Sri Lanka

What to Pack for Sri Lanka – Essential packing list + FREE checklist 

Sri Lanka has become one of the top tourist spots in the world and from our experience, it is one beautiful country. 

This small island jam packed with so much to see and do. Relax on a cool sandy beach, with clear waters, explore ancient ruins, or go on safari and spot some wildlife. 

Whatever you choose to do in Sri Lanka, you need to have all the essentials packed and ready for your trip. 

But the one thing you don’t want to do, is over pack on unnecessary things, neither do you want to leave anything behind.  

So, what to pack for Sri Lanka? 

In this essential packing list, we cover everything you need for your trip, plus things you should leave at home.  

We also include a helpful packing check list, which is completely FREE for you to download and use again and again. 

Making packing for Sri Lanka hassle free, so you can get on with your holiday. 

There may be affiliate links within this article, using these links will not cost you anything extra, but we may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support. 

What to Pack for Sri Lanka? 

We have included everything you’ll need in this Sri Lankan packing essentials: 

Documentation 

There are certain things you must make sure you pack, before your trip to Sri Lanka. These essentials, should be packed in your hand luggage. These items are the following: 

Passport 

Any traveler to Sri Lanka, will require their passport, to gain entry into the country. 

Pack this somewhere safe in your hand luggage. As you depart for Sri Lanka, you’ll be required to present your passport at check in and throughout your journey.  

On arrival to Sri Lanka, you’ll be required to present your passport to immigration. 

Don’t forget to check the expiry date on your passport, most airlines will not allow you to travel with less than 6 months remaining on your passport, even if you intend to return within that 6-month period. 

Frequent flyers will also need to check you have at least 1 spare page remaining in the passport.  

Tip: Check your passport a few months before departure. If you do need to apply for a new passport, you should have time for the new one to arrive. 

Visa 

All non-Sri Lankan citizens will require a visa before entry.  

The quickest and easiest way to obtain a visa, is to apply online in advance. Although it is possible to obtain a visa on arrival. 

The maximum stay in Sri Lanka on an ESTA Visa, is 3 months, although this can be extended for a further 3 months.  

We have a post specifically about the types of visas available for Sri Lanka and a step-by-step guide on how to apply for an ESTA visa.  

Tip: The visa application should take minutes to complete, with a response within 3-20 days. We would recommend applying for the visa about 1 month before departure. 

Money 

Money is essential to pack for your trip to Sri Lanka. You won’t be able to get by without it. 

Sri Lankan currency is the Rupee (Rs). 

But how much money should I take with me to Sri Lanka. 

Well firstly, we would recommend packing some cash in the local currency and using your debit or credit card for transactions in Sri Lanka.  

Secondly, you now need to set a budget of how much you will spend in Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka is a great place to visit on a budget. Food is cheap, you can find budget friendly places to stay and public transport can cost as little as a couple of $s. But you still need to know how much money you need for your entire trip. 

To set a budget for Sri Lanka, we have this really helpful guide on how to set a budget for travel, plus a few simple ways you can actually save while you travel. 

Note: Inform your bank of your intended travel, to prevent your cards from being blocked while you are away.  

Check the rates for using the card overseas. Some banks may not charge a fee, while others could charge you a substantial fee for the use. You could use a pre-loaded travel card, which works in the same way as a debit card. This could be cheaper than using your debit/credit card and you can top them up as and when it is required. 

To help you plan and research your trip, why not download your FREE Travel Planner today

Driving license/international driver permit 

Driving in Sri Lanka can be dangerous. If you like rollercoasters, sometimes it feels like you’re on a ride. Sadly, there is no patience, with vehicles overtaking and undertaking everywhere, including large buses and trucks. Many of which are overtaking other large buses. Scary is an understatement. 

Having said this, driving in Sri Lanka will allow you to get to some smaller villages, that may not be covered with public transport.  

If you do intend to hire a vehicle, the best option is a scooter or motorbike. They are cheap and easy to hire. Alternatively, you could hire a tuk tuk.  

All hire company’s, will ask to see your driving license and an international driver permit.  

Need an international driver permit? Or not sure what that is, you can find out more about how to apply for an international driver permit here. 

Travel Insurance 

Should you buy travel insurance or not? 

We would definitely recommend purchasing travel insurance before you go. 

