Sri Lanka on budget
--- the ultimate backpacking travel guide ---
Sri Lanka is an awesome country with so many things to see. A great thing is that it is still very cheap, so you don't need to worry about ruining your budget. Prices for acommodation, food and transport are low, but the entrance fees for some of the attractions can be ridiculously expensive. Read more, if you want to know more about prices and tips to visit Sri Lanka.
The local currency in Sri Lanka is Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR).
The exchange rate in 2017 is 1 USD = 153 LKR.
Like everywhere else it is best to bring US dollars and exchange them. Otherwise you can withdraw money from ATM. We used HNB and Ceylon Bank as there were no fees for our VISA cards.
Average cost per person: 20 USD per day
including accommodation, food, transport, entrance fees, souvenirs
excluding visa and flight tickets
The main thing you can save money on are the flight tickets. Read our tips how to find cheap flights.
Traveling in Sri Lanka is so much fun. Use local buses and trains and you will definitely remember this for a long time. We will remember traveling by bus as a great ride surrounded by beautiful local women in sari, guarded by a Buddha statue next to the driver with smell of incense sticks and typical sri lankan music as a background. And the buses are incredibly cheap. Traveling by train costs even less, but it is a bit slower and louder. It is a must in Sri Lanka. Going through the mountains with tea plantations belongs to one of the greatest train rides in the world. The views are truly incredible. For shorter distances you can use tuk tuks.
Prices example per person (2017)
- Uber 5km from the airport in Colombo - 110 LKR (0.7 USD) taxi drivers asked for the same distance 750 LKR per person)
- bus Colombo - Dambulla - 200 LKR (1.3 USD)
- bus Dambulla - Sigiriya - 35 LKR (0.2 USD)
- bus Habarana - Polonnaruwa - 60 LKR (0.4 USD)
- bus Polonnaruwa - Kandy - 190 LKR (1.2 USD)
- train Kandy - Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya) - 160 LKR (1 USD)
- train Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya) - Ella - 110 LKR (0.7 USD)
- bus Ella - Arugam Bay - 169 LKR (1 USD)
- bus Arugam Bay - Monaragala - Colombo - 465 LKR (3 USD)
- bus to Colombo airport - 100 LKR (0.6 USD)
You can find all ranges of accommodation in Sri Lanka and it is easy to find a cheap room. We travel as a couple, so we stay usually in cheap double rooms.
We were always able to bargain the price per person down to 750 LKR (5 USD) per night, except Colombo.
Srilankan food is delicious, cheap and spicy. If you choose cheap restaurants, where locals eat, you can have a great meal for 200 - 400 LKR (1.3 - 2.5 USD). We have been overcharged once by an old and cute grandpa that we didn't suspect at all. He charged one person 900 LKR (6 USD) for a regular meal, so there are no limits for overpriced food for tourists if you are stupid enough and don't ask about the price in advance :) Try dahl, coconut sambal, onion sambal, srilankan buffet, rotti with coconut and honey, cheese tohsai and so much more...
Entrance fees for the sights in Sri Lanka are ridiculously high comparing to other prices here. It feels quite weird to be able to travel by bus from west to east for 500 LKR, but paying 4,600 LKR to climb a mountain at Sigiriya. But it is what it is.
Either you pay it and complain or you can find an alternative. Instead of paying $30 for Sigirya, climb to Pidurangala rock. You will see a view of Sigirya, you will avoid crowds of people and the entrance fee is only 500 LKR (3 USD).
If you don't have much money and you don't love history, you can skip visit to Polonnaruwa temple. There are many tuk tuk scams and the ruins are not that spectacular for the price $25 comparing to for example Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Prices example per person (2017)
- Sigirya rock - 4,600 LKR (30 USD start 7 am to avoid crowds, otherwise not worth it )
- Pidurangala rock (alternative to Sigirya) - 500 LKR (3 USD)
- Safari in Minneriya NP - by jeep with a guide - 5,000 LKR (32.5 USD - expensive but worth it)
- Polonnaruwa temples - 3,500 LKR (23 USD - be aware of tuk tuk scams)
- Temple of the Tooth in Kandy - 1,500 LKR (10 USD)
- Pedro tea estate, Nuwara Elliya - 200 LKR (1.3 USD)
- Cooking class, Ella - 1,500 LKR (10 USD)
More tips for traveling cheap here