THE ULTIMATE SRI LANKA PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY
Sri Lanka is one of the most underrated travel locations in the world providing endless adventures around every corner that you have to see to believe. You are reading this right now so it means you are probably traveling to Sri Lanka very soon, so go through this whole article and when you’ve finished, you’ll be prepared for everything and anything Sri Lanka might throw at you. If you are wondering what to pack for Sri Lanka but not sure where to start this guide will help prepare you for what you can expect. If you’re looking to run wild on adventures, visit temples, waterfall hunting, ride the trains and visit the tea plantations, I’ve got you covered. This is the ultimate Sri Lanka Packing list to prepare you for your adventures in Indonesia.
WHERE TO STAY IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is a huge region so it depends on where you are and what attraction you are visiting as to which accommodation will be best. For example, when you are visiting Sigiriya Rock, Hotel Sigiriya is clearly the best choice! Below I have recommended my favorite accommodation in each region.
- Top pick – a stunning estate in the Tea Country: Thotalagala
- Best overall experience (with Sigiriya Rock): Hotel Sigiriya
- Best for heritage in Galle: Galle Fort Hotel
- Best for elephant safaris: Cinnamon Lodge Habarana
- Best for beachfront bliss in Tangalle: Buckingham Place
- Best for exploring Colombo: The Kingsbury or the Movenpick
- Best for home-cooked food in Kandy: Green View Boutique
THE ULTIMATE SRI LANKA PACKING LIST
1. HYDRO FLASK
Since traveling in Sri Lanka, my Hydroflask comes with me everywhere. It keeps your water icy cold and you’ll appreciate it more than ever after a day in the sweltering tropical heat. When you are wondering what to pack for Sri Lanka this should be at the top of your list for two reasons. Not only does the Hydroflask keep you cool, you’re also doing your part by reducing single-use plastics in Sri Lanka. Insulated and built to last, this is the bottle for all your adventures.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Hydroflask Water Bottle
2. WATERPROOF PHONE COVER
Whether you’re out in the rain or tip-toeing behind the enormous waterfalls of Sri Lanka, it’s a wise investment to get yourself a waterproof phone cover. I use a Lifeproof Waterproof Case, so I never have to worry about dust, water, sand and scratching my phone. It also handles being dropped all the time. Not only do they keep your phone safe from water damage, but you’ll also be able to take photos on the move too. If you want to use your phone near water, a cheap phone pouch or case will do the job, but one of them is a definite must and why this item is so high up on my Sri Lanka packing list.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Lifeproof Waterproof Case
3. A RELIABLE POWER BANK
Sri Lanka can be a crazy place to get around and as a result, you’ll spend a lot of time looking at maps trying to work out the best route to your next destination. A few hours on Google Maps is a sure way to drain your phone battery, alas, a power bank is a necessity for me. This year I started using an Anker Powerbank and it was a life-changer. It stays charged when I’ve charged it, is super reliable and gives me 3-4 cycles of phone charge or camera battery charge. It guarantees I always have the battery charged on my phone, plus it has another USB point for other electronics like your GoPro. If you are a photographer, digital nomad or just love your tech this is a necessity when wondering what to pack for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Anker Powerbank
4. LIGHTWEIGHT RAIN JACKET
A Lightweight rain jacket is a very handy addition to your adventure backpack. For the late night moped rides, through to rain protection in torrential downpours or waterfall spray, you’ll be happy to have one of these in your bag. Sri Lanka is known for its great weather but it’s pretty common for there to be a short burst of rain each day. The rain jacket is on the Sri Lanka Packing list because you will regret not having one as you are dripping from head to toe during a downpour.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item for him: North Face Venture 2 Jacket Men’s
Sri LankaPacking List Item for her: North Face Venture 2 Jacket Women’s
5. SELFIE STICK
Need I say more? Pack yourself a robust selfie stick long enough to get the whole crew in the shot. Don’t be ashamed of using your selfie stick. They capture some of the best and most engaging angles. I use the Sandmarc GoPro pole because of a couple of reasons. The Sandmarc pole is longer than the default stick GoPro sells and it also doesn’t have the three arm bend. It is for holding out during a cliff jump, on a moped. It doesn’t bend or need adjusting just whip it out, get the shot and put it away before anyone notices!!
