Being a digital nomad in Sri Lanka means you’re set in the heart of the Indian Ocean. Even if nature is not your thing, other magnetic pulls of Sri Lanka will steal your heart.
The out of the world rice and curry, the never ending smiley faces, the affordable cost of living – there are plenty of things you’ll miss when you leave the island.
Before you read further, it’s important to note that Sri Lanka might not seem like the best option if your work requires you to upload big files. The Wi-Fi connection is still catching up.
For some, this may set them back especially if you plan to live long-term,but a couple of weeks can’t hurt, right?
Here is a summary of what’ll you see in today’s digital nomad article:
- Why Become A Digital Nomad Sri Lanka?
- Cost Of Living In Sri Lanka
- Internet And Mobile Data In Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka Weather
- Digital Nomad Visas In Sri Lanka
- Top Destinations For Digital Nomads In Sri Lanka
- Coworking Space Sri Lanka
- Coliving Sri Lanka
- Best Places To Stay in Sri Lanka
- Best Food To Try In Sri Lanka
- How To Get Around
- Things You Should Know About Sri Lanka
Some of the links on here are affiliate links and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. Hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.
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Why Become A Digital Nomad Sri Lanka?
Because of the affordable cost of living, delicious food and the laidback lifestyle.
Affordable Cost Of Living
It is safe to say that living in Sri Lanka won’t break your bank. A day’s expenses will rarely go beyond around $50 for two people!
And that includes your accommodation, a coworking space in Colombo, meals, drinks, mobile reloads, transportation, and so on.
Before we dive into living cost in detail, here’s a summary of Sri Lanka expenses (on average) according to Numbeo:
- Monthly rentals – from $120 to $750.
- High speed Wi-Fi – around $36 per month.
- Mobile data – around $36 per month.
- Food/drinks/snacks – around $12.
Perhaps when you’re just starting as a digital nomad Sri Lanka, you can rent a room in a family house.
Apart from keeping the cost low, you’ll get to mix with the locals, eat home-cooked food and learn their language.
Sri Lankan food is extremely delicious. The many types of curries are usually served in tiny metal bowls with either rice or roti.
Sri Lankan food is indeed almost entirely vegan, but meat-eaters have their fair share too. There are plenty of meat-based meals and fresh seafood. Be sure to check out the black pepper crab and jumbo prawns!
The Laidback Lifestyle
Sri Lanka is a land of smiles. The people are friendly, and they don’t seem to be rushing all the time. Yes, even if they’re late.
Okay so, Sri Lanka is also known as the ‘land of serendipity’. The word ‘serendipity’ has a special meaning. It refers to the Arabic word Serendib, which translates to “pleasant surprise”.
For example, you’re on your way to meet someone and you bump into a friend and stop to chat for 10 minutes. This doesn’t mean being disrespectful of the other person’s time (who’s waiting for you).
It’s just a cultural thing where being late is not perceived negatively.
Cost Of Living In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is one of the destinations in Asia that offer cheap costs of living.
Even if you include leisure expenses such as bar trips or beach activities, a whole day’s cash splash still won’t reach half of what you may spend back home.
Let’s take a look at this breakdown (on average) to see if you’ll need to do some penny-pinching or otherwise:
- One-bedroom apartment in town: from $250
- One-bedroom apartment outside town: from $115
- 3-bedroom apartment in town: from $645
- 3-bedroom apartment outside town: from $260
- A meal of local dish: $1.30
- Meal for 2 in mid-range restaurant: $14
- Combo meal at fast food restaurants: from $4 to $5.50
- Local and imported beer: from $1.55 to $2.60
- Tuk-tuk: from $1
- Gas: from $0.73
- Monthly public transport ticket: $18
- Internet (a month): from $17
Internet And Mobile Data In Sri Lanka
The rule of thumb when you land in Sri Lanka is to get a SIM card at the airport since Wi-Fi connection is sometimes scarce at the beach and uphill areas.
