Sri Lanka has been gaining buzz as one of the top holiday destinations in the world and as you’d expect, tourism thrives on the Island.
But what a lot of tour guides and packages don’t mention is that Sri Lanka is also really cheap to travel to and around on a budget. If you don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on your next holiday, read on for why Sri Lanka is one of your best options for an amazing time and an easy load on your wallet too.
Sri Lankan tourist visas are quite cheap. If you apply ahead of your arrival online, you’ll only pay a fee of $35. There’s also the possibility of a tourist visa on arrival at the Sri Lankan airport but there’s a price hike and long waiting lines if you choose this option so for a budget holiday, apply online and get your visa cheap and fast!
While your typical, touristy hotels can be a bit pricey on a budget, there’s any number of budget hotels, hostels, small bungalows and homestay opportunities for as low as $10.
What’s more, booking rooms in advance using online trip planners such as Booking.com will net you cheaper prices than if you book directly at the place. And it will also help you plan out your trip around the Island a bit better too, as a side bonus.
It goes without saying that booking private transport around the country is much more expensive than public transport. What’s surprising is how much cheaper public transport is. There’s an extensive bus network throughout Sri Lanka and even a journey of more than two hours will only set you back a couple of U.S dollars. Buses can get crowded but there’s never a dull moment in one with booming Sri Lankan music and screeching horns so it’s definitely an experience not to miss.
Sri Lanka’s train network, although not extensive and certainly not fast, is also quite cheap and is often the best way to get from one large city to another, especially in the Southern and Central regions of the country. Like buses, train rides are very cheap. Though there are air-conditioned, 1st class cabins in pretty much all intercity trains, opting for a much cheaper 2nd class seat is a much better idea. How else are you going to hang out the doors of a long winding train on a hill and take that photo you’ve only seen online and always wanted to take?
For shorter trips within cities, tuk-tuks are abundant although it’s general practice among tuk-tuk drivers to charge tourists almost double the local price. But you can ask your homestay family or the manager of your budget hotel for a local price point so that you can negotiate the price down to its normal level before you set off on the tuk-tuk ride.
There’s no shortage of cheap food options in Sri Lanka. Street-food in Sri Lanka is amazingly cheap and quite often are unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
For meals, it’s quite easy to duck into small restaurants, recognizable by their mostly local clientele and small spaces, and sit down for a full rice and curry lunch or dinner for just a U.S dollar or two. Just make sure to keep smaller notes in local currency on hand and you’ll be saving quite a lot in food expenses while still getting Sri Lanka’s iconic, delicious food experience.
Perhaps the best thing about Sri Lanka when it comes to budget travel is that there are many things to do and experience around the country, completely for free.
Because of Sri Lanka’s all-around coastline, there’s definitely any number of local beaches that are completely free and oftentimes, completely devoid of other visitors. Settle down, stretch out and get ready to lose quite a few hours on a gloriously empty and completely free beach.
It’s common practice, too, for travellers on a budget to make a beeline for a beach town like Hikkaduwa and then make full use of the beautiful coastline nearby for free while staying at cost-effective accommodation and budget hotels in Hikkaduwa like Citrus Hikkaduwa. You can even take an early morning stroll to see local fisherman prepare for the day’s first catch.
Colombo too, despite its reputation as a tourist spot, has many intriguing and free attractions for the budget traveller. To ease up on travel within the city, book an affordable city hotel in Colombo such as The Steuart by Citrus and then head off to explore the historic districts of Colombo Fort by foot, completely free of course! The local markets are an amazing way to get the feel of the city and also the perfect way to meet the friendly locals.
Like a visit to south Asia is incomplete without a visit to scenic and serene Sri Lanka, a visit to our beautiful island paradise is incomplete without visiting Kalutara, a happening and commercial town situated 43km from the island’s capital. If you’re traveling straight to Kalutara from the airport, we suggest either taking a train or hiring a private vehicle, as the journey will take you roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes; depending on traffic.
