Sri Lanka Backpacking Budget – Cost of Travel (2023)

Sri Lanka train travel - Budget backpacking

This post outlines the estimated cost of travel in Sri Lanka. Read our suggested shoestring and more comfortable backpacking budgets for this colourful island in Southern Asia. We also have some sample prices, budget travel tips and info on using money for anyone considering a backpacking trip around Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Backpacking Budget
Map of Sri Lanka from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Sri Lanka Cost of Travel in 2023

Sri Lanka on a Budget – How much do you need?

  • $20/Day | 6600 Sri Lankan Rupee

For anyone backpacking Sri Lanka on a low budget, expect to spend roughly $20 per day (around 6600 Rupee at the time of writing). This shoestring budget is designed to cover all the daily travel expenses for a budget-minded backpacker including the cost of accommodation (hostel dorm bed), transport and meals. Unless you are moving around every couple of days and trying to cram a lot of activities and trips in, it shouldn’t be too hard for shoestring travellers to stick to this budget as the country is great value.

Most travellers in Sri Lanka have been or are going to go to India so it’s useful to compare it to the cost of travel in India. The general consensus used to be that Sri Lanka was marginally more expensive than India but not by an enormous margin. However, Sri Lanka has been experiencing severe economic problems since 2019. With a devalued currency, the country is now even better value than before for most foreign visitors, although supply shortages have driven prices up for certain goods and items – most of which will have little impact on backpackers in the country.

It does depend on where in Sri Lanka you go though as much of the country’s travel industry is not particularly geared towards those on a low budget. For example, typical backpacker hostels with dorm beds are less plentiful when compared to some parts of Asia. Your exact costs will also depend a bit on when you go. The best time to visit Sri Lanka may not necessarily be the cheapest.

More Comfortable Sri Lanka Backpacking Budget

  • $30/Day | 9900 Sri Lankan Rupee

Given it is only a small island, you won’t spend much on transport or getting around Sri Lanka so a shoestring Sri Lanka backpacking budget of $20/day may be sufficient for most budget travellers. However if you’re looking to get the most out of your experience, consider upping your daily budget to $30, around 10,000 Sri Lankan Rupee.

Sri Lanka does have a big tourist industry so there are lots of things that cost a little bit more that might get you tempted to stray from a shoestring budget. For $30/day you can stay in better places on the nicer beaches and eat in some of the better restaurants.

It will also allow you to visit more sites and temples, a few of which have surprisingly high entrance fees, which most tourists in the country won’t think twice about paying, but budget travellers looking to get by on a low budget might find them to be a real nuisance.

Travelling around Sri Lanka - How much?
Transport in Sri Lanka is great value!

Sri Lanka Travel Costs

Approximate Price (in US Dollars) 
Train from Colombo to Kandy (3 hours)$2.75 (3rd Class), $3.65 (2nd Class), $6 (1st Class Air Con)
Kaduwela to Galle by Bus (1 hour 20 minutes)$0.50
Meal in an affordable local restaurant$1.50-2.50
Local beer in bar/restaurant$1-2
Dorm bed in a hostelFrom $3/night
Budget private roomFrom $5/night
Entrance to the Sigiriya Rock$30 (foreigners)
Travel insurance for backpacking Sri LankaDepends on age, length of trip & other factors – Get a quote from Heymondo in less than a minute!

Prices in Sri Lanka may be roughly in line with a typical Nepal backpacking budget and other South Asian countries. In short, it’s one of the world’s cheapest backpacking destinations, but there are a few sights that have high “foreigner” rates slapped on them which can push things up if you’re somebody who likes to visit all of the main attractions and historical places.

Sri Lanka Budget Travel Tips

  • For the very best prices, come to Sri Lanka during the low season which is typically between May to October when the monsoons bring heavy rainfall. 
  • Try local dishes and meals which are typically cheaper than western offerings. Budget friendly highlights include kottu roti and string hoppers.
  • Carry a reusable, filtered water bottle if possible. This will help you save money on buying bottled water given it’s not advisable to drink water straight from the tap in Sri Lanka.
  • Learn some basic Sinhala or Tamil phrases to communicate with locals. This will help you stand out from the many tourists that come to Sri Lanka every year and it also may help when it comes to bartering over prices.
  • Buy a local SIM card at the airport or early in your stay for cheap internet access. This will make getting around Sri Lanka whilst staying online much easier.
  • For flights to Sri Lanka, in some cases it may be cheaper to fly via India. Flights between the two countries start at around $100. If you’re backpacking around India, there will also soon be the option to travel to Sri Lanka by ferry. These services are set to begin in April 2023 between Karaikal and Kankesanthura.

Money – Sri Lankan Rupee

£1 = 405 Rupees

€1 = 355 Rupees

US$1 = 330 Rupees

The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, with one approximately four times as valuable as the Indian Rupee at the time of writing. There was a significant drop in the value of the Sri Lankan Rupee in early 2023 against all major currencies. This is due to major economic problems and instability in the country, at least partly caused by a reduction in tourism since the pandemic. Keep an eye on any developments which may impact on your trip.

This Sri Lanka backpacking budget was last updated in April 2023.

Sri Lanka Backpacking Budget – Cost of Travel (2023)

7 thoughts on “Sri Lanka Backpacking Budget – Cost of Travel (2023)

  1. This is incredaby inncorrect – have you even been to Sri Lanka… For starters sigiriya is 30$ for like 6 years now and not 23$

    1. Actually it has been around 4200 LKR for many years. There are many travel blogs quoting it as 3700 ($20 at current rates) for 2018. What has significantly changed is the Dollar exchange rate. Individual sites such as this are expensive (as pointed out in the article) but independent travellers can get around very cheaply on the whole and it’s still a very affordable destination but good luck selling your extortionate tours.

    1. Can anyone send their best expectations and experience s to me.
      I am putting together a backpackers tour that can be a brilliant view of the country without all the silly cost. Means of travel. Getting into sites doc etc. Visited the country many times. Thanks for looking

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