The best mobile data provider would be the SIM2Fly Travel Prepaid AIS at only $19.90 with 6GB of data, valid for 10 days.
Sri Lanka Weather
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate all year round.
The weather is typically divided into two monsoon seasons:
- The South-west monsoon (May to September) and
- The North-West monsoon (October to March).
The temperature in Sri Lanka usually sits around 30 degrees rain or shine. There are cooler areas in the hills with temperatures hitting the mid-20s and drops further at night.
Digital Nomad Visas In Sri Lanka
You can enter Sri Lanka visa-free for up to 30 days. BUT before your departure, you have to apply for the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) online which costs $20. Without the ETA, you can’t enter Sri Lanka.
The ETA is valid for 30 days from the date of arrival and can be extended for up to 6 months.
To apply for the ETA, you’ll need these documents:
- Passport with validity of not less than six months from the date of arrival.
- Confirmed return tickets.
- Sufficient funds to meet the expenses throughout your stay.
If you wish to stay longer than 30 days, you can extend your ETA for up to 90 more days at the Immigration Services Centre in Colombo. You don’t need to leave the country.
Just make sure you bring:
- Your passport and passport photo.
- Proof of financial resources to cover expenses for the extended stay.
- Proof of return air ticket or visa to your next country of destination.
Top Destinations For Digital Nomads In Sri Lanka
Colombo is Sri Lanka’s capital city. It’s where you experience the hustle and bustle of city life compared to other areas.
Trains connect Colombo with other major cities on the island. There are also bus services within the city and to all parts of Sri Lanka.
This is the place to settle your admin things like getting a visa extension or fixing your mobile data issue. There are many well-equipped coworking spaces in Colombo, so you’ll be spoilt for choice!
The city is filled with beautiful colonial infrastructure – among Sri Lanka’s major tourist attractions.
Mirissa is THE place for beach bums. The sunset is gorgeous, the beach is clean, and the water is crystal clear and warm.
Defining paradise almost accurately, the island is lined up by coconut trees and bamboo bars facing the Indian ocean.
After a long day of working, you can hang out with friends at Mirissa Beach, enjoying the coastal life you used to dream about. Don’t worry about dinner as a stretch of seafood restaurants is just a stone’s throw away.
If you fancy sleeping and waking up before the sound of waves, you can find accommodation behind the bay. Look for the main road called Matara Road. They have a good mix of locals and travellers there.
Known as the surfer’s paradise, Arugam Bay is the prominent surf scene in Sri Lanka. It has a decent beach with a superb wave to cater for surfers throughout summer when the weather is excellent.
The vibe of this place never fails to impress first-time visitors.
It has the perception of an easy life when you see the lines of fishing boats, the catch being brought in and hardworking fishermen resting in their shacks.
What makes Arugam Bay more special is the reflected glow of the ocean at sunset. The nightlife scene is fairly lively too. Don’t feel left out if you don’t surf. Grab a coconut drink, sit in an ocean view hut and forget the board – just get your laptop!
Ella has been a long-time backpackers and travel bloggers’ favourite. Located in the cooler, mountainous area, this small laidback town is surrounded by beautiful greens of tea.
Imagine hiking on trails for a sip of the ocean breeze, surfing on your breaks, brewing tea while listening to the gushing waterfall – avid nature lovers will fall in love with Ella.
Development has taken over throughout the years though, transforming this once a simple hamlet in the hills into a major tourist spot.
Nonetheless, there are many cafes and restaurants along the main road. Also, the hostels here are equipped with reliable Wi-Fi.
If you love colonial architecture, Galle Fort is the place for you. The walled city they call it has a wide range of hotels with decent common areas and reliable Wi-Fi connection.
Strolling along the atmospheric old streets with quaint churches in sight, you’ll feel the Dutch colonial vibe.
Head over to Pedlar Street where you can find cool cafes to work in. There are also chic clothing stores and handicraft shops if you feel like splurging a little in between your breaks.
