Many people say that Sri Lanka is expensive. It will be if you don’t research. A friend of mine spent a thousand US dollars for 9 days! I, on the other hand, spent only a total of $350 (US) for 10 days excluding airfare. But I’ll show you the overall cost that includes airfare to give you an idea of how much to save should you plan to visit Sri Lanka in the near future.
Let’s use the following exchange rates:
1 US $ = 43 Philippine Peso (Php)
1 Malaysian Ringgit = 13 Philippine Peso (Php)
1 Sri Lankan Rupee = 0.33 Philippine Peso (Php)
Traveled: March 2014
I flew from Manila to Kuala Lumpur via Cebu Pacific, then bought a roundtrip Kuala Lumpur – Colombo ticket via Air Asia. I also bought a return ticket to the Philippines. Staff at the Bandaranaike International Airport staff check return tickets so make sure to purchase yours ahead.
Total= Php 13,584 (includes roundtrip Manila-Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur to Colombo) or $316 (Round off)
In Sri Lanka, taking a taxi can be VERY expensive. Using the public bus or the train is the way to go! If you don’t have a choice, you can also hire a tuktuk. Train travel can go as low as 40 Rupees or Php 12 (28 Cents). On my last day, however, I used a taxi since it took about an hour to reach the airport (and most locals would recommend taking the taxi instead of using the public bus when heading to the airport to avoid delays). The driver charged 2500 Rupees. Overall, I spent about 4300 Rupees in transportation, which is equivalent to Php 1419 or $33.
I arrived in Sri Lanka during the off-peak season which is why accommodation then was very cheap. However, booking ahead is necessary during the high season to save time and money.
I spent around Php 4,500 or $105 for accommodations which includes 2 nights in a single room with private bathroom in Nuwara Eliya and 3 nights in a single room with private bathroom in Haputale.
Food in Sri Lanka is really cheap (and delicious). The serving portions are also huge! In fact, you can pay for one meal that can already feed 2 people. A decent meal is priced at 200-250 rupees or Php 66 – 90 / $1.50 – $2. Street snacks can go as low as 50 Rupees. To save on drinks, I bought from supermarkets. For 10 days, I spent around 5000-7000 Rupees for food which includes a 400+ lunch at Burger King (HAHA!) and dinner at a fine dining restaurant!!! In Philippine Peso, that’s about 2310 ($54).
TOURIST / OTHER FEES
Here are some of the fees I had to pay: Victoria Park entrance, entrance to Sigiriya World Heritage, World’s End trek, entrance to Dambatenne Tea Factory, the tollgate going to the airport, and the Visa.
It’s $30 each for Sigiriya and the Sri Lankan Visa. Other fees mentioned total to Php 1500. Using the exchange rate above, I spent around Php 4,000 ($94) in this category.
INFORMATION ON VISA
Sri Lanka Immigration started the ETA (Electron Travel Authorization) system in the beginning of 2012, which allows travelers to apply the tourist visa online. As soon as you have the passport, credit card and access to internet, you are able to make the application. When the application is approved, you will receive email notification or you can use the checking status function on the website to find out the details yourself.
ETA allows you to stay in Sri Lanka for 30 days, if you wish to stay longer, you have to either visit Immigration in Colombo to extend it for 30 days or you should apply for a visa sticker on your passport from the local Sri Lankan Embassy. For more information please visit Srilankavisa.org.
If you compute my ground expenses based on the above categories, total would be around Php 12500 or $290. I did buy a few things, however, such as tea, beer, souvenirs and other snacks which led me to spend $350 overall.
13,584 or $316 – airfare
15,050 or $350 – ground budget (includes a fine dining meal as mentioned)
TOTAL: $666 or Php 28,634 – all in including plane tickets, Visa, accommodation and other things such as hiring a tuktuk, or visiting Sigiriya.
If you’re not interested in fine dining or if you can find cheaper accommodations, you can basically survive Sri Lanka with only $300 for 10 days excluding airfare as long as you use PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. Doesn’t matter if you’re planning to watch whales, surf or trek World’s End. Most of the time, the public bus or the train can get you to places for less than a dollar.
1. If you’re in Haputale and want to explore World’s End or Lipton’s Seat, you can rent a tuktuk. Ask your hotel or guesthouse for a reliable tuktuk (don’t just hire anyone you see on the street or you’ll be royally ripped off or harassed). If you want to save money, take a bus from Haputale proper to Dambatenne Tea Factory and from there you can trek through the tea plantations to reach Lipton’s Seat.
2. You will see around 3 money changers at the Bandaranaike International Airport and you may be tempted to change your money since Sri Lanka only accepts Rupees. The trick is to change a small amount only then once you’re out of the airport, find a bank. Banks offer good rates.
3. When outside the airport, don’t take a taxi to reach Colombo proper. There’s a bus parked outside Bandaranaike International Airport which can take you to Colombo Fort for just 100 Rupees or 76 cents (Php34).
4. Street food is cheap and clean. As for liquid, it’s still recommended to purchase bottled water. You can purchase from the supermarkets but whether you buy water in a supermarket or your hostel, there’s not much difference. Overall, food and drinks are relatively cheap unless sold at a beachfront or in a 5-star hotel.
5. If you decide to visit Nuwara Eliya and Haputale, you don’t have to rent a tuktuk if you want to go around the area. These towns are SMALL so you can basically walk to reach the points of interest. Just make sure to avoid walking at night if you’re a female and you’re alone. Bring whatever’s necessary to ensure your safety.