Sri Lanka is an amazing holiday destination with historical attractions, fun-filled activities, adrenaline pumping activities, and of course white sandy beaches with torque water on the planet. The swaying palms and snow white beach adjoining the crystal clear water in your dream? You find this perfect setting on the island of Sri Lanka.
As with all other holiday destinations in the world, how much you should pay for a Sri Lanka vacation is vastly depends on the kind of vacation you plan. You can easily plan a luxurious Sri Lanka vacation with accommodation in expensive high-end hotels and resorts, or you could save money being thrifty and have backpacker type of holiday.
That’s not particularly useful though, so this lengthy article is to give you a more clear insight about the budget you need to have to plan your Sri Lanka vacation.
Note: This article is written in the month of May 2019; hence the prices are accurate as of May 2019. The inflation in the island is at around 4% as of now, however, it might go up to record level around 10-15%. The foreign exchange rate of Sri Lanka is also highly volatile against hard currencies such as USD. Therefore all priced herein appears in USD to make it easier.
Usually, I get a large number of emails from my readers with questions like “how much does it cost for a Sri Lanka vacation?”, “is Sri Lanka vacation expensive?”. After having done some research I came to know, why I’m getting this question often, it is because the information regarding the price factor of Sri Lanka vacations is difficult to find out there. Although some resorts publish rates on their website, it seems to be those websites not updated for a long time.
Booking packages and travel agents are the most popular among foreign travellers in order to book Sri Lanka vacations, in this way usually the travellers able to get lower prices than the official listing of the hotel websites. It is also advisable to contact the resort directly and inquire about special offers. Because most hotels have special offers and freebies but they are not published on their website most of the time.
When Should I Visit Sri Lanka for the Best Price
Sri Lanka has two monsoons namely south-west monsoon and north-east monsoon, which occurs parallel to the summer and winter of the northern hemisphere. The peak season to visit Sri Lanka is the winter season of the northern hemisphere, from November to April. This is the period that you encounter warm and sunny weather, especially in the western and southern coast, while the rainfall is also at its minimum ebb. The period from November to April has optimum weather for outdoor activities in most places. However, the prices of accommodation are skyrocketed during this period and much of the foreign tourist crowd take refuge in the tourist resorts.
If you intend to have a Sri Lanka vacation from April to November, during the low-season, still there is a high possibility of having a nice holiday by choosing the east coast as your anchoring point. However, West coast does not provide favourable weather for outdoor activities during this time, due to the summer monsoon rain. However, this is the time to find cheap airfare and hotel deals for holidays.
Shoulder season offers you a much more favourable environment for a Sri Lanka vacations. Special offers are starting to show-up starting from May and June. Usually, May, June and October are the months to find the best combination of weather and price.
If you wish to have a much clearer picture of how the east coast and west coast correlate with Sri Lanka weather pattern please read this article.
If diving is a part of your vacation you need to have a thorough knowledge on the monsoon pattern and avoid the monsoon affected areas, because when the sea is rough and visibility is bad during the raining.
Cost of Getting to Sri Lanka
How much does it cost to visit Sri Lanka is largely decided by where you are coming from. Sri Lanka is connected with most major cities in Asia, Europe and Arabia. However there are no direct flights from several countries, especially from the South American region, therefore the travellers from those countries need to get a connecting flight from Dubai or in a European country. If you are coming from far away countries in North America, South African region and some of the European countries the cost increases sharply and choices are also limited. During the low season, the ticket prices sink sharply, for instance, the round trip ticket from Heathrow cost around $600. During the peak holiday season, from November to April, the round trip ticket price can be expected to be around $900+.
Visiting Sri Lanka as layover is a good option or side trip on the way to India or Maldives. Large number of travelers who visit India and Maldives book Sri Lanka vacations with us and thereby they can visit Sri Lanka along with other holiday destination with little extra money. Especially the travelers who visit Maldives tend to do sightseeing tours in Sri Lanka before heading to Maldives, because Sri Lanka offers a large number of places to visit such as historical places, wildlife reserves, rainforests, mountains, adventure sites etc that they do not find in the Maldives. Sri Lanka is just a few minutes away from Maldives and India and dozens of direct flight available to both countries on a daily basis.
There are two international airports on the island, Mattala international airport and Katunayake international airport. However all international carriers arrive at Katunayake international airport, Colombo and only a few flights are making stops at Mattala international airport located in southern Sri Lanka.
How Much Should I Pay for Accommodation in Sri Lanka
Much of the burden of your Sri Lanka vacation derived from the accommodation sector. However, the portion of your budget that should be allocated to accommodation is greatly varied depending on the type of accommodation you choose. The possibilities are endless with regards to the accommodation, and there is something for every budget in Sri Lanka. Here you can find accommodation from high-end luxury boutique resorts to single bed dormitory type cheap accommodations.
Planning is very crucial to get the best value for your money spent on accommodation. If you are a thrifty traveller and need to find accommodation at an affordable price, there are plenty of opportunities. It is not difficult to find nice, clean and safe accommodation at a cost of $10 per night. If you are traveller needs luxury and not concern about the price, star class hotels with different grading available at all corners of the island.
Sri Lanka is loved by backpackers because the island is concern about the monetary constraints of such travellers. The government of Sri Lanka has promoted cheap accommodation facilities such as rent rooms, dormitories, rest house and guest house type of accommodation along with other types of accommodation facilities. Some of the popular resorts such as Hikkaduwa, Weligama, Unawatuna are very budget friendly and provide plenty of opportunities for budget-conscious travellers and most dorms cost around $10 per night and a dorm room would cost around $20 per night.
Accommodation in the mid-range hotel is a bit more costly than the dorm type of accommodation if you have a bit more cushion on the accommodation budget you can go for a 3-star type of accommodation at the rate of $50-$70 per night on double room. You can even stretch your buck further by hunting for special deals.
The sky is the limit when it comes to luxury accommodation in Sri Lanka. It is possible to rent out an entire villa if you can afford to do it. There are plenty of luxury villas and hotels and seriously looks like coming out of postcards.
Cost of Food and Beverage in Sri Lanka
When it comes to the food scene, it is not difficult to find economical places to eat. In all major resorts, the travellers can find restaurants, pubs and bars outside of the hotels, where the food and drinks much more affordable than in the hotel. Usually, all hotels include breakfast in the room charges.
Making the room reservation with lunch or and with dinner is optional, however, most travellers opt for only breakfast at the hotel due to the availability of outside eateries in the resort areas. Almost every hotel has a couple of restaurants in order to provide meals to their customers if you are not in the mood to go out for a meal utilize the hotel meal plan, which is usually more economical than ala carte.
If you are in popular resorts such as Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Negombo, you have overwhelming opportunities for outside dining, for instance, Hikkaduwa beach resort offers around 100 beach restaurants. Local restaurants in Sri Lanka are quite cheap, especially if you choose a roadside boutique type of eateries.
However, the local restaurant offers most local dishes and they can be spicier for a European palette. Restaurant buffet is a good option to fill up on a variety of different items on a flat rate. However, these local restaurants offer quite a number of other items such as fast food items, fruits, sweetmeats etc, that can be very handy for foreigners. International fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, burger king, Mc. Donald, KFC and many other popular fast food outlets are also can be found in cities.
Alcohol is a major budget inflator as always because alcohol is very expensive in Sri Lanka. If you go for an all-inclusive package, all verities of alcohol and foods are offered 24 hours a day without any limit. However, very few hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka offer all-inclusive packages. If you consume a lot of alcohol, one of the best ways to curtail your budget on alcohol is buying the hard liquor at the duty-free shops on arrival; thereby you can reduce the money spent on liquor around 50%.
How Much Does it Cost for Activities in Sri Lanka
I presume this is the fun part of your vacation! Like for many other travellers. Lying on the beach and basking on the sun is also great but you can’t simply forget the fun-filled activities offered for tourists in Sri Lanka. The list of activities is endless whale watching, surfing, diving, safari, elephant riding, whitewater rafting, visiting cultural sites, visiting museums and galleries, shopping, exploring rain forest… the list goes on and on.
Snorkelling and diving- Since Sri Lanka is an island; there are tons of water-based fun-filled activities on the island. Snorkelling and diving is one of the most popular activities on the island and offers many places in the west, southern and east coast with crystal clear water and most beautiful sea creatures in the world.
- Diving-Rates vary based on the place you choose for, however, the price for a single dive will be around $75- $150, If you sign-up for a package with multiple drives the cost is much cheaper. Hikkaduwa marine sanctuary on the west coast and pigeon island marine sanctuary in the east coast are some of the best places to see the fascinating underwater world of Sri Lanka.
- Snorkeling-A boat trip with snorkelling cost around $ 30 per person, including all instruments.
- Safari: Exploring the fauna and flora in a foreign country is undoubtedly a fascinating experience and is another popular activity. Sri Lanka has a nice collection of wildlife that includes elephant, leopard, bear, monkeys, buffaloes, crocodiles and a large number of many other mammals, vertebrates and avian fauna species. Some of the best places for safaris are Yala national park, Udawalawe national park, Minneriya national park. A safari would cost around $50 per person based on 2 persons, it includes entrance fee, jeep hire, tracker charges and all taxes.
- Boat tour: It’s also well known and popular family activity; Sri Lanka offers some amazing river rapids. If you in the west coast of Sri Lanka you can do the boating in the Madhu River estuary or Bentota River.
- Visiting historical site: Sri Lanka has a plethora of cultural and historical places and Sri Lanka has one of the oldest cultures in the world dating back to 2nd century BC. Many of these cultural and historical places coming under UNESCO world heritage sites; Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Kandy and Galle are some of the most popular places.
Sri Lanka is not a budget holiday destination like Thailand, however; you can make it a budget-friendly destination with careful planning. Perhaps you can make it even cheaper than Thailand, of course with correct planning. If you are a thrifty traveller or look for the most bang for your buck, here are few factors to consider to keep your cost down:
Book package tour-Independent travellers are reluctant to do this sometimes, but it is one of the best ways to get a good deal for your Sri Lanka vacation. Try to catch a deal that bundle accommodation, transportation, meals and activities. This way you can hand over the organizing part of the vacation to a local tour operator like seerendipity tours and enjoying the tour and save money same times.
Visit Sri Lanka as a Stopover– Visiting Sri Lanka as an extended layover round the world ticket or between Indian and other south Asian countries. If you think of a large trip think of folding Sri Lanka into your itinerary.
Stay Longer- There are special rates for travellers who stay a longer period of time in hotels and resorts, longer the stay better the price.
Visiting places on a round trip– Transportation can add you a hefty bill if you go for a convenient way of travelling such as a taxi. However, that is the most effective way of travelling in Sri Lanka. It saves time allowing you to visit more places while enjoying the tour at your own pace.
Instead of tied to a resort or a hotel make a round trip visiting several important sites on each day in a different part of the island and change the place of overnight stay parallel to the visits. Visiting faraway attraction from your beach resort demand you to pay a hefty bill for the transport while making you deprive of time to enjoy sites.
It is quite easy to get hold of budget accommodation in all parts of the island, especially the places with tourist attractions, most major resorts offer affordable dorm rooms, guest and rest house type of accommodations as well as the luxury type of accommodation for luxury seekers.