sri lanka beaches, Sri Lanka Surf Spots

What to pack for Sri Lanka holidays, Clothing & Gears Guide

If you are wondering what to pack for Sri Lanka here is the guideline…The lightweight cotton dress is the best attire in the warmer areas such as beach resorts, Colombo, the Cultural triangle, and literally every place except the mountains. Adopting the principle of layering is the best strategy when it comes to clothing in Sri Lanka, that means, using several thin layers of thermally efficient cloth, which is worn in several combinations, depending on the temperature.

Table of Contents

What to pack for Sri Lanka holidays, Clothing & Gears Guide

Sri Lanka holidays are very popular among travellers around the world and the island is visited by millions of travellers every year. If you are also planning to travel to Sri Lanka this article is about “what to pack for Sri Lanka“, which gives you a good insight into what to pack for your Sri Lanka tour itinerary. In fact, we get a lot of emails from our customers asking questions like “what to pack for Sri Lanka in December“, “what to pack for Sri Lanka in November”, “what to pack for Sri Lanka in August”, and “what is the dress code in Sri Lanka hotels ” it means that a lot of travellers does not have a much idea about the nature of Sri Lanka. This guideline is basically can be applied to the entire year.

The social background of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an Asian country with a different culture, tradition and customs compared to most other countries in the world. The history of Sri Lanka is going back many thousands of years and the majority of Sri Lankan society is strong believers in the teaching of Buddha. Hinduism is the second most popular religion on the island and Christianity follows. The people of Sri Lanka are very conservative like people in countries such as Egypt. Therefore foreign tourists must be careful when choosing their attire during their road trip to Sri Lanka.

The way you dress really matters

Some may think it really does not matter how you dress in Sri Lanka, while there are no hard and fast rules with regard to the dress code like in some Arabian countries. But, local people find it very unethical, when tourists are in short skirts and tank tops. You will be highlighted in the crowd.

If you can have a conservative dress, when you go outside the hotel, it definitely shows your respect for the tradition and culture of the people of Sri Lanka. And people also will be very helpful and respectful towards the foreigners, who value their culture and tradition. You can have holiday attire when you are on the beach or in the hotel.

You are free to have a comfortable dress and no one complains about it. Only, when it comes to public areas, you need to have extra attention to the dress code. In fact, there are strict regulations with regard to the dress code in some places such as temples. You need to have a designated dress code in such places. A long skirt or a trouser with a t-shirt, shirt or blouse (shoulders covered) is proper attire when visiting temples in Sri Lanka. When you wear a short they should be long enough to cover your knees. If you can abide by these rules, you will always be safe and you will not do any offences against any local.

Sri Lanka weather and packing tips

Sri Lanka, the tiny island lies just south of India and the country is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, therefore the Ocean dictate largely the weather of Sri Lanka while the Indian mainland also plays a role when it comes to different climate conditions. Therefore what to pack for Sri Lanka might make a big difference from what you required in countries that lie away from the equator.

Normally articles of clothing are largely differed in different parts of the island due to the different climatic conditions. And the weather of Sri Lanka typically depends on several conditions but the most important determinant factor is the altitude. For instance, Colombo (average 10 meters above sea level) is warmer than Kandy (500 meters above sea level) and Nuwara Eliya (1800 meters above sea level) even colder than Kandy.

Usually, the travellers traverse these regions during the day as much as possible, especially the high-altitude areas due to the unexpected misty conditions. Every tourist who embarks on a Sri Lanka road trip starts their journey in the warmer areas of the island because all the access points to the island are located in the lower elevated areas of the island. Therefore, essentially every traveller should travel from warmer areas of Sri Lanka to colder areas.

If you have planned to visit Sri Lanka you might be wondering what to pack for Sri Lanka, in fact, we are receiving a lot of questions from our foreign customers and a large number of them very often ask what should they pack for Sri Lanka. Therefore we thought of making this article to give our readers an idea of what to pack for Sri Lanka.

What type of cloth should be packed for Sri Lanka

The lightweight cotton dress is the best attire in warmer areas such as beach resorts, Colombo, the Cultural triangle, and literally every place except the mountains. Adopting the principle of layering is the best strategy when it comes to clothing in Sri Lanka, that means, using several thin layers of thermally efficient cloth, which is worn in several combinations, depending on the temperature.

A lightweight cotton dress (lightweight trousers, a long skirt for ladies) is the best dress code in Sri Lanka and only in the hill country, you might need to have a dress to keep you warmer. A cotton shirt or T-shirt is more suitable in all parts of the country. In the mountains, as it is cold you can add a layer of thermal clothing.

Monsoon wind is another important factor that contributes to the changes in weather conditions in Sri Lanka. Monsoon has a biannual changing pattern. A drastic change of weather results in the island as the monsoon blows in full force. The season in Sri Lanka can be sharply categorised into

The rainy season Vs dry season

The dry season- depending on the region starts either in April or November. West and Southern Sri Lanka experience the sunny dry weather from November to April. East coast and northeast, the south and east parts of the island experience dry weather from April to November.

