Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Your ultimate Sri Lanka travel guide, with tips, and things to see and things to do in Sri Lanka. Great for first-time and returning travelers.

We have stepped into heaven.  The air is warm and clear; the roads are orderly and clean. Our driver hasn’t honked his horn once.

He even used his signal when switching lanes!  What is this civilized planet we have stepped into? We loved Sri Lanka. 

It was one of those countries that we actually felt sad leaving.  We met inspiring people, saw magnificent sites and enjoyed awesome adventures. 

Sri Lanka has everything that a traveler could possibly want: adventure, spirituality, fine beaches and nightlife.

A vacation to this destination will never disappoint.  This Sri Lanka travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.


Fast Facts about Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lankan power voltage is 230 V 50 Hz; Power sockets D
  • The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) and is around 133 LKR or 1 USD
  • Shops are usually closed on Sundays and Full moon (Poya) days. The full moon poya day has religious significance for Buddhists and alcohol is not served in hotels, bars and public recreational areas on this day.
  • Water is not potable in Sri Lanka. Avoid water that is not boiled or bottled. Avoid raw vegetables and pre-cut fruit as much as possible.
  • Restrictions apply when taking photographs in temples and/or religious sites, particularly posing in ways that can be interpreted as disrespectful, posing in front of or beside Buddhist statues/murals or using flash photography.
  • Tuk Tuks are the most common taxi service in Sri Lanka, but make sure that the Tuk Tuk you are getting into has the words “Metered Taxi” so as to avoid being overcharged.

Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka

  1. Surf, Sun and Sand in Hikkaduwa – One hundred kilometers south of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s Capital City, the beach scene begins.  
  2. Spot Leopards at Yala National Park – the park is known as the best place anywhere in the world to spot a Leopard in the wild.
  3. Embark on an Adam’s Peak Pilgrimage – Adams Peak is Sri Lanka’s Holiest mountain and each year Pilgrims flock to climb its 5200 steps.
  4. Visit Sigiriya – The important archeological site, Sigiriya is impressive.  Gracing the covers of many Sri Lankan Guide books, it just may be Sri Lanka’s most recognizable site.
  5. Explore Yala National Park – It is an incredible park filled with wildlife: elephants, peacocks, monkeys, jackals, crocodiles and monitor lizards to name a few. 
  6. Go to Udawalawe National Park – This park is particularly special because it is home to the Elephant Transfer Home an orpha

Sri Lanka Travel Guides


Budgeting

Accommodation

Budget – Budget hotels start at $20 US per night and offer free parking, free Wi-Fi, and private bathrooms.

Mid Range – Mid-range hotels start at $50 per night and may include a spa, outdoor pool, bar, and restaurant.

High End – Luxury hotels in Sri Lanka begin at $200 per night. These hotels offer a wide range of amenities, including fitness centers, bars, outdoor pools, full-service laundry, airport shuttle, air conditioning, and beach access.

Check out our favorite booking platforms Booking.comTripadvisor and VRBO for the best deals on accommodation in Sri Lanka.

Food

  • Sri Lankan Dhal Curry – This is basically red lentils cooked in spices and coconut milk. 
  • Lamprais – Consists of eggplant, boiled eggs, frikkadels, and mixed meats.
  • Gotu kola mallung – Made with chopped greens, pepper, and lemon juice.
  • Watalappan – This is steamed egg made with Kitul jaggery, coconut milk and spices.
  • Fish ambul thiyal (sour fish curry) – This is fish sautéed in native spices.  
  • Kottu – Kottu is Sri Lanka’s hamburger served with spicy curry sauce.
  • Hoppers – Pancake-like sourdough made of coconut milk and rice flour. 

The Best Ways to Get Around Sri Lanka

Getting to Sri Lanka:

Flights: Sri Lanka’s main airport is Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake. Many airlines across the world offer direct flights to Bandaranaike International Airport.

These include Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Etihad, and Saudia. There are also direct flights from India, Britain, U.S.A, China, Australia and many more.

You can check for the best flights to Sri Lanka on Skyscanner.

Transportation:

Buses: Sri Lanka has an efficient bus network with the best option for long-distance travel being private buses. The general cost of bus fare is less than $1 for a distance of less than 100 KM.

Taxis/Uber: Many taxi services in Sri Lanka operate in major towns, including Uber, PickMe, Online Cabs (PVT) Ltd, LankanCabs.lk, and Kangaroo Cabs, and many more. Usually, a taxi ride in Sri Lanka costs around Rs 60 ($.40) to 100 ($0.60) per kilometer.

Car Rental: Car rental is available in Sri Lanka. Many companies offer car rental services including Colombo-based Shineway Rent a Car, Casons Rent A car, Malkey Rent a Car, SIXT, and many more. The starting price for car rental is about $30. You can also compare prices here.


When to go To Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a year-round destination. The weather is favorable throughout the year through December to April is considered high season as the weather is pleasant.

The Northeast monsoons run from May to September. This season is ideal for surfing. October to November is considered low season, but it’s still a perfect time to visit Sri Lanka.


Where to Stay in Sri Lanka

  • Galle Fort Hotel – This is a refined hotel in Galle located near the National Maritime Museum. This hotel offers an outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, beach access, full-service laundry, bar, and many other amenities.
  • Cinnamon Grand Colombo – Set 1 km from Slave Island Railway Station, this 5-star hotel features polished rooms, free Wi-Fi, bars, flat-screen TVs, and spas. It also has a gym, outdoor pool, and a shopping mall.
  • Hotel Sigiriya – A polished hotel near ancient Sigiriya palace with colorful rooms, patios, minibars, flat-screen TVs, and lounges. It has free parking, free Wi-Fi, outdoor pool, spas, and many other amenities.

Check out our favorite booking platforms Booking.com, Tripadvisor and VRBO for the best deals on accommodation.


What to Pack for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a destination with an abundance of sunshine all year round. Temperatures rest at around 27°C – 30°C for most of the island. The temperature can dip slightly depending on altitude.

Sri Lanka has two wet monsoon seasons: briefly between May and July in the south-west region and between December and January in the north-east.

These wet seasons are often riddled with clear blue sunny days, as a result Sri Lanka has no off season and it is pleasant to visit at any time during the year.

  • Dress conservatively. When visiting cultural and religious sites, travellers are recommended to wear appropriate clothing.  Women should ideally wear long pants or skirts to cover their knees and avoid deep V necks or sleeveless tops, while men are recommended to keep their shoulders and legs covered.
  • Warm clothes – it can cool off at night, so make sure to pack a light-weight sweater, cardigan or a pashmina to keep you warm on those chilly nights.
  • The protection basics – Travellers should stock up on the essentials: sun block (SPF+30), mosquito/insect repellant containing DEET or a pyrethroid insecticide, sunglasses and a hat.
  • Refillable water bottle – as mentioned above, the water is not potable in Sri Lanka. Consider taking a portable water bottle on your trip.
  • Sri Lanka is a huge safari destination read: What to Wear on Safari – Africa Travel Inside and Out

See our packing tips: packing tips


Sri Lanka Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources

Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies. We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.

We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.

  • Booking.com: This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It usually has the cheapest prices, especially in Europe and we love their interface. Not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
  • Trip Advisor: What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation. TripAdvisor is where we go when we want to compare prices with multiple accommodation providers.
  • VRBO: is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and it is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
  • Hostelworld: With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
  • Skyscanner: This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
  • Rome 2 Rio: If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs.I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
  • Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
  • World Nomads Insurance: When traveling to Italy you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.

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