Friday, May 20, 2016

How Much Srilanka Trip would cost? Detailed Expense Guide!

In this post, I am detailing how much our Srilanka trip did cost us. We also did a few mistakes or under-estimation of what it would cost. Idea of this post is that if you are planning a trip to Srilanka, you can have a fair idea of what it costs overall.

When we plan a trip, one main aspect on everyone’s mind will be the total cost. Despite our best planning, we end up incurring various unplanned expenses.
  • Sometimes, it will be a tough decision NOT to spend on something and let go of a potential experience after reaching all the way
  • Many times what we assume to be free might cost a lot
  • Sometimes our understanding of quality and quantity goes terribly wrong resulting in wasted money.
  • Many attractions cost significantly extra if you are not a local citizen
  • When you book a travel package, it will have so many stated/unstated exclusions, you will end up spending another 20-25% of what you paid for package tour, for things not covered.
Flight: In 2011, spicejet had an offer of Rs 4000 round trip ticket Chennai- Colombo and we could manage an entire 2 day trip in under Rs 10000. But now such low rates are hard to find. This time, our ticket cost Rs 8400 approx. This can vary depending on Origin City, Airline, offers and such parameters. If you can get a return ticket from India for less than 10k, then I think it is good deal. 10-15k is normal (from Key south Indian cities such as Chennai, BLR, Kochi, Trivandrum etc)  and more than 15k is on expensive side- you should wait a bit to get cheaper fares.

Visa: In 2011, Srilanka used to give free Visa on arrival for Indians. Now it is no more the case. We will need an ETA or Electronic Travel Authorization. This can be procured online for a fee of USD 20 per person.

Hotel: Again, as per your budget and comfort levels.  Ours cost USD 125 for 2 days for 3 people. You can factor Rs 1500 per person per night for a decent mid-range hotel during normal season.

Food: Again depends on your preference, type or class. A decent South Indian meal in a reasonably decent hotel (such a Shanmugas in Colombo) cost between LKR 300 t0 500. Buffet lunch/dinner usually cost around LKR 1000. A litre of water bottle cost LKR 60 in the store, 70-90 LKR if you buy in places that charge extra (like hotels). Cup of tea usually costs around LKR 100 in most restaurants, LKR 40 in roadside shops and much more in premium facilities. Calculate accordingly

Local travel:  We took a taxi from an agency called Malkey. For 3 days, 528 kms, it cost me about LKR 32000 or INR 16000, including extra km charge, driver accommodation, food and overtime charges, airport parking and tax. I was hoping this expense to be little less. Besides regular per km charge, taxi rental will cost extra because of driver food, accommodation, overtime, toll and tax expenses. Trains and buses are available with decent frequency, quality almost same/slightly worse that train/buses in India. Taking train or bus will save lots of money, but may result in a compromise on flexibility and time. Also at every stop you will have to engage an auto/local taxi etc.

If you are just one or two pax, taxi expense can end up being most expensive component of your trip. If you are a larger group, per head taxi expense will be reasonable.

Entry, Parking fees and toll: Entry fee for foreigners to paid attractions is usually in the range of LKR 300 to 600. Some places like Zoo cost much more at LKR 2000. Many temples also have entry fee for outsiders, which we had taken for granted to be free. Parking fee for car is usually LKR 100-200 for short term.
Toll: Toll road from airport to Colombo costs LKR 300 for about 40kms distance. If you are taking toll road expressway elsewhere- like say Galle, factor another few K for toll.
Auto- some autos claim to go by meter, but most operate on a pre-negotiated fare. Difficult to strike a deal with them or explain your needs clearly as their English is usually bare minimum.

Our trip cost breakdown:
For 3 people, for 3 days, Chennai-Colombo flight, 2 night stay in Galle and a budget taxi, our expense has been as follows:
1 LKR = 0.5 INR
Per Person, INR

Flight- Chennai- Colombo, Spicejet
INR 25000 approx
Primary expense
Hotel Stay, Galle, 2 nights
125 USD

Taxi- Alto- 3 days, close to 600 kms
LKR 42.5 per km * 580 kms = 25000
Driver stay: 3000
Others: (Airport parking, driver food, tax, overtime charges, toll etc): 4000
32000 LKR

Second most expensive item.
ETA (Visa)
60 USD

Food (we managed with simple meals and fruits etc), including tea, water and snacks
9000 LKR Approx
Others- Entry fees, temple donations etc
3000 LKR

Airport taxi in Chennai (Ola, to and fro)
400 INR

Shopping/Souvenirs & tea powder purchase at tea factory
10 USD + 1700 LKR

Hutch Mobile SIM Card purchased at airport (only 1)
900 LKR


Round Off

 Mistakes we did
1. Hotel, New Old Dutch House, was little congested. Also it had no free stay for drivers, so I had to shell out 3000 LKR more for driver stay. If I had researched and selected better hotel, I would have had more comfortable stay and may be free driver accommodation.
2. If I had released driver few hours early, I could have saved a bit on overtime charges
3. Under-estimating food quantity: During a dinner in Galle, we ordered Naan- several of them. But Naans in Srilankan style are super thick. While we had ordered 3-4 (assuming Indian style), just one or two would have been enough given the size.
4. Temple entry fee: We had assumed temple entry to be free- most temples charge an entry fee for foreigners while others expect a donation.
5.  Car rental with Malkey- I didn’t take quote from other operators. I went directly with Malkey since I was happy with their service in 2011. If I had tried few more rental companies or bargained hard, I could have probably saved a bit more. Taxi expense proved to be second highest component of our trip next to flight ticket.
Things that worked for me
1. Spicejet sale booked 6 months ago- Rs 8400 return ticket per person
2. Though we were in Srilanka from Friday 3 AM till Monday 3 AM, we booked only 2 nightsFriday we left for Galle directly from airport and reached there by check-in time and Sunday we reached airport by 9 PM and killed time in airport, instead of booking a night in a Colombo hotel. Little inconvenient but saved us some money.
3. Carried some food from India- suspecting non availability of proper veg food in Galle, we had packed some lightweight food items from India, which helped avoid expensive meal bill for Day 1
4. The pre-trip research I did helped. Driver kept insisting that tea factory I had identified may not be open to public and going that far might be waste. But I was right.More about that later. As I had planned my trip itinerary with adequate detail, driver didn't have much room to manipulate it. If we had gone without much planning, in most probability we wouldn't have covered as much as we did in 3 days.

We didn’t try any adventure activities. If you are keen you can inquire and try scuba diving, para sailing, jetski/elephant safari and such adventures in Srilanka.

As shown above, I believe it is possible to have a quick vacation (3-4 days) to Srilanka for a budget of about 20-30k per person if you can plan well. Of course it depends on city from which you need to fly to Colombo, how many days, which cities, if you can manage any decent air fare deal, level of hotel/car you would like to avail and if you have any additional expenses- such as adventure sports/shopping etc.

Booking a package vs self-planning:
It is always cheaper to plan a trip on your own. An equivalent package from MakeMyTrip or Yatra or such sites (3 Night/4 Days Bentota and Colombo) would cost about 27000 onwards (Flight + hotel (3*)+local transfer+ few cheap activities/site seeing)- you will end up spending another 5-6k INR extra minimum on Visa processing, lunch & dinner, entry fees and other such incidental expenses not covered in the package. Seat in coach will be waste of time while you wait for other guests to arrive, but you will get an English speaking tour manager and from time to time and if you are lucky or if you can bargain, you can manage to get some cashback/discount/freebies worth approx 10% of package cost. Package tour may be convenient, probably safer but self-planned tours are cheaper, more flexible. Adventurous and fulfilling. When you plan on your own, you will learn more about the destination and might end up exploring attractions missed in typical tourist itineraries. You can pick-up whatever suits you best.
Indian Bloggers


Rajiv said...

Few months back, I was planning a Solo to Sri-Lanka and my expenses too, cam out to be just about the same range. Sad;ly that trip did not happen & I went else where. Hopefully by this yea end.


Shrinidhi Hande said...

Sure Rajiv, best wishes

Ranjana's craft blog said...

Very detailed information and guidance for the travelers.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Ranjana

Anita said...

Have visited Sri Lanka before.
Researching before visiting a place is definitely a plus.
Well shared tips & info :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Anita

Indrani said...

Useful info for planning a trip. Thanks for sharing

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Indrani

Shaivi said...

Very informative post! Ur detailed guide will help anyone planning a trip to Sri Lanka.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Shaivi

Agni Sharman said...

You forgot to mention making payments... using your debit card there is very dangerous... and most biz love cash transactions.
Also the exchange rate by ATM machines are much better than money changer agents

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for that tip Agni. I paid in cash mostly. They readily accept USD

Didn't try ATM Withdrawals- got conversion done in Chennai itself

Prince Henry said...

If you're from Blr, the airfare is double. So I usually drive to chennai. Leave the car at a friends place and then fly to Colombo. I drive back to Blr when I return. Even including petrol costs I still save 3-4K.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Prince Henry- true. BLR airport charges much more fee than chennai, hence the price difference