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
If you’re planning a holiday in Sri Lanka, and hoping to visit around the island during your stay, one of the best places to start your island journey is from Kalutara. Thought it’s a significantly large and commercial town, it’s less popular with the tourists; giving you a perfect fresh start on the island journey, without all the hustle and bustle. Starting your journey from Kalutara also means you get to experience Sri Lanka in it’s more commercial area; as opposed to the more remote areas popular with tourists.
While Sri Lanka has great weather almost all year long, certain parts of the country are best enjoyed during certain months of the year. When it comes to visiting the city of Kalutara, the most ideal time would be between the months of January to April, and then November to December. During this period, this area of the island has mild weather and predictable rain. The water is also in a pleasant warmth, making bathing in the waves a fun experience for all age groups. This period is also the ideal time to host a wedding at the beach, and there are plenty of Kalutara hotels for weddings that can make this experience memorable.
The beaches at Kalutara are more suitable for bathing than swimming, as the sea in this area can be quite steep. However, if you’re a good swimmer, and the waves are calm enough, you may attempt to swim in the safe areas. We recommend the Kalutara beaches for sun bathing, picnicking and romantic meals with the sunset. An interesting fact to be noted here is that the Kalu river flows into the ocean at a close proximity to the Kalutara beach, adding to the already tranquil scenery…
Like most other parts of Sri Lanka, Kalutara too has many options when it comes to Spas and massage treatments. This is ideal if you’re feeling jetlagged, or still tired from your journey to the island, and need to refresh your body to truly enjoy Sri Lanka. However, if you want to experience a truly luxurious experience, we suggest you only get such treatments done at the high-end places; such as spas attached to hotels. These Spas are better equipped and guarantee you’ll have a pleasurable time.
Apart from the ever attractive beaches, there are plenty of other tourist attraction options for you to try out at Kalutara. Here are some of the most popular attractions;
Packing for Kalutara is no different from packing for other parts of the island. To cover the basics, make sure to pack plenty of clothes suitable for warm weather, suntan lotions and cover-ups to protect yourself from the harsh weather while not sunbathing, hiking shoes if you plan on being a little adventurous, comfortable sandals for touring, and at least one full sleeved dress or long pants if you want to visit the religious sites.
Most importantly, make sure to pack a high definition camera with extra memory, as Sri Lanka is filled with places you’d want to treasure memories of.
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.