sri lanka packing ultimate bag
I live and die by this Patagonia backpack.

Packing for Sri Lanka:
What to Bring

I cannot stress strongly enough that when packing for Sri Lanka you should pack as lightly as possible!

This is especially so if you are planning to get around by bus, train, and tuk-tuk. Traveling with a big bag, or god forbid two bags, would be a nightmare. Either wash your clothes with you in the shower (my preference) or get laundry done while traveling (less than 24 hours and super cheap). If you’re in dire need of something, buy it. Everything’s cheap.

Here is what you should consider packing for Sri Lanka. This will all easily fit into a normal sized day backpack (30-32 litres) with room to spare for souvenirs at the end.

Bags

  • 1 30 liter standard backpack
  • 1 lightweight stuff bag for day trips.
    • I have a Patagonia shoulder bag that stuffs into a pocket and works perfectly for me
  • 1 plastic bag for separating laundry or wet clothes from clean clothes
patagonia atom sling
The perfect bag for day trips.

Clothes

  • 1 pair of shorts.
    • I have Tilly travel shorts, with deep pockets that are made of a quick drying and stain and rip resistant fabric that I find perfect
  • 1 pair of sport shorts that can be used as a bathing suit as well
    • I use Lululemon shorts with a zipper side pocket (for keys and cash) and built in underwear.
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of underwear
    • Get quick drying and lightweight underwear. I have some Tilly pairs that I find to be perfect.
  • 1 long sleeved button-up shirt
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 light jacket
  • 2 reversible basketball jerseys
    • All shirts should ideally be made of light and quick drying material
    • Basketball pinnies are my go-to. They are super light weight, quick drying, and can be worn inside out if stained
  • 1 hat
This underwear is the truth.

Shoes

  • 1 pair of flip flops
    • I love my Croc flip flops because they magically don’t get smelly and are reliably durable
  • 1 pair of running shoes
    • I like the Nike Free-style of shoe as they are very light weight an flexible, thus easy for packing

Electronics

  • 1 extension cord
    • This is my secret weapon when packing for Sri Lanka or anywhere else. It’s great whether you’re at an airport on a seat a bit too far from a plug, or in a hotel room with an inconveniently located socket. I always end up using it way more than expected. The added benefit of an extension cord is that you can use one adaptor at one end to get multiple plugs with your local input at the other.
  • 1 smart phone with a local SIM card and charger
    • The most valuable of all. SIM cards are insanely cheap ($10 for all the calling we needed plus 5 GB of data) and can save your life when you’re lost.
  • 1 small Bluetooth speaker
    • I like to play some music when packing or unpacking, or when having some drinks in the room or on the beach
  • 2 adaptors – one for Sri Lankan plugs and one for British ones
    • Buy the Sri Lankan one upon arrival for a buck
  • 1 E-book
    • My kindle is lighter than a book and can be read in bright light or pitch black without needing a recharge for weeks on end. It’s perfect for traveling.
  • 1 set of headphones

Toiletries

All Travel-Sized

  • 1 toothbrush
  • 1 tube of toothpaste
  • 1 shaver
  • 1 sunscreen
  • 1 bug repellant
    • Mosquitos were a bit of a nuisance all trip long. I don’t think bug repellant helps much, but if it works for you then bring it.
  • 1 set of tweezers
  • 1 tube of moisturizer
  • 1 tube of shampoo/soap
    • Some guesthouses don’t offer soap and shampoo, while others do. Bring one and expect to be able to replace it along the way

Other

  • 1 zipper lock for your backpack
    • We never felt at risk of theft in Sri Lanka, but you will be leaving your bag unattended at times in your guesthouse, so it’s better to be safe than sorry
  • 1 passport
  • 100-300 USD
    • In case your card doesn’t work, have some ready to exchange as backup
  • 2 credit cards
    • Store separately to reduce the risk of losing both at the same time
  • 1 pen

Items to Consider Packing for Sri Lanka But Aren’t Necessary:

  • Pants
    • I never felt out of place wearing shorts, nor was it ever too chilly for shorts either
  • Rain Jacket
    • Maybe we were lucky, but this was never needed. Buy a cheap one there if it is absolutely needed
  • Computer
    • Though I did use it for some work reasons, particularly on the long plane ride each way, if you are truly on vacation leave it behind. Kim and I were thinking we would watch movies on it in the evening, but only ended up making it through two and a half episodes of True Detective over the entire 12 hours of our trip
  • Guide Book
    • Use you SIM card instead if needed. Guidebooks are way too heavy and bulky anyways.
  • Flashlight
    • If you have a smart phone, you should be able to use a flashlight app on it instead.
  • Travel towel
    • Every guest house provided towels and for the beach we bough a big piece of fabric as a beach blanket. It’s so hot in Sri Lanka that you dry off in seconds upon leaving the water.
  • Water bottle
    • If you want to risk drinking the local water as the natives do, this isn’t a bad idea, since all restaurants will be able to fill it up for you for free. If not, stick to buying bottles, which cost 70 cents for 1.5 litres.

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