While backpacking in Sri Lanka you spend money on one of the beautiful places on earth. But as we are backpackers we need to spend money wisely. Therefore the following blogpost should give you some tips where you can save money for budget backpacking in Sri Lanka.
Budget Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Tip 1: Try to catch “Error Fares”
We paid for our flight to Colombo 420 Euros round trip from Frankfurt, which is extraordinarily cheap. “Urlaubspiraten”, a german website that offers “error fares”, enabled us to save at least 200 Euros. While checking flights we did not think of a specific time to travel to Sri Lanka. Actually, we wanted to go on vacations at some stage in this year. After a while we saw the offer and booked pretty spontaneously. So, tip one is: Check out pages that offer potential error fares of airlines and book it when the flight offers is in a time where you would be able to fly. When no error fares available skyscanner and checkfelix always found the cheapest flights.
Budget Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Tip 2: Know what to pay
Once arrived in Sri Lanka we can give you one big advice: Know roughly what the price is to not get ripped off. We did the mistake and took the second best driver who had “taximeter” that he obviously did not have. So, after arriving in Colombo International Airport do not pay more than 2,500 LKR for a taxi (not per person, per taxi!) to the city center. Always ask for taximeter and let the driver show you the meter before you start driving. Exhausted tourists are an easy target for dodgy people to rip you off – We were two of them. Tourists always have to bargain a lot and a proven tactic is to walk away after the first offer. After that you suggest the price 50% below the offered price and you meet in the middle. Always cheaper than bargaining is a simple taximeter that even some Tuk-Tuks offer. To Colombo you need to take the highway (which costs around $5) and the ride is roughly 45 minutes depending on traffic. More relaxing is a first stay in Negombo, which is just 20 minutes from the airport. Note here: Taxi and Tuk-Tuk driver always tell you that they know the place where you want to go, but they don’t.
Taxi from the airport to Colombo City: not more than LKR 2,500 Tuk-Tuk from Airport to Negombo: LKR 750 Accommodation for a night: $25-35 on average Surfboards: Max. $10 per day
Budget Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Tip 3: Get mobile data
Get a sim card at the first day and put it in your smartphone. Through this you can always have a look at Google Maps and tell the driver how far the journey is and where to go exactly. You will save a lot of time (and money) looking for the place you want to go. Per kilometer you can roughly calculate with LKR 100 (most of the time less). After the first days you get a feeling on how much to pay. Some Tuk-Tuk drivers are really nice and show you around for free, invite you to their families and explain you some interesting things. When this happened, we were always happy to give 200 LKR tip.
2 GB mobile data: $4
Budget Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Tip 4: Book in advance
Take your time and book in advance. Agoda and booking.com were helpful resources to check recommended and affordable places to stay. Once you are “desperately” looking for an accommodation in the evening, prices explode. So, better book a few days in advance using your mobile data or WiFi, it will pay off. As we got really cheap flight our budget for accomodation was a bit higher than expected. Thus, the average price paid per night was $25. Backpacking in Sri Lanka is not comparable with for example Thailand as you will not be able to stay in a nice place for $5. While booking we didn’t choose the cheapest option but on average you need to calculate with $20 per room. Important to note here: We have been in Sri Lanka in the very end of the season (April), where prices are significantly lower than around November. So, if you travel in high season you need to calculate with more.
Average price paid per night (in off season): $25
Budget Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Tip 5: Eat Sri Lankan food
Food in Sri Lanka is amazing so you should try everything! Sri Lankan cuisine is comparable to Indian Food and offers a great variety of curry’s, breads and Kottu Roti’s (Peanutbutter / Chocolate, wow). To save money you should order Sri Lankan food over western food as it’s significantly more expensive and most of the times not really good. After four weeks of all sort of rice variations you grave for a burger or a good Pizza, then just do it :) The average price we’ve paid for curry is 500-600 LKR, which is $3-4. In most places we stayed breakfast was included and was in almost every hotel / hostel the same: Fresh fruits, white toast, an omelette and jam. If you are coffee drinker, do yourself a favour and order tea! There are just very few places that make good (Italian) coffee. These places charge around 400 LKR for a coffee but sometimes you just need it. As little snacks we can just recommend fruits! It feels good in the tropical heat and they are absolutely no comparison to what you buy in European supermarkets.
Go to local fruit stores. People are so friendly and let you try everything until you’re full already. In the end it’s ridiculously cheap. Try the passion fruits!
Rice & Curry (on average): $2-4
Fruits: Around nothing
Budget Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Tip 6: Vices are costly
For us Germans that was not the easiest part but alcohol is comparatively expensive in Sri Lanka. A local told us that’s because many people overdid it in the past drinking Arrack (Coconut Rum) causing a lot of aggression and violence in the streets and at home. The new president (everybody we talked to loved him) disgusts drinking as well as smoking and now taxes it a lot more than a few years ago. Thus a package of cigarettes are around LKR 750 and beer is around LKR 300, which is still not expensive but compared to the rest more costly than a fruit platter or a delicious Dhal Curry.
All in all we can say that you will spend more money than in Thailand, for example. Sri Lanka is not dirt cheap but following a few rules, you will save a lot of money on your travels. How much money you spend depends on the length of the travels. While backpacking eight weeks in Mexico we needed to have a closer look at how much money we spent on a daily basis. In three weeks Sri Lanka it was more vacation than living there, so we have been less careful. Did we miss something here? Do you have more tips on budget backpacking in Sri Lanka? Please share in the comments with us!