Your Sri Lanka Budget | Prices and Cost of travel for Backpacking Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a budget travel and backpacking paradise, with convenient and easy transportation, amazing nature, and countless experiences within an 8-hour ride.  Your Sri Lanka budget can include your own Tuk Tuk, western meals, a private room, and plenty of adventure for well under $50.  For those on a tighter budget, will to enjoy hostel dorm rooms and traveling by train, less than $25 per day is very much doable, but you’ll still need to plan your own Sri Lanka travel budget.

Your Sri Lanka Budget | Prices and Cost of travel for Backpacking Sri Lanka
The turquoise waters and white sands of Sri Lanka await…all for less than $50 a day

Read on for everything you’ll need to know to plan your money and budget for Sri Lanka, from average prices and trips estimates, to how and where to access ATMs and save money. We have you covered in this guide to planning your Sri Lanka budget.

CONTENTS

YOUR SRI LANKA BUDGET, AVERAGE PRICES, AND MONEY ISSUES

The cost of travel in Sri Lanka can be as high or low as you want it to be.  The destination is no doubt one of the cheapest in the world, especially considering the experiences it offers, and you can do it luxuriously or frugally depending on your tastes and budget.


For the budget and backpacking crowd, $20-$30 a day in Sri Lanka is plenty 

Use these tips to keep costs low while backpacking Sri Lanka

  • Stay in a shared dorm in a hostel, you can find plenty on Hostelworld and Booking.com
  • Eating local meals – curries and rice run about $1.50, tops
  • Drink beers instead of cocktails (or no alcohol at all) –local beer is $2-$3, while a cocktail is $7-8
  • Take trains and buses instead of private cars, taxis, and hired Tuk Tuks
  • Opt for free/cheap site alternatives (like Pidurangala instead of Sigiriya and Anuradhapura instead of Polonnaruwa), and guiding yourself instead of taking tours

If you apply these tips, you will absolutely stay in the $20-$30 per day range.


For the middle of the road crowd, $50 per day backpacking Sri Lanka is a good number

This will give you a private room with air-conditioning wherever you go, western food for 1-2 meals per day, your own Tuk Tuk to drive, and the essential tours that you can’t do on your own (such as jeep safaris in Elephant filled Udawalawe).  Still, watch the wine and cocktails as they’ll break the budget quickly


For the luxury travel crowd, $100 a day is a good number 

This will account for a private driver in most situations, higher-class accommodation, three western meals daily, tours, the glamping experience, and so on

ATMs in Sri Lanka

ATMs are in every major city and every city on this itinerary, so don’t feel obligated to walk around with a ton of cash. 

Problems do happen and ATMs do run out of money occasionally so I’d recommend carrying a few hundred dollars in your home currency or USD just in case.

For example, in Arugam Bay, there are two ATMs.  As I was standing in line for one, it ran out of money.  The ATM worked but quite often in Asia, home country cards don’t work with all ATMs, so I could’ve been out of luck.  For this reason, it’s always prudent to carry some USD on you to exchange when the ATMs do quit.

Currency Exchange: Be sure ditch your Sri Lankan Rupees before you leave Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Rupee is currently a closed currency, meaning if you leave Sri Lanka with Sri Lankan Rupees you either won’t be able to exchange it or you’ll take a massive hit to the pocket when you finally do get to exchange it. 

Save yourself that upset by converting to USD, Euros, the currency of your next destination, or your home country currency before you leave Sri Lanka.

 

BREAKDOWN OF AVERAGE SRI LANKA PRICES

Food

  • Local Meal: $1-$3 USD – Generally rice and curry
  • Western Meal: $5-$10 – Depends on the meat of the dish, beef tends to cost much more

Beer (at a grocery store or restaurant)

  • Local Beer: ~$2
  • Imported Beer: ~$4-$5
  • Cocktail: $4-$8 depending on the location

Sri Lanka Accommodation Prices

  • Hostel Dorm Bed: $5-$10
  • Budget Hotel or Private Hostel Room: $15 to $25 per night, ~$5 more for Air-conditioning

Transport

  • Rail: Less than $1 for common class not available for advanced booking, but first class and second class can be booked via 12Go
  • Bus: Ranges between $2 and $7 for an air-conditioned bus
    • Colombo to Kandy Bus: ~$2 (350rps)
    • Colombo to Galle: ~$2 (335rps)
    • Colombo to Jaffna: ~$6 (1100 LKR)
    • Colombo to Kataragama: ~$3 (555rps – Semi Luxury Bus)
    • Colombo to Anuradhapura: ~$3.50 (610rps)
    • Colombo to Pothuwil/Arugam Bay: ~$4 (690 – Semi Luxury Bus)
  • Private Car: Varies by trip – ~$100 for Colombo to Arugam Bay
  • Car Rental: $50 per day
  • Tuk Tuk Rental: $15-$25 per day depending on rental length – Click here to learn more about the Tuk Tuk Rental experience
  • Scooter Rental: 800 – 1000 LKR per day / $4.50 – $5.50 USD per day             

Check out our article “Getting Around Sri Lanka” for full details on finding schedules and prices as well as booking trains, buses, taxis, private drivers, Tuk Tuks, and more

Tours

  • Booked online – $50-$100
  • Booked locally during low season – $25-$50

SRI LANKA BUDGET FAQ

How much money should I bring to Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka as a traveler, a budget of $50 per day is reasonable to cover food, a private room, transportation, and light fun.  Plan on tours and excursions each costing $50-$100 and alcohol to be much more expensive than in Southeast Asia, and slightly more expensive than western countries.  Don’t worry about bringing too much cash as ATMs are available, but I recommend keeping a minimum 3 days’ worth of cash on you, or a couple of hundred USD if possible, just in case.

Is Sri Lanka Cheap?

Sri Lanka is very cheap for traveling and backpacking, especially relative to the experience.  Sri Lanka can easily be traveled for $25 USD to $50 USD, depending on your preference for shared vs. private accommodation.

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