Sri Lanka on $10 Per Day: Budget Travel Guide

Cost of Travel in Sri Lanka

Cost of Travel in Sri Lanka

By daily living standards, Sri Lanka is a very cheap country to travel through.

However, if you start getting into the national parks and the stricly designated tourist attractions, the cost significantly shoots up.

My traveling style is more about exploring random places on foot, eating loads of authentic street food and doing most things at a slow-ish pace. I’m not big on tourist designated sights, so this budget guide will cover mostly the daily cost of travel in Sri Lanka.

Also throughout this budget I was traveling with one friend of mine, which is always a good way to ease the cost of travel.

Cost of 20 Days in Sri Lanka

Total amount I spent = 18,138 LKR Sri Lankan Rupees (ranges around $160 – $165)

Amount per day that I spent (average) = 906 LKR – that’s less than 10 USD bucks a day – in fact it’s more like $8!

My budget costs could have even been less had I not purchased 3,000 LKR ($27.18) of tea and spices upon leaving.

Minus the major attractions, day to day living in Sri Lanka is similar to the cost of travel in Egypt.

Budget Travel in Sri Lanka

Near Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

Main Places I Visited in Sri Lanka

  • Colombo – Spent over a week in Colombo getting my Thai visa and just hanging out, walking around and eating Sri Lankan food
  • Kandy – Spent about 4 days in Kandy, wandering around – not my favorite place in Sri Lanka
  • Pusselawa – Just a tiny little town that I visited because a friend lived there, spent around 4 days hanging out in the tea fields!
  • Jaffna – Was in Jaffna for 4 days and had an amazing time, Jaffna is a wonderful place to visit with a Sri Lankan Tamil culture and a lot of remains from the civil war
  • Galle – Actually didn’t even spend the night in Galle but just took a day trip from Colombo
  • Unawatuna – Also I didn’t have time to spend much time in Unawatuna as I did a lot of relaxing in Pusselawa and Jaffna – but if you enjoy the beach this area is fantastic
Cost of Food Eating in Sri Lanka

Cost of Sri Lankan Food

Cost of Food in Sri Lanka

If you are looking to save money on your budget while traveling through Sri Lanka, food and transportation will come to your rescue.

Sri Lankan food is extremely cheap.

I was eating giant meals that included a huge mound of rice and a mix of curries for less than $1 per meal. If you are a big eater like me, you’ll be happy to know that most of the normal restaurants give you a first plate of rice and you can ask for a re-fill!

Vegetarian meals are the cheapest, but seafood and fish are still quite affordable and chicken is a little more expensive.

  • Vegetarian curry and rice – 100 LKR ($0.91)
  • Fish curry and rice (includes veggie dishes too) – 150 LKR
  • Huge feast of paratha, daal, fish curry – 200 LKR
  • Plate of kottu – 100 LKR ($0.91)
  • Fresh coconut – 40 LKR ($0.36)
  • Bottled water (big bottle) – 60 LKR ($0.54)
How much does it cost to travel in Sri Lanka

Cost of Transportation in Sri Lanka

Cost of Transportation in Sri Lanka

There are a few methods of common transportation in Sri Lanka: Bus, Train and Rickshaw (tuk tuk).

Transportation in Sri Lanka is cheaper than in any other country I’ve ever traveled…but you have to be willing to deal with not the most luxurious conditions.

Buses won’t leave until they are full (by that I mean all seats are taken and the aisle is full of standers). The bus drivers then proceed to drive at ferocious speeds and slam on their breaks as hard as they please. Buses aren’t the most relaxing in Sri Lanka – but they’ll be kind to your budget travel!

Train is good, but there aren’t too many routes and many tracks were under construction when I was in Sri Lanka.

  • 3rd-class train from Colombo to Kandy (3 hours) – 105 LKR ($0.95)
  • 5 kilometer rickshaw (tuk tuk) ride – 300 LKR ($2.72)
  • Semi-Luxury (it was pretty normal to me) overnight bus from Kandy to Jaffna (8 hours) – 465 LKR ($4.21) – that’s a good DEAL!
  • Bus from Colombo to Galle (3 hours) – 115 LKR ($1.04)
  • Local bus around Colombo – 20-30 LKR per ride ($0.18 – $0.27)

Cost of Accommodation in Sri Lanka

One of the ways I save a lot of money is through couchsurfing. I make a few contacts and sometimes end up finding great places to stay.