Nuwara Eliya is another option for mountain lovers. It’s a mix of Galle Fort and Ella, I’d say. This place is framed by two attractions: an old colonial town filled with antique British tea bungalows and a spread of tea plantations.
Not saying Nuwara Eliya doesn’t have enough attractions but somehow, the peace and tranquillity are perfect for digital nomads who need to complete a project without distractions.
If you’re writing a book, spend a few days in a tea bungalow and voila, you’ll have your manuscript ready!
Coworking Space Sri Lanka
The scene of coworking in Sri Lanka has so much to offer.
Complete with amenities and pretty good Wi-Fi speed, these spaces are suitable for travel bloggers and content creators alike.
Features: the hub of startups, Sri Lanka’s first and largest Incubator/Accelerator complete with co-working space amenities. Hatch frequently organises tech events and trains startups in a six-month programme preparing them for a pitch session to investors at the end of it.
- Hot desk or open seating: $5 per day and $91 per month.
- Dedicated desk: $91 per month.
- Private office: $557 per month (fits 5 pax).
Features: a Zen garden, outdoor cabanas, rooftop terrace, in-house restaurant, an onsite cafe, two swimming pools, 24/7 access to private offices and dedicated desks, a Working Art Gallery.
Member benefits: mail handling, shower facilities, support team, swimming pool access, and professional and social events, private dining, boardroom access, a registered address, event space for functions and printer/scanner/photocopy machine.
- Hot desk: $169 per month.
- Dedicated desk: $154 per month.
- Membership plan: Upon enquiry.
Features: hot desks, meeting rooms, private office spaces, coffee, free printing and paper. Located nearby supermarkets, coffee shops and restaurants.
- Hot desk or open plan seating: from $5 per day, $25 per week and $76 per month.
- Dedicated Desk: $76 per month.
Features: high-speed Wi-Fi, in-house printer, scanner, photocopy machine outdoor lounge, terrace, coffee and drinking water.
- Hot desk or open plan seating: from $5 per day, $25 per week and $50 per month.
- Dedicated desk: from $63 per month.
Features: high-speed Wi-Fi, variety of seating options, kitchen, Skype room, personal lockers, pet friendly, sound and video recording equipment, printer/scanner/photocopy machine, computers, single/dual monitors, library.
- Hot desk or open plan seating: from $7.50 per day, $45.50 per week and $101 per month.
- Full-time resident: $139 per month.
- Virtual member: $38
Features: high-speed Wi-Fi, printer/scanner/photocopy machine, a lounge and chillout area, kitchen facilities, Skype rooms, personal lockers, free coffee and drinking water. Located nearby cafes and bakeries.
- Hot desk or open seating: from $15 per day, $91 per month and $82 monthly for six months.
Features: shared office space in Colombo offering a homely atmosphere with 24/7 access, an onsite cafe with a chef, an outdoor terrace, courier services, office supplies, printing services and lockable spaces. Food and drinks are priced below $3.80.
Price: Upon enquiry.
Features: divided into three floors themed “garden, ocean, and bougainvillea” with private offices for teams of five to ten, a meeting room for six to eight people and a rooftop space with an ocean view for 30 to 100 people. They also offer mail handling, printing services and free coffee.
- Hot desk: from $5 per day, $40.50 per month (10-day pass), $71 per month (full-time pass).
- Fixed desk: from $91 per month.
- Private office: $81 per seat.
- Meeting room: $6.30 per hour.
Features: high-speed Wi-Fi, kitchen, a lounge, printer/scanner/photocopy machine and free coffee.
- Hot desk or open seating: from $1 per hour, $7.60 per day and $76 per month (20% discount for three months)
Features: high-speed Wi-Fi, a lounge area, a cafe with coffee, tea, sandwiches and snacks, meeting rooms for up to 30 pax, working pods and individual desks.
- Meeting room: $13 per hour
- Working pods: from $5 per hour
- Individual desk: $2.50 per day
Coliving Sri Lanka
The first and only coliving space in Sri Lanka is the 41 Residents in Kandakuliya. It’s a beautiful rural, airy house with a well-equipped coworking space.