Rainy season in Sri Lanka

As the west, and southern coast enjoys the dry weather (From November to April), the opposite side of the country (east, north and southeast) is heavily battered by monsoon wind and rain. South, west and south-west Sri Lank is coming under heavy rain from April to November due to the Northeast monsoon, while during the same period North-east Sri Lanka has fine weather for outdoor activities.

What is the Best time to visit Sri Lanka?

What to pack for Sri Lanka holidays can be a little different based on the monsoon wind.  November to April is the best time to visit Sri Lanka if you go to the west and southern coast and April to November is the low season in Sri Lanka this is the best time to visit Sri Lanka if you are heading to the East coast of the island.

Inter monsoon stretches from March, and April till the end of May. It is the first wave of the southwest monsoon and comes with thunder, lightning and heavy rain. Usually, the rain begins in the evening and lasts several hours, morning and mid-day are warm and sunny. The inter-monsoon is largely confined to the north-west, west, south, south-west, and the western and southern slope of the central mountain range. The leeward side of the mountains (east coast) remains dry during this time. Inter-monsoon is followed by monsoon season creating heavy rain. The southwest monsoon is the main contributor to Sri Lanka’s rainfall.

Sri Lanka’s packing list should be Light, a Basic and Necessary

Light, a basic dress code is recommended for Sri Lanka holidays. Travel light is the most appropriate in Sri Lanka and it makes the journey enjoyable and easy. The travellers should be able to maintain a fine balance of layers of thermal clothing during the Sri Lanka holidays. The below list provides you with a good idea as to what needed to be packed into your suitcase for your Sri Lanka holidays.

A hat/Cap is one of the important things to pack for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka attracts warm sun rays and direct exposure to the sun can cause you to have sunburns. Sunburn can occur during the whole year. Having a Hat/Cap that provides shade to the head, face and neck from the sun is very important. Apply an appropriate sunscreen (factor 6-10 depending on the sensitivity of your skin) to avoid sunburns on your hands, shoulders, and face. Please keep in mind that you need to remove the hats and caps before entering religious places.

Include a warm Cap to pack for Sri Lanka

A Warm cap is a handy tool when travelling to the mountains or visiting the places such as Horton plains national park, where the temperature drops to the freezing point sometimes. An appropriate warm hat made of polar fleece or wool is recommended, but it is not essential.

Add sunglasses to the packing for Sri Lanka

It is a very basic requirement for foreign travellers, who are not living in the tropics. Sun rays in Sri Lanka are particularly strong and pair of 100% infrared and ultraviolet sunglasses is recommended. Sunglasses can be bought with side pieces in order to provide increased protection for eyes, from reflected glare too. It is very essential to have sunglasses to make sure the eyes are protected from strong sun rays.

Include a couple of Cotton socks in the packing list for Sri Lanka

Having several numbers of socks is strongly recommended regardless of the time you have your Sri Lanka tour. Several numbers of thick cotton socks are a basic requirement for travellers who visit Sri Lanka Buddhist temples. Usually, every Sri Lanka sightseeing tour includes the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and several religious sites such as the tooth relic temple, and the Dambulla cave temple. As you enter the religious places you need to remove the shoes making you walk around on socks. In some cases, it might be difficult to walk in the temple garden without socks due to the heated paving stones or sand, and cotton socks help you to protect yourself from the heated floor.

Hiking Shoes should be on the packing list for Sri Lanka

If you are hoping to make sightseeing tours in Sri Lanka, regular walking shoe alone is not enough for the job. There is a large amount of trekking and walking as you visit places like Tea plantations, Kandy, even the historical tourist attractions and cultural sites, Horton plains national park etc, therefore, lightweight trekking shoes that provide good ankle support is recommended.

Add upper body gear for the packing list Sri Lanka

A midweight top can be recommended for travellers in Sri Lanka and it is valid for the whole year. As you go to the mountains you can add additional layers to make it warmer. Depending on the duration of your Sri Lanka holidays, if it is a 10 day Sri Lanka tour, then 4 to 5 no’s should be included in your checklist of what to pack for Sri Lanka. If the Sri Lanka tour is short such as 3 day Sri Lank tour, 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary or 2 day Sri Lanka trip 2 pieces should be fair. Moreover, during the daytime, you can move around in a cotton shirt or T-shirt. Having plenty of cotton shirts and T-shirts is very important because of the high humidity in Sri Lanka. You expected to produce a lot of sweat due to the warm and humid weather.

Things to pack for Sri Lanka Shell Jackets

The occasional shower can occur at any time of the day in any part of the country. It is advisable to have a shell jacket in order to keep you dry during the rain. If you are hoping to drop into a rainforest such as Singaraja a shell jacket is strongly recommended as it rains very often in the rainforest.

A raincoat is in the packing for Sri Lanka

A raincoat is very handy gear especially if you have your Sri Lanka holiday during the South-West monsoon (From April to November). There is a possibility of sudden rain throughout the island during this time.

