Tips and travel advice for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage that dates back over 2,500 years, and this island is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites. The country is known for its rich nature and wildlife. Despite its relatively small size, Sri Lanka is incredibly biodiverse, boasting a wide range of flora and fauna, including many endemic species found nowhere else on Earth. Here’s our best Sri Lanka travel advice for your next trip. 

Travel advice and tips for visiting Sri Lanka

Planning a trip to Sri Lanka means taking in a lot of considerations. How safe is it? How expensive? When should you go? In this article, we’ll cover how to get to and get around this fantastic island nation as well as other Sri Lanka travel tips from our local travel experts. We’ll cover what to pack, as well as specific Sri Lanka travel advice for those travelling with kids and those with limited mobility. 


Rickshaw, Sri Lanka  © Shutterstock

Is Sri Lanka safe?

Sri Lanka has been a popular tourist destination for decades, attracting visitors from around the world and is indeed a safe destination for travellers. While the country has navigated through periods of turmoil, notably the civil war that concluded in 2009 and sporadic protests in recent years, as of the time of writing this Sri Lanka remains generally calm.

While no destination is entirely devoid of petty crime, Sri Lanka's incidence of such incidents remains low. By taking simple precautions such as safeguarding belongings and travelling light, you can ensure a smooth and worry-free trip.

For more information, see the UK Government’s foreign travel advice page, or the US Department of State’s travel advisory.

Sri Lanka for Women travellers

Women travelling solo to Sri Lanka can find it to be a rewarding experience, but it's essential to acknowledge the challenges they may encounter. Street harassment is unfortunately common, so it's crucial to trust your instincts and take precautions. Avoiding solitary night outings and opting for taxis, even if it means spending a little more, can enhance safety. With the right measures in place, Sri Lanka can still be a relatively safe destination for female solo travellers.

Sri Lanka for LGBTQ+ travellers

LGBT+ travellers visiting Sri Lanka may encounter a mixed landscape regarding acceptance. While the country is conservative overall, there is some level of tolerance, especially in urban centres like Colombo. The tourism industry specifically tends to welcome LGBTQ+ guests.

That said, understanding of LGBT+ issues remains limited. Traditions that historically recognised transgender individuals have faded, despite their roots in Sri Lankan culture. Public displays of affection between same-sex couples might draw unwanted attention, particularly in more rural areas. 


Our Sri Lanka travel advice: don't skip Dambulla Cave  © Shutterstock

How to get to Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the major airports are Bandaranaike International Airport (located near Colombo) and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (located near Hambantota). Fares are typically most expensive during the peak tourist seasons: from December to March and July to September.

How to get to Sri Lanka from the UK & Ireland

If you’re coming from the UK or Ireland, you’ll find there are direct flights available from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Dublin. To save money, you could end up with a layover via the Gulf and India. The flight duration from the UK or Ireland to Sri Lanka is approximately 10 to 12 hours, depending on the specific route and any layovers. Tickets are available typically through Sri Lankan Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Turkish Airlines.

How to get to Sri Lanka from the US & Canada

There are no direct flights from North America to Sri Lanka. Most flights will have layovers in Dubai, Doha, or Singapore. The total flight duration from the US or Canada to Sri Lanka ranges from about 18 to 24 hours, including layover times. Tickets are available through Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, and Air Canada.

For more info, see our guide to getting to Sri Lanka.

 © Anton Petrus/Shutterstock

 Sri Lanka beach © Anton Petrus/Shutterstock

How to get around Sri Lanka

When it comes to getting around Sri Lanka, you've got plenty of options to suit your style and budget. Jump aboard the island's charming trains for a scenic journey between major cities like Colombo, Kandy, and Galle.

If you're up for saving a few bucks, you can hop on one of the ubiquitous buses that make every nook and cranny of the country accessible.

If you’d like to zip around town or explore offbeat spots, tuk-tuks are a great option.

That said, if you want the ultimate flexibility and comfort, renting a car lets you chart your own course.

For more information, see our in depth guide to getting around Sri Lanka

Is Sri Lanka expensive?

The cost of visiting Sri Lanka can vary depending on your travel style, accommodation preferences, and which activities you have planned. Generally, compared to many Western countries, Sri Lanka can be quite affordable, but it can also cater to luxury travelers.

For those on a tight budget, aiming to stay in budget guesthouses or hostels, eat mainly at local eateries or street food stalls, and use public transportation, a daily budget of around £25–40 ($30–50 USD) per person should suffice.

Those looking for a bit more comfort and convenience might spend around £40–80 ($50–100 USD) per day. This budget would allow for mid-range accommodation, dining at a mix of local restaurants and mid-range eateries, and occasional splurges on guided tours or activities.

