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.
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 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)
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
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)
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 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.