When I went to Sri Lanka in 2014/15 I had no idea what to bring with me for the trip. It was my first time time going to a place like Sri Lanka and I was at a loss. I messaged a friend who had been previously for work, asked my friends who I was meeting there, and did my best google to come up with my packing list for Sri Lanka. Through my intensive research and questioning I came up with what turned out to be a pretty great list of items to bring.
Once I arrived I did though realize packing was excessive in some ways (*cough cough, umm hello clothes) and lacking in others (ie first aid kit!). While I did okay on my first trip if/ when I return this list is what I would pack for Sri Lanka. I have included helpful info on why everything on this list is important and some suggestions of the products I used for your easy reference!
For reference this list does not include all your essentials like important documents, toiletries, emergency snack bars, electronics, etc. I would hope that you know what you need in those regards and pack them! 🙂
If you are planning on heading to Sri Lanka soon also make sure to check out our 10 day Itinerary by clicking here!
You Also Might Like: The Essential Collection of Travel Tips
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WHAT TO PACK FOR SRI LANKA
(click below to jump to a section!)
CLOTHING TO PACK FOR SRI LANKA
While it can be quite warm depending on where you are in Sri Lanka it can also be wet and sometimes cold. I suggest bringing a nice light waterproof jacket like the Evaporation Jacket from Columbia Sportswear for those rainy days and nights. I would also suggest bringing an umbrella for those moments where it rains and its too warm for a jacket.
When it comes to pack for Sri Lanka in regards to clothing remember that Sri Lanka is near the equator and is going to be warm in general. When you do get into the Kandy and Ella areas it will get cooler especially if it is rainy so make sure to bring something that you can layer to warm up. Here is what I packed and it suited me well through my trip
- Shoes: Toms Classic Flats & Birkenstock Arizona Sandal & Cheap Flip Flops for Showers etc.
- Lightweight Rain Jacket (see rainwear section)
- Mid-weight sweater (a light quick dry wool would be perfect as it keeps you warm but breaths)
- Multiple Cotton Tank Tops
- Cotton T Shirt
- Linen Long Sleeve shirt to use as a cover up or layers if it gets a bit chilly
- Cotton Shorts (Linen would also be great to bring)
- Mid-Weight Pants (I brought a pair of cropped pants that were a mid weight polyester so they dried fast from the rain)
- A Lightweight Dress that can be used as a swim suit cover up
- Sleep Shorts and Shirt
- Packable Sun Hat
- Lightweight Scarf
EQUIPMENT TO PACK FOR SRI LANKA
Let’s start with the most obvious one first, luggage! Obviously you need something to carry all your stuff in. When deciding on what to bring with you to Sri Lanka here are some points you should consider
How do you plan on getting around? If you plan on taking mostly public transit and the Tuk Tuks you want a bag that can fit in a lot of tight places. Something soft is ideal so you can shove it in the tight quarters of a Tuk Tuks “trunk”
Do you want a backpack or rolling luggage? Backpacks are arguably easier to travel around with since they are soft sided and can be shoved into lots of small spaces. Backpacks though are not for everyone especially if you have back problems or other reasons that it would not be suitable. In these cases think about a wheeled duffle bag with durable wheels. Do also consider what your day bag is going to be? I packed a small canvas Baggu backpack for day use in my larger backpack (use a dry bag inside for electronics if using in the rain!).
I used these bags for my trip:
I will recommend bringing reusable water bottles until I am blue in the face regardless of where you are doing for many reasons
1. They are environmentally friendly. Even if you are in a country where you can not drink the water from the tap you can buy a big bottle or jug of water and refill your smaller containers. This way you are not using so many small bottles which means less waste. Bonus points if you get a filtering water bottle and can avoid buying water bottles at all!
2. They keep your water or other drinks cool. I personally don’t like warm water if I can avoid it so the insulation is nice.
3. If you buy a quality one they are less likely to leak on your stuff than a cheap plastic bottle.
I have a collection of bottles but these are the ones I use on the regular, including while traveling. The S’well is perfect for carrying around (and holding some wine if you so please too!), the Hydroflask is great for when you need larger quantities, and the lifestraw is a great 2 process filtering bottle making water that was not safe to drink now drinkable!
