Sri Lanka: how much does it cost?

Sri Lanka is a country of contrasts as it is its offer, you can find places to satisfy all the different wallets although it’s not as cheap as I thought it may be. Yet if you travel on a budget as I do, if you organise yourself you will be able to go back home without a broken pocket.

After travelling solo for 4 weeks I can say that Sri Lanka still needs to understand how to accommodate its offer to solo travellers. For instance, staying in a double room doesn’t mean that they have to serve food for two. It was ridiculous when one night I was having dinner at my homestay at the same time as a French couple. They served us the same amount of food, the difference was that I was only one person so I expected to be served half of the portion the French couple had. Imagine our face when I saw that they brought me the same amount of food, ridiculous! And even worse when the owner asked me if everything was ok, if I didn’t like the food. The problem was not the taste (not the most amazing food tho), the problem was the portions. It also meant that I had to pay for two, so not very convenient when you are travelling solo on a budget.

Something similar with the hostels: a bed in a shared dorm was sometimes even more expensive than a double room in a guesthouse or homestay. How come? They have still loads of things to learn.

Back to the main point, I would like to summarise how much I spent during my 4 weeks travelling around Sri Lanka.

So, how much does it cost?

In the table below you can find a summary of the expenses per person for 4 weeks (26 days) around Sri Lanka:

Transport Food Accommo-
dation
Activities/
Attractions
Other Total
Cost in LKR 6,106 40,093 39,045 18,725 2,635 106,604
Cost in ₤ 31 203.50 198.15 95.03 13.40 541.08
Average per day (in ₤) 1.19 7.83 7.62 3.66 0.52 20.81

*For the most up-to-date exchange rates please click on the following link: xe currency converter: LKR to ₤

**Itinerary:
Arrival: Colombo
Day 1: Anuradhapura
Day 2-4: Sigiriya
Day: 5-6: Kandy
Day 7-10: Haputale
Day 11-19: Arugam Bay
Day 20-25: Uppuveli (Trincomalee)
Day 26: Negombo 

If you would like to find out more about my itinerary, please check Sri Lanka: suggested itinerary for May-September.

As per my post Thailand: how much does it cost?, the summary is great right but specific examples are even better. Here you go!

Practical examples:

Transport:

The most expensive trip (within my itinerary):

The train journey from Colombo to Anuradhapura (1,000 LKR first class). It was my first contact with the Sri Lankan transport and I wanted to get the first train but it was a first class train so couldn’t get 2nd class or 3rd class tickets. If you can, buy 2nd class tickets for long train journeys and 3rd class for short/medium train journeys. Sometimes they charge you extra or only sell 1st class tickets in advance (the day before). I wasn’t travelling during peak season so didn’t have any problems getting the tickets on the same day, around 1 hours before the departure. During peak season, I can’t tell for sure but I would show up rather than booking in advance.

For information about train routes, timetables and fares: www.railway.gov.lk

Another useful site is: https://www.seat61.com/SriLanka.htm

The cheapest:

It is difficult to give an example about the cheapest. Overall, public transport in Sri Lanka is very cheap and an experience itself: Sri Lankan guys singing on a train, jam-packed buses with loud music and crazy drivers… it is a bit stressful, intense, but funny.

Tip: some of the routes are also covered by A/C buses or A/C mini vans. They are almost the double price, if not double or more, but a good alternative if you want a break. After experiencing lots of trips by local bus, sometimes you need a break and it is still very cheap and easily affordable.

Food:

What I loved the most:

I tried the most delicious food in one of my homestays in Sigiriya. It was at the beginning of my trip so I thought that Sri Lankan food was exactly this, but it wasn’t. Fresh homemade rice and curry for dinner and typical Sri Lankan breakfast and it was different every day. So, where can you find this awesome place? It is a bit isolated, in between Sigiriya and Dambulla and 1.5km from the main road. The place is called Heaven Homestay and I found it via Booking.com.

Click here for more information about Heaven Homestay.

The most expensive dinner:

It was of course seafood or Western food:

A burger can easily cost 900 LKR and seafood 1,700+ LKR

But the most expensive thing is to drink alcohol. A beer can cost around 600 LKR, so I just allowed myself to drink beer in special occasions which weren’t that many as I was travelling solo, so it was mainly when socialising with other travellers or locals.

