Travel from Galle to Ella by Bus (via Matara)

For travel from Galle to Ella by bus you must first travel to Matara Bus Station on the South Coast of Sri Lanka. From here you can get a bus North to find Ella (Wellawaya). To first get to Matara bus station check here.

Matara Bus Station to Ella (5-Hours)

  • Local buses leave Matara bus station every 30 mins throughout the day. The bus you are looking for is Matara to Bandarawela. 
  • Get off at Wellawaya or Bandarawela (if you miss Wellawaya).
  • Hire a tuk-tuk to Ella (30 mins).

Matara To Ella by Bus: Our Journey

We were the only foreign folk at the sweltering Matara bus station. After muddling through conversations with locals we find the closest destination for Ella to be Wellawaya. Having time to spare before the bus departure we venture to surrounding markets in search of snacks for our 4-hour bus journey. We then board the bus with our egg-filled curry puffs and a bag of grapes. Some local hard sell from on-board hawkers topped up our snack supply with peanuts and mandarin oranges.

Local Buses in Sri Lanka

As expected local buses have no air-conditioning which concerned me a little having brought sweet, old mum along for the journey (I’ve brought her on worse). They are also slightly cramped so we paid more 200RP ($1.50) for extra seats. We could then relax in our seats like arrogant tourists and watch locals squeeze shoulder to shoulder in the walkway.

We had fled the south coast to feel safe. However, we were now more terrified than ever. The erratic driving of Sri Lanka was not new to us. Buses however are on a whole new level of crazy. These are the buses tourism authorities advise against. We held tight to our seats as the hefty bus took off through a narrow coastline, accelerating into corners horn held tight. With complete contempt for stopping distances, small cars and auto-rickshaws were forced to scramble for their lives at nearby roadsides. Our nerves weren’t calmed by the high-tempo Hindi techno music which vibrated from the speakers above. In Sri Lanka, the bus is king of the road, at least until it meets an oncoming lorry.

We followed the coastline for almost an hour before directing North at Hambantota. The route inland took us past rice fields and national parks stopping occasionally to offload at small villages and giving us a chance to stretch our legs and pick up choc ices and corn puffs. After 4-hours ahead we arrive in Wellawaya.

Wellawaya to Ella (Auto-Rickshaw)

We easily find tuk-tuks and within minutes we are rattling up the mountainside in search of Ella. We are greeted by heavy rains and are forced to battle between the tuk-tuks and the down-flows of water from the hills above. We rise up to the clouds, above the clouds, 1000m and still climbing. Passed the Ravana waterfall and arrive in Ella. Here for Full South Sri Lanka Tour.

6 thoughts on “Travel from Galle to Ella by Bus (via Matara)”

    1. Hi Roman. I think there is now a direct bus between Ella and Galle. Alternatively you can do similar to the above in return (year round). Ella have cheap Rickshaw drivers so have them drop you to the main road then get the bus to Matara and onwards. Only disadvantage of this, the bus may already be half full / squashed.Best of luck 🙂

  1. Antonio Natoli

    Hi Allan, I know the post is quite old by now but I hope it’s not too late to ask for your advice. We are landing in Colombo on August 1st, at 5am. I thought about a quick walk in Colombo and then heading south to Galle. The morning after we’d like to go to Ella. Is the bus the best option? how early do busses leave?
    Thanks for your help

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