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This female packing list for Sri Lanka can be tailored for different times of the year, with tips further down for seasonal variations. It provides a solid guide on what to wear in Sri Lanka, and should help you plan and pack for your trip quicker and more efficiently.
All items should fit in a carry on or at the most, in a bag less than 50L unless you have a lot of camera gear to add (I recommend this one if you’re a carry on traveler). This list is relevant for many lengths of trips however is written with a trip of 1-3 weeks in mind, with re-use of clothes planned. Feel free to add a little more or a little less to suit your individual preferences.
Below you’ll find:
- information on Sri Lanka’s seasons (and how they might affect your Sri Lankan packing list),
- a comprehensive guide on what to wear in Sri Lanka,
- and brief advice on travel insurances, ideas on what to see and hotels.
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Sri Lanka is one of those countries that has a bit of mystery to it. Whilst a popular tourist destination in it’s own right, it’s often overlooked for neighboring South East Asia, or closer yet, India. Therefore you can be a little less sure of what to expect when visiting the island nation. Luckily for most, there isn’t too much variation in what to pack for Sri Lanka throughout different seasons.
Tourists tend to stick to the side of the island with favorable weather, so the packing list doesn’t change too much throughout the year. However, even if visiting a particular side in off season, it’s as simple as adding rain gear and enclosed shoes. Snow and freezing temperatures aren’t a common site in this lush island nation.
When to Visit Sri Lanka: Weather and Seasons
When thinking of seasons in Sri Lanka it’s easiest to divide it by the two monsoon seasons to help you choose what to pack for Sri Lanka. Simply put, between May and September stay away from the South and West, and the East and North between October to February. During those two periods the monsoon brings rain to those areas. You can still visit those areas during those times, but you can expect a moderate amount of rain during that period. Just bring a lightweight rain jacket.
Seasons in Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka in May to September: Stick to the East and North Coasts. The cultural triangle (Habarana / Sigiriya) should be okay to visit during this time with only occasional rains. Bring a raincoat, umbrella and enclosed shoes if visited other regions of Sri Lanka during this time. If visiting the North and East coasts you should have sunny days.
- Sri Lanka in mid October to mid November: There may be irregular showers all around the island during this time so as above, pack a raincoat, umbrella and enclosed shoes.
- Sri Lanka weather in October to February: You should have nice, sunny weather on the South and West Coasts (Kandy, Mirissa, etc), but if visiting the North and East pack the rain jacket, enclosed shoes and umbrella.
What to Wear in Sri Lanka
- Pants x 1: Unless you’re visiting the rainy part of the island, one pair of pants is going to be enough as the weather is typically hot in Sri Lanka.
- Shorts & skirts x 2-4: Depending on your preference you should bring roughly 2-4 bottoms for your trip. While not as conservative as some countries I’d suggest on not choosing the shortest shorts and skirts possible. I dressed quite conservatively (knee length) during my time there and still got unwanted attention more times than fingers I have. However in saying that I was traveling solo, which lends to getting more unwanted attention anyway. Check to see if the sites you’re visiting require shoulders or knees covered as some do (a silk scarf could solve this problem).
- Tops x 4-5: Tops are a little harder to keep fresh than pants are so don’t be afraid to become best friends with your hostel or hotel sink. Try not to wear lighter colours on transport days as your clothes can accumulate a lot of windblown dirt from the roads.
- Dresses x 2-3: Depending on whether or not you wear dresses you could pack a few in, or add a few extra tops instead.
- Cardigan or raincoat x 1: For night time and chillier days. If you’re visiting the wrong side of the island during monsoon season you’ll also want to bring a light rain coat.
- Pashmina or scarf x 1: It will work as a beach towel, a sarong, a blanket, a cover up and I’m sure you could find a few more used for it. If nothing else bring one to cover your shoulders when entering temples as you may not be let in without one.
- Swimsuit x 2: If you’re headed to the coast this is a no brainer. You will get stared at more if wearing a bikini but its not particularly offensive to do so. Just try to pick one that is not crazy-revealing.
- Enclosed shoes: Sri Lankan streets can be a little dusty so having atleast one pair of enclosed shoes can be a good idea. I personally bought water shoes (shoes that can be worn in water), which are helpful as some of the beaches are quite rocky *cough, Pigeon Island*. You can normally pick up a pair for under $30 dollars.
- Sandals: If you want something pretty to walk around in pack a pair of sandals. Because this packing list for Sri Lanka is about traveling light, I’d recommend taking a maximum of two shoes total (1 enclosed, and 1 pair of sandals would work perfectly). I LOVE padded sandals, but it can be a struggle to find cute ones – have a look around here until you find one you like.
- Underwear x 7: It’s tiny so you can pack a bit.
- Bras x 4-5: If you’re spending most of the time on the coast consider lowering this number as you’ll likely be wearing your swimsuit more often anyway.
- Hat x 1: Sun safety guys!
- Sunglasses x 1-2
What to Pack for Sri Lanka: Other Items
- Make up & Toiletries: Toothbrush and paste, makeup (personal choice), deodorant and sunscreen. I’d also bring a small medical kit with headache tablets and dehydration sachets. If you bring a razer be aware that it likely wont be allowed a carry on, and will have to go inside a checked bag. A make up bag like this one is great as its cheap and compact.
- Technology for your packing list for Sri Lanka:
- Camera + charger with 2 batteries. If you don’t have a camera, use your phone instead. I personally use the Sony a6500 + 19mm f2.8 (landscapes) + 35mm f1.8 (portrait) combination.
- 2-4 memory cards. I’d recommend taking 2-4 (8-16gb) memory cards rather than one large memory card. This helps to protect you against theft and damage. Back up your photos online (Facebook, Flickr, etc), or on a laptop / tablet / hard drive if you brought one with you.
- Camera charger.
- Consider taking a portable charger.
- Take a plug adapter so you can use your electronics – see prices.
- Phone charger and phone
- All Else:
- Door stop: A travel sized $2 doorstop can help you feel safer at night.
- Photocopies of your passport, credit cards and visa (leave a copy for someone back home too)
- Multiple bank cards – Atleast 2 for a shorter trip, if you’re in Sri Lanka for longer than a month a third might be handy. Try to spread out your brands, eg: one visa and one MasterCard. This is to safeguard you incase one of the cards is stolen, or it’s hard to find an atm (machine that gives you money) that accepts it.
- Recommended Luggage:
- Backpack: Beyond knowing what to pack for Sri Lanka, you might want information on what to pack it in. You can normally bring a 45L bag as a carry on (check with your airline for baggage information as they often differ per company), or a 65L as checked luggage (like this one).
- Suitcase: 20 kilos max, but 10 kilos is preferred, less if you want it to be stored in the cabin (the limit is normally between 5-7 kilos for carry on). If traveling independently be aware that you’ll often have to walk down unpaved and uneven roads. See options here.
Where to Stay in Sri Lanka
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A few ideas for where to stay when visiting the island.
- Budget: It’s very expensive in Colombo’s city centre (but don’t worry, prices drop once you leave Colombo), so expect to pay a bit for a dorm. Cityrest Fort and C1 Colombo Fort are your best choices in the centre of Colombo – see more details here (Cityrest) and here (C1). If you stay further away from the centre you’ll save a bit of money but it’s not worth the distance if you need to catch public transport.
- Midrange: For something in the mid-range price try The Steuart by Citrus in the city’s centre. See more details here.
- Luxury: Close to the attractions in the centre of the city, Residences by Uga Escapes starts from around 250 a night. Click here for actual prices.
- Budget: For budget in the city centre check out Kandy Backpackers Hostel – click here for more information.
- Midrange: Starting around 60 a night, Kandy City Hotel is a good option for couples with a midrange budget. Click here for more details.
- Luxury: If you really want to splurge try Kings Pavilion, prices starting around 500 a night. Click here for exact pricing and more details.
Cultural Centre (Habarana – base for safari, Sigiriya, Polunnaruwa etc)
- Budget: There are a few budget hotels starting from 20 a night. Click here to search for them here.
- Midrange: I loved staying at Priyavimana Resort while I was in Habarana, it’s run by a family and there was so much good food and tea. The owner also can be hired to drive to the ruins and Sigiriya in his Tuktuk, and if you ask prior he might pick you up from the busstop. They can also book the safari for you. Starting from 45 a night, you can find more details here.
- Luxury: Aliya Resort and Spa is a good place to base yourself in the cultural triangle if you have the cash to splash. See more information here.
For other areas you can search the individual cities via this link.
Don’t Forget to Pack Travel Insurance | Sri Lanka Packing List
Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, but is not a place you should visit without travel insurance. So if you’re wondering what else to pack for a holiday in Sri Lanka, this is it. Roads are not as well maintained as they are back home, nor is the driving up to the same standard. Beyond that, visiting the wrong side of the island off season could lead you into weather problems. I personally recommend World Nomads travel insurance because:
- I’ve used it personally on all of my travels to 25+ countries.
- I’ve experienced the claims process multiple times, and have felt the treatment was fair.
- You can purchase it even if you’re already overseas. Many companies don’t allow users to extend or create a new policy unless they’re on home soil.
- It’s competitively priced.
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If you want to check out how much you’ll be paying for a trip to Sri Lanka, check out their price estimator here (click here)
Packing List for Sri Lanka: Safety and Health
- Health and safety standards in Sri Lanka, while not as wild as some other Asian countries, are not up to the same standard as they are in the west. A little medicine kit with dehydration sachets, headache medicine and any other essentials will make your travels easier.
- If you have an itinerary planned out, make sure to let someone know of your plans back home, in case things go wrong.
- Make photocopies of your important documents (bank cards and passport) and carry one copy with you, and leave one with someone you trust back home.
- Never step out of your safari vehicle unless told to by your driver. There are points on safari where you can hop off but these should never be near elephants, or other large, wild animals that could harm humans.
- Elephants may false charge if vehicles get too close to them, so don’t ask your driver to get too close. Keep a safe distance.
- When driving at night beware of elephants in certain areas, especially near national parks. If you hit an elephant not only will it do more damage to your car than it, it’s not going to be happy with you. During the day you may be lucky enough to see elephants on the road also, but give them a wide berth.
Popular Day Tours
Now that you know what to pack for a trip to Sri Lanka, let me suggest a few things to do.
There is so much to do and see in Sri Lanka, with the most popular areas being the Southern beaches, the cultural triangle and going on safari in one of the national parks. Sri Lanka is one of those places that can be very difficult to travel independently if you’re short on time, with tourist cities not always linked by public transport in a convenient way. Due to this, if you’re short on time, I’d recommend basing yourself in one or two key cities and taking day tours. Here are a few recommendations if you’re not sure where to start.
- City tours: I’d advise negotiating with a tuk tuk driver or asking your hotel to help you arrange a city tour for a cheaper rate. Otherwise you can see tours by clicking here.
- Sigiriya and Dambulla day tour from Colombo: See more information here. If you don’t have a lot of time it will be easiest to do day trips from Colombo.
- Luxury tour to Yala National Park (2 drives): Find more details here.
- Kandy & Nuwara Eliya from Colombo: See details here.
- South Coast / Center:
- Sigiriya and Dambulla from Kandy: Click for more information here.
- Cultural Triangle:
- Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya from Dambulla: See details here.
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