Travel insurance is there to protect you while you travel.  

What if the worst was to happen and you became unwell while travelling, how are you going to pay for the treatment? Medical treatment isn’t cheap, even in Sri Lanka.  

Travel insurance is there to protect you should the worst happen, plus they cover you for other mishaps, such as lost or delayed luggage, cancelled or delayed flights and more.  

You may have to pay a small premium, but it is a small price to pay.  

You can find out if it is really worth purchasing travel insurance or not here.   

If you’re hiring a vehicle, then you’ll need car insurance. This is normally included within the hire purchase, but always check with the hire company prior to travel. 

Health and first aid to pack 

These things will keep you and your family well, on your holiday in Sri Lanka.  

Sun protection 

Sri Lanka is a tropical island, with temperatures averaging around 28°c on the coast, while the high plains such as Nurwara Eliya will average around 20°c. 

These conditions make it ideal for spending quality time on a sandy beach soaking up the sun. 

BUT if you are prone to burning while in the sun, you must protect yourself with sun screen.  

You must apply the sun screen prior to exposure to the sun and during the day. Trust us, it isn’t worth getting badly burn, because you didn’t pack the sun cream or apply it. 

Sun cream is one way of protecting you from the hot sun, but you should also include a sun hat or a cap and sun glasses.  

The sun is very bright and sun glasses and hat is a must thing to pack for Sri Lanka. 

Tips: You can buy sun cream, a sun hat and glasses in Sri Lanka, but they are expensive, especially in hotels and tourist hot spots. We would recommend packing this in your main checked in luggage and only pack a sufficient supply for the holiday. 

Medication 

It isn’t unheard of, that some travelers forget to bring their medication along when travelling, especially if they are flying long distances. If you are taking any prescription drugs, it is important to carry them with you at all times.  

Ensure you have an adequate amount of medication packed for your trip, plus a few additional days, in the event of emergencies.   

Tip: Pack 4-5 days of medication in your hand luggage. If the airline loses your main luggage, or it’s delayed, you have enough to cover you for at least 4-5 days.  

Keep all packaging for the medication with you, should security or the authorities stop you. 

Mosquito repellant 

Mosquitos can be your worst enemy in Sri Lanka. I feel like I am eaten alive, each time I visit Sri Lanka.  

That all changed when I found the perfect formula. Or should I say, Jungle Formula.  

Since using Jungle Formula, I rarely get bitten (unless I don’t apply it) and what I love about the product, is it is so simple to apply, I am not left feeling sticky and uncomfortable and I am not left with a strong smell that I have experienced with other products. 

This small compact repellant needs to be in your Sri Lankan packing list.  

Tip: Dengue fever is a mosquito borne disease that’s found in tropical countries. There is no preventative cure unlike Malaria and can be life threatening. To prevent dengue fever, you must apply mosquito repellant.

A mosquito net, helps during the night, when fitted over the bed. Most hotels or accommodation will have a mosquito net fitted. If not, you may purchase a cheap net in Sri Lanka, or pack it before you travel. 

What to pack for Sri Lanka
What to Pack for your trip to Sri Lanka

Toiletries 

Take up less space and weight, by packing travel size toiletries. 

Both women and men should pack toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap and shaving products. 

Women should also include feminine products and makeup (although you’ll only need the very basics, you don’t need it all). 

The environment is just as important as travelling. Where possible, we would recommend packing environmentally friendly and plastic free toiletries. These are a little more expensive, but far better. 

Tissues 

Since the pandemic, most of us are probably more cautious about the spread of germs and diseases.  

A small pack of tissues will come in handy, to catch those coughs or sneezes.  

It is possible to purchase tissues from the local stores in Sri Lanka, or you may find a box in your hotel or accommodation.  

First Aid Kit 

We never leave for a trip without our small travel first aid kit. It contains everything we need, should we fall ill or sustain a minor injury, that doesn’t need medical treatment. 

You can either create your own first aid kit, or buy one from the local outdoor store, grocery and in some cases fuel stations. 

What do we pack in our travel first aid kit?  

The main essentials are:   

  • Plasters   
  • Painkillers (with any medication, it is always a good idea to keep the box or instruction, in the event you need to provide these to authorities).   
  • Antibacterial hand sanitizer   

For a full list, check out our post on what to pack in your first aid kit.   

