This article was written in collaboration with Jessica Meikle.
Sri Lanka is a stunning country, full of luscious landscapes, exotic animals, and plenty of history to explore. It’s no wonder, then, that 524,486 people chose to visit this island country in the first half of 2023 alone.
It’s famous for its pristine beaches, mouthwatering cuisine, huge range of biodiversity – and tea. Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka has a long association with the tea trade, and today, travelers can visit tea plantations to learn about this world-renowned export.
With so much to see and do, it would be easy to spend a month in Sri Lanka. But unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time, holiday allowance or money to fuel such a big adventure. If you’re looking to see the country on a budget, you’ll need to do some careful planning to ensure you can fully enjoy your time there.
Let’s explore four areas you need to consider.
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Research Your Activities Ahead of Time
From getting up close to elephants to riding the famous Hill Country train, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied on your holiday in Sri Lanka. Putting in some research before you travel can help you to narrow down your itinerary, and also allow you to get the best deals.
In some cases, pre-booking or choosing a holiday package can mean that you save money, so if you intend to fill your days to the brim, it’s well worth investigating this option.
If your budget is tight, don’t worry. There are many stunning hikes you can take for free, or, if you’re a more casual traveler, plenty of beaches you can lie on. By mixing low-cost days with more expensive activities, you can ensure your budget goes further.
Book Your Accommodation
Fortunately for those travelers on a tight budget, Sri Lanka is a relatively cheap country to stay in. Some sources suggest that you can get away with spending around $30 per day on simple accommodation, or $50-$100 if you want to go for something nicer.
Compared to some European countries, for example, that means you get a lot for your money.
By booking ahead of time, you may qualify for a discounted rate. Or, if you’re traveling with a group, consider looking into hiring a villa.
Whilst you might think this sounds more expensive, when you split the cost between you, you’ll be surprised by how much you save. Plus, it’s more private than a hostel and has more space than a hotel.
Set a Meal Budget
Sri Lanka is known for its cuisine, with herbs, spices, fish, rice and fruit all featuring on a traditional menu. Dishes such as kottu roti (stir fry and bread), dahl curry, jackfruit curry and watalappan (egg custard) are all popular, and you won’t want to go home without sampling at least one or two of these.
When you’re faced with so many choices, it’s easy to get carried away and spend all your money on delicious treats. Whilst food is very cheap in Sri Lanka, with a three-course meal for two only costing around $14, it’s best to set a budget if you’re concerned about running out of cash.
Some travel cards allow you to create different pots or saving spaces, so if you struggle to keep track of your cash, it might be worth seeking out a card with this function. That way, you can clearly see how much money you have left for food, and spend any extra you have left over towards the end of your trip.
Create an Emergency Pot
Whilst you can plan everything down to the last detail, you can’t control everything that happens in life, especially when you’re abroad in an unfamiliar country. So, it’s important to ensure that you have some funds available, just in case of an emergency.
You may be able to claim back any costs that you incur on your travel insurance, but in some cases, you’ll need the money in the first place to pay for things like medical care. It can also be handy to have an emergency pot in case you need to unexpectedly use more expensive methods of transportation like taxis.
If you don’t spend it, then you simply have more money to spend on your last day, or when you get home again.
Keep Yourself on Track
Setting up a budget can help you to keep costs low, but it can also encourage you to think carefully about where you spend your money on your trip to Sri Lanka. By doing some research ahead of time and adding your favorite experience to your holiday itinerary, you can ensure you have the best time possible.