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Sandmarc GoPro Pole
6. BUG SPRAY
Prevention is far better than finding a cure, especially in a place like Sri Lanka. The pesky tropical mosquitos love to hang around same places you do, around palm trees, lagoons, villa pools and pretty much anywhere else you’ll find water. When you are packing for Sri Lanka you need to get yourself some mosquito repellent that has a high DEET percentage, it’ll stop you from getting bitten, scratching and potentially ending up with something nasty like dengue fever. Just remember to pack it in your checked luggage so it doesn’t get taken away at the airport.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Deet Bug Spray
7. MINI SHAMPOO/CONDITIONER TOILETRY BOTTLES (LEAK-PROOF)
No one wants to be that unfortunate soul who arrives in Sri Lanka and opens their suitcase to find a shampoo explosion. It’s not the ideal way to start your trip. The best thing to do is pour your shampoo into a small leak-proof bottle so that you don’t carry more weight than you need on your trip and you are secure against the much-feared luggage explosion!
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Leak-Proof Mini Shampoo/Toiletry Bottles
8. GOPRO HERO 6
The GoPro Hero 6 is serious bang for your buck. There is nothing else that compares to it on the market right now. It allows you to take amazing underwater photos at a very affordable price. Pair this with a selfie stick or a dome port and you’ll be able to capture some incredible angles. GoPros are also extremely durable, they’ll be able to take a lot more hits than you will so you don’t have to be afraid where you can and can’t take it.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: GoPro Hero 6 Black
9. WORLDWIDE POWER ADAPTOR
Charging all your gear can be difficult enough in Sri Lanka, it pays to get yourself a good quality adapter that will plug into any wall without fail. If you get yourself a worldwide adapter, it will come in handy for the rest of your travels too. There’s nothing worse than traveling around Asia and having to buy a new adaptor for every single country. Get a universal adaptor and simplify your travels.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Universal Power Adaptor
11. HIKING/WATER SHOES
You’re probably starting to realize there is a bit of a reoccurring theme here. Water-related adventures can be found all around Sri Lanka and so can a lot of sharp, slippery surfaces too. A great pair of water shoes will keep your feet from getting cut up on coral or any other unforgiving surface you might stumble upon.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Water Shoes
12. TRAVEL WALLET/PASSPORT HOLDER
I take a travel wallet with me everywhere! Inside it, I keep my cash, passport, credit cards, and any other important travel documents with me. These are items you can’t afford to lose so it’s nice to have them all in one place instead of sprawled around your luggage. Worst case scenario, if your bag gets lost or stolen, by keeping this separate you’ll have the essentials to sort through any problems that arise. Often it is the only thing I put in the safe or locker at a hotel.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Travel Wallet
13. WATERPROOF DRY BAG
You got it, another tropical essential. When you’ve seen as many people lose their phones or camera gear to water damage as I have, you’ll understand why I place so much importance on a waterproof dry bag. A quality dry bag will do as it suggests by keeping your belongings air-tight even if the bag happens to become fully immersed in water during snorkeling, a boat trip or waterfall adventures.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: EarthPak Dry Bag
14. A RELIABLE BACKPACK
It pays to have something supportive, spacious and comfortable. I use a VictoriaTourist backpack and I have used this bag for the last 3 years. It isn’t a special brand and just something I found on Amazon but it suits my needs perfectly. I can fit a laptop, clothes, water, drone, GoPro and DSLR with lenses all for a day of adventures. It is one of the only bags in the world that fits a laptop, 3 liters of water and has your DSLR camera and lenses in a zippable front pocket rather than in compartments inside the bag. I always watch other photographers take their bag off or reach around into the side of their bag to reach their camera and wonder why they paid $200 or more for such inconvenience when the VictoriaTourist bag provides a better option for just $60. It also has a rain cover, which has saved me multiple times. I could go on forever about this bag as it has been through so much with me. From the top of Everest Base Camp to the waterfalls of Sri Lanka!
