traditional boats on the beach in Sri Lanka with palm trees behind

Sri Lanka Itinerary: 2 Amazing Weeks of Jungles, Beaches, and Culture (2023)

Sri Lanka, the island just south of India, has incredible beaches, ancient culture, and breathtaking wildlife experiences. In this two-week Sri Lanka itinerary, we have outlined where to go and what to do with 14 days (or more) to explore this tropical paradise.

Planning your first trip to Sri Lanka can be intimidating- there are so many locations to choose from! We spent hours researching, and then spent over a month exploring the island, so we can tell you first-hand what to skip, and what to make sure to add to your itinerary.

We’ve included where to stay and where to eat in Sri Lanka and also offered some alternative locations to choose from to customize your 14-day itinerary or to add on if you have more time. We also have the best times to visit Sri Lanka (and when to avoid), and top tips for visiting Sri Lanka so you can make the most of your time there.

From thrilling safaris to look for elusive wild leopards to whale watching and surf lessons on idyllic beaches thereโ€™s so much to explore on this island. There are epic train trips and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With so much to see, youโ€™ll have to pick and choose a bit for your two weeks in Sri Lanka.

This article may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. All our recommendations are our own and are in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative.

At the bottom of this post, download a free guide: 6 Safety Tips for Traveling with Kids: What You Should Know Before You Travel.

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Is Sri Lanka Worth Visiting?

Sri Lanka is a fantastic place to visit! It seems to be off-the-radar for many US-based travelers, but it is definitely worth visiting. You’ll find amazing wildlife, beautiful beaches, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a low cost of living, and very friendly, laid-back people. This is a place you’ll want to return to! We spent over a month in Sri Lanka as part of our Family Gap Year (what is a Family Gap Year?) and would love to return- both to explore new places and spend more time at some of our favorite spots.

Is Sri Lanka Family Friendly?

Yes, Sri Lanka is very family-friendly! We took our kids to Sri Lanka when they were 5 and 8. They had a great time- taking surf lessons, spotting wild elephants, visiting tea plantations, and more! Sri Lanka is a terrific addition to your family bucket list. It has beautiful beaches where families can relax, as well as many national parks where you can spot wildlife from leopards to elephants, to colorful birds. There are plenty of educational opportunities including painted caves, Buddhist temples, and the ruins of ancient cities.


A (Very) Short History of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, known as the “Teardrop of India,” has a long history spanning over 3,000 years, which includes the rise and fall of powerful kingdoms like Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Starting in the 16th Century parts of the island were controlled by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. The British gained control in 1815, calling Sri Lanka “Ceylon” and ruled until Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. The name “Ceylon” was used until it was officially changed in 1972 when Sri Lanka ceased being a Dominion of the British Empire and became a Republic and the oldest democracy in Asia.

Sri Lanka is 70% Buddhist, with a rich cultural heritage of both Buddhism and Hinduism on the island. A brutal civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamil communities lasted from 1983 to 2009. Since then, Sri Lanka has been working towards national reconciliation- you will find both populations living side by side today.


Sri Lanka Itinerary: Two Weeks

A 14-day itinerary in Sri Lanka allows you to see some culture and some wildlife, and then have a few days left for some amazing beaches! This itinerary focuses on the south and west parts of the island. We always prefer to start with a faster pace, and then leave the beaches for the end of the trip, so that you can relax before heading out. You could easily do this itinerary in reverse as well.


Negombo: 2 Nights

sand and waves at Negombo Beach in Sri Lanka, first stop in Sri Lanka itinerary

Negombo is a beach town just North of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. If you have more time, there are a few things worth seeing in Colombo, but with just two weeks in Sri Lanka, we advise heading straight out to Negombo to begin your Sri Lanka travels.

Negombo is about a 20-minute drive from the main international airport: Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), it’s actually closer to drive to Negombo than drive into Colombo. Most flights into Sri Lanka land at odd, middle-of-the-night hours. I assume it has something to do with wind patterns, but whatever the reason, you will probably land at 2:30 am or some other unfortunate hour.

Book a hotel in Negombo for the night you are flying, so when you arrive at 3:30 am a bed will be ready for you (especially important with kids!). You’ll then have a full day to acclimate to any jet lag and explore a bit of Negombo beach before moving on into the interior of Sri Lanka.

While in Negombo, check out Cafe Zen for coffee, smoothies, and vegan meals like falafel wraps, or Thai Mango salad. For dinner, head to Lucky’s Family Restaurant for excellent rice and curry. The best thing about curry in Sri Lanka is that for each rice and curry meal, they bring 5-8 small dishes of different curries, so there’s a lot of variety.


Recommended Negombo Hotel: Christima Residence

The Christima Residence has a great location on a quiet street close to the beach and an easy walk to some great cafes. The rooms are bright and comfortable, with an outdoor pool and a garden to relax in while you deal with jetlag. This hotel is also a quick walk to the beach so you can enjoy some ocean waves!

Book Now: Christima Residence


Bonus Stop: Check out the huge Athagala Buddha on your drive between Negombo and Sirgirya.

Large Athagala Buddha, inbetween Negombo and Sigiriya in Sri Lanka



Sigiriya: 3 nights

Two kids on the path leading to the imposing Lion Rock in Sigiriya Sri Lanka

Sirigirya is an inland town that has been built around Sigiriya Rock- more commonly called Lion Rock. While it’s not a large town, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants around to make this a base for a few days while you explore the rock and two other cultural sites that are close by- the Dambulla Cave Temple, and the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

Climb Lion Rock

Lion Rock rises more than 600 feet above the plains around it. In the 5th century, Sinhalese King Kashyapa I built a palace on top of the rock, including stairs leading up through lion’s paws, hence the popular name. The palace fell into ruin but became a popular pilgrimage spot, and finally a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

You can climb the rock, ascending through various levels of gardens and palace rooms below, for wonderful views of the valley below. As you head down, you’re able to view magnificent frescos of apsaras- celestial dancers, on the rock wall. As you continue down, picture the entire face of the rock covered in these wonderful paintings, and you may catch of glimmer of how impressive this site once was.

Family of four seated on Lion Staircase, Lion Rock, Sigiriya Sri Lanka


Pidurangala Temple Rock

Lion Rock is quite pricey to climb- the entrance fee is the equivalent of about 30 USD per adult. Some budget-conscious visitors opt to skip the climb in favor of climbing Pidurangala, a rock across from Sigiriya with an entry fee of just 3 USD. The argument is that from here you have a better view of Sigiriya Rock, for a much lower cost.

You enter this hike through a temple, so make sure you dress appropriately to enter the temple- with your knees and shoulders covered. This rock is supposed to also be lovely at sunset if you’d like to time your hike accordingly.

The Ruins of Polonnaruwa

While in Sigirya, consider a day trip to Polonnaruwa – the ruins of an ancient city. You’ll need to hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you there- it’s about an hour from Sigiriya. The drive is pleasant, we actually saw two wild elephants along the way! Once you arrive at Polonnaruwa, you can either explore on a bicycle or have your tuk-tuk driver move you through the different areas of this city.

Buddha at the center of ruins of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka

Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura was destroyed in 993CE. You’ll see the remains of the Royal Palace, the Royal Bath, the Council Chamber, and more. Be sure to check out the impressive Moonstones- semi-circular carved stone slabs at the base of stairways and entrances.

Travel Tip: When visiting temples (often a big part of ancient cities), you will be removing your shoes a lot. Opt for flip-flops or easy-off shoes to make this simpler.

Dambulla Cave Temple

The Dambulla Caves are the largest and best-preserved cave temples in Sri Lanka. Every inch of space here on the walls and ceilings is painted! There are five main caves that are located under a large outcropping of rock, so they stay dry, and thus incredibly well-preserved. There are 153 Buddha statues here as well as statues of kings, gods, and goddesses. At the base of the caves, you’ll find the Golden Temple, with, yup, a giant golden Buddha!

Spotlight on a painted Buddha inside Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka


Where to Eat in Sigiriya

One of our favorite places to hang out in Sigirya is Cappuccino Bistro. They have a lovely outdoor seating area on a raised terrace, with good coffee, smoothies, board games, and a few main dishes. Another lovely place for relaxing with coffee is La Dolce Vita– they have a wide-open patio and relaxing vibes.

We had dinner at both Kenoli and The Kitchen, and both were delicious. Lots of local staples like rice and curry, and Koththu (roti chopped up with vegetables and meat).

Where to Stay in Sigiriya: Sigiri Heritage Villa

We loved our stay at Sigiri Heritage Villa. It’s got some serious treehouse vibes, which we all loved. They have a pool and a restaurant on-site, as well as being within walking distance to some places in Sigiriya, though we recommend taking a tuk-tuk at night, or to Lion Rock.

