Sri Lanka - train ride experience & Nine Arches bridge
Sri Lanka - Train ride from Ella to Kandy
Whenever I have heard about Sri Lanka, my first thought was - Blue Train. I knew that I am not leaving Sri Lanka before I do the train ride from Ella to Kandy.
I didn’t know before arriving to Sri Lanka that roads are bad and that getting from one point to another can take tremendous amounts of time. For example : 60 km distance ride with a car can take you approx. 2 hours or even more. So if you are thinking about going on a train and take the usual ride from Kandy to Ella or the opposite way, you should stay somewhere nearby.
There are different hours when train is leaving the stations and hours are changing, depending on a day, you can check the schedule here. Before going on a train I was reading different blogs and asking a lot around in Sri Lanka (tuk tuk drivers, random people, hoteliers…) where and how to buy the tickets? It can be pretty confusing if you ask me.
Blue train Sri Lanka experience
1st option is that you buy it online.
2nd option is buying it through the cell phone (you need a local SIM card for that), but you need enough of credit on your phone, hopefully they will understand what you need (at the place where you are buying credit for your phone), because their English can be a bit tricky. Once you did that, call 444 and you will get the central station where you can buy your tickets, if there is available one. Sometimes is not available in their system, but you can still probably get it in the station directly.
The 3rd - (which was mine) option - I have decided to come to the train station and just buy it there about an hour before my train was supposed to leave. Sure, I couldn’t get the 1st class sets (even though that wasn’t my plan - but you get information about it anyways), 2nd class were overbooked and than there was only 3rd class available.
Train has 3 different classes. 1st class, which is the only one with AC but you will not be able to take pictures banding out of the train in there, which are the most popular. This part is sold out very fast but if you ask me it is not really worth it. If you are planning to make a reservation of this section (2nd class as well), you should make it 30 days in advance, since this ride is the most popular one.
2nd class “reservations” where you can get reserved padded seat and have your spot by the window if you would like to. There are some fans in this part which makes your ride more comfortable and not so hot. This section is the most popular one. You can walk around in the carriage, go to the toilet or buy some food.
And than at the end there is the 3rd class where you are not assured to get seated. Probably you will stand all the way but if you ask me this is the best option. There are mostly locals in the carriage, you can chat and meet some new people and get to know about their culture. They find it very funny to scream when going through each tunnel. You can even spend your time at the open doorway, seat down and hang your legs on the edge of the door for the entire ride
Now when we know all the details - let us get back to my trip. Oh and btw - just before my ride I found out that not all the trains are in blue color, there are red as well. So, don’t be surprised if you get the red one.
My schedule was very busy since I was running out of time to visit all the places I had on my list. I left the train experience for the last day almost - which I don’t recommend. My idea was to catch the train from Kandy to Ella and go back that very same day - which is almost impossible. Since I had tons of luggage I knew I can’t travel with it (it would be very inconvenient) and jump on the train with all of it, so I had to make a plan B. What did I Do?
I have taken a personal driver who drove me to Nuwara Eliya station (where you catch the train from Kandy to Ella), train ticket costed me 150 Sri Lanka Rupees, approx. 0,7€. Like mentioned above, I bought my ticket at the counter, first train was taken so I had to wait for the next one. My ride was 3,5 hours long to Ella. I heard that this is the most beautiful ride where you can see all the beautiful landscape of Sri Lanka. At one point the train winds through the mountains overlooking farms and villages and of course tea plantations. The scenery changes throughout the trip. Often at times, your view is entirely green and the next minute you are in the middle of a woodland forest.
Hanging out of the train gives you the best view but be extremely careful, if you do that at the wrong time you can get hit by the tree or even worse a tunnel.
sri lanka - Nine arches bridge
Nine Arches Bridge
After arriving to Ella, my driver was waiting for me at the station so we can go to the Nine Arches Bridge. Locals call it ‘Ahas Namaye Palama’ meaning nine skies bridge in Sinhala. The name derives from the visual experience. When you stand below the bridge and look up you can see the sky through the nine arches. The bridge is actually quite close to the main street in Ella town. You can get to the certain point close to the bridge with the car, than you need to take Tuk Tuk ride which will cost you approx. 200rupees to get almost completely up to the point where Nine Arch Bridge is or you can take a walk - up to the spot which will take you approx. 20min. Bridge is usually packed with people, especially if train is about to pass the bridge.
The map below is pinned correctly and will guide you straight to the location of the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella.
Even though I haven’t look at the time schedule when the train is about to pass the bridge I was that lucky to see that as well. After making some pictures I went back to my hotel in Kandy with a driver, took me another 3,5 hours. It was quite an adventure to do all of it in one day (Kandy drivint to - Nuwara Elyia (train station) - Ella ( train station) - driving to Nine Arches Bridge - driving back to Kandy) and to be honest I was pretty exhausted.
tips for train travel in sri lanka
- Book in advance: Get the tickets at the train station one or two days before you plan to travel or to be 100% sure to have a space on a train do it 30 days in advance
- Keep hold of your ticket. It will be collected from you as you leave the station at the other end.
- Be mindful of the open doors: door are always open, keep that in mind, especially if you travel with kids
- Pack wet wipes, loo roll and hand wash: if you are sensitive about hygen make sure you bring your owns stuff. Toilets can be pretty disgusting.
- Stick to the right, when travelling from Kandy to the Hill Country. Although the scenery is sumptuous on both sides this side seemed to have better views of the valleys.