Nuwara Eliya to Ella - tea plantation

Nuwara Eliya To Ella: Easy Ways To Get There In 2024

Travelling from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is one of the most popular routes for people visiting Sri Lanka. You’ll hear plenty of information about the train ride, but there are other ways to make the journey too! Here’s everything you need to know about travelling between the two towns.

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Necessary Spacing

  • By Train – this is by far the best (and most beautiful!) option. Take a tuk-tuk to Nanu Oya station, jump on the train for around 3-4 hours and find another tuk tuk at the station in Ella to take you to your hotel. You could also walk from Ella station as some hotels are near enough. Book your tickets in advance here.
  • By Taxi – this is the quickest way but much more expensive than by train. Taxis in Sri Lanka are still very cheap compared to Western fares, so if you’re looking for comfort then either download the PickMe app and book a cab or ask your hotel to organise one for you.
  • By private minivan – If you have lots of luggage or are travelling in a big group, this could be a great option. Check prices here.
  • By Bus – if you’re feeling up to the challenge, take the bus! Ask your hotel for the latest schedule though as the bus system here can be unreliable! Be prepared to change your plans if the bus doesn’t turn up, is too full or the driver won’t accept you because your luggage is too big!
  • By Group Tour – Taking a tour can be a good idea if you want to see multiple places in a short space of time, especially if you’re visiting solo. Here’s our recommendation to see both Nuwara Eliya and Ella. Book your space here.
  • Stay at Traveller’s Nest Inn Nuwara Eliya and Misty Heaven in Ella

Travelling Between Nuwara Eliya and Ella

Sri Lanka is generally an easy country to explore, and popular tourist routes like this one have been tried and tested by many travellers (including us!). However, there are a few ways in which your journey can not go to plan, so be prepared for change!

Think about what is most important to you – air conditioning? Luggage space? Cost? None of the ways to get from Nuwara Eliya to Ella are perfect, but you’ll find the best way to suit you. Luckily the distance between the two is short, so you won’t have to worry for too long about whether you’ve picked the right option!

Read More: How To Get From Ella To Nuwara Eliya


Taking The Train

The trains in Sri Lanka are a great way to see the country, meet new people and enjoy a less touristy experience than joining a tour if that’s what you prefer.

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You’ve probably seen the famous views from the trains here, and yes, it really is that beautiful. You’ll more than likely spend the whole time staring out the window or door in awe of the natural beauty – I’m not joking!

The trip between Nuwara Eliya is stunning, but if you want spectacular views for longer, consider taking the train from Ella to Kandy. The coastal scenery on the journey from Galle to Colombo is also absolutely stunning.

Red Train From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

Booking In Advance Or Buying At The Station

There are lots of different opinions on whether you should book in advance or just buy your tickets when you get to the station. I think the answer to which you should do depends on so many things!

You can buy second or third-class tickets at the station. However, the reserved seats do sell out (unreserved seats don’t but then you might end up on the floor like we did a few times!) so just be aware of that if you don’t book in advance.

If you want to save the hassle, book your tickets online.

Also, be aware that if it is very busy, you might not even get the chance to sit in the seats you bought tickets for. On our journey to Nuwara Eliya, we bought second-class tickets but because it was so packed, we just jumped onto a carriage and found a seat that happened to be third-class. We didn’t want to move as we had a lot of luggage and the third-class seats were fine.

Nuwara Eliya Train Station

The first thing you need to be aware of when using the trains is that Nuwara Eliya’s station is actually called Nanu Oya. If you’re booking tickets online, that’s what you’ll see so don’t worry!

Nanu Oya Train Station Tracks

The station is around 9km from the city centre, so you’ll need to find your way there before worrying about the train. You can ask your hotel to organise a tuk-tuk for you (expect to pay around 1000 rupees) or you can book one through the PickMe app. We used this app all of the time throughout our travels in Sri Lanka and were usually happy with the rides.

