of what each class entails. At the bottom you will find the costs of each class.
Third class unreserved
Third Class Unreserved are the cheapest tickets available for the Sri Lanka train and are most popular with locals too. The seating here are wooden benches with room to put your bags above the seats. This is the most authentic experience you will get while traveling in Sri Lanka. The local people are always happy to connect and there is lots going on during the train journey.
Third class reserved
Exactly as above, but with the difference of a guaranteed seat. It’s a little less chaotic, but the mood is just as fun and authentic! You can also open the windows and doors here, so you can dangle your feet and nose out and feel the wind through your hair!
Second class unreserved
Not too much difference, only the seats are a little softer than 3rd class, and tickets are about $0,70 more expensive than the 3rd class. The 2nd class tickets seats are great if you’re travelling in the off or shoulder seasons, as the trains are a less busy then. But again, at busy days you’ll probably need to push your way onto the train for this class.
Second class reserved
The same as above, but with guaranteed seats this time. You pay half the price more of what you’d pay for the other lower classes for reserved 2nd class tickets seating. But if you’re travelling during peak season and you know your travel dates in advance, it’s worth booking these reserved seats well ahead. Note that these tickets will often sell out 1-2 months in advance during peak season, so booking online with 12GoAsia is the best option.
Guaranteed plush seating, privacy, and air conditioning are the main features in 1st class. But I wouldn’t recommend 1st class if you want to get a real authentic experience for the train Sri Lanka train ride. The windows and doors remain locked, and you’ll be mostly with other foreigners. But if you’ve already had a few train journeys and just want to get comfortable to your destination, this might be the best option for you.
The observation carriage is only available on select trains, and are mostly just 1st class carriages with the added feature of wide windows to observe the views. Observation carriages will need to be booked a month or more in advance from your travel date and sell out extremely quickly. So you have to book these train tickets online. But I wouldn’t recommend this for the authentic Sri Lankan train experience because you can’t open the windows and the carriages are often at the end of the train, facing backwards. So if you get nauseated quickly, definitely avoid this one!
Kandy to Ella train ticket price
To travel by train in Sri Lanka is really affordable, but there were some differences in pricing dependent on which class ticket you book. The Kandy to Ella train price (or Ella to Kandy), prices are as follows:
Third class ticket | LKR 175 / USD $1.00 pp
Second class ticket | LKR 310pp / USD $1.77 pp
Kandy to Ella train first class | LKR 1500 / USD $8.59 pp
Kandy to Ella train tips
The best way to enjoy this train ride is to be well prepared. There are a few tips we can give you.
- One of the most important things you might want to know is where to sit on the Kandy to Ella train? I would recommend sitting on the right side of the train when travelling from Kandy to Ella. This is because the views are slightly better on the right, but you really can’t go wrong wherever your seat is! And especially if you want to take pictures, you might be all over the train cabin, hanging out of the doors and photographing the locals. You can even spot waterfalls from the train which is super cool!
- Bring snacks and enough water to survive 7 hours in the train.
- Take a sweater with you in the train because it can get colder in the train when you enter the mountain area. The weather can change quickly from sun to clouds and even rain which will drop the temperature.
- Always keep an eye on your valuable stuff! Especially your most important things like your passport, phone and bank cards. Just wear them with you and don’t leave them out of sight.
- Be a responsible traveler when you want to make a photo hanging out of the train. There are tunnels and trees that come really close to the train. And you won’t be the first, or last one, having an accident. It is possible to hang out of trains in Sri Lanka, I’ve done it myself. The trains do move pretty slow at times. But, there is a limit to pushing boundaries responsibly, and safety should always be your number one priority!
Kandy to Ella train photography tips
If you want to get the best out of your photos during the Kandy to Ella train ride or Ella to Kandy train ride, we have a few tips.
- Use a fast shutter speed so your pictures won’t be blurry.
- Put a zoomlens on your camera, preferably something in the range of 12-60mm. This will make it easy for you to capture the landscapes but also to make a portrait or bring an object closer.
- Use Auto Focus so your pictures will be sharp and you don’t have to get the focus manually.
- Use burst mode, especially if you want to get THE shot hanging out of the train doors. Better to have 50 photos to choose from than 10 with your hair flying in your face or something else ruining your photo.
- Bump up your ISO because mountain areas can be dark due to moody and foggy weather. But always first check if your Aperture is at the lowest number it can be!
- Focus your camera inside the train too! Don’t forget to capture the local life, because the magic not only happens while you hang out of the doors to get our perfect shot! The entire journey is a super unique and authentic cultural experience, and one that’s absolutely worthy of being documented in a respectful way!
More Sri Lanka travel guides
Make sure to put the Kandy to Ella train ride on your Sri Lanka itinerary. Ella is also one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka with many other highlights such as the Nine Arch Bridge and the hike up to Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. Read our complete Ella guide here and the complete guide to Kandy here.
After Ella you can continue your journey to Yala National Park and further to the south coast to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka.