Budget Travelling in Sri Lanka

by | Jun 23, 2024

Sri Lanka is an affordable destination for every traveller. There are travel experiences for every budget. From the beaches to sacred sites to jungles to rainforests to ancient monuments, you can pack it all into your itinerary without breaking the bank. So, whether you are nomad-ing your way through the island or want to cut holiday costs in half, let’s see what Sri Lanka on a budget looks like.

Beating the crowds and travel in the off-season

During the off-season, hotel bookings are cheaper, and you can enjoy amenities to your heart’s content. May to September is Sri Lanka’s low season. Southwest monsoon season is active on the island during this period, bringing rains to the southern and western parts. Rains do not continue throughout. Punctuated by inter-monsoon periods, sunny days still occur. So, you can still explore southern, western and central parts of the island.

The north and east remain dry and inviting during this time. The northeast part of the island is less travelled to and has some of the most pristine beaches and unique attractions. You can swap the south coast adventures for surfing in Arugam Bay or kite surfing in Kalpitiya. Northeast monsoon season prevails from December to February.

April is a shoulder season but coincides with Sinhala and Tamil New Year. It is the local high season. Sri Lankans travel across the country and holiday around the island the most during this time. October to November is another shoulder season. You can get better deals on accommodation on the southern coast as it slowly eases into the high season.

Booking your flights in advance

Airfare takes up a sizable chunk of the budget. By booking well in advance, especially when great deals are available, you can save a lot on air travel. Singapore and Malaysian Airlines offer the best deals on flights to Sri Lanka. You can also fly via India. Indian flights across the Palk Strait are the shortest. Check if you can save money with flights via India instead of direct flights.

Trading the taxi for the airport bus

The shuttle service takes you from the airport to Colombo city centre. If you are travelling light, it is a cheaper alternative. From Colombo, you can get an Uber or hop on a train or bus. The Colombo Fort railway station is the main terminus for trains to all parts of the island. You can catch a train to travel northwards, southwards or towards the central highlands.

Use ride-hailing apps

Uber and local PickMe apps come in handy on your trip. You can choose luxury cars, regular cars, tuk-tuks or bikes. These are more regulated and economical than hailing random taxis or tuk-tuks on the street. You can also rent a car to self-drive. Make sure to compare costs and book in advance.

Homestays, Airbnb and holiday rentals

Use Airbnb, Booking.com and Homestay to find local homes offering accommodation for tourists. These are good-quality budget accommodation. They are a wholesome way to experience Sri Lankan life. Warm Sri Lankan hospitality extends beyond money. You can feel homely and safe. Family-based homestays are ideal for solo female travellers. These can be Rs. 3000 to Rs.7000 a night, including home-cooked meals. You can also book a villa, house, bungalow or apartment.

Eat like the locals

The humble eatery can serve authentic Sri Lankan flavours just as well as an upmarket restaurant. You can use Uber Eats to order from nearby places or hit the town to discover quirky and stylish joints. Burgher King, Mcdonald, KFC and Pizza Hut are available in some cities, especially Colombo. However, these tend to be far pricier than local food.

Chain eateries like the Fab and Perera & Sons offer a range of ‘short-eats’ or patisseries for mid-range prices. The staple meal, rice and curry, comes in a popular grab-n-go pack. You can buy ‘lunch packets’ or rice and curry packed neatly into a square parcel. Spending 600-1300 can get you a decent lunch packet.

Beach shacks, cafes and restaurants change face, shape and form depending on where you travel on the island. Touristy places like Mirissa, Ella or Tissamaharama have chic establishments catering to tourists. These can be a bit pricey but more affordable than luxury establishments. The average meal can cost between 3000-5000 or more.

The Ministry of Agriculture in Sri Lanka has a programme that promotes regional, homegrown ingredients for healthy eating while advocating women’s entrepreneurship.¬†These open-air kitchens, run by local women, primarily sell vegetarian dishes, freshly squeezed juices and herbal teas. Known as Hela Bojun Hala in Sinhala and Ammachchi in Tamil, these offer nutritious food for extra cheap. Look for authentic government-funded Hela Bojun Hala places while you travel.

Shop like a local

Imported products are more expensive in Sri Lanka due to taxation. So, shop for local brands and products. You can find herbal products like soap, shampoo, body wash, moisturisers and toothpaste that use local medicinal plants and spices. If you are staying at self-catering accommodation, shop at local markets for fresh fruit, veg and fish. However, we recommend buying your meat at a supermarket.

Team up with fellow travellers

Safaris are a big draw in Sri Lanka. Wildlife enthusiasts and experts come here for the Big Five sightings – Leopard, Asian Elephant, Sloth Bear, Blue Whale and Sperm Whale. The island is also a bird paradise, creating habitats with lakes, rivers, salt marshes, mangroves and lagoons. You can share the 4WD cost with fellow travellers interested in going on safaris. Staying at accommodation near a national park allows you to explore it as much as you like. Mirissa, Trincomalee, and Kalpitiya are whale-watching sites.

Tailor-make your Sri Lankan travel with Blue Lanka Tours!

Sri Lanka can be affordable and enjoyable for every budget. With a scenic coast surrounding it, ancient sites dotted throughout, verdant hills at its heart and dense jungles sheltering exotic wildlife, the island never skimps on attraction, no matter the budget. Comfortable homestays, Airbnbs and hostels offer quality, safety and convenience. Not sure how to plan your Sri Lankan holiday or how much it will cost? Talk to Blue Lanka Tours to curate an itinerary together to uncover the destinations and experiences your way.