What to pack for your Sri Lanka trip

Packing for Sri Lanka can be overwhelming, I know! Depending on which region and what time of the year you visit, your travel essentials will be different. The first time we went to the tea plantation region of Nuwara Eliya years ago, I remember it was quite chilly and found myself having to wear the same jacket every day because that’s all I had taken with me, thinking it was going to be tropical weather! #facepalm

This year we visited the south of Sri Lanka (Galle, Mirissa and Tangalle) so I was right to expect tropical weather – it was so so hot! But there were still some lessons learned in terms of what to pack. Below you’ll find a list of the essential clothing items and some suggestions based on my experience (so that you don’t make the same mistakes I made). 

This packing list will be most useful if you’re heading to the south of Sri Lanka, where temperatures average 30C all year around.

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Comfortable walking shoes

Even though it’s very tempting to spend all day in flip flops, please don’t go on long walks without proper shoes. After a week walking in flip flops everywhere, I developed a mild tendonitis that almost ruined my holiday, just because I was lazy to change to shoes after we went to the beach every day. Don’t make this mistake! Bring your most comfortable shoes (if possible ones that are light and breathable) and leave flip flops where they belong – the beach.

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A shawl or lightweight scarf

Given the high temperatures, it is natural to want to wear sleeveless tops and dresses. However, Sri Lanka is a traditional and religious country and you will receive some stares if you show too much skin – it’s a fact. Beach towns are still more relaxed than other regions, but you might still want to cover your shoulders with a shawl when walking in the city centre or taking the public bus.

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Flip flops

A good pair of flip flops are a must for the beach and for lounging inside your hotel. I also wear them on when I take showers in cheap hostels or public showers (do you do the same?)

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Straw hat

Sun rays can be very strong in the south of Sri Lanka so a straw hat is essential. Make sure you bring one from home because it’s virtually impossible to find one (a stylish one, that is) in Sri Lanka.

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Flowy pants

Given the heat, you will not want to wear anything tight, believe me. Flowy pants are a great option because they keep you cool without having to wear shorts (which as mentioned earlier, are better avoided if you don’t want to receive stares)

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A cute jumpsuit

This has to be my ultimate must have. It’s the best way to look stylish with zero effort.

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Casual (but presentable) lounge dress

After a long day at the beach, you’ll probably take a shower before heading out again for dinner. Or maybe you decide to dine in. Either way, you’ll feel like wearing something airy and comfortable (yet presentable in case you need to get out of your room and see people). This type of casual dresses are perfect for that.

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Swimming suit

Bring a swimming suit and a spare one from home. In all the time I spent in Mirissa and Tangalle, I haven’t seen any shop that sells swimwear so make sure you stock up on your faves before going! Cupshe sells beautiful high-quality designs at affordable prices (most items less than $30 USD)

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Quick dry towels

The power of a light, quick dry towel cannot be underestimated. We would usually head to the beach in the morning and then go straight to visit temples or go on hikes in the afternoon so it was great not to have to carry heavy dump towels with us all day. 

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Yoga/gym clothes

The beach and sunshine will inspire to exercise so don’t forget to bring some fitness clothes! I took two tank tops and a pair of leggings that turned out to be my most worn items during the trip.

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Hope this post gave you some useful ideas of what to pack for your next trip to Sri Lanka. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment down below!


Heading to Sri Lanka? Check out my travel guides full of tips and recommendations:

Things to do in and around Galle – Sri Lanka
Top 5 things to do in Mirissa – Sri Lanka
A guide to Tangalle, home to Sri Lanka’s most beautiful beaches
Tangalle (Sri Lanka) as a digital nomad destination
Bundala National Park in Sri Lanka – is it worth it?

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