Add an umbrella to your packing list

Umbrella is an essential tool and should be a part of what to pack for Sri Lanka, especially if you travel during the southwest monsoon. It can be the rainy season or dry season that you travel in Sri Lanka, the umbrella is always been a handy tool. It protects you against UV and avoids sunburns while helping you to stay dry during the heavy shower.

Light or mid-weight trekking pants can be very useful

A cotton mid-weight trekking pant is very suitable for Sri Lankan weather. There are instances when travellers visit Buddhist temples and other religious places. It is a rule in Sri Lanka to have the legs covered up to (minimum) the knee while you visit temples. Short is most suitable when you travel to Sri Lanka because it is very warm and humid. Having the ability to make the shorts long enough to cover the knee when it is only required is very practical, and very suitable for all occasions.

Daypack for the trek

A 2500 cubic inch pack is suitable for most treks on the island, the pack should carry a shell jacket and pants, fleece jacket, a large water bottle, camera and accessories, binoculars etc. Usually, the transporters have a well-equipped first aid kit in their vehicles and therefore travellers are not required to include a first aid box in the list of “what to pack for Sri Lanka”.

Pack a Duffle-bag for Sri Lanka

A big duffle bag should are included in your list of what to pack for Sri Lanka, a big duffle bag is very handy to hold important items that are required during your Sri Lanka holidays. It should be spacious and should be suitable for rough use.

Things to pack for Sri Lanka -Walking poles

There is a large amount of walking in Sri Lanka if you visit temples, historical sites, rainforests, cities etc and it is a good idea to include a walking pole to the list of “what to pack for Sri Lanka“, especially if need to have support for. A collapsible lightweight pole is recommended.

Accessories & Miscellaneous – what to pack for Sri Lanka:

Underwear – Keep in mind that Sri Lanka is very warm and humid.

Protection from sun rays: SPF 30 (or higher) LOTS.

Protect the lips with lip balm: SPF 15 (or higher).

Mosquito repellent: Mosquito repellent cream, oil or mosquito repellent coil.

Toiletries – Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Hand Sanitizer, Bio-degradable Soap/Shampoo Quick Dry Towel, Moisturizer
Antiseptic Hand Towelettes.

Toilet Paper: There is some instance where you should have your own toilet paper.

Mineral water: Enough water bottles.

Snack food: Plenty of snacks.

Power adaptor for the camera, phone, razor: in most hotels you get a square pin socket but round pin sockets can also do the job and it should be 220 v.

Power Adapter: For electrical gadgets square pin socket- 220v).

Photography equipment: with extra films, memory cards and battery.

Mobile phone charge: in case you need to charge the phone while travelling on the bus or car.

Clothing & Gears: as per the list detailed

Trip Expectations

Sri Lanka is a destination for holidays for many centuries. The country is well modernizing and on par with all other countries in the world. Almost every citizen in Sri Lanka uses a mobile phone, computer literacy is at a very high level. Sri Lanka was colonized by western powers such as Portuguese, Dutch and English. Therefore the western influence is very evident in many parts of the country. Buddhism is the lifeblood of common people and shapes the people for a peaceful and slower pace of life.

Accommodations: Primarily star class hotels (3 stars, 4 stars and 5 stars), comfortable, clean, and safe. All hotels provide air-conditioning except in the mountains, where you get heaters instead of air-conditioners. All hotels are built on par with international standards and provide all modern amenities available in western countries. The outdoor swimming pool is a standard facility in Sri Lanka and most hotels provide it, except the hotels in colder places in the mountains. There is plenty of possibilities to get accommodation based on the buying power of the travellers. High-end luxury accommodation facilities such as boutique hotels as well as very cheap places such as dormitories are available at all corners of the island.


Wifi connection is available in all hotels at no extra cost. The travellers also can grab a Sim card from a local telecommunication company and enjoy an uninterrupted connection even outside of hotels, the rates are very affordable.

There are 2 international airports in the country but almost every traveller lands in Colombo, double check your flight ticket.

Around the time of July/August and December/January, there is an upbeat of foreign tourists in the country due to the local school holidays, many local tourists are also on the move to different parts of the island with their kids (local school holidays in august), which creates a huge demand for accommodation facilities. Especially in Kandy, there is a huge demand for accommodation facilities, mainly due to the annual event called Esala ceremony that takes place in the month of July/August. During the month of August, the rates for accommodation, transport, meals and other services are skyrocketed because the supply is much lower than the demand. Do not expect to get a room at the last moment during this time in most tourist areas on the island including Kandy.

Tipping in Sri Lanka

Tipping is optional and it is customary in Sri Lanka, and it is not included in the price of the trip. Obviously, there is no hard and fast rule wight regard to the tip amount. How much you give is dependent on the service provided by the guide, driver and other crew. Usually, the tour operators such as Seerendipity tours recommend 10% of the total bill at the eateries, and restaurants, 50 Rs per case for the porter, 100 Rs per day for the room boy/girl, 1000 rs for the driver per day, 2000 Rs per day for the guide.