How To Travel Sri Lanka…On A Budget

Sri Lanka is an incredible country. It has beauty, culture, food, hospitality, and so much more. Check out what I did to make my trip to Sri Lanka magical and how you can travel here and have amazing experiences of your own in Sri Lanka on a budget. The links for the accommodation will be at the bottom of the post.  Also please comment and ask questions in the comment section below.

What is going to be covered.

  1. How I planned the trip and the total cost
  2. How to get a visa for Sri Lanka
  3. How to book a cheap flight to Sri Lanka
  4. The best budget options Sri Lanka has to offer for accommodation
  5. Great options for transportation and getting around the country
  6. The delicious food available, and the budget to keep in mind (or not)
  7. A rundown on my entire itinerary 

The Best Sri Lanka Travel Guide. Everything You need to know before travelling to Sri Lanka. All in One Sri Lanka Travel Video.  

00:00 Cinematic Intro

00:54 Visa Details

01:05 Flight Details

01:45 Food in Sri Lanka

02:55 Arriving Colombo

03:24 Mobile SIM & Cab

04:24 Visiting Colombo

05:04 Visiting Dambulla

05:26 Kandamla Lake

05:50 Sigiriya Lion Rock

06:47 Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

07:35 Visiting Nuwara Eliya

08:12 The Iconic Train Journey

08:39 Visiting Ella

09:00 The Nine Arch Bridge

09:40 The Little Adam’s Peak

10:30 Ella to Unawatuna

11:00 Visiting Galle

11:30 Unawatuna Beach

12:00 Mirissa Beach

12:28 Coconut Tree Hill

13:10 Trip Cost

How to get a Visa for Sri Lanka

Let’s talk about the visa first. As of now, Sri Lanka has a visa on arrival and free of cost for Indians till 30th of April 2020. It might get extended too. 

UPDATE: This was obviously pre-covid times, but as travel resumes it looks as it should still be the same. We will keep our eyes on it.

How to book a cheap flight to Sri Lanka

Now coming to Flights. In my opinion, there are only two ways of getting good fares.

First, book well in advance like 5-6 months before your travel or Second, Keep checking for promotional Airline fares for your travel dates.

Using the 2nd way, I booked my Sri Lankan Airlines Direct flights for just INR 9000 from Delhi-Colombo-Delhi sector. This was a promotional fare by Sri Lankan Airlines.Which was available on every website then.

So the idea is to keep tracking Airlines’ updates for these promotional fares. And the only way to do it is “Keep Checking” or You can check these updates on my Instagram stories too.

The Food Situation in Sri Lanka

Food is very economical in Sri Lanka.Not only just the street food but also the restaurants & bars are very inexpensive.

One Good Meal will cost you INR 50-60 in average Restaurant. And a Vegetarian or Continental Meal would cost no more than INR 150-250 per meal.

I had my 10 days sorted for INR 2500 with 3 meals per day.

I assumed just like any other beach destination, seafood would be the most widely available, but to my utter surprise, chicken & other meat products are as common as seafood and even Veg Food is readily available.

Sri Lankans include Lentils & Vegetables in their food, so I had no trouble with choices of food in Sri Lanka.

Arriving in Sri Lanka

After Visa, Flight & Food now it’s time to discuss Stay & Transportation.

For those, let’s dive into my Journey & itinerary

From Colombo Airport to Colombo Airport I will show you all the places I covered, the transportation modes and the Hotels I chose on the way, their cost and will also discuss some misc. costs like Mobile SIM etc.

Let’s go to Sri Lanka.

The trip starts from Colombo Intl. Airport unlike its name, this Airport is located in Negombo 

So just like me, if you are also planning to travel to the East first, your stay should be booked in Negombo, as Colombo is approx 45-60 minutes far from the Airport

Sim card in Sri Lanka

After Immigration, I decided to buy the SIM first as I needed a local SIM to book the Cab. I purchased an Etisalat Sim because they were the most reasonable option compared to other service providers. Keep in mind it might not be the same case when you travel. So just look yourself for the best available option.

