Topping lists as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world is the route from Kandy to Ella in Sri Lanka. It takes in the sights through the high tea plantations of Ceylon over rickety old bridges and through mountain tunnels. It’s easy to make this journey and at just a few dollars is probably one of the cheapest things to do in Sri Lanka.
The train lines were built by the British empire in the late 1800’s to transport tea and coffee from the hill country to the capital Colombo. The Chinese made blue trains are now most common along this route, still running off steam as they once were in the railways heyday.
Timetables can be found here. Or simply check out the times a day before at the station then buy tickets the day you travel. There have been rumours of some scams around telephone booking and issues with collecting tickets so be careful who you book with.
Alternatively you can book tickets up to 30 days in advance at stations such as Colombo Fort, Ella, Galle and many others. If reserved seating is sold out you can buy an unreserved ticket in 2nd or 3rd class on the day of travel. Ask at the station what time to get there to buy tickets to make sure you get in the queue early.
Where to sit or stand on the train from Kandy to Ella
Second class is where most of the tourists go and hang out of the doors for the best photos. Third class is mainly locals, regularly getting on and off at the smaller stations. There is usually a hectic rush for seats with the train to and from Ella. My advice is to avoid fighting with everyone for a seat. Jump on in 3rd instead. Chuck your bag in an overhead rack (locals rarely have luggage) and grab a doorway. Everyone will soon be after a spot by the doors anyway. It’s a much better experience, as the locals come and go you can just grab a seat at a later stop if you need a little comfort break.
- If you haven’t reserved a seat jump in a doorway in 3rd class.
- Use the overhead rack for luggage – Sri Lanka is a very safe country and you don’t need to be carrying a huge bag around in tight spaces.
- Sit/ stand on the left side of the carriage if travelling from Kandy to Ella for the best views, right if the reverse!
- Ask the station workers where your preferred class cabin will stop at the station and be first in the queue at the platform.
- Watch your limbs in tunnels and vegetation. Yes it’s all very fun hanging out of train doors and they do travel pretty slowly, but things still hurt if they hit you!
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