The Ultimate Sri Lanka Itinerary: 3 Weeks In Sri Lanka

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I spent one month in Sri Lanka and was lucky enough to experience the best of what it has to offer. I loved everything about the country so I put together this 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary, to help you plan your perfect trip!

This includes my favorite places to see, and things to do in Sri Lanka, and is geared more toward the adventurous traveler who enjoys hiking, surfing, eating local cuisine and traveling on a budget. You’ll explore the cultural triangle, hill country and set your sights on the best beaches.

The travel route is flexible and can be cut to a shorter 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary, or extended to one month in Sri Lanka.

The ultimate Sri Lanka itinerary: 3 weeks to one month in Sri Lanka

The 9 Arch Bridge in Ella is iconic to Sri Lanka

Skip to a section

    1. 3 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary
    2. Suggestions for more than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka
    3. Suggestions for less than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka
    4. Practical Information For Your Trip
    5. 3 Week Sri Lanka Budget
    6. Best Time To Visit

3 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary: Map

This 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary follows the map below. You’ll start in Negombo, and continue on to the Cultural Triangle, Sigiriya. From here, you’ll head to the beaches of Trincomalee before making your way to Hill Country which includes the towns of Kandy, Dalhousie, Nuwara Eliya and Ella.

Finally, you’ll spend your last 10 days in Sri Lanka along the coast where you’ll visit Arugam Bay, Hiriketiya Beach and Mirissa before heading back to Negombo.

This 3 week itinerary takes your through the Cultural Triangle, Hill Country and along the east and south coasts of Sri Lanka

This 3 week itinerary takes your through the Cultural Triangle, Hill Country and along the east and south coasts of Sri Lanka

Day 1 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Negombo

Bandaranaike International Airport in Negombo is the gateway to Sri Lanka and the starting point of your journey.

Negombo is just under an hours drive from the capital city, Colombo. Despite what you may read online, both Colombo and Negombo don’t have much to offer compared to the rest of the country. They’re both loud, busy cities with chaotic streets and your time is better spent exploring the east and south coast.

It’s best to stay in Negombo for the night and catch an early morning train or bus to the next location on your Sri Lanka itinerary.

Time needed: 1 night

Where to stay in Negombo: Lilly Residence. This beautiful couple are 2 of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. They are both deaf and staying in their home was an experience I’ll never forget!

How to get to Negombo from Colombo International Airport: After your arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) catch a tuk-tuk to Negombo, which is about 15 minutes away. I recommend using the PickMe app (which is like Uber) to find a driver. If you arrive late at night, I suggest you do the same as the taxi prices can be quite expensive at the airport.

Day 2-3 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Sigiriya

Hiking Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya must be on your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary

Hiking Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya

Sigiriya is one of my favorite spots so make sure it’s on your Sri Lanka itinerary! It’s a beautiful, relaxed village, unspoiled by tourism and development. This village was a great introduction to the country and paved the way for what was the most amazing month in Sri Lanka.

The area surrounding Sigiriya is known as the cultural triangle, so if you’re interested in the history of Sri Lanka, you’ll be in your element here! I skipped both Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa as I wanted to allow time to explore the beaches and less touristic areas.

Check out this travel guide to Sigiriya for everything you need to know, and why you should stay in Sigiriya, and not Dambulla.

Time needed: 2 nights (3 if you want to experience more of the cultural triangle)

Things To Do In Sigiriya

  • Lion (Sigiriya) Rock: Lion Rock is one of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. It was once a fortress and home to Sri Lanka’s King. It has a deep historical significance along with beautiful views from the top but there’s a hefty $30 entrance fee.
  • Pidurangala Rock: Pidurangala has the most beautiful views overlooking Lion Rock. It’s a scenic hike to the top and more affordable if you’re traveling Sri Lanka on a budget.
  • Anuradhapura: This is a historical site, home to ruins of an ancient city. Anuradhapura is 73 km from Sigiriya and can be done in a day trip if you make use of a private van.
  • Polonnaruwa: Polonnaruwa is yet another UNESCO world heritage site and one of the second oldest kingdoms of Sri Lanka. Just 56 km from Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa is best explored by bicycle.
Watching a Sri Lanka cricket match in Dambulla

Watching Sri Lanka vs England cricket in Dambulla

Where to stay: Shen Residence. A lovely homestay in the countryside of Sigiriya. The hosts make the most delicious food and you can rent scooters and bicycles to explore the village.