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Victoria Tourist Laptop-Camera Backpack
Keep it light: Pack athletic and casual is the answer when you are wondering what clothes to pack for Sri Lanka. It is important to respect the local customs. Long sleeve and pants or shorts past the knees should be respected when heading out to temples or other sacred sites. This means you need to have something to cover your shoulders and legs above the knees.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Light/Breathable Clothing
16. TRAVEL INSURANCE
Sri Lanka is a place prone to accidents. Read up on what you’re covered for and keep a copy of it at the bottom of your suitcase. With high-quality medical support still not widespread across Sri Lanka, it’s not a place you want to get stuck if you have any mishaps. I use World Nomads World Nomads Travel Insurance because it allows me to be covered globally. I never know what I am doing a few months in advance so I don’t want to have to chop and change my travel insurance all the time depending on my travel plans. Now I can also itemize my valuable camera gear and laptop so that I can adventure hard without worrying about breaking things.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: World Nomads Travel Insurance
17. QUICK DRY TOWEL
Sri Lanka’s beaches are some of the best in the world. Many people stay in the south of Sri Lanka surfing for months. The best way to keep dry while traveling is with a micro-fiber towel. They are my favorite way to keep dry because they are so small and dry super quickly, which are the most important factors when traveling!
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Micro-Fiber Quick Dry Towel
18. PACKING CUBES TRAVEL ORGANIZER
Its all about making your life as easy as possible right? Packing cubes area sure way to keep your suitcase/backpack compartmentalized on the go. You can keep your electronics in one cube, have a spot for your swimmers and casual gear in another. Personally, I love these because I carry around so many chargers/cords for my gear so it’s the closest thing to having a wardrobe and chest of drawers on the road for me.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Packing Cubes
19. MONEY BELT
Money belts are great for security and practicality. Whilst traveling, the last thing you want on the back of your mind is to worry about your money, valuables or room key is lost or stolen. The great thing about a money belt is that nobody can tell that you’re wearing one. It keeps your money and valuables completed concealed and invisible to potential pickpockets.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Money Belt
20. KINDLE READER
Some days just aren’t for adventures, either the weather isn’t permitting or you need a day to rest, reset and to get ready to go again. Recently I’ve included a Kindle in my travel packing list so I can read on the plane, bus or when I need to put my feet up for a few hours. I enjoy the Kindle screen as it never has any glare even under direct sunlight on the beach. With millions of books available, you’ll be sure to learn a few new fun facts for dinner table discussions.
Sri Lanka Packing List Item: Kindle E-reader
There it is, the most extensive Sri Lanka Packing List. Have a blast, enjoy the raging waterfalls and be sure to send it off a few wild cliff jumps for me. P.S Don’t forget to wear a helmet on the moped.
I thought I would also add the camera gear I travel with to this post for all photographers out there who want to capture their epic adventures in Sri Lanka.
Sony A7ii Mirrorless Camera
I wanted a light camera, one that I would be able to carry on hikes and all of my travel adventures. The Sony A7 series does a great job at competing and often outperforming Canon and Nikon but in a smaller camera. Mirrorless is the way of the future for cameras and for travel bloggers it is a no-brainer to go for a mirrorless camera as they are sometimes half the size. A great part about the Sony A7II is being able to use the Sony PlayMemories Apps. There are lots of free apps you can install on the camera such as the Time Lapse app and Sky HDR app. The Sony A7iii is now available, which means the Sony A7ii has been reduced dramatically in price to less than $1000.
16-35 f4 Sony Landscape Photography Lens
The Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar F4 Lens is on my camera 90% of the time. It is my go-to lens for my Instagram, blog and just about everything. The focal length of 35mm is equivalent to what you see with a naked eye. A focal length of 16mm is much wider and enabled me to capture an entire scene, a vast range of mountains or an entire beach in one shot. The Sony 16-35mm is my primary lens and It enabled me to shoot some portraits but also the flexibility to fit an entire landscape into my frame. It’s perfect for travel photography, especially if you are in nature a lot.
55mm f1.8 Sony- Zeiss Portrait Lens
A prime lens has a fixed focal length and a much wider aperture, which enables low light shooting and a much smaller depth of field. I purchased the Sony 55mm F1.8 Sonnar T FE ZA Prime Lens. I ended up doing a few paid jobs and paying off this lens quickly. My favorite time with this lens was in Indonesia where I tried my hand at travel portrait photography for the first time, which turned out to be really fun especially with the small depth of field the Sony 55m F1.8 delivered. Taking portraits is something I do now in every country I visit and it is because of this lens.
