Sri Lanka is truly a jewel of a country that immediately captured my heart. After two decades of internal conflict, tourism has finally picked up speed in recent years and people began to fall in love with the laid-back beaches, breathtaking train rides and hospitable Sri Lankan hospitality.

Hands down, Sri Lanka has some of the most incredible natural landscapes I have ever seen and some of the friendliest people I have ever met. There was one family in particular that I felt very close to, and they shaped my time in the country forever in my heart. But to be honest, I felt this warmth from people everywhere.

From the bustling locals to the delicious food and lush natural landscapes, Sri Lanka is sure to win your heart as well. The fact that it’s an affordable travel destination is just the icing on the cake, but it also makes a difference.

During my time in Sri Lanka, I never felt like I was running out of budget. Depending on where you are flying in from, flights can be more expensive as this is an island. But don’t let that put you off because once you land you will find that it is one of the most affordable travel destinations in Asia.


Bandaranaike International Airport is the main international airport for Sri Lanka. It is named after former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and is located in a suburb of Negombo, 32.5 kilometers north of Colombo, the country’s long-standing capital and trading city.


Here is a list of my favorite places to stay in Sri Lanka:



To start your time in Sri Lanka, spend a night or two in the capital at this comfortable, clean and welcoming motel. The price-performance ratio couldn’t be better. Not only is the location great for travelers (you’re close to the beach and some good restaurants), but each standard double room comes with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a fridge, and a very comfortable mattress. This place hits the mark by being both budget friendly and high quality. There is a communal lounge, kitchen and garden to enjoy and the couple who own it will be thoughtful to your inquiries and help you plan anything you need help with!


Nice View Lodge

Sigiriya is a small town best known for the ancient rock fortress. One look at this huge rock and you will understand why Sigiriya means “lion rock”; it looks like something straight out of “The Lion King”. You will likely only need one night in Sigiriya, but you should still be staying in a memorable place. Nice View Lodge is a well-kept property with a terrace overlooking beautiful rice fields and gardens. It is also just minutes from Sigiriya Rock. The relaxing surroundings and delicious food are just by-products of the warm and friendly family who arrange whatever you need.


Riverview Kandy

Kandy city center but not too far to make it inaccessible. Plus, waking up by the river will make it feel like a little oasis after returning from exploring the city. Each room in this beautiful bungalow has its own balcony and bathroom, so you always have a sense of privacy despite the shared kitchen. The host is also incredibly friendly and will prepare a fresh, local Sri Lankan breakfast for you during your stay. This Airbnb really felt like a home away from home – no wonder I stayed for a week!


Happy Horizon Homestay

If you’re planning the infamous Kandy to Ella train ride (you’ve known the one where you have people leaning out of windows overlooking lush greenery) then Ella is definitely a stop On your Sri Lanka trip. Equally calm, down to earth, and adventurous, Ella has no shortage of fun things to do. But you’ll also want to relax, and Happy Horizon Homestay is the perfect place to do that. Here you will find a wonderful mountain view from the balcony and clean amenities. The host family is also incredibly warm and accommodating. They will help you with everything from tuk-tuk rides to laundry to suggesting places to visit. Not to mention they make the most delicious breakfast for you along with the lush, picturesque setting. Book at least a couple of nights here – you won’t regret it!


Areca House - Hiriketiya Beach

Dikwella, popular co-working and co-living space for digital nomads. While working at their beautiful beach cafe for days, 


D Canal House

This is a little piece of paradise in Mirissa! It’s a quiet and quiet hotel about a 10-15 minute walk from the main drag, but this quiet oasis is well worth it. The rooms and the interior design are nice and comfortable. And from the outside you are virtually surrounded by a jungle. You will quickly settle into the calm and joy of waking up to the birds singing in the lush ecosystem around you, enjoying a fresh Sri Lankan breakfast on your private balcony and relaxing by the beautiful swimming pool. If you still want to go to the beach or into town, a free tuk-tuk service to the main street is included in your stay!


Khalid’s Guest House

For the price, location and quality, you can’t get much better than this charming guest house! It is a beautifully appointed hotel in a restored historical building right in the center of the historical Galle Fort. So you can wake up and easily explore the walled remains of the old Portuguese fortress and all the picturesque nooks and crannies. Better yet, a delicious breakfast is included with your stay, an added bonus to the clean and comfortable rooms. The host and his staff are also incredibly hospitable and can help arrange any tours or any transportation you may need.


Transportation in Sri Lanka is very accessible and affordable. It is also quite a small country so it is easy to get from place to place in a short amount of time. That being said, there is really no need to fly domestically as the options are limited and logistically it just doesn’t make sense. Plus, it’s a beautiful country worth seeing by ground transportation.