Here’s the break down of where I stayed for 20 nights in Sri Lanka:

  • Couchsurfing – 15 nights
  • Guest House – 3 nights
  • Bus – 1 night
  • Airport – 1 night

Guest Houses

I stayed at just two different guest houses while I was in Sri Lanka. Both of them were very adequate private double rooms with exterior bathrooms and cost 1000 LKR ($9.06) per night for two of us. I think that’s about average to low for a room in Sri Lanka, and closer to tourist beaches the prices might be higher.

  • Cost of a double room – 1000-1500 LKR per night ($9.06 – $13.59)
  • Cost of a dorm bed – 400-800 LKR ($3.62 – $7.25)
Note: Check out these accommodation suggestions for good deals in Sri Lanka.
Cost of Traveling in Sri Lanka

Attractions in Sri Lanka

Cost of Tourist Attractions in Sri Lanka

Like I’ve mentioned before, I avoided most of the tourist attractions, and though I probably missed out on some cool things, my entire trip to Sri Lanka was amazing!

If you do want to visit the attractions here is a sample of the costs:

Things I did do:

  • Took a bunch of photos and videos of a cobra charmer – 100 LKR ($0.91)
  • Mandatory tip at Hindu temple to take photos – 100 LKR ($0.91)
  • 2 hour tour of Colombo on a Rickshaw – 800 LKR ($7.25)
  • Entrance to Gangaramaya Buddhist temple – 100 LKR ($0.91)
  • Entrance to Jaffna public library – 10 LKR ($0.09) – possibly the cheapest attraction that wasn’t free that I’ve ever visited…they even gave us official tickets!

Things I didn’t do (which I’m sure are cool):

  • Sigiriya (I saw it from the outside, but it was a bit overpriced in my opinion – so I saved my money) – 3,300 LKR entrance fee (almost $30!)
  • Yala National Park – Around $15 entrance fee and $15 per person for vehicle
  • Kandy Botanical Gardens – $10 entrance fee
  • Temple of the Tooth – $10 entrance fee
Cost of Tea in Sri Lank

Tea Field in Sri Lanka – Don’t Leave Without Some!

Cost of Shopping / Souvenirs in Sri Lanka

I’m not big on shopping (for anything other than food) but if you are looking to bring something home from Sri Lanka I can recommend buying tea and spices.

  • 500 gram bag of loose leaf Ceylon tea – 500 LKR ($4.53)
  • Mixed bag of all kinds of spices – 300 LKR ($2.72)

Cost of Internet in Sri Lanka

Wi-fi is still not that common in Sri Lanka, but there are cyber cafe’s all over the country. 1 hour costs anywhere form 50 – 100 LKR ($0.40 – $0.91).

Final Thoughts / Overview

It would be easy to spend $20 -$40 a day in Sri Lanka if you go-go-go and visit national parks and all the “tourist guide” tourist attractions.


Daily cost of living in Sri Lanka is very low. If you choose to travel to Sri Lanka and are on a low budget (like I was) you can do things quite cheaply.

I spent just $10 per day and that included a bunch of tea and spices that I bought the last day of my trip – just remember I did a lot of couchsurfing.

Any other thoughts or more information about budget travel in Sri Lanka? Feel free to leave a comment!

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  1. says

    Glad you had a good time in Sri Lanka. I was there for a few weeks 5 years ago, and it remains one of my favorite travel experiences! Unawatuna was great.

  2. says

    Sri Lanka was one of the cheapest destinations on our RTW trip – we spent even less there than in India. I don’t remember Sigiriya being that expensive but I did love it. The Kandy Botanical Gardens are worth it too -some of the most beautiful we’ve been to and a great way to relax for an afternoon. Your budget is impressive – we spent about $30 a day for two of us.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing you experience Erin – and that’s a good comparison with India (I haven’t been yet). A couple Sri Lankan friends said that the price for entrance to Sigiriya had just increased recently, so I might have just gone as it became more expensive. I’d definitely say that $30 a day for 2 is pretty decent as well!

    • gary says

      I hear if you want to see all the cultural sites in the triangle you can buy triangle pass for $50.00 and it is good for all the major sites so it works out much cheaper this way. I also read you can get this special pass near most of the sites.

      • kirsty says

        just to let you know, the sir lankan tourist authorities no longer do the triangle pass: you need to pay for each attraction separately: it can become very pricey

  3. says

    It’s amazing what a bargain some less-developed countries can be, especially since you can have an equally unforgettable time traveling there. To me, seeing that snake charmer in the street would be priceless! I can’t wait to travel to that part of the world someday. Thanks for sharing!