QUICK DRY TOWEL
Another must for your trip to Sri Lanka is a quick drying towel. The central areas can be quite humid which extends the time it takes for things to dry and having a towel that dries quick will make your life so much easier. I love these microfiber towels as the dry quick, pack small, and are very durable. I have a XL one which has been in my travel pack for the past 3 years or so and I now bring a small one with me too as I like having a few towels.
I like to bring a light dry bag or two when I am visiting humid countries as it is a good place to keep my papers from getting too humid. It also becomes a great containment for that really musty clothing before you have a chance to wash it. I have this 13L (Large) Sea to Summit bag and it has lasted me many journeys including my trip to Sri Lanka.
Weather you plan on swimming, just need to wash a few things along, or need your humid clothes to air out having a bungee clothesline helps you find space to let things dry. The one caveat with these type of clotheslines is that they are not strong enough to hold heavier clothing items due to the suction cup adhesion but they are great for under garments, your microfiber towel, and swim suits. I have used mine multiple times and was happy my friends had one in Sri Lanka.
This is not as crucial if you are not going to be spending too much time in remote jungle areas but still is a good thing to think about bringing. I brought the below one and while I never ended up using it as intended it did work as a screen for the odd place we stayed in Kandy (more here about that) where the window didn’t close. I like the quality of this Sea to Summit one and the compact packing size so it is something to think about for sure!
HEALTH & FIRST AID RELATED ITEMS TO PACK FOR SRI LANKA
WELL STOCKED FIRST AID KIT
Having a well stocked first aid kit is important wherever you travel but especially when going to a place like Sri Lanka. They do have pharmacies and such in the various towns but coming with your own well stocked kit is ideal incase you can not find what you are looking for. I was thankful my friend had a great kit when I burned myself on a scooter muffler (more about that story here!) and will never travel with out a good kit again. I suggest the below kit as it comes with a wide variety of pads, bandages, burn relief kit and medication. I would also suggest to add to it by bringing a fresh pack of Imodium and Tums as you never know if something is going to mess with your stomach. It is always better to be prepared then sick!
When packing for Sri Lanka you don’t want to forget mosquito repellent. The likely hood of getting any terrible disease from mosquitos in Sri Lanka is slim but you still don’t want to risk it. I prefer to use a DEET free repellent and like the one below for kids. It works well and doesn’t have any of those nasty chemicals. Since I personally am such an attractor for mosquitos though I also brought a DEET spray for when in extra mosquito-y situations. I would have preferred to bring the below wipes as they are carryon friendly and just enough DEET for those extra buggy situations!
Probably a no brainer but it is important to bring sunscreen to Sri Lanka especially if you are planning to spend time at the beach. I like a spray sunscreen as I find it easier to apply and reapply with out missing spots. The below sunscreen has a good spray and is SPF 70 which I find important when you are so close to the equator!
OTHER THINGS TO PACK FOR SRI LANKA
GUIDE BOOK + MAP
When traveling to a place with unreliable wifi, like Sri Lanka, I like to have a guide book and map to use for emergency reference. Sometimes it is also just easier to look in a physical book for information that you need and I also like that there is a section of phrases that could be handy too. We had the Lonely Planet Guide as our reference + this separate map which is laminated which makes it great for that humid weather.
An essential no matter where you are traveling a good universal adaptor is a must have, especially when packing for Sri Lanka. It is common to find everything from British style, to European, to US style plugs so having a universal adapter means you will never be with out power! This one is great too because it has 2 USB ports + the standard plug adaptor so you can charge all your electronics with out issue!
NOTEBOOK + PEN
As I mentioned in my travel tip post (click here to check it out!) I always bring a notebook and pen with me. In advance of my trip I like to write down the basic info I will need for a trip and as I go along make other notes as needed. When packing for Sri Lanka I highly suggest bringing these because you happen to need to buy them there (like my friend and I did, long story) it is a bit of a pain to find what you need. I love these small notebooks because they fit everywhere and since they are Moleskine brand the paper is of a good quality.
As I am sure you have realized many times over I am all about being extra safe. For this reason I like to travel with these items just in case some sort of unexpected event happens I have a few items that could be life savers in a pinch. Another good item to add is matches in a plastic bag (to keep from getting wet!) if you are planning some hard core exploring!