If you’re headed to Sri Lanka or already in the midst of your travels there, you’re most likely going to make the train journey from Kandy to Ella or Ella to Kandy. Either way, it can be hard to know what the best approach is for this day long train ride. Do you pre-book first class tickets? Head to the station the day of and hope for the best? After figuring it out for myself, I think I’ve figured out the best tips and tricks for the most enjoyable Kandy to Ella train ride!
1. Don’t fret about buying your ticket in advance
Now this all depends on the type of experience you’re hoping to have. If you want to ensure you have a seat for the whole ride, you’ll need to reserve a spot weeks or months ahead of time. I’d suggest reserving second class if you have the time to, that way you’ll still be in a carriage with windows and doors you can stick your head through. You can book in advance through 12GoAsia.
If you don’t have that kind of time on your hands, don’t worry. There are a few things you can do the day of to make sure you have a slightly more pleasant experience than those who end up standing up, pressed against another sweaty body for hours on end. But I’ll get to that below …
2. Have a change of clothes handy
What appears to be a warm and sunny day can change on you within minutes while you’re on route, so come prepared with layers! I learned this the hard way when I wore only a dress and had no warmer clothing accessible. It was 30+ degrees celsius when we hopped on and then about half way through it was cold, windy and rainy. Not fun when you’re standing or sitting near the door the entire time.
When you get on the train, chances are that people will throw all their bigger bags and luggage into a corner or small room on the train and you won’t be seeing it till you get off. So keep a smaller bag on you with a sweater and hat inside! You should also wear comfortable shoes if you haven’t reserved a seat because you’ll be in a lot of pain by the end of the day if you don’t.
3. Get on at Peradeniya Station
Sure, you can get on at Kandy Station if you have a reserved ticket or otherwise, but if you want the best chance at getting a good spot on the train the day of, you should head to Peradeniya Station.
This used to be a better kept secret but you’ll probably still have better luck than those getting on at Kandy. Peradeniya is just one station past Kandy and is easiest to get to by tuk tuk. You can get there by bus but it will take much longer and you don’t want to risk getting to the train late! From this station the ride only costs 300 LKR to Ella (as of February 2019). So it’s worth spending a little extra on the tuk tuk.
4. Prepare for a long journey
If you’ve searched the Kandy to Ella train ride on Rome2Rio or other maps, you’ll find it shows a 5-6 hour journey. While that may seem long already I’m afraid to tell you that it’s actually more like an 8 hour day! So start to mentally prepare yourself for a cramped and long (but beautiful) say.
5. Pack the essentials
Besides warm and comfortable clothing, there’s a few other things you may want to pack in a day pack if you want to be fully prepared!
- Snacks – Head to the market at Kandy the day prior to pick up fresh fruits and other snacks. If you forget to pick something up, not to worry! There will be many vendors who hop on the train to sell food throughout the entire journey.
- Toilet paper – You’ll be happy you brought some when you see the toilets on board!
- Hand sanitizer – See above ^^
- Umbrella – You may get caught in a rainstorm getting off the train (as I did). So it doesn’t hurt to have an umbrella or raincoat handy in your day pack!
1. Stay by the door
As mentioned above, if you don’t reserve a seat on the train, there’s a few things you can do to make your time more comfortable. If you’re going to take anything away from this post, let it be this tip and this tip alone – STAND BY THE DOOR! When you get on the train position yourself right by the door. People will get on and off and when they do you may need to step off the train. When that happens, hold onto the handle and swing back to your spot by the door. This will allow you to get the best possible view and have the opportunity to sit, which is crucial.
2. Chat with your neighbours
If you’re on the journey alone, you’re going to want to make friends. It’s a long train ride let me tell ya! Even if you go with people you’ve met, chances are that you’re going to be separated on the train because it gets packed.
Besides possibly meeting some amazing people you may end up travelling with or spending more time with, they’ll help you get that infamous pic hanging off of the train. They may even be so nice as to lend you a sweater if you come unprepared!
3. Take in the view
When you’re on the train, you’ll see some of the most stunning scenery. After all, it didn’t get it’s rep for one of the most scenic train rides in the world for nothing! Depending on the side of the train you happen to be on, you’ll see a range of tea plantations and beautiful views from high up. I know some people seem to think that one side gets a better view than the other, but honestly both will be outstanding so I wouldn’t be too concerned about what side you’re on!
Now that you’ve got the best do’s and don’ts for the Kandy to Ella train ride, you should be set! Still have questions or concerns? Feel free to connect with me on Instagram. For more info regarding Sri Lanka you can view my 2 week backpacking itinerary here!