Book Now: Sigiri Heritage Villa


Kandy: 1 Night

Shrine of the Temple of Tooth in Kandy Sri Lanka with flower offerings in the foreground

The Town of Kandy is centered around the famous Temple of the Tooth, and the large Kandy Lake. Kandy was not my favorite town in Sri Lanka, but you need to go through here to ride the picturesque rail line from Kandy to Ella.

While you are here, check out the Temple of the Tooth, complete with its taxidermied elephant, and sacred tooth relic (only on view at certain times), and take in the Kandy Cultural Show. There will be people all over town directing you to the cultural show- some will even tell you the temple is closed now so you might as well go to the show! It’s not necessary to pre-book tickets, though if you do, they will reserve the front few rows of seats for you.

The kids loved the cultural show- it included dance, costumes, and fire-breathing, ending will a full-on fire-walking demonstration. There is a handout that explains the context and story behind each dance sequence.

Walk around Kandy Lake to see Kingfishers, Monitor lizards, and more. We didn’t make it to the Royal Botanical Gardens, but we hear they are beautiful and have an astounding display of orchids.


Bonus Stop: The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage

This elephant orphanage is an hour outside of Kandy. If you are short on time, and won’t be visiting one of the national parks in Sri Lanka to see wild elephants, this is a great substitute. Pinnewala was founded by the government in 1975 to care for orphaned elephants and now has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world.

Where to Eat in Kandy

There are two dosa places that both get rave reviews- Sri Krishna Dosai, and Balaji Dosai, across the street from one another. For coffee, brunch, or smoothie bowls, head to Cafe Secret Alley or to Buono for avocado toast. For dinner head to Hideout Lounge. They have everything from pumpkin curry to hummus bowls and pasta. We also enjoyed a pizza night at Vito Wood Fired Pizza.


Where to Stay in Kandy: Hotel Casmara

This hotel has a great location right in the middle of the Kandy with a rooftop pub and outdoor pool for when you need to get away from the bustle and relax. Just a few minutes walk to Kandy Lake or the Temple of the Tooth, this hotel has big rooms, many with balconies.

Book Now: Hotel Casmara




Scenic Train Ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

One of the great highlights of travel in Sri Lanka is the scenic train that travels from Kandy to Ella. It is not a fast train, but it winds through the hills and is slow enough that you can safely hang out the open door and get epic tea plantation pictures.

You can drive between the cities faster than the train, but we highly recommend you take the slow route! We also recommend breaking the 7-hour train journey into two days- Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya stop), and then Nuwara Eliya to Ella. This gives you two chances to have good weather and wonderful views of the countryside. Otherwise, you may find yourself traveling through dense fog, with little to see.

Two kids with heads out the window as the train between Kandy and Ella passes tea plantations

You should reserve tickets for the train in advance. You can choose 1st class (A/C, closed windows), or second class and third class where the windows open. You also have to choose “unreserved”, or “reserved”. Reserved means you have an assigned seat. You’ll want to go for 2nd or 3rd class reserved. It’s much more fun to be able to hang out the window a bit, and take pictures.

Travel Tip: Make sure to book train tickets in advance. They are released 32 days ahead and sell out quickly. We had to split up into two different classes on one of the trains because we couldn’t get 4 tickets together. You don’t want to stand for 4-7 hours.


Nuwara Eliya: 2 Nights

Hillside with rows of tea plants and sign for Damro Tea taken from the tea plantation

Nuwara Eliya is in the hills of Sri Lanka, often called “Little England”. We quickly found out that it’s called that because it rains a lot. It rained just about every day we were there. This is a great stop on the Kandy to Ella train but could be reduced to one night if you are trying to condense the itinerary.

While you are in Nuwara Eliya, tour a tea factory. We chose Damro Tea, but there are several available. They’ll show you how they process the tea, and then you’ll have a complimentary cup to sip.

We also highly recommend High Tea at the Grand Hotel. Make a reservation to ensure you get a lovely white tablecloth table on the patio. The tea towers here are delightful, and also a great price (about $15 USD per tower). Served between 3 pm and 6 pm, we shared two tea platters between the four of us. Make sure to take a stroll inside, you’ll meander through grand parlors on your way to the washroom.

