A Solo Guide for Travelling Around Sri Lanka on a Budget
Sri Lanka is an ideal holiday destination for travellers on a budget, especially if you decide to fully immerse yourself in its culture. A solo sojourn to the country can take you from warm sunny beaches to hikes along its colder mountains, and don’t worry – it is a journey that can be easily undertaken by the lone traveller. If you have wanted to eat-pray-love your way through the world, but found yourself questioning if you could do it on a budget, here’s a guide for Sri Lanka that might come in handy.
You may be wondering if it is safe to visit (especially if you are female), given the reputation of some countries in the South Asian region. Don’t worry – the island is home to some of the kindest and most welcoming people in the world, and it is definitely safe for solo travellers. However, as always, you need to be careful with your belongings and be conscious of your behaviour, when you are in a foreign land.
Travel around Sri Lanka is generally considered to be fairly cheap and easy. If you want to travel short distances, you can easily hail one of the country’s colourful tuk-tuks from the roadside – check if the tuk-tuk has a meter, which should keep prices fair, or agree on a price with the driver before getting in. You can also use a ride-hailing app like Uber or the locally used PickMe to order a vehicle (including tuk-tuks) to pick you up.
If you are travelling long distances, you could consider hiring a private vehicle for your trip. However, it would be far more budget-friendly (and better for the environment) if you were to opt to take public transport, such as a bus or train. Buses are the cheapest way to travel, and are heavily relied upon by the locals – chances are, if you need to get somewhere, a bus can take you there. Trains are a bit more expensive than buses, but are still a pretty low-cost option – plus, the journey will be far more comfortable than if you were to take a bus.
You will find that some cities are more expensive than others – this is especially the case for more “tourist” destinations. On top of that, ticket prices for many tourist attractions are severely marked up over the prices given to locals. If you choose your destinations wisely, however, you can enjoy your holiday with far less spending.
For example, if you are visiting Sigiriya, you can pay a $30 entrance fee to climb up the rock fortress – or you can make your way to Pidurangala Rock nearby, which charges visitors less than $3, and gives you a stunning view of Sigiriya nestled in its surrounding jungles.
There are also plenty of free destinations to visit. Sri Lanka is famous for its spectacular scenery and its natural beauty. A beach holiday is a great way to enjoy the island, with the only real costs to consider being your accommodation and food. You could also plan to explore nature with a hike, such as at Adam’s Peak – there is no entry fee, and it is an amazing journey to the top.
Tours of the tea factories in Sri Lanka’s hill country are also generally free, with most of them offering visitors a free cup of tea and slice of cake to finish the tour. You can support them by purchasing some souvenirs to take back home from their gift shop.
Sri Lanka offers plenty in terms of available accommodations for tourists, from boutique hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Use websites such as booking.com to quickly compare your accommodation costs. Homestays are a popular option with budget travellers – you get to live more like a local, eat a home-cooked meal, and your money goes directly towards the local community.
You will find plenty of high-end restaurants serving a range of international cuisine in Sri Lanka, but if you want to eat well for less, consider dining on some of the country’s delicious local dishes. Rice and curries are a staple on the island, but you can also expand your palate by sampling string hoppers, kottu roti, or lamprais – all scrumptious, filling meals that will keep both your belly and your wallet full. You will find that vegetarian meals are priced the lowest, with slight increases in price when adding meats like chicken, beef or seafood.