How To Travel 30 Days In Sri Lanka With 500 USD

The reclining Buddha at Anuradhapura
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Sri Lanka is fast becoming a preferred destination for travelers. After three decades of civil war, violence is now a thing of the past. Sri Lankans realise that they have a lot to catching up to do and are getting on with their lives.

From pristine beaches to forests & tea gardens and heritage cities, the country has something for every tourist. Another added advantage is that prices in Sri Lanka are pretty reasonable. But don’t worry if you are a budget traveler and want your money to stretch even further. We have you covered in this blog post. Here we share tips on how to spend an entire month traveling in Sri Lanka without spending more than 550 USD.

So let’s go.

A room in Pollanaruwa

Click to read about a warrior god

Stay In Sri Lanka:

If you plan your trip after the high season from October to March, you will find the best prices for hotels and lodges. Hostels, as we know them, are not common in Sri Lanka yet. But most places are clean, well maintained and offer great value.

And because bunk beds and dorms don’t exist (except in Colombo & Galle), traveling with someone can get you the best deals. Most places will charge you the same for the double room they have on offer even if you are a solo traveler.

Expect to pay up to 1000 INR / 15 USD per night for two people, which is not a bad deal at all.


Do not book online in advance. Smaller hotels are not online yet and have the best deals. Get your trishaw driver to show you around.

Bargain and ask for 20-30% discount if you are staying for two nights or more. And remember to smile while you do that.

Use couchsurfing if you can. Though the community is not very big in Sri Lanka, you will be able to find hosts in Colombo, Kandy and other major tourist destinations.

Rice and curry


You can eat well for cheap on the island, provided you eat like the locals do. A normal lunch of ‘rice and curry’ (rice, curry, vegetables or chicken and condiments) in a modest restaurant will be about 100 INR or 1.5 USD. And in any case, you won’t have to pay more than 4 USD for a regular lunch, pretty much anywhere in the country.

Breakfast of hoppers or short eats in the evening cost less than a dollar. Get some sweet Ceylon tea to go along with it. Delicious!

A classic coach of Sri Lankan railways

We visited a terrorist leader’s house. Read about the experience.


The island is well connected by buses. They aren’t the most comfortable. But what that also means is that a four-five hour ride in a crowded bus could cost you less than 300 INR or 4.5 USD.

Trains are a good mode of transport as well, and slightly more comfortable than the buses. But you have to reserve seats in advance. The classic coaches and the many scenic routes make trains a ‘must do’ in Sri Lanka. The most we paid for a train was the air conditioned intercity express from Colombo to Jaffna. A second class reserved ticket cost about 700 INR or 11 USD. Other normal trains were less than half the price for the same route.


You can buy unreserved seats right before your train is about to leave. These tickets will give you space on the train, but you cannot be sure of a seat. Tickets can only be booked at railway stations and not online.

A site at Pollanaruwa


The cultural triangle of Sri Lanka (ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Pollanaruwa and Sigiriya) is not to be missed. However, the entrance fees can feel a bit exorbitant.

Though, the sites are worth the fee, they can possibly rock your budget. If you do the top three (cultural triangle), your pocket will be lighter by about 6000 INR or 91 USD. Some trishaw drivers will suggest alternate routes to escape the fee but charge you a higher fee for themselves. The government does a pretty good job of preserving these heritage sites. So in my personal opinion, it is better to prioritise and pay entrance fee the right way.


A little bit of reading up about the sites in advance will help you make up your mind on which ones you actually want to visit.

That is how you can spend an entire month for less than 550 USD, if you stay frugal (and that does not mean killing yourself). Here is a table with the budget break up:

Type of expenses Price x 30 days Total in INR Total in USD
Accommodation 500 X 30 15000 224
Food 300 X 30 9000 135
Transport(approximation) 300 X 10 3000 45
Activities – cultural triangle entrance fees 2000 X 3 6000 90
Total cost 33000 495 USD(as of 7th June 2016)

You might be able to save on stay and other things if you make friends through couchsurfing and just generally try to chat with people in the cities. Probably, you can do this trip at a cheaper cost too.

Another important expense!

Lion beer

Beer is important and most of you would agree. And though I do not prefer drinking everyday in this part of the world, a pint every couple of days is welcome. Lion beer is quite good and cheap with a 650 ml bottle costing about 100 INR or about 1.5 USD.


There you go, if you can manage to follow these tips you will have a rocking one month in Sri Lanka without having to rock your budget.

Do you have any other tips from experience? How was your time in Sri Lanka? Do let us know.

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  • ~j~ says:

    When I was in Nuwara Eliya last December and asked around for foreign exchange counters, an Indian couple who was also staying at the same hotel told us to just use our Indian ATM/Debit cards and withdraw cash. Since the rate of exchange is beneficial to us Indians, it’s a great tip. Got LKR 15000 for a little over INR 7000. And it saved us the trouble of carrying and exchanging USD.

    • Yes, thats true – the rate of exchange makes Sri Lanka a reasonable destination for Indians too. Neither do Indians have to pay a lot extra when you withdraw cash from ATMS in Lanka. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, you can also write to us if you ever wish to at

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