How to Travel Solo to Sri Lanka on a Budget
As solo female travellers, we always try to go on trips with a certain budget in mind. This allows us to explore more places without spending a ton of money. One thing that I always do before going on a solo trip is to plan my trip out. Something as simple as this reduces my costs by a lot, and I know exactly where I spend my money. Alternatively, I use this extra cash elsewhere, like on food, safer accommodations, or wherever I need to. Therefore, I end up saving a lot more without compromising on exploring the place.
Sri Lanka is a fairly pocket-friendly destination for solo travellers. It has a lot to offer, like, the ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, amazing wildlife and the beauty of nature. And all of this doesn’t burn a hole in the pocket either. To be very honest, you can complete your solo trip and explore the country in as little as $100-150! That’s ridiculously cheap to explore a whole country! However, it is only possible if you keep a watch on where you spend your money. You can also spend a bomb of money and enjoy a luxurious trip, but I doubt if that is even necessary.
In this blog, I will give you some tips and explain how you can not only explore Sri Lanka without spending a lot of money but also not compromise on exploring the country while doing so. And if you are not convinced about solo travelling but prefer travelling with a friend, family member, or partner, you must check out my blog on why you should try out solo travelling.
Living like a local
The best part about accommodations in Sri Lanka is that no matter what your budget is, you can find a great place to spend your nights. You can choose from accommodations near a beach or hotels in the middle of the city. Both of these have their pros and cons and offer different experiences.
You can choose to spend as little as $5/night in a hut near a beach or as much as $150/night in a luxurious hotel. During my trip to Sri Lanka, I spent a couple of nights in a hut in various locations. It was two nights at Siesta in Tangalle for $7/night, and I had no complaints whatsoever. For as little as $7, you get a homely vibe with the amazing hosts, good safety, spacious bathroom, and amazing paintings.
If you are looking for a hotel in a city, I would recommend The One in Galle. I spent five nights here for $18/night. While this might be on the higher side, the location of this place makes it worthy of the price. It is located slightly away from the heart of the city, so you will not be disturbed by the traffic noises. And also, travelling to tourist attractions is not a problem either. Other than the above-mentioned hotels, you can do a quick Airbnb search and find some places that fit your needs. You can also check out some hotel booking websites and find a suitable place to stay. On average, a good hotel will cost you around $15/night. In my opinion, more than the price, you should look out for your safety at the hotel.
Before packing your bags, make sure you do NOT forget these items!
Getting around the place
Travelling in Sri Lanka is very cheap as compared to other countries. And the best part is that you can walk to a lot of places and would only need transportation services while going from one city to another.
Trains are the best and cheapest mode of transportation for long journeys. A ticket will not cost you more than $10 no matter where you decide to travel to in the country. Apart from being inexpensive, the experience and views from the trains are worth it. There are three classes of seats that the train services in Sri Lanka have to offer.
1st Class: In the first-class tickets, you can reserve your seats, which means that you are guaranteed a seat and will not have to worry about finding a place to sit when you board the train. They are usually the most expensive out of the three classes but still affordable. Do note that the first-class tickets run out pretty fast, so book them well in advance.
2nd Class: In the second-class tickets, only some of the seats can be reserved. And usually, the tickets for these reserved seats are sold out rapidly. So, once you buy a ticket, you will have to catch a seat for yourself before someone else takes it. Due to this, you will find a lot of passengers standing in the second-class trains.
3rd Class: In the third-class tickets, seat reservation is not possible. This means that occupying a seat before someone else is your only option. You will find a lot of people standing in these compartments as well. The ticket for the third-class is very cheap. I would recommend that you avoid the third-class and look for the second-class, or best, the first-class!
A good alternative to the trains is buses. You can take buses if you wish to travel from one city to another and do not want to spend a lot of money on transportation. There are public as well as private bus operators in the country, with the private buses being slightly more costly as compared to the public ones. The cool breeze from the windows and the beautiful views of the Sri Lankan landscapes are worthy of a bus ride.
Buses usually run from 5:30 in the morning until 6:30 in the evening. If you want to know more about the bus numbers and timings, click here. You can also ask a local about the details, and they will help you out. Do note that the bus too, just like the trains, can get crowded and it can be difficult to get a seat. The best thing to do is to take a bus from a bus station/depot instead of a bus stop, but that, however, is not possible every time.
Known as Bajajs and auto-rickshaws in Sri Lanka and as tuk-tuks around the world, these are three-wheeled vehicles that have enough space for two people. You will see auto-rickshaws all around the country, so finding one when you need one is not a problem.
Most of these autos are metered. But you can also find some special autos that you can hire for half a day or a full day for exploring the places. In this case, you will need to fix a certain price that you must pay at the end of the day.
These are more expensive than buses but much faster! If you do not wish to travel in crowded buses but rather prefer to travel alone while not spending a lot of money, auto-rickshaws are the best pick for you.
You can book a cab for getting from one place to another or book it for the entirety of your trip. The cost of the cab will depend on the distance from your place to the place you want to travel to. But don’t be afraid/embarrassed to bargain here.
When it comes to booking a car for the entirety of your trip, you can book it either with a driver or without one. You can book one without a driver if you are a foreign driving license holder with a temporary Sri Lankan Driving License. This way, you will also save money too. On average, a car with a driver will cost you $50/day and one without a driver around $35/day. Note that these are just average prices and may differ.
Fuel your tummy on a budget
Your worries about your meals will be taken care of by the hotel if you choose to stay in a decent hotel. However, if you wish to stay at a place that has no provision for food, worry not because food in Sri Lanka is quite cheap too. On average, you can eliminate your hunger by around $5/meal. Usually, breakfasts are much cheaper than lunch or dinner. And you will not be spending more than $15/day on food!
During my solo trip to Sri Lanka, I restricted myself to the $15-mark and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Once in a while, I opted to eat something fancy or a local delicacy because it is okay to spend a little extra sometimes. At the end of the day, it is the experience that matters! And if you get a great experience by spending a few extra dollars, you should go for it.
You should also try out the Sri Lankan tea. Sri Lanka is known for its tea cultivation, and the tea here is amazing, without a doubt! A cup would cost you around 20 cents in a tea stall and not more than a dollar in any restaurant across the country. You can choose to have a cup of tea with breakfast or have it along with an evening snack.
If you are not sure where to eat in Sri Lanka, don’t worry because I have some recommendations. Please note that this is just my list, but you can try out other places too.
Ministry of Crab
Lavish; pocket-friendly; all cuisines
Local Sri Lankan food
$1/cup of tea
You don’t have to be rich to travel well
Sri Lanka has a lot of places that you can explore. Be it the tourist attractions, wildlife, or historical monuments! The entry fee of every place is a nominal one, nothing more than a couple of dollars.
There are a lot of ancient places in the country that you can explore. I would recommend that you visit a couple of places like Sigiriya Fortress, Adam’s Peak, and Galle Dutch Fort and take a pass on the other unless you’re a complete history nerd! When it comes to exploring wildlife, you should visit the Yala National Park, and this park is more than enough when it comes to exploring wildlife in Sri Lanka!
Also, there are quite a few tourist attractions that you can visit on a budget in Sri Lanka. Some of the interesting ones include Temple of the Tooth, Nuwara Eliya, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, Lotus Tower, Anuradhapura, Mihintale, and Ravana Falls.
You can also do your research and visit other places too.
When it comes to shopping in Sri Lanka, you can purchase anything from clothes, hand-made stuff, souvenirs, and whatnot. And I think shopping for international brands on a solo trip is not worth it AT ALL! I mean, who would even go shopping in H&M and buy a Nutella jar in Sri Lanka?! Oh well, I personally know people who’d buy a Nutella jar to bring back home from their trip! Not kidding!
You should rather shop for the local Sri Lankan brands and go street shopping instead.
Some places that you should check out are The Franciscan Sister’s Jam Room in Nuwara Eliya, Pettah Floating Market, Jewel Arena in Colombo, Crescat Boulevard in Colombo, Dutch Gallery in Galle, Orchid House in Galle, Barefoot in Colombo and Galle, Lakpahana in Colombo and Paradise Road.
While all of this is great, you need to keep a few things in mind.
- Make sure that you take a break between your shopping to relax and refresh yourself too.
- Pick out the places you want to shop at beforehand, to avoid last-minute confusion.
- Avoid shopping during rush hours because it can get quite crowded.
- Wear comfortable clothes that will help you in the hot and humid Sri Lankan climate.
The trip to Sri Lanka is a wonderful one…
I know it was a lot of information, but all of it was important for you to know. To sum it all up, Sri Lanka is a fairly inexpensive place for all female solo travellers. You shouldn’t worry a lot about the monetary aspect. Enjoy your trip to the fullest because it is the experience that matters more than anything else! And if Sri Lanka happens to be your first solo travel destination, do check my blog on things that you shouldn’t expect from your first solo trip.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.