Note: We have never encountered any problems with taking over the counter medication away on holiday with us. However there have been reported cases of travelers, jailed for taking over the counter medication into a country, that do not legalize that substance within the medication.    

If you have any concerns about that type of medication you’ll be carrying, always consult with the relevant agency or government website to get clarity. 

Electrical equipment 

These are the essential things you should bring to Sri Lanka, how else will you stay in contact with friends and family, or take awesome photographs and videos. 

Camera 

You’ll want to take some awesome pictures of your holidays, so a camera is a must pack for Sri Lanka. 

A camera these days, no longer cost the earth. You could still pick up a really good camera for a couple of hundred $s. In our opinion, you should spend a little more money for a very good camera, that will take great pictures and last longer. 

We have both a compact camera and a large DSLR. The DSLR camera is an excellent camera, but it is quite bulky. While our compact camera, is tiny, which makes it perfect to pack in our hand luggage. 

It will depend on what type of camera you prefer, but in our experience, purchasing and packing a small compact camera, will be ideal on your holidays in Sri Lanka. 

Check out our post on Travel essentials, in which we include some of the best camera’s that we use. We include a wide range from budget friendly to expensive depending on your budget. 

Mobile phone 

The mobile phone, is another important thing to pack for Sri Lanka.  

It isn’t just about contacting friends or family, but you can download maps, to help you with getting from A to B, it also has a camera function, which can take some epic pictures. Plus, it can store some of your important information.  

Make sure the phone is unlocked, so you can put a local sim in it.  

A local sim can be purchased from the airport, or at the phone stores dotted around the country. 

Tip: Pack your mobile phone in your hand luggage, or you won’t be covered under your travel insurance if it is lost or stolen. 

Chargers 

It would be completely hopeless, packing a camera, phone, laptop and any other electrical devices, if you didn’t pack your chargers. 

Don’t worry you can download our FREE packing check list, so you won’t forget what to pack for Sri Lanka. 

Adapters 

Sri Lanka uses Type D plug, 220V/50Hz, this is three circular pins in a triangle pattern. 

Although it is possible to find US, European and British plug sockets. 

We would therefore recommend a power adapter or two to be packed alongside your main luggage. Alternatively, you can purchase power adapters from the local market, which will cost about Rs500.00 (£1.10, $1.38, €1.29). 

Tip: Pack at least 2-3 adaptors, depending on the number of devices you are packing and how often they need charging.   

Battery Bank 

A battery bank will be a life saver while you’re on the road.  

If you start running low on battery for any of your devices, you can just plug it into your fully charged battery bank and you can continue travelling around Sri Lanka. 

You can easily pick up a small battery bank and they are so inexpensive.  

We never leave home without packing this on our holidays. 

Tip: Always recharge the battery bank to full and bring all cables for it, to charge at a charge point. 

Miscellaneous 

These are things that are not essential, but will help you plan your holiday in Sri Lanka. 

Phrase book 

The official languages in Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil, while many can speak English. 

Sinhala is spoken by the Sinhalese Sri Lankans, while Tamil is spoken by the Tamil Sri Lankans.  

Speaking the local language will go a long way, so you may want to pack a phrase book, to help you speak with the locals. Yet, before you go, you could learn a few simple words, such as hello, thank you, how much is this? Etc. 

It is courteous to speak in Sinhala and Tamil, but as mentioned above, most can speak English, so you can get by without the need of a phrase book.  

Tip: Most phones have access to a translator app, or google translate. This would be a better alternative than a phrase book. 

Guide book 

Before we travel anywhere, we will always buy a guide book. We find it helps us to plan our upcoming holiday to Sri Lanka.  

We would highly recommend Lonely Planet book on Sri Lanka. It includes recommended places to visit, places to stay, helpful tips and small maps of the local towns including Colombo. 

What to Pack for Sri Lanka
What to Pack for Sri Lanka

Note pad and pen 

Do you need to make notes while you travel? Or do you write in a journal? If so, you may need to pack a note pad and pen/pencil. 

But we have to think of the environment, so why take up space in your luggage with a note pad a pen, when you can write notes on your phone or laptop. Most phones have the ability to write notes, so you could write notes or your journal on there, until you return home. 

Not only will this save paper, but will save some space and weight as you pack for Sri Lanka. 