Here are the most common modes of transport in Sri Lanka:

Tuk Tuk

Also known as auto rickshaws, tuk tuks are a common and inexpensive way to get around the various cities of Sri Lanka. They’re basically everywhere, replacing taxis.

The main thing to beware of are tuk tuk drivers who make you overpay for a ride because you are a tourist. Before going anywhere, speak to the locals who work at your property about the average cost. Or better yet, ask if they have a reliable driver to work with to guide you. Then, to avoid fraud, negotiate a fair price with the driver before getting in. Even if all tuk-tuks should drive according to their meter, this is not always the case.

If you want to hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you for the day, a fair price is anywhere from $ 15-20 USD (3000-4000 LKR). And an average one-way trip costs about $ 0.18 USD (35 LKR) per kilometer.

You can also download PickMe, Sri Lanka’s version of Uber, to book a taxi or tuk tuk from your phone. In this way, the costs are already calculated in the app. You can use PickMe in cities like Colombo or Kandy, but in smaller rural towns you have to call them from the streets.


A train journey through Sri Lanka is like no other, especially the infamous Kandy to Ella route. This iconic train ride is more about the experience than getting from point A to point B. However, the Sri Lankan rail system runs all over the country so you will likely take it more than once.

Trains in Sri Lanka have three classes. First Class is air-conditioned and has numbered, padded seating. Second class has padded seats and no air conditioning, but the windows are usually always open. The third grade has benches and seats 3 people per row as opposed to two, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

I took third grade from Kandy to Ella and surprisingly it wasn’t that busy. I also found it more fun, being able to stand up, move around and stand on the edge of the doors to watch the tea plantations go by … something you can’t do on most trains these days!

To give you an idea of ​​the cost, here are the prices for the Kandy to Ella (or Ella to Kandy) ride, which takes about 7 hours:

First Class: $ 8.59 (1500 LKR)
Second class: $ 1.77 (310 LKR)
Third class: $ 1.00 (175 LKR)
As you can see, rail travel is relatively cheap. At the end of the day, choose your ticket and class based on your level of comfort and your price range. And professional tip: if you want to take a seat in first class, buy your train tickets at least a day or two before your planned departure date at the train station. More popular routes will sell out quickly!


There are some instances when train travel is not possible or you may need to take a train and a bus. Buses are just as cheap as trains, but tend to be a bit more crowded and have less space for luggage. I have taken the bus a couple of times in Sri Lanka and have never had a bad experience!

Expect to pay as little as $ 0.15 (LKR 30) for a short trip around town or between neighboring towns and between $ 1 and $ 2 (LKR 200-300) for a multi-hour trip.


Local Sri Lankan food is not only cheap, but also incredibly tasty and appetizing. I just literally lick my lips right now when I think of the food I ate in Sri Lanka.

Of course there are classic rice and curry dishes, but my favorite is probably Kottu Roti. This is made from shredded pieces of roti bread mixed with spices, vegetables, seafood, and / or meat. It is then all chopped up, fried and tossed with hot sauce. This popular street food dish will quickly become familiar to you in Sri Lanka. The sound of intense metallic hacking can be heard from a mile away.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how good a typical Sri Lankan breakfast is and I looked forward to it every morning, especially when it was freshly prepared by a host family. The star of this meal are the string hoppers, which are reminiscent of rice flour pasta. You take the hoppers by hand and dip them with side dishes made from coconut or onion rambal and dahl. Sometimes breakfast also includes egg cups (a thin fried pancake with an egg in the middle) or sweet roti pancakes.

With breakfast included in most properties, if you stick to local street food and shops, you can easily spend as little as around US $ 7 (LKR 1400) on food for a day. Eating at western cafes or restaurants, you might be spending around USD 30 (LKR 5852) a day.

///I found a good mix between the two while there and usually spent around $ 15 (2926 LKR) a day eating one local meal and another western meal.


Sri Lanka has a lot to do and see. From cooking classes to temples to hiking and surfing, this country is full of fun and adventure.

One of the most popular activities and a personal highlight was Sigiriya Rock. But instead of climbing the rock myself, I would recommend hiking Pidurangala rock as you get an epic view of Sigiriya rock from above. Not to mention, it’s 1/10 the cost.

Sri Lanka to be a great place for hiking, cooking classes, and safaris. On the other hand, the south is perfect for lazy beach days and water activities. I’m not a big surfer, but I took a few surf lessons to learn the ropes a little more. But if surfing is your jam then the southern beaches are for you.

Here is a breakdown of some popular Sri Lankan attractions:


Last updated: 06 June 2021

Who can travel?

Passengers who have been in or transited through Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, India, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela or Vietnam in the last 14 days are not permitted to enter Sri Lanka.

What do you need to travel?