How to get to Sigiriya from Negombo: To get to Sigiriya, you’ll need to make your way to Dambulla but unfortunately there’s no direct bus from Negombo to Dambulla. First, go to Negombo Bus Terminal. From here, catch the bus going to Kurunegala which takes 2 hours. After you’ve arrived in Kurunegala, take the bus to Dambulla which is another 2 hours. Finally, from Dambulla, you can either take a public bus or tuk-tuk to Sigiriya which is 30 minutes away.

Day 4-5 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Trincomalee

Trincomalee is a must in your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary

Exploring the beaches of Trincomalee

After a few days exploring the cultural triangle, it’s time to hit the beaches on the east coast of Sri Lanka!

Trincomalee is the main town, but when you head this side it’s best to stay in either Uppuveli or Nilaveli. Never heard of these places? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I wrote this guide to Trincomalee and it includes where you can find the best beaches.

Time needed: 2 nights. (If you have more time, I suggest spending an extra night in Trincomalee. But if you only have 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, stick to this itinerary)

Things To Do In Trincomalee

  • Beach: The water is incredibly flat, and you can spend hours lazing on the beach, reading a book (or sipping on a Lion Lager). The beaches aren’t good for surfing and they’re completely different from those on the south coast.
  • Fernando’s Bar: The best (albeit only) beach bar to go to! With its great vibes, food, and people, make sure to include Fernando’s in your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
  • Pigeon Island and snorkeling/diving: A trip to Pigeon Island is very popular, but from what I’ve heard, the reefs are damaged and the coral has been destroyed from over-tourism. If you’re wanting to go diving, I suggest that you head to Indonesia and dive the Komodo Islands instead.
Fernando's Bar in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Fernando’s bar in Trincomalee

Where to stay: Blue Blu Resort. Located near the beach, Blue Blu is affordable and a good place to stay in Trincomalee.

How to get to Trincomalee from Sigiriya: Take a tuk-tuk (or public bus) from Sigiriya to the main road in Dambulla, near Bentoka Bake House. You will then need to catch the bus to Trincomalee which takes 3 hours. Once you arrive in Trincomalee, take a tuk-tuk to your accommodation in either Uppuveli or Nilaveli.

Day 6 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Kandy

Exploring Kandy during my 3 weeks in Sri Lanka

Exploring Kandy Forest, lake and ending my day of with a well-deserved beer!

After Trincomalee, you’ll head back inland to the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy. Kandy is synonymous for the famous train ride, which is another must for your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Time needed: 1 night. (If you only have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, I suggest you spend 1 night in Kandy. But if you have more time and you’re able to travel slower, I suggest staying in Kandy for 2 nights.)

Things To Do In Kandy

  • Kandy Forest: Most people skip this and opt for the more popular attractions in Kandy, but exploring the Kandy Forest was the highlight of my time in Kandy. It’s in the city center with a few great views of Kandy Lake.
  • Kandy Lake and Big Buddha: Take a stroll around the Kandy Lake and walk to the big Buddha on the hill. It overlooks the city of Kandy, offering great viewpoints.
  • Kandyan Dance: Check out this cultural dance which takes place every evening.
  • Temple of the Tooth Relic: This temple is one of the holiest shrines in Sri Lanka and houses Buddha’s tooth.
Things to do in Kandy during 2 weeks in Sri Lanka

Checking out the big Buddha in Kandy. There’s a viewpoint here that looks over the entire city

Where to stay: Residence View Guest House. The owner is extremely accommodating, and the rooms are comfortable. She also makes a mean curry!

How to get to Kandy from Trincomalee: Take a tuk-tuk from Nilaveli or Uppuveli to Trincomalee Bus Station. Here, you’ll catch the bus back to Dambulla. From Dambulla, hop on the tourist bus that travels directly to Kandy.

