Planning a trip to Sri Lanka and not sure what to pack? Let me help you with this detailed Sri Lanka packing list based on what I packed for a month in Sri Lanka.
I just spent a month in beautiful Sri Lanka and I absolutely loved my time there. Stunning beaches, interesting ancient sites, amazing diving, intriguing temples, haunting ruins, cute mountain towns, mesmerizing tea plantations, scenic hiking trails, some of the friendliest people – Sri Lanka has it all.
Sri Lanka is so different to Southeast Asia and is like nowhere I have been before.
Sri Lanka is a primarily Buddhist country, but is also home to a large number of Hindus. The culture is quite conservative and you need to dress accordingly to not cause any disrespect. To be respectful, you should be covered down to your knees and try to cover your chest and shoulders too – this goes for men and women.
While in Southeast Asia this is common for temples, it’s best to stay covered up for your whole trip in Sri Lanka as it is more conservative. Did I see women lying topless on the beach and wearing booty shorts in Sri Lanka? Sure – but I advise that you don’t be that person.
After traveling for years now, I am pretty good at packing, so I wanted to share what I packed to help you plan your own packing list for Sri Lanka.
One Month Packing List for Sri Lanka
Bags for Sri Lanka
I traveled with two bags for my month in Sri Lanka, plus a small handbag:
- 40L Osprey Fairview Backpack
- Cotopaxi Luzon 18L day pack
- Small leather hand bag
- Medium Patagonia Black Hole Packing cubes x 2
I like to travel light and I found that traveling with these two bags was sufficient. I was charged to check in my Osprey backpack on the way to Sri Lanka from Bangkok on Thai Lion Air as their maximum weight for carryon is only 7kg, but a lot of the time in the past I have been able to take it carryon for free.
I pack all my clothes, shoes and toiletries in my Osprey backpack, using one packing cube for my dresses, tops, shorts and leggings, and one for my underwear and sarongs.
My Cotopaxi day pack is home to all my electronics, and smaller bits and pieces like my head torch, makeup, water bottle, passport etc.
If I am flying and carrying on all my bags, I also put my small leather hand bag in here as well, as you are only allowed to carry on one bag plus a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. I only have it about half full.
Clothing for Sri Lanka
We traveled through all the climatic zones in Sri Lanka during our month in the country, so as well as needing light weight clothes for the hot and humid south coast, we also needed warmer clothes for the cool nights in the hill country.
Here’s what to wear for Sri Lanka:
- Underwear x 10 pairs
- Bikinis x 3
- Sports bras x 2
- Regular bras x 4
- Tank tops x 2
- T-shirts x 4
- Black leggings x 1
- Patterned hiking leggings x 1
- Sun dresses x 5
- Long skirt x 1
- Black cardigan x 1
- Woollen jumper x 1
- Rain jacket x 1
- Thin scarf x 1
- Thin hiking socks x 3
- Thick hiking socks x 1
- 1 pair hiking shorts x 1
- 1 pair jean shorts x 1
- Thermal undertop x 1
- Pajama shorts x 1
- Sarong x 1
I also packed a thin and silky dressing gown which is nice to have if you are staying in hostel dorms, but it depends if you are a robe wearer or not. You could also pack some lightweight long pants that are loose-fitting – these aren’t my style and I hate how they look on me but they are very popular with a lot of travelers to Sri Lanka.
I feel that the amount of clothes I packed was more than sufficient, and I only needed to wash my clothes every nine days or so. I do wish that I had brought more t-shirts rather than sleeveless singlets to cover my shoulders so I have adjusted the packing list to reflect that.
I am not a big fan of wearing trousers and they can be bulky to pack, I much prefer wearing dresses. If it’s cold, you can wear them over the black leggings. I also find that I can wear dresses a couple of times before washing them, especially if they are loose fitting.
My dresses all go to my knee or below and are lightweight – meaning they don’t take up much room in my bag and they are nice and cool for the hotter destinations too.
For hiking, I would wear my two pairs of leggings with a t-shirt. You could also wear shorts for hiking or on the beaches, just make sure they have good coverage – it’s OK if they don’t cover your knees as long as you aren’t going into temples, but make sure they cover your butt and then some.
The sarong was fantastic for covering myself up when walking along the beach. Rather than bikinis, a one piece would be better as it is a bit more conservative but I don’t have one.
I also highly recommend the lightweight scarf, as if you do have dresses or tops that don’t cover your shoulders, you can use it to drape over your upper body without getting too hot.
Shoes for Sri Lanka
- Hiking boots x 1
- Birkenstock sandals x 1
- Comfortable dressy sandals x 1
- Flip flops x 1
You don’t necessarily need the hiking boots – a good pair of running shoes would be fine too. The Birkenstocks were great for walking long distances as they have great foot support.
You could probably drop the dressy sandals if you don’t have enough room, I found it nice to have them for going out to dinner or for days when I wasn’t walking too much. The flip flops were great for the beach.
Electronics for Sri Lanka
- Macbook Air laptop x 1
- Samsung Galaxy phone x 1
- Amazon Fire Tablet x 1
- Canon M100 Mirrorless Camera with regular lens and zoom lens x 1
- Relevant Charging cables
- Tep Wireless Device x 1
- 128GB Thumb drive
- In ear headphones x 1
- Samsung USB adaptor x 1 (to pull photos off phone)
- Spare memory card for camera
- Power bank x 1
I use the thumb drive to backup my photos, as I don’t have online storage. My tablet is mostly used as a Kindle, and for Lonely Planet PDF Guides – it saves a lot of room in my bag.
My Travel Wifi device absolutely saved me in Sri Lanka, because the WiFi there is notoriously bad. Without it, I would have had a really tough time getting work done. In the past I have been able to get a local SIM and then tether to my phone if the WiFi where I am staying is bad, but I had issues with two different providers in Sri Lanka.
Mobitel ripped me off, trying to tell me I ran through 20GB of data in 3 days (not possible for what I was using it for), and Dialog worked for a couple of days then I couldn’t connect again. It was such a nightmare and I was so relieved to have the wifi device!
It’s really simple to use – first you need to decide if you want to rent or buy one and it will be sent out to you, then you can easily load it with how many days of wifi you want to use online.
It’s so good to have as a backup if the WiFi in your accommodation isn’t working, if the power goes out (very common), or if it is too slow (also very common.)
I changed from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera before this trip and I am so glad I did! Mirrorless cameras take photos just as good as a DSLR, but they are about half the size and weight so are much more pleasant to carry around.
Toiletries for Sri Lanka
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Coconut oil
- 20% Deet bug spray
- Face moisterizer with sunscreen
- Reef-safe sunscreen
- Body wash
- Face wash
- Lush mouthwash tabs
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
- Tiger balm
- Contact lenses x 6 pairs
- Hand sanitizer
- Small hair brush
- Makeup – powder foundation, eyeliner, eyebrow pen, mascara, SPF 15 lip gloss, concealer
- Menstrual cup (Diva cup or other)
Standard toiletry items in sizes of 100ml or less in case I am carrying my bag on. We got the coconut oil in Thailand and I used it as a mosquito repellant and body moisterizer. The deet is for more heavy duty use.
The Lush mouthwash tabs are great as they last for over two months in just one tiny bottle – better for the environment and it saves a lot of space. You can also get toothpaste tabs and solid shampoo bars from Lush and I would like to try these in the future.
I have been using my menstrual cup for years instead of tampons and it will save you so much money – and it’s good for the environment. Tampons can also be pretty expensive in developing countries, and hard to find.
Other Items on my Sri Lanka Packing List
- Credit card x 1
- Passport/visa photos x 6 (for visas)
- Debit cards x 2
- US dollars for emergencies
- Re-usable water bottle with built-in filter x 1
- Head torch x 1
- Small sewing kit x 1
- International adaptor plug x 2
- Travel umbrella x 1
- Eye mask and ear plugs
- First Aid Kit including painkillers, band aids, Imodium, antiseptic cream, motion sickness tablets
- She pee (useful for disgusting toilets and hiking)
- Fold down carry bag
- Canvas bag for laundry
- Cloth beach bag
- Padlock and key (for hostel dorm lockers)
- Necklaces x 3
- Cloth handkerchief x 1
- Small day planner
- Notebook for trip planning
- Small coin purse
- Prescription sunglasses x 1
- Evolve sand-free beach towel
I love my sand-free beach towel by Evolve and for Sri Lanka it is definitely worth taking as half of our month in the country was spent at the beach. You can also use it as a bath towel if you stay in accommodations that don’t provide one. There are some gorgeous designs to choose from, I have the colorful Goa design and I love it.
Traveling with my Grayl Geopress Water Purifier meant that I could drink tap water and not spend money on bottled water. Heavy metals in tap water is a problem throughout Asia so having an actual filter rather than a Steripen was great, and you can filter water that is safe to drink in only 8 seconds. This is so worth the investment and a must have on any Sri Lanka packing list.
A lot of people don’t travel with an umbrella, but I swear by it. It’s always the rainy season somewhere in Sri Lanka, and it is also fantastic for keeping the super hot sun off you in warmer parts of the country – that’s what the locals do. Definitely consider an umbrella when packing for Sri Lanka.
I felt safe the whole time I was in Sri Lanka, but I recommend not carrying your full wallet with all your cards etc in it – just in case. I left my wallet and most of my cards locked in my room and would just take out one card and some cash in case I was pick-pocketed or my bag was stolen – the small purse was great for that.
So that’s it folks, everything I packed for Sri Lanka, I hope this Sri Lanka packing list will help you plan your trip to this beautiful country.
The Best Insurance for Your Sri Lanka Trip
More important than anything else on this Sri Lanka Packing List, make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
Would you add anything else to this packing list for Sri Lanka?
If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my other travel tips:
- 10 Best Carry-on Packing Hacks for Stylish Travel
- Summer Packing List for 3 Months in North America
- 21 Tips for Becoming a Green Traveller (and Saving Money!)
- The Ten Commandments of Housesitting: How to be the Best Housesitter
- How to Escape the Crowds in Waikiki
- How to Live an Amazing Life When You’re Not Traveling
- How I Save Money to Travel