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Travel Sri Lanka on a Budget

Sri Lanka on a Budget – How much does it cost to travel in Sri Lanka?

How much do 11 days in Sri Lanka cost? A general estimate based on my own spending with and without a tuk tuk rental. Travel in Sri Lanka now!

Before I traveled there, I had no idea what my daily budget in Sri Lanka would look like. It was hard to determine how much I would be spending on things like food and accommodation. I did a lot of research to figure out the costs of traveling in Sri Lanka ahead of my trip, but I could not find exactly what I was looking for. Of course it can be cheap or expensive to travel in Sri Lanka, but there is a thrill in spending the least possible amount while still having an amazing adventure! And let me tell you that exploring Sri Lanka on a budget does not mean you cannot have a certain amount of luxuries.

If you have read my Vietnam Budget Guide, you know, that I am somewhat obsessed with knowing how much I money I will spend while traveling. It helps me plan my budget and prepare future trips to the country. And hopefully this budget guide will help you do the same. There are a lot of beautiful places in Sri Lanka, and seeing them does not cost nearly as much as one would expect.

Ultimately, Sri Lanka is a really cheap country and therefore perfect for a budget trip. Several activities like diving, whale watching or climbing Lions Rock are really expensive when compared to everything else.

The prices in this spending diary are in Sri Lankan Rupee and in Euro. The exchange rate as of January 2020 is as follows: 100 LKR equals 0.50 EUR, 0.42 GBP, 0.80 AUD or 0.55 USD.

About this Daily Budget in Sri Lanka Guide

I explored Sri Lanka in a tuk tuk and loved it. It was a really cool experience and I can only recommend it. However renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka is not the cheapest thing to do. It ended up doubling my budget and while it was still an affordable trip, I know that renting a tuk tuk is an unusual way to explore Sri Lanka.

That is why I asked someone that traveled to Sri Lanka just weeks before I did and explored the country by train. She had a similar route except for the fact that she did not visit Trincomalee. I created an additional cost overview based on what she told me, which you will find at the bottom of this spending guide.

Furthermore I went on an elephant safari at a 50% press rate. If you have a blog and want to write about the safari, you should reach out to different ethical safari companies. You might be able to get a cheaper rate as well. Just message them via Whatsapp and see what happens. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you!

And even if you do not receive a discounted rate: Do it! Seeing hundreds of elephants in Kaudulla National Park was one of the most incredible moments of my life.

Sri Lanka on a Budget

The Cost of exploring Sri Lanka in a Tuk Tuk

Chart showing the costs of traveling in Sri Lanka.

Visa: 0 LKR / 0€

Until 31.01.2020 a 30 visa for Sri Lanka was free for citizens of European countries and 20 other countries. Usually the ETA for Sri Lanka costs 32€. You can find the list and get your on the official Sri Lankan visa website.

Sri Lanka had been on my travel list for ages, so I got the visa the minute the Sri Lankan government announced the ETA fee waiver program. You should do the same if you even think about traveling to Sri Lanka.

Accommodation: 5885 LKR / 29,54€

As I did not explore Sri Lanka on my own, I ended up splitting the costs of some accommodations with my travel buddy. We stayed in both private rooms and conventional hostel rooms. The costs accounted here therefore list the full amount of hostel costs and half of the costs of a private room. We spend 11 nights there as we arrived in Sri Lanka just after midnight.

As it is, private rooms in Sri Lanka are rather affordable even if you are traveling on your own, so check out homestays. They allow you to see how Sri Lankans live and you will get the chance to meet locals. And you might get to eat some home-cooked food which is a real treat in Sri Lanka.

Private Room

Cheapest Night: 425 LKR

Most Expensive Night: 625 LKR

Average Cost per Night: 526 LKR

Hostel Room

Average Cost per Night: 625 LKR

If you travel in Sri Lanka during the off-season, most big booking websites offer discounts around 20%.

Food & Drinks: 10.965 LKR / 55,03€

Sri Lankan food tastes amazing. I never ate it before arriving in the country, but once there I definitely tried to eat as much of it as possible. You have to eat dhal & kottu while in Sri Lanka.

Alcohol: 600 LKR

One cocktail in Trincomalee at a beach bar.