There are several waterfalls you can visit, including Ramboda Falls (the Upper Falls is worth the climb), also consider a trip to a strawberry farm! From Nuwara Eliya, you can make a day trip out to Moon Plains, or hike Adam’s Peak, though you’ll want a clear, dry day for both!

Where to Stay in Nuwara Eliya

Mid-Range Hotel: The Ramp

The Ramp Hotel has this name because of the funky staircase going up its side- it’s a bit lopsided fairytale! The beds are comfy, the rooms are large, and it’s got a great location in town where you can walk to many places.

Book Now: The Ramp



Luxury Hotel: The Grand Hotel

If you’ve got the budget, the best place in town is The Grand Hotel, where you can enjoy high tea or happy hour whenever you want, eat at their posh restaurants, or play on the golf course. This five-star hotel has the old-school elegance of a traditional colonial hotel and is surrounded by English gardens.

Exterior and patio of The Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka

Book Now: The Grand Hotel



Ella: 2-3 nights

Ella is a delightful town where you’ll find most of the cafes and restaurants on one main street that is very walkable. You’ll also see cows strolling up this street in the mornings. We had generally better weather in Ella and preferred this town to Nuwara Eliya. Also, we saw an epic display of lightning bugs here, so take a stroll at night and keep your eyes peeled!

Viewpoint from Little Adams Peak, green covered mountains and blue sky looking into the distance, in Ella Sri Lanka
View from Little Adams Peak hike in Ella

One of the best things to do in Ella is hike Little Adams Peak! You’ll pass through tea plantations on the way. It’s not a hard hike, and you end up with amazing views. There are actually three different “peaks”, and the scramble down the hill and back up to the third peak was the highlight of the hike for us. Definitely worth it!

After hiking, hit up 98 Acres for a fancy lemonade and a snack. They also have all the most recent timetables to tell you when trains will be passing across the Nine Arch Bridge so you can plan your day from there. You will be sweaty and underdressed for this fancy resort, but the views from the deck here are worth it.

The 9 Arch Bridge looks straight out of Harry Potter or the Polar Express or whatever story you most associate with large arched bridges. However, this is not a steam train, so the train itself passing is a little less picturesque than those images might convey.

This bridge is also called “the Bridge in the Sky”, it’s 300 feet long and about 100 feet high. Built by the British in 1921, the Nine Arch Bridge crosses a ravine, with a tunnel on one side just before the bridge. Trains generally pass at 9:30, 11:30, 3:30, 4:30, and 5:30 though it’s common for them to be up to an hour late.

Train crossing the Nine Arches Bridge outside Ella Sri Lanka

After the train passes, you can walk through the tunnel and take the train tracks back to the center of Ella. It’s not the fastest way, but it’s different and beautiful. The train comes through six times a day, you have about two hours between trains, so no need to worry about being on the tracks.

While in Ella, we highly recommend a cooking class with Ella Spice Garden. At about $18 per adult and no charge for kids, it’s an absolute bargain. You’ll start with a tour of their spice garden so you can see how the spices grow, then cook your meal, and then of course eat it! They were great with the kids, and we all learned a lot. Stop by the shop to make a reservation for the class.

Family in front of a stovetop with ingredients around during a cooking class in Ella Sri Lanka


If you have more time in Ella, consider a trip to the Dowa Rock Temple. Hire a tuk-tuk from the main street in Ella, and ask them to wait while you explore the temple, as this is a pretty quiet location. The temple is free (though they may imply a donation is expected), and beautifully painted. You’ll see a cave out back that used to have an 11 km long tunnel that was used by the King. There is also an impressively large stone Buddha carved on the rock face behind the temple.

There are also many waterfalls to visit around Ella, including Diyalum Falls, and Ravenna Falls.

Where to Eat in Ella

There are many cafes along the main strip in Ella- many are just average. We enjoyed breakfast at Rainbow Cafe and a lunch of Indian dosas at Dosa Cafe Ella. We also liked spending a slow afternoon playing darts and pool at Dream Cafe Ella.

We celebrated Waker’s birthday at AK Ristoro, which is a short walk off the main strip. The food was wonderful- you can get anything from sushi to pasta to more local specialties.

Our favorite meal in Ella was the one we cooked with Ella Spice Garden!

