5 Budget Friendly Travel Hacks For Visiting Sri Lanka

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Budget Friendly Travel Hacks For Visiting Sri Lanka is a beautiful place to visit with its lush hill districts, fascinating temples and delicious food.

But compared to other nearby countries like India, Visiting Sri Lanka can seem quite expensive.

However, there are ways to stay on a budget and still enjoy the country…Budget Friendly Travel Tips For Visiting Sri Lanka

5 budget friendly travel Hacks for visiting Sri Lanka

where to eat in Sri Lanka
where to eat in Sri Lanka

Eat Where The Locals Sri Lanka Eat

The one thing you will be sure to find dirt cheap in Sri Lanka is food.

But you have to go to the right places.

When you see a hole in the wall restaurant with dirty walls and long tables packed with locals, it’s often a great place to get cheap but tasty food and favorite Sri Lanka drinks.

We found street markets and small restaurants (who didn’t have menus) to give gigantic servings, so a good advice is to order one plate to share.

Another thing worth noting is that when ordering curry meals, you will also get free rice refills.

Vegetarian meals are the cheapest options, fish and seafood is slightly more expensive and chicken costs a bit more.

Sri Lanka Train
Sri Lanka Train

Take The Sri Lanka Train Whenever Possible

The transport will either end up being the most expensive or the cheapest part of your trip.

For us, it turned out to be the most expensive – trains are dirt cheap (because they’re government run), but on holidays you need to have booked your tickets weeks in advance, or it will be completely booked up or a ride from hell.

Buses are also cheap but are the most uncomfortable ways of travel – chances are you will have to stand up for 8 hours bumping into someone else’s armpit, as drivers cram the buses full of people and then hurtle around at ferocious speeds, slamming on the brakes.

Trust us, we’ve been there…

So whenever possible, book train tickets in advance and travel outside of holidays, because they are very busy in Sri Lanka.

The train rides are beautiful, so taking the Observation car is definitely recommended.

Budget Friendly Travel Hacks For Visiting Sri Lanka
Budget Friendly Travel Hacks For Visiting Sri Lanka

Manage Without WiFi

Prices for guest house rooms will be higher closer to tourist beaches, but generally you should be able to stay in a double room for less than £20, or you can grab a bed in a dorm for £3-10 a night.

If you don’t need A/C or wifi, you can get by pretty cheap. 

Package deals to Visiting Sri Lanka have become more popular and often work out cheaper than arranging a do-it-yourself holiday.

You can get luxury rooms for reasonable prices, especially if you book last minute or in the wet season.

If you’re looking to really save your budget, couchsurfing could allow you to stay in the country for free.

cab in sri lanka
cab in sri lanka

Take Their Number

Traveling by car is by far the most comfortable way of travel, and one way to get a great deal is to hire a driver for a week.

We didn’t know this before, and ended up hiring new drivers for every journey, which turned out to cost a lot more than if we would have stuck with the first driver (who btw turned out to be the most honest).

If you find a driver in the beginning of your trip, it’s definitely worth getting an international call plan in advance so that you can book him for the whole trip and stay in touch on pick-up and drop-off times.

Some even arrange the driver before they arrive in Sri Lanka.

This is a good idea if you don’t want to have to worry about tracking down phone-cards, the Vonage UK website offers ways to make cheap calls to Sri Lanka, and to keep in touch without receiving an excessive phone bill.

Lipton Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka
Lipton Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka

Avoid The Main Tourist Sites

Another massive drain on your budget will be the touristy temples and national parks.

The majority of Sri Lanka’s most impressive sights charge hefty admission fees.

Save money by avoiding the crowds and trying out some of the wonderful free things the country has to offer.

One of the things Sri Lanka is most famous for is its tea production.

Many of the plantations in the hill district will offer free tours.

One of the most famous plantations is Lipton Tea, which is also near another free landmark:

Lipton’s Seat – the seat is one of the highest lookout points in Sri Lanka, allowing you stunning views over the hill country.

To experience religious culture without paying exorbitant prices, check out some of the free temples in Kandy.

Just across the lake from the pricey Temple of the Tooth Relic is a sprawling monastery with an interesting museum.