Day 7-8 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Dalhousie (via Hatton)

The long journey from Hatton to Dalhousie to climb Adam's Peak

To long journey from Hatton to Dalhousie to climb Adam’s Peak

My trip to Adam’s Peak was one of the highlights during my month in Sri Lanka. And not because of the most incredible scenery or the kind people I met, but because of the actual journey to get there! This included taking a train, tuk-tuk, bus, walking 5 km through tea plantations and dodging a landslide.

Safe to say that I was extremely happy when we arrived in Dalhousie, with our new friends who endured the tortuous journey with us! Read this article on why you should include Adams Peak in your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Time needed: 2 nights. (If you have 3 weeks or one month in Sri Lanka, I highly recommend you spend 2 nights in Dalhousie so that you have enough time to recover from the hike)

Things To Do In Dalhousie

  • Climb Adams Peak: No, this is not Little Adam’s Peak in Ella. This is the sacred mountain where thousands of Sri Lankans congregate for an annual pilgrimage. Depending on the time of year you visit, your experiences will be different and the weather will impact the views from the top.
Should Adam's Peak be part of your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary?

Waiting for the clouds to clear after a 3 hour hike to Adam’s Peak

Where to stay: Subash Homestay. It’s located a short drive from the entrance to Adam’s Peak. Coming home to a hot shower, a delicious meal and a comfortable bed after 8 hours of hiking made this the perfect place to stay!

How to get to Dalhousie from Kandy: Time for the famous Kandy to Ella train ride (except you get off at Hatton, not Ella!) The train departs from Kandy station at 08:47 but get there an hour before. After 2.5 hours, you’ll arrive at Hatton station which will be your exit point. From here you can either take a tuk-tuk or public bus to Dalhousie which is an hour away. If you take the bus, you’ll first go to Maskeliya and then Dalhousie.

Day 9-10 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Nuwara Eliya

If you have one month in Sri Lanka, make sure you visit Nuwara Eliya

I loved Nuwara Eliya! The town is so different from the rest of Sri Lanka and it has some of the most beautiful tea plantations and waterfalls

To ensure your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary includes the best that the country has to offer, make sure you visit Nuwara Eliya. It’s a quaint little village situated between Kandy and Ella and doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of Sri Lanka!

Nuwara Eliya is much colder than the rest of the country and I even had to pull out my winter clothes after we arrived! It felt like I was in the middle of an old English town, hence it’s often referred to as Little England.

I read a lot of conflicting reviews on Nuwara Eliya, with most recommending that if you have less than 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, you should give it a skip. But I disagree! Check out this guide to Nuwara Eliya with all the best things to do and see, and why you will love it, despite how un-Sri Lankan it is.

Time needed: 2 nights

Things To Do In Nuwara Eliya

  • Ramboda Waterfall: Yet another great hike to get to these waterfalls with very few other tourists.
  • Tea plantations: Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by lush fields filled with tea plantations that hug the side of the hills.
  • High tea at The Grand Hotel: Because one needs to have an afternoon tea!
  • Pubs in Nuwara Eliya: The Pub and The 19th Hole are not to be missed.
Kandy to Ella train

Finally on the train to Nuwara Eliya

How to get to Nuwara Eliya from Dalhousie (via Hatton): First, you need to take a tuk-tuk from Dalhousie to Hatton. (After doing this route with both a bus and tuk-tuk, I suggest you opt for a tuk-tuk ride. It’s the most beautiful part of hill country and going with a tuk-tuk means you can stop along the way and take in all the scenery). Once you arrive in Hatton, get back on the “Kandy to Ella” train and hop off at Nanu Oya station which is 15 minutes outside of Nuwara Eliya. From here, take a tuk-tuk to your accommodation in Nuwara Eliya.

Day 11–13 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Ella

Hiking Ella Rock for your Sri Lanka itinerary

Hiking Ella Rock in Sri Lanka

Nearly 2 weeks in Sri Lanka and we finally made it to Ella which is arguably the most famous destination in hill country. It’s bustling with tourists and there are a few trendy bars and cafes along the main road.

Time needed: 3 nights

Things To Do In Ella

  • Little Adam’s Peak: A quick, easy hike with stunning views.
  • Ella Rock: A longer hike compared to Little Adam’s Peak, but equally as beautiful and unique. If you don’t have 3 weeks in Sri Lanka and want to spend less time in Ella, read this post about what hike you should rather do.
  • 9 Arch Bridge: This iconic bridge is so unbelievably beautiful and is best done after Little Adam’s Peak.
  • Tea plantations: Ella is surrounded by lush tea fields so if you haven’t visited any yet, now’s your chance.
Hiking Little Adam's Peak in Ella

Hiking Little Adam’s Peak for sunrise

Where to stay: Broad View Guest House. This local homestay lies on top of a hill, overlooking Ella. The owner is so friendly and welcomed us into his home where we ate our daily meals with the family.

How to get to Ella from Nuwara Eliya: From Nuwara Eliya, take a tuk-tuk to Nanu Oya train station and hop on the train to Ella.

Day 14-16 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Arugam Bay

Should Arugam Bay be on your 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary?

Discovering the beaches of Arugam Bay (when we got a few hours of no rain)

Arugam bay is a popular surfer and backpacker hub on the east coast of Sri Lanka. It was hit hard by the 2004 Tsunami but has since grown to be one of the most popular destinations in the country.

It’s slightly off the standard route and so many people skip it if they only have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka.

Note: I traveled to Sri Lanka in October and Arugam Bay was the one destination on my itinerary that was negatively affected by the weather. Most restaurants and bars were closed during this time, the waves were choppy and not great for surfing, and there weren’t any other tourists around. If you’re planning your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary from October to November, rather skip Arugam Bay (and read my suggestions below of where to go instead).

Time needed: 3 nights (because it’s quite a journey to get there and back)

Things To Do In Arugam Bay:

  • Surf and relax on the beach.
  • Rent a scooter for the day and take a trip to Peanut Farm and other hidden beaches.
  • Arugam Bay is known for its beach parties, especially at Whiskey Point.
  • Take a run along the coast, all the way to Pottuvil.
We spotted this big guy at Peanut Farm Beach near Arugam Bay

We spotted this big guy at Peanut Farm Beach near Arugam Bay

Where to stay: Mid Bay Guest House. This beautiful property is just a stone’s throw away from the beach. It’s extremely affordable and comes with a delicious breakfast. But for the price, you’re going to have to sacrifice hot showers, which we were happy to do.

How to get to Arugam Bay from Ella: The journey to Arugam Bay is the longest of my 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary. Most people choose to take a private van to save time, but if you’re on a budget, I suggest taking a public bus instead. From Ella, you’ll take the bus to Weliwaya which is 40 minutes away. Here, you’ll change buses and take one that goes to Mongara, another 50 minutes. Finally, you’ll get on your last bus from Mongara to Arugam Bay. The bus will pass through Pottuvil before reaching Arugam Bay. This is the longest leg of the journey and takes 2.5 hours.

Day 17 – 18 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Hiriketiya Beach

Your Sri Lanka itinerary should include 4 days in Hiriketiya Beach

Hiriketiya is amazing! We ended up spending 4 days here because we loved it so much

Hiriketiya is a small bay lined with palm trees. It has a fun wave well suited for all levels of surfers. It was the ultimate stop during my 3 weeks in Sri Lanka and should definitely be included in your itinerary.

Here’s my Hiriketiya travel guide!

Time needed: 2 nights (if you have one month in Sri Lanka, spend 3 or 4 nights in Hiriketiya, like we did)

Things To Do In Hiriketiya

  • Surfing: The waves are perfect for beginners.
  • Tallala Beach: Just a short drive from Hiriketiya is Tallala Beach. It’s a much bigger beach with fewer people and makes for a great day trip.
  • Sunset drinks on the beach: We took chairs, got some beers and sat right on the water’s edge.
Learning how to surf in Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka

Learning how to surf in Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka

Where to stay: Peak house. It might not have beachfront views, but Peak House is a great place to stay if you’re on a budget.