Where to Stay in Ella: Ella Soul Resort

The rooms at this hotel are simple and clean, with a mini fridge, and a lovely roof terrace. The location is fantastic- on a quiet road, an easy walk to the main strip of Ella. This hotel is just up the road from the Ella Spice Garden.

Book Now: Ella Soul Resort



Yala National Park: 1-2 Nights

Yala National Park is the ultimate place to spot leopards in the wild in Sri Lanka- it contains the world’s largest leopard population! It’s a bit farther to the East than many people want to travel- if you are tight on time, the smaller Udawalawe National Park is a great alternative.

Family of four in a pickup truck on safari in Yala National Park Sri Lanka

I found planning a trip to Yala National Park a bit daunting. There seemed to be little information about how to actually plan a trip without booking an extremely expensive package deal. We’ve got all the best advice on how to book a safari in Yala, including where to stay from luxury to budget options.

In the end, we booked a tent at Wild Trails Yala by Suri, and then emailed them to arrange our safari, and then separately booked a car to drop us at the lodge and pick us up the next evening. You can get quotes for a driver from your hotel in Ella (or wherever you are coming from), and from the lodge you are going to, to make sure you have a competitive rate.

You can choose a morning safari, an evening safari, or a combination of both. We initially chose an afternoon safari followed by a morning safari, and our lodge encouraged us to change that to one full-day safari, with an added bush walk the afternoon we arrived.

Wild elephant in Yala National Park

We had a fabulous time and did see a wild leopard in the later afternoon on our safari. The guides here are terrific and know all the leopards in their section of the park by sight and name. Spoiler: they move fast and are hard to photograph!

The middle hours of the safari can be a bit dull, as the sun is high, and the animals are less likely to be out and about. However, you avoid leaving and re-entering the park which can take up precious time (there’s often a line), and you’ll be able to explore deeper into the park. We also saw tons of other animals including peacocks, water buffalo, wild boar, elephants, and dingoes.

We highly recommend Wild Trails Yala by Suri, and the guides they provide. Our tent was luxurious- with two double beds and an attached bathroom. We had a candlelight dinner and packed breakfast and lunch for our safari.

Book Now: Wild Trails Yala by Suri

We chose to stay one night, leave early (before sunrise) for our safari, and then head out that evening, letting the kids fall asleep in the car so we could all wake up at our next beach destination the next morning. If you want a more relaxed itinerary, stay the second night, enjoy a second candlelit dinner, and then head onwards in the morning.


Southern Beaches: 3 nights

Sunset point in Mirissa beach, Sri Lanka
Sunset in Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

For your final stop in Sri Lanka, relax on one of the epic beaches on Sri Lanka’s South coast. There are so many to choose from- we did a lot of research and then decided to stop at a few of them. All of the beaches on the South Coast are beautiful and clean. The water is warm, and you won’t see much trash. Here’s a breakdown of these beaches so you can choose the right one for you.

Hiriketiya Bay / Dikwella Beach

Hiriketiya is the smaller bay close to Dikwella Beach and was by far our favorite beach. Hiriketiya can get crowded, but it’s perfect conditions for new surfers- the water is shallow and warm, and there are few rocks to get hurt on. The surf instructors could literally stand next to us and give us a push as the wave came in. It was a great first experience.

A ten-minute walk from Hiriketiya Bay, Dikwella Beach, just opposite Verse Collective, was gloriously empty. An amazing expanse of sand, sun, and water where the kids could safely splash in the waves. No vendors, no bugs, just us and a few people wandering by.

Empty stretch of sand with palm trees behind in Dikwella Beach Sri Lanka

The town of Dikwella itself can be loud and busy. Smoke and Bitters is a fantastic restaurant for a fancy night out. People travel here just for this restaurant, so reserve ahead. Verse Collective is great if you need to pay for strong internet for a day and drink coffee while you are at it.

In Hiriketya, head to Dots Bay House for brunch- it’s got views of the water and a slow vibe. For dinner head to Malu Poke for an easy, customizable meal. For a quick, cheap meal, get roti to go from Roti Hut along the main road. We also had some great curry at the Garlic Cafe.

Flags and umbrellas on the patio of Dot's Bay House in Hiriketiya Bay, Sri Lanka
Patio of Dots Bay House in Hiriketiya


Mirissa Beach

The town of Mirissa didn’t speak to us- the main road along the beach is loud, dusty, and difficult to walk. The main draw here is whale watching- this is a great spot to see blue whales, though be warned the seas here are rocky, and seasickness is common.

