A Guide to Sri Lanka’s Tourist Train ‘Calypso’

This blog post features links and information which have been obtained on a press trip. However, as always, all opinions shared in this post are my own.

Before 2024, you had to travel from Ella to Kandy if you wanted the iconic shot hanging off the train in Sri Lanka.

The journey may have looked glamorous on Instagram, but that wasn’t reality. It took six to eight hours and was hot, sweaty, and chaotic. But thankfully, that’s no longer the case.

That’s because Sri Lanka Railways launched a new tourist train, Calypso, at the start of this year. I had the pleasure of taking the Calypso train on my most recent ten-night trip to Sri Lanka, and I was very impressed. 

There are two Calypso train services offered daily:

  1. Morning Train: #1232
  2. Afternoon Train: #1234

The morning train service (#1232) runs on the following timetable:

  • 8:20am: Badulla
  • 9:10am: Demodara
  • 9:28am: Ella
  • 9:58am: Bandarawela (departs at 10:30am)
  • 11:14am: Ella
  • 11:21am: Nine Arch Bridge (10-minute stop)
  • 11:39am: Demodara

The afternoon train service (#1234) runs on the following timetable: 

  • 12:50pm: Demodara
  • 12:58pm: Nine Arch Bridge (10-minute stop)
  • 1:30pm: Ella
  • 2:00pm: Bandarawela (departs at 2:35pm)
  • 3:08pm: Ella
  • 3:35pm: Demodara
  • 4:12pm: Badulla

I walked from Ella town to the train station (it takes around 10 – 15 minutes) and took the morning train service at 11:14am. I got off the train at 11:39am when it arrived in Demodara.

This meant I could hang off the train and visit Nine Arch Bridge in 25 minutes, a big difference from the otherwise 6—to 8-hour journey to Kandy.

Unlike most public transport in Sri Lanka, the Calypso train was very on time. As such, I recommend arriving at the train station at least 10 minutes before the train departs.

While Ella is a major tourist hub, there’s not much to see and do in nearby Demodara. I went on a tea factory tour next to the station and then took a Pick Me back to Ella. If you wanted, you could probably time it to take the return train back to Ella at 12:50pm.

There are two ways you can buy tickets for the Calypso tourist train:

  1. In person at the station
  2. Online via the Sri Lanka Railways website

I got my ticket in person, and it cost 1,000 rupees. Ticket prices vary depending on:

  • Departure station
  • Arrival station
  • One-way or return

There’s no denying that the Calypso tourist train is comfortable and convenient. However, there is one drawback and another thing you may want to consider.

First, the drawback, and this is very superficial, but the train isn’t as good looking.

The iconic blue train you see on Instagram has become synonymous with Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, the Calypso train is a shiny brown. It doesn’t have the same level of character or authenticity.

Another thing you might want to consider is where you’re going in Sri Lanka. If you plan to travel from Ella to Kandy, you might as well just go on the old train. Sure, it’s long, hot, sweaty, and chaotic, but it’s also one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.


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