Cost of travel in Sri Lanka

The cost of travel in Sri lanka is technically more expensive compared to the other South East Asian countries. Yet given the number of tourist attractions and facilities, it is definitely an affordable destination to visit. Food and travel is reasonably priced. Also, decent accommodation establishments are usually budget friendly equipped with all essential facilities. If you choose to stay at the more expensive and luxurious boutique hotels every night then you will end up spending more money. So to keep to a budget we would suggest staying at various types of accommodation. You can include some nights at simple hotels with some luxury resorts in the mix.

Backpackers can resort to local transport which may increase travel time but definitely cost of travel to the bare minimum. Most guesthouses and hostels are budget friendly with great facilities and plenty of engaging activities. National parks and tourist sites on the other hand are rather expensive and can be avoided. Adventure sports like surfing and diving can also be costly, but can definitely be taken up by saving on other expenses. For budget, comfort and luxury travellers, on the other hand, there are plenty of options, depending on how much you wish to spend.

stilt fishing in sri lanka Stilt fishing in Sri Lanka. A traditional practice of fishing, still practised in several regions and often used as a means to attract tourists.


Having become a popular tourist destination,  most cities in Sri Lanka are equipped with the best of establishments. Be it hostels, hotels, guesthouses, homestays that don’t cost you a bomb and are still beautiful accommodations.

For a minimum budget, in which you stay at BnBs and homestays that offer a nice room with an attached bathroom, you are looking to pay an approximate of $20 per head. These will be simple but clean and pleasant. As a rule, there is no obvious backpacker culture in Sri Lanka like you might find in countries like Thailand. Backpackers therefore may have to consider staying in a variation of budget accommodation with private rooms instead.

If you have a slightly higher budget then expect to be staying in hotels at better locations with a little more comfort as opposed to settling for the basics. You will be paying around $30-$50 for somewhere more comfortable.  Sri Lanka doesn’t have a lot of 3 or 4 star hotels so you may have to do a blend of comfort hotels along with budget stays or luxury hotels. Pick what suits your needs while keeping in mind your ideal budget.

For those who wish to stay at luxury boutique hotels then you will be looking to spend anything between $70-$140 a night per head depending on whether you pick a luxury hotel or an uber luxury resort. Sri Lanka has a variety of exotic hotels to pamper yourself and bask in luxury. They usually come with a pool, are on a beach or surrounded by vast stretches of forests or lush green plantations. If you stay at boutique hotels for the entire duration of your trip, then your travel cost is bound to hike up. One way to balance it out while still travelling in luxury, add a couple of comfort hotels along with the uber luxury hotels for the perfect experience that caters to all your needs.

hotels in sri lanka A gorgeous boutique Hotel in Sri Lanka, just off the south coast.

Tourist Attractions and Activities

It is true that Sri Lanka does charge extortionate prices for monument entry fees, particularly in the Cultural Region. It may seem unfair that, as a tourist, you might have to pay sometimes triple the amount that a Sri Lankan citizen would have to. Instead of feeling cheated by these prices, remember that the reason is to increase the standard of living for locals who primarily thrive on the tourism industry. It also caters to the lower middle class locals so that they can afford to visit the numerous cultural attractions. Chalk out the monuments and activities that appeal to you most and set your budget accordingly.

Approximate cost (per person) for popular tourist attractions:

Sigiriya Lion Rock: $30

Polonnaruwa Ancient City: $25

Anuradhapura ruins: $25

Dambulla cave temples: $10

Temple of the Tooth Relic: $10

Wildlife Safaris in Sri Lanka can also be very expensive. You will need to hire the jeep for half the day, which will be anywhere between LKR 3500-5000 ($20-$30), an entrance fee of $15 and an additional 10% tip for the guide It also accounts for any extra for charges for pick-up and drop-off. Given the number of National parks in Sri Lanka, pick the right one that suits your interests, whether you’re an ardent birdwatcher, wildlife enthusiast or wildlife photographer. Each National park has its own highlights and to ensure you stick to your daily budget pick one instead of visiting them all.

Being an island country, Sri Lanka’s vast coastline also allows you to indulge in a number of watersports. Scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing, being the most popular. Taking a surf class or diving lessons at the main beaches can be pretty costly, but definitely worth it if you’re looking to pump up that adrenaline. Taking these lessons at the lesser known, local beaches or renting out equipment and simply hitting the beach is definitely a more budget friendly option.

Overall, for a two week holiday you would have to account for an approximate amount of $125 per head for the various tourist attractions and activities in Sri Lanka.

surfing in sri lanka - weligama beach Surfing in Sri Lanka, the ideal place for learning lessons. However, surf lessons could be slightly expensive compared to other activities.