Tourists watching a blue whale off a boat in Mirissa Sri Lanka

There are lovely beaches here, we just preferred the more relaxed beachside ambiance or other towns more.

Head to Surfing Wombats for good cocktails and dinner while watching the sunset. We sat down for happy-hour with plans to continue on, and well, just stayed. Delicious. We also recommend Cafe Extreme and Milky Wave.


Bonus Stop: On the drive between Mirissa and Hikkaduwa you’ll pass the famous stilt fisherman of Sri Lanka. These men no longer actually fish here (the fish are now farther out to sea), but pose for tourists. Make sure to ask the price before snapping a photo, or you’ll find it’s quite pricey. If you ask first, you can negotiate the price down to a reasonable sum. They will also invite you (or your kids) out to try sitting on the stilts if you like.

Stilt fisherman in the shallow waters of Weligama Sri Lanka



Hikkaduwa

Hikkaduwa Beach is a great beach to end your stay in Sri Lanka because it’s reasonably close to the Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). It’s known for its sea turtles, who swim right up to the beach. Locals come out with bags of seaweed, which lure the turtles, but they are free to leave if they like.

This is one of those animal experiences where you’re grateful to see them so close up- they actually bump into you at times when the waves move them- but are also anxious that they are interacting so closely with humans. There are signs saying not to touch them, but of course, not everyone follows the rules.

Close up of a sea turtle in Hikkaduwa beach Sri Lanka

Overall Hikkaduwa is a lovely beach with surf spots for beginners and more advanced surfers. There are also boogie board rentals available up and down the beach. The waves are a bit stronger here, so this was a fun alternative to surfing for our kids. Hikkaduwa Beach also makes a great base for day trips to other parts of Sri Lanka if you have a short trip.

Galle

Galle is not a beach town, but a colonial town along the Southern coast. You can make a day trip here via train from Hikkaduwa. We fully planned to do this and then decided to laze on the sand in Hikkaduwa a bit more instead.

Galle was founded by the Portuguese and is known for its colonial center and scenic lighthouse. The Dutch Galle Fort is another UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts many visitors. You can also do the Madu Ganga River Safari here which we hear great things about.


When to Visit Sri Lanka

If you are visiting from December to May, plan to head to the South and West coasts of Sri Lanka, as this itinerary describes. This area has its monsoons from May to August.

The East Coast and North areas of the island have a separate monsoon season from October to January, so you’ll want to avoid those. Visit these areas from May through the beginning of October.

Generally, October and November are rainy throughout the island, and not the best time to visit. As Sri Lanka is a tropical island, there is always the chance of rain. You’ll also find vast climate differences between the dry coasts and the misty, rainy inland highlands, where so much famous tea grows!


Getting Around Sri Lanka

Generally, we like to pre-book our intercity transportation before we arrive at our destination so we have no surprises. In Sri Lanka, however, we found it best to arrange each leg as needed. If you have a short trip and are moving fast, you may prefer to hire one driver for the duration of your trip. With a combination of cars, tuk-tuks, and trains, we opted for a more piecemeal plan.

For short distances, tuk-tuks are the best way to go. Negotiate directly, or ask at your hotel to get a good idea of current rates. We were advised to use the app PickMe, but it only really works in large cities. In smaller towns, it would give us a rate, but no one would pick up on it, and hotels advised that the actual rate was higher than the app was indicating.

Two tuk tuks parked beside the road in Sri Lanka

For longer trips, ask your hotel to recommend a car and driver, or take the local bus. Gas prices have been changing constantly, so you cannot book these too far ahead.

For train tickets, you must book ahead- ideally 32 days ahead, when tickets are released.


11 Travel Tips for Visiting Sri Lanka

Here are some travel tips for visiting Sri Lanka so you can be prepared and know what to expect.

1. Unless you are from Singapore, the Maldives, or Seychelles, you will need an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to enter Sri Lanka. For non-Southeast Asia nationals, Sri Lanka visas are $50 per adult, and children under 12 are free. If you are considering a longer stay, note that the cost of a 30-day visa and the cost of a 180-day visa are the same. Apply online at the official government site.

2. Safety is often a big concern when traveling to new places. We always felt comfortable traveling around Sri Lanka with our kids. The people were very friendly and happy to help us communicate and figure out transportation plans. Check out our top safety tips for traveling with kids.