Timetable

There are not many trains running throughout the day from Nuwara Eliya to Ella, so you need to plan your day wisely. The table below shows the daily schedule of trains between the two stations according to the official Sri Lanka Railways website. However, times change regularly so if you want up-to-date timings, book your ticket below and follow that schedule.

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I would also arrive earlier than the timetable says just in case. Another tip is to check your outbound train when you arrive in Nuwara Eliya – find the board and see when the trains are departing to Ella to see if they match up with what you have planned.

Little Adam's Peak in Ella

There is a train to Ella from Nuwara Eliya every day. Depending on your schedule there is probably one time that suits you best.

For example, if you want to wake up at a decent time and get to Ella for lunch, then the 9:25 am train is perfect as it’s not too early and you’ll spend the morning taking in the gorgeous scenery. However, if you’re into lazing around in the morning, you could get the 1:10 pm train and still enjoy most of the afternoon in Ella. If you’ve got plans in Nuwara Eliya in the morning, then getting the afternoon trains gives you better flexibility for that.

I’d avoid using the night mail train because it’s ridiculously early and when you arrive in Ella you might not find anything open or any tuk-tuks around. However if you want to try a sleeper bunk in Sri Lanka, then book this train well in advance.

Arrival Time: Nuwara EliyaDeparture Time: Nuwara EliyaArrival time: EllaDurationAvailable ClassesFrequencyTrain Type
03:3903:4506:382hrs 531/2/3DailyNight Mail
09:0609:2513:243hrs 591/2/3DailyMixed
10:5811:0013:282hrs 281/2Sat/SunLocal
13:0413:1015:382hrs 181/2/3DailyExpress
14:3114:3816:592hrs 211/2/3DailyExpress
16:0416:0818:262hrs 181/2/3DailyExpress
The Nuwara Eliya To Ella Train Timetable

Note that there is a difference between ‘arrival time’ and ‘departure time’. Sometimes this can be 20 minutes or more but sometimes you have just a few minutes from when the train arrives and when it departs. That can be quite stressful if the train is packed and you’ve got lots of luggage or maybe small children, so make sure you’re fully ready to go when the train arrives!

Ticket Types

There are 3 different types of ticket classes you can buy for the trains in Sri Lanka – 1st, 2nd and 3rd – but you can also choose between ‘reserved’ and ‘unreserved’ seats. These are all pretty self-explanatory but here are the differences between them!

Second Class Seats On The Train From Nuwara Eliya To Ella
  • 1st Class – These have A/C and some of the trains have an observation carriage at the front. Not all routes have this option.
  • 2nd Class – The most popular way to travel on Sri Lanka’s trains (blue seats above). There is no A/C but there are plenty of fans, and the windows partly open so you’ll get a nice breeze. You can also sit at the open door for those fun Instagram shots!
  • 3rd Class – To be honest, these carriages aren’t that much different to the 2nd class ones. The seats are shared padded benches rather than individual seats but they are comfortable enough!
Third Class Seats On The Train From Nuwara Eliya To Ella
  • Reserved – These are bought in advance and it means that (in theory!) you’ll get a seat. These can sell out so if you know you want one, book in advance.
  • Unreserved – These don’t sell out, which means you can always buy a ticket to get onto the train, but you might be standing or sitting on the floor of the carriage if it’s busy!
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The Train Journey

Your journey might only be 2.5 hours or it might take up to 4, but either way, it will be enjoyable!

You can take your own snacks, but people do come around with baskets of fruit, boxes of samosas and flasks of hot tea for a few hundred rupees so you won’t go hungry.

As you go through the tunnels, people might start screaming and waving their arms in the air – we were extremely alarmed by this at first but don’t worry, it’s all just a bit of fun! In the end, we joined in and had a great time!

Train From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

It should go without saying but if you do decide to sit on the edge of the open door – make sure you’ve got something to hold onto because even though the train is going relatively slowly you do not want to be dropped into the wilderness below!

Also, the chances are that there will be many people trying to take photos and videos, or just trying to enjoy the view themselves so be mindful of the time you spend there.

