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!
Pin this post to Pinterest
How to travel better for less
These are the companies I use to travel the world for less. The reason long term travel is cheaper than you think is often down to shopping around for a great deal, here I’ve done the hard work for you!
Booking.com – I always book with this site if looking for cheap accommodation as the filters are so easy to use. Become a genius member after five bookings and get great discounts too!
Air BnB – Sometimes you can find great local places to stay on Air BnB. In some countries, like Cuba, it’s the only way to book!
Transferwise – A debit card you can use all over the world and get great exchange rates with no hidden fees. This bank has saved me £100’s in bank fees!
Monzo – A similar travel card to the above with additional features like joint accounts and bill splitting.
World Nomads – Travel insurance is one of the most important things you can have while travelling. Don’t leave home without it! World Nomads provide the very best cover.
What to pack – Here is my ultimate list of what to pack for every trip, available on Amazon. Plus eco friendly alternatives to your toiletries.
Omio – The place to go for all of your public transport needs in Europe. Save a bundle!
G Adventures – A sustainable, fun, responsible travel company. I’ve travelled with them many times and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their amazing trips of a lifetime.
Have you always dreamed of a life in travel? Subscribe to the newsletter for tips and actual links for different careers in the travel industry. All you have to do is take the first step!
Some links in this post are to affiliate sites. If you purchase something through them, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you. I am very grateful when you use my links to make a purchase!