Sri Lanka Travel Guide

by Kelly

Our Sri Lanka Travel Guide is everything you need in one place to plan your trip. Sri Lanka completely stole our hearts! Our time here was sadly cut short due to the Covid-19 Pandemic but we have plans to go back and finish our trip…or just do it all over again. It was that good. Where to start…the people are kind, friendly and happy. The scenery is diverse for a small country, from arid areas, beaches to lush high country and safari. The food is epic! If you love a curry you will be happy but even if you aren’t a huge fan (you probably will be soon here) there are heaps of other options to try out. I loved the food so much I have been trying to replicate our favourites here at home. One thing is for sure, if you come to Sri Lanka you will not be disappointed.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Useful Information

Currency – The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee however USD are also widely accepted and can be changed for rupee easily. We took AUD and had no problem exchanging money all over Sri Lanka.

Capital City – Colombo. This is generally where you will fly in and out of when visiting Sri Lanka.

Visa – It is easy to obtain a visa for Sri Lanka, they cost around USD $30 at the time we visited. You can apply online for an e-visa, it is always good idea to print it out to have on hand for arrival if possible. The process is really simple, this is the link for the Sri Lanka Visa.

Language – The official languages are Sinhala and Tamil however some basic English is also used as Sri Lanka has a history of British rule.

What to eat – Did someone say curry? The food is so full of flavour and the servings are huge! There are tons of vegetarian options as well as meats. The usual dish is a curry plate which is rice served with at least 3 types of different curry. Don’t be afraid to try the local foods as you will be pleasantly surprised. Food was cheap in local or street side places. You can definitely go to fancier or more western style restaurants but we love to eat locally. Not only does your money go to the local owner but you’ll usually end up meeting people and get the chance to chat and learn from them. Of course language can be a barrier but usually a few gestures will help with a simple conversation.

Festivals and Celebrations – There are many fun and interesting celebrations and if you are lucky enough to visit during one then it would definitely be recommended to attend and enjoy the experience.

Safety – Honestly I am quite a timid person for a traveller, I am always wary of everyone and every circumstance. People are lovely here, we never had any problems and in general people were always looking for a chat and a handshake. While tourists usually are safe from petty crime here I wouldn’t put myself in any more danger than in any other country and always exercise caution. As always I would advise in investing in travel insurance that you can trust, such as World Nomads.

Tea plantations in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Budgeting information


Budget $10-$15

Mid-range $20-$30

Luxe $50+


Street food 75c-$2

Mid range $3-$5

Splurge $10+

Draught beer at local places we found was generally 67c


Flights vary but range around $50-$150

Mini bus/budget $10

VIP sleeper buses $25

Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Trip Planning

Best time to go – Travel to Sri Lanka is great anytime of the year as the climate is varied. The general best time to visit is between December to April when it is warm and dry. We visited in February/March and it was perfect!

How to get there – The Bandaranaike International Airport is in the suburb of Negombo, 33km from the city centre of Colombo.

Transportation – We drove our own tuk tuk around the country but most people will take the buses. They generally go everywhere and can range from very basic to very comfortable. The large buses are old and slow. In general it is how everyone gets around while travelling in Sri Lanka. You can also take trains and there is a really popular one between Nuwarwa Eliya and Ella. You can also hire a car to get around.

Budget – Sri Lanka is affordable, a rough budget would be around $35 per day, as a couple we spent approximately $50 per day. See our tips at the end of this article to see a rough budget.

What to pack – Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, you will need a range of clothing as it goes from hot i the north and south to quite cold in the centre hill country. Religion is deeply respected and as such it is not respectful to wear revealing clothing, shorts or sleeveless tops aren’t recommended particularly at these sites. Make sure to cover your shoulders (upper arms) and at least to the knee. In some places you will need to carry a sari so you can wrap it around your waist and cover your legs. You should also remove your shoes and socks. It is a predominately warm climate so packing items that are covering but cool are key such as those made from quick dry materials, light linen etc. Check out my must pack list for Sri Lanka here.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Itinerary

We loved this country so much and there are so many places that we have to go back to visit and some we would love to return to. Here you will find our itinerary and a rough idea of how many days to spend in each town. Our trip was for 4 weeks but I honestly I could have stayed much longer if possible and would definitely return. This itinerary includes all the places we visited and includes how we travelled between the towns. These are some of our favourites and definitely ones we would not miss, if you want the details of each place and what you must do in each then please click on the name and it will take you to its blog detailing all the must dos. In general most people get around on the buses however we rented a tuk tuk and drove ourselves around.

Day 1 – Enter Sri Lanka via Colombo International Airport, we arrived in the evening and caught a tuk tuk to Negomo and our accommodation for the night.

Day 2 – Colombo – 1 day – Spend time exploring the city. Alternatively you could do this at the end of your trip if you prefer to get on the road asap! This is what we did.

Day 3 & 4- Travel to Anuradhapura – We drove ourselves straight here, which is about a 4 hour drive. We did try to detour and visit another town along the way but this turned into a nightmare as we couldn’t find any accommodation and decided to go straight to Anuradhapura instead. Mike definitely fine tuned his tuk tuk driving skills on this first day of driving! You can catch a bus here as well. We wanted to go north first to end up on the beaches at the end of our trip. We spent another day here to explore all that this city has to offer. As it is part of the cultural triangle there are many important sights here. Check out where we stayed and what we did in this blog.

Day 5 & 6 – Drive to Sigiriya – This was about a 2 hour drive in out tuk tuk, the buses may be faster. Sigiriya was a lovely small town with Sigiriya Rock as its main attraction but there is plenty more to do there. We loved the small town vibe and our accommodation with a local family. Read about our time here in this blog. 

Day 7 – Travel to Dambulla – This only took about an hour to drive and we really went there to see the Golden Temple but boy did this town have more in store for us! This is our blog detailing our Dambulla adventures with a lovely local family.

Day 8 to 9 – Travel to Kandy, about 2 hours. We planned to do a lot in Kandy but ended up in the hills and never came back to the city. There are cultural places to visit here but the city is very busy and honestly one drive through there was enough for me. The hills were beautiful and peaceful, our accommodation was incredible and we just didn’t want to leave! I’ve put 2 days to go visit the cultural sites if you are inclined.

Day 10 to 13- Travel to Nuwara Eliya, about 2 hours – we headed for the high country and I do mean high! We took our tuk tuk up so many hills and it never let us down. The air becomes clean, cool and crisp and the landscape becomes green and lush. It was breathtakingly beautiful and I really recommend coming here. Read about our stay and what to do here. We were meant to stay for a day but loved it so much we ended up staying for about 3 here.

Day 14 – Travel to Ella, about 2 hours – We were so excited to get to Ella. I had heard so many great things but honestly it kind of disappointed us both. Maybe it was the weather, maybe Nuwara Eliya was just too good, we aren’t sure. It is definitely a funky little town and one that others love though. We had full days of rain and it just didn’t work out for us there. I didn’t even get to see the Ella bridge that I was desperate to go to. I would definitely go back there when we return to give it another go though. This was our experience there, unfortunately for us when we arrived here is just when Covid 19 hit and we really struggled from here on. Places we wanted to go to were closing.

Day 15 – Travel to Mirissa  – 3 hours (or more when you decide to go on an adventure!) We just wanted to leave Ella so set off early to head south to Mirissa. We were ready for the beach and decided to stop off along the way and make this day a full exploration day. Unfortunately due to Covid 19 the national parks were closing and we didn’t get to visit a safari or stay in there as we had planned. However we did head down the elephant highway! Read about how we did it in this blog.

Day 16 and 17 – Explore Mirissa – this is a great town, there a loads of places to stay, you can visit Coconut Tree Hill too, check out our blog here.

Day 18 to 20 – Travel to Midigama and Kabalama – Both of these towns were tiny and right next to each other. The are really similar and both great. I would spend a couple of days at each if I had the time. We stayed at Lime and Co in Kaba and LOVED it, read about our experience here. These towns were seriously relaxing, if laid back beach towns are your vibe you will love both.

Day 21 – Travel to Unawatuna –  Another amazing beach town. Unfortunately on the day we were meant to drive here the Covid 19 pandemic took hold and the country went into lock down. We were told to either find accommodation for 2 weeks lockdown or immediately fly out. We went on our epic Race to Colombo Adventure and made it just as the country locked down and the military took control. Check out this story here. There are still so many places we want to come back and visit in Sri Lanka. There are places in the north and south that we have missed and need to explore. If we had more time we would have visited Galle, Hikkaduwa, Tissamahara, Jaffna, Polonnaruwa,  Trinaconalee and many more!

Sri Lanka Travel Guide – What to do in Sri Lanka

I loved Sri Lanka so much, there is something for everyone here. This is my top ten things I wouldn’t leave without doing…I’m planning on going back so will update as I continue to travel here.

Beach hut in Kaba

1. Beach Towns

Stop off at all the little beach towns along the coast. I could beach hop for days. We came across these little beach huts and had a fantastic day in the sun.

Coconut tree hill

2. Coconut Tree Hill

2. Coconut Tree Hill – I loved spending time in Coconut Tree Hill, it was peaceful and just simply stunning.

Ambuluwawa tower

3. Ambuluwawa tower

Climbing Ambuluwawa tower was definitely an experience. It is tall and the external stair way curves around until it becomes a tiny space toward the top. It is not big enough for two people to get up at the top so there are little gaps that you can lean in and let others past. Check out our time here in this post.

4. Explore the tea fields

The tea fields are stunning! Lush green that stretches on for miles, you can take a tour or wander on your own, either way it is incredible.

Peacocks in Sri Lanka

5. Check out the wildlife

There is so much wildlife in Sri Lanka. Although the safari parks were closed due to covid we were lucky enough to see peacocks just in the wild. As we drove along some country roads we noticed these beautiful birds in a field and had to pull over to watch them in nature.