  4. says

    Sri Lanka is in my list but I was informed that it is quite expensive but your post suggests something different. I’ve bookmarked this post to refer to, when I actually plan to go there. Looks like it is even cheaper than my own country, India.

    I liked your break down of all the costs. I would have done more shopping in the sense that 500 gm of Tea would not have sufficed for me. :)

    You gave money to snake charmer on your own or he demanded it?

    • says

      Thanks a lot Nisha!
      Just remember in this budget guide that I did mostly couchsurfing…so I only stayed in a guest house a few nights of my time in Sri Lanka. I like the way you think about the tea though – I bought about 2 kilos of tea but that’s all I could bring because I only had a hand carry bag. As for the snake charmer, I don’t think he would have performed had I not paid him a tip, plus I shot about 50 photos and a video so it was well worth it!

    • kirsty says

      hi i live in sri lanka and although you can live on $10.00 a day, this would be doing what our fantastic writer has done: live on street food, couch surf and view tourist attractions from the outside.

      the price of a guest house for a nice clean basic double room start around 2000/- about $15.00, although i have stayed in cheaper places but they haven’t been as nice.

      the price of tourist attractions, i think is quite steep. it’s fine if you are doing the odd one or two but to do all the attractions you will need a pretty big budget.

      transport is very cheap, buses and trains etc and provided you’re good at negotiating you can get a good price on a 3 wheeler.

      street food is very cheap and really tasty but if you are looking at more luxury places then you will be paying European prices. again $7 for a meal,

      beer is cheap around $4 for a big bottle in a bar/restaurant. but wine and spirits are expensive.

      a trip to the supermarket (not market), can be more expensive than shopping in the USA!

      sri lanka is a beautiful and fantastic country and i love living here, but it is not cheap. i have traveled all over the world and lived in many places and for a developing country this has been the most expensive.and all my friends who have visited have been very surprised at what they have spent.

      but don’t let this deter you from visiting… is amazing and stunning, full of cultural, history and fun! just be realsistic about the experiamce you want and how much money you need.


      • says

        Hey Kristy, thank you very much for sharing your tips and insights. Yes, I can understand how it can be expensive living in Sri Lanka, but at least it’s possible to travel there on the cheap as well. I think specifically transportation and food is very affordable!

      • mike postlethwaite says

        hi kirsty…I am retired and living VERY comfortably in beautiful chiang mai Thailand [population 200,000] for the last 18 months on about $600 US per mo. total…NO tourist stuff or bars at that price of course…a fair amount of walking between the probably 30 temples and at least 100 restaurants within a 15 minute walk from my apt. located on a quiet soi an 8 min. walk from city center….the only flaw is the poor air quality from agricultural burning in mar. & april [it also gets a bit too hot then]….I am looking for a place with these ”chiang mai qualities” to take an apt. and ”nest” for 2 or 3 months at that time of year….it sounds like you have an excellent handle on sri lanka …can you suggest city/s in sri lanka that have these qualities?….mike

  5. says

    how incredible! i can’t even fathom being able to live so well for so little!!! What kinds of spices did you buy??

    i don’t know if i could’ve stopped myself from pocketing leaves & leaves of tea! :)

    • says

      Thanks Jen! I bought a few bags that included a small assortment of about 6 different spices and then I loaded up on cumin, fennel seeds, a mixture of curry powder, cinnamon and cardamon pods. If you like tea, Sri Lanka is a great place!!!

  6. says

    As usual, great breakdown of costs Mark. Sri Lanka is one country I’ve yet to visit even though I’ve done a lot of travel in Asia. Couchsurfing really helped keep your costs down and how can you beat curries for less than a $1 :)

  7. says

    Hi Mark! Again and again, you made a post about places that I actually am planning to go. After Southern China, now Sri Lanka! What a coincidence! :) However I see that you didn’t go to Polonnaruwa, Anuradapura and Sigiriya. Is that true?

    • says

      Haha, cool to hear that you’ll be going to Sri Lanka too Bama. You’re right, I didn’t make it to any of those historical sites, I really had to pick and choose as my budget and time ran out… I was in Sigiriya town for a day, but I didn’t end up paying the entrance fee to get in. Will you be going to those places? I’ll look forward to reading about them from you!

      • says

        Yes, I am planning to go to those places (at least I will really try to make my time to go to Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa, because Anuradapura is located a bit far in the north). By the way, the fact that you went to Jaffna is already stunning for me. The word Jaffna always reminds me of war and landmines. But I’m glad the war is over now.

