How much does it cost to backpack in Sri Lanka?

After spending eighteen days in Sri Lanka in January 2018, we concluded that it is one of the best value countries to travel in the world! We tracked our spend as we went, and are actuals are below, alongside what we would budget if we returned with the benefit of hindsight.

The costs below are for two people; we didn’t find too many financial benefits of travelling as a couple, as all of the attractions are charged per person, so for solo travellers, dividing the total below by two would be a good rule of thumb.

We broke our costs into five main categories; accomodation, food & drink, activities, travel & other.

Cost per night (per couple) Our Trip Budget
Accomodation 30.63 30.00
Food & Drink 37.06 30.00
Activities 19.06 20.00
Travel 9.03 7.50
Other 2.02 2.50
Total 97.79 90.00

Accomodation is incredibly cheap in Sri Lanka. We stayed towards the budget end of the scale, but for that cost we still got a double room with private en-suite, a good location and in most case a delicious breakfast as well!

There are many accomodation options throughout Sri Lanka so we were able to leave everything until a couple of days before in order to secure some good last minute deals.

We also only booked places for a night or two originally, with a view to extending somewhere if we liked the place. This happened in Ella, and our guesthouse were happy to offer us a room directly for a lower rate than we saw online!

Overall, budget AUD$30 per night for accomodation in Sri Lanka.

Food & Drink
The food in Sri Lanka is very tasty and excellent value. In any country, sticking to the local delicacies not only guarantees a cheaper meal but a tastier one as well, and Sri Lanka is no exception.

Street food is also readily available, perfectly safe, and very tasty to snack on during the day – samosa’s go for as little as R10 (AUD$0.08) a time.

We like our food, so towards the end of the trip we treated ourself to a fair bit of fine dining in Mirissa & Galle, and still came in at less than AUD$40 a day.

The local beer is Lion and is available at a good price around the country, we didn’t pay much more than AUD$2-3 per for a large beer in most places. Wine, on the other hand, is not readily available, so expect to pay through the nose for a glass of red!

Carissa dubbed this as her ‘meal of the trip’, and it’s difficult to argue!

Overall, a budget of AUD$30 per day for food will allow for a good mix of street food, small restaurants and fine dining, and also allow for a beer at the end of each day.

It is the cost of activities in Sri Lanka which really hurt the wallet of a tourist. Large entry fees are charged for foreigners for all activities, particularly Lion Rock in Sigiriya (AUD$75 for two), Horton’s Plains (AUD$45 for two) & Udawalawe National Park (AUD$70 for two).

Despite the cost, all activities were well worth visiting, and our daily average was brought down by the days we spent on the beach at Mirissa, where our only activity was sunbathing and swimming.

Overall, budget AUD$20 per day for activities in Sri Lanka, although more time at the beaches will bring this down significantly.

When we were researching the trip we read a lot of articles saying that the cost of drivers are very affordable. Whilst this is true by Western standards, the cost of public transport is still significantly cheaper than this, and still remains a comfortable, efficient and fun way to travel. The bulk of this cost was for drivers for the Negombo – Dambulla (AUD$40) and Ella – Udawalawe (AUD$30) journeys, but we could have easily cut this cost out and taken buses and trains the whole way.

Second class tickets on trains don’t always guarantee a seat but there were plenty of places to stand or put our luggage, even if getting organised to get off quickly at a station requires a bit of attention and planning. It is also a great way to witness the local characters go about their day to day business.

Where public transport is not possible, ride sharing apps such as Uber and PickMe are a cheaper alternative to taxis.


Overall, budget AUD$7.50 per day for travel.

Sadly, other costs of life do not stop. Footwear breaks and needs replacing, hair needs cutting and toiletries need replenishing. A large part of our one off spend (AUD$25) was the cost of a mobile sim when we entered the country; not essential of course but having google maps on your phone is a great safety net when in a new country.

In addition wifi in all of our guest houses was pretty average so it was good to have some data available to book upcoming accomodation and research the way to the next place.

Overall, budget AUD$2 per day for other costs.