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Backpacking in Sri Lanka

Backpacking in Sri Lanka is like diving into another world. Especially if you stay away from the tourist beaches. But don’t worry, there are not so many tourists there. Only about 1.5 million, of which about 150,000 are German guests, visit the island every year, which is no bigger than Bavaria. Neuschwanstein alone attracts more visitors. So there is a lot of free space where you can let off steam. But you’ll rarely be alone, because there are 20 million islanders living on the island.

Nevertheless, get into the highlands or take a detour to the national parks and the bird sanctuaries and you’ll be pretty alone. Avoid especially the peak season in the European winter etc.. You don’t have to worry about the weather, in Ceylon, as the island used to be called, you can always endure it. After all, you are in the tropical zone. Travelling in Sri Lanka is certainly easy and also ideal for backpackers beginners.

Backpacking in Sri Lanka - Berge

Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Mountains

Thanks to a relatively good transport infrastructure, you can get anywhere quickly. Another advantage is the good English language skills of the locals. They have adopted this from their former exploiters, the English, who liked to pull the strings everywhere in the region. There is also a small disadvantage. These are the prices. Backpacking in Sri Lanka is certainly not expensive compared to Western Europe, but also not as inexpensive as in other Southeast Asian countries.

Sri Lanka Backbacker Info

There is a lot to see and experience in any case. You can visit the elephant orphanages, although you should be careful there. Recently, the visits were cancelled by a major German cruise company from the shore leaves under pressure from animal rights activists. Take a look at the tea plantations in the mountains and discover the world heritage sites and the fantastic temples of different religious communities.

Traveling to Sri Lanka is safe in itself. However, you should always follow the news about the separatist movements of the Tamils, even though there is not much going on. With money you cover yourself in every bigger city and in the tourist places at the cash dispensers. You don’t have to do without good food on your backpacker trip either. The fact that the island is close to India can already be seen from the delicious recipes.

Whether you want to trek the Adams Peak or the Highlands, or indulge in water sports in the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean, it’s up to you. Offers for culture and nature lovers await you in abundance.

Backpacking in Sri Lanka - Fischer

Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Fisher

Culture in Sri Lanka

A little bit about history and the culture associated with it should make it easier for you to get to grips with the matter. Despite the fact that you are on a relatively small island, you have entered a ground steeped in history. The human roots reach back to 2500 years. Once hunters and gatherers moved across the island, then the first kingdoms were consolidated. In 256 B.C. Buddhism entered the island and the first periods of prosperity were recorded.

Unfortunately also again in the first half millennium the one or other Indian conqueror looked past and imprints his stamp on the country. But they were also driven away again. So it went back and forth until 1505 when the Portuguese spread out and left behind the first European influences in the form of modern town planning. The Dutch followed and then the English, from whom they could never really free themselves.

Sri Lanka, which gained its independence in 1948, is still part of the Commonwealth of Nations with the Queen. Today Sri Lanka is considered a peaceful country. The last Tamil Tigers separatist uprisings were crushed in 2009. The mountains are still inhabited by isolated indigenous people. However, there are only a few left of the Veddas, a hunter people living in clans with monarchical structures.

Backpacker Route in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is quite small – no bigger than Bavaria. But the island has a lot of cultural and natural highlights to offer. 8 places of interest are part of the various world cultural and natural heritage of UNESCO. Enjoy the beach life at the dream beaches around the island. Explore the mountain world or take a look at the colonial and religious architecture during your backpacker trip through Sri Lanka.

Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)

  • 2 days Colombo with Pettah and the lively bazaar
  • 1 day Badullu-Nanu Oya train ride
  • 2 days Nagadeepa Island with Hindu Temple and Buddhist Temple
  • 2 days lagoon city Jaffna
  • 2 Days Wild Elephant Watching in Uda Walawe Park
  • 2 Days Leopard in Yala West National Park
  • 1 day Lion rock of Sigiriya with erotic rock paintings
  • 3 days Kandy with Sri Dhalada Maligawa and the Peradeniya Botanical Garden
  • 2 days old temples in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa
  • 3-4 days relaxing at the west coast of Sri Lanka (Negombo Beach)

Route 2: Backpacker Intensive Sri Lanka Trip (40 days and more)

  • 2 days Colombo with Pettah and the lively bazaar
  • 1 day Badullu-Nanu Oya train ride
  • 2 days Nagadeepa Island with Hindu Temple and Buddhist Temple
  • 2 days lagoon city Jaffna
  • 2 Days Wild Elephant Watching in Uda Walawe Park
  • 2 Days Leopard in Yala West National Park
  • 1 day Lion rock of Sigiriya with erotic rock paintings
  • 3 days Kandy with Sri Dhalada Maligawa and the Peradeniya Botanical Garden
  • 2 days old temples in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa
  • 3-4 days relaxing at the west coast of Sri Lanka (Negombo Beach)
  • 1 day in Nuwara Eliya experience English village flair
  • 1 day whale and dolphin watching in Mirissa and Kalpitiya
  • 1 day whitewater rafting in Kithulgala in Keliniya River
  • 1 day from the 130 meter high “Lovers Leap” rock in the port of Trincomalee looking out to sea
  • 1 day Floating market in Bastian Mawatha
  • 1 day by train to the highlands of Nuwara Eliya
  • 2 days rock climbing in Matale at Pidurangala Rock
  • 2 days visiting Buddhas of Buduruwagala – there are 7 of them at once
  • 2 days exploring the city of Galle.
  • 1 day exploring temples in Kandy
  • 1 day Unesco World Heritage Site Polonnaruwa
  • 10 days trekking

Travel times in Sri Lanka

Backpacking can be done on Sri Lanka all year round without any problems. Even if it should piss a lot during the rainy season, it always stays warm. You don’t have to think that it rains continuously during the rainy season. A few hours a day maybe. The average temperatures during the day are around 29° to 33°C. At night it doesn’t get much fresher with 25°C at the deepest.

Except up in the mountains, it can get colder there. After all, the highest mountain is 2500 m high. 5° to 7 °C it can become up there already times. Corrosive is the high humidity in the flat regions. There the shirt sticks to the body already with the smallest effort But one gets used to it.

It rains everywhere throughout the year on the island, but especially on the southwest coast and on the mountain slopes. The best travel time is supposedly from February to March, but this cannot be defined exactly, as it is not raining somewhere on the island. It doesn’t get cold at sea level anyway.

Backpacker Budget in Sri Lanka

The backpacking experience in Sri Lanka is not quite as inexpensive as in other countries in the region. However, the differences are often only slight compared to Thailand, for example. As always, it depends on what time you want to go where on the island. From the simplest bamboo huts to the most sophisticated hotel complexes, you will find the right accommodation for every budget. Usually all trips start from the capital Colombo. You can have a look at them when you arrive.

With the Tuk-Tuks you can conquer the surrounding area in the capital for just a few cents. 3 km in the cool companions cost 1.5 euros (because of your white skin.) Even driving a taxi doesn’t cost the world. From the airport to the city you pay around 30 euros. But there are also buses that are much cheaper. For one euro you can take the bus to the city.

The elephant shows, which you shouldn’t watch, cost about 17 Euro admission to the Colombo Zoological Garden. You should know that the animals are often bitterly tormented before they do such a “feat”. You can eat for 2 -5 Euro good and spicy. The well-known Lion Beer costs around 2.5 Euro in the 0.7 bomb. Calculate a daily budget of 20 to 30 Euro basic.

Domestic fares in Sri Lanka

It is not worth flying inland. You would have to resort to relatively expensive small airlines or charter planes that do not compete with the long-distance buses and trains in terms of price.

Boating in Sri Lanka

It doesn’t make sense either, unless you want to take the ferry to India. From Tuticorin in India you can go to Colombo in Sri Lanka with the Scotia Prince.

Backpacking in Sri Lanka - Boote

Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Boote

Train travel in Sri Lanka

Travelling by train is the highlight of the island. The rail network is very well developed thanks to the English. There are even panorama wagons with panoramic views. The departure times of the trains can be found on the website You can choose between three classes. The 1st and 2nd class can only be booked in Intercity and Express trains.

