In Sri Lanka, we’ve taken taxis, tuk-tuks, buses, boats, and trains. And many of those options are available for the route from Ella to Nuwara Eliya. And if you struggle to find tickets for the train, you’ll be tempted to take an alternative method of transport. I urge you not to. This is one of the most stunning train rides in the world, not just in Sri Lanka. We’ve done it twice now. And it was actually even better the second time. However. I recognize that not everyone likes trains as much as I do, so I’ll cover the different options for transport between Ella and Nuwara Eliya, and of course, tell you about the train. Here’s our guide on how to get to Nuwara Eliya from Ella.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED AND AFFILIATE LINKS MORE INFORMATION IN OUR DISCLAIMER
Where is Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is one of the cities of Sri Lanka’s hill country, in the central province of the country. By road, it is just 56 kilometers from Ella to Nuwara Eliya, but this is a winding and mountainous road. A Taxi will take around 2 hours to go from Ella to Nuwara Eliya and the fastest bus will take about 3 hours. The train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya takes about 2.5 hours to complete the journey.
How to Go from Ella to Nuwara Eliya – Transport Options
In this guide on how to go from Ella to Nuwara Eliya, I’ll cover the buses that you can take, and how to get a taxi, but I really truly believe you should make every effort to take the train. It’s simply glorious. Reserved seat tickets for trains in Sri Lanka sell out quickly, so you’re advised to book ASAP and as much as 30 days in advance. Reserve your train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya here.
How to get to Nuwara Eliya from Ella
For transport from Nuwara Eliya to Ella, then you have several options. I’ll cover the train first, as this is the one train journey in the country that you absolutely should do. We’ve done this trip in both directions. Once in an unreserved carriage, where we took our chances on finding a seat. And once we booked in advance and got ourselves a seat. In first class. And yes, both were great.
Train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
If you only take one train in Sri Lanka, then make it this one. I know I raved about the train from Colombo to Jaffna, but that had a lot to do with the observation car, which was very, very cool.
The fan-cooled second-class train from Jaffna to Anuradhapura was pretty good too.
And while I loved the idea of the Queen of the Seas train from Colombo to Galle, my reality when we didn’t pre-book a ticket was very, very grounding as we stood all the way. There’s a thing for you.
If you want to take a specific train in Sri Lanka. Book Ahead.
The first thing to know about taking the train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya is that the train doesn’t actually go to Nuwara Eliya. It actually goes to a station called Nanu Oya, which is about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles from Nuwara Eliya). However, Nanu Oya is the closest train station to Nuwara Eliya and this shouldn’t put you off.
Let’s go through the train first, and then I’ll cover getting from Nanu Oya to Nuwara Eliya.
Taking the train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
The train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya takes about 2 hours and 35 minutes. There are a variety of different seat options and classes that you can take to Nuwara Eliya. You can buy an unreserved ticket in 2nd or 3rd class up until the train departs.
This means that you’ll not get a seat and, it literally means you won’t get a seat unless there is no one else traveling. Seats go very quickly and as this train starts from Badulla, they will likely be full.
You can also buy reserved seats in first, second class or third class. First class seats have A/C in the carriage and the windows do NOT open. If you want to take photos, you’ll need to go to the open doors between carriages (it’s not difficult). If you want a seat next to a window that opens you should buy a second-class reserved seat. Third class reserved is just a tad uncomfortable.
We’ve traveled in first class A/C, second class reserved, and third class unreserved. All were good (3rd class is a bit uncomfortable for longer journeys), second class reserved is best for taking photos without moving from your seat.
The best carriage for taking photos is one of the ones near either the front or the rear of the train, as you’ll get more of the blue train against the green tea plantations when the train goes around a curve. There are lots of curves on this route.
The best views on this train? You’ll get the best views if you can get a seat or an open door on the LEFT-HAND SIDE of the train. However, as you come up to Haputale you should look out the right-hand side of the train for the best views. Book your ticket 30 days in advance for the best choice of seats.
There are usually 10 trains a day from Ella to Nuwara Eliya.
The first train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya is at 06:39 and the last train to Nuwara Eliya from Ella is at 21:19. It goes without saying, that as this is one of the most scenic train journeys in the world that you should do it during daylight hours!
Taking the fancy Viceroy II train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
If you feel like treating yourself, then you can book a ticket on the fully A/C rather posh Viceroy II train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya. There are comfy seats and WiFi too (!). This is the most expensive way to travel on this train, and the train goes from Ella to Nuwara Eliya on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It leaves Ella at 11:57 and arrives at 14:35 at Nanu Oya station for Nuwara Eliya. Just in time to take a taxi to the Grand Hotel for afternoon tea.
Going from Nanu Oya To Nuwara Eliya
There are three different ways you can go from Nanu Oya to Nuwara Eliya. All of them are easy. First of all, you can pre-book a transfer. Secondly, you can walk off the train and pick up a taxi or a tuk-tuk for the 20-30-minute ride into Nuwara Eliya. The price will depend on your negotiating skills and how many people you are. You can use Pickme or Uber to try and figure out how much it should cost, but always estimate more, and assume that no one will want to accept your ride using PickMe, as drivers will make more money by not using it. Expect to pay around 1000 LKR for a taxi.
There’s also a bus that goes from Nanu Oya to Nuwara Eliya. The bus should cost 20 LKR and there should be one every 20 minutes or so. The bus stop is up on the main road (to the left) after you leave the station parking lot.
Buses from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
The bus journey from Ella to Nuwara Eliya takes around 3 hours and there are two different types of buses that you can take. There are local buses from Ella to Nuwara Eliya and there are also tourist buses that go to Nuwara Eliya from Ella.
Local Bus from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
Local buses are the cheapest way to travel from Ella to Nuwara Eliya. These buses have open windows (no A/C), and wooden seats and they make lots of stops. The timetables of these buses vary with the season, and it’s always best to check locally with your hotel to see when they’re leaving. The local buses will go all the way to the Nuwara Eliya Bus stand. You can’t prebook this bus or a seat, but the benefit is that it’s really cheap. You’ll pay around 70-100 LKR for the bus.
Tourist Bus from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
There’s a tourist bus from Ella to Nuwara Eliya that is more comfortable than the local bus. This bus doesn’t run all year round and only runs three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) when it is running.
The best place to check to see if it is running is here. The bus takes just under 3 hours and runs just once on each of the three days.
Taxi from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
You can also take a taxi from Ella to Nuwara Eliya. Taxis are easy to book in Sri Lanka using Uber, or PickMe. You can check the rates on the apps if you’re not sure what to pay a local driver. You can also book a taxi from Ella to Nuwara Eliya.
The best way to go from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
No question about it. The best way to go from Ella to Nuwara Eliya is to take the train. Tickets sell out quickly, so book your tickets as soon as you know your dates. You’ll always be able to get an unreserved ticket, but that means you’re unlikely to get a seat or see out of the window, which kind of defeats the object. Book your train ticket from Ella to Nuwara Eliya here.
Travel Tips for Exploring Sri Lanka
- Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.
- Download and install a VPN BEFORE you travel to Sri Lanka > discount coupon here
- Book your airport transfer with Welcome Pickups
- You will 99% likely need a power adapter for Sri Lanka – there’s more here.
- Book the best Sri Lanka tours and guides on Get Your Guide
- Save money in Sri Lanka with a Wise debit card
- Book Trains in Sri Lanka with 12goAsia
- Book accommodation in Sri Lanka with Booking
Final Words on How to Go from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
This remains one of the most glorious train rides in the world. The landscapes around here in Sri Lanka’s hill country, are glorious. There are other options of course, you can take a bus or a taxi, but if you only do one train journey in Sri Lanka, you should make it this one and go from Ella to Nuwara Eliya.
We receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using our affiliate links. We do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
ASocialNomad is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, and amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.