  8. fernando says

    I’m a Sri lankan, Living in UK. I think Mark you have missed alot more. You should have visited Kandy botanical garden and yaala national park. It does worth paying for. You should also have visited Trincomalee where there is a natural harbour and alot of hindu temples, especially beautiful beaches. Koneshwaram temple is one of the famous and seven wells which has different temperatures in each of them (Natural temperatures). Then budhist temples in anuradhapura and surrounding ares.

    Nuwara eliya is another tropical place you shouldn’t have missed. Waterfalls, mountains, farms and tea estates are just amazing places to visit. Hope that you will not miss those places next time.


    • fernando says

      Also don’t miss fruits that are unique to the country. Karutha kolumban mango is one of the tastiest mangoes in the world, Jack fruit, Rambuttan fruit Etc……

    • says

      Hey Zeno,
      Thanks for all these great suggestions! I wasn’t able to visit the entire country this time as I only had 3 weeks in Sri Lanka. I think I could spend 1 year in Sri Lanka visiting all the cities and interesting attractions! I will definitely try to get to some of these places the next time I visit!
      What part of Sri Lanka are you originally from?
      Thanks for the comment!

  9. Menushka says

    Man the shot of the plate of food is MOUTHWATERING…how did you enjoy the spicy fried sprats??? It is a personal favorite of mine 😀 woah you have no clue as to how much i miss the dry fish (karawala).. :( :(

    I totally enjoy with Zeno, you should have visited the Temple of tooth, Nuwara Eliya and the Kandy botanical gardens…yes they require entrance fees, but they are definitely not worth missing, especially when you pay thousand of dollars for an air ticket to and back from Sri Lanka, but since the whole point of your trip was budget travel, I presume they were strategic decisions. There is another absolutely breathtaking place called “Meemure” (pronounced meemoorey)…It is off Hunnasgiriya, which in itself is another beautiful place. But be wqarned, Meemure is a very remote area and ther eare only two guest houses there. So plan ahead if you wanna go. Another place you should visit is Riverston and the knuckles mountain range.Visiting the “veddhas” – the indigenous people of Sri Lanka would be a memorable trip too..the list goes on and on..:D

    • says

      I really appreciate you taking the time to leave these great comments Menushka. This is fantastic advice! I got your comments corrected!
      Yah, as a traveler (with a limited budget) I have to really pick and choose the things I can afford to do or not, and sometimes I have to not do a few things in order to keep traveling the way I do. It would have been nice to visit some of the attractions, but hopefully there will be a next time! Meemure sounds way cool – I’ll keep that in mind!

  10. Menushka says

    You don’t have to thank me Mark…Sri Lanka is my home, and I would gladly do anything to make a guest feel welcome in my country…i currently am residing in the United States, and am missing home very badly…hope to get back as soon as possible.. :) Anyways, this is a great blog mark, where people can share first hand experience of their travels.. :) Your work is much appreciated..THANK YOU for showing the beauty of my country.. :) hope you had the chance to experience authentic sri lankan hospitality during your travels.

    • says

      I really appreciate your kind words Menushka! I had an extremely great time visiting your country and I was treated with nothing but hospitality during me stay. I really enjoyed Sri Lanka, the people and the great food! Hope you are doing well and thanks again for visiting my website and for taking the time to leave a comment.

  11. Menushka says

    I also saw your instructional video on how to eat using your fingers…BRAVO mark… 😀 so you too agree with the fact that food tastes better when mixed with fingers.. :) it takes some practice, though to get it right :)

  12. Anoop G says

    Thanks a lot for your valuable detailed description about the Lankan journey. I am planning to visit Sri Lanka in a short while without the help of any tourist or travel agency and also in a low-budget-frame. Your experience is really tempting me now. I cant wait even more. But can you tell me about the air charges also?

    • says

      Hey Anoop, thanks for reading and for leaving a comment. Great to hear you’ll be taking a trip to Sri Lanka soon, it really is an incredible country with so much to offer. As for airfare, I flew from Bangkok, I think my roundtrip ticket cost around $250. Hope that helps.

  13. gary says

    hi, As an old backpacker I found your piece on Sri Lanka very informative. Just want to add that I do believe their is a triangle cultural pass for $50.00 good for all the MAIN ATTRACTIONS in the area. So check that out if your eager to see these sites. thank you, gh.

  14. says

    Where did you stay in Sri Lanka, esp. Colombo?