Like most parts of the island, Kalutara has it’s own few landmarks and tourist attractions that make the area standout with the tourists. You could either stay at accommodations in Kalutara town itself, or opt for the more famous beach side Waskaduwa hotels near Kalutara. Regardless to where you stay, here are a few places you shouldn’t miss when visiting Kalutara.
The Kalutara Bodhiya is one of the most famous temples of the island, drawing thousands of islanders to it every year. The large temple is located in the southern part of the town, and is known by any local driver. It is a serene place ideal for centering and bringing balance to one’s mind; and a good start for any journey. Worshippers and those who visit the temple are advised to wear clothing that cover their knees and shoulders, and behave in a quiet and calm manner.
If you’re one of adventure, and love visiting old caves, then the history of this cave alone will make this trip worth your while. Fondly known as “pahiyangala” by the locals, this cave gets its name due to an ancient Chinese monk who’s said to have used the cave as his rest stop, centuries ago. This cave is also archeologically rich, and is the largest cave in the island. Additionally, it’s also one of the largest found natural rock formation found in Asia. A trip to this cave is known to be quite adventurous, so wearing sensible shoes and leaving behind young children is advisable.
Sri Lanka is an island that houses people of many religions; Christianity a prominent religion among them. The Holy cross church situated in the Galle road is a serene and beautiful building, and attracts many visitors to it¾irrespective of their religion. This popular church is not only beguiling from within; it also has spectacular views as it stands on an elevated area facing the ocean¾making it very popular for weddings nowadays. Merely a kilometer from town, you can easily access this church by road.
Sri Lanka is known for its beautiful carvings and batik creations; from traditional wooden facemasks to the contemporary wearable batiks. A visit to Sri Lanka can be made more memorable by purchasing items made by local artists, giving yourself a tangible token to remind yourself of your time in our paradise island. However, if you’re travelling light and are unable to purchase these items at the moment, do the next best thing, by visiting a craft museum to have a closer look at these items. Ranjith’s carving and batik museum is one such famous museum in the Kalutara district, where you’d be able to witness some of the finest creations of the island.
Just like the Kalutara Bodhiya, the Asokaramaya temple is another prominent temple situated in Kalutara; though less crowded by the tourists. This temple is situated in the northern part of the town, and boasts of colorful statues and paintings that will surely mesmerize you. Though it has been expanded considerably since it’s original construction, the temple is still considered to be smaller by local standards, and makes the perfect spot for a quick visit.
You cannot visit Sri Lanka and avoid the waterfalls; you’ll be missing out on so much! Start your waterfall adventure right here at Kalutara by visiting the areas famed Thudugala Ella. The waterfall is not one of the largest or widest found on the island, but is certainly charming. For the best experience, try to visit the falls in the early hours of the day, when it’s less populated. Don’t forget to try to get to the top of the waterfall, where you’ll find a shallow pool perfect for a dip…!
If you’re looking for a truly serene experience, and you feel visiting the popular temples may not be the right thing for you, we suggest you visit the Bodhinagala Forest hermitage. Located in Ingiriya, just 37km from Kalutara town, you can easily get there via hired vehicles. A serene surrounding as well as fresh air is promised to you here, provided you remember this is a sacred area, and behave respectfully…
Sri Lanka is a land of multi religions, and if you’re looking to experience tranquility and devotion at its best, then a visit to one of the numerous churches, temples or mosques scattered around the island is a must. If you’ve decided on visiting the Kande Viharaya temple located in Bentota, with it’s world’s tallest sitting Buddha statue, then here are a few things that you need to know.
If you’re staying at the capital Colombo city, then the distance you’ll need to travel to visit the temple would be 99km, which would take you roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes by road. If you’d rather travel by train, then all you have to do is catch a train from Fort railway station, to the Bentota Railway station. From there, it’s a 10-minute drive to the Kande Viharaya temple. You could easily hire a road-side tuk for the journey, or pre-book a vehicle to meet you at the station.