How to get to Hiriketiya Beach from Arugam Bay: From Arugam Bay, you will need to take a tuk-tuk to nearby Pottuvil. Here, hop on a public bus to Dikwella – be prepared for a long journey! Once you arrive in Dikwella, take a tuk-tuk to Hiriketiya Beach, which is about 15 minutes away.

Day 19 – 21 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Mirissa/Weligama/Midigama

Coconut Hill is iconic to Mirissa

Coconut Hill is iconic to Mirissa

The southern part of the country is popular with tourists and is closer to the airport than other destinations on my Sri Lanka itinerary. It’s a great place to spend a few days before your 3 weeks in Sri Lanka comes to an end.

There are a few small villages near Weligama where you can base yourself, all within a 10-minute scooter ride away from each other.

Mirissa: The most popular of the 3 is Mirissa. It’s a busy little village with lots of bars and restaurants as well as tuk-tuks and scooters zooming around. The beach here is great, and you can enjoy a cocktail at one of the many beach bars. Mirissa makes for a better day trip if you prefer to stay in a less crowded area.

Weligama: Weligama is one of the best beginner surfer spots in Sri Lanka. It has a relaxed, backpacker atmosphere with heaps of surf schools along the main road.

Midigama: Most tourists choose to stay in the above two places rather than Midigama because it’s not one of the hotspots. But I loved Midigama! It’s a laid-back little village, there are great restaurants (Surf View Restaurant is my favorite!) and it’s close to lots of hidden beaches. If you’re looking for good surf breaks, Midigama is best for those who are more experienced.

Here’s my detailed travel guide to Midigama!

Time needed: 2 nights

Things to do in Midigama

  • Surfing: Midigama (experienced) or Weligama (beginners) are your best choices.
  • Coconut Hill: This picturesque hill covered in palm trees is a short drive from Mirissa.
  • Delicious fresh seafood lunch on the beach in Mirissa.
  • The Doctors House and sunset at Chill Cafe: The Doctors House is a vibey spot near Mirissa. Right in front of it, on the beach, is Chill Café. Make sure you go here for sunset!
Enjoying my last 10 days in Sri Lanka

Checking out the surf spots near Midigama

Where To Stay In Midigama: Dreams Garden Surf Lodge. The family who own Dreams Garden are incredibly kind and friendly. They made sure that our last few days in Sri Lanka were some of the best.

How to get to Mirissa/Weligama/Midigama from Hiriketiya Beach: Take a 15-minute tuk-tuk from Hiriketiya to Dikwella. Here, you’ll get on a public bus which will take you to your next destination which is about 1.5-hour drive away.

Day 21 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Negombo

After 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, it’s time to head home! Depending on the time of your flight, I suggest you check into a homestay near the airport so that you can freshen up before your departure.

How to get to Negombo from Midigama: Take the train from Ahangama to Colombo Fort. From here, you can get on the airport shuttle bus to Bandaranaike International Airport in Negombo. After you’ve arrived at the airport, take a tuk-tuk to your homestay where you can freshen up and return to the airport 2 hours before your flight departs.

My 3 weeks in Sri Lanka is coming to an end

Saying goodbye to the beaches of Sri Lanka and heading back to Negombo

Suggestions for more than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka: 1 month Sri Lanka Itinerary

  • Spend more time here: Trincomalee (3 nights), Kandy (2 nights) and Hiriketiya Beach (4 nights)
  • Explore the National Parks: Most people choose to include a trip to a Yala or Udawalawe National Park as part of their Sri Lanka itinerary. The reason I didn’t is because these parks get so busy and your sightings are often over-crowded with other tourists. You also need to arrange a proper safari which will eat into your Sri Lanka budget. My thoughts? Rather enjoy the beaches of Sri Lanka and save your cash for an African safari where you’ll see elephants, lions, leopards and so many other wild animals with very few people around.
Try get to the 9 Arch Bridge early to miss the crowds as it gets so busy

Try get to the 9 Arch Bridge early to miss the crowds as it gets so busy

Suggestions for less than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka: 2 week Sri Lanka Itinerary

If you have less than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, or if you prefer to travel slowly, then I suggest the following:

  • Don’t miss: Sigiriya, Trincomalee, Ella and Hiriketiya Beach are must-see destinations in your 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
  • Less time: Spend only 1 night in Kandy, or drive-by if you arrive early enough to catch the Kandy to Ella train in time.
  • Skip Adam’s Peak in Dalhousie: It’s with a heavy heart that I say this as I loved traveling to Dalhousie. But I’d rather see Nuwara Eliya if you only have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka.
  • Skip Weligama/Mirissa/Midigama: Hiriketiya Beach and Trincomalee are two of the best beaches in Sri Lanka so rather ensure they are part of your 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
  • Travel by private van: The buses and trains in Sri Lanka are a slower means of transport, so if budget isn’t a concern, rather travel by van.
Whiskey Point in Arugam Bay during my one month in Sri Lanka

Whiskey Point in Arugam Bay

Practical Information For Your Trip To Sri Lanka

  • Visas: Sri Lanka visas operate on an electronic system and you need to apply online a few days before your arrival. This costs $35 and is valid for 30 days. Apply for your visa here. The Sri Lankan government have recently given certain nationalities visa-free entry so be sure to check if you qualify for this.
  • Currency: The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). ATMs and credit card facilities are available in the country. If you stay at homestays, use public transport, or eat at local restaurants, ensure you have cash on you. It’s best to draw money at the ATMs as you arrive at the airport.
  • Tipping: 10 % is encouraged.
  • Internet: It’s best to buy a sim card and load it with data. Most places don’t have wi-fi and the connection can be terrible at times. After your arrival in Sri Lanka, go straight to the Dialog stand at the airport and purchase a local sim card. This costs 1300 LKR ($7) and includes 9 gigs of data!
  • Dress: Be respectful of their cultural norms and dress appropriately when entering sacred areas.
3 weeks in Sri Lanka

One of many view points from Little Adam’s Peak in Ella

3 Week Sri Lanka Budget

If you’re traveling Sri Lanka on a budget, you’ll need between $25-$40 per person per day. This will cover food, transport, accommodation and a few activities.

As soon as you start adding tourist attractions to your Sri Lanka itinerary (such as national parks, whale watching, historical sites) your Sri Lanka budget will increase. To keep prices down avoid too many paid experiences, don’t travel by private van, stick to local food and avoid drinking too much as alcohol is expensive!

Transport: How to travel around during your 3 weeks in Sri Lanka

There is an extensive transportation network throughout Sri Lanka and getting around the country is easy, and affordable. It can also be uncomfortable and highly frustrating, especially if you’re trying to stick to a 2 or 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Note: Driving in Sri Lanka is not for sissys! The roads are hectic, narrow, windy and busy with hordes of trucks and buses. The drivers go extremely fast, hooting most of the time. Keep this in mind when walking along the streets or driving long distances with a tuk-tuk or scooter.

Train: It’s best to travel by train in hill country and the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. The trains are extremely slow and can sometimes be delayed, but the cheap price makes up for it! Vendors walk up and down the isles selling local treats, refreshments, and snacks.

You can book 1st, 2nd or 3rd class tickets. In my opinion, traveling 3rd class with the locals is the only way to do it! Check out the train schedule here.

Trains in Sri Lanka

Riding 3rd class

Public bus: Throughout my one month in Sri Lanka, I traveled mostly with public buses as the trains don’t cover all areas. The buses are easily identifiable by their red or blue color. Expect no aircon, lots of stops, school children hopping on and off (every 5 minutes), and a tiring journey but it’s the cheapest way to travel through the country.

The buses run frequently (every 15-45 minutes) and whilst there are time schedules, they aren’t followed. The buses leave when they’re full, and if they’re not, you’ll have to wait!

When trying to find a bus, just go to the station and tell everyone where you’re wanting to go to. The Sri Lankan people are so helpful and whilst they may not be able to speak english, they’ll make sure you get on the right bus. Sometimes you’re charged extra for luggage (if your bag takes up a seat on the bus).