Cheapest Meal: 220 LKR

Most Expensive Meal: 1240 LKR (Secret Alley, Kandy)

Average Cost per Day: 997 LKR

Sri Lankan Breakfast: Roti, dhal, banana and Sri Lankan tea

Transport: 820 LKR / 4,12€

Traveling in Sri Lanka by Train - Sri Lanka on a Budget

Train Rides: 420 LKR

The train ride between Kandy and Ella is famous and often described as one of the most beautiful ones in the world. And I happen to agree.

I took the train from Kandy to Nanu Oya (close to Nuwara Eliya) and then back to Kandy. The scenery is amazing!

A one-way ticket in second class costs 210 LKR.

Airport pick-up: 400 LKR

Tuk Tuk (0.5x): 29.943 LKR / 150,41€

I rented the tuk tuk with a friend so we split the cost. As you can see it is rather expensive when compared to the costs of everything else in Sri Lanka. Renting a tuk tuk will definitely increase your daily budget in Sri Lanka as the rental fee is quite expensive when compared to most other expenses.

Aside from the price, traffic can be crazy.

Please keep in mind that Sri Lanka is a left-hand traffic. Driving a tuk tuk for the first time is hard enough if you have no prior experience in driving a manual motorbike. Therefore I would not recommend trying both for the first time. Some streets are in a bad condition and you have to keep your eyes open for elephants and other drivers – exploring Sri Lanka in a tuk tuk is a great adventure, but it is not always easy.

We were involved in a crash on our very first day. After the sun had set a crazy tuk tuk driver hit our tuk tuk and gave me the biggest scare of this trip.

But would I do it again? Yes! It was great, crazy, unique and hilarious.

Rental Fee: 26.873 LKR / 135€

Fuel: 2.795 LKR

Oil: 100 LKR

Parking: 175 LKR

Fun fact: If you end up renting a tuk tuk, you will get a lot of temporary pets. More often than not we found a dog or paw prints in the morning.

Exploring Sri Lanka in a Tuk Tuk

Entrance Fees: 1000 LKR / 5,02 €

Palm Rope Swing: 500 LKR

Pidurangala: 500 LKR

I decided not to climb Sigiriya / Lions Rock. On one hand the price of 30 USD is way too high in comparison to everything else in Sri Lanka. On the other hand climbing it does not mean you learn anything about the ruins on top as there as there are no boards or anything that will provide valuable information. However I would love to do it the next time I am there as long as I have done some research about it. If I am spending 30 USD, I want to know what exactly I am looking at.

If you ‘just’ want an incredible and breath-taking view, I recommend climbing Pidurangala instead. You will save money and get an incredible view of Lions Rock, as they are right next to each other.

My tip:

Climb Pidurangala just before sunset. The view as the first rays of sunlight paint the landscape in yellowish hues is amazing.

Lions Rock as seen from Pidurangala

Activities in Sri Lanka: 5.400 LKR / 27,10€

Kaudulla National Park Elephant Safari

As I already mentioned, I only paid 50% of the going rate. And let me tell you that the experience is worth every single cent even if you pay the full price.

There are other national parks where you can go on a safari in Sri Lanka, but if your main goal is to see elephants, Kaudulla or Minneriya National Park are the best spots. These national parks are where the yearly gathering of hundreds of elephants occurs.

Ensure that the company you book the safari with knows in which of the two parks the elephants currently are and that it offers a change of park free of charge in case the elephants are in the other one.

Elephant Safari in Sri Lanka - How much does it cost to travel in Sri Lanka

Great Activities I did not do:

There are many other great things you can do in Sri Lanka, but here are some of the best ones. I ended up not doing them during this trip due to time constraints or it being the off season, but I will be adding an exact daily budget in Sri Lanka that includes those activities after my next trip there.

They might not exactly be what would be considered Sri Lanka on a budget, but doing these things is worth it. Ultimately even these higher prices are rather low when compared to the traveling expenses in other countries like Australia and Italy. Alternatively you can do some amazing free hikes like those to Lipton’s Seat and Adam’s Peak.

Whale Watching

You can do so in Trincomalee and in Mirissa. Both cities have different seasons for it. However I recommend doing so in Mirissa. There is a permanent whale population just of the coast that might be a sub-species. Additionally it is the location of the most ethical operator that even works with universities. The company you want it called Raja & the Whales .