If you want to continue staying at Colombo for a few more days in order to enjoy the city life for a bit longer, staying at Colombo and making a day trip to the Kande Viharaya temple is definitely possible. However, if you want to avoid wasting the time spent traveling, we suggest staying at one of the nearby beach towns. You can easily find comfortable Hotels in Hikkaduwa, Bentota as well as Kalutara to suit your expectation, or even opt for other accommodations such as hostels; all depending on your budget. Remember that apart from reducing the time and energy it takes to travel to the temple, you’re also saving up on your precious holiday time¾time you could use to explore and enjoy the island further.
As we’ve mentioned before, Sri Lanka is a multi religious country, and all visitors to the island are welcomed with open arms to any of the places of worship found at the island. However, most temples expect visitors to dress and behave appropriately. In general, avoid “loud” clothing, as the space is meant to be serene and calming. Choose clothes that cover your shoulders and knees, or you’ll be asked to use a shawl or sarong over your clothing. As most temples require that you enter it bare feet, choose foot wear that is easy to remove.
An impressive temple with a mixture of architectural designs, the first sight that will greet you as you approach the temple is the sight of the 160ft tall Buddha statue. Once you’ve got your fill of this awe inspiring sight, head inside the temple to explore it further. You’ll be able to see the stupa, the relic chamber, the image chamber, as well as the Bodhi tree which is believed to be over 300 years old. The image chamber is filled with paintings and carvings depicting important Buddhist historical incidents, mostly relevant to the island.
In order to make your visit to Bentota more productive, consider squeezing in a few more activities into your schedule for the day. Here are some options we’d suggest;
Galle Dutch fort – Sri Lanka is situated in a very unique position, making it an attraction to those following the silk route in the ancient times. This also meant the island was always attracting invaders, who left behind signs of their arrival, even decades after their departure. One such sign is the Galle Dutch fort, built in 1588. Visitors to this ancient building not only get to enjoy its spectacular architecture, but also the view from it. You’ll also be able to enjoy the unique atmosphere within the
Sri Lanka is a great little country for business travel, as most of it happens in the capital city! The main thing to remember is before you even start packing, have some kind of checklist so that you know exactly what to bring to Sri Lanka. These tips will mostly be about weather and culture, and if you follow them you’ll have an easy time travelling in the country. The list is also especially useful for those staying at a Colombo Business Hotel, but it should apply to any city in the country!
First off, you don’t have to pack a lot to come here. Concentrate on lightweight shirts and blouses that will be good for warmer weather – stay away from heavy fabrics. Don’t bring too many pairs of shoes, and make sure you’re good to walk in them. Because of cabs and the air conditioning of offices this may not affect your outfits as much, but bring airy clothes and have a handkerchief or oil absorbing sheets to mop up any sweat on your face before you enter a meeting! Have a good comfy pair of shoes for when you’re taking a break – sneakers or sandals will do – as you will want to check out the local life if you have any free time. In general, be aware of the humid weather in Sri Lanka and pack accordingly. Make good use of the laundry facilities available at your hotel, so that you can travel light but still have enough outfits for all the days that you are here.
One of the most important things you can do when you touch down in the airport is to buy yourself a SIM card, as this will be your lifeline workwise, and family wise. Offices and hotels will have Wi-Fi, but not all other establishments do, so you will want to get an internet package for the duration of your stay. They don’t cost much, and you can buy a decent amount of GB for not very much, so you should be set for keeping in touch with everyone on the go. This is also important for google maps and ordering cabs using ride share apps.
Another tip is to understand that Sri Lankans tend to run on a different time than others. So prepare to be a bit more relaxed, and enjoy this change of pace. This applies to meetings that may start slightly later than anticipated and run a bit later than expected, as well as travel times (that can take anything from longer than usual due to traffic and fast as lightning when there are no vehicles on the road!).
Some advice when it comes to travelling is use ride share apps – such as the homegrown Pick Me or the internationally known Uber – because getting three wheelers, or tuk tuks, off the road might be dicey as it can be tricky to negotiate a price. If you do have to hail one from the street, make sure they have a meter.
While not a hack, per se, I would advise you to go around Colombo if you have any downtime. Try to visit Galle Face, and the Dutch Fort for a sample of Sri Lanka’s cuisine and nightlife. Independence square is a good place to go for walks.