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How to get from Ella to Udawalawe – Sri Lanka

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Nestled in the heart of Sri Lanka’s verdant landscape lies Udawalawe. This national park boasts stunning nature and abundant wildlife.

Located in the southern part of the island, Udawalawe National Park offers a chance to witness diverse terrain, including lush forests, expansive grasslands, and shimmering reservoirs.

Moreover, it provides a captivating glimpse into the rich biodiversity that defines Sri Lanka‘s wild spaces. Udawalawe is home to a thriving population of elephants, along with myriad other species such as leopards, crocodiles, water buffalos, and countless bird species.

In this article, we would like to share how to get from Ella to Udawalawe. The jeep safari was our favorite Sri Lankan adventure together with visiting Diyaluma Falls.

Where is Udawalawe

Udawalawe is a small sleepy town right next to Udawalawe National Park. There are just a few homestays and restaurants as well as safari tour companies. It can be found in southeastern Sri Lanka, approximately 165km from Colombo and 100km from Ella.

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Getting from Ella to Udawalawe

By local bus

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Ticket price: around 300LKR (1€)

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Duration: 1 hour + 30 minutes, up to 5 hours

Our favorite transport option anywhere we go is without a doubt a local transport, mostly bus or train. Sri Lanka was no different. Traveling by bus is definitely the cheapest option you have.

But it’s also the most adventurous one.

Buses in Sri Lanka are crazy!!! Maybe even more than in India. The drivers go very fast, often braking at the last minute. They take over every car in their way, sometimes even if they don’t see what’s ahead.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that local buses are often full. Hence, you may not be able to get a seat. But if you’re lucky, the bus will have AC on.

Udawalawe jeep safari jeep and elephants

Ella is 1041 meters above sea level, so you’ll descend a huge hill on the way. Moreover, the road is full of curves, and you’ll keep being swept from side to side.

If this sounds good to you, keep on reading. Otherwise, scroll down to check other transport options.

If you’re traveling with a lot of luggage or with kids, we recommend using a van or a private taxi. More info below.

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Udawalawe national park

Udawalawe national park

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Read next: How to organize Udawalawe jeep safari

Bus routes

Route 1 Ella – Wellawaya – Udawalawe

The bus we took had a different route than described in every other blog. I guess that means there are multiple options. The first one is to take the Bandarawela – Wellawaya bus. The bus is very often full.

Therefore, many people recommend traveling to Bandarawela by train first to make sure you will have a seat on the bus. In Wellawaya, you have to change to the Colombo bus, which will stop in Udawalawe.

Nuwara Eliya to Ella by bus
Route 2 Ella – Thamanalwila – Udawalawe

We didn’t plan ahead. We just showed up on the main street, hoping to find a bus that will take us to Udawalawe. Luckily, locals showed us exactly which bus to take. Moreover, we didn’t wait for too long.

The driver told us to go all the way to Thamanalwila junction (map). While it should take 1.5 hours by car according to Google Maps, we arrived in a little over one hour. That says it all about how crazy the ride was.

In Thamanalwila, we changed the bus. When we arrived, the bus to Colombo via Udawalawe was already waiting.

Udawalawe jeep safari crocodile

From here, it only took another 30 minutes via scenic route (not as scenic as a train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella) running along the Udawalawe National Park. Furthermore, we even saw our first elephants directly from the bus!

We reached Udawalawe from Ella in 1.5 hours, but some claim this trip might take up to 5 hours. Maybe we were just lucky, since we also managed to get seats on both buses.

Additionally, the locals were friendly and helpful all the time.

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Are you traveling from Colombo to Ella? Make sure to check out the complete guide on how to get there which covers all the transport options.

Bus schedule

You should be able to find the bus schedule for the Bandarawela – Wellawaya bus at the train station in Ella, as well as near the tourist and police booth. Unfortunately, since we improvised during this trip, we don’t know what the exact schedule is. But it looks like it’s not a hard task to find a bus during a day.

How to get from Ella to Udawalawe

Ella to Udawalawe by van

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Price: 1400 – 1700 LKR (4-5€)

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Duration: 2 hours

Another option to travel from Ella to Udawalwe National Park for your safari adventure is by van. It might be the best option in the middle. After all, it’s not that expensive, considering the comfort you will have.

The van is usually shared by 7 – 8 people. Additionally, it also has an AC.

To find a van, simply walk around Ella and ask different people and drivers if they can take you to Udawalawe. Expect to pay between 1400 – 1700 LKR.

It might be a bit more expensive after the crisis, though. Maybe even double. To be honest, we didn’t really consider this option. Because of this I am not able to provide the price for the van.

I would also recommend asking at the hotel where you’re staying to find out what rates you should try to get when bargaining with the drivers.

Udawalawe jeep safari elephants sri lanka

Ella to Udawalawe by rental car

Another option to not only get from Ella to Udawalawe, but to travel around Sri Lanka in general is to rent a car. You can pick your car up at Colombo airport and return it at the same location. For car rentals around the world, we recommend using Discover Cars.

Travel Insurance

One of the worst things you could do is travel without insurance. We never go on a trip without travel insurance. Anything can happen during your adventures.

Our go-to company is SafetyWing. They will save you hundreds or thousands of dollars if something goes wrong.

If you purchase the insurance through our link, you still pay the same, and we will earn a small commission. This helps us run our blog. Thank you ❤️

Ella to Udawalawe by private taxi

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Price: 12 000 LKR (35€)

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Duration: 2 hours

The last and the most comfortable option is traveling by private taxi. You can find multiple drivers in town who will be more than happy to help you.

Obviously, this will be the most expensive option. The price for a car should be around 12 000 LKR.

Udawalawe national park

Best time to visit Udawalawe

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Dry season: December – March

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Rainy season: May – August

The best time to visit Udawalawe National Park is during the dry season. Since days are mostly sunny, the conditions are perfect for animal spotting. One thing to keep in mind is that these months are also very hot.

A shoulder season right after the rainy season is also worth considering. Thanks to previous rains, nature will be lush green and flora will be thriving. You will be able to spot plenty of wildlife while the weather is relatively stable and sunny.

The rainy season is not the best time. The reason is that safari might be canceled due to heavy rains.

Udawalawe jeep safari jeep ride

Best Udawalawe safari tours

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How to get from Ella to Udawalawe – conclusion

As you can see, you have a few options for traveling from Ella to Udawalawe. From the cheapest and craziest bus ride to the comfortable and more expensive taxi. We hope your trip will be at least as memorable as ours was.

If you liked this post and found it helpful, let us know in the comments. Also, check our other blog posts for more travel tips.

Plan with us

Ready to start planning your next trip? If you use our referral links, you pay the same and we earn a little commision. It helps us run this blog. Thank you! ❤️

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Car rental: Discover cars

Insurance: Safety Wings

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Bus, train: 12.Go Asia

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Tours: Viator

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Visa: iVisa

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