Riding the World's Most Scenic Train Ride in Sri-Lanka
- by Ari Travels
If you are traveling to Sri Lanka, you must make time to take the Ella to Kandy (or you can take the Kandy to Ella train) during your time here. This train ride is ranked one of the best scenic trains in the world and the best thing, is it costs less than $10 for the experience. This train ride was one of the highlights here during my Sri Lanka trip. Prior to taking the train, I had read many blog posts about it and each blog post was saying something different which confused me. So in this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about taking the train to make the process as effortlessly as possible! If you have any more questions about traveling to Sri Lanka, you can contact me and ask me anything!
As you pass tea plantations, waterfalls and mountains while the breeze from the open doors of the train is blowing through your hair, this is a ride you will not forget. If you’re feeling on the edge you can also hang off the side to get that iconic photo and don’t worry, it doesn’t go as fast as you think and it's a lot less scary than it looks!
How to Ride the Iconic Sri Lanka Train
There are two different ways you can take the train. The best views are from the points of Kandy to Ella.
If you are coming from Colombo, choose Route #1: Book a bus from Colombo to Kandy. Spend the night in Kandy, take the Kandy to Ella train the next day.
Affordable accommodation in Kandy
If you are coming from the South, choose Route #2: Book a bus from Matra to Ella. Spend the night in Ella, take the Ella to Kandy train the next day. This specific route only runs on Fridays and Sundays.
Affordable acommodation in Ella
Tip: Something I did not realize is the train takes a lot longer than you think, so you are unable to do both transfers (bus and scenic train) all in one day. Spread it out and don’t rush the train trip. Spend time in both Ella and Kandy because each town is unique.
You can take the train all the way back to Colombo, but it will take longer. That’s why taking a bus the majority of the way (besides the scenic route of Ella > Kandy or Kandy > Ella is the best way!)
Things to Know About the Ella to Kandy Train
Sitting on Both Sides is Good
I noticed the right side (coming from Ella to Kandy) was more scenic, although there were times the left was good. The conductors are super friendly so I would ask them what side they recommend. Sometimes they will also come up to you if you’re a tourist and tell you what to look for! They want you to have a great time!
Booking the Train
Upon arriving to the train station, be aware that the train may be sold out which is why I do not recommend booking any accommodation after your train trip in case you have to extend your time in Ella or Kandy to catch it the next day! With that being said, there is not an option to book online in advance (this is what the worker at the station said). You must show up a day before and request a ticket!
BOOK A FIRST CLASS TICKET! The first class seating is assigned and there are comfortable seats with AC. I was worried that I could not hang out the doors or windows of the train if I booked a first class and yes, you can, but it's a much better experience! All the doors on the train that connect the cars are open so you can leave your seat and hang out the doors. First class is also much less crowded which makes for a pleasant ride.
Consider going on a weekday. I went on a Sunday and it did not feel crowded at all, but this could change as tourism increases in Sri Lanka. Other tourists are very generous about sharing the open door space and I even had it to myself for a majority of the trip. I also think booking first class helped with this because they have a max capacity.
What to Bring
Bring snacks and water! They don’t sell snacks on board (at least the train I rode did not).
Bring a sweatshirt and long pants
- There are times you go through the mountains and if you get cold like I do, it's a good idea to layer up in case it's a chillier day.
The journey takes about 4-5 hours. Some people say only 3, but it was definitely longer in my opinion especially if the train has maintenance along the way. The trip goes SO fast because the ride is so beautiful. Be prepared to think to yourself “where the heck did the time go!?” I can’t even put into words how cool the countryside of Sri Lanka is!
If you’re ready to embark on this unique journey through the countryside of Sri Lanka, contact me today and I will help plan your trip and get you started on your next adventure. This train ride had to have been one of the coolest things I have done while traveling. Trains are a great way to see a country and I highly recommend this activity during your time in Sri Lanka. Happy traveling :)