5 Must-Knows when traveling Sri Lanka

Before I will tell you what I´ve been doing in Sri Lanka, which road I took, where I went for surfing, how much money I spent etc. I wanted to give you some general tips and tricks when traveling Sri Lanka. If you stick to these “rules” you will have a much easier travel there, I promise!


  1. Be polite when saying no. 
    People will try to sell you something, boys on the beach will try to get your attention, children will ask you for money, Tuc tuc drivers will convince you not to take the bus or train. Sometimes it is hard, sometimes easy, but most important it is necessary to say “No, thank you” and really mean it, when you don’t want to. Otherwise you will spent a lot of money on things you don’t want 😀
  2. Take an airy scarf with you
    When visiting Sri Lanka you will for sure want to see at least one of the beautiful Hindu or Buddhistic Temples. As a women you therefor have to cover your shoulders as well as your legs at least over your knees. As tourism is increasing I am sure it will become easier within the next years to borrow a shawl or something similar to cover close to the temples, but I would still prefer to have my own with me. You can also use it to sit on in the Bus, to cover your head when there should be draugh or to warm yourself when there is a strong Air Condition (e.g. on the plane) or as a small pillow! You see, an absolute must have 🙂
  3. Learn the costs
    First of all because you MIGHT not look like a local, some people will try to get more money out of you. In some areas however there is no possibility to negotiate as there are fixed entry fees for foreigners e.g. at Sirigiya. But it is important to have at least basic knowledge of the currency and moreover of what are the “standard costs”. Here are some examples:

    • A 1,5l bottle of water is 70 Rupies. (not 100!) some charge more if you prefer a cool one (80 Rupies)
    • A tuc tuc ride of approx. 10 to 15 minutes costs 150 Rupies (you might still not get the local price here but at least show them, that you know the prices and they will definitely decrease their offer!) I heard you can also negotiate 50R/km, but never tried it myself.
    • A bus ride from the airport to the city in Colombo is 110 Roupies, Colombo to Habarana 110 also, shorter distances are 20 to 40 Roupies.
    • A vegetable Rotti is 40 Roupies.
    • A Coconut is also 40 Roupies! (50 is ok if you are in touristic areas)
    • A small Lion Beer is 140 in the Beer shop. I usually paid 300 when in a bar.
    • Borrowing a surfboard is 300/hour – in tourist areas like Weligama or Hikkaduwa 400 to 500!
  4. Take your time. Don’t stress.
    Sri Lankan Time might not be the same time as yours 😉 Meaning when a bus ride will take you “around 2 hours” it can easily take you 4 to 5.
  5. SMILE
    And the people will smile back. I met so many nice people and had a lot of good conversations just because I was open to get to know a stranger on the bus or on the train. dare to jump! 🙂

What is your personal tip, anything you miss?

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17 Responses
  1. These are awesome tips, and applicable to many conservative countries! I completely agree with learning the costs – so many swindlers out there who think they can take a foreigner for a ride. Also, between freezing air-con, dusty bus rides, grotty seats and skimpy shorts, a scarf is almost always a good idea! Thanks so much for these. Sharing! 🙂

  2. Tom and Sheila

    Good tips and these definitely apply to Thailand and Cambodia as well. To add to your point about knowing rates, it’s a good idea to ask your lodging what the general fares should be, not to squabble over bits, but just to know if a tuk tuk driver is being outrageous. Also, one brilliant hotel gave us a card with the address/info on it in Thai to make it easier to tell the driver – we do that all the time now. Enjoy! Sheila

  3. Thank you for these tips! I totally agree with bringing a scarf or a shawl: it doesn’t take up space and it’s the most versatile thing you can have: I always bring one when I travel and, to me, the one item that screams ‘holiday time’!. And absolutely: always smile! people usually smile back and even if they don’t, a smile costs nothing to give 🙂

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