Solo Travel in Sri Lanka
Types of Girl about the Globe (GatG) – Cultural GatG, Surfing GatG, Wildlife GatG
Sri Lanka is a fascinating country to visit especially for those who love culture and wildlife. Below is our guide on solo female travel Sri Lanka including where to stay in Sri Lanka, which tour company to use and how to get around Sri Lanka. Find out how to get from the airports our recommended itinerary in Sri Lanka, and the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
All companies included have been recommended by solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article to plan your Sri Lanka holidays.
N.b. For every booking made through this Sri Lanka travel guide, I donate money to projects helping vulnerable girls about the globe. Thank you for helping to make a difference to their lives.
- Places to Visit in Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka Tours
- Accommodation in Sri Lanka
- Getting Around Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka Itinerary
- Travel Guide For Sri Lanka
- Best Time to go to Sri Lanka
- Travel Insurance For Sri Lanka
- From Sri Lanka Airports
- Travelling Onwards
- How To Be a Conscious Traveller in Sri Lanka
- Map of Sri Lanka
- Planning a Trip to Sri Lanka
Solo Travel in Sri Lanka
Is Sri Lanka safe for solo female travellers? Sri Lanka culture is predominately Buddhist, meaning that the country is very welcoming and safe for women travelling alone. When you female solo travel Sri Lanka, some areas may remind you of parts of India so make sure you dress appropriately and conservatively. Locals are friendly and respectful and expect to be paid the odd compliment.
There is a shortage of hostels here and with the country mainly attracting couples there are not many solo travellers except on the beaches in the Southwest of the country, so you need to be comfortable with your own company.
Sri Lanka is mainly a Buddhist country so dress modestly and respect the culture. Solo travel to Sri Lanka and you may feel as though you are in India. It is a wonderful country to explore independently but if you are unsure what to see in Sri Lanka, you may feel more comfortable in a group tour for your Sri Lanka holidays.
* Before you travel, check what paperwork or visas are required for Sri Lanka.
Places to Visit in Sri Lanka
The best place in the world for banana fritters or coconut pancakes drenched in honey, lush vivid green vistas and the brightly colorful whirling and often fire twirling dancers in Kandy. Three thousand odd years of history and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites for you to explore, plus beautiful beaches and wide brown smiles.
Sri Lanka, or as it was once known, Ceylon, is a land that will dazzle and seduce you, in spite of its recent political turmoil and its reported injustices to humanity.
Sri Lanka has two capitals. Colombo is the executive and judicial capital. There aren’t any places to visit in Colombo or famous landmarks in the capital but it does have colonial buildings within the fort area and plenty of history. If you do spend a few days here, things to do in Colombo include seeing the beautiful white building of the National Museum and the peaceful park that surrounds it.
Inside are the golden throne and crown from the former royal family, as well as typical outfits, art and carvings. And spend some time at Galle Face Green, a park in Colombo’s heart that stretches along the coast.
Negombo, a beach north of Colombo, the Commercial city of Sri Lanka, is a hoi poloi of its past aggressors, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. All have left a legacy of some sort in and around this bustling port, such as the Dutch Canals and the remarkable colonial architecture reflected in its buildings.
The early morning fish market is a must for those that want to witness the true life of a local in this town. It is harsh and brutal, and the blood bath of the ocean's bounty is all in a day's work. Or, merely walk along the beach until you come to the fishing boats where fresh glistening fish will be drying in the sun.
Near Dambulla, make the effort and climb the time worn smooth steps of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, one of the main places of interest in Sri Lanka, and the most famous places in Sri Lanka. Quietly slip past enormous hornet nests, used for protection against enemies, to reach the apex of the oldest remaining palace created in the 5th Century, as you ascend into a mythical world of legends, and enjoy an amazing view.
Let the world lie before you as it always has, from a unique vantage point, once you reach the top. Follow the tourist route of ancient wonders and step back through time to witness what the ancient artisans created in Polonnaruwa Mediaeval Capital City and Anuradhapura, one of the top 3 cities of the Sri Lanka destinations to visit.
Opposite Sigiriya Rock is the mighty Pidurangala Rock, a volcanic rock in the lowlands that you can hike up to get one of the best viewing spots of Sigiriya Rock.
At Matale, visit an Ayurvedic Village to burn a hole in your credit card buying up big on miraculous potions based on botanical and herbal natural products. If you venture to Isiwaya Ayurvedic Village, for a very small donation you can experience a head and shoulder massage like you have never had before, much to the amusement of anyone who may happen to be around you at the time.
Or, for those that don't wax any unwanted hair, try their hair removal cream and be utterly astounded at the results. It actually works!
Kandy is a Sri Lanka must see. When you visit the country you should definitely pay a visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka, one of the beautiful places in Sri Lanka and places to visit in Kandy, which sits amidst the green sea of tea plantations of the Central Province.
Its' heritage listed buildings reflect in the Kandy Lake, in the heart of this town, where locals gather in the evenings to eat from food carts scattered around. Other things to do in Kandy are to head to the Red Cross Society Hall to watch a performance of the Rangahala Cultural Dance (Kandyan).
From Kandy you can venture inland to Ella, a remote destination where you’ll find others on their Sri Lanka backpacking adventures. It’s a place for hiking with lots of natural free things to do in Sri Lanka for those who love nature. Discover Ravana Cave, one of the unique things to do in Sri Lanka for adventure due to its hundreds of steep steps and folklore tradition.
See Ravana Falls (but it’s not recommended to swim there), or the Ellawalla Waterfall or marvel at Diyaluma Falls where you can swim in the infinity pools that the water falls created. Other things to do in Ella include seeing the Nine Arch Bridge and riding the train to Ella from Kandy, a 10-hour train ride through palm jungle and tea plantations.
Hike “The Knuckles“, preferably with a local guide, as it would be easy to lose oneself in this wonderland of patchwork tea plantations and national park, seamlessly merging into a peaceful hilly land of brightly painted lizards, butterflies and soaring birds.
Watch in awe as you come upon the typical weather worn tea picker with a bag slung around the head as their hands dart out to pick the ripe leaves from the bushes.
Marvel at the ingenuity of the “track sweepers” who meticulously brush the hard earth packed tracks with tree branches shaped into the resemblance of a household broom. Listen to the children's laughter as you trek past one of the many hillside tea pickers' villages or schools. Trudge into a remote hillside town where tractors are the family vehicle.
Rusty old buses gasp their last breath as they struggle to negotiate the twists and turns, loaded up to the brim with not only people, but laden with worn old wooden boxes and livestock as well. Then indulge in an al fresco lunch of local treats at a waterfall hidden from the world and swim in your underwear, if you dare, in the midday searing heat.
Lounge and watch the world go by, especially the locals, at one of the many restaurants or cafes in Galle. Shop in one of the many boutiques, incredible handicraft or art shops, or just get lost in the alleys and laneways of street graffiti come art.
Galle with its ancient fort and wall, beach alcove and a locals fish market that large black crows haunt, is a colorful caricature of what one expects to see in Sri Lanka. Places to visit in Galle include the Galle Fort, one of the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka that should be on your list.
One of the moving pieces of Sri Lanka tourism is on the coastal road north of Galle. The Tsunami Memorial commemorates the hundreds of people washed away on a commuter train during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
For adventurous things to do in Sri Lanka, you can surf, snorkel or dive at Hikkaduwa Beach, one of the country’s popular beaches due to its coral reef. It’s easy to meet others here as there are restaurants, bars and clubs, and you may even meet a turtle or two swimming at Turtle Beach. Hikkaduwa Beach is less than 20 kms from Galle.
If you are an ocean Girl about the Globe, one of the activities to do in Sri Lanka is surf. Surfers flock to Weligama, one of the best places in Sri Lanka on the Indian ocean, where surfers and traditional fishing boats fight for waves to get to shore. It is where there is one surf school after another, and a quaint little town that is close enough to go to Galle for a day by tuk tuk.
Whilst, Unawatuna is a laid-back tourist scene of restaurants, bars, hotels and quaint boutique bed and breakfasts. It is also the bay where four turtles have made their home and can be seen aimlessly floating around their blue playground, especially late in the afternoon.
Mirissa and Tangalla have some of the best Sri Lanka beaches to relax and chill out. From Mirissa you can also take a whale watching tour to see sperm whales, blue whales and dolphins off the southern coast. Arugam Bay is one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka and sits on the east coast as an alternative depending on the season.
Sri Lanka National Parks
National Parks abound with all their own specialty of creature inhabitants, depending on what would appeal to you as the visitor or the proximity to where you are. If you are unsure where to go in Sri Lanka for elephants, the Gathering, Minneriya National Park is where elephants by the hundreds annually congregate in June to September.
Kaudulla National Park in the north central province is also home to a large number of Sri Lankan elephants that you can see gathering at the Kaudualla reservoir during the dry season. The sacred pilgrimage site of the Dambulla Cave Temple also lies within this province. This cave is the country’s best preserved cave temple with carved Buddha statues and paintings of historical Buddhist events on the cave walls and ceiling.
Horton Plains National Park is the country’s highest plateau and one of the points of interest Sri Lanka for eco-tourism. With areas of cloud forest, Baker’s Falls, and a sheer drop called The World’s End, this protected area with many species of birds is one of the exotic places in Sri Lanka
Yala National Park is the stage for over 200 bird species and 40 reptiles and mammals. Become a “tweeter” and bird watch in Bundala National Park or join the throng of tourists at Udawalawe National Park, whilst Sinharaja Forest Reserve plays home to some of the rarest bird species.
From world famous religious relics, temples and trekking mountains, to tasting local wonders such as wood apple juice, there are many destinations in Sri Lanka to entice you. Or indulge in the rich curds and whey of the buffalo variety with fresh drizzled honey, sipping dark thick coffee, and seeing the locals bathe in the late afternoon sunlight in any stream or lake available, even if it is beside the road.
There are many things to see in Sri Lanka that will have you spellbound as you count the many little silver dishes that are served with your aromatic curry.
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your Sri Lanka trip or the whole duration below are recommended Sri Lanka tours for solo travellers. If you prefer a more unique Sri Lanka tour package, Golden Isle Sri Lanka will personalise your Sri Lanka tour and can also twin it with the Maldives.
G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 12 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Their tours to Sri Lanka start from 7 day Sailing Sri Lanka, to a 14 day Sri Lanka Land & Sea tour. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company. * Check rates and availability for G Adventures tours
For the backpacker solo, TruTravels offers a classic Sri Lanka trip from Negombo to Unawatuna over 10 days. Delve into the culture, go on a safari and climb Sigiriya Rock with a group of like-minded others. Travel through Negombo, Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, Udawalawe, and Unawatuna, staying in a beachside hotel and glamping. Trips have a maximum of 20 people with most travellers between the ages of 18 and mid 30’s. Prices start from £995 based on a twin share. * Check rates and availability for TruTravels tour
Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide helps you to find top-rated activities and day tours in Sri Lanka. Choose from a whale watching tour in Mirissa, a safari in Udawalawa National Park or one of the Sri Lanka tours from Colombo including the famous Sigiriya Rock and Dambulla cave temple day trip. There are several to choose from including Sri Lanka short tours and it’s really simple to use. Just check the reviews, price and availability then book online. * Check rates and availability for all Sri Lanka day tours
When you travel Sri Lanka on your own, you can find all different types of accommodation in Sri Lanka from beach huts and tree houses at Arugam Bay to villas at the beach resort of Unawatuna. The country offers BnBs and Sri Lanka hotels from 3 star to the luxurious 5 star. And for those on a budget consider one of the hostels of which there are many in Colombo.
Guest houses are a sociable way of staying in family homes. Plus there’s Airbnb Sri Lanka which connects you to unique travel experiences and isn’t just limited to staying in a local’s spare room.
All of the accommodation below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with a Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Here are our favourite accommodations for those looking for comfort. For all other accommodation, click this link. * To book, check prices or availability for all accommodation in Sri Lanka
This cosy Inn is in the perfect location in Kandy with the Temple of the Tooth just walking distance away. A great value accommodation with a restaurant serving delicious local food. * Check rates and availability
This is one of the stunning hotels in Sri Lanka with a large swimming pool and an Ayurvedic spa, just steps away from Kalutara Beach. There are helpful staff and even the reception is peaceful. * Check rates and availability
The Fortress in Galle is a mixture of modern and colonial architecture and is located along the beach – 5 star in true Sri Lankan style. * Check rates and availability
If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Sri Lanka and the opportunity to meet others within a hostel environment, I've listed recommended hostels for solo female travellers below. For other accommodations check rates and availability for all Sri Lanka accommodation here
Close to shops and restaurants, this hostel has a great vibe. There’s air conditioning, and they have mosquito nets for the beds as well as universal plugs so it doesn’t matter if you forget your adaptor. There’s a coffee shop and outside barbecue so you don’t need to go far to eat.
If you are visiting Sri Lanka and looking for company, the hostel is good value and close to the beach, and attracts a nice crowd of people including backpackers. Choose from a 4-bed mixed dorm room or a budget or deluxe double room with your own private bathroom. * Check rates and availability: The Long Hostel
Mirissa Beach is one of the Sri Lanka hostels that will make you feel right at home. It’s clean, has friendly staff, and it is only two minutes from the beach. Plus if you visit during the hot months, there is air conditioning to keep you cool.
The rooftop restaurant is a great place to enjoy some cuisine or one of the delicious breakfasts. They also have a 24 hour reception which is ideal if you are checking in late. Choose from 4 or 8-bed dorm rooms or a 4-bed female only dorm. * Check rates and availability: Space Garden Hostel
This place is simply gorgeous. If you want to stay in a luxury beach hostel, WeEscape is just perfect. With a chilled out vibe set in an old colonial villa, you can really relax here whether you want to lounge by the pool, surf in the sea or do a yoga class. The restaurant serves great curries too.
Choose from a bed in a 6 or 8-bed female dorm, 8 bed mixed dorm room, or a superior or deluxe room. Tip – if you are going for a private room opt for the deluxe room if you can. * Check rates and availability: We Escape
Getting Around Sri Lanka
How to travel around Sri Lanka by car – Driving around Sri Lanka is not for the faint hearted with constant honking and overtaking. It is best to use a recommended travel agency that can arrange a Sri Lanka driver and a private car for you if you want to travel around the country. Hiring a driver in Sri Lanka may seem excessive, but it is by far the easiest way to navigate the sights and to learn about the country.
If however, you are going to one of the areas in Sri Lanka, say the beach at Welligama or Unawatuna or concentrating your visit around the beaches and Galle Fort area, it is easy to hop from one area to another without the use of a driver. If you do need a taxi service in Sri Lanka when you are travelling alone in Sri Lanka, Broom Broom Taxi Sri Lanka is a trusted taxi service.
Public Transportation in Sri Lanka
It is a country of easy access on one hand but on the other, most of the major sites are easier to navigate in a short amount of time with the aid of a personal driver. For travelling around Sri Lanka independently there are local buses that cover all the cities in Sri Lanka. They can get packed and aren’t that comfortable in the heat. Find Sri Lanka bus routes here
Buses are even owned by the government or private buses. Both operate around the country but the government buses also run in the more rural areas. Look for the white buses with coloured stripes for a private bus service in Sri Lanka. Air conditioned buses are more expensive but they are much nicer and only take a seated number of passengers so they don’t get uncrowded.
The authentic Sri Lanka transport are tuk tuks, that will take you on short distances and are a fun way to see Sri Lanka.
How to get around in Sri Lanka by train – Take a train trip to tour Sri Lanka. Colombo Fort Train Station is the major hub for Sri Lankan Railways. The Sri Lanka train ride from Kandy to Colombo is spectacular with tickets to the observation car only 320 lkr. The journey takes about 3 hours and from Colombo you can change to Aluthgama for 110 lkr which runs along the coast and is a special ride.
The Kandy to Ella train ride is also one of the most beautiful in the country. The trains can get crowded so if you are touring Sri Lanka this way, opt for first class which has air conditioning and more comfortable seats than second class. Click here for a railway map of Sri Lanka.
* For Sri Lanka car hire car we recommend pre-booking your car so you can collect your car when you arrive at the airport.
Sri Lanka Itinerary
Sri Lanka is quite a large country so you’ll need at least 2 weeks in Sri Lanka to see the main Sri Lanka attractions (if you are travelling fast on your Sri Lanka route). You could spend 1 week in Sri Lanka solo if you want to experience the beach or combine it with Kandy. Below is an example of a Sri Lanka solo travel itinerary whether you are looking for a Sri Lanka itinerary for a week or 2 weeks in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Itinerary 7 Days:
- Colombo – 1 night, Galle – 2 nights, Weligama – 3 nights.
- Kandy – 2 nights, Sigiriya Sri Lanka – 2 nights, Nuwara Eliya – 2 nights.
Sri Lanka Itinerary 2 Weeks:
- Colombo – 1 night, Kandy – 3 nights, Dambulla/Sigiriya – 2 nights – Yala National Park – 2 nights, Mirissa – 3 nights, Galle – 2 nights.
- For a two week itinerary exploring the highlights and UNESCO sites visit: Galle – 3 nights, Rekawa – 2 nights, Tissa – 3 nights, Kandy – 3 nights, Bentota – 2 nights.
Travel Guide For Sri Lanka
Whether you are solo backpacking Sri Lanka alone or planning your solo holidays to Sri Lanka, having a guide book helps you to find the best place in Sri Lanka for you and give you more confidence planning your trip.
If you need a book for your travels we recommend Rough Guides. Covering where to go and when to go, things not to miss, itineraries, getting around, festivals and events, history, and maps, they are amongst the most comprehensive guides on the market. If you prefer Lonely Planet click here for all Sri Lanka guide books.
If you are planning on travelling to Sri Lanka for the first time, the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka covers topics such as: places to see in Sri Lanka, the best things to do in Sri Lanka, booking your trip, accommodation, getting there, getting around, Sri Lanka food and drink, and travel essentials. They also include facts about Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Buddhism, art, architecture and wildlife so you can maximise your time and know exactly where to go. They’re your travel Bible for your Sri Lanka vacation.
Best Time To Go To Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka does have monsoons but don’t let this put you off visiting outside of peak seasons as there is an inter-monsoon season between July to September which despite the odd rain shower is a good time to see the country. The best time to visit Sri Lanka is between December to March for the south and also the west coast (or May to September if you are visiting the east).
The chart below shows the weather in Sri Lanka and the annual climate from January to December.
Travel Insurance For Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a wonderful country to explore but if you are planning Sri Lanka solo travel, travel insurance is definitely recommended especially if you are planning to hike or take a tuk-tuk ride.
True Traveller and World Nomads are two insurance companies which can cover travel to Sri Lanka. True Traveller is available to UK and European residents, and World Nomads is available to over 100 countries worldwide, including the USA and UK. For digital nomads, Safety Wing is a nomad insurance that covers people from all over the world.
All companies allow you to buy insurance when you are already on the road and offer different plans depending on your needs including additional adventure cover.
N.b. World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
From Sri Lanka Airports
Sri Lanka has two international airports. Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo, and Mattala Rajapaksa (HRI) in the south near Hambantota.
From Bandaranaike Airport – From Colombo International Airport there is a bus which runs to the Colombo City centre in 45 minutes (Line 187). The bus costs approx £2 (you may have to pay extra for your luggage), or you can take a taxi for £13. For anywhere else, take a taxi service. A cab to Negombo Beach will take 30 minutes and cost approx 962 LKR. For Bentota, Galle or Kandy the fare is approx 5000 LKR.
From Hambantota Airport – The best way to get into Hambantota is to take a taxi. This costs approximately £18 for a 45 minute journey.
* Check Rome2Rio for transport to and from the airports.
Travel Tip – Feel more confident on your Sri Lanka solo trip with someone waiting for you at the airport or as an airport drop Sri Lanka when you pre-book Hoppa, a reliable service for the safety of travellers.
Travelling onwards (check visas before you travel)
Sri Lanka is an island so when you are travelling Sri Lanka solo, flying onwards is the only option as there are no boats running between here and India.
Where can I go from here?
- India – 1.5 hours
- Indonesia – 4.5 hours
- Thailand – 3.5 hours
How To Be a Conscious Traveller in Sri Lanka
In addition to the universal ways to be a conscious traveller such as avoiding buying coral, and ensuring that your whale watching excursion is accredited by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, here are our recommendations for being a conscious traveller when you solo travel in Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka was badly hit in the 2004 Tsunami, so one way to help the community is to stay in local accommodations and eat local to ensure that your local money helps the local communities and villages that are rebuilding their lives.
Sri Lanka is known for its elephants but avoid elephant rides when you visit. Elephants can experience mental and physical suffering and when not giving rides or performing, the elephants at tourist attractions are typically kept chained day and night.
Instead of visiting Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, see one of these amazing Sri Lankan elephants on a safari in the national parks such as Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park instead. Find out more….
Avoid any projects encouraging turtle encounters, which can interfere with the nesting and hatching process of the turtles. Too many tourists on the sand can threaten the eggs and stop them developing properly. Find out more…
Volunteering in Sri Lanka
Habit For Humanity – Become a Global Village Volunteer and help low-income families in Sri Lanka on a homebuilding project. As a short-term volunteer you’ll be supporting paid skilled labour by mixing cement and hauling water, as well as transforming communities and helping to foster a sense of community.
Facts About Sri Lanka
- Can I drink the water? Drinking tap water isn't advised so buy bottled water or take your own water filter with you.
- Is tipping expected? Wages are low, so tipping is appreciated. Generally 10% for restaurants, and tour guides.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed prices in shops, but barter your heart out in the markets – please remember that you may be bartering over a few cents/pennies.
- Any ATMs? Yes, especially in the tourist areas, but not in the very small towns.
- Which side of the road do they drive? The left-hand side.
- Good for vegetarians? Yes, especially with their delicious vegetarian curries.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No.
- Is Sri Lanka safe for single female travellers? Yes, the people are welcoming and the country is safe.
- How long is a flight to Sri Lanka from the UK? 11 hours.
Sri Lanka Map
Planning a Trip to Sri Lanka
If you are ready to plan your solo trip to Sri Lanka here are some useful links to help you to travel to Sri Lanka including airlines which fly there, vaccinations required and local costs; all the links that you need for Sri Lanka solo female travel.
Budget: How much does it cost to solo travel in Sri Lanka? Allow £35 a day if you are travelling Sri Lanka alone on a budget and staying in cheap accommodations (more if you hire a personal driver to get around).
Current Time in Sri Lanka (in Colombo)
Capital of Sri Lanka – Colombo
Population of Sri Lanka – 20.3 million
What Language is Spoken in Sri Lanka – Sinhala and Tamil, very little English in some areas.
Sri Lanka Currency – Sri Lankan Rupee
The Ideal Time To Visit Sri Lanka – The best month to visit Sri Lanka is in February.
Sri Lanka's Sacred SitesDid you know? “The head waggle” – Sri Lankans say, “yes” by waggling their heads from side to side as if they are saying “no”.
Animal SOS is a dog sanctuary in Ahangama, and a UK registered charity. They rescue street animals who have no hope or veterinary care when they become ill or injured on the roads.
Find other volunteering opportunities on your solo trip Sri Lanka with Go Overseas.
Mind Body & Soul
Issues in the Country
Humanitarian and political situations both past and current are still problems in Sri Lanka, with the northern area largely undeveloped for tourism.
This article was written by Gail Palethorpe. Gail is a self-confessed travel junkie, caffeine addict, freelance writer and photographer.