And in 3rd class it can get pretty crowded, especially if you take the main tourist route from Colombo-Kandy during rush hours. You should definitely take the Badullu-Nanu Oya route and along the coast it’s a dream. Otherwise you pay around 3 € from Colombo to Kandy. For the 1st class with padded seats you have to pay around 15 Euro.

Buses in Sri Lanka

Buses run from every village to every city, but you should also choose the more expensive buses here. On the other hand they are not a real alternative to the trains. One hour of bus travel costs a little more than one euro.

Backpacker accommodations in Sri Lanka

You should know that in Sri Lanka you can act everywhere in the rules. Such fixed prices are almost only available in hotels. Everything depends on the mood of the owners and the season of the other accommodations. You can choose between feudal hotel complexes during your backpacking trip through Sri Lanka or you can stay in a simple guesthouse.

In the Off Season you may be lucky enough to pay a quarter less than in the High Season. The season usually runs from 1 November to mid-April. As a backpacker, look around for cheap hostels and homestays. Calculate on average between 10 and 20 Euro. If you put in a little more, let’s say double or triple, then you can really enjoy yourself in small family Posada facilities.

The more you penetrate into the southeastern part of the coast, the more you can save on accommodation. The real low budget backpackers depend on the beaches Unawatuna and Tangalle in super simple beach huts. But you won’t get them for free either. Let’s have a look at the average prices for a bed in a dorm according to Hostelword.

  • Colombo 12 Euro
  • Negombo 8 Euro
  • Kandy 8 Euro
  • Bile 15 Euro
  • Hikkaduwa 7 Euro
  • Dambulla 16 Euro
  • Anuradhapura 25 Euro
  • Weligama 7 Euro
  • Unawatuna 13 Euro
  • Arugam Bay 9 Euro

You should keep your eyes open and compare the prices. However, it is not worth it to lie down in a pigsty because of the savings of one or two euros. For hygienic reasons you should rather go back to the better accommodation. Of course, this can also be cheaper. Listen to your stomach.

Camping in Sri Lanka

Camping is not exactly known in Sri Lanka. Especially in relation to camping sites. There are already camping sites, but most of the time they are finished camp sites with adventure tours. And they really cost coal in the different national parks. It is also not recommendable to camp wild, just for safety reasons. Allegedly it is not forbidden.

Backpacker Trips, Tips & Highlights in Sri Lanka

In two weeks you can do the top highlights in Sri Lanka in one trip. Start in Colombo, then on to Kandy, from there to Dambulla, on to Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. Make a stop in Horton Plains National Park, then back to Kandy and over to Ella. From there to the Yala National Park to Mirissa and Galle and back to Colombo. With that you are through. The rest you hang out at one or more beaches. For backpackers the beaches Unawatuna and Tangalle are worthwhile. Hippie flair under palm trees.

Backpacking in Sri Lanka - Anuradhapura

Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Anuradhapura

Backpacker Highlights in Sri Lanka

The highlights in Sri Lanka are certainly the fauna. Explore the biodiversity of the Knuckles Range. Also impressive is the scenery in Nuwara Eliya. Probably the best national park is the Horton Plains National Park. There are beautiful trekking tours at Haputale. Also the Bundala National Park with countless birds and lagoons has it in itself. At Rekawa beach the sea turtles, which lay their eggs there, await you. Wild elephants still live in Uda Walawe National Park. Almost untouched jungle can be found on your backpacker tour in Sinharaja.

What should you do in Sri Lanka?

In any case surf on the south and west coast from November to April. Kiting is also great. There are kite schools in Kalpitiya. In the region are also the best divespots. A special highlight, because also high, are the balloon trips, which are offered in Dambulla. But you have to get up early, because because of the thermals the hot air balloons only start in the morning. Elephant riding is also a great thing. In Pinnawala there are offers. You better stay away from the elephant shows. The animals are only unnecessarily tortured.

Backpacker insider tips on Sri Lanka

Here is a small tour where you can experience the sea, whales and Buddhist heritage. From Kalpitiya (dolphins, kites and hang out at Alankuda Beach) you will visit the Wilpattu National ParkLeopards and elephants are waiting for you. Then to Anuradhapura and from there to Mihintale, the birthplace of local Buddhism. Old medieval architecture can be seen backpacking in Polonnaruwa. Super beaches and lagoons can be found in Batticaloa. Arugam Bay with its small fishing village is ideal for relaxing and making friends. In Kataragama Buddhists, Hinduists and Muslims live peacefully together. There really is such a thing. You also have to climb Adam’s Peak.

Backpacking in Sri Lanka - Tee Anbau und Handel

Backpacking in Sri Lanka – Tee Anbau und Handel

Food & Drinks in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, as in many Asian countries, you can fill your stomach with delicious dishes that are also inexpensive. It is not said for nothing that Sri Lanka is also a culinary adventure. It often takes a while for you to get used to the country’s spicy and sometimes burningly spicy cuisine. But once you get used to the spicy sauces, it’s like an addiction. You always want more of it.

You should know that it is quite tres chique to eat with your fingers instead of knife and fork. But then there are spoons for soups. Always remember to eat with your right hand. The left one is used to wash the A… off. It is considered unclean. Whether vegans, carnivores or fish lovers, the typical cuisine of Sri Lanka can satisfy every taste.

Food in Sri Lanka

The classic is as so often in Asia rice and curry dishes with chicken. There is also a variation with fish and beef. Add some vegetables and you have a complete meal in your stomach for one euro. Almost every dish has Pol Sambol, a sweaty, incredibly hot chili paste on it. Beware with it as a newcomer.

By the way, water doesn’t help against the fire on the tongue. Dry bread is better. Try the delicious Hoppers pancakes, which are offered with all kinds of chutneys and sauces. The small bloated dumplings are almost thrown at her. Dhal is also a popular and inexpensive dish, but it is made from pulses and can therefore cause a lot of wind. The Gotu Kola tiger grass soup should be healthy.

The vegetable soup looks almost unnaturally green, but is made from the native plant species Centella asiática. Something quite unusual is the natural yoghurt milk from Curd made from water buffalo milk. Of course you can get the lousy typical western junk food like chips, pizza etc. in the guesthouses. But it doesn’t have to be.

Drinking in Sri Lanka

There is no shortage of drinks of all kinds. The fresh fruit juices taste great in any case. Juices, soft drinks and coffee are cheap. Even cheaper is the tea that is grown in the mountains. A litre of water costs only about 20 cents. Never drink tap water because it can spoil the whole backpacker trip.

Freshly squeezed fruit juices cost a little more than 30 cents. Lion Lager is the best known beer brand. Certainly not a premium beer but drinkable and affordable with one Euro. If you really want to clap your hands and spend a little money on it, then you’ll have the Arak rice schnapps in the pear. With 4-5 Euro you have a drunken stupor.

Backpacker Visa und vaccinations for Sri Lanka

Who wants to enter Sri Lanka must present a valid passport. Without it nothing works. What about the other papers and health regulations? Here is a small overview. As a German citizen you come to the country with the following documents:

  • Passport: Yes
  • Provisional passport: Yes
  • Identity card: No
  • Temporary identity card: No
  • Child passport: Yes
  • Still valid child ID according to old model: Yes

Better but you have recommended a children’s passport or passport for your kids, as there might be problems with entry.

Important: All travel documents must be valid for six months after the end of the trip, and each child needs their own ID document.

More importantly, as a German, you will also need a visa. Sri Lanka Passport and visa requirements You can obtain the paper as an “Electronic Travel Authorization” (ETA) in the online procedure at

Medical information

Get vaccinated with the standard vaccinations before entering Sri Lanka, at least the vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, red chalk, flu and pneumococcus should be given. Also known in the region are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis, Dengue Fever, Malaria, Diarrhoea and Bowel Disease and Chikungunya.

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