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. From safari to surfing to hiking all in a matter of miles, Sri Lanka is truly a diverse travel destination. 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 that might come your way with this Sri Lanka packing list.
The Ultimate Sri Lanka Packing List
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 Sri Lanka.
Things to know when packing for Sri Lanka
There are a few key factors that make Sri Lanka different from other countries and therefore make your packing list different are the following:
- Humidity: Sri Lanka can be sticky, sweaty, and a bit awkward at times. Waterproof dry bags, phone covers, insect repellents, and other measures need to be taken into account.
- Rain: Sri Lanka can be boiling hot one minute and pouring with rain the next. You can still have an awesome time but a waterproof jacket that isn’t too thick is key.
- Water: There are a lot of waterfalls and island hopping activities so a GoPro or waterproof camera can be a really fun tech toy to help record your adventures.
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Let me begin with a list of must-have items to pack for your trip to Sri Lanka. Not everyone has the same itinerary or the same intentions while traveling, but hopefully, everyone can find some use for this Sri Lanka packing list. I’ll include a comprehensive packing checklist at the end so you don’t forget any essentials for your Sri Lanka adventure.
Grayl GeoPress Water Filter
This item is first on the list because it’s a literal lifesaver. Stomach bugs are an unfortunate part of Sri Lanka travel and one that many people experience. Yes, you need clean water, but pretending to be an earthy boho traveler while buying multiple plastic water bottles a day is pretty crass.
I’ve been using this Grayl filter for the past few years in the most remote places in the world, and have never gotten sick. In one press and less than 8 seconds, you have pure, filtered water that goes wherever you go. A pretty awesome thing, if you ask me.
- Removes viruses & bacteria
- Activated carbon
- Purifies and filters in 8 seconds
Waterproof Phone Case
Whether you’re by the beach or tip-toeing behind the enormous waterfalls of Sri Lanka, it’s a wise investment to get yourself a waterproof phone cover. Not only do they keep your phone safe from water damage, but you’ll be able to take photos too.
- Touch-screen & camera friendly
- Flexible pouch fits most phones
- Adjustable lanyard
This is another item I always travel with. Carrying a power bank is especially helpful in places that occasionally experience power outages, or in countries with different power outlets to your own. I sometimes can’t be bothered to find my travel adapter and charge directly from my power bank. However, you can only top up indiscriminately if your power bank has a massive capacity like this one.
Lightweight Rain Jacket
First up is a rain jacket, which is always in my adventure backpack. From late-night moped rides to protection from torrential downpours and waterfall spray, you’ll be happy to have one of these in your bag. They’re also useful as an extra layer for hikes like Little Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka. Find a great option here.
There are few accessories for the GoPro more important than the selfie stick. First off, don’t be ashamed of using a selfie stick. They capture some of the best and most engaging angles.
I personally use the Sandmarc GoPro Pole. It’s longer than the name-brand GoPro stick and is a simple telescoping pole. It’s a robust accessory for getting the shot and should be included in any aspiring content creator’s kit.
The next few items on the list are all electronics to simplify your travels, starting with the travel adapter. A few newer hotels will have universal outlets, but for the most part, this is an essential item.
This universal travel adapter features 2 USB outlets as well as a universal plug. Essentially, you can charge 3 devices at a time, in up to 150 countries. That’s a pretty great deal for a couple of bucks.
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. They also carry the risk of Dengue fever, which is a great way to ruin your vacation. Pack a DEET-free mosquito repellant to safely prevent bites. If you prefer an option with DEET, this is a great alternative.
- DEET free
- Repels mosquitoes, ticks, & flies
- Doesn’t harm gear or equipment
- Low-odor, non-greasy lotion
Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to bring an action camera. Whether you’re learning to surf, visiting the raging waterfalls, having an underwater camera on hand is a great call. For this, the GoPro Hero 12 is my top recommendation. With HyperSmooth available in slow motion and ultra-high definition, dull, shaky footage is a thing of the past.