3. In 2022 there was an economic crisis and corresponding shortages in Sri Lanka that greatly affected tourism on the island. Fuel was hard to find, and inflation was high. Some tourists were actually unable to leave the island as there was no fuel to get them to the airport.

When we visited in February of 2023, this was much resolved, though the cost of fuel was still high, and we found ourselves paying double for transportation what travelers had quoted six months before. We experienced rolling power outages (always right after we ordered a smoothie of course), but otherwise saw no residual effects of the crisis. What we did find were a people anxious to see tourism recover, and grateful to have visitors.

4. Internet access is universally lousy across Sri Lanka. Expect very little access, and limited access that your hotel cannot control. If you need secure or robust internet access, look for co-working spaces that specialize in this.

5. Plan to pay cash for everything, including some hotels. With the high inflation in Sri Lanka, cash is king, and prices change quickly, so plan ahead.

6. Beware the Monkeys. If you open snacks outside, be prepared for monkeys to come running. Eat in a covered location, around other people, or save the snacks for later.

Monkeys climbing at the top of Lion Rock in the clouds in Sri Lanka


7. Tuk-tuks are the main mode of transport. When we first got to Sri Lanka, we thought the four of us were a tight fit in a tuk-tuk. By the end of our travels around Sri Lanka, we were fitting ourselves and all our luggage into a tuk-tuk with room to spare. It’s all perspective.

8. Uber is a great way to get around larger towns. You’ll see tuk-tuks offered as an option here. However, in Sigirya and Nuwara Eliya, Uber, and PickMe did not work well and we had to ask hotels to call us tuk-tuks or cars as needed.

9. Dress conservatively for temples. Your knees and shoulders should be covered. You will also be removing your shoes a lot, so wear flip-flops or other easy-to-take-off shoes or you will spend too much time dealing with socks and laces.

Decorative moonstone carved with animals from the ruins of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka
Carved Moonstone in the ruins of Polonnaruwa

10. It is proper etiquette to avoid turning your back to Buddha when possible. When you leave a prayer area with a Buddha, take a step or two backward before turning. Honestly, turning your back is sometimes unavoidable- especially if there are Budhha’s on many sides of you! Do your best and be aware of the protocol.

11. Sri Lankan food is delicious, and there are often vegetarian options available. Expect to see rice and curry (often 7-8 types of curry at once), lots of coconut sambal, rotis, and koththu (chopped roti with veggies and meat). We found that the spice level varied greatly. Koththu at one place was scorching hot, at another very mild. Coconut roti is a family favorite!


FAQ: Two-Week Sri Lanka Itinerary

How Many Days Are Enough in Sri Lanka?

With two weeks in Sri Lanka, you can see some of the interior jungles filled with wildlife and culture, and also enjoy the beaches. With just one week, you’ll have to choose between culture and beach life. We spent a month in Sri Lanka and felt like we had a good amount of time there, but we are slow travelers.


How Expensive is Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is relatively inexpensive. You can find a local meal for a few dollars. However, you can also choose to buy Western-style brunches which will be more expensive- 10-12 USD. Hotels are quite inexpensive, as are most tourist attractions. Lion Rock is one of the priciest things you can do with an entry ticket of $30 USD per adult. Transportation is relatively inexpensive, though in 2023 high gas prices increased transportation prices quite a lot.


Is Sri Lanka as cheap as Thailand?

Sri Lanka is much cheaper than Thailand, cheaper than Cambodia, and cheaper than Indonesia. It is comparable to some cities in India in cost.

Is Sri Lanka part of India?

No, Sri Lanka is not part of India. It is an independent republic with cultural ties to India. Sri Lanka is home to large populations of Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus. The population of Sri Lanka is just over 22 million, it is much less dense than most places in India.

Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka now?

Yes, Sri Lanka is a safe place for travelers, including solo travelers and families. The people are very friendly and helpful.


There You Have It: Sri Lanka Itinerary for Two Weeks

This Sri Lanka itinerary for two weeks includes lots of UNESCO world heritage sites, wildlife, jungles, and of course, amazing beaches. We’ve pointed you to the best 14-day Sri Landa itinerary to experience a little bit of all that this island has to offer- including 11 travel tips for Sri Lanka and a breakdown of the best beaches on the South Coast.

Heading over to India? Don’t miss a visit to the Taj Mahal!