Check out our video of our journey FROM Ella to Nuwara Eliya – it’s the same trip but just backwards!

The Ella To Nuwara Eliya Train - Maybe The Most Beautiful Train Journey In The World

Read More: How To Enjoy 5 Days In Sri Lanka!

The Taxi Journey

Taxis are easy to get in Sri Lanka if you are going between popular places like Nuwara Eliya to Ella. You can book a taxi in advance here, ask your hotel to organise you one or you can order one on the PickMe app.

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The drive is around 55km, so should take just under two hours in a car.

If you have a lot of luggage, make sure your hotel knows this or that you select a good-sized car on the app.

PickMe is just like Uber (but you can also order tuk-tuks on there too!) and it’s self-explanatory when you download it. It’s a good way to avoid the ‘tourist tax’ – you can sometimes be charged more money for the same journey if a taxi driver knows you are a tourist so pre-booking stops this happening!

Using the app is also a safe option as there is a tracking system on it as well as emergency call buttons.

There is also the option to hire your own tuk-tuk – read our full guide and comprehensive review of this awesome idea!


Hiring A Minivan

This is similar to booking a taxi, but it guarantees you the space if you need it for a big group or lots of luggage! We travelled to Sri Lanka with suitcases, so we used minivans a few times to get between towns. It made things a lot easier at either end of the journey, and we also were able to enjoy a lovely air-conditioned van with plenty of legroom!

Check the prices of a minivan here.


Taking The Bus

To be blunt – do not do this!

The buses in Sri Lanka are, well, not passing any safety courses anytime soon, let’s put it that way!

There are state-run and privately-run buses (you’ll see the different coloured buses whizzing around) and of the two I would recommend choosing the state-owned ones. This is because the privately owned companies are all in competition with each other to get the most customers in the fastest time, so the driving is reckless and risky.

Bus Driving Nuwara Eliya To Ella

Not only that, but the timetables are often completely random and difficult to find.

You are also limited to a small amount of luggage, and sometimes the driver will refuse to let you on if your bag is too big because they want the maximum amount of passengers onboard.

Bus travel in Sri Lanka is cheap but considering that train travel is also very budget-friendly, I honestly wouldn’t bother with the hassle of taking a bus.


Group Tours

Some people turn their noses up at group tours, but we have taken part in plenty and have always had a great time! Yes, you are paying for the convenience but sometimes that is worth its weight in gold!

Check out this day tour that packs in the best Ella activities with a guide and includes lunch and hotel pick up/drop off.

You don’t have to worry about transport, food is often included and usually, a guide will teach you about the local area or activity in more depth than you’d be able to find out on your own. There is also the chance to meet other like-minded people so these group trips are a good idea for solo travellers.


Our Opinion and Experience

It’s probably pretty clear that we are pro-train travel for the Nuwara Eliya to Ella trip! The tickets are very cheap whether you book them in advance or wait until your day of travel, and of course, you get the incredible views that everyone talks about! Did you even go to Sri Lanka if you didn’t enjoy a stunning train journey?

Girl Walking On Train Tracks in Sri Lanka

Lots of people mention that you need to sit on a particular side for the views, but we found that the journey twisted and turned so much in the mountains that the scenery was visible on each side throughout! Don’t worry if you don’t manage to sit on the side you wanted – you can always walk to the door entrances or move seats if it empties out a bit, plus you will definitely get amazing views at some point of the journey whichever side you sit on.

Taking a taxi is not a terrible idea though, especially if there are two of you as you can relax knowing your luggage is safely packed in the boot and you will have room to sit comfortably.

If you’re worrying about how to get to Ella, we hope we have cleared up any issues! It is pretty easy whichever way you choose, so just focus on enjoying your trip!


Things To Do In Nuwara Eliya

Famous for its tea and British influence, Nuwara Eliya is the perfect place for some wind-down time. You only need around 4 days here, or maybe a week if you’ve got some fancy accommodation that you want to make the most of!

Lover's Leap Waterfall | Nuwara Eliya | Is It Worth The Hype?