For those seeking luxury experiences, staying in upscale resorts, dining at high-end restaurants, and indulging in various activities and tours, the daily budget could exceed £80 ($100 USD) per person.

Girl leaning out of a train, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka trains © Sotnikov Misha/Shutterstock

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

When planning your trip to Sri Lanka, keep in mind that the island's weather stays fairly consistent year-round, thanks to its proximity to the equator. However, there are two monsoon seasons that significantly affect different regions at different times. 

From December to March, you'll find the peak tourist season in full swing, particularly along the west and south coasts, and in the Cultural Triangle. Expect dry, sunny weather perfect for beach outings, sightseeing, and outdoor adventures. 

April through September marks the low season, with the east coast enjoying its best weather while the south and west coasts experience monsoon rains. Despite the rainfall, it's still a good time to explore the Cultural Triangle and central regions, which tend to stay relatively dry. 

If you're looking for a compromise between seasons, consider visiting during the transitional period from October to November. While there might be some rain, it's usually not as heavy or persistent, and you can take advantage of lower prices and fewer crowds. 

For more detailed weather insights, be sure to check out our guide to the best time to visit Sri Lanka.

How many days do you need in Sri Lanka?

Generally, a week can offer a well-rounded experience. With seven days at your disposal, you can hop from the ancient marvel of Sigiriya to the cultural hub of Kandy, and then wrap up your journey with some seaside relaxation in Galle.

That said, ten days is in a lot of ways better. With those extra three days, you can sneak off the beaten path to Ella or Nuwara Eliya, explore tea plantations, or just travel at a more relaxed pace.

Ideally speaking, however, if your budget allows, then carve out a full two weeks. Trust us, it's worth it. From the highlands to the sun-kissed shores, you'll have all the time you need to soak in Sri Lanka. Plus, with the extended stay, you can really enjoy every moment without feeling rushed.

For more information, see our Sri Lanka itineraries for inspiration.

View on Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque or Red Masjid Mosque is a historic mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka © streetflash/Shutterstock

Red Masjid Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka © streetflash/Shutterstock

Do you need a visa?

Almost all travellers visiting Sri Lanka will need some form of visa before they can enter the country.

The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system allows you to apply for a tourist visa online before your trip, and for some nationalities, visas can also be obtained on arrival at the airport. Tourist visas typically grant a stay of up to 30 days in the country. 

Travelling to Sri Lanka with kids

When you're travelling to Sri Lanka with kids, you're in for a treat. Sri Lankans adore children, so you can expect a warm welcome wherever you roam. Locals go out of their way to assist or entertain your little ones, so don't fret if your baby decides it's time for a chorus of cries or your toddler starts putting on a show – even in swanky spots, you won't encounter disapproving glances.

However, navigating with babies might present some challenges. While powdered milk is easy to come by, disposable nappies and baby food might be scarce. Services like babysitting, daycare, and facilities like high chairs or microwaves for sterilising bottles aren't widely available. And forget about prams – the lack of decent pavements makes them impractical.

That said, there are plenty of exciting activities for families with kids in Sri Lanka, from enjoying the beaches to exploring national parks like Yala. Some kids will love banana boating at Bentota, or experiencing various forms of transportation like tuk-tuks and train rides through the hills.

Surf beach Hiriketiya, Dikwella, Sri Lanka © Shutterstock

Surf beach Hiriketiya, Dikwella, Sri Lanka © Shutterstock

What to pack for your trip to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's weather can be unpredictable, especially during monsoon season. Make sure to pack a rain jacket, and potentially a waterproof phone case and waterproof bags. You’ll also want to make sure you pack insect repellent.

Otherwise, the weather in Sri Lanka can be very warm. Pack breathable, lightweight clothes like cotton or linen shirts, shorts, and dresses to cope with the warm weather, including swimwear for beach days or days at the hotel pools. You’ll also want to be sure to bring a sun hat and a high quality waterproof sunscreen.

Travellers with reduced mobility

Awareness of the needs of people with reduced mobility remains extremely low in Sri Lanka, although tourism in this country has been gradually becoming more accessible. It’s entirely possible to have a great trip, but it is likely inadequate infrastructure will pose a challenge.

Pavements – where they exist – are generally uneven, full of potholes and protected by high curbs. 

Few hotels, restaurants or tourist sites are wheelchair-accessible, although there are plenty of one-storey guesthouses that might be usable – though more by accident than design. It’s worth noting also that accessible hotels do tend to book quickly, so be sure to book your room as far in advance as possible.

Public transport presents a challenge for anyone but is virtually useless for wheelchair users. If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, it might be best to book a vehicle and a driver who is sympathetic to your needs or hire a specialist.

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