How to travel during your 2 weeks in Sri Lanka

Trying to find the bus to Dambulla

Tuk-Tuk: Tuk-tuks are the best way to travel for short distances. They’re more expensive than public buses and require some bargaining skills or else you will get ripped off. You can also rent a tuk-tuk and drive yourself, but it’s easier to just hop on with a driver, especially since driving in Sri Lanka is not child’s play!

Private van: Not quite the authentic Sri Lankan experience but if you have less than 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, it’s worth it to travel by private van. You can either hire a car and driver who will take you to all the destinations on your Sri Lanka Itinerary. Alternatively, you can find a driver at each destination if you’d prefer to make use of other means of transport. There are a few Facebook groups for travelers who are looking to share vans so check those out. One of them is “Sri Lanka Taxi Share”.

Scooters: Because of my warning about Sri Lanka roads and drivers, I don’t recommend that you hire a scooter and travel throughout the country this way. Rather use a scooter to explore the area you’re staying in. I rented one in Arugam Bay, Ella, Hiritekiya, and Trincomalee and went exploring to the nearby beaches and villages, but limit your scooter rides to these short distances. You’ll need your passport and driver’s license to rent a scooter in Sri Lanka.

We hired a scooter and explored Ella for a day

We rented a scooter and explored Ella for a day

Sri Lanka Accommodation

Accommodation in Sri Lanka ranges from budget to luxurious. If, like me, you’re happy to rough it up a bit, then I suggest you stay at homestays with local families. Here, you’ll have an authentic Sri Lankan experience, you’ll eat with the family and you’ll form a connection with the people and the country that you’ll never forget. Make sure you eat at least 1 meal at your homestay – these were some of the best meals I’ve ever had!

Budget rooms range from $12 – $20 for a private room for 2 people with basic amenities. At this price, don’t expect hot water or Wi-Fi. A small breakfast is usually included, and it will be good enough to rest your head for the night. For $20-$35 you can expect hot water, a fan (aircon if you’re lucky) and perhaps Wi-Fi.

When backpacking through Sri Lanka, it’s best to book your accommodation the day before your arrival as your itinerary may change.

Tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya

Tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya

Sri Lanka Food

I didn’t know much about Sri Lanka cuisine and so I was pleasantly surprised by just how delicious it is. Below were my favorites which I ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during my one month in Sri Lanka.

  • Rice and Curry: The name speaks for itself!
  • Kottu Roti: Shredded pieces of roti bread, chopped up and stir-fried (my favorite!)
  • Devilled Chicken: Marinated chicken pieces with vegetables

To save costs, eat local and make sure your accommodation includes breakfast. Curry and rice costs $1-$3 per meal which is super affordable and delicious. Alcohol is more expensive, and a beer will cost around $2-$4, depending on where you buy from.

Sri Lanka food

Breakfast is served

Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an all-year-round travel destination. You can spend hours researching the best time to visit but the weather can still be unpredictable.

December to March is peak season so expect lots of tourists and crowded beaches. Try to avoid traveling to Sri Lanka during this time.

  • April–August is the south-west monsoon so it’s best to visit the north or east coast during this time.
  • October–January is the north-east monsoon season so it’s best to visit the central and southwest coast.
  • October and November are synonymous for erratic weather and it can rain anywhere at any time.
The fishermen in Sri Lanka

The fishermen in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Weather In October

If you follow my 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary in October, as I did, expect the below:

  • Sigiriya, Hiriketiya Beach, and Midigama had perfect weather.
  • Ella, Dalhousie and Nuwara Eliya were overcast at times but it didn’t affect my experience of these areas.
  • Trincomalee had its daily afternoon rain shower but the vibe was still great.
  • Arugam Bay was dead with no tourists and constant rain so I don’t recommend that you visit during October.

Is Sri Lanka Safe?

I traveled to Sri Lanka in October 2018. Just a few months later the country was hit with horrific terrorist attacks. Never did I ever think this would happen to such a kind and caring nation. But it’s a reality that no matter where you travel to there is a chance of something devastating happening. Don’t let this fear stop you from exploring countries as unique as Sri Lanka. It’s an amazing country; the people are so generous and they rely heavily on tourism.

Looking for more Sri Lanka travel information? Check out my other posts!

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