Sri Lanka can boast with one of the world’s finest train rides. The best-known section is between Kandy and Ella. This journey takes about 7 hours and two trains run in both directions every day.
Train Tickets Kandy – Ella
For us, this train was a real adventure with ups and downs (both psychic and physical). Our day started in Kandy sometime around 5 o’clock in the morning to get ready to check-out as soon as possible. The Ticket Office opens at 7:30 and we wanted to be sure we would get tickets for the train. After we bought the tickets, we noticed the queue was even outside the station.
Meanwhile, we found out that our tickets did not guarantee seats, so we were likely to enjoy the 7 hours on the train, standing. Especially since the platform was full of tourists.
Getting into the train
When the train arrived – Surprise! The train was already three-quarters full, and the sea of tourists waiting to get inside started the attack. An attack that lasted a few good minutes. After which we, together with another 10 people, was left outside. There was simply no place on the stairs, and inside you could not move or breathe.
The staff of the train station announced that we can wait for the next train to arrive in 2-3 hours. So resigned, we sat nicely on a bench and waited again.
When the second train arrived, we were already veterans of “war” and we knew how the fight would unfold. We sat exactly where the entrance door was opened. So we entered the first in the wagon and, as normal (not), there were no free seats or sign that someone would want to go down to the next stations. We were glad that we could get on the train, but it immediately the reality hit us: we were going to spend 7 hours in a train, standing and with the fans at maximum speed, to have some air. Our state of mind changed in a minute, from joy to anger.
The train has 2 almost-empty wagons (one first class and one at second class) reserved for those who buy tickets online in advance. Tickets are put up for sale with one month before and they are disappearing in the first few minutes … And if you wonder why those wagons are almost empty; given that the rest of the train is packed full; the answer is quite simple: Local tourism companies buy them right away. They then sell them to tourists at much higher prices so they can recover the initial investment.
The Journey: Kandy – Ella
We were disappointed that we would not have a dream trip as it was marketed. Our luck was that in our wagon there was a group of young, very active locals who started singing. You did not understand anything, but the wagon was murmuring with them, so time passed easier. And do not think they played a song and stopped. No! They sang for 3 hours, with small breaks, which made all the journey much more animated.
We were lucky that after three hours of standing two gentlemen sitting beside us stood up and offered their seats. The best moment!. We could sit down and admire the scenery.
The landscape is really beautiful, there are portions where you pass through the middle of the tea plantations which in contrast to the blue train make the pictures seem unreal. We wanted to try and make the classic pictures with us hanging on the train, but our seats were to “valuable”, we thought it better not to risk losing them.
In the first part of the trip, we had the ideal weather, which made the route even more worthwhile. In the second half, the sky was covered, it rained torrentially, followed by mist, because of which we could not see anything.
Ella is a small city, and if you are staying in the town you do not need more than 20 minutes of walking to get to your accommodation. At the train station, there will be a variety of people to offer you transport. But if you do not mind walking a little, you will not need them.
- Arrive at the ticket office 15-20 minutes before it opens, so you don’t sit too much at the fast-growing queue;
- To get into the train at Kandy Station you need luck so the door to open right in front of you.
- The train traveling to Ella will be three-quarters full when it arrives in Kandy. So prepare yourself to stand for at least a few hours.
- If you lose the first train to Ella, you have another chance in just a few hours.
- There will be a variety of vendors going through the train that will sell you tea and food (if you have the courage to eat from them).
- Do not forget to buy food in advance, because 7 hours means a lot.
- You have to have thicker clothes with you, as the temperature drops constantly on the road between Kandy and Ella.
- Keep the train ticket till your destination, because when you get off the train in Ella you have to present it.
- Prepare the camera and relax, it’s a pleasurable journey only if you can overcome the “small” shortcomings you will encounter.
- The Kandy – Ella ticket costs 260 rupees for the 2nd class.