You can explore Nuwara Eliya without a tour guide but the chances are that you’ll at least need to take a tuk-tuk to the places you want to visit. Here are some recommendations for things to do in Nuwara Eliya if you do want to take a tour!


Where To Stay In Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is fairly small so you’ll be within a tuk-tuk’s drive of everywhere regardless of where you stay.

The vibes are quite family-friendly and you’ll find some fantastic hotels for excellent prices here. There aren’t many hostels but plenty of guesthouses and homestays if you’re solo or on a budget.

Here are some great accommodation options for Nuwara Eliya.


Things To Do In Ella

Ella is surprisingly jam-packed with cool things to do – originally we thought we’d only have a few activities planned but it turns out there is so much more to see than just a few hiking trails!

Check out our article where we’ve written about 16 fun different things to do in Ella!

The BEST Things to do in ELLA, SRI LANKA!!

You can do these activities without a tour but we’ve given you the option if you’d prefer to book in advance! Our top recommendations are below:

There are also a few tours like this one where a driver will take you to all of the best spots in Ella so you can be sure of your transportation there and back, plus you get the experience of having a local guide.


Where To Stay In Ella

Ella is also a small town, but has so many different hostel, guesthouse and hotel options, that you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Overall, I’d say Ella is geared towards budget backpackers, but there are plenty of higher-quality places to stay for families too, plus luxury rooms for couples on a romantic getaway! Breakfast is often included or added on for a very low price, and the smaller accommodation places are usually family-run so have that added personal touch.

Here are our top recommendations for places to stay in Ella.


What To Pack

Both Nuwara Eliya and Ella are much more elevated than the coastal parts of Sri Lanka, which means they’re cooler and there is much more chance of light rain. It’s actually quite a lovely change from the sweltering heat of Colombo or Mirissa, but it does mean that a trip to Sri Lanka will require multiple types of clothing!

Here is our list of what we class as the essentials when travelling from places like Nuwara Eliya to Ella, and below are our suggestions of things you’ll need in the mountains!

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ANLUKE Water Shoes

You will be extremely surprised how often you will be thinking to yourself that you WISH you had some water shoes. For example, any water activity/excursion you find yourself doing, or finding out the beach is not quite as soft and sandy as you originally thought. Hurting your feet, not being able to participate, or getting one of your pairs of shoes can ruin an experience.

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Columbia Lightweight Jacket

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Ranger Ready Picaridin Insect Repellent Spray

Do not let a brilliant experience be ruined by pesky insects biting you all over your body. Insect repellant is not expensive but not having it can affect much more expensive activities. Pick up a bottle of this Picaridin bug spray and enjoy your travel.

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Tummy Control Swimsuit

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ThermoFlask Stainless Steel Bottle

If you are going for a long backpacking adventure, or you go through plastic water bottles way too quickly, then you need to check out this stainless steel water bottle by ThermoFlask. It will take the beating of months/years on the road and keep your drinks ice cold or toasty warm, wherever you may be.

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Sirona Reusable Menstrual Cup

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Sun Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen

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Beach Cover-Up Kimono

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Akk Womens Walking Shoes

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Frequently Asked Questions About Travelling From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

How long is the train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella?

It depends on the train time you pick, but it varies from between 2.5 hours to 4 hours.

Which is better, Nuwara Eliya or Ella?

If you’re looking for a calm and peaceful town, then go to Nuwara Eliya. If you want backpacker vibes and lots to do, head to Ella! I would recommend visiting both as they are so close together though.

Is one day enough in Nuwara Eliya?

I don’t think you’d see enough of the town just in one day, but if you’re tight on time then I’d hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you around for the whole day to see the tea plantations, waterfalls and Gregory Lake.

How long should I spend in Ella?

I think you need at least 4 days in Ella, especially if you are planning to hike for sunrise because you might need to rearrange due to the weather.


We think the train is the best way to get from Nuwara Eliya to Ella – do you agree? Let us know about your journey experience in the comments below!

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