Sri Lanka looks stunning and has been on my travel bucket list for a long time now. A big thank you to Vinod for sharing this guide to travelling Sri Lanka on a budget.
Sri Lanka is one of the beautiful countries in South Asia, which is surrounded by water on all sides. Sri Lanka was formerly called as Ceylon until it was officially renamed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Sri Lanka is famous for beautiful beaches, tree plantations, wildlife sanctuaries along with a lot of sacred Buddhist temples, and it is one of the cheap destinations to travel in Asia.
Sri Lankan Visa Charges and how to get it?
You can apply for a Sri Lankan tourist visa for a fee of 25 USD for people coming from SAARC nations and 35 USD for other countries, or you can get it on arrival for a fee of 40 USD for a stay up to 30 days. Children who are under age 12 can enter Sri Lanka for free!
How to reach Sri Lanka?
The recommended way to reach Sri Lanka is by flight. Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo is the leading International airport in the country. And mostly, you will be arriving at this airport as this airport has more connectivity to international destinations.
Budget saving tips on transportation
- Use public transport where ever possible. Buses and trains are the primary public transport available in Sri Lanka, and they are very cheap. But the only problem is, the buses are often crowded and it’s the same case for trains and in some places, you won’t find buses frequently, and you are left with hiring Auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk).
- Before boarding, the best thing I can suggest to you when hiring a tuk-tuk is to haggle for the cost.
- When you approach the tuk-tuk, they will ask for the price more than double what they ask for the locals. Just ask them for less than 50% what they charged and walk away to next driver if you don’t make a deal.
- You can find shared tuk-tuks in some places, and that will be relatively cheaper when compared to regular auto rickshaws.
You must try the local foods when you are touring Sri Lanka, and they are very cheap. The famous local foods like Appam, Kottu Roti, Samosa, and kinds of seafood are the must-try ones in Sri Lanka.
Rice is the principal food consumed almost in every house in Sri Lanka along with curries (veg, Meat, and Fish). Also, Sri Lanka is very famous for tea plantations, and you can get good tea’s throughout the country, and you should try that.
You can also try pineapple curry, which is a unique dish in Sri Lanka.
Budget-friendly places to visit in Sri Lanka
- Arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo and explore the nearby sites in Colombo.
- Pettah market is one of the busiest places in Colombo. You can find small shops on both sides of the road, and you can buy local items if you want. Remember, the bargain is the key here if you want to save a few bucks here.
- You can also explore the Red Mosque (which is near to Pettah market), Galle Face Green beach, the Dutch Museum, Colombo harbor, etc. Note: Galle Face Green beach will be more crowded in the evening as many local people tend to come here and there are no entrance fees. Also, you can find many people flying kites with the family in the evening.
- You can also try to visit Dehwala Zoo if you are traveling with kids.
Kandy – Start from Colombo to Kandy:
- Kandy is another extraordinary place to explore in Sri Lanka. The best way to travel from Colombo to Kandy is by train, and it is the cheapest option. Remember, the trains are more crowded in Sri Lanka and make sure to check the train timings at least one day before as you can find trains only at specific times especially long-distance trains and plan your day.
- Tip: Take second class ticket in trains as it will be more crowded in the third class / open ticket.
Budget-friendly places to visit in Kandy
- If you are coming to Kandy, then you must visit the temple of sacred tooth relic. It has a good history inside. As per history, the tooth of Buddha was kept inside the temple under a secret chamber which was secretly taken to Sri Lanka by a Sri Lankan queen. Note, we can’t see the tooth as it is kept in a secret chamber.
- Other essential places to see in Kandy are Kandy Lake, the royal botanical garden and Kandy Buddha statue
Ella – Start from Kandy to Ella
- Ella is another most popular tourist location in Sri Lanka, and the best way to travel is by train. It will take around six hours to reach Ella from Kandy but trust me this is one of the most beautiful train trips you would have traveled, as you can see green plantations along with mountains landscapes with tea plantations throughout the travel.
- Almost every people add this trip in their travel itinerary, so this makes the train more crowded and makes it very difficult to get the first and class tickets. So I advise you to book at least ten days before.
- Other places to visit in Ella are the little Adams peak (one of the famous hiking spots in Sri Lanka), Ella rock and Ravana falls.
Dambulla – Kandy to Dambulla by train
- One of the most significant places to visit in Dambulla is Sigiriya (one of the World Heritage site), and it is considered to be a must-do one in your Sri Lanka trip. Sigiriya is an ancient rock (5th century), and it is believed to be 1500 years old. It is 650 meters height, and you have to climb up to 1200 steps to reach the top. Note, you have to pay 4500 Sri Lankan rupees as entrance fee.
- The Dambulla royal cave and Pidurangala are other prominent places to visit in Dambulla.
Nuruwa Eliya is another significant place to visit in Sri Lanka, and Eliya is often called Little England. You can see a lot of buildings in the British style, and since it is a hilly area, you can feel the climate also similar to England. I recommend you to spend a day or two in Nuruwa Eliya.
Also, check the most prominent places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Final tips for visiting Sri Lanka
- Don’t book a package directly from tour operators. Try to explore on your own. You can save almost 40 to 50% easily.
- Get local sim card in the airport or at any local shops. The recommended one is Mobitel and Dialog.
- Make sure to keep enough local currency with you as many small shops won’t accept credit cards.
- If you are travelling on a local bus and you have additional luggage with try to get an extra seat so that you can keep your luggage freely.
- Make sure to wear proper clothing while visiting temples as Sri Lanka has a lot of Buddhist temples and dress code are essential to enter inside.
- If you are curious about hiking, I strongly recommend to try Adam’s Peak, which is about 2000 meters height, and you have to climb stairs up to 6000 steps, and this will definitely test your stamina and try if you are fit.
Vinod & Divya, parent of a three-year-old kid, are Software Techies by profession gradually driven towards travel by passion. They are the founder/editor of the travel blog ‘Budget Travel Plans’ and are based in India. They have travelled across exotic destinations including Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Srilanka, Bhutan and the Middle east. They aim to share their budget travel experience, Travel tips & tricks and also advice on travelling with little kids.
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