The ultimate Backpacker guide for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a backpacker’s paradise. The island in the Indian Ocean offers a wealth of breathtaking landscapes, historic sights, bustling cities, and delicious food. In this guide, we show you how to travel Sri Lanka on your own and on a small budget.

Best Time to Backpack in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a year-round destination, but the best time for backpacking is from November to April. During this time, the weather in most parts of the island is dry and pleasant. If you travel in May or June, you should be prepared for occasional rain showers. From July to October, monsoon season prevails in the southwest and center of the island.

Sri Lanka Backpacking Itinerary

There are many different backpacking routes through Sri Lanka. Here are some suggestions:

Southwest Coast: Colombo – Negombo – Kalutara – Galle – Mirissa – Tangalle – Tissamaharama – Udawalawe – Ella – Kandy – Sigiriya

Central Highlands: Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Horton Plains – Ella – Udawalawe – Mirissa – Galle – Colombo

Northern Cultural Route: Negombo – Anuradhapura – Jaffna – Trincomalee – Polonnaruwa – Dambulla – Sigiriya – Kandy – Ella

Local Transportation

There are various modes of transportation that you can use as a backpacker in Sri Lanka:

  • Buses: Buses are the main mode of transportation in Sri Lanka. They are affordable and connect almost all places on the island. However, most buses are overcrowded and do not have air conditioning.
  • Trains: Trains are slow but comfortable and offer spectacular views of the landscape. The route from Kandy to Ella is considered one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.
  • Tuk-tuks: Tuk-tuks are a fast and convenient way to get around in cities. However, you should always negotiate the price before the ride. On our second trip to Sri Lanka, we rented a tuk-tuk ourselves and went on a road trip through Sri Lanka.

Best places to stay

There are many affordable accommodations for backpackers in Sri Lanka. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Hostels: There are many hostels in the major cities and tourist spots. They offer cheap rooms or beds in dormitories.
  2. Guesthouses: Guesthouses are a good option if you want a room to yourself. They are usually inexpensive and offer good value for money.
  3. Homestays: Homestays offer the opportunity to stay with a local family and experience the culture of Sri Lanka up close.
  4. Couchsurfing: The best experiences are often had while couchsurfing. An added bonus is that it doesn’t cost anything.

Activities and sights

Sri Lanka offers a wealth of activities and sights for backpackers. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Sigiriya: Sigiriya Rock is one of the most famous attractions in Sri Lanka. It is an ancient fortress on a rock that was once the palace of King Kasyapa. The climb up the rock is somewhat strenuous, but the view from the top is breathtaking.
  2. Adam’s Peak: Adam’s Peak is a sacred mountain that is visited by many pilgrims. The climb is steep and challenging, but the sunrise at the summit is spectacular.
  3. Beaches: Sri Lanka has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The beaches of Mirissa, Unawatuna, and Tangalle are particularly popular with backpackers.
  4. Ella: Ella is something like “everybody’s Darling” in Sri Lanka. The town in the highlands is a starting point for numerous attractions such as Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak, and the Nine Arches Bridge.
  5. National Parks: Sri Lanka has several national parks where you can see elephants, leopards, monkeys, and other animals. Visit the Yala National Park or the Udawalawe National Park.


Food and Drink

Sri Lankan cuisine is delicious and affordable. Here are some of the most popular dishes:

  • Rice and Curry: A traditional Sri Lankan dish consisting of rice, various curries, and a papadam.
  • Hoppers: Thin pancakes made from rice flour. They are usually eaten for breakfast and served with coconut sambal.
  • Kottu: A mix of chopped flatbread, vegetables, and meat or fish. It is prepared on a hot grill and is a popular street food in Sri Lanka.
  • Roti: A type of pancake that can be filled with vegetables, meat, or fish. It is a popular breakfast or snack.

Budget Planning

As a backpacker, you can travel in Sri Lanka with a budget of 20-30 euros per day. Here are some tips to save money:

  • Stay in cheap accommodations such as hostels or homestays.
  • Eat at local restaurants instead of tourist restaurants.
  • Use public transportation such as buses or trains instead of taxis.
  • Always negotiate the price, especially for tuk-tuks and souvenirs.
  • Do things on your own and do not book tours.


Sri Lanka is a great destination for backpackers with a lot to offer. If you plan to travel Sri Lanka on your own, follow our tips and suggestions and have an unforgettable adventure. Remember that Sri Lanka is a conservative country and that you should wear appropriate clothing, especially when visiting religious sites.

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About Us

We are Julian & Naomi and we love to travel the world and immerse ourselves in other cultures. We have an adventurous, spartan, sustainable and reflective travel style. In our opinion, the greatest adventures are experienced when you do things on your own and try to live like a local. The taste of a country is best captured on the road
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