- Waterproof to 10m (33ft)
- 60fps ; 4K resolution
- 120fps ; 2.7K resolution
- Hypersmooth 4.0 stabilization
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. Water shoes are a great way to explore Sri Lanka without cutting up your feet on the volcanic rock that often accompanies its white sandy beaches. They can also protect your feet against hot, midday sand, provide traction on muddy waterfall trails, and protect your feet from sea urchin stings and accidental coral abrasions. These Xero Water Shoes tick all the boxes, with these NRS Water Shoes offering a slightly more cost-effective option.
I’ve had multiple friends lose track of their passports, forgetting them here or there or leaving them behind on a random island. I’ve never had that problem because I’ve always used a passport wallet. They protect your passport from damage and spills, and it’s great to have your spare cards and vaccine record all in one place. I like to store this separately from my other things just in case.
The money belt is the cooler little brother to the ’90s fanny pack. This one is made of satin so it slips seamlessly under a shirt and stays cool. It includes 2 zippered pockets and an adjustable waistband, and of course, peace of mind.
If you’re traveling to Sri Lanka in the rainy season, this could be simple insurance against a waterlogged camera. A sturdy dry bag with backpack straps is also great for keeping your electronics safe on waterfall hikes or boat tours. Meanwhile, this EarthPak dry bag provides a more budget-friendly option and is all most travelers need.
To start, my go-to way to travel is a solid backpacking bag, like this. I live out of my bag, so the 75L capacity is great for me. For you, it might mean you can overpack to your heart’s content. If your trip to Sri Lanka includes backpacking through Southeast Asia, however, this might be the perfect size for you.
Perks of this bag include 2 separate zippered access points to the main compartment, plus top draw-string access, and plenty of zippered pockets, clip-on points, and water bottle holders. It also includes a very lightweight day pack that’s served me well on many an adventure.
Travel Day Pack
As mentioned above, a day pack is an essential part of the Sri Lanka traveler’s kit. You can carry your camera, food, and water on an adventure day, or safely carry your laptop to your co-working space on the back of a moped. This backpack is also the perfect carry-on size for your flight into Sri Lanka, and can comfortably fit your laptop, electronics, toiletries, and a change of clothes.
Even if you’re not living out of your backpack, using packing cubes is a major travel hack. You can separate your gym clothes from your nicer outfits, keep your swimwear separate, or if you’re really kooky, color coordinate everything. It’s the closest thing to traveling with a wardrobe, and for me, a must-have item on the Sri Lanka packing list.
Reusable Water Bottle
Now the Grayl also stores the water you’ve just purified, but if you won’t have access to flowing water for a bit, or just like to keep your cool beverages cold, this vacuum-insulated Hydroflask is a great idea. I like to carry a liter of water with me for most adventures, so the 32oz option is great to pack for Sri Lanka.
- TempShield™ vacuum insulation
- Food-grade stainless steel
- Covered by a lifetime warranty
Even if you’re planning to stay at a resort with unlimited beach towels, it’s handy to bring your own travel towel. To start, they take up very little space for how useful they are. They fold much smaller than regular towels, meaning you’re more likely to throw one in your bag for an adventure day.
Also, they’re extremely versatile. Take one to a yoga class, the outdoor gym, or to dry off after a jump in a mountain waterfall. These travel towels come in a handful of colors and prints.
- Absorbs 4x its weight in water
- Antimicrobial treatment
- Variety of sizes & colors
- Travel pouch included
Anti Diarrhea Tablets
Despite your best efforts, this is an item you may unfortunately need. Diarrhea in Sri Lanka is an inevitable truth, so the best thing you can do is to prepare. These tablets work quickly and effectively so your bad stomach days take up as little of your time in Sri Lanka as possible.
Sri Lanka is one of the most ecologically important marine environments in the world, meaning we as tourists should visit as responsibly as possible. This Raw Elements sunblock is reef-safe and non-nano Zinc Oxide, making it safe for you and the coral. It also stays put for up to 80 minutes in the water, making it economical as well.
Whether you’re getting in the ocean, a waterfall, or getting caught in the rain, not having to worry about damp and stinky clothes is huge. Plus for minimalists like me, being able to pack a pair of shorts that triple as sportswear, swimwear, and loungewear is pretty great.