All passengers of 12 years and above should undergo a PCR test on arrival and further tests on days 11 and 14. Children below 2 years are exempt from COVID-19 PCR testing on arrival.

Passengers are subject to meeting the entry requirements.

Tourists and visitors travelling to Sri Lanka

All tourists must hold approved valid Electronic Travel Authority ETA.

A confirmed hotel booking in one of the ‘Safe and Secure Level 1’ Sri Lankan Government approved hotels must be obtained prior to making a booking. For bookings, passengers need to refer to respective hotel sites.

All foreign nationals, including children and infants, arriving in Sri Lanka must hold a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate in English. The test must be taken within 96 hours prior to the departure of the first flight of their itinerary. Passengers under the age of 12 years will only be exempt from PCR testing after arrival.

Passengers are required to pre-pay for further mandatory COVID-19 PCR tests taken during their stay in Sri Lanka and hold a mandatory COVID-19 insurance cover. Children under 2 years are exempted from PCR testing. These costs are included in the accommodation charges applied by the “Safe and Secure Level 1” approved hotels.

  • For stays, less than 5 days – Only one pre-paid PCR test is required on arrival.
  • For stays, over 5 to 14 days – Two pre-paid PCR tests are required.

Once the hotel booking is confirmed, the hotel will issue a reference number which is required during the ETA visa application process at

All passengers must complete and present the health declaration form upon arrival.

Citizens and residents of Sri Lanka travelling to Sri Lanka

Passengers starting their journey from the UAE do not require pre-approval.

Sri Lankan citizens, dual citizens who travel on their Sri Lankan passports or emergency travel documents, foreign spouses and unmarried foreign children of Sri Lankan citizens and Sri Lankan seafarers travelling by air and opting to pay for hotel quarantine do not require a pre-approval to return. The following types of passengers must hold a pre-approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka (email: [email protected]):

  • Sri Lankan citizens/Dual citizens opting government quarantine;
  • Foreign nationals with Sri Lankan residence not opting tourist channel;
  • Foreigners arriving for projects/meetings invited by government or private agency (must hold landing endorsement/visa) and;
  • Foreign national seafarers

Citizens of Sri Lanka, including children and infants, must have a printed medical certificate in English with:

  • a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. The test must have been taken at most 96 hours prior to the departure of the first flight of their itinerary, or
  • a negative COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test is taken at most 48 hours prior to the departure of the first flight of their itinerary.

Residents of Sri Lanka must have a printed copy of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result certificate from a test taken at most 96 hours prior to the departure of the first flight of their itinerary.

All passengers must complete and present the indemnity form prior to travel and the health declaration form upon arrival.

Citizens and residents of Sri Lanka will need to undergo two PCR tests required by authorities of Sri Lanka. The first PCR test should be taken within 24 hours of arrival and the second PCR test should be taken on day 7 from arrival. Once the PCR test result is negative, passengers will be discharge from the hotel. Then passengers must undergo a mandatory home quarantine for the balance period till the completion of 14 days from arrival. The cost of both PCR tests along with mandatory hotel quarantine for 7-8 days on arrival will be at the passengers on own cost.

Passengers need to pay for the required PCR tests on arrival at their own expense directly to the hospital or hotel.

Hotel costs per day are:

  • sharing room LKR 7500 per day on a full board basis
  • single occupancy LKR 12500 per day on a full board basis

Transportation cost from the airport to the place of quarantine/hotel and any other incidental expenditure must be paid by the passenger.

The following category of passengers can either opt for pre-approval to return or follow the tourist entry requirements: 

  • Sri Lankan holding dual citizenship provided they are holding both passports.
  • Foreign passport holders holding residence visa. Must hold prior approval from Sri Lanka Tourism through if opting for a tourist pathway.
  • Sri Lankan passport holders with a spouse or close family member (child, father, mother) holding foreign passport accompanied together. The Foreign passport holder must hold ETA.
  • Sri Lankan Seafarers returning to Sri Lanka holding a valid Seaman Discharge Book and approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Quarantine Exemptions

Passengers who have received the required doses against COVID-19 and holding a valid vaccination certificate for more than 2 weeks since the last dose, will only be required to take one (1) additional PCR test on arrival and stay in level one hotel until the PCR test results are available. If the COVID-19 vaccination certificate is not in English, passengers must carry a certified translation. Once the PCR test result is negative, passengers will be permitted to leave from level-1 hotel and the bio bubble with no further quarantine. A discharge document will be issued by respective level-1 hotel doctor. Children under 12 years are permitted to accompany fully vaccinated parents/guardians. Children under 2 years are exempted from arrival PCR and children between 2-12 years will undergo arrival PCR.

The above requirements are subject to change without prior notice. Please check the IATA Travel Centre website before your flight to get the latest updates on the requirements at the country you are travelling from and arriving to.

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