Travel tips to visit Sri Lanka on a budget

Sri Lanka   /  
  • Train Sri Lanka

  • Bus Sri Lanka

  • Train station stop Sri Lanka

Print Friendly

Sri Lanka, elected destination of the year by Lonely Planet in 2013, is a marvel with its sandy beaches, wildlife, friendly people or tasty curries. The country is very cheap in regard to accommodation, transportation or food which makes it even better for backpackers ! However, you’ll need budget for visits which are expensive. Here are our tips to take full advantage of the country without worries and at the best price .

Your budget in Sri Lanka

To give you an idea of ​​the overall budget, we spent € 600 each for 2 big weeks (40 € per day), taking advantage of all visits, staying in guesthouses and hostels, with even 2 more expensive hotels, making a safari, rafting, getting one massage, buying some souvenirs, drinking many beers, eating in local restaurants and using public transport. So you can easily reduce your budget compared to the 40 € per day.

Here, you will pay in Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR, Rs), with an exchange rate of Rs 180 per euro. Against all odds, you still find coins of 5 cents to 25 rupees (0.001 to 0.028 €) ! We had no problem withdrawing money from the ATM, there is quite many distributors.

Here is how your budget will be shared :

1) Visits: it will be your most important cost-heading ! Indeed, admission tickets in sites such as Sigiriya, Anuradhapura or Polonnawura, or the National Parks are proportionally astronomical compared to the cost of the country. It will cost you about € 25 for each entry, when local pay only a pittance. There was once a pass for entries in the 3 sites but it no longer exists.

2) Transport : to go from one city to another, we recommend local transport, i.e. the trains and buses rather than Tuks Tuks and taxis to minimize costs ! They are very numerous, easy to find, and besides, it’s more fun and you really mingle with the locals :-) For example, for the 5am train from Colombo to Anuradhapura, first class, we paid 940 Rs, ie € 5 ! By bus, it is even cheaper, for example the 3 hours bus from Anuradhapura to Polonnawura cost us Rs 180 per person, that is to say € 1.  If you still want to take a Tuk Tuk or taxi, negotiate the price before getting inside.

3) Accommodation : there are very few hostels in Sri Lanka but you will find some in Galle, Hikkaduwa , Kandy and Colombo, for about € 5 to € 10 per night. But we didn’t find the atmosphere that we enjoy in hostels in Europe or Latin America. Outside these cities, you will find guesthouses and homestays very easily at very affordable prices (from 1500 to 4000 Rs, ie 9 to 20 € for the room).

4) Food: we recommend you snacks and small local restaurants if you ‘re not afraid of spicy food and if you think what you have in your plate is more important than the decoration of the place. It’s where you will taste the real local food for low prices (€ 1-2 full meals). If you prefer the comfort of a tourist restaurant, expect slightly higher prices but still cheap compared to Western countries (€ 5-10 for a complete meal). This is not necessarily in the more touristy restaurants that we ate the best, it would even be the opposite. As for beer, it will cost € 1 for half a liter.

5) Souvenirs: you ‘ll probably want to bring back souvenirs, the most common are the gems found in many jewelers in Galle or Unawatuna, a Sahri, scarves, leather bags and of course spices.

Move around in Sri Lanka

We recommend public transport ! Do not be fooled by the many Tuks Tuks and taxis drivers you will meet on your way, because public transport is much cheaper and much more authentic :-) And it goes without saying that organized tours with personal chauffeur will cost much more than if you ‘re doing it alone, with the risk that the driver will take you to places you do not want to go and will stop you in shops or hotels through which he will receive a commission . These are things that happen regularly.

Take the train in Sri Lanka

Some train journeys are MUST-DO to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Sri Lanka, particularly Kandy-Nuwara Eliya, where you will find yourself surrounded by tea plantations ! Some trains even offer observation carriages for tourists who want to enjoy the view… We have not tested, but you can enjoy the view also from the normal carriages (1st, 2nd and 3rd class) and it let you travel with locals :-) There is very little difference between the 2nd and 3rd class, you can surely use them too. Trains are sometimes very slow, but it allows you to enjoy the view… They are very cheap, sometimes even more than the bus, and more comfortable. Do not throw the train ticket, you’ll have to have them to leave the station. Local peddlers will offer you snacks or water : do not hesitate to taste, it is often delicious and it costs nothing !