With the hot and humid Sri Lanka weather, a few comfy t-shirts should be staples in your wardrobe. These hemp blend t-shirts go above and beyond by boasting UPF 30 sun protection and anti-odor properties. As a bonus, they’re also modest enough to wear while visiting temples.
Too often, people pack for a tropical vacation and are completely blindsided when freezing on a rainy day, in the mountains, or even during the cold plane ride over. If you’re planning to hike any mountains in Sri Lanka, definitely pack warm layers. Even driving around in the evenings can be much more pleasant with a warm hoody in your pack.
As mentioned earlier, a sarong is necessary to enter many Sri Lanka sights temples. For ladies, carrying one that doubles as a wrap skirt or beach cover-up is useful. For guys, a sarong can double as a beach blanket or extra layer, and you can choose your own over a local temple rental.
I said it before, but I’m a minimalist, and these Teva sandals are a traveler’s dream. They’re comfortable and non-dorky casual wear. These are designed to be used as water shoes, and also tackle hikes extremely well. They’ll certainly tick all the boxes and leave room for more items in the Sri Lanka packing list.
Sri Lanka Packing List Checklist
In this section, I’ll provide you a complete list you can check off against while packing your bags to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Clothing for your Sri Lanka Packing List
- Quick-dry shorts (1-2 pairs)
- Breathable t-shirts (2-3 pairs)
- 1 pair of full-length pants (natural material)
- 1 hoodie/ warm layer
- Rain jacket
- Activewear for hikes, yoga, and adventures
- Bathing suits/board shorts (always have spares while used pairs dry)
- Beach cover-ups & sundresses for women
- Button-up shirts for men (Resort casual is enough to get you into most places)
- 1 dressier outfit if going out clubbing
- Casual, cute outfits for hanging out
- Sarong for temple visits
Footwear for your Sri Lanka Packing List
- Hiking/walking shoes
- Flip flops
- Water shoes (optional but recommended)
- 1 dressier shoe (optional)
Toiletries for your Sri Lanka Packing List:
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen
- Lip balm (SPF)
- First-aid kit
- Prescription medication
- Insect repellent
- Feminine hygiene products
- Travel-sized versions of your favorite toiletries:
- Shampoo & conditioner (optional if hotel/local products suffice for you)
Electronics for your Sri Lanka Packing List:
- Power bank
- Travel Adapter
- Charging cables
- Memory cards
- Spare batteries
- Camera accessories
Miscellaneous items for your Sri Lanka Packing List:
- Backpack or bag for daily adventures
- Reusable water bottle/water filter
- Packing cubes
- Dry bag
- Money belt
- Passport wallet
- A good book
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.
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.
THREE TOURS I RECOMMEND IN SRI LANKA
Before we get into the list of the top things to do in Sri Lanka, I wanted to share with you three of my favorite tours in Sri Lanka.
Golden Hour Safari: The most popular safari tour is the Golden Hour Safari Experience in Yala National Park
Whale Watching: The Morning Whale Watching Tour from Mirissa Beach is one of the most popular activities in the entire country. See a variety of animals including blue whales, sperm whales, and dolphins from the observation deck.
Sigiriya Rock Tour: Discover the Sigirya rock fortress on a 2-3-hour walking trip which will provide an insight into the art, tradition, and history of Sri Lanka. Book your tour: Sigiriya Rock Climb Guided Tour
READ MORE SRI LANKA BLOG POSTS
- Ultimate Guide: 15 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SRI LANKA
- Hiking in Ella: LITTLE ADAM’S PEAK HIKE IN ELLA
- Riding the Train: Kandy to Ella by Train
- The famous Sri Lanka rope swing: THE PALM TREE ROPE SWING AT DALAWELLA
- The famous bridge: NINE ARCH BRIDGE IN ELLA
- Getting a tattoo in Sri Lanka: MY EXPERIENCE GETTING A TATTOO IN SRI LANKA
- Where to stay: 20 BEST ECO LODGES IN SRI LANKA
- Sri Lanka Packing List: THE ULTIMATE SRI LANKA PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY
MY TOP PLACES TO STAY IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is a huge region so it depends on where you are and which of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka are on your list as to which accommodation will be the best. For example, when you are visiting Sigiriya Rock, Hotel Sigiriya is clearly the best choice!
- 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