Ditch the paper and pen and use the notes on your phone. 

Kindle/book 

Relaxing on a beach with a good book in hand, with the warm heat from the sun, just sounds like bliss.  

But how many books should you pack? 

Well, that all depends if you intend to read a physical book, or a kindle!  

If you prefer physical books, then you won’t want to pack more than 1 book, as these things can start to take up space in your bag. Yet 1 book, isn’t much for 14 days or longer in Sri Lanka.  

Our saving hack here, would be to pack a Kindle in your hand luggage. These small devices can hold up to thousands of books at one time. This means, you can read as many books as you like, as you relax on that beach in Sri Lanka. 

Kindles are so cheap and you could pick one up for around $70.00 and they last for years. Our Kindle has lasted us well over 8 years and still in working order. 

Save weight and space, by packing a kindle in your hand luggage. 

Padlock and Key 

It is recommended to secure any checked in bags and backpacks. You would do this with a padlock and key, or combination lock.  

This should deter unwanted people from opening your luggage and stealing any items from your bag. 

Bum bag 

This is something we will never leave home without, even when we are not travelling. 

Our bum bag, keeps all our personal belongings safe and worn around our waist. We can discretely hide it under our clothing, which deters our most essential items from being stolen.  

What to store in your bum bag?   

  • Cash   
  • Credit/debit cards   
  • Keys  
  • Phone 
  • Passport 
  • Copy of your documents 

Environmentally friendly water bottle 

With temperatures averaging around 28°C daily, you are going to lose a lot of fluid. To maintain hydration, you will need to drink plenty of water. 

You can either buy bottled water in Sri Lanka from the local store or outlet, yet there is too much plastics in this world.  

Instead of adding to the problem, we would recommend packing a reusable water bottle that you can use again and again. 

Once you’re in Sri Lanka, you can then fill the water bottle with either boiled water, or filtered water. 

This is an essential for any packing list. 

Note: It is not recommended to drink tap water in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, it isn’t treated the same as most western countries. If you do drink the tap water, the worst that will happen is you’ll likely get an upset tummy. Which isn’t comfortable and can put you out of action for a few days.  

On one of my trips back from Sri Lanka, I became unwell on my flight. I can only suspect I ate something with untreated water, that caused an upset tummy. And I can tell you, it wasn’t pleasant, being in and out of the toilet for nearly 11-hours during a flight. I was however looked after really well by the staff on the flight, but that story is for another post.  

Clothes to pack for Sri Lanka 

While you are likely to experience more sun than rain, this is still a tropical island with 2 monsoon seasons a year.  

You not only need to pack clothing that will keep you cool when it’s hot, you do need to pack some wet weather clothing for when you are caught out in the rain. 

These are the essential clothes you need to pack for Sri Lanka: 

Clothing 

You’ll want to pack clothing that will keep you cool, such as T-shirts, sleeveless tops, shorts, skirts, dresses, etc. 

To protect you from the hot sun, you will also need to pack baseball cap, sun hat and sunglasses. 

Luckily, when it rains in Sri Lanka, it is normally just for short bursts. It is a good idea to include a wet weather jacket, should you get caught out in the rain. 

Planning a trip to Kandy, Ella, Nuwara Eliya or to the hill regions? If so, it can get cold, Nuwara Eliya is nicknamed Little England for a reason. Why is it called Little England? Conditions in the hill region is milder and very much like the typical English weather. You’ll definitely need a jumper or fleece for the colder weather. 

Beach wear 

If you’re spending some time at one of Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches, then you’ll need to pack a swimwear and a towel.  

Note: Sri Lankan’s dress modestly, even when visiting the beach. To be respectful, you should pack swimwear that is appropriate. You won’t find any nudist beaches in Sri Lanka. 

You can get more information on what else you should pack for a trip to the beach here

Clothing to wear in a temple 

When visiting any temple or religious building you should always be respectful and follow the relevant etiquette. 

When visiting a Buddhist temple, you should cover your shoulders and legs. No shorts or sleeveless allowed. 

If you intend to enter a mosque, then you must cover up, women will be required to wear a head scarf. 

As you plan your holiday to Sri Lanka, pack something that will be appropriate for a visit to the temple, church or mosque. No bright colours, if possible, pack white or plain colours.  

We have written an entire post on temple etiquette, do’s and don’ts.  

