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.
As a tropical Island right on the equator, Sri Lanka is known as a genuine year-round destination.
But that doesn’t really mean you should travel to Sri Lanka on a whim too. Because Sri Lanka also has its fair share of upsetting weather and seasonal attractions so if you’re looking for a helpful primer on when best to visit Sri Lanka and what things to do in Sri Lanka based on the season, you’ve come to the right place.
Sri Lanka is a dual weather Island meaning that pretty much all of Sri Lanka’s weather patterns are dependent on two big monsoons that sweep through Sri Lanka each year.
But don’t worry, because the two monsoons blow past in opposite directions, and never overlap, you can be sure of fair weather on either side of the Island at any given time.
Once you understand the two big monsoons, you’re pretty much done with figuring out Sri Lanka’s tropical weather.
The Southwest monsoon brings rain to the west and southwest coast and the central Hill country from April or May to September, but is generally wettest from April to June. Thus, in the west and southwest coasts, the dry season runs from December to March.
The other monsoon, the Northeast monsoon brings wind and rain to the eastern and northeastern coastal regions, with rain showers also in the central Hill country, from November to March, with the wettest months being November and December. The dry season, thus, in this region is from May to September.
There is also an inter-monsoonal period, right before the Northeast monsoon hits, where rain and thunderstorms can hit anywhere across the island but it usually clears up in the second half of November.
It’s a trick question, really, because the answer depends on where you want to go, where you’re staying and what things you want to do in Sri Lanka.
Because the monsoon seasons alternate, with half the Island in a wet season and the other half enjoying a dry season at any given time of the year, when you should visit Sri Lanka really truly depends on your itinerary.
So how do you decide?
Here’s a quick guide:
Visiting Sri Lanka for the European Winter (December – February)
December to February is smack dab in the middle of the Northeast monsoon so if you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka around these months for your winter, you should make a beeline for the western and southwest coastal regions.
Colombo is a great place to serve as the hub for your trip and once you decide on where to stay in Colombo, destination beaches in the western coast such as Bentota, Kalpitiya and Hikkaduwa are a short train journey away.
In the south western coasts, fair weather is pretty much the order of the day too and beaches such as Mirissa, Tangalle and Weligama are all pretty popular at this time. Make sure to hit Galle, in the south, for a historical escape and you can even make it to Yala National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s largest nature reserves teeming with leopards and elephants for your viewing pleasure.
Visiting Sri Lanka for the European Summer (June – August)
Since the Southwest monsoon is in full swing by the time your summer rolls around, this is the perfect time to hit the north, north eastern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka.
The Jaffna peninsula and Jaffna city is an excellent outdoor location during these times, with its bustling and colorful atmosphere. So are the east coast beaches, namely, Passikudah, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Nilaveli and Arugam Bay, the latter being famous for its world class surfing waves.
This is also a great time to visit Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, home to five of Sri Lanka’s seven UNESCO world heritage sites. Because this region is in the ‘dry zone’ only December and November bring rain here and it is quite arid and dry the remainder of the year. This is also quite close to Minneriya National Park where you can watch the annual elephant migration.
Since both monsoons influence the weather in the Central region, there’s not a dedicated dry season here but the high altitude and the surrounding hills mean that the climate in the Hill country is quite balmy and mild most days.
Kandy, the Hill country’s cultural capital, enjoys lower rainfall than elsewhere and the December-May period also marks the pilgrimage season for Adam’s Peak, a must-do for any trekker and hiker.
The city of Kalutara is located on the coastal strip of the Western Province of the beautiful island, Sri Lanka. This city is quite popular among the tourists as it is home to some of the best beach hotels in the island. Kalutara hotels are surrounded by many cultural and historic landmarks and offer you a luxurious and comfortable stay at the beach with a breathtaking view. However, it is quite rare that the complete beauty of this city and its surroundings are explored by tourists. We understand that planning a trip can be exciting but also quite daunting. As a tourist, you want to experience as much as you can while enjoying and relaxing on your vacation. Finding the perfect balance can be quite stressful. But don’t worry, we’ve compiled a list of places that would be ideal for you to explore on your vacation. These places are generally overlooked, which means that it wouldn’t include the general tourist rush, providing you with an opportunity to blissfully relax and enjoy nature.
This beach is on a spit of land off the coast of Kalutara extending between the sea and the estuary of Kalu River. It is not as popular as the other tourist spots and therefore it’s relatively unspoiled as well. This golden beach will give you the opportunity to see the local fishermen at work while children run around the shore either playing volleyball or flying kites. While you are in the area, if you are interested in seeing colonial architecture make sure to check out the giant Kalutara Bridge and the remnants of the fort.
This lighthouse is located on Barberyn Island off Bentota which is around 20 minutes away from Kalutara. This 8 acre tropical island has hosted this 100 foot tall lighthouse for over a century and today it’s one of the only four international lighthouses in Sri Lanka. One of the friendly lighthouse keepers is always willing to talk about the history of the lighthouse and explain how it’s operated. Additionally, this beautiful island is one worth exploring with tall palm trees and the bright blue sea. This picturesque island is ideal for a relaxing walk or even a picnic.
Ventura beach, also known as Bentota beach, is the ideal spot for all those who are looking for an adrenaline rush on vacation. The best months to catch calm waves that are safe for a swim are on October to April allowing anybody to engage in water sports such as snorkeling, scuba-diving, wind-surfing, water-skiing, jet-skiing and much more. This breathtakingly beautiful beach is also lined with hotels and restaurants that are known for their delicious seafood and international cuisines.
The Dedduwa lake is near the Western Coast of the island of Sri Lanka and is surrounded by beautiful Gardens known as Lunuganga which is world renowned architect, Geoffrey Bawa’s country estate. Surrounded by rubber and plantations, the lake is located in a beautiful spot with a mesmerizing view of the hills in the distant. You can either sit back and relax in this peaceful and serene destination or take long walks or a guided tour around the area to learn about the rich history of this place.
If you are looking for a break from the popular areas and from sport and tourist activities, this lake is ideal for you. There are quite a few restaurants on the shore of the lake allowing guests to enjoy a great meal while enjoying the gorgeous view of the lake. This spot is away from the main town making it possible for tourists to even fish or sight birds in the area. It’s the ideal getaway location.
This wide almost white sand beach is located just 15km away from Kalutara and is perfect for those who are looking for a secluded beach spot. Sandwiched between the crowded Bentota beach and Beruwala beach, Moragalla beach although beautiful is usually unnoticed. The sea around Moragalla is quite shallow because of the underwater coral reef that lies close to the coastline. Moragalla beach is the ideal spot for a lazy dip in the ocean or a relaxing stroll around the beach collecting seashells that will later remind you of this idyllic beach.
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
If you’re an avid traveler, and love exploring the world, then by now we’re sure you would have heard of Sri Lanka. Mostly popular for its breathtaking beaches, chilled out mountain views and charming locals, this tiny island in the Indian ocean has steadily climbed the ladder of fame in the last few years. If Sri Lanka has been beckoning you for a visit, then here are a few things you need to know before you answer its call.
This is something that is common for any vacation; booking your hotel online, and well ahead of time is a must to avoid additional charges as well as wasting time once you arrive at your destination. Hotels in Sri Lanka are plentiful, and are affordable for any type of traveler. We suggest setting your budget for this according to what you expect out of your stay; spending minimum if you’re not planning on doing anything in the hotel room except wash off and sleep, and spending more if you’d like a little luxury and pampering.
It’s hot and humid in Sri Lanka, especially in the coastal areas. Pack light weight clothing that’s breezy and comfortable. If you’re planning on traveling inland, don’t forget to pack a jacket as well. Be mindful that the temples in Sri Lanka require you to cover your shoulders, and that your clothes have to be at least knee length; pack at least 1 appropriate outfit or use the jacket we mentioned above to cover up. Remember it’s a place of worship; act accordingly.
If you’re not used to staying prolonged hours out in the sun, the Sri Lanka sun can be quite damaging to your skin. Pack a sunscreen that suits your skin, beach footwear, large hats and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. Also remember to keep yourself well hydrated if you choose to sunbathe!
Having cash on hand will make life easier on you as you get around the island. You can definitely use debit and credit cards in most places of the island, but you’ll have a hard time shopping on a whim off street carts if you don’t have cash on hand. And while there are plenty of currency exchange spots around the country, the airport is the safest, most trustworthy and convenient spot in our opinion.
Sri Lankan locals are pretty friendly and welcoming, so don’t be surprised if people approach you just to say “Hi” or try to photobomb your pictures. Even the little ones, though shy, will wave at you on occasion; especially if you’re on a huge tourist bus! But this doesn’t mean you don’t have to be cautious. There’s a rotten apple in every basket!
Like most tourist countries, Sri Lanka too has a reputation of overcharging for tourists; mostly on tourist areas. Your best play, when purchasing items from vendors, is to do a price comparison with a few shops and bargain a little. As for the infamous “tuk tuks”, we strongly suggest avoiding them for short distances. Walking or hiring a motor bike is a cheaper option.
Unlike some south Asian countries, Sri Lankan public transportation can actually be fun. The public busses can be a little nerve wrecking for the weak hearted, especially when the bus drivers try to race each other. But it will guaranteed get you from point A to B for the cheapest price. Sri Lankan train rides, on the other hand, are gaining popularity due to its Insta-friendliness, and is fondly being called the world’s prettiest train ride.
Like most tourist destinations, Sri Lanka too has strong party action. However, not all areas of the island have happening nightlife, so if this is what you’re after, prior research is required. It’s also worth noting that while there’s plenty of alcohol served in the island, not all restaurants have a liquor license or encourage BYOB.