Sri Lanka is a pear-shaped tropical island in the Indian ocean and it used to go with
the name of Ceylon when the country was captured by Portuguese, Dutch and English colonists in the age of discovery. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka and the land was given back to those who deserve it.And, you have to know that nowadays Sri Lanka is an excellent‘off-the-beaten-path’ & tropical travel destination. In this article, you will be able to read about 11
essential things to know about backpacking in Sri Lanka. The topics on this page are there
to prepare you for when you will be backpacking on the island. They are written in such way to make sure that you should be well prepared for your backpacking journey.
Table of contents
- 1. It’s a safe country for backpacking
- 2. Essential tip: don’t Forget about Sri Lanka’s tourist visa arrangements
- 3. Buy a local Sri Lankan SIM card for your smartphone on the airport at arrival.
- 4. Local transport in Sri Lanka is a great adventure on its own
- 5. Colombo is a vibrant but modern capital city
- 6. Most of the country is still untouched by widespread tourism.
- 7. Sri Lanka is a well cheap backpacking destination
- 8. Delicious food is available everywhere on the tropical island
- 9. Things to know about health and hygiene in Sri Lanka
- 10. Breathtaking nature and many animals all over the island
- 11. Conclusion: when is the perfect time to visit Sri Lanka?
1. It’s a safe country for backpacking
2. Essential tip: don’t Forget about Sri Lanka’s tourist visa arrangements
- The tourist visa is valid for 30 days. Make sure you know this before you plan your backpacking trip. A fine will be applicable if you don’t take this into account.
My essential advice for you know: You can extend your stay by going to the immigration service center in Colombo. It’s in the middle of the capital city of Sri Lanka. Do this before your run out of the 30 days that are applicable to the Tourist visa.
- You can apply for a tourist visa online before you arrive. The other option is to apply for the visa when you arrive at the airport. The (small) processing price for your tourist visa depends on which country you live in.
- Know that your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months when you enter the country.
3. Buy a local Sri Lankan SIM card for your smartphone on the airport at arrival.
- Know that calling/texting from a Sri Lankan sim card to other countries is (probably) going to be a much cheaper option.
- 3g /4g is really affordable on the island and you get 8gb for +- 5$. Plus, you have to know that the WIFI in hostels is probably going to be super slow. The 3g/4g network will enable you to use google maps and use the internet. You are going to enjoy this when you want to book an accommodation in advance. Also, for when you need to search for some information about sightseeing and want to know about where to go on your backpacking trip.
- I have seen about 20 foreign tourists buying a local sim card during my backpacking trip in Sri Lanka. I also advised other backpacking tourists in Sri Lanka to do the same thing. Buying a local sim card really helps to make everything go so much easier when you are backpacking on the island.
4. Local transport in Sri Lanka is a great adventure on its own
5. Colombo is a vibrant but modern capital city
Colombo is the official financial & commercial capital city of Sri Lanka. Its location is also quite close to Negombo, that is where the biggest airport of the island is. You have to know that the capital city a recommended backpacking destination for any backpacker. But know that you should explore the city in a maximum time span of 1 or 2 days. After that, head out backpacking to rest of the country. There are still so many other places for you to discover on the island.
6. Most of the country is still untouched by widespread tourism.
Note: Unawatuna was named “The Best Beach in the World” by Discovery Television Channel in 2004. Today Unawatuna is really becoming overwhelmed by tourism. But still, it’s a lovely place. And know that I do recommend you to go there.
Don’t skip the central mid- and highlands
Another essential for you to know: Ella, Kandy, Sigiriya and Anuradhapura are the hotspots in the central mid- and highlands. You have to know that they surely are a must see for any backpacker. They sure are one of the better things to know about backpacking in Sri Lanka.
7. Sri Lanka is a well cheap backpacking destination
Sri Lanka is a very affordable country for backpacking. This is one of most essential things to know about backpacking in this country. I even think it’s one of the cheapest backpacking destinations I ever went to. But the reason why I could keep it cheap is that I was able to save some money on transportation and accommodation. I saved some money because then I was able to spend a bit more money on sightseeing, some fresh drinks, and good food.