Underwear 

You’ll need undies 

Pack enough for the trip and some spare. 

PJ’s 

If you wear PJ’s (pajamas) at night, you’ll want to pack these.  

You’ll want to pack short tops and short bottoms. 

Only if you’re visiting the hill region, will you require long sleeve tops and bottoms. It can get chilly at night.  

What to pack for Sri Lanka
What to pack for a trip to Sri Lanka

Shoes 

Only bring a few pairs of shoes to Sri Lanka, not the whole collection. 

A good pair of trainers, will be ideal for keeping your feet warm in the hill region. 

A good pair of hiking shoes is a must, if you intend to do any hiking. Hiking shoes will keep your feet and ankles supported on the trek. 

A good pair of sandals will keep your feet cool in the hot climates, while flipflops are ideal for the beach. 

You’ll only need one pair of smart shoes, if you’re going for a meal in a high-end restaurant or bar.  

All you have to do, is pack what you need for Sri Lanka, not your whole wardrobe. 

Backpack 

Backpacking in Sri Lanka will require a good, lightweight backpack, that will keep your main belongings safe while travelling. 

A small backpack is ideal for days out sightseeing, while the large backpacks will be ideal for holding your main belongings in. 

Suitcases and luggage bags are another alternative, but are harder to travel around Sri Lanka, especially on buses, trains and tuk tuks, where space is smaller. 

Osprey is our preferred brand, which comes highly recommended. 

But for backpack options, check out the best backpacks to purchase on a budget. 

What to pack in your day backpack 

What essentials should you pack in your day backpack as you explore Sri Lanka. 

You might explore the capital city for a couple of days, relax on a sandy beach, or go hiking in Adam’s Peak, you’ll need to pack the right essentials, in your day pack.  

Here are your essential things to pack in you day backpack: 

  • Backpack   
  • Water   
  • Snacks   
  • First aid kit   
  • Layers should the weather turn cold – Only in the hill regions 
  • Wet weather clothes (if it rains)  
  • Cash   
  • Credit/debit card   
  • Camera 
  • Phone   
  • Battery bank   
  • Guide book 

14 days in Sri Lanka packing list 

14 days in Sri Lanka is the ideal length of time, to spend exploring the country. Although, if you have the time, spending longer than 14 days in Sri Lanka, allows you to slow travel around the country and see more. 

So, the first thing we need to do, to pack the essentials for Sri Lanka, is to lay out everything you plan to pack.  

You’ll only end up packing about a ¼ of that. 

Breakdown of what you will actually pack for Sri Lanka: 

  • Backpack 
  • Clothing – 1x waterproof clothing, 1x fleece (if you are heading into the hill regions), 1x thick jumper (for the hill regions), 5x T-shirts, 5x sleeveless tops, 2x smart tops, 2x jean shorts, 4x shorts, 2x dresses, 2x swimwear, 2x PJ’s, 1x hiking shoes (if you are to do any hiking), 1x trainers, 1x flipflops, 1x sandals, 1x smart shoes, 7x underwear, 1x baseball cap, 1x sun hat, 1x sunglasses, 1x ear plugs 
  • Wash bag – to hold your toiletries 
  • Travel towel 
  • First Aid Kit 

Tip: Wash your clothing while travelling, this reduces how much you pack and your weight. 

Conclusion 

This is an extensive list of all the things you should pack for a trip to Sri Lanka.  

The majority of what you will pack for Sri Lanka, will be summer wear and anything appropriate for the activities you are doing. Anything else, just leave it at home, you simply won’t need it.  

If you like to collect souvenirs on your travels, or cheap clothing, then you’ll want to leave home with limited items in your suitcase, this will leave space for any purchases you make along the way. 

When it comes to packing, it’s about being sensible and only packing the essentials, not your entire wardrobe.  

What things can’t you leave home without? Is there something you pack that you swear by, that we haven’t included? Do you normally overpack or do you pack your luggage with plenty of space? Let us know in the comments below.  

Continue your Sri Lanka travel planning, with these useful posts:

Save this post for later!   

What to Pack for Sri Lanka
What to Pack for Sri Lanka
Essential Packing list for Sri Lanka
Essential Packing list for Sri Lanka
Packing check list for Sri Lanka
Packing check list for Sri Lanka

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