We knew that we were traveling at a busy time, just after Christmas, which seems to be the peak season for tourism in Sri Lanka. Many visitors book the train from Kandy to Ella ahead of time, when sales start several months in advance. We didn’t. A little bit because we didn’t want to be limited by a certain time we had to be somewhere, but mostly because we didn’t get around to planning until just before we left home.
Buying the tickets, easier said than done
What we did know was that we wanted to take this train. We travel by train as often as we can, and this journey in particular had come recommended by many. So upon our arrival in Kandy we went to the train station to try and find tickets, and were told that they were sold out for the next two weeks. However, unreserved second and third class tickets cannot sell out, so in the morning on the day of our departure we lined up with many other people before the ticket office opened and got ourselves some unreserved second class tickets. The train was scheduled to leave at 8.45 AM and the ticket office opened at 8.00. At 7.40 the line outside was already quite long, so make sure you get there on time.
Now, I suppose there are upsides to having your own seat, especially as the journey takes six hours. We were really lucky, as we first of all got on the train which not all tourists did, and second were standing next to a local family that got off after less than two hours, so we got their seats for the rest of the journey. Many others had to stand up the whole time.
Reserve a seat if you want to take pictures
If you’re going to take this train, you should really try to get a reserved seat. Only then can you look out the window and take good pictures, and standing for six hours with vendors and others constantly pushing through is mostly painful. Some travelers were lucky and got the spot by the door, but if you wait to get on there’s the risk of not getting on the train at all.
I did really enjoy the ride. The views were spectacular, and the slow pace was nice. Train rides are usually a good chance to spend some time with locals, and this one was no exception.
However, to me it wasn’t THAT amazing. I can’t really see how some people put this train ride as the highlight of their Sri Lanka trip. Maybe if I’d scored a seat in the observation car I would’ve understood better.