The best way to travel the 140km distance from Kandy to Ella is by train. This train journey takes 6-7 hours and starts at 310 Rs ($3.95) for a 2nd class seat. Alternate options include taking a bus (5 hours) and taking a taxi (3.5 hours).
The train ride from Kandy to Ella is considered one of the most beautiful train routes in the world. It is also the most crowded in Sri Lanka. Tickets sell out fast and it can be difficult to snag a seat in the unreserved cabins. Note that when booking train tickets online, you have to book at least a month prior to your trip.
If you fail to get a train ticket, we would still take the train as this is track is one of the highlights of Sri Lanka. Go out of your comfort zone and travel like a real local!
Still want to take the bus? Although the route won’t be as scenic, the bus will take you at least one hour faster to Ella than the train.
Traveling with a group? Taking a taxi is the fastest option, but also with the taxi you will miss the beautiful train ride to Ella. You can rent an entire car for 11,000 Rs ($140).
Kandy to Ella by Train
Duration: 6-7 hours Cost: 310 Rs ($3.95)
The train ride from Kandy to Ella is the most beautiful in Sri Lanka. It is also the busiest. Aside from locals, many tourists compete for highly-coveted seats in this famous route.
Booking your train ticket online will secure you from a seat, but Bear in mind that you need to book train tickets in Sri Lanka at least one month before your trip, when you book them online.
Although it is often still possible to book your tickets a few days in advance at the railway station, they might be sold out. If you miss the chance of booking a reserved ticket, be prepared to stand a part of this 6-hour journey. You can get a 2nd class unreserved ticket for 310 Rs ($3.95).
Online tickets are much more expensive, but worth it if you want to be assured of a good seat. First-class cabins are air-conditioned and tickets cost 5,180 Rs ($66). If you prefer open windows for your photo ops, you can go for second-class cabins at 3,090 Rs ($39.50).
Trains depart from Kandy Railway Station and arrive at Ella Railway Station. Both stations are in the city center.
PRO-TIP: This route is beautiful anywhere you look, but if you are free in choosing which side to sit, go for the right side when travelling from Kandy to Ella.
*Train tickets are also sold on 12Go.Asia for a few dollars less. However, we recommend booking with BookAway as they don’t add a booking fee and time schedules & info are more reliable.
Another train option which is only available on 12Go.Asia is the more luxurious Viceroy II. It is not as adventurous as a 2nd class train but it is a scenic ride all the same.
Be prepared that Viceroy II costs twice the amount of a 1st class cabin from the regular Sri Lankan Railway train.
In return, you will get an air-conditioned train, soft seats, wi-fi on-board, and pleasant lighting, reassuring you will have a very comfortable 6-hour journey. It also has a fully-stocked bar, but as drinks are a quite expensive, think of bringing your own food and drinks for the journey.
Viceroy II operates from Kandy to Ella on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Departs at 12:35 from Peradeniya, a suburb located west of Kandy’s city center
Arrives at 18:27 at Ella Railway Station in the city center
Tickets cost 7,280 Rs ($93). You can book your Viceroy II ticket via 12go.Asia or in the link below.
If you missed all changes to book a reserved seat, you can also buy a ticket for an unreserved seat from Kandy to Ella at the train station on the day of your trip. You can find the exact schedules beforehand on the Sri Lanka Railways website.
Tickets for a 3rd class seat cost 125 Rs ($1.60) while 2nd class seats cost 230 Rs ($2.90). These are unlimited so buying a ticket should be easy enough.
PRO-TIP: For the best chances to get a seat, consider to board the train one station before Kandy, which is Kadugannawa. A lot of passengers are expected to get off in Kandy and when they do, you will be able to get their seats before the mass of passengers in Kandy station get inside the train.
Kandy to Ella by Bus
Duration: 4h 50min Cost: 3,640 Rs ($46.50)
There are no direct intercity buses operating from Kandy to Ella. But Brown Tours offers bus trips on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
They’re a bit more expensive than taking the train and costs 3,640 Rs ($46.50). Still, taking the bus is a good alternative if you don’t want to risk standing on the train for 6 hours.
Also, Brown Tours can bring you from Kandy to Ella in less than 5 hours, that’s an hour faster than taking the train. You can easily reserve a bus seat through the link below.
Departs at 08:00 from 702 Peradeniya Road, west of Kandy city center
Arrives 12:50 at 39 Passara Road, Ambagollapathana, at Ella city center
The taxi from Kandy to Ella will cost around 11,000 Rs ($140). You can order one online on BookAway or use one of the taxi apps.
Ordering a taxi with Uber costs a bit lower at around 10,000 Rs ($125), but fares can be slightly cheaper or more expensive depending on availability. If you want to do everything in order to find the cheapest rate, you can also check the taxi apps PickMe and TaxiGo, but unfortunately, these apps have very limited availability outside the capital city, Colombo.
PRO-TIP: Use the code “hpam1ue” or this link to order your first ride with Uber for free!