Sri Lanka is a tiny island that is packed with numerous things to do and places to visit. This backpacker’s guide will help you when travelling around Sri Lanka and also to plan your first budget trip to this sunny, tropical, beautiful country.
You’ll find everything from B&Bs to 5 star luxury hotels. As a budding tourist destination, the island has developed a number of budget accommodation options for travellers to choose from. You’ll be able to find some stunning rooms at great hostels offering the necessities at a fraction of the price of most resorts. Saving cash on room rates, especially with promotions and special offers will ensure you have plenty left over to have an authentic experience of Sri Lanka. Budget accommodation prices depend largely on the location and facilities provided, with many of them starting from LKR 1,500 per night.
Getting around an Asian country has never been this easy! Sri Lanka prides itself with having the most scenic and spectacular train rides, whether you’re snaking through mountains of tea in Nuwara Eliya, or enjoying coastal views on your way to Galle in the south. Trains do get delayed at times, but the journey is well worth it.
The second most popular public transport options are the buses. Sri Lankan bus drivers seem to be in some sort of secret competition to be the next Formula 1 champion, so it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted, but well worth the experience. Buses are reliable and fast, but you if you’re standing, you’ll definitely want to hang on to something tight!
If you’re travelling within a city, perhaps to get from your accommodation to the nearest supermarket, a tuk-tuk is your best bet. These three-wheeled contraptions are fast and can swerve through any corner and space to make sure you get to your destination fast; even if you were in no particular hurry! It’s also a fun, touristy way to explore the city!
What’s the best mode of option? All, really. Trains are great for long distance travel, i.e. Colombo to Nuwara Eliya and will cost less than LKR.500, Buses are great for shorter distances and can vary from LKR7 (minimum) to LKR 200 (maximum); although long distance buses might cost more. Tuk-tuk metres generally start at LKR 60 and you get charged approximately LKR 35-50 per km.
#YohoTip If you’re travelling by train to Nuwara Eliya/ Ella or any others in the area, book your seats in advance, as the train ride is usually more than 4 hours long.
Food & Drinks
Sri Lankan food is teeming and overloaded with spices and flavours that will have your tastebuds screaming for joy when you take your first bite. For lunch, opt for a local ‘rice and curry’, which includes at least 2-4 vegetables, a meat item and some crunchy papadam. Dinner options are plenty, with kottu, string hoppers, hoppers, roti and so much more to choose from. Do keep in mind that the locals love their chilli, and if you can’t handle spice, do inform them to lessen it or simply not add it at all. Local food is inexpensive and can be found everywhere, whether its a roadside ‘kade’ or a popular restaurant. Street food prices can vary anywhere from LKR 50 – 500, while restaurants usually cap at LKR 1000 a meal, again, this depends on tax, choice and the restaurant itself.
Things to do
Popular attractions can be quite pricey for budget travellers, thanks to the hiked up “Foreigner Fee”. Make a list of iconic places you MUST see, such as Sigiriya Rock and visit those one. For the rest of your holiday, think of unique things to do, such as learning to surf, driving a tuk-tuk, food tours, hiking up some incredible mountains, or simply find a good spot on the beach and live the true island life with a king coconut for company.