Overview of common costs in Sri Lanka
- Hostel: minimum 4-8 $ (600 – 1200 RS) for one night
- Guesthouse: Around 10$ (1500 RS) for one night
- Local beer: 1,9 $ (300 RS)
- Inexpensive local restaurant food: 1,65 $ (250 RS)
- Ticket for a long journey train: 1-2$ (150 – 300 RS)
Tuk Tuk pricing guide: Don’t get scammed
Some advice for you to know: Definitely do take a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka. You will be amazed by this experience on your backpacking trip. I promise you this.
Cash withdrawal tips
Not every ATM in Sri Lanka accepts foreign credit cards. Only ‘Commercial Bank’ seemed to work well for me every time. If it will work for you or not is also going to depend on your personal bank. I always withdrew cash with my MasterCard or Maestro card (Visa also works perfectly). Withdrawals in the local currency (Sri-Lanka-Rupee, LKR) have been no problem. My advice for you to know is to try out some different ATM’s when you are backpacking in Sri Lanka. But do get some cash from an ATM at the airport when you arrive. So you won’t lose your first half of the day figuring out which bank does or doesn’t accept your credit card. This an essential thing to know about backpacking in Sri Lanka.
8. Delicious food is available everywhere on the tropical island
Tip: Try out the national dish ‘rice and curry’, when you are backpacking in Sri Lanka. Rice and curry is a very tasty and healthy dish that never gets boring.
9. Things to know about health and hygiene in Sri Lanka
Health and Vaccinations
When it comes to things to know about vaccinations: always be sure you see them as a key precautionary. You should always make sure that they are being taken into your account. It’s one of the essential things to know about what’s best for your health for when you are backpacking. Below I have listed some recommended vaccinations for Sri Lanka:
Watch out for drinking tap water
Tips & tricks about drinking water in Sri Lanka:
- Buy bottled water, it’s almost available in shops on every street corner. It’s cheap (Only 40 RS(0,26 $) per bottle) and you will constantly need it because of the tropical heat on the island.
Tip: Always make sure that the plastic seal of the bottle is still unbroken when you buy bottled water. The bottle might be refilled with plain tap water when the seal is broken.
- Avoid drinks with ice cubes when you buy it in on the streets.
- Tap water in restaurants is sometimes boiled or purified by chlorination and is perfectly safe to drink.
10. Breathtaking nature and many animals all over the island
11. Conclusion: when is the perfect time to visit Sri Lanka?
Whenever you wonder when the perfect time is to visit Sri Lanka: almost about a year-round. This is definitely one the most essential things to know about backpacking. The island in the Indian ocean is a beautiful backpacking destination. Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons: from October to November and from June to July. This means excessive rain for hours, every day. But know that it’s perfectly ok to come outside again when the rain stops falling.
Know that the wet atmosphere of the rain cools off the hot temperature of the tropical climate in Sri Lanka. So, I didn’t really mind the heavy rain in November 2016. That was when I was staying in Sri Lanka’s cultural capital, Kandy. The monsoon gave a special atmosphere to the tropical climate. It felt like a good experience. You might agree with me about this or not. This opinion will depend on your own backpacking experience.
When it comes to essential things to know about choosing a good time in the year to visit Sri Lanka, expect December – April for very hot and sunny weather. This is also the high season for backpacking tourism in the South-West. So expect prices to be more expensive in that region. Do know that the weather can be unpredictable and can change quickly. Especially in the mountains around Ella. But you have to know that the average temperature will be very enjoyable. So a little bit of rain now and then will not matter that much.
Sri Lanka is a small, but a very precious tropical island. You need to know that I had a great time there. One of the greatest times in my life actually. My advice for you: don’t rush over the island in too little time. Instead, take enough time to breathe in the atmosphere. Do enjoy and behold the breathtaking sceneries on the island when you are backpacking. Plus, you will get amazed by the common hospitality of Sri Lankans. Know that you’ll need at least 3-4 weeks to do your backpacking trip in the best way. Y I really can’t wait to go back again to Sri Lanka, one of my favorite backpacking destinations in the world.