Sri Lanka Travel Guide For Backpackers & Digital Nomads

Officially called the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, it is an island nation in South Asia. It is in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal, and shares a maritime border with India in the northwest and the Maldives in the southwest.

Sri Lanka is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country where over 22 million people reside. This destination is known as a famous tourist destination for its tropical forests, beaches, landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.

In this Sri Lanka backpacking travel guide, we have covered everything from top places to visit to money-saving tips and common transportation modes to help you plan your visit there.

Sri Lanka at a Glace




Sri Lankan Rupee

Best Money Exchange

Western union

Local Dishes


Drones Allowed


Top Phone Providers


Is water safe to drink



Check CDC

Power Plug Type

D & G

Car Sharing Options


Peak Season

Dec - April

Country Code


Backpacker Friendly


Hitch hiker Friendly


Credit Cards Accepted

Yes. No American Express

Preffered Payment Method


Low Season

May - Aug

Police Number


Royal Place in Kandy


Looking for things to do in Kandy? Here are the top 12 activities, Immerse yourself in the rich history, vibrant festivals, and breathtaking natural beauty.

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Sri Lanka Visa Requirements

Most visitors will be required to apply for their Electronic Travel Authorization, from the government website. Usual rules apply such as a passport valid for 6 months, return flight and proof of funds. Apply for Sri Lanka Visa.

Is There A Digital Nomad Visa In Sri Lanka?

There is a sri lanka digital nomad visa, but it has not been released yet. So for now just apply for the 30-day Sri Lanka ETA.

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka

1. Colombo

A beautiful destination full of British, Portuguese, and Dutch colonial heritage, tropical landscapes, and delectable cuisines.

2. Galle

known for its pristine beaches, like Unawatuna Beach and Ahungalla Beach, and prominent landmarks, such as Flag Rock and Historical Mansion Museum.

3. Kandy

Kandy is known for the Temple of the Tooth Relic – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, this city hosts the annual Esala Perahera festival, which exhibits the rich Kanyan culture

4. Nuwara Eliya

A serene hill station surrounded by tea plantations and forest-covered hills.

5. Trincomalee

This city is famous for its gorgeous beaches like Uppuveli and Nilaveli.

Other Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka


Bentota is a resort town with an abundance of pristine waters, lush green landscapes, and tall palm trees. There are also endless opportunities for water activities, like snorkeling and scuba diving.

2. Anuradhapura

It is a historical paradise first settled around 900 BC. There is a wealth of impressive archaeological sites, including temples, palaces, and ancient structures. In addition to housing one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites, like a Bodhi Tree Temple, Anuradhapura also hosts many colorful festivals throughout the year.

3. Ratnapura

A large city in southwestern Sri Lanka, Ratnapura is a growing center for gem trade for local and international traders alike. There is a National Museum and many scenic waterfalls, like Bopath Ella Falls, Katugas Ella Falls, and Mapalana Ella Falls.


Dambulla is in Sri Lanka’s Central Province with many monuments, mountains, forests, lakes, high rocks, and centuries-old temples. The famous attraction here is the UNESCO-listed Dambulla Cave Temple, where there are over 150 valued Buddha statues, gigantic murals, and sacred cave paintings.


Unawatuna is another popular destination with a laidback vibe and pretty beaches. Huge palm trees line its golden sands and the pristine water. There are some excellent beachside restaurants and bars. In addition to lots of excursions, tourists can also enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling.


Ella is among the famous hill country villages located in a nice setting of forest-covered hills, sweeping valleys, and tea plantations. It is their stunning scenery that attracts most of the tourists. Hiking to some of the nearby waterfalls and the top of Ella Rock is also common.

Typical Costs

How much does it cost to travel around Sri Lanka? This section details the suggested daily budget in Sri Lanka 2023:

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For a distance less than 100 km, a bus ride can cost less than a dollar. A train ride from Weligama to Colombo for 1st class ticket costs around $4 per person, whereas 2nd class tickets are between $0.5-$2.5 per person. Uber and PickMe are the most widely used ride-sharing apps in Sri Lanka. A short ride costs about $3. Expect to pay about $35 for a long ride. If you travel by tuk-tuk, it would cost you up to $5 for a short rideA privatete driver costs around $100 a day, in addition to the driver’s meals.
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Hostels in Sri Lanka cost about $8-$16 per night, with major cities like Colombo, Kandy, and Negombo on the higher end of that spectrum. Private rooms in hostel dorms cost almost $23 per night. Free breakfast and free Wi-Fi are pretty common, though many hostels do not have kitchens for cooking. Mid-range accommodation costs $25-$65 a night, while high-end properties charge up to $320 per night. AirBnB also operates nationwide, with shared spaces starting at $17 per night. The private room starts at $42. Expect to pay almost $68 a night for an entire apartment or house.
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A meal at a Sri Lankan restaurant costs up to $5. Basic dishes like fried noodles, rice, or soup are available for as little as $3. Street food like roti, kottu, and egg hoppers can be eaten for almost $5. Fast food, like McDonald’s, costs about $5 for a combination meal. Burgers and pizza cost around $20, while beer costs a couple of dollars in a restaurant and even less in a supermarket. Traditional drinks, like black tea, cost about a couple of dollars. Bottled water in Sri Lanka costs less than a dollar. Grocery shopping for a week can cost $20-$50.
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Most of the activities and sightseeing in Sri Lanka are free. But there are some places that charge an entrance fee. Entering Sigiriya can cost $30, Dambulla costs $8.5, and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic costs $7. People can visit organic tea plantations for less than a couple of dollars. They can also visit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Peradeniya for about $9.

Cost Of Living In Sri Lanka

Overall, Sri Lanka can be an cheap destination in Southeast Asia, but it isnt the cheapest depending on your lifestyle. Living here will require you around $600 to $1500 per month. I found that you can find long term apartments from $300 – $600 per month, $3 – $15 meals, $3- $10 cocktails. Groceries for as little as $150 a month. Locals make their living with much less, so its possible to live long term for even cheaper.

Suggested Budget

How much does it cost to travel around Sri Lanka? This section details the suggested daily budget in Sri Lanka 2023:

Budgeting Tips

Anyone who is travelling in Sri Lanka wants to get the most value for their money. And the good thing is that there are some tips that can help them cut the cost while exploring the country:

1. Visit During Off-season

The first thing to save some money is to visit Sri Lanka during the off-season. The peak season here runs from December to April and tends to be the busiest and most expensive period. So, to save some money, plan your trip at some other time when the prices of everything are lower.

2.Get a Local Sim Card

The rates for texts, calls, and internet are quite low in Sri Lanka, which makes having a local sim really cost-effective. Two major mobile service providers, Mobitel and Dialog, operate sales points at the Colombo International Airport. So, visitors can grab a SIM card right upon their arrival and save roaming fees and charges.

3.Use Public Transport for Long Distances

For long-distance trips, it is feasible to take taxis or hire private cars if you are on a budget. Public transport, trains, in particular, are economical and comfortable for such trips. Train tickets can be booked in advance. You can also ask your hostel or guesthouse to seek help with this.

4.Use Ride-Sharing Apps for Short Trips

Go for taxis and tuk-tuks for shorter trips. Look for those with meters. If there is no meter, agree on the fare before setting off. In Sri Lanka, Uber and Pick Me apps are used, for which there would be a need to have a local number.

5.Eat Local Food

Eat at local restaurants and street stalls to save money on meals. Also, negotiate prices for food and drinks. Instead of eating Western food, buy rice and curry, hoppers, samosas, dosas, and koththu roti, which even cost less than a dollar.

Food In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka offers a variety of delicious vegetarian dishes that reflect its rich culinary traditions. Here are some popular vegetarian foods you can find in Sri Lanka:

Vegetarian Food

  1. Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry:

    A flavorful and spicy curry made with a mix of seasonal vegetables cooked in coconut milk and a blend of aromatic spices.

  2. Dhal Curry:

    A lentil curry made with red or yellow lentils, coconut milk, and spices. It’s a staple dish in Sri Lankan cuisine.

  3. Pol Sambol:

    A spicy coconut relish made with grated coconut, red onions, chili, and lime juice. It’s typically served as a condiment with rice and other dishes.

  4. String Hoppers (Idiyappam):

    These delicate steamed rice noodles are a popular breakfast dish and are often served with coconut milk and jaggery.

  5. Hoppers (Appa):

    Fermented rice pancakes with a soft center and crispy edges, usually served with coconut milk or dhal.

  6. Kottu Roti:

    A popular street food made from chopped roti (flatbread), vegetables, and eggs (optional) cooked with a variety of spices and sauces.

  7. Gotu Kola Sambol:

    A refreshing salad made with gotu kola leaves (Indian pennywort), coconut, chili, and lime juice.

  8. Mung Bean Curry (Mung Hodhi):

    A nutritious curry made with mung beans, coconut milk, and spices.

  9. Jackfruit Curry (Polos Ambula):

    Young green jackfruit cooked in a coconut milk-based curry, which has a meat-like texture and flavor.

  10. Brinjal Moju:

    A tangy and sweet pickle made with eggplant (brinjal), onions, and spices.

  11. Wambatu Curry:

    An eggplant curry cooked in coconut milk with an array of spices.

  12. Kiri Hodi:

    A creamy coconut milk gravy usually served with rice and other side dishes.

  13. Kiribath:

    A traditional Sri Lankan dish of coconut milk rice, often served during special occasions.

  14. Achcharu:

    A spicy and tangy fruit and vegetable pickle that’s popular as a snack.

  15. Lunu Miris:

    A fiery chili paste made with red chili, onions, and lime juice.

Best Cities In Sri Lanka For Digital Nomads

1. Colombo

Colombo, the vibrant capital of Sri Lanka, pulsates with urban vitality, setting it apart from quieter regions. This city seamlessly connects to other major destinations on the island through an intricate network of trains and buses, ensuring easy access for both work and exploration. Beyond its energetic atmosphere, Colombo also caters to practical needs such as visa extensions and mobile data solutions, streamlining the transition into the digital nomad lifestyle.

2. Galle Fort

Immerse yourself in colonial architecture at Galle Fort, where charming hotels offer inviting spaces and reliable Wi-Fi for seamless remote work. Wander atmospheric streets, soak in Dutch colonial ambiance, and find your workspace oasis on Pedlar Street’s trendy cafes. This is not just a destination; it’s a narrative that lets digital nomads combine history and modern work, crafting their own enriching stories.

3. Mirissa and Weligama

Discover the allure of Mirissa and Weligama, where beach beauty harmonizes work and leisure. Experience stunning sunsets, pristine sands, and inviting waters that seamlessly blend productivity and relaxation. From Mirissa inviting beach to nearby seafood delights and accommodations along Matara Road, these destinations offer a tranquil escape intertwined with nature and connectivity, making them optimal havens for digital nomads seeking to enrich their work-life journey by the sea.

4. Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay stands tall as Sri Lanka’s premier surf destination, a surfer’s paradise where the call of the waves resonates strongly throughout the summer season. Beyond its famed waves, Arugam Bay offers digital nomads an irresistible blend of productivity and relaxation. Embracing a serene coastal lifestyle, the sight of fishing boats and hardworking fishermen resting in their shacks creates an atmosphere of simplicity and ease, ideal for those seeking a peaceful work environment.

Where To Stay In Sri Lanka

Are you looking for places to stay in Laos? We have got you covered with this section on the best places to stay while in this amazing country.


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Arugam Bay

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Mirissa & Weligama

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Nomad Networking

Nomad Coworking And Working Spots

You cant be a digital nomad without wifi. So below are some spots where one can work comfortably. Dont forget to check my nomad lunch break section for places you can still visit and/or work from during lunch. #nomadworkspace


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Arugam Bay

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Mirissa & Weligama

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Nomad Lunch Breaks

Balancing work and exploring can be tough, here are some activities or places you can visit during a lunch hour. You will see the words hotspot, wifi, or break which indicates what you can use to work there, or if you cant and its time for a work break. #nomadlunchbreak


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Arugam Bay

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Mirissa & Weligama

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Wifi And Internet In Sri Lanka

Free Wifi. Most cafes, restaurants,have free Wifi! Internet Speed varies though. So for quick use, it is fine, but relying on it for your work is not recommended. Bring a hotspot

Wifi. Hotels and accommodations usually have private Wifi and sometimes Lan Connectivity. These are surely more reliable than free Wifi in public spaces.

Prepaid Internet Sim. 

You can buy a tourist sim card at the airport.

Internet Performance. 

Overall Internet is average, some hostel have strong wifi and for others its poor.

How To Get Around Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a compact country, with few ways of exploring its places. Here are the main modes of transportation for getting around in Sri Lanka.

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Tuk-Tuk/Rick Shaw

Known by many names like rickshaws, tuk-tuks, or three-wheelers, they are the staple mode of traveling short distances in the country. Rickshaws are unmetered everywhere in Sri Lanka, except in Colombo. The basic fare is just a few cents, but this may increase in busy or distant areas.

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Keeping the hassle of getting around in public vehicles in focus, many visitors opt for hiring a car and driver. While some drivers get you from one place to another, others are qualified as chauffeur guides. In Sri Lanka, a posh air-conditioned hired car costs around $40 a day for small cars, in addition to the driver’s pay and living allowances. Drivers also expect a tip of $5-$10, depending on their driving experience.

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Getting around in a bus is the fastest way to visit any place in Sri Lanka. A/C and non-A/C buses operate everywhere, even the remote regions. Bus tickets are cheap, costing half a dollar for an hour’s ride. However, avoid getting on a bus during rush hours to stay away from crowds. Private bus services are also available.

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The main air service operator in Sri Lanka is Cinnamon Air, which operates regular flights from the southern side of Colombo to Kandy, Sigiriya, Trincomalee, Dickwella, Weerawila, and Koggala. Airfares aren’t quite cheap, but the flights are pretty scenic.

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Train travel is also a good mode of transportation in Sri Lanka. Most locals use trains for their daily commute, and tourists also take the morning train. The speed of trains is a bit slow, especially if you travel in hilly areas. There are three train classes: first, second, and third. Reservations for all classes can be made up to a month before departure. Train tickets start from a dollar.

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Cycling is another way of exploring the country without spending lots of money. Renting a bike is cheap and easy here. You need to pay only a couple of dollars or even less to get a bike from a reliable place.


When To Visit Sri Lanka : Weather And Seasons

Sri Lanka is a year-round destination, with pleasantly warm and stable temperatures irrespective of the season. The best time to visit the southwest coast is from December to April. But those who like to visit the east coast and hill stations can visit during the months of May and September. At this time, accommodation prices become generally lower, and crowds get thinner. 

October-November tend to be the rainiest months in Sri Lanka. All in all, the dry season (January-March) is the ideal time of the year to visit when the temperature remains between 23°C to 30°C.

Pros And Cons Of Living As A Digital Nomad In Sri Lanka


  • There are no local taxes on foreign-derived income for digital nomads. So no double taxation!
  • Local transportation is cheap and quick.
  • The cost of living in Sri Lanka is low.
  • English is widely understood
  • Lots of beaches, nature, and cafes!


  • Monsoon season can cause power outages and delays in travel.
  • There are not many nomads yet in Sri Lanka.
  • Currently politically unstable.

Common Questions About Sri Lanka

How To Stay Safe and Aware of Scams

Sri Lanka is a pretty safe country, but there could be some risks from petty crimes. In this section, you can find some useful safety tips for your trip to Sri Lanka:

1.Petty Crime

Petty crime, including pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs in Sri Lanka. So, make sure your personal belongings and other valuables are secure at all times. And, consider all purchases also if you are unknowledgeable about gems and jewelry.

2.Keep yourself safe from animals and insects

Get pre-travel vaccinations, but in case you get bitten, seek immediate medical assistance. Leeches and ticks should also be avoided. Also, check your room mattress for bugs. Bring an insect net!

3. Avoid tap water

Avoid consuming tap water and ice cubes, as there are many chances of catching diseases like hepatitis A and E and diarrhea. Steer clear of fresh juices also. Go for bottled water, which is quite cheap in Sri Lanka. Eating from food stalls is quite okay; however, pay extra attention to the food that has been sitting around.

4. Travel insurance

It is ideal to have suitable travel insurance in order to stay safe. Get travel insurance and check if it provides sufficient cover against theft, illness, or damage.

Packing List

If you are planning to visit Laos anytime sooner, follow our travel packing essentials to make your trip even better and more fun:

Shorts Icon

2 Pairs of Shorts

Polo Shirt Icon

2 long sleeve

Underwear Icon

8 pairs of underwear

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Jeans Icon

2 Pair of jeans

Flip Flop Icon

Flip flops

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Lock Icon


Trunk Icon

Swim Trunks

Shoe Icon

Comfortable Sneakers

Towels Icon

Quick dry towel

Bag Icon

Laundry Bag

Shirt Icon

3 shirts

Socks Icon

8 pairs of socks

Deodorant Icon


Hand Soap Icon

Hand Sanitizer

Power Bank

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Rain jacket

Sun Glasses

Sun Screen

Is Sri Lanka Good For Digital Nomads?

Overall Sri Lanka is a very afforable and culturally rich. However, if you need people to thrive, unless you are a surfer, it could get lonely here. I do reccomend going for a month, to see yourself. I found many european tourist, holistic characters and surfers.

Did I Miss Something? Let Me Know In The Comments!

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