And if you arrive in the daytime, you also have an option to buy the SIM from the local market, as they’re cheaper than those at the Airport. But, since I arrived late at night, I didn’t have many options.

I can give you this feedback that Etisalat’s network worked quite smoothly throughout my trip.

Cost of the SIM was 1000 Sri Lankan Rupees, that means Approx INR 400.

Taxi App in Sri Lanka

Now speaking of Taxi Service, just like Ola & Uber in India, in Sri Lanka, we have “Pick Me” App.

I had it already installed on my phone, and activated the app using the local SIM then I booked the cab to my hotel. Cost – Sri Lankan 100 Rupees.

Moving on with my itinerary 

I booked my stay in Negombo city. It was Bandaranaike Airport Guest House,

INR 650 for 2 people per night i.e. INR 325 per person.

This was the end of Day 1, I already had my Dinner in the flight.

Next morning, I booked a cab for Colombo using the PickMe App

I went to Colombo just for a small glimpse of the city.

After Colombo, I started my journey to Dambulla, which was a 4 hour journey.

You can also take the public bus, which is very cheap.

You’ve to watch the Vlog series to find out why I chose a Cab over a public bus.

Cab cost – Approx INR 2300.

After 4 hours I reached Dambulla.

I booked Gammedda Resort, Approx INR 550 for 2 persons per night. Not bad for traveling Sri Lanka on a budget. 

After check-in, I quickly rushed to Dambulla Lake also known as Kandamla Lake.

The day Ended at this Lake.

Next morning, I wanted to visit Sigiriya Lion Rock so I continued my booking with the same Cab as he was very reasonable.

I started my day very early as I wanted to climb Sigiriya Lion Rock and due to its steep height, it gets difficult to climb in the midday heat.

Morning time is a perfect time.

The Entry fee is USD 30 but for SAARC countries (Including India), the cost is only USD 15 (50% off) per person

This Hike takes around 4-5 Hours Up & Down It’s an unimaginable and surreal experience

The Rock has historical links with Ramayana as well as modern history.

You can watch Episode 2 of my Sri Lanka Series for more info.

Sigiriya Lion Rock

Desi Tourist In Sri Lanka

Next morning, I wanted to visit Sigiriya Lion Rock so I continued my booking with the same Cab as he was very reasonable.

I started my day very early as I wanted to climb Sigiriya Lion Rock and due to its steep height, it gets difficult to climb in the midday heat.

Morning is a perfect time.

The Entry fee is USD 30 but for SAARC countries (Including India), the cost is only USD 15 (50% off) per person

This Hike takes around 4-5 Hours Up & Down It’s an unimaginable and surreal experience

The Rock has historical links with Ramayana as well as modern history.

You can watch Episode 2 of my Sri Lanka Series for more info.

The Epic Train Ride To Ella

After Sigiriya, I started travelling towards Kandy as I wanted to do this iconic Kandy-Ella Train journey. But after reaching Kandy, I got to know that 1st class tickets get sold out 30-31 days before the travel dates, and 2nd & 3rd Class tickets are unreserved tickets, so you can get the tickets but seats are not guaranteed.


Kandy to Ella is approximately a 6-7 hour long journey by train, and doing that long of a journey without a seat might get uncomfortable. So I decided to travel to Nuwara Eliya by road and then take the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella, as it will only be 3-4 hour journey.


First I took a bus from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. Cost – INR 30.


After 1.5 hours, I reached Nuwara Eliya and checked in to New Tour Inn hotel, which cost Approx INR 1400 per night for 2 persons.


Nuwara Eliya has a beautiful landscape and is very famous for these green tea gardens. I visited a few of them.


Next morning, I took the 9:30AM train to Ella, which is an Iconic train journey.


Nuwara Eliya’s Train station is called Nanu Oya which is 20 minutes away from the city centre, and a taxi ride would cost INR 100.


I reached the station at 8:30 AM. The Train ticket cost was INR 32 only. Now when you want to travel Sri Lanka on a budget you can’t complain when a scenic train ride only costs that!


