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How expensive is travelling in Sri Lanka?

Travelling is like decorating a home, everyone has their own style and budget. We are both used to budget backpacking and Asia is known for its super budget-friendly travel destinations. Sri Lanka is no different than the more known backpacker countries like Thailand and Vietnam. During our 40-day trip we recorded all of our spendings so we can show you an estimate of how much to save for your ideal Sri Lankan holiday! Additional to the tips we give in the designated paragraphs we also have some extra money saving tips at the end, so keep reading.


As we said, everyone has their own wants and needs when it comes to travelling. We had saved enough money, so for this trip we decided to stay in more luxury accommodation than we normally would. We certainly did not splurge our money, but did do everything we wanted without having to justify it three times over. Our example of what we spent is just an indication of what you will need based on our type of accommodation, transport, excursions, food & drinks and extra’s.

We have calculated the expenses based on exchange rates at the time so this could slightly differ whenever you visit. The currency in Sri Lanka is LKR but many things can be or have to be paid in US Dollars. In total we have spent about 1,342,720- LKR (€5,859- / £4,970- / $6,631-) for around 40 days in Sri Lanka for two people. For your convenience we have broken down all costs below. 

Flights, Visa and Covid-related expenses (26% of total budget)

LKR 348,142.35 / €1,519.14 / £1,288.75 / $1,719.48

To start our journey we applied for an ETA which costs around $40 per person. Covid regulations (November 2021) meant we also had to do a PCR test before departure which totalled to €178,59 (£151,50 / $202,14). We departed from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and arrived in Bandaranaike International Airport, costing €642,96 (£545,45 / $727,75) for 2 people. We flew with Swiss/Edelweiss in economy class which was totally fine for us. If you wish to add some luxury to your flight you can choose to fly business class or with other more luxury airlines like Emirates. If booking flights is one of your weaknesses check out our guide to help you book the cheapest possible flights!

Everything you need to know about booking flightsBecause we stayed in Sri Lanka more than 30 days we had to extend our Visa. This is of course optional and will cost LKR 42,000.00 or $100 per person. Read more about this process here.

After our 40 days was up in Sri Lanka, Maldives was our next stop. We had to do a pre departure PCR test which cost us LKR 13,000.00 total (€ 56.73 / £48.12 / $64.21). Find out through your hotel or the internet where the cheapest and most reliable testing locations are and make sure you always have your result on time, in English and printed before departure!

It is worth noting that the total budget does not include a plane ticket home back to Amsterdam or London as we instead flew to the Maldives (which is included). This outbound flight ticket is much lower than a return to Amsterdam or London would have cost, so keep this in mind.

Accommodation (37% of total budget)

LKR 502,152.00 / €2,191.18 / £1,858.86 / $2,480.13

As previously mentioned, we opted for a little more “luxury” accommodation than we are normally used to in other parts of Asia. We did not stay in hostels or dorms, only in private rooms in hotels, some more fancy than others. In hindsight we do regret this decision, as staying in hostels while travelling is half the fun! You meet tons of cool people and there is always something to do or experience. Although we loved our time together we would’ve liked to meet more people. We sometimes felt isolated as there were way less tourists due to the ongoing Pandemic. Staying in bed and breakfasts or homestays (very common in Sri Lanka) is the recommended way to spend your nights, but choose whatever you like best! This was one of our favourites throughout our entire stay, D Canal House in Mirissa.

Food and drinks (19% of total budget)
Breakfast (2% of total budget)

We booked all of our accommodation through As we are signed up with we receive Genius discounts, often including free breakfast. That is why in total we only spent around LKR 20,184.65 (€ 88.08 / £74.72 / $99.69) on breakfast during our 40 days. You can do the same, just by creating an account! We were always very excited to see the feast the hotels prepared for us and it rarely fell short of any expectations. Our favourite breakfast must have been in Sea View Clay House, as much curry as you please and this view. I mean, what more do you want?!? Can you spot us?

Lunch & Snacks (4% of total budget)

During our time in Sri Lanka lunch often consisted of as many samosa’s and other snacks (we don’t know the name of) as possible. We were almost on a mission to try every snack we could get our hands on! We rarely had a sit down meal as we were mostly out exploring. The only place where we slightly based our plans around meal times was in Ella, there were soooo many amazing places we had to try… In total we spent LKR 53.841,53 (€ 234,94 / £199,31 / $265.92) on lunch and snacks.

Dinner (8% of total budget)

For dinner we totalled around LKR 103,999.69 (€ 453.81 / £384.98 / $512.65). This is relatively high considering the price of food in Sri Lanka but this does include our drinks during dinner. Usually a beer or 2 for Tom… We often just had a local main course but sometimes we went all in with starters and desserts. Keep in mind that local dishes are almost always cheaper than more western dishes so if you want to experience the best food AND save money, go for the local options. We were taken to a local ‘side of the road’ restaurant by our amazing host Sampath in Ella from Ella Eco Lodge. The best jackfruit curry!! An endless supply of Roti and curry for 700LKR in total… Crazy cheap!

Drinks (5% of total budget)

So this is where our Sri Lanka Budget differs from countries like Thailand. In our previous travels we used quite a large part of our budget for parties and drinks, Sri Lanka was different for us. It is known that Sri Lanka is less of a party destination and is more focussed on nature and culture. Of course we did have our occasional party and alcoholic drink during dinner but way less than we were used to. We spent LKR 63,363.21 (€ 276.49 / £234.56 / $312.95) on drinks, which includes our alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and water during the day. If we’re honest, this is where the majority of our drinks budget went…

For water we mainly used our LifeStraw which we could fill up with regular tap water that normally isn’t suitable for drinking. The LifeStraw filters the water, making it completely safe to drink and saves a lot of plastic bottles from ending up in the oceans/landfills. This is not an ad or sponsored (although we’d love to, LifeStraw, call us xoxo) but we just loved knowing we could do one small thing to decrease our impact during our stay. 

Transport (6% of total budget)

LKR 82,749.00 / €361.08 / £306.32 / $408.70

Transport is once again one of the things you can make as cheap or as expensive as you please, but this one has such a big impact on your total budget! By choosing tuk tuk, buses and trains over taxi’s you can save literally hundreds during your stay. We love travelling by tuk tuk as it is an experience in itself, it’s cheap, readily available and a good way to support the locals.

For longer distances you can opt for a bus or train. Our train ride from Colombo to Galle took us 2.5 hours and only cost 1200LKR (€5.21 / £4.37 / $5.93) for 2 tickets in a first class reserved, air-conditioned carriage with reclining seats! We chose the train in this case for the comfort and stunning scenery. Bus fares would have started around 170LKR (€ 0.75 / £0.65 / $0.84) per person and a taxi would start at 10,000LKR (€ 43.75 / £37.50 / $49.45). This photo was taken in third class, such a beautiful train journey between Ella and Kandy.

Excursions (8% of total budget)

LKR 109,500.00 / €477.81 / £405.35 / $540.82

During our time in Sri Lanka we paid for an excursion every 2/3 days on average. We often went exploring on our own which saved us quite a bit in the end. The two most expensive excursions were the two National Parks we visited, Udawalawe and Horton Plains. Entrance to National Parks in Sri Lanka is very pricey for tourists. Honestly, Horton Plains seemed over priced for views that can be seen for free across the country. Udawalawe on the other hand was 100% worth it for us. We chose to go to Udawalawe National Park over the more busy and expensive Yala National Park, and we loved it! Check out our safari experience here.

In addition if you meet like minded people during your travels, think about sharing a taxi/jeep during your excursions to have more fun and save money!

Extra’s (4% of total budget)

LKR 58,788.00 / €256.53 / £217.62 / $290.35

In this section we included souvenirs, tips and gifts for locals, other necessities and our laundry bills. Some restaurants will include a 10% service charge on the bill. More often than not the restaurants that included this service charge targeted tourists/westerners with already higher food prices. We found that the smallest local restaurants (if you can even call them that) are the absolute best and we often tipped +50% as the food was so cheap. This was a coconut roti and onion sambol that we got in Mirissa for 300LKR, super cheap! Find out where by checking out our “Top 6 things to do in Mirissa” blog.

We also couldn’t stop our self from buying excessive amounts of tea and cooking essentials as souvenirs. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t just buy gifts for friends and family and forget our own. We bought enough tea to last us a year and plenty of black pepper, curry spices and cooking utensils. Completely necessary if you ask us! 

Now those were some fresh black peppercorns! We bought a kilogram…

Money saving tips

Take cash with you

As we said, in Sri Lanka you can pay many things with Dollar and it is a valued currency. If your local currency is Dollar, take as much as you wish for the best exchange rate and to keep extra ATM costs down. Euro and Pound conversions are still good and it is definitely worth taking some cash with you. We would suggest exchanging some for US Dollars at home so you always have some on hand but take the rest in Euro/Pound to prevent double exchange losses. Dont take more cash than youre comfortable with, safety is always number one! 

Pay by cash

If you are comfortable with paying cash then this is a good way to prevent high credit card fees. In many small shops, markets and restaurants, paying cash is also the only option. So make sure you always have some local currency on hand. 


Do it yourself or in a small guesthouse, try to skip the more expensive hotels as you pay around 3/4 times the price for the exact same service.

Book in advance

Last minutes are definitely not the way to save money anymore. Hotels and flights often get significantly more expensive closer to the travelling date, so book sooner rather than later!

Set yourself a daily budget

Budgeting is always a good idea to keep track of you outgoings. Set a certain amount for clothes or drinks if you know you often spend more than necessary. Do keep in mind that these are guidelines and you may experience Sri Lanka only once, so enjoy!

Combine Sri Lanka and the Maldives

This sounds like a very weird tip as the Maldives is super expensive right?! Due to the close proximity, flying from Colombo to Malé is the cheapest youre going to get. You can check out prices of these flights here! So if the Maldives is still on your wish list, do it now!

We will be uploading new blogs about the Maldives very soon! For now, take a look at how you can travel cheap(er) with our hints and tips!

Travelling Translated

Travelling Translated

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