You Must Know These Things Before You Backpack in Sri Lanka

You Must Know These Things Before You Backpack in Sri Lanka

Looking like a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is the land of sheer beauty that will amaze you. Perfect testament to ‘good things come in small packages’; it is diverse in both nature and culture offering something for everyone.

On one hand, beach-goers prefer to stay near the island nation’s coastal belt known for its lively cafe and surf culture. On the other hand, ancient towns situated in central and northern Sri Lanka are heaven for history enthusiasts.

Moreover, Sri Lanka is home to mist-clad and trekker-friendly mountains, warm and welcoming people, and a rich cuisine. These qualities have ensured that Sri Lanka is far from a secluded destination.

It’s a land where the tropical sun shines bright and waves kiss the pebbled shore a million times every day. It is the perfect country for you to backpack through. Here is everything you need to know before you book your trip to Sri Lanka:

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Photo by Tomáš Malík on Unsplash

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

While it looks like a rain drop on the world map, the island nation of Sri Lanka is quite sunny all through the year.

The highlands in central Sri Lanka experience mild temperatures and coastline is lined with tropical sunshine. While there is no bad time to visit Sri Lanka, the period between December to March is considered to be the peak season.

Weather

If you could use one word for weather in Sri Lanka, it would be ‘unpredictable’. You may experience heavy downpour during the dry season or you may get perfectly clear, sunny days during the monsoons.

Tropical rains in Sri Lanka rarely last more than a few minutes, or occasionally hours. You may face localised flooding during the monsoons. In such a situation, the best thing to do is alter your plans a bit and visit drier and sunnier parts of the country. Humidity throughout the country ranges between 60% and 90%.

Currency

The currency used in Sri Lanka is called the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Currently, 1 LKR is worth 0.40 INR.

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Photo by Sander Don on Unsplash

Sri Lanka Visa

Citizens of countries like Singapore, Maldives, and Seychelles can get a Sri Lanka visa on arrival without any charges. However, if you are citizen of USA, Australia, UK, and India among many other countries nationals, you need to get an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) to visit Sri Lanka.

You can apply for an ETA online with ease. When you arrive at any Sri Lankan port of entry, if hold an ETA, you will be granted a 30-day short visit Sri Lanka Visa. Usually, this visa is valid for 2 entries in the country for a period of 6 months.

Depending on the type of visa you need, the processing fee for the Visa is between INR 1,999 and INR 2,699. As is the case with visas for most countries, you need to ensure that your passport has a validity of at least of 6 months from the date of your arrival in Sri Lanka. You should also carry proofs of sufficient funds to support your trip and your return ticket.

In case you want to stay in Sri Lanka for more than 30 days, you have a provision of extending your ETA. However, you can only do so twice. The first extension will grant you 90 days of stay including the prior 30 days. The second extension adds another 90 days to your trip.

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Getting around Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka may be small, but it is incredibly diverse in all respects. To assist you in completely exploring it, Sri Lanka has an extensive transport system for your travelling needs.

If you wish to backpack through Sri Lanka, public transport will be the best option for you. The reason for this is that not only is the public transport in Sri Lanka easy, but it is also extremely cheap. While the public transport system in Sri Lanka is not state-of-the-art, it does the job adequately. Here are the different options of public transport for you to get around Sri Lanka.

  • Trains

Trains in Sri Lanka are old-school and completely unique experience.  While they may be crowded, they will get you to your destination at low costs. Moreover, Sri Lankan train rides are extremely scenic. For example, the train running from Kandy to Ella is considered to be the world’s most beautiful train journey by many.

However, a word to the wise, pre-book your seats if you plan to travel on busy route for a longer distance. If you want to save time while travelling, you can book tickets for some non-AC and AC intercity trains along certain routes. They are faster than ordinary express trains. Some popular routes for these trains include Colombo to Kandy, Colombo to Anuradhapura to Jaffna, etc.

  • Buses

Buses in Sri Lanka cover both short and long distances. These buses are either state-run or private. Private buses are more frequent, run all day, and are decorated with flower garlands, mini statues, etc.

These buses do not need to be pre-booked, except for a few selected routes. The conductor in the bus will provide you with a ticket and assist you if needed. All you need to do then is sit back and relax.

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Photo by Jessica Snoek on Unsplash
  • Tuk tuks

Whenever you need to travel short distances in Sri Lanka, tuk tuks are the best option. However, tuk-tuk drivers are infamous for ripping off the tourists and sometimes even locals. The standard rate for travelling 1 km in a tuk-tuk is approximately 60 LKR.

While Sri Lanka is overall an affordable travel destination, it is still a little more expensive compared to other Southeast Asian countries like India, Nepal, etc. Hence, it is important that you ensure getting a Sri Lanka Visa beforehand.

Moreover, if you are backpacking through Sri Lanka, use public transport to get around the country and enjoy the island’s mouth-watering local cuisine. Moreover, anything you wish to buy in Sri Lanka, do so from the local shops and small businesses.

Not only is it cheaper for you, it supports the local businesses. Hope this blog helps you on your journey.

*This is a collaborative post

Simone Ribeiro
I'm a Brazilian journalist based in West Midlands. In Brazil, I have worked with International Trade and Logistics publications.

Now in the UK, I keep writing and I dedicate myself to a new project : Midlands Trade - a blog focused on business in Europe and Brazil. It's also supporting small businesses throughout the #MeetTheBusiness.

I'm a Brazilian journalist based in West Midlands. In Brazil, I have worked with International Trade and Logistics publications. Now in the UK, I keep writing and I dedicate myself to a new project : Midlands Trade - a blog focused on business in Europe and Brazil. It's also supporting small businesses throughout the #MeetTheBusiness.

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