Visit an Elephant Orphanage / Elephant Transit Home

Sadly it happens that mother elephants die and leave behind their little one. As Sri Lanka loves its elephants, there are several places where the elephants are raised. The ethical ones like the ‘Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home‘ return the healthy animals to the wild after a few years.

However there are also somewhat popular ones where this is not the case. The well known Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is one of the bad one. Please do not go there and support the animal cruelty that happens there. You can read all about the reasons not to visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage here. The pictures of you sitting in a pool with elephants bathing in the background might look amazing, but I doubt you want to be the reason these gentle creatures are chained in the river.

I cannot stop you from visiting an unethical one, but I hope that you will do research whenever you add an activity with animals to your trip itinerary.

Diving in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has amazing dive sites and you will find several dive centers at every touristic coastal town. Keep in mind that there are two different diving seasons in the Sri Lanka. In some locations the diving centers close during the off-season, so do your research ahead of time. The price for a double boat dive is usually somewhere between 50 and 60 USD.

As always: Enter the dive shop and talk to the staff before you book your dives. You do not want to dive with a crew that you do not feel comfortable with. Also take a look at their rental equipment to check if it is well maintained.

Sim Card and Data: 700 LKR / 3,51€

Upon arriving in Sri Lanka, I bought a local sim card, as doing so is a lot less expensive than international roaming charges. In the beginning it is best to get a smaller data pack and to then recharge your prepaid sim as you go. There are a lot of places where you can do so, which makes it quite easy to only pay for as much data as you need.

Keep in mind that some data packs have a split amount of data whereby the largest amount of GB can be limited to night hours only.

Additional Costs

Grocery: 1.704 LKR / 8,55€

Washing: 720 LKR / 3,61€

The prices for getting your clothes washed in Sri Lanka vary, but the average should be somewhere between 1€ to 1,50€ per kg. Just look around for a bit and do not forget to ask when you will get your clothes back. The estimate of some services was in two days which might not work with your itinerary.

Travel in Sri Lanka without a Tuk Tuk Rental

Exploring Sri Lanka without a tuk tuk is really easy and affordable. You can easily catch a bus or train to get around. It is a lot cheaper and also faster to take public transport.

Sri Lanka Train Ticket Prices

I cannot give you an exact total as the ticket price depends on which class you book for train rides and where you want to stop along the way. But if you choose second class seats and have the following route, you can expect to spend around 19€ in total on buses and trains.

Colombo – Unawatuna – Mirissa – Tangalle – Ella – Nuwara Eliya – Kandy – Sigiriya – Colombo

This route leaves out the last two stops of my route, but it does not change the price by much.

If you truly want to explore Sri Lanka on a budget, taking the train is the way to go.

Daily Budget in Sri Lanka without a Tuk Tuk Rental

How much does it cost to travel in Sri Lanka?

Daily Budget in Sri Lanka on average: 5194,27 LKR / 26,08€

Total Cost of 11 Days in Sri Lanka: 57.137 LKR / 286,89€

Sri Lanka on a Budget

How much money you end up spending in Sri Lanka really depends on your route and what you plan to do during your trip. However I hope that this guide will provide you a general estimate so you can plan your Sri Lanka budget.

Of all the cities in Sri Lanka, Colombo is the most expensive, but if you stick to local food and experiences, you can still get a lot for as little as $10 in Colombo. The same can be said about most other places as well, so keep it in mind if you want to spend as little as possible. Local food and homestays are an incredible way to get to know the country and its people, so give it a try regardless of your budget.

If you want to, you can spend as little as 14€ per day while still having an amazing time, but I can only encourage you to ‘splurge’ on some things like a tuk tuk rental, elephant safaris or an amazing accommodation for a night or two.

Renting a tuk tuk might have nearly doubled my daily budget, but I would say that it was money well spend.

Further Readings: Sri Lanka

Overview: Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Inspiration: Sri Lanka Photos that will inspire you

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Daily Costs in Sri Lanka - How much does it cost to travel in Sri Lanka? Train driving through tea fields in Sri Lanka.
11 Days in Sri Lanka - How much does it cost to travel in Sri Lanka?
Daily Costs of Traveling in Sri Lanka

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