Sri Lanka Markets

6. Visit the markets

The markets in Sri Lanka are awesome. They are full of things to buy but also local produce. We loved wandering around and filled our bags with all the freshest fruits

Pidurangala Rock

7. Climb Pidurangala Rock

7. Instead of climbing Sigiriya Rock we climbed Pidurangala Rock and took in the views across to Sigiriya. This would be stunning at sunrise but we headed there in the afternoon and as the sun started to set it was just lovely. It is a bit of a tricky climb at the top but it was so worth it.

8. Elephant Highway

8. Drive down elephant highway and watch in wonder as these huge elephants just wander out on to the road. They may approach your car too.

Dambulla temple

9. Visit religious sites

There are so many varied sites to visit in Sri Lanka, there is the cultural triangle in the north and more as you head south. They are worth visiting as you really get an insight into the culture. 

Watch the sunsets over Kandy hills

10. Watch the sunsets over hills of Kandy

The soft purple light was incredibly pretty. Just a serene moment to stop and drink in, check out our accommodation, it was the best!

Where to stay

We stayed in some great places in Sri Lanka. We tried to stay with host families where possible so the money goes straight to them and we were rewarded with meeting the loveliest people. The following are where we stayed  in each town and our honest opinions of them.

Disclaimer, we do use affiliate links which give us a small commission at no cost to you when you click through and purchase from them. You don’t have to purchase the particular item or accommodation that we suggest and it is much appreciated by us!


Bes. It was ok. We pre-booked online as we were arriving pretty late. By the time that we got there everyone was asleep and we knocked for ages before they woke up to let us in. The room was ok, very basic. There was a shared bathroom and the breakfast looked nice although we didn’t have it. It was located just behind the main road area where most of the hotels and cafes are. If we went back we would stay on the main street. Check out the reviews of others and compare pricing at booking and Agoda.


Golden Hotel. A really great find. We saw that it was super cheap on Booking and Agoda and thought it looked alright so gave it a try. It was run by such nice people and they really looked after us. The room was basic but comfortable and it had a private bathroom attached.


We stayed with a family at Sigiriya Village Homestay, they were very sweet. It was in the mothers house and the grandparents and a daughter and her husband all lived in little houses in the same

plot of land. They grew fruit and gave us breakfast and snacks throughout the day even though it wasn’t included. The location was close enough to town and to all the sights.


Niduwari Lake Homestay. We loved it here, the people were great and when I explained that I was coeliac (after much google translating, see my blog post on this here) brought me the best gf breakfast I had on the trip. Lovely rice balls filled with sweet coconut sugar. It was absolutely delicious! The rooms were comfortable and big with a private bathroom and they had a beautiful garden to sit amongst.


We stayed at Theva Residency, and it was incredible! Definitely worth the splurge for the views across the hills. This hotel is tucked away high up in the hills of Kandy and it is just luxurious. The rooms are impeccable, huge windows from floor to ceiling and a spa in front of the windows. The bathroom was beautifully and naturally decorated with rocks and rain shower. The hotel pool and restaurant were just as nice and all in all we really loved our stay here. The staff were very sweet and kind.

Nuwara Eliya

The Fern Homestay is great! A really sweet couple run it with their little child running around. The rooms are very clean with a private bathroom and there is a balcony to go and soak up views across town. For a chilly town the rooms were warm and they had plenty of bedding. We must have had 13 thousand pots of tea here and they were kind enough to bring them up to our room. We ate there one night also and the mother made us the best curry plates we had on the whole trip.


We really couldn’t find a good place to stay here, maybe it was the rain, the fact that we hadn’t booked and it is a busy town or that Covid was just starting but every room we saw had mould all over the walls and roof. Nothing felt clean and we just weren’t happy. We searched all night and finally slept in a hotel..somewhere! I can’t even remember the name it was so late at night. Let this be a warning, in Ella it is worth spending a little more and you should definitely pre book your stay.


we stayed in a little surf hotel. There were surfers out organising boards and chatting when I walked in to check it out. Although we weren’t surfers this suited us to the tee. Close to the action and main road with a supermarket and cafes. The beach was accessed via a little alley and we cruised along the coast and really enjoyed our time here. The rooms were clean and basic with a private bathroom.


I think this is our favourite place to stay in Sri Lanka, if you come here make sure to book in to Lime and Co. They have 2 hotels, one in Midigama and this one in Kabalana. I would honestly book in a few nights at both and soak up their amazing hospitality. We are 100% planning on returning here.

Our incredible accommodation in Kandy

We absolutely loved visiting Sri Lanka and plan to go back soon to finish our trip that was interrupted by covid. The people, scenery and food are incredible. If you are looking for a travel destination that has something for everyone then Sri Lanka is the perfect place!

Where to next:

Ultimate self drive Sri Lanka itinerary

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Best way to spend one day in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Pidurangala Rock, Sri Lanka – The ultimate guide!

What to do in Sigiriya when you don’t climb Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

Why Theva Residency is the best hotel in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya – home of tea plantations Sri Lanka

Lime & Co Kaba – perfect beach hotel in Sri Lanka

Midigama & Kabalana – two perfect little beach towns you should visit

Gluten Free in Sri Lanka

Tuk tuk hire Sri Lanka – Renting and driving a tuk tuk around Sri Lanka!

Your go to Sri Lanka packing list

Dambulla and the Golden Buddah Temple

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