The cheapest meal:

For the cheapest meal, go to find a bakery. I found my favourite bakery in Haputale called Risara Bakers and Restaurant. The bakery is on the ground floor and there is a restaurant with tables on the first floor as well (meals around 300 LKR).

Accommodation:

The cheapest:

It really depends on your bargaining skills. Also it didn’t help being a girl with very white skin and ginger hair. Apparently they associate your skin and hair colour with your economic level: as much darker, better prices. The odds were against me as they thought I was from a Scandinavian country. I had to specify every single time that I was Spanish, mentioning the Spanish crisis as well, and lie about the length of my trip. However, the most effective technique is to say you can’t afford this price and you are going to look around for something cheaper, but it needs to seem authentic, you have to leave straight away and generally they will go after you lowering the price.

The most unusual:

It was Heaven Homestay in between Sigiriya and Dambulla: a hut with a balcony a couple of meters away from the main property. As mentioned above (food section), this has been my favourite place for its food, room type and owners. The guys managing this homestay are so friendly and welcoming. I definitely would go back and highly recommend this place if you are looking for a really Sri Lankan experience.

The most awful:

Green Woods in Kandy and the reason why is very short: bed bugs! I never had experienced bed bugs before but after that night I can say I’m an expert. I couldn’t sleep at all so I spend the night looking for information about bed bugs and watching old and second class movies on YouTube sitting on the floor. Not a great experience.

How to find bed bugs? Check this out, you will find a very thorough guide about how to spot them in time: https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/how-find-bed-bugs

Would you like to get £10?

Click here if you would like to get £10 after you book accommodation through booking.com and stay. I will get £10 too so we both win 😉

Activities/ attractions:

Choose wisely:

Activities/ attractions are really expensive, expect to be charge European prices. These are the UNESCO heritage sites around the Cultural Triangle as well as safaris, snorkel trips or whale watching trips. I had to give up to do certain activities to keep my costs under control. If you are on a budget, choose carefully where you would like to spend your money however, to my experience and according to my itinerary**:

  • Anuradhapura – Cultural Triangle: you can easily skip it (UNESCO heristage site, route to see Dagodas), I felt so dissappointed and there isn’t much to do or places to eat in the city itself
  • Sigiriya – Cultural Triangle: for an alternative to Sigiriya’s Lion Rock (4,620 LKR) head to Pidurangala Rock (500 LKR). The entrace fare is cheaper and the views are priceless. Yet, if you want to hike Sigiriya’s Lion Rock go early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crows and the school trips
  • Dambulla – Cultural Triangle: Dambulla Caves are a must (1,500 LKR). Please note that the ticket office is located at the back. Make sure that your tuk-tuk driver understand that you want to go to the ticket office and not to the main entrance where you will see the Golden Temple, otherwise you will have to go up and down and up again. The ticket fare also include the entrace to the Golden Temple
  • Kandy – The Hill Country: the Temple of Tooth (1,500 LKR). If you have visited other temples in Asia, it’s not that impressive. There isn’t much to do in Kandy but it is the starting point if you want to head to The Hill Country on the most stunning train ride
  • Ohiya – The Hill Country: Horton’s National Plains is a must (3,835 LKR by foot, they charge extra for vehicles, including tuk-tuks or private taxis)
  • Dambatenee – The Hill Country:: Lipton’s seat (entrance: 50 LKR/ breakfast: can’t remember but I think it was around 300 LKR)
  • Uppeveli/ Nilaveli – East Coast: half a day trip to Pigeon Island from Uppeveli was not worth the money (3,500 LKR). It is not the paradise I was expecting to see

The biggest adventure:

Reaching Horton’s National Plains by foot. From Haputale, get the first train at 7.45am to Ohiya. From there you have to walk 11km to reach the park and 9km to complete the circular route in the park plus 11km back to the train station. Overall I walked over  30km! It was a non-stop hike as I had to be back to the Ohiya train station in time to get the last train to Haputale.

Train ticket – 3rd class: 20 LKR (single)

Horton’s National Plains: 3,835 LKR

What I would do again:

Hike Pidurangala Rock and visit the Dambulla Caves. These two were my favourite  (non-free) attractions.

Hope this post helps you to have a rough idea of how much Sri Lanka may cost.

Have fun, enjoy and see you around witties!

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