Deemed the mecca for fitness enthusiasts and kitesurfing digital nomads, the people here prioritise creativity, wellness, travel and learning.
There’s a café serving healthy meals and the best coffee in the area, high-speed Wi-Fi connection and your desk overlooking the Indian Ocean.
The best part is, you’ll get all these for only $850 per month, all bills included.
Best Places To Stay in Sri Lanka
From the towns to the uphill areas, Sri Lanka has thousands of hotels and hostels that offer the best value for money.
Here are some of the best finds recommended for you:
- The Danish Villa – from $7 per night.
- Lake View Holiday Home – from $10 per night.
- Star Rest Beach Hotel Arugambay – from $12 per night.
- Nuwara Eliya Mountain View Homestay – from $13 per night.
- Groove House Colombo – from $13 per night.
- Backpack Hostel 44 – from $15 per night.
- Miracle City Inn Hostel – from $16 per night.
- JJ’s Hostel Mirissa – from $17 per night.
- Ella Escapade Hostel – from $19 per night.
- Sandy Beach Hotel – from $20 per night.
- Paraiso Guest House – from $23 per night.
- Colours Hostel Mirissa – from $23 per night.
- Blooming Rose Ella – from $25 per night.
- Chapelton House – from $28 per night.
- The Steuart by Citrus – from $29 per night.
For long-term stay, check out the Facebook groups and get in touch with the members to look for listings that suit your requirements:
Best Food To Try In Sri Lanka
Ask any locals and they will tell you that their drinking water is unlike anything since it comes from the underground wells. That’s why you can only taste the authenticity of Sri Lankan food if it’s made with Sri Lankan water.
Forget international food for a while when you’re on the Teardrop of India. Don’t leave until you’ve tried any of these!
- Fish ambul thiyal (sour fish curry).
- Kottu (diced roti stir-fried with scrambled egg, onions, chillies, spices, and optional vegetables or meat).
- Lamprais (combination of meat, rice and sambol chili sauce, wrapped in a banana leaf packet).
- Hoppers (Sri Lankan pancake).
- Polos (green jackfruit curry).
- Wambatu moju (eggplant/brinjals pickle).
- Gotu kola sambol (pennywort salad).
- Kiribath (a special type of rice) with lunu miris (sambol chili sauce).
- Pol Sambol (coconut relish).
- Wood apple
How To Get Around
Getting around in Sri Lanka is easy. If you’re on the beach or suburban area, you can just walk from one place to another.
In big cities like Colombo, the most affordable and practical mode of transportation would be cabs or tuk-tuks. The fare usually doesn’t cost more than a dollar per kilometres.
The best way to travel for longer trips is by bus, air or train. I’d recommend travelling by train for a unique and incredibly scenic journey.
- For cheap charter flights: Deccan Aviation Lanka.
- Train routes, tickets and schedule: Sri Lanka Railways.
- Bus routes at an affordable price: Sri Lanka Transport Board.
Things You Should Know About Sri Lanka
- Tap water isn’t drinkable.
- Drinking water that you buy in Sri Lanka comes from underground wells and it’s extremely fresh and tasty
- Spending a few days in the tea plantation area between Nuwara Elya and Ella is a must.
- The Kandy to Ella train ride is a must.
- Change your dollars to Sri Lankan rupees inside Sri Lanka.
- Sri Lankans always waggle their head as a form of communication.
- Tea triumphs coffee.
- Eating curries with a massive amount of rice is common.
- Traveling in Sri Lanka is perfectly safe.
- Mastering the art of haggling is important.
Signing up as a Sri Lanka digital nomad means you’re up for magical adventures ahead!
The infrastructure and internet connection might not be top-notch, but it’s totally worth it to spend a couple of weeks or months here. The life and culture are amazing, the coworking spaces are up-to-date and the people are warm and welcoming.
If the dreamy island life described in this Sri Lanka travel guide hasn’t convinced you enough, it’s time to pack your bags and see it for yourself!