The monks are happy to give you a free tour and to explain the origins of all the artefacts.

There’s also a vibrant Hindu temple in the centre of town which visitors are welcome to enter.

Inside are colourful wall murals and charming images of Hindu Gods.

There are many free temples and sites to explore on a budget.

One crazy cultural experience is to climb Adam’s Peak at 2am in the morning.

Archaeological Excursions In Matale
Impressions Of Sri Lanka
Delicious Must Try Drinks in Sri Lanka
Climbing Adam’s Peak In Sri Lanka

Theva Residency in Sri Lanka – A Haven In Kandy! Overview

As the bright red three-wheeler slowly made its way up the steep hill, we left the noisy, bustling city of Kandy behind to stay at Theva Residency

A boutique hotel catering for people looking for pure relaxation and an amazing view.

We were exhausted after climbing Adam’s Peak the day before, so Theva Residency was exactly what we needed.

A place to relax and rejuvenate, leaving all our troubles behind and just enjoy.

Theva Residency – Perfection In Kandy Sri Lanka
Theva Residency – Perfection In Kandy Sri Lanka

The hotel clings to the hillside, blending in with the surrounding nature, almost as though it was part of it.

When stepping through the door to our suite on the top floor, we were in awe:

the view from the spacious windows was spectacular.

The city, the nature, the surrounding hill tops and a temple with a huge white sitting buddha on top of a hill, could all be seen from our bedroom.

It was the kind of view that makes you feel like you own the world.

Kandy Sri Lanka
Kandy Sri Lanka

Theva Residency in Sri Lanka  Food

The food served in the restaurant was superb, with an interesting choice of dishes.

Having a big sweet tooth, the desserts on the menu seemed too good to resist, so I decided for a selection of home made ice creams to have as a pre-course.

The breakfast was delicious and very filling, with a range of cakes and pastries, home made jams, a variety of egg dishes, and a scrumptious fruit salad.

The perfect way to start the next day.

Theva Residency Location

The hotel is situated on Hantana mountain, and while it feels like you’re a world away from Kandy, it’s only about 2 km to the city center, making it a wonderful place to be based.

Hantana mountain
Hantana mountain

Theva Residency Hotel

There are 10 rooms in Theva Residency, and we stayed in the Suite on the top floor.

Our room was spacious and bright, with large panoramic windows, and its very own jacuzzi hot tub.

All the rooms at Theva have high-speed WiFi, TV and DVD player (with loads of movies to watch) and are designed using natural materials like wood, stone, pure cotton and linen.

After some time in the hotel’s sauna or sunbathing on the deck,  you can cool off in the infinity pool with the most amazing views.

We would definitely recommend this place for your next stay in Kandy – the unbeatable views, and the wonderful hospitality of the staff  made for a memorable visit to Kandy.

Places To Visit In Sri Lanka – Exploring The Coast

Sri Lanka’s coast line is among some of the most beautiful we’ve seen, and we really wish we could have stayed there much longer.

There are many amazing beaches south of Colombo.

With spice gardens and turtle sanctuaries to visit along the way.

There are so many places to visit in Sri Lanka that it would take you months to see everything, despite the small size of the country.

Places To Visit In Sri Lanka - Exploring The Coast
Places To Visit In Sri Lanka – Exploring The Coast

Sri Lanka is famous for being the place where many beach and sunset postcards and ‘desktop screen savers’ are taken – and by visiting the beaches you’ll see why …

The general vibe of the beach towns is very relaxed and laid back, making you feel like there is not a worry in the world.

In other words, a perfect vacation destination.

Here are three great places to visit in Sri Lanka along the coast…

places to visit in sri lanka
Hikkaduwa

Hikkaduwa

Hikkaduwa is a laid back beach town with a lively main road and a beautiful long beach lined with guesthouses and restaurants.

It was one of our favorite places to visit in Sri Lanka for both good swimming as well as nice restaurants.

During high season it’s a good beach for beginners who would like to try surfing, while in the off season the waves get quite big, making it a popular place for professional surfers.

There are parts of the beaches where you can swim in calm waters and even go snorkeling (and swim with turtles!) in the reef.

We spent our days in Hikkauwa surfing, swimming and getting acquainted with all the different Sri Lankan food – and before we knew it almost a week had gone past!

places to visit in sri lanka
Galle

Galle

There is a quiet calm over the streets in Galle Fort.

Locals half sitting, half lying down in chairs under ceiling fans, children playing cricket on the porches.

There is not a sign of stress anywhere to be seen.

We joined the rest of the locals in the little area, and sat for hours in cafes with a pot of tea, talking to our table neighbors and the waiter, feeling no need to leave any time soon.

A light ocean breeze sweeps through the streets every now and then, making it possible to explore the town without fainting from the heat.

Old colonial European-style houses line the streets, painted in bright colors with Hibiscus flowers hanging over the walls and from the balconies of the long and narrow buildings.

In the old days you had to pay tax on the width of your home, which resulted in people building narrow homes and instead extending in length – these houses remain to this day.

Quaint little tea houses and art galleries are scattered around the town, next to gem boutiques and antique shops.

Galle is often included as one of the places to visit in Sri Lanka and is also a good base to explore the nearly beaches by bus or three-wheeler during the day.

Unnawatuna
Unnawatuna

Unnawatuna

Unnawatuna is a more quiet beach town without the hectic main road of Hikkaduwa, where the water is calm and clear, and where your hotel is located quite literally in the water.

This is one of those places to visit in Sri Lanka where you go for pure relaxation, with palm trees hanging over the waterfront providing a nice shade, and three-wheeler drivers waiting to take you on day excursions to turtle sanctuaries and spice gardens.

Having breakfast at the beach with the waves touching your feet is a lovely way to start the day.

How A Tsunami Evacuation Connected Us With The Locals

How A Tsunami Evacuation Connected Us With The Locals.

We had just arrived in the sleepy beach town of Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka, and crashed on the bed exhausted after a long day of traveling from Colombo and taking one of the many cheap international flights from Germany.

“Are you shaking the bed?” Nathan suddenly asked me.

I wasn’t, but I could feel the whole ground slightly shaking under me.

As I looked around the room I noticed that the mirrors were shaking too.

Thousands of miles across the ocean, we could feel the vibrations from the massive earthquake which had just struck the coast of Indonesia.

Tsunami Evacuation
Tsunami Evacuation

We didn’t think much more of it at the time, until one of the local travel agents asked Nathan if he had heard anything about a tsunami coming.

At first we thought it was some kind of bad joke, but as we checked out Twitter Search, the newsfeed was going crazy.

Nobody really knew what to think, believe or do.

Hikkaduwa had been badly damaged from the tsunami in 2006, so this warning was not something people there took lightly.

We had two options:to risk it and stay, or to evacuate and seek higher ground.

Ten minutes later we had packed a small bag of the most necessary things, and walked out on the street.

The laid back main street had suddenly turned into a ghost town, the shops were closed and the streets empty from people – most of the locals had already left.

Hikkaduwa Taxi Driver
Hikkaduwa Taxi Driver

We didn’t want to waste any time, and so we simply looked on a map for a village that seemed far away enough in-land and told the driver to take us there.

At first the driver laughed when we told him where we wanted to go, but then he suddenly got a serious look on his face and agreed to take us there for almost nothing, perhaps he had realized the danger and wanted to get out of there as well.

Shortly after we left, the whole town was forced to evacuate.

Sri Lanka Sunset
Sri Lanka Sunset

Once he had dropped us off we realized why he had laughed.

We found ourselves in the middle of nowhere in a tiny country village which probably no tourists ever visited as there was no reason to go there.

I’ve never been stared at so much in my life!

We walked up and down the main road (the only road there), trying to find somewhere we could wait and follow the news.

But there were no restaurants or hotels to be found anywhere.

We finally found a tiny eatery with a small TV that was hardly working, and sat down to wait, we asked the boy serving us if there was a hotel around, but he shook his head apologetically. 

Having no idea what to do next, we started walking again …

Five minutes later the boy from the restaurant caught up with us on his bicycle, and with a low and slightly shy voice said that if we wanted to we could stay the night with him and his family.

It was only our second day in Sri Lanka, and already we were experiencing the kindness and hospitality that the Sri Lankan people are so famous for.

The boy’s family took us in with open arms, arranged a bed for us to sleep in and made a huge effort to make us feel at home in their house, serving us a wonderful dinner in their lounge.

In the evening, the tsunami warning was cancelled.

But with the warm hospitality coming from this family we ended up staying the night and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with them.

Talking about everything and nothing, watching movies and getting an amazing insight into the lives of the people of the country.

There is no doubt that uncertain events like these bring people together, and as we parted the next day we had made some great new friends and exchanged email with a promise to visit again next time we traveled to Visiting Sri Lanka …Delicious Must-Try Drinks in Sri Lanka

15 thoughts on “5 Budget Friendly Travel Hacks For Visiting Sri Lanka”

  1. Great tips guys. I just came back from Sri Lanka and I can tell taking a train can save you a lot of money and Wi-Fi is always expensive. We had some street food and avoided overcrowded by tourists places. We lived for less than $25 budget a day per person :). Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Steph, there are plenty of internet cafes around, but the Internet seems to be very slow though, plus they will probably charge you more than locals. We spent around 80 ruppe, which is 60 cent per hour.

  3. These are fantastic tips and definitely ones I will keep in mind for when we make it to Sri Lanka. If you forego wifi at hotels and guesthouses are there other ways to get online, like through internet cafes or wired connections, or is the internet in general just always expensive in Sri Lanka?

  4. haloj
    Jag tror du menar som en gardinkappa ovanför fönstret. Men jag skulle personligen inte ha det om man har gardiner på takskena hela vägen från taket då det stänger ute luftigheten runt fönstret. Allt handlar ju om att få rummet att se ljust och inbjudande ut:)

    här i GBG skiner höstsolen och jag önskar er en härlig helg:)

    LOVE M

  5. Great tips, thanks for posting. I can’t wait to one day visit Sri Lanka as I hear it is great for surfing. Also, I loved the train journeys in India – gazing out at the countryside and engaging in conversations with curious locals – so imagine here they just as much an adventure.

  6. Great tips. What the most I like is eat with the locals because I am a food enthusiast. By also doing this, I could interact with the locals.

  7. Great to hear you agree on the tips, yes WiFi is expensive in Sri Lanka and difficult to come by, we did find one wifi cafe called Buddies in Hikkaduwa, but it was rarely working 😛

  8. Hey Steph, glad to hear you liked the tips.
    We didn’t se many internet cafes, but some restaurants that also served as hotels had wifi.

    As we relied on wifi a lot for our website, we decided that it was simply worth paying more for the hotel rooms and get the free wifi – but if you don’t need wifi, it’s better to simply disconnect for the time you’re there.

  9. Sri Lanka is perfect for surfers, and there is always surf at one part of the island or the other, depending on the season.

    We were in Hikkaduwa during the “off season” when the waves were supposed to be smaller, but I would have to say that they were still better for more advanced.

    Yes, Sri Lanka is definitely an adventure 😉

  10. Hey Mike,
    then I think you would love Sri Lanka.
    By just walking off a side street in Colombo will throw you into some really funny situations, and many local eateries where people are curious about you and how you ended up in such a random place.

  11. Nice tips Sofia, some of these can be applied to a variety of travel destinations but then there are country-specific things you could do to keep costs low for sure. Haven’t visited Sri Lanka.. is it very different than south India? 🙂

  12. Sri Lanka is a destination that I have been thinking about for a while. Your post has now put Sri Lanka on the map for me. The tips will be helpful for me for when that time comes!

  13. Hey Priyank, yes you can definitely use some of these tips for other destinations as well. I was surprised by just how different Sri Lanka was from India, I expected them to be very similar.

    I loved how there is so much diversity in such a small island – you have great beaches, lush forests, cold and hot etc, and the people were incredibly friendly.

    However, I must say I prefer Indian food over Sri Lankan, but they had some great stuff too like the Kottu Roti you see in the photo.

    Also, India is cheaper 🙂

  14. We had 6 months in Sri Lanka, travelling around the coastal route as well as heading north to Jaffna and inland to the hill stations. Though it is very different to India, the rewards can be just as great.

    This is one of the best places for photographing wildlife.

    Sofia – I have a link for several PDF guides if it’s okay to post it?
    Elli xx

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