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!
Table of Contents
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!
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! 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. 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, so you can appreciate those special moments even more! Fortunately, there are some great compact binoculars available, so they won’t take up loads of space of weigh your bag down.
Camera – Although smartphone cameras are getting better with every new release, if you want to capture high quality photographs you’ll need a proper camera. Cameras have a versatility that just can’t be matched by even the best phone cameras. You can spend as little or as much as you want on a camera, especially if you’re looking at getting a number of different lenses too. Don’t worry if you’ve got a small budget either, there are some great cameras at very reasonable prices, so it’s well worth investing in one for your trip!
If you’re not looking to spend too big then you can’t go wrong with the Canon EOS M100. It’s easy to use, takes great shots and doesn’t take up a lot of space – and to top it off it’s great value! It comes with a 15-45mm lens, which can capture some great shots but if you want a good zoom then you’ll also want to invest in another lens too. Fortunately the camera is such a good price that you should hopefully be able to afford a second lens as well!
For those of you considering spending a bit more, the Sony a6500 is a great investment. We upgraded to this camera and could instantly tell the difference in quality – so it’s well worth it if you have the money to spend. If you’re buying the camera body then make sure to buy a lens or 2 to go with it!
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 have a DJI Mavic Pro and it’s 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 newly released 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 currently suspended following the terrorist attacks in April 2019. If you’re planning to visit the country your drone may be confiscated on arrival, so you shouldn’t pack it for your trip. Unfortunately there is no information regarding how long this ban will be in place, so make sure to do your research if you plan to take a drone to Sri Lanka.
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 – You won’t have to worry about your phone running out of charge if you have a powerbank. We got our first powerbank before our trip to Asia in 2017 and we wouldn’t travel without one again. They’re incredibly useful for making sure you don’t run out of battery on a day trip or even if you’re just relaxing at the beach.
Refillable water bottle – Plastic waste has become a real issue – with reports that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. It’s easy to do your bit to combat unnecessary plastic usage by taking a refillable water bottle on your trip. If you opt for a bottle which includes a water filter you can end up saving a fair bit of money too. These bottles are specifically designed to remove 99.99% of bacteria, meaning that although the tap water isn’t normally safe to drink in Sri Lanka, you are able to drink it if you use the bottle to purify the water first. Although these bottles are fairly pricey, it can end up saving you a lot of money during your trip – as well as saving the world at the same time!
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. Although it’s easy to think of it as an unnecessary expense, if something goes wrong you’ll be incredibly grateful for it. We’ve saved thousands of dollars on medical bills on previous trips just by having insurance, so we strongly recommend making sure you’re covered. That way no matter what goes wrong, you won’t end up struggling to pay for medical treatment or something else essential!
World Nomads provide great travel insurance, offering different packages to suit different people’s needs. We recommend heading to their website and getting an insurance policy with them, just so you’re covered in potentially costly scenarios!
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!
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 – A good travel card is definitely one of the essentials to take to Sri Lanka. If you use your debit or credit card in Sri Lanka you’ll incur foreign transaction fees. While this is ok every so often, it quickly adds up and is completely avoidable. There are some great travel cards which give a great exchange rate on transactions – almost always better than the rate you’d get at a currency exchange! The cards also allow for withdrawals at foreign ATMs without a fee up to a set limit per month.
A travel card available for both UK and US residents is Revolut. We’ve used Revolut since 2016 and never had any problems using it anywhere in the world. You’ll need to sign up a while in advance of your trip in order for the card to get delivered in time. It’s also potentially worth ordering a card in a family member’s name too so you get double the free withdrawals if you take their card with you!
Sun cream –Pretty self-explanatory really, but one of the must have items on your packing list for Sri Lanka is sun cream. We actually struggled to find sun cream when we were in the country, so we recommend stocking up in advance!
Aftersun – Much like sun cream, 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 sun cream –If you’re planning on going snorkelling or diving in Sri Lanka, we strongly recommend getting some reef friendly sun cream. Normal sun cream is damaging to the environment and reefs if it gets in the water. Although reef friendly sun cream 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.
Although you’d probably expect to take mainly summer clothes to Sri Lanka, it’s also worth taking some warmer stuff to wear if you’re visiting the hill country. This area of Sri Lanka is substantially colder, so it’s worth packing suitable clothing to keep you warm. If you’re wondering exactly what clothes to pack for Sri Lanka we’d recommend singlets, shorts, t shirts, swim shorts and at least 1 jumper and 1 pair of jeans/joggers if you’re a guy, or dresses, shorts, bikinis plus something warm for chilly nights for girls. It’s also worth packing flip flops and a hat to protect you from the sun!
It can be a bit of a scary thought to fork out for an entirely new wardrobe, but thankfully Zaful have a great selection of clothing at brilliant prices. Better yet, they offer free worldwide shipping – just make sure to order in plenty of time for it to arrive before your trip!
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!
Trainers – One thing not to miss off your packing list for travelling in Sri Lanka is a comfortable pair of shoes or trainers. If you’re planning on doing some hiking and getting a bit off the beaten path, then you’ll want a good pair of trainers to see you through. We both use Nike Air Max’s as they’re extremely comfortable for walking long distances in! They were perfect for hiking in Ella – one of the must see places in Sri Lanka.
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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