Backpacking Sri Lanka on a Budget

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backpacking sri lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the most amazing and cheapest places to travel for backpackers. Whether you’re traveling in a tuk tuk, eating spicy curries, sea bathing in Bentota, surfing in Arugam Bay or hiking in Knuckles mountains, backpacking Sri Lanka will always be a unique experience.

Being smart, finding ways to cut unnecessary costs and keeping a close eye on your spending throughout the journey will definitely help you to save money. As a backpacker, your ultimate goal should be to have a little money save for your next trip. Find out the typical costs and tips on how to backpacking Sri Lanka on a budget.

Pack Light

The key to backpacking is "less is more." If you try to carry 3 pairs of denims or pants, there’s no way you’re hiking that mountain or catching a last minute train. Leave unwanted stuff behind and pack the most wanted. Unwanted stuff includes items with little value! Whether it’s your favorite piece jewelry or that watch you got from your parents. Also note that carrying valuable items is asking for trouble. Only pack what you wouldn’t mind replacing. This will help you to avoid paying extra luggage charges in airlines.

Check the Price Before You Do Anything

Before getting into a rickshaw (tuk-tuk) or taxi (if it has no meter), hiring a tour guide, staying in an unknown hotel or going on a city tour, always check what you’re expected to pay first. If a restaurant menu has no prices on it, check how much your food will cost before ordering. When buying a product in a shop, check the item for its MRP (Maximum Retail Price) which printed on it in small letters. It’s recommended to use the mitered taxi as much as you can to avoid scams.

Bring Your Own Snacks

Backpacking Sri Lanka can be tiring at times due to the hot weather. Having a snack between meals will help you to stay focus throughout your journey. Local vendors know this, and sometimes will try to up-charge tourists who come to them for a quick snack. It’s better to bring your own protein bars to save that money.

Eat Where the Locals Eat

Sri Lankan food is extremely cheap. Find a decent local restaurant (follow the locals to find the busy places), and you can get a rice and curry meal for less than $1. Most of the restaurants give you a first plate of rice and you may ask for more. Vegetarian meals are the cheapest, but seafood and fish are still quite affordable and chicken is a little expensive.

Stay in a Guest House

Staying in a guest house is one of the best ways to save money when backpacking Sri Lanka. Travelers are increasingly booking stays at guest houses as hotels are quite expensive. You can find a guest house with private double rooms, exterior bathrooms for a price of $8-9 per night.

Take the Train

Train transportation is the cheapest option in Sri Lanka. However, there aren’t too many routes covering the country. 3rd-class train from Colombo to Kandy (3 hours) will cost you about $1. For backpackers, train travel is ideal because you can carry you stuff easily and travel freely compared to busses which are crowded most of the times. Do not forget to book your train tickets in advance.

Walk Instead of Taking a Cab

You may feel convenient to take a taxi to your destination, but don\'t do it! The mileage cost, tipping, and hidden tourist fee (some cab drivers charge tourists more than locals because they don\'t disclose rates) you could end up with a big bill. Walking a little extra is good for your body and to your wallet. If some place is too far to walk, then take a bus or tuk-tuk.

Visit the Liquor Store

You can buy liquor from the Sri Lanka airport duty free for cheap price at the arrival. Local supermarkets such as Keells and Cargills also offer liquor at the market price. Bars and clubs located near major tourist cities usually charge more for drinks due to the location. Public drinking and smoking is not allowed in Sri Lanka. Do not forget to empty few local lion beer while backpacking Sri Lanka. Use cash to pay for your drinks wherever possible.

Avoid Tourist Traps

Be focus, observe the locals and follow them. Talk to locals and get to know the places where do they go for meals, how do they spend their afternoons, events and so on and make a list of things that you can do in advance. Self-research is the best way to explore the real life and environment of Sri Lanka. Be flexible to make adjustments to your backpacking trip if needed. Prioritize your activities to keep your costs low.

Go Solo Backpacking

Although group travel makes your trip more fun some prefer solo backpacking. When you are backpacking independently, you get to plan the trip by your own with more flexibility which could save you money. Backpacking is all about personal exploration and freedom and remember that you do not need a companion to hold your hand.