Travelling in Sri Lanka should be the least of your concerns. From tuk tuks and trains to private taxis and self drive cars, they have it all. Internal transport in Sri Lanka is extremely reasonable if you stick to public transport – tuk-tuks, trains and busses. A train or bus ticket will cost you only LKR 300 ($2) – for long journeys as well! Though there are no fixed prices for tuk tuks, you will probably end up paying LKR 50 – 100 per km (which is not even a dollar!). If you choose to rent a tuk tuk for a day then this will only be $5-$10. So only a small amount of your budget will go towards getting around in Sri Lanka.

Hiring a car and driver is the more expensive option but definitely the most comfortable form of travel. Having a private car or taxi at your disposal allows you to take detours and make multiple stops as and when you wish to. You’re likely to pay $75 a day per head and then will have to multiply this by the number of days you require the driver for. We would recommend doing a combination of transport options so that you use a driver but for only a segment of your trip. Besides that you could us private busses or local trains in order to minimalise your cost of travel in Sri Lanka.

Travelling in sri lanka - tuk tuk Tuk tuks make for the ideal means of intra city and sometimes even inter city transport.


Food and Drink

Buying food while you’re away is very affordable with a Sri Lankan Thali (a dish with a selection of curries and rice) costing $2-$4 a head. Street food is even cheaper and you’ll only have to spend $1.5 on a filling meal.  Don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and try local Sri Lankan cuisine. Especially food available at family run restaurants. They are the definition of hygiene and are as authentic as it gets. Most accommodations,  be it backpacker hostels or luxury hotels, will include breakfast in the price meaning that most days you’ll have to pay an overall of $7-$10 per head for all your meals.There aren’t that many fine dining restaurants available unless you visit a luxury or boutique hotel. Even these will not charge you more than $15 a meal. So expect to taste some delicious, inexpensive food during your stay.

When buying alcohol you should always try and go for local beers such as: Lion Lager, Three Coins, or Anchor beer. They will be pricier at bars and restaurants than at liquor stores but are still cheap compared to western prices. Imported beers are given a hefty increase in price, but there is a great selection of local beers to try instead. If you’re looking to try some local Sri Lankan liquor, make sure you try Arrack –  distilled from the sap of the coconut flower.

Kothu - food in Sri Lanka Mouth watering Kothu accompanied with fresh pineapple juice

Shopping and Miscellaneous

The chances are that most of the souvenirs or clothes you buy from markets will only cost you $2. You have to make sure to bargain for a fair price as sellers often hike up rates for tourists. Make sure whatever price they tell you, that you half it to begin with. Then you’ll slowly reach a middle point of agreement. There’s no reason why shopping should cost you anymore than 4% of your trip, unless you’re a shopaholic who cannot ignore all the vibrant trinkets on sale!

Tipping is expected in Sri Lanka. For waiters and your driver, you are expected to pay 10% of your overall fee. If you choose to hire a guide to show you around monuments then you should arrange a fee beforehand. Of course this is always dependent on how good your experience was. Don’t feel pressured into tipping a lot if you didn’t think the service was very good.

shopping in sri lanka Shopping in the busy markets of Pettah, Colombo.

Two Week Budget

Overall, we can give you an estimate for how much you could spend on a two week trip to Sri Lanka.

For those on a shoestring budget, it is possible to spend only $30-$40 per person every day. This will include private, simple accommodation or hostels wherever possible, entry fee for monuments, a few train journeys and activities. It will also include local busses or three wheelers for getting around. Therefore an approximate budget for 2 weeks would be anything between $500 – $700 per person.

For those hoping to stay in more comfortable accommodation that include some boutique hotels, plus a car and a driver for a fair few days of your trip, should be looking to pay on average $100-$200 per day. This gives you a total of a maximum of $2,800 per person for the duration of two weeks.

Luxury travellers will be expecting to pay $200-$250 a day per person. This is if you choose to stay in luxurious or boutique hotels and hire a car and driver for the whole duration of your stay. On average you will end up paying around $3,200 for each person for a two week holiday to Sri Lanka.

2 weeks in sri lanka itinerary Solo travelling to Sri Lanka? Get in touch & we will manage to plan a trip within your budget.

Hopefully your questions regarding cost of travel in Sri Lanka are all answered now. If you plan on visiting this tropical island, be sure to look up our travel tips. The ideal guide with everything you need to know before visiting the country. Get in touch with Sri Lanka Someday and we can assist you in planning the right holiday for your budget.

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