It was almost a 5 hour journey and was a soothing experience.


Initially, I struggled to get a seat, but locals are super friendly and I got one within 10-15 minutes.


More about this train in Episode 3 of my Sri Lanka Series.


After reaching Ella, I took a TukTuk to my resort. Cost – INR 50 only.


This time it was Ella Ridge View resort,


The view from the rooms was amazing, but it was not the most “Sri Lanka on a budget” friendly, Approx INR 3500/- per night for 2 persons.


After check-in, the manager helped me to hire a scooter, which cost Approx INR 450/- per day,

and I rode to the iconic Nine Arch Bridge to have an awesome evening! This place was on my Bucket List for years.


Next morning, I started early as I wanted to hike to Little Adam’s Peak.


This has no entry fee and it’s a must-visit to witness amazing sunrises.


After witnessing  an incredible sunrise, I came back to the resort by 9:30AM, and had my complimentary breakfast.


After that I checked out and took a TukTuk to the Bus Station, Tuktuk Cost – INR 50/-


I then took a public bus to Unawatuna.


It was some 5.5 hour-long Journey and cost INR 120/-


The journey to Unawatuna is very beautiful.


I took a TukTuk to my hotel. Cost – INR 50/-


I stayed in the Guest Awendra Hotel. Cost – INR 1600 per night.


I had a relaxing evening and rented a scooter. Cost: INR 450/- per day.



Enjoying the Sri Lankan Coast

Next morning, I started with Galle. Galle is a beautiful city in Sri Lanka’s coastal region, and it’s just a15 minutes ride away from Unawatuna. This city has got some Dutch-influenced architecture.

After spending a few hours in Galle, I came back to Unawatuna Beach, Had my lunch, and spent some leisure time on the beach.

Next day, I visited Mirissa Beach. Mirissa is approx 28 kms south, almost 40 minutes ride from Unawatuna and is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka.

Apart from a beautiful beach, there are some beautiful sunset viewpoints in Mirissa. Merely 5 minutes from the beach is such a viewpoint known as “The Coconut Tree Hill” I spent my sunset over this hill.

The day ended at Coconut Tree Hill.

Next Day, I spent my morning into some souvenir shopping.

Later, I booked a cab to the Airport using the PickMe app. Cab cost – INR2400/-

So this was my whole itinerary and this is the total costing…

Desi Tourist Relaxing in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka Total Costs in INR (We were 2 persons traveling together)

1. Flights – 9000/- per person (Delhi-Colombo-Delhi)
2. Hotels – 5450/- per person
3. Food 9 days – 2200/- per person
4. Airport to hotel taxi – 50/- per person
5. Negrombo to Dambulla taxi – 1200/- per person (public bus 300/- per person )
6. Sigiriya Entrance – 1050/- per person
7. Dambulla to Kandy taxi – 600 /- per person (public bus 100/- per person )
8. Kandy to Nuwara Eliya bus – 30/- per person
9. Taxi to Nanu Oya station – 50/- per person
10. Nuwara Eliya to Ella train – 32/- per person
11. 1 Day Ella scooty + petrol – 275/- per person
12. Ella to Unawatuna bus- 120/- per person
13. 2 days Unawatuna scooty + petrol – 600/- per person
14. Unawatuna airport taxi – 900/- per person (public bus – 150/- per person)

Total – INR 19,400/- If taken public bus for points 5,7, & 14.
INR 21,500/- If you choose taxi like us for mentioned points.


Negombo – BandraNaike Airport Transit Guest House – 

Dambulla – Gammedda Resort – 

Nuwara Eliya – New Tour Inn –

Ella – Hotel Ella Ridge View – 

Unawatuna – Guest Avendra Unawatuna –

Hope this post provides some good information on how to travel the beautiful country of Sri Lanka on a budget. 

Please share this post to those who might find it helpful and please share your comments and questions in the comment section below. Start by telling us, when are you going to Sri Lanka?