Ella is very beautiful and totally worth going to, despite it being a bit touristy. This journey gave us a bit of a headache as it was hard to work out the best option. Here is a guide on how to get from Nuwara Eliya to Ella on a budget.
We Decided Not To Take The Train
You can take a taxi/tuk tuk to Nanu Oya (the nearest train station to Nuwara Eliya) and jump on the same train that comes from Kandy to go to Ella.
We had read that this leg can cost LKR 1,000 ($5.60 USD) for 1st class even though it was only an extra LKR 300 ($1.70USD) if you don’t stop at Nanu Oya and carry on and go the full way from Kandy to Ella.
However, we had heard that it was a total bun fight with tourists to get on the train from Nanu Oya to Ella as it is already full by this point and that it can get quite physical at times. We witnessed this to some extent when arriving in Nanu Oya. We could barely get off the train due to tourists trying to get on before letting people off! Come on folks.
This was the month before Sri Lanka was sadly hit by the terrorist attacks and tourism has suffered significantly since, so it might be a different situation these days.
We decided taking the train to Ella wasn’t worth the hassle so decided to get the bus. You can also do a private transfer but it is pretty expensive.
Taking The Bus From Nuwara Eliya To Ella
The bus leaves at the Nuwara Eliya bus station opposite the Nuwara Eliya Post Office at 8:30am. Do go and check the bus times at the bus station the day before just in case the times have changed.
We took the Number 31 red bus which seemed to be the only direct option. The staff at the bus station told us that there were also buses at 7.30am, 11.30am and 1pm.
If you have lots of luggage, get there at 8am. The bus fills up quickly and there is limited luggage room at the front and in the boot and leg room is very tight.
How Long Did It Take?
The route took around 3 hours, with a half an hour stop in Bandarawela which is around 30 mins from Ella.
Cost: Cheaper Than Chips!
It cost us SLR 128 ($0.72) for two people, so SLR 64 ($0.36) rupees each, which was amazing value!
What Was The Bus Journey Like?
The bus was old (like most Sri Lankan buses!) but the windows opened fully and I enjoyed sticking my face out of the window during the journey. My face was very dirty by the end of the journey though but the views were top notch! The road takes you through the valley so you don’t miss out on those amazing views that you hear about by taking the train.
Is Ella Worth Going To?
Ella is an absolutely stunning place. Make sure you climb to the top of Mini Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. The views will knock your socks off!
I don’t usually recommend places to stay unless I really loved them. In Ella we stayed at Opal Cottage, which was basic but had stunning views across the valley and the family were lovely.
Find out more about what I recommend doing (and not doing!) in the rest of Sri Lanka in my very honest Sri Lanka guide:
Ella To Galle
And if you want to go from Ella to Galle, here are 3 ways you can do it: