Sri Lanka, known as Ceylon until 1972 is a producer of some of the finest teas in the world. It is home to the world's oldest recorded tree, a 2,200-year-old sacred fig tree in Anuradhapura.
Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where you can see the largest land mammal (the elephant) and the largest marine mammal (the blue whale) on the same day.
Is Sri Lanka a good destination for digital nomads? Living in Sri Lanka comes generally with an affordable cost of living, good internet connectivity, and a friendly and welcoming culture.
The digital nomad community is growing and cities like Colombo, Kandy, and Arugam Bay became popular spots for travelers and digital nomads alike. Read this article, to get a closer idea, of what life in Sri Lanka will look like.
🌱 Travel health insurance for Sri Lanka
🇱🇰 Entry requirements for Sri Lanka
- Valid visa: South Korea has visa-free entry agreements with 118 countries for tourism and business purposes. Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, most European Union countries, and some South American and Southeast Asian countries can enter the country without a visa. Passport Holders of the countries Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan can stay in South Korea for up to 90 days without a visa or with a visa exemption certificate. Citizens of China can stay for up to 30 days without a visa under certain conditions.
✈️ How to get to Sri Lanka
- Plane: The most convenient way to get to Sri Lanka is by air. The country has two main international airports, Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) in Colombo and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI) in Hambantota. Direct flights to Colombo are available from several cities around the world, including London, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Sydney. Hambantota, a coastal city in Sri Lanka, is served by Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI). While there are fewer direct flight options to Hambantota, there are some seasonal charter flights available from cities like Moscow and Beijing.
- Overland: Visitors can also enter Sri Lanka by overland travel from neighboring countries such as India. There are several border crossings, but it is essential to check visa requirements and travel advisories before embarking on this journey.
🚌 Public transport in Sri Lanka
- Buses: Taking the bus is the most common mode of public transportation in Sri Lankan cities. The Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) operates a large number of buses that run on fixed routes throughout the day. Private bus operators also run buses on some routes. Buses in cities can be quite crowded, especially during peak hours, and they may not always follow a reliable schedule.
- Taxis: Taxis are available in larger cities and are generally more expensive than buses and tuk-tuks. They can be a good option for longer trips or for traveling to areas that are not well-served by public transportation.
- Tuk-tuks: Tuk-tuks, or three-wheeled motorized vehicles, are mostly used for short trips within cities in Sri Lanka. They are typically more expensive than buses but can be more convenient for getting to specific destinations. Tuk-tuk drivers may not always use a meter, so it's important to negotiate the fare before getting in.
🏡 How to find a place in Sri Lanka
- Airbnb: Airbnb is a popular platform for finding short-term rentals in Sri Lanka, with a wide range of apartments available in various locations and price ranges across the country.
- Hotels: Booking.com or agoda.com also offer a selection of short-term apartment rentals in Sri Lanka, with a range of options available to suit different budgets and preferences.
- Social Media: Another option for finding short-term apartment rentals is platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Attend groups like Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 Foreigners | Expats | Digital Nomads., or Expats in Colombo Sri Lanka for receiving recommendations.
🏘 Where to stay in Colombo
- Colombo 07 (Cinnamon Gardens): This is one of the most affluent and sought-after neighborhoods in Colombo, due to its spacious properties, leafy streets, and colonial-era architecture. The neighborhood also is close to the city center and has several international schools, restaurants, and cafes as well as several parks and green spaces. As Cinnamon Gardens is one of the most cosmopolitan and sophisticated areas, the cost of living is relatively high with monthly rents between 500-700 Euros for a furnished 1-bedroom apartment.
- Colombo 03 (Kollupitiya): This neighborhood is located near the beach and has a wide range of amenities, including restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, and shopping malls. The area is also home to several international schools and healthcare facilities. The average cost for renting a 1-bedroom apartment is between 400-600 Euros per month.
- Colombo 04 (Bambalapitiya): This is a busy residential and commercial area that is well-connected to other parts of the city as well as in close proximity to the beach. Here the lifestyle is more laid back and relaxed and gives a good mix of local and international residents. Rental prices can be a lot cheaper with prices between 300-500 Euros per month.
🧑🏻💻 Where to work from in Colombo
- Hub9: Both Hub9 and Nest by Hub9 offer a modern and professional atmosphere for their members at central locations and close proximity to restaurants, cafes, and shopping malls. The spaces feature bright and spacious interiors with contemporary design elements. There is also a sense of community among members, and the spaces host regular events and networking opportunities. A dedicated desk for 1 month of coworking costs 53 Euros.
- Likuid Spaces: Likuid Spaces is located in the heart of Colombo, making it easily accessible from different parts of the city. The space offers a modern atmosphere, also conducive to collaboration and community-building, with regular events and networking opportunities. You can find an onsite cafe and kitchen area, with free tea and coffee available throughout the day. The monthly price for a dedicated desk is 102 Euros.
- Coco Veranda: Coco Veranda is a popular cafe chain in Colombo that also offers coworking space. The cafes feature a cozy and inviting atmosphere, with comfortable seating and a range of food and drinks. Coco Veranda offers high-speed internet and power outlets for laptops.
- The Commons Coffee House: The Commons Coffee House is a charming café located in Colombo 07. The café features a rustic interior with plenty of natural light and a peaceful atmosphere, making it a great place to work. The menu includes a range of coffee, tea, and food options.
🏘 Where to stay in Kandy
- Kandy City Center: The city center is also the commercial hub and a great neighborhood for digital nomads. It has easy access to restaurants, cafes, and shops. There are also several coworking spaces in the area, making it a great place to work from.
- Anniewatte: Anniewatte is a residential area located in the hills above Kandy. The area is quiet and peaceful and offers beautiful views of the city. It is also close to the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and several hiking trails, making it a great place to relax and recharge after work.
- Katugastota: Katugastota is a suburban neighborhood located about 5 km from Kandy city center. The area is relatively quiet and peaceful and has several amenities, including supermarkets, restaurants, and cafes. It is also close to the Kandy General Hospital and the University of Peradeniya.
🧑🏻💻 Where to work from in Kandy
- The Empire Cafe: The Empire Cafe is located in a historic building in Kandy and has a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. The cafe serves a range of coffee, tea, and snacks, and offers free Wi-Fi for customers.
- The Kandy Public Library: A great and central option to work from, especially if you're looking for a quiet and peaceful environment with a stable internet connection, is The Kandy Public Library. The library has several areas for studying and working, including a reading room, a reference section, and a computer room. To use the library's facilities, you will need to become a member. Membership is free, and you can register by filling out a form. The Kandy Public Library is open from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm on weekdays (Monday to Friday) and from 8.30 am to 1.00 pm on Saturdays. The library is closed on Sundays and public holidays.
🏘 Where to stay in Arugam Bay
- AbaY Beach: AbaY Beach is the main beach in Arugam Bay and is a popular spot for surfing and swimming. There are several cafes and restaurants along the beach that offer free Wi-Fi and a relaxed atmosphere, making it a great place for digital nomads to work from. Here you can find plenty of guesthouses, hostels, and hotels. Most of these places offer basic amenities and are relatively affordable, making them great places for budget-conscious expats and digital nomads.
- Peanut Farm: Peanut Farm is a quieter area located a short walk north of Main Beach. The area offers peaceful surroundings and is home to several eco-lodges and guesthouses. If you're looking for a more secluded and relaxed environment to live in, Peanut Farm can be a good choice.
- Panama: Panama is a small village located a few kilometers south of Arugam Bay. The village is surrounded by beautiful nature and is home to several eco-lodges and guesthouses. The village is home to a beautiful beach and several cafes and restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi and a relaxed atmosphere. If you're looking for a peaceful and secluded place to work, Panama might be a great option.
🧑🏻💻 Where to work from in Arugam Bay
- Nomads: Nomads Coworking is a coworking facility that offers co-living and co-working close to the surf and beach spots of Arugam Bay. The facility offers shared workspaces, a rooftop terrace, and an onsite café service for snacks, meals, and coffee. A monthly pass is available for 110 Euro.
- Salty Swamis: The café is a comfortable and inviting space for digital nomads to work in Arugam Bay, offering free Wi-Fi, a range of food and drink options, and a laid-back atmosphere.
- Bites Café: The café is located close to Hideaway-Resort on a quiet road and is a popular go-to for digital nomads to work. They have comfortable seating options, free wifi, and multiple charging outlets available. The food and drink menu is also a reason to go there as they offer healthy snacks and drinks and also veggie and vegan options.
🚊 How to travel around
- Buses: As in many Asian countries, buses are the most common mode of public transportation in Sri Lanka, and they run throughout the country. They come in different sizes and types, from large air-conditioned coaches to small non-air-conditioned minibusses. The majority of the buses are operated by the state-owned Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB), but there are also private bus operators. Buses in Sri Lanka can be quite crowded, especially during peak hours, and the routes and schedules may not always be reliable.
- Trains: The country has an extensive rail network that connects major cities and towns, and the trains offer a more comfortable and scenic journey than buses. The railway system is also operated by the state-owned Sri Lanka Railways
- Gangaramaya Temple: The Buddhist temple in Colombo is near Beira Lake and is an impressive masterpiece with beautiful statues and carvings. The temple also holds several Buddhist artifacts, including relics from Buddha himself. There is no entrance fee.
- Pettah Market: Located close to the Colombo Fort railway station in Colombo, you can find the bustling and vibrant Pettah market. Here you can explore a wide variety of products, including clothes, electronics, spices, and jewelry. As with most Asian markets, it’s a lovely chaotic atmosphere, with vendors shouting out their prices and bargaining with customers.
- Temple of the Tooth: Temple of the Tooth, also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kandy and home to a tooth relic of the Buddha. The sacred tooth relic of Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India in the 4th century. Since then the Buddhists have housed the relic and placed it in between stunning architecture, with intricate carvings and decorations adorning the walls and ceilings. Once you arrive in Kandy, the temple is located in the heart of the city, near Kandy Lake. You can take a tuk-tuk or walk to the temple from the city center.
- Udawattakele Forest Reserve: The reserve is only a few kilometers away from the Temple of the Tooth and is a stunning natural beauty with diverse flora and fauna. The reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, deer, and numerous bird species. It is also known for its many walking trails and hiking opportunities. A good day-hike trip at Udawattakele Forest Reserve would be to take the main circular trail, which is about 5 kilometers long and takes around 2-3 hours to complete. Along the trail, you will pass by beautiful waterfalls, streams, and viewpoints. You can also hire a guide at the entrance of the reserve to show you around and give you more information about the flora and fauna of the area.
- Dambulla Cave Temple: Also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, is a famous Buddhist temple complex located in Dambulla. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.To get to the Dambulla Cave Temple, you can take a train or bus to the town of Dambulla from Colombo or other major cities in Sri Lanka. From the town center, you can take a tuk-tuk or walk to the temple complex, which is located about 2 kilometers away. After visiting the temple, you can hike up to the nearby Sigiriya Rock Fortress, which is another popular tourist attraction in the area. The hike to the top of Sigiriya Rock takes about 1-2 hours and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Alternatively, you can visit the nearby Minneriya National Park for a safari tour to see elephants and other wildlife.
- Nuwara Eliya: Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful town located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, known for its cool climate, scenic views, and tea plantations. It is located approximately 160 kilometers east of Colombo and can be reached by car, bus, or train. The town has scenic beauty, colonial architecture, and tea plantations. The town is located at an elevation of over 1800 meters above sea level, which gives it a cool climate and a unique charm. Visitors can take a tour of the nearby tea factories and learn about the tea production process, or enjoy a scenic hike in the surrounding hills and mountains.
💡Good to know
- Internet: The average internet speed in India for fixed broadband is 28,61 Mbps download and 15,24 Mbps upload.
- Sim cards: Recommended sim card providers are Dialog and Mobitel. Dialog also offers a tourist SIM card package that includes 12GB of data, 100 minutes of voice calls, and 100 SMS messages for around 15 Euros.
- Currency: The currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). 1 Euro equals 345 LKR and 1 LKR equals 0,0029 Euros.
- Cost of living: Sri Lanka offers a relatively low cost of living compared to many other popular digital nomad destinations. Accommodation, food, and transportation are affordable, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious world nomads.
- Digital Nomads: The digital nomad community in Sri Lanka is supportive and welcoming. There are several co-working spaces, meetups, and social events that provide opportunities for networking and socializing with other like-minded people such as Foreigners & Expats In Sri Lanka or Sri Lanka Community of Tourists, Expats, Backpackers & Digital Nomads.
- Climate: The climate is mainly tropical with two main monsoon seasons, which bring rain to different parts of the country at different times of the year. Generally, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is from December to March when the weather is sunny and dry on the west and south coasts and in the hill country.
- Cultural: Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage that spans more than 2,000 years. The country is home to a diverse mix of ethnic groups, including Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims, each with their unique traditions, customs, and cuisines.
- Healthcare: The healthcare system in Sri Lanka is a mixture of public and private healthcare facilities. The public healthcare system is provided by the government and is available to all citizens free of charge. Overall, the healthcare system in Sri Lanka is generally considered to be of a good standard. However, it is always advisable for travelers to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies when visiting Sri Lanka.
- Food: Sri Lankan cuisine is diverse and delicious, with a mix of spices, herbs, and fresh ingredients. Rice and curry are stapled dishes, and seafood is prevalent in coastal areas. Street food is also popular, with options like hoppers, kottu, and roti readily available.
- Religion: Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion in Sri Lanka, and the country is home to many ancient Buddhist temples and shrines. Other religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, are also practiced.
🚧 What to avoid
- Avoid political demonstrations and rallies: Sri Lanka has a complex political situation, and demonstrations and rallies can occur frequently. It is best to avoid such gatherings, as they can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous.
- Do not disrespect Buddhism: Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country, and Buddhism is an important part of the culture and traditions. Visitors should show respect towards Buddhist sites and avoid behaviors such as touching or climbing on statues, taking inappropriate photos, or wearing revealing clothing in such areas.
- Do not take drugs: Sri Lanka has strict laws regarding drug use, and penalties can be severe, including lengthy prison sentences. Visitors should avoid taking any drugs, including marijuana, as they are illegal and can lead to serious consequences.
- Avoid traveling alone at night: While Sri Lanka is generally safe for tourists, it is advisable to avoid traveling alone at night, especially in isolated areas or unfamiliar locations.
- Be cautious of scams: Like in any other tourist destination, there are scammers and fraudsters in Sri Lanka. Visitors should be cautious of offers that seem too good to be true, and avoid giving money to strangers or agreeing to unsolicited services.
🚴🏻♀️ How to stay healthy
- Sun Protection: Sri Lanka can be very hot and humid, so it's essential to stay hydrated and protect your skin from the sun. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and lightweight clothing to keep cool.
- Hiking: Sri Lanka is home to many beautiful hiking trails, from the lush green tea plantations in the central highlands to the scenic Knuckles mountain range. The Knuckles Mountain Range is only 1-hour drive from Kandy and offers breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys. For getting there you can hire a tuk-tuk which will cost between 12-18 Euro one way.
- Surfing: The east coast of Sri Lanka, including Arugam Bay, is known for its surf breaks, attracting surfers from all over the world.
- Yoga: Yoga studios and retreats are available throughout the country, offering a peaceful and relaxing way to stay active.
- Cycling: Renting a bicycle is an excellent way to explore the countryside and villages of Sri Lanka.
- Wildlife safaris: Sri Lanka is famous for its wildlife, and there are many national parks where you can go on a safari to see elephants, leopards, and other animals.
- Beach activities: Sri Lanka has miles of beautiful beaches, where you can engage in water activities such as swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
- Meditation retreats: Sri Lanka is also known for its meditation and spiritual retreats, providing a unique way to stay active and explore inner peace.
- Water Quality: No, you should not drink tap water in Sri Lanka.
- Air Quality: The air quality in Sri Lanka is moderate.