A Backpacker's Guide To Sri Lanka

The couple traveling in the Serpentine in the mountains in Sri Lanka
The couple traveling in the Serpentine in the mountains in Sri Lanka | ©  Mikhail Sotnikov / Getty Images
Jayani Senanayake

Golden sandy beaches, vast expanses of paddy, lush rainforests teeming with rare flora and fauna coupled with a rich cultural heritage steeped in history – Sri Lanka is a land like no other. The country is also a backpackers’ paradise so before embarking on a journey, here are some tips on backpacking in Sri Lanka.

Why choose Sri Lanka?

Most travelers wouldn’t know this, but Sri Lanka is a year-round destination that allows you to choose the most suitable corners of the island depending on the time of the year you are travelling. It is also a country that offers a variety of activities from glorious beaches, abundant wildlife to trekking in the rolling mountains in the central region.

Galle shoreline with lighthouse

The language

The most spoken language of the country is Sinhala while a minority also speak Tamil. However, as most locals speak a bit of English as well, getting around is rather convenient.

The cost

Sri Lanka is an affordable country and offers many cost-effective options for lodging, travelling and even food. Two people can normally get by on around US$50 per day with budget accommodation ranging from US$10 – $30, long distance trains and buses ranging from US$1 – $5 and meals ranging from US$1 – $3.

The food

The Sri Lankan rice and curry is a MUST try. It is a regular staple of the locals, while it is also important to note that most Sri Lankan dishes are a little hotter than what many Europeans are used to.

Preparation of traditional Sri Lankan curry dish with tender chicken breast


A visa is required to visit Sri Lanka and it is relatively easy to obtain one. The visa for Europeans, Australians and North Americans usually costs about US$35 and is valid for 30 days.


Sri Lanka is a safe country with friendly, peaceful locals eager to help. However, general caution must be exercised when it comes to your belongings and obtaining travel insurance prior to setting off is also highly recommended, just in case.

How to get around

For long distance travel, buses and trains are usually recommended although the train, however slow, is the most scenic way to go. Within cities, there are plenty of tuk-tuks that can be hailed as well as taxi cabs you can preorder at reasonable prices.

Where to go

Explore the country’s vibrant commercial capital Colombo or you can head towards Kandy to witness an ancient city steeped in history and culture. Travel to the center towards Badulla, Ella or Nuwara Eliya to marvel at the lush foliage and coolness of the mountains. The East and South coasts offer plenty of beautiful beaches to engage in water sports.

World’s End cliff at Horton Plains national park, Sri Lanka, Asia

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,395 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article