Last Updated on August 19, 2021 by Natalia
Sri Lanka is one of our favourite countries in Asia, thanks to the incredible wildlife and beautiful countryside. As a result of the country’s diversity, it can be hard to figure out exactly what to pack. Fortunately though, we’ve got you covered! This packing list for Sri Lanka features the travel essentials you need to take, to save you the time and effort of making a checklist yourself. If you follow this guide then you’ll know exactly what to pack for Sri Lanka – whether you’re visiting in January, March, August or any other time of year!
Want some inspiration for your trip? Check out our ultimate two week South Sri Lanka itinerary!
What to pack for Sri Lanka
Snorkel – Sri Lanka does have some great snorkelling and diving opportunities, so pack a snorkel to make the most of it! Some of the best snorkelling spots in Sri Lanka are in Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Trincomalee.
You’ll have the chance to see some amazing marine life including turtles! We definitely recommend taking the time to go snorkelling with sea turtles at Polhena Beach near Mirissa during your trip.
GoPro – Get some great underwater shots of your snorkelling and diving trips with a GoPro. They’re great for capturing photos of whatever you discover in the underwater world, which serve as a great way to remember some of the highlights of your trip.
GoPro’s are versatile and are able to capture some great shots out of the water too! You’ll find the wide angle lens particularly useful for getting shots of panoramic views if you plan to go hiking in places like Little Adam’s Peak in Ella.
If you’re getting a GoPro it’s definitely worth investing in a good underwater casing and an extendable selfie stick too.
Underwater phone case – If you want to get some underwater pictures without paying for a GoPro, get yourself an underwater phone case. The case will keep your phone safe and allow you to get some great shots while snorkelling!
Binoculars – Sri Lanka’s national parks are home to elephants, leopards and plenty more incredible wildlife. Going on safari and seeing elephants in Sri Lanka was one of the best moments of our entire trip in Asia. If you’re hoping to go on safari then make sure to read our article on whether Udawalawe or Yala is the best safari in Sri Lanka.
To really make the most of going on safari, we recommend packing some binoculars. They’ll help give you brilliant views of the beautiful Sri Lankan wildlife, particularly if you take a birdwatching safari in Bundala National Park!
Fortunately, there are some great compact binoculars available, so they won’t take up loads of space of weigh your bag down.
Camera – If you want good quality photos from your trip that you can look back on forever, we recommend getting a proper camera. Although smartphone cameras take quite good photos, the difference in quality is massive compared to a real camera.
Phone cameras aren’t very good in certain situations, for example when you zoom in the image quality drops massively. Compare this to a real camera and the quality gap is instantly noticeable. If you want to get good quality photos from your trip then a good camera is well worth the money.
Some people assume that you have to spend a lot of money to get a good quality camera, but that isn’t the case. Obviously the top of the range stuff can cost a lot, but there are also some great options if you have a more modest budget.
If you’re looking for a relatively cheap but high quality camera, the Canon EOS M100 is a brilliant choice. The image quality is far superior to that of a phone, and it’s reasonably small so it isn’t a hassle to carry around!
It comes with a 15-45mm lens, which means you can zoom a little bit, but depending on your needs you may want to invest in a zoom lens for the camera too. As the camera is such good value you should hopefully have enough in your budget to afford another lens too!
If you have a bigger budget then we recommend buying the Sony a6500. After upgrading to this camera at the beginning of 2018 we were amazed at the difference in quality. In our opinion, it’s definitely worth the extra cost!
As a mirrorless camera it’s conveniently much smaller than a DSLR, but can still take incredible photos. If you want good quality photos to look back on then this is definitely a great investment for your travels!
You’ll need to make sure to buy a lens or 2 along with the camera body, so make sure to take a look at all the options. If you plan to go on safari we recommend the 70-300mm lens, which is great for getting high quality zoomed images of wildlife!
Drone – If you’re looking to capture some unique photos on your trip to Sri Lanka, consider buying a drone. With a drone you can get incredible aerial photographs and footage of the country’s stunning scenery.
As well as capturing brilliant shots to admire for years to come, drones give you a different view of the sights in Sri Lanka – something that simply can’t be done without one.
Good quality drones are surprisingly easy to use and will allow you to capture amazing shots of the countryside and beaches in Sri Lanka.
If you’re serious about getting a drone, we recommend getting one made by DJI. They make some of the best drones on the market, which are easy to use and capture incredible photographs and video.
We recommend the DJI Mavic Pro, which is perfect for travelling with as it’s lightweight and compact – meaning it easily fits in your hand luggage! It’s always a good idea to get the latest model, so we recommend getting the newer DJI Mavic 2 Pro if you want a drone for your trip!
Another great option if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper is the DJI Mavic Air. It’s smaller than the Mavic Pro so it’s great for travelling with too, and will also be able to capture brilliant photos from above!
The use of drones in Sri Lanka is allowed but you do have to register prior to use in the country. In order to do this please visit the governments official website
Extra memory card – One of our best tips of what to pack for Sri Lanka is an extra memory card. Don’t get caught without enough space to take all the pictures you want on your trip!
It’s easy to fill memory cards pretty quickly these days, so it’s worth having at least one back up. That way you can take as many pictures as you want without worrying about running out of space.
Powerbank – Ever been left frustrated by your phone running out of charge in the middle of the day? We have! It’s even more annoying when you’re exploring a new place and can’t take photos and videos of the amazing things you’re seeing!
Thankfully, powerbanks are the solution to this problem. We first got a powerbank in 2017 and we found it so useful that we haven’t travelled without one since. Powerbanks are the ideal way to charge your phone on-the-go to make sure that you don’t run out of battery on any of your day trips in Sri Lanka!
You can get powerbanks relatively cheap nowadays, but we recommend paying a bit more for a good quality one that will last longer. Over the last few years we’ve tried out quite a few and in our experience Anker make the best powerbanks by far.
We found other powerbanks break a bit easily, but we’re so happy with the Anker model that we decided to get one each! Anker powerbanks have a great battery life and charge our phones much faster than any others that we’ve tried!
Refillable insulated water bottle – Plastic waste is causing serious issues around the world, with some reports suggesting that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Single use plastics are a real issue, but thankfully you can help do you bit for the planet by taking a refillable water bottle on your trip.
We have refillable insulated water bottles that can keep drinks cold for up to 24 hours. It’s so useful to have cold water readily available on-the-go in a hot country like Sri Lanka, so we definitely recommend getting one of these bottles!
We try to stay at accommodation that have cold water dispensers available so that we can fill up our bottles there and avoid single use plastics.
These refillable bottles are cheap and mean you can have access to cold water throughout the day, no matter here you are. As well as keeping cold drinks cold, they can also keep hot drinks hot for up to 12 hours!
Flashlight/Torch – Although your phone probably has one on it, it’s worth packing a small torch for your trip. The streets in Sri Lanka can be pretty dark at night, so a torch is helpful for seeing where you’re going. Using a torch instead of your phone is useful for saving battery too!
Umbrella – Sri Lanka is no stranger to rain, especially in the hill country. In particular, Nuwara Eliya gets a lot of rain year round, which is what makes the area the ideal place for growing tea! To keep yourself protected from any downpours it’s worth taking a small umbrella with you.
Travel Essentials for Sri Lanka
Travel insurance – One of our top tips for travelling Sri Lanka is to get travel insurance. You may think of it as an unnecessary cost, but travel insurance is quite affordable in comparison to the prospect of huge medical bills that you’ll have to pay yourself if you don’t have cover.
We’ve both been hospitalised on our travels, but thanks to travel insurance we’ve saved of dollars on medical bills as we were covered, which is why we consider this a holiday essential for Sri Lanka as well as any country you visit. You may think you can save a bit of money by not paying for insurance, but if something goes wrong you’ll end up spending a lot more than the insurance would have cost you!
If you have any pre-existing conditions, it’s important to declare them when buying travel insurance as otherwise you won’t be covered for any issues relating to that condition. Natalia suffers from endometriosis but always declares it when buying insurance, and thankfully we’ve always had the cover we’ve needed when things have gone badly!
Don’t know where to start with getting insurance? World Nomads offer great travel insurance policies, with different levels of coverage available depending on how much you want to spend and what cover you want. It only takes a few seconds to get a quote, so do yourself a favour and get insurance for your trip!
Don’t forget to take your travel insurance details with you when you’re packing for Sri Lanka, as you’ll need to contact them as soon as you can in case of an emergency!
Bag/backpack – An essential item for most trips is a good backpack. We recommend travelling by public transport in Sri Lanka, but unfortunately a lot of the time there isn’t a designated space for luggage.
This means you’ll need to hang onto your luggage for the duration of the journey – which can sometimes be over 6 hours! It’s a lot easier to do this with a backpack than it is a suitcase. For this reason, we believe a backpack is the best luggage to travel with for ease of getting around Sri Lanka.
Adapter – The type D and type G plug sockets are used in Sri Lanka, so you’ll need to get an adapter that fits both of these. We recommend getting a universal adapter as it should be suitable for future trips anywhere in the world!
Extension lead – One problem you may encounter when travelling Sri Lanka is a lack of plug sockets in rooms.
A great way to combat this is by taking an extension lead and plugging it in via your adapter. That way you can charge everything you need at once, rather than one or two at a time!
Even if you do have multiple plug sockets in your room, it’s more convenient to have everything charging in one place you can easily access, which an extensions lead allows you to do.
Microfibre towel – Microfibre towels are one of the best travel items. They dry much quicker than ordinary towels and take up a lot less space in your bag.
Eye mask – Don’t rely on your accommodation having curtains that keep the room dark after sunrise, especially if you’re staying in budget places. To make sure it isn’t an issue, we recommend packing an eye mask. That way if you want a lie in you won’t be woken up at the crack of dawn.
Travel Card – Get the best exchange rate and avoid unnecessary foreign transaction fees by signing up for a Revolut travel card. If you use your everyday debit or credit card abroad not only will you be charged fees, but you’ll also be given a terrible exchange rate. Thankfully this is now completely avoidable thanks to Revolut!
We’ve been using Revolut cards since 2016 and have used them in every country we’ve been to since. Revolut allows you to pay by card and make cash withdrawals around the world whilst getting a better exchange rate than you’d get from your bank or a currency exchange.
If you don’t sign up you’re basically throwing money away, so check out the link below and start saving money! If you’re still not convinced, then check out our article on the benefits of using Revolut!
If you’re ready to sign up then click here to register for Revolut right now and get your first card delivered completely free!
Sunscreen –Pretty self-explanatory really, but one of the must have items on your packing list for Sri Lanka is sunscreen. We actually struggled to find sunscreen when we were in the country, so we recommend stocking up in advance!
Aftersun – Much like sunscreen, aftersun isn’t the easiest to find in Sri Lanka. We recommend buying it in advance from Amazon as it often works out cheaper than buying it at a pharmacy!
Reef friendly sunscreen –If you’re planning on going snorkelling or diving in Sri Lanka, we strongly recommend getting some reef friendly sunscreen. Normal sunscreen is damaging to the environment and reefs if it gets in the water.
Although reef friendly sunscreen is more expensive, you’re helping do your bit for the environment and protecting the underwater world for others to enjoy!
Mosquito repellent – As you’d probably expect, mosquito repellent is one of the travel essentials for Sri Lanka. Dengue fever is present in Sri Lanka, so it’s important to stay protected.
Mosquito bite cream – Unfortunately, you may still get bitten by mosquitos even if you use repellent. It’s important to pack some mosquito bite relief cream in case this happens to you.
The bites can be extremely itchy, but generally these creams should reduce the itchiness. That’s why mosquito bite cream is one thing you simply must bring to Sri Lanka.
Wash bag – A wash bag is not only great because it conveniently keeps your toiletries altogether, but it also contains the mess in case of any spillages.
It seems that at least once every trip one of Natalia’s shampoos will explode in her bag, but fortunately the majority of her stuff is fine and it just affects the wash bag. If that wasn’t the case it would be a much bigger clean up job, so we recommend having one just to be safe!
Toiletries and Medicine – Ticking toiletries and medication off your travel checklist for Sri Lanka is one of the biggest steps. Figuring out exactly what you need is hard, but you’re best to take what you can to avoid having to rely on local pharmacies being open or having what you need.
If you’re wondering what toiletries and medication to take to Sri Lanka, we recommend packing some painkillers, immodium (just in case!), dramamine (motion sickness tablets) for whale watching in Mirissa, wet wipes, plasters, shampoo, toothpaste and a hairdryer if necessary. For women it’s worth packing tampons too as they’re not always easy to find in Sri Lanka.
One of the most obvious things you need to pack for Sri Lanka are the clothes you need for your trip! It’s hard to say exactly what you need, as it depends on how long you’re visiting for, where you’re going and the season you’re visiting in.
It’s always nice to get some new clothes before a trip, so we recommend checking out the great range available online through Zaful. They have great choices for both men and women at extremely reasonable prices!
As a rough guide, here’s our suggestion of what to pack for 2 weeks in Sri Lanka if you’re visiting during the dry season:
3 bikinis/swimming costumes – Click here to check out the selection available on Zaful!
2 or more dresses – Click here to check out the great dresses available from Zaful!
3 or more skirts (or shorts if you prefer) – Click here to see the skirts available on Zaful’s website!
7-10 tops or t-shirts – Click here to see the great range available on Zaful!
3 pairs of swimshorts – Click here to check out the swimshorts available from Zaful!
3 or more pairs of shorts – Click here to find great value shorts on Zaful’s website!
7-10 tops, t-shirts or singlets – Click here to check out the great range of tops available on Zaful!
You may also find you need to consider the temple dress code in Sri Lanka when packing. Pack something appropriate that covers both your knees and shoulders so that you can be respectful when visiting temples. If you don’t have anything suitable then you should be able to find something reasonably cheap from local markets/shops.
It’s also worth packing some flip flops, a hat to protect you from the sun and a rain jacket just in case.
Sunglasses – It’s always worth having a pair of sunglasses for a visit to Sri Lanka. If you’re looking to grab a bargain, we recommend buying them from Zaful. They have a great selection of sunglasses at great prices – so it’s easy to bag yourself a bargain!
Tropicfeel travel shoes – One thing not to miss off your packing list for Sri Lanka is a decent pair of trainers. We strongly recommend opting for some of the great all terrain shoes made by Tropicfeel, as they’re suitable no matter what you get up to on your trip!
The best thing about the shoes is that they’re suitable for both hiking and swimming in. To top if off, they’re a sustainable brand and make the shoes out of recycled plastic bottles, which is pretty great!
Rain coat – When you’re wondering what to wear in Sri Lanka, a rain jacket probably isn’t top of your list. Unfortunately though, it’s definitely something worth having with you. Sri Lanka has 2 different monsoon seasons, and the hill country gets a lot of rain year round, so packing a raincoat is wise regardless of the time of year you’re visiting.
Cloud Storage – If you’re planning to take lots of photos on your trip to Sri Lanka, it might be worth investing in cloud storage. That way you can upload photos throughout your trip, meaning it won’t take up loads of space on your laptop or memory cards. It’s also way more convenient than having an external hard drive as that takes up space in your bag!
We recommend using pCloud for cloud storage. You can either pay monthly or pay a one off fee for lifetime cloud storage.
Other electronics – We packed plenty of electronics for our trip to Sri Lanka, but generally what you need is dependent on what you actually want. You may want to pack any number of the following: laptop, tablet, phone, kindle, headphones, chargers and whatever else you can think of!
Playing cards – Playing cards are a great way to pass the time in otherwise boring situations like waiting at the airport or long train journeys – which are common in Sri Lanka!
Card games are also a great way to meet people in hostels and hotels, so are useful to take even if you’re backpacking solo in Sri Lanka. There are countless different cards to choose from but we recommend a pack of standard playing cards and Monopoly Deal – a quick card game version of Monopoly which is great fun!
Travel pillow – If you have the space in your hand luggage, we fully recommend taking a travel pillow. They provide a lot more comfort on long plane journeys than the free pillows provided, and will also be useful if you travel by train in Sri Lanka. As they’re relatively inexpensive, it’s well worth the money to get a much better rest on your travels!
Packing Cubes – As there are so many amazing places to visit in Sri Lanka, you’ll be doing a lot of moving around. This means a lot of packing and unpacking. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier to pack and keep stuff organised if you use packing cubes.
With packing cubes you’re able to keep things in separate sections within your case, making it easier to access what you need when you need it. That way you don’t have to empty out your whole case only to have to repack it a few days later!
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