    We’re having trouble finding anything lower than $12-15/night for a room.

    Thanks for the tips!

    • says

      Hey Lindsay, I actually couchsurfed the entire time I was in Colombo. But another friend told me he stayed at the YMCA for a very budget price – like $5 or something like that.

  15. says

    i have to admit, I admire the spirit in which this trip was taken. The issue I have is, I don’t think this is any sort of model on how to visit Sri Lanka. This itinerary to put it mildly, is unique and a bit bizarre. A lot of the great things about Sri Lanka were missed in this trip. Things that cost money lots of it. Sri Lanka is notorious for gouging tourists at every turn. Forget Horton Plains- the end of the world that’s 30 bucks, forget Yala 50 bucks easy, forget Polonaruwa that’s 25 bucks, forget Dambulla, 15 bucks plus a mandatory guide, Sigirya 30 bucks. Almost every museum or park is expensive. And they even try to charge you for leaving your shoes outside a temple. They suggest a donation at every temple, what should I do, be a jerk and not give one? Tuk-tuks with fast running meters, or no meter at all, surprise visit to a park where the guide asks for a donation at the end then gets mad if you don’t give enough.
    Sri Lanka is a fascinating, drop dead gorgeous country and the people not in tourism are warm hearted and friendly and kind too. I enjoyed my interactions with the local people very much.
    However, the people in tourism it’s a different story
    It’s almost like we as tourists are being punished for the horrific war they had and are rebuilding the country with tourist dollars, lots of them.
    I spent too much here. I did go to Colombo, Kandy, Nurawa Eliya, Ella, Tissa, Galle, Colombo, Negombo, Marawila, and the places mentioned above.
    It wasn’t cheap though. I worry if people choose this itinerary they would miss a lot. I think it’s cool not to follow guide books all the time, but this trip is definitely an off the beaten path trip.
    I admire it, but wouldn’t really recommend following it unless you’ve been to Sri Lanka before and haven’t seen the major stuff.

  16. says

    Thank you so much for posting this. For some reason I have always thought it would be amazing to go to Sri Lanka, and never realized it would be so inexpensive. Thank you for breaking down the prices, too, because it is helpful to compare it to what you are being asked to pay when you know what others have paid. I will definitely push to have Sri Lanka be a stop on our upcoming journey!.Budget Travel to sri lanla

  17. Pete says

    This has been a very thorough article, especially about the variety of street food. And your experiences with transportation, lodging, avoiding touristy spots/entrance fees; that’s my way to travel. I’m about to book my ticket for May, thank you for your insight which has made up my mind!

  18. Anna Vo Nguyen says

    Hi Mark Wiens!
    I like your website. It’s so great, I didnt know that I can travel with cost less than 10 usd per day, it’s mean cheaper than cost for living in my country.
    Tks Mark Wiens, you are open the word doors for me.

  19. says

    We just returned from a very enjoyable 12 days trip in Around Tour srilanka, visiting Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwaraeliya, Ella , Yala and few days stay in Mirissa. we were very happy with the services provided by Srilanka budget tours & travels.
    Our driver was Chinthaka (chin) and we can highly recommend him to other travellers. He was a very careful and safe driver and never took any risks. The vehicle was excellent , very clean and comfortable. Cold bottles of water were always available.

  20. says

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who had been conducting a
    little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me breakfast because I stumbled
    upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this….

    Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the
    time to discuss this matter here on your blog.

  21. Sheikh Ashraful Alam says

    this is sumon & i live in dhaka capital of bangladesh. It was rally nice to read to ur sri lanka tour & i think it is varry good to know that what i eat,how its cost,wher i go, what ther cost etc.
    nice to help me to give this information & i think it is really helping me to visit sri lanka.


  22. says

    this is a great overview of sri lanka, even though i am taking into account it was written a few years ago, it still gives my a great insight into places you visited and things worth doing ! thanks :)

  23. Sanesh Tiwari says

    Hi Mark,

    You mentioned that you took an overnight “Semi Luxury” bus from Kandy to Jaffna. Do you have any pictures of the “semi luxury” bus that you took? Were the seats reclinable? Furthermore, were there luxury buses or “super luxury” (as described in Sri Lanka) available for the same route?

    Thank You!

    • says

      Hi Sanesh, unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the bus, and it’s been so long since I was there that I don’t fully remember. I think the seats were slightly reclinable, but it’s wasn’t too nice of a bus. Could have used some maintenance for sure. Are you traveling in Sri Lanka now?


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