You will find all train routes on the following website : http://www.gic.gov.lk/gic/index.php?option=com_findnearest&task=train

Take the bus in Sri Lanka

The buses are very numerous and very inexpensive, plus they are very fast because they have an implicit right of way. They are relatively comfortable, even with a video screen that broadcasts local music clip … it can be annoying a little bit at the end but it’s at least very authentic :-) Sometimes they are really crowded, and you are therefore forced to stand or hang you at the door of the bus, but it is the lesser of two evils given the ridiculously low price you pay.

Most of the time, the bus stops are not materialized, just wait where are the Sri Lankans or, if there is nobody, ask where the bus stops is or just raise your hand when the bus is coming.  It’s easier to take the bus at the central bus station. To find your bus among all buses, ask a local, they will be happy to show you the way. Otherwise, just listen to the bus drivers shouting the name of the destination without stopping :-) To purchase your ticket, an attendant will come to you in the bus, once seated and often once the bus has already started. Amusingly enough, sometimes buses fill their tanks along the way :-)

Take a taxi IN SRI LANKA

This is much less authentic but more comfortable and sometimes even cheaper than Tuk-Tuk to take a taxi when they have meters.

Security in SRI LANKA

You will feel perfectly safe in Sri Lanka because the population is really adorable, smiling and warm. There are no more traces of the civil war that spanned 30 years between 1972 and 2009, between Tamils ​​and Sinhalese. Be careful though to men insistent gaze who are not used to cross western girls ways in shorts or skirts… and who might try to touch you. It happened to us, nothing serious, but it is better to be careful.

English in Sri Lanka

English is fairly spoken by the population in the major cities and tourist places. The official languages ​​are Sinhala and Tamil (or Tamil). It will be well seen to greet the locals in their language, in Sinhalese it says “Ayubowan ” and in Tamil “Vanakkam”.

Visiting a temple in Sri Lanka

To enter a temple, you must remove your shoes and cover your legs and shoulders, so don’t forget a long scarf, long skirt or pants in your bag! In the temple, it is forbidden to turn his back on a statue of Buddha, so it is forbidden to take picture in front of a statue of Buddha, unless you face it.

Telephone and internet access in Sri Lanka

The country has a very good Internet network. You can simply access via Wi- Fi, which is available in most restaurants, hostels and guesthouses, but we recommend you to buy a local phone card including internet because it costs almost nothing and you will have internet anywhere, anytime! To give you an idea, for € 1.5 (Rs 265) you are entitled to 1.5 GB of data on 3G, 50 SMS and 50 minutes of call for 30 days! We chose the operator Airtel, which covers most of the country, but we were with locals so we are not sure whether or not you need a local passport. But anyway the operator Dialog distributes cards at the exit of the airport to the travelers, so you can even use that one. To purchase a SD card with internet and phone credit, you can easily find small shops in the big cities. However, you must also ACTIVATE your card in a specific operator shop, otherwise it will not work. You will find here all packages.


 likes / 3 Comments
Share this post:
  1. Tongs et Sri Lanka /

    Enfin un budget voyageur realiste ! il y a 3 jours, je lisais “entre 15 et 20€ par jour”, j’ai fait des bonds sur ma chaise…
    un joli compte-rendu en tout cas que je partage sur ma page Facebook si vous souhaitez liker : http://www.facebook.com/tongsetsrilanka

    bonne journee

  2. Celine Delacharlerie /

    Merci Caroline ! J’ai liké:-) Comment ne pas tomber amoureuse du sri lanka ? Ton blog http://tongs-et-srilanka.blogspot.fr est une mine d’informations sur le pays, super boulot !

  3. suraj /

    Wow…!! Sri lanka is really beautiful destination for tourism i’ll be planing to visit sri lanka this year
    thanks for posting this post it’s very helpful…….

comment this post

Click on form to scroll


> <
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec