As I stood on a beach in Sri Lanka, admiring the pristine landscape, a thought came to me: why would anyone ever choose to live anywhere else? Everything about this moment seemed perfect – the ocean, the sand, the people – and I realized I was spending a fraction of my monthly rent money back home on the entire trip combined.

There are a lot of pros and cons to being a digital nomad, and speaking frankly, Sri Lanka is a great place to explore both. With a population of 22 million, this small island nation in South Asia has had its fair share of monsoons and political turmoil in recent years. On the other hand, the beaches and food here are practically to die for.

So if I didn’t scare you away from being a digital nomad in Sri Lanka, then I beckon you to explore with me further in this article. I will tell you everything you need to know about finding accommodation, getting around, and the best cities in Sri Lanka for digital nomads. With the right mentality and planning, Sri Lanka could be the destination of your dreams.

Is Sri Lanka good for digital nomads?

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure filled with sensory delights, Sri Lanka over-delivers. While the level of development may not be up to par with some other countries, a willingness to work through these issues will be rewarded. The tourist infrastructure is robust in the more popular beach towns, allowing you to explore and experience the best of Sri Lanka in tranquillity.

However, the one thing that might give you pause is the internet speed. While it’s certainly improving, it’s still lagging behind other countries with semi-frequent power outages. But fear not, because English is widely spoken among the younger generations, so communication and finding the resources you need to solve your problems won’t be a concern.

6 Reasons You Should Go To Sri Lanka

  1. Outdoor activities like surfing are abundant. It is one of the top surfing destinations for sure, and the mountains, tea plantations, and waterfalls aren’t bad either.
  2. The food is unbelievably good and cheap. A bit similar to Indian food to my palate, but they use several local ingredients to make it different. Coconut sambal and “rice and curry” (way more elaborate than it sounds) are among the many highlights.
  3. The landscape is incredibly diverse. You can easily find breathtaking waterfalls, jungles, mountains, and beaches, all within a few hours of each other. Who could ask for any more?
  4. Sri Lankans are incredibly warm and welcoming. You could just make friends with them by talking to them for a few minutes. Beware that some of those people will want something in return. Just apply common sense and be firm when the interaction starts to get shady.
  5. Transportation is actually quite simplified here. Train lines run throughout the country, and the wagons are relatively comfortable and modern, even though Sri Lanka is a developing country.
  6. If you avoid monsoon season, the weather is almost always comfortably warm.
beach in Sri Lanka
Beach in Sri Lanka

The devil’s advocate: 5 reasons to avoid Sri Lanka

  1. Your power is prone to hour-long outages, potentially every day. Plus, the internet speed in Sri Lanka is not great. 
  2. You might recall that Sri Lanka was in the news in 2022 for its political instability. Turmoil has died down recently according to locals, but some nomads might find that this is a risk they’re not willing to take. 
  3. Monsoons are prevalent in this country. Not to mention, there are two different monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka. One that extends from May to September, and another that goes from November to April. You read that right, that’s basically 11 months of the year where you’re at risk of getting washed out. Although realistically, July to September and January to March are mild.
  4. Due to some of the unrest last year, there are fuel and food shortages at times in the country. However, as a foreigner you might be given special privileges, i.e., you can leverage your extra money to bribe people for more fuel and other goods.
  5. Smaller towns lack basic amenities like gyms. But you might as well replace your workout with whatever surfing/hiking/other activity is available nearby.

Is there a Sri Lanka digital nomad visa?

Unfortunately, there is no Sri Lanka digital nomad visa yet. However, in 2022, the country approved a 5-year multi-entry visa, allowing recipients to stay for up to 6 months at a time. This scheme is available to passport holders from 35 different countries. While this is not a dedicated digital nomad visa, it is a potential option for those wishing to stay in Sri Lanka for extended periods in the future.

Entry Into Sri Lanka

That said, if you’re looking to enter Sri Lanka right away, you should note that the multi-entry visa I just mentioned is still not ready. However, you can obtain a 30-day visa on arrival, depending on your country of origin. You can extend this up to 270 days by applying ahead of time on the Sri Lankan government’s official website. Make sure to apply through the correct website to avoid any unnecessary fees.

Renewing the visa can be relatively expensive, usually costing upwards of $100, depending on your citizenship. If you plan to stay in Sri Lanka for a longer period than the initial 30 days, it is best to head to the immigration office right away to get the extension. It can be an extremely arduous process as it may take up to a full day. Plus, the office is not open on weekends. As such, I would discourage this process for the unseasoned traveller.

What it’s like to be a digital nomad in Sri Lanka

I can already feel the warm breeze of the Indian Ocean on my skin as I think back to all the different beaches I enjoyed. 

But before you enjoy them as I did, you must conduct extensive planning. Given the relative weakness of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure and the potential for scams, you’ll need a bit of forward-thinking to get by here. I’ll walk you through the best times to visit, how to find accommodation and Sri Lanka’s cost of living.

What’s the best time to go to Sri Lanka?

When planning a trip to Sri Lanka as a digital nomad, you must take the weather into consideration. The Southwest monsoon season runs from May to October, making the east coast beaches and northern cities of Anuradhapura and Jaffna ideal for making the most of the good weather.

From November to April, the Northeast monsoon season brings heavy rainfall to the east coast, making this the perfect time to visit the more popular destinations in the southwest beaches and hill country. This is when you’ll get to experience the best of Sri Lanka, with its beautiful beaches and stunning hillside views.

Overall, the best times to visit Sri Lanka as a digital nomad are from November to April, during the Northeast monsoon season. This way you’ll get to experience the best of both worlds, with the southern beaches and cities offering a great alternative if the rains come down too heavily.

Ease and cost of living in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the cheapest and safest countries that you can visit. That said, it is hardly the simplest country to plan for. You’ll still need to do your due diligence.

Cost of accommodation in Sri Lanka

Finding reliable accommodation as a digital nomad in Sri Lanka can be a tricky task at times. Hotels and resorts are relatively cheap and are a great option if you are planning on moving around between different locations every week or two. 

Airbnbs can be found in Colombo for around $600-$1000, and smaller places such as Weligama offer discounts of 30-40%. Facebook groups are also a great way to find homes to stay in. However, it is critical to be vigilant when it comes to scams. Carefully read the reviews and research the place before booking. The best way to minimize the chances of being scammed is to book far in advance or wait until you reach Sri Lanka and let a friendly local help you find a place to stay. Make sure to view the apartment before signing a contract.

Be wary of the potential risks involved with finding accommodation. Take the time to research thoroughly and be extra-sharp when looking for a place to stay to ensure a safe and pleasant experience. Not to mention, check that you’re not getting a discount price in a tourist zone simply because you’re planning to stay there during monsoon season.

At the end of the day, most rental sites have posed major problems for me, and I know I’m not alone. Finding apartments with a workspace, kitchen, and any other amenities you need can be a struggle. If you want a more consistent solution, we’re in the process of curating a large database of digital nomad apartments around the world. Enter your name and email below to get access to them as soon as they’re released.

Cost of food in Sri Lanka

As a digital nomad in Sri Lanka, you will be pleasantly surprised by the amazing food you can find for a fraction of the price you would pay elsewhere. Delicious meals can cost as little as $1-2, and these usually come with a variety of different spicy curries and rice plates. Note that most food here is vegetarian. Sri Lankan cuisine offers a wide range of scrumptious dishes that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

You could also try cooking your own meals at home. Although some of your creature comforts from home may not be available, groceries are even cheaper than restaurants. 

As for coffee, there are plenty of great cafes offering cheap coffee for under $1, so you can get your caffeine fix while working in paradise. 

Cost of SIM card in Sri Lanka

Getting a SIM card in Sri Lanka is easy and relatively inexpensive. You can buy one at the airport, so you’ll have access as soon as you arrive and can use it to hail a taxi (Pickme is the best company for this). The SIM card will cost around $30 for 90GB of data, and there are also cheaper options available if you don’t need as much data. With a local SIM card, you can stay connected with work while you explore the country. 

Cost of Transportation in Sri Lanka

When visiting Sri Lanka, transportation costs don’t have to break the bank. One of the most popular options is the TukTuk, which typically costs only a few dollars per ride. It is important to agree on the fee beforehand to avoid any confusion or surprises. In addition, many of the cities in Sri Lanka are quite compact, making them easy to navigate quickly.

If you want to rent a TukTuk, it might cost you around $200 for a month. This can be especially helpful if you’re planning on staying in one place and travelling to nearby beaches in your free time.

When it comes to long-distance travel, trains can be a great option. The 7-hour ride between Kandy and Ella is especially beautiful, and the tickets usually cost around $1. Not only are the fares affordable, but the train service is also surprisingly high quality. With comfortable carriages and plenty of scenery, it is an experience not to be missed. Overall, transportation in Sri Lanka is easy and inexpensive, making it a great choice for nomads on a budget.

Train in Sri Lanka
Train in Sri Lanka

Other costs to be aware of in Sri Lanka

Visiting Sri Lanka is a great way to experience the beauty and culture of the region. While there, many tourists enjoy activities such as surfing, touring tea plantations, and even going on safaris to see the amazing wildlife. Although those activities do cost money, it is surprisingly affordable compared to other countries. Most of the activities mentioned will cost around or less than $100, making it easy to plan a memorable adventure without breaking the bank.

For the more adventurous traveller, there are plenty of outdoor activities to do. From exploring jungle trails to trekking through the hills, there is something for everyone. While some activities, such as wildlife safaris, may be more expensive, you can still find ways to stick to a budget. There are plenty of ways to save money and make the most of your time in Sri Lanka. With a bit of research, you can have a great time and create amazing memories for a fraction of the cost you would expect in other southeast-Asian locales.

Spending in Sri Lanka

Before you come to Sri Lanka, you must bring along cold hard cash, preferably US Dollars, because getting money from your card in this country is a bit of a challenge. Note that the Sri Lankan Rupee is only available in Sri Lanka since it’s a closed currency.

Sri Lanka’s currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee which exchanges at 1 USD for ~360 LKR at the time of writing. 

Internet Speed Sri Lanka

The internet speed in Sri Lanka is decent for working, but not outstanding. Most broadband connections reach speeds of 26MBps, while mobile connections offer a slightly slower 17MBps. That said, the internet availability in Colombo and Kandy is quite good, though it is not as reliable in other parts of the country. If you are in an area with limited access, you may need to use your mobile phone plan as a hotspot. Overall, the internet speed in Sri Lanka is decent, though not as fast as some other digital nomad hubs.

Are There Digital Nomad Communities in Sri Lanka?

As far as I can tell, there are no official communities at the moment. However, there are plenty of tourist resorts near the beach that might serve as a sort of replacement for a digital nomad community. Those are usually filled with couples, so be warned if you decide to book a solo resort stay. You might have an easy time making friends through surfing classes and other outdoor experiences that nomads might frequent.

The closest thing I can find to a digital nomad community in Sri Lanka is Verse Collective, a coworking space combined with a hotel located on the beach in Dickwella. It looks like a pretty lush space and also includes rooms for you to stay in. The coworking part is free, but you will need to pay a pretty penny for food and drink, which is understandable.

Best cities for digital nomads in Sri Lanka

For digital nomads looking to stay in Sri Lanka, the best option is often to choose one of the smaller towns with access to nature. These towns tend to be quieter and more peaceful, making them great places to work and relax. Even if you are worried about socializing in small places, there will still be plenty of tourists and friendly locals, so you won’t have to worry about feeling isolated. 

You’ll notice that I did not include Colombo. Although it has many coworking spaces, it is quite crowded and has few attractions, so it is usually not the best option for digital nomads.

Sri Lanka Landscape
Sri Lanka has some incredible landscapes

Ella

Yeah, beaches are nice, and I know that’s what people usually come to Sri Lanka for. But I like mountains too.

The incredible scenery, 2,000-year-old temple, and simultaneous feeling of remoteness and connectedness make Ella the top destination for digital nomads in Sri Lanka. The town has only 40,000 people, but it’s still easy to reach. In fact, it’s located on the way to Kandy by rail. 

Since this is such a small city, Ella is not a good destination for people like hustle and bustle. But truthfully, the best of Sri Lanka is in nature anyways, so what did you expect?

Your cost of living will be just as low here as anywhere else in Sri Lanka, at least among tourist destinations. Overall, Ella is the perfect place to post up for a month surrounded by nature.

Hiretikiya

Honestly, I didn’t want to mention Hiretikiya, because I want to keep it a secret. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I excluded it from this list.

Okay, it’s not that unknown, but I love the low-key chilled-out vibe that this city brings. This place is a paradise for surfers and beach-goers. It’s equipped for tourism while still being relatively untouched. To me, this is the perfect balance of everything I want in a beach city.

The only drawback to this town might be that it’s a little small. But you can always move on after a week if you get a little restless.

Kandy

Kandy is a big city, for Sri Lanka, but it never gets overwhelming.

That’s because it only has about 100,000 people. Plus, given its position on a scenic railway line, Kandy is a great stop for nomads that seek a bit more in terms of amenities. You can find a fair few coworking spaces here.

Aside from that, Kandy is full of fascinating cultural attractions and is just minutes away from gorgeous vistas on hilltops. 

The main feature of Kandy is the Temple of the Tooth. As one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world, it houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit attraction for anyone visiting Sri Lanka.

Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is another great beach town to stay in. It’s also a little more lively than the rest.

This town is a major destination for surfers. Whether you’re just a beginner or an experienced pro, Arugam Bay has the perfect waves nearby.

There are also quite a few cafes and nightlife spots near the beach. In fact, you can find a few bonfire parties here during high season, which runs from May to October. This is probably the perfect “party” town for digital nomads in Sri Lanka.

Galle

The great part about Galle isn’t its beach but that it is so close to other world-class beaches making it the perfect launchpad for your daily adventures. Just take a 5-minute TukTuk ride and you’re at Unawatuna beach, boasting some of the most scenic views in Sri Lanka.

Galle is yet another city that features a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Galle Fort was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later expanded by the Dutch. And given its prominence on tourist itineraries, Galle doesn’t lack important amenities like coworking spaces either. You could easily make Galle your base for a month.

Unawatuna Beach
Unawatuna Beach

The Final Word on Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a remarkable destination that rivals the likes of Thailand and Indonesia in my books, at least in terms of the density of tourist destinations.

I’m pumping Sri Lanka’s tires quite a bit here. I won’t overlook the fact that Sri Lanka has some serious infrastructure issues. But frankly, your spending power combined with excellent access to nature and delicious food will go a long way to compensating for Sri Lanka’s defects.

Sri Lanka is the perfect digital nomad alternative to Southeast Asia. It’s a little off the beaten path, but still a short flight away from major nomad hubs. In some regards, you could compare Sri Lanka to places like Vietnam or Thailand 10-20 years ago. 

My verdict? Buy low on this destination while it’s still a little raw and untapped. Eventually, locals will grow accustomed to foreigners and their warmth might turn to cynicism as the beaches become mobbed with vacationers. Take advantage of this gem while it lasts! 

For more hidden gems, keep exploring our blog. We’re building the world’s biggest inventory of digital nomad information, there’s bound to be some useful tidbits in there for you.

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