Hoya Polarizer Filter
All of my landscape photos involved the sun and often the ocean. The harsh light from the sun often blows out the water with awful reflections. I bought a Hoya 72mm HRT Circular PL Polarizer and with a small twist before taking a photo I was now able to reduce or eliminate the reflections on the ocean. All of a sudden I could see the reef below the water and bring out the turquoise color of the Pacific Ocean. Even on hikes the polarizer really brings out the greens of the trees and is so handy when shooting a waterfall. My polarizer is on my camera 90% of the time and is one of my favorite accessories. It also protects your expensive lens glass from scratches.
Dji Mavic 2 Drone
Buying a drone is the single best thing I’ve done during my travels. I absolutely love flying my drone at all of the amazing places I get to visit. The Dji Mavic Pro 2 is super compact and fits in my backpack quite easily. I love the idea that I get to have an aerial tour of each location I visit. It is like a free helicopter experience all around the world. The drone allows me to really show the landscape of a location to my blog readers in a way that a regular camera just can’t capture. I love getting to the top of a mountain on a solo hike, chilling out for a bit and then sending the drone up for an aerial view.
Hoya ND Filter
I began looking the work of many talented landscape photographers and decided I wanted to try my hand at long exposures. I did hours of research and finally decided to get a Hoya Pro 72mm 1000x Neutral Density Filter, which is a 10 stop ND filter. This allowed me to smooth oceans, waterfalls and show motion in the water. It also helped to show motion in the sky especially with cloud movement and during sunset/sunrise.
I quickly figured out that carrying a tripod everywhere was not fun at all. In fact, I often left it at the hostel because I didn’t want to hike with it. So when I did need a tripod I didn’t even have one. I decided to buy myself a GorillaPod, which is super small, lightweight and fits inside my backpack easily. It is bendable and you can attach it to almost anything. Unlike the tripod, which has a maximum height, you can attach the camera to poles, tree branches or street signs to grab a steady shot. It’s perfect for vlogging and setting up photos of yourself if no-one else is around.
GoPro Hero 7
The GoPro Hero 7 is serious bang for your buck. There is nothing else that compares to it on the market right now. It allows you to take amazing underwater photos at a very affordable price. Pair this with a selfie stick or a dome port and you’ll be able to capture some incredible angles. GoPros are also extremely durable, they’ll be able to take a lot more hits than you will so you don’t have to be afraid where you can and can’t take it.
Victoria Tourist Camera Backpack
If you’re really adventurous and heading out for some multiple day hikes, it pays to have something supportive, spacious and comfortable. I use a VictoriaTourist backpack and I have used this bag for the last 3 years. It isn’t a special brand and just something I found on Amazon but it suits my needs perfectly. I can fit a laptop, clothes, water, drone, GoPro and DSLR with lenses all for a day of adventures. It is one of the only bags in the world that fits a laptop, 3 liters of water and has your DSLR camera and lenses in a zippable front pocket rather than in compartments inside the bag. I always watch other photographers take their bag off or reach around into the side of their bag to reach their camera and wonder why they paid $200 or more for such inconvenience when the VictoriaTourist bag provides a better option for just $60. It also has a rain cover, which has saved me multiple times. I could go on forever about this bag as it has been through so much with me. From the top of Everest Base Camp to the waterfalls of the Philippines!
I have two SanDisk Extreme PRO SD cards, which has worked perfectly for me. They come in different storage amounts but the 64gb or 128gb means you will literally never run out unless you are shooting insane amounts of video.
Sandmarc Extra Long Selfie Pole
Don’t be ashamed of using your selfie stick. They capture some of the best and most engaging angles. I use the Sandmarc GoPro pole because of a couple of reasons. The Sandmarc pole is longer than the default stick GoPro sells and it also doesn’t have the three arm bend. It is for holding out during a cliff jump, on a moped. It doesn’t bend or need adjusting just whip it out, get the shot and put it away before anyone notices!!