Budget Travel in Sri Lanka: Galle, Pinnawala and Yala National Park

Sri Lanka is a perfect place for budget travelers. You can easily survive here for less than $20 per day.

We have cheaply travelled to 3 places in Sri Lanka and would strongly recommend visiting them:

Galle called by many the “Living Time Capsule“, where you will be taken back to the Dutch colonial era and blown away by its charm and beauty.

Galle Beach, Sri Lanka
The beach in Galle

Pinnawala- the place where orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants are located, where you can touch elephants and find out a lot of information about their lives and environment.

Elephants taking a bath in Pinnawala
Elephants taking a bath in Pinnawala

Yala National Park– one of the largest national parks in the country where you are surrounded by plains, forests, lagoons, coastline, a diverse range of animals and an abundance of bird life.

Yala National Park
Yala National Park

All of these places are located in the Southern part of the country and they can be easily reached from Colombo by train or bus.

Galle on a budget

What to do :

  • Sea Turtle Hatchery (Habaraduwa)- you can find it along the Coastal Road and see the hatchery collect their eggs to protect them. Buy a mini Galle map to find the place and take a walk there (price: Rs 200, $1.5).
  • Visit Galle Fort where you can find many interesting Dutch-style buildings and churches (price: Rs 300, $2.3).
  • Visit National Museum, Maritime Museum and Historical Museum during your trip to Galle Fort (price: Rs 45, $0.3).
  • Go to the Lighthouse, one of the oldest in Sri Lanka, built in 1848 (price: Rs 35, $0.26).
  • Go to the beach (free of charge).
  • Rent a bike as we did and go cycling around Galle (Rs 350, $2.70 per day).

Where to stay:

  • Fort Inn Guest House (Rs 1500$12 per night in double room).

Where to eat:

  • Any street food would be good. There is a great variety of local fish shops, small seafood restaurants, junk food restaurants, where the prices vary between $0.5 to $3 per meal. You can try some samosas, chilli pizza and Sri Lankan dumplings as you go nearly everywhere.

Postcards from Galle

Beautiful flowers, Galle
Grab Sri Lanka
Man is sitting on the beach, Galle
Pizza, Sri Lanka
Galle, Sri Lanka

Pinnawala on a Budget

What to do:

  • Go for elephant riding (price: Rs 4000, $30 per person).
  • Visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage (price: Rs 2000, $15).
  • Watch elephants during their bath time (free of charge, but tourists are asked to leave a tip).
  • Photos with cobra ($15).

Where to stay:

  • We were hosted by a generous Sri Lankan family for free, but there were small cheap hostels for less than $10 per room per two.

Where to eat:

  • We did some shopping in a small shop located just in front of the Elephant Orphanage, but there were a few small restaurant around offering nearly the same prices. The street food was rarely available.

Postcards from Pinnawala

Pinnawala, Sri Lanka
Pinnawala, Sri Lanka
Pinnawala, Sri Lanka
Pinnawala, Sri Lanka
Pinnawala, Sri Lanka

Yala National Park on a budget

It was very difficult for us to see the Yala National Park without spending much money. We were not able to go there on our own, so we had to pay for the trip $30 per person (jeep, entrance ticket to stay 5 hours in the park). We bargained, but the final price was still pretty high. We spent a night in one of the cheapest hostels, which name we don’t remember unfortunately. We did shopping in a local supermarket to save some money.

Postcards from Yala

Yala National Park
Yala National Park
Yala National Park
Yala National Park
Yala National Park
Yala National Park

“Unknown” Beach

We were going to Colombo by bus when we suddenly saw a beautiful golden beach. We stopped the bus and we got out of it immediately. Unfortunately we don’t know where it was exactly and what the proper name of the beach was, but we had a lovely time. Do you know this beach? If so, please type its name in one of the comments (we would really appreciate it).

What to do :

  • Sunbathing
  • Snorkeling (buy the equipment in the local shop, as renting is way too expensive)
  • Taking a walk across the beach

Where to stay:

  • We stayed in Colombo, this area would be too expensive, alternatively you can set up a tent and sleep on the beach.

 Where to eat:

  • We bought the food in local supermarket to save some money.
  • Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any street food there.

Postcards from the Beach

Unawatuna Beach
Unawatuna Beach
Unawatuna Beach
Unawatuna Beach

More photos in our gallery.

 What place would you pick up and go to :)? 


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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24 thoughts on “Budget Travel in Sri Lanka: Galle, Pinnawala and Yala National Park”

  1. If you were travelling on the way from Yala National Park to Colombo through Gall town it is the Unawatuna beach (The Unknown beach). It is one of the best beaches in the world. But there is another significant beach that a tourist must need to visit on the way to colombo from southern coastal line. That is the beach of Hikkaduwa. Don’t foget to visit it next time you visit hear. Thanks.

    1. Thanks a lot for the info I’ve been lacking :). I agree, it’s the best beach in the world. I’m so glad we got out of this bus and spent a couple of hours there, it was awesome!

  2. Amazing pictures. Thanks for sharing. I wish you had a twitter and FB button because I’d love to share this site.

    All the best

  3. Nico (A Travellers Journey)

    Some really great photos, the one of you drinking the coconut at the beach really captures the holiday spirit.

  4. I always look for budget travel these days because it is not easy to earn money in these economic crisis times.

  5. lovely pictures but that “unknown” beach is definitely Hikkaduwa! I recognize the rocks in the background. It can’t be Unawatuna as you can’t really see the beach from the main road only the end of the town and there are no rocks in the ocean at that point.and all the boats in the pictures are for glass bottom boat rides over the coral reef. Hikkaduwa is great for snorkeling and diving but only during their main season (november-april).

    1. Hey! That’s awesome. Thanks for the info. We had no idea what this beach was called. We got off the bus and started running like crazy into the water, we haven’t even checked its name properly :)

  6. hello,

    what kind of camera do you use ? your picture are truly amazing and you definitely captured the spirit of the places you ve been to !

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hi Isa. Thanks for the kind words. I’m using Sony NEX-C3 and Cez is using Canon 550D :). That’s the equipment we can afford right now. I’m happy to hear you like the photos.

  7. dear all,

    Next time when you visit sri lanka pls contact me for budget tourisem.

    we quate very low rates for travel packages all around the country.

    my contact numbers are 0773496055

  8. Yala National Park

    Nice, you are really good when it comes with budgeting. I love your photos~ its makes me feel like I want a vacation as well, hehe! BTW, when you’ll be visiting Sri Lanka again? I know that Yala National Park is quite expensive, but I just want to let you know that they’re closed in September for maintenance.


    1. Agness Walewinder

      Cheers Yala!I don’t think I’ll come back to Sri Lanka soon, but I’ll keep you posted on my travel plans :-).

  9. Hi Agness,

    Love this website, so great for tips on budget travel.
    Great post! I am actually on my way to Sri Lanka in 3 days and cannot wait.
    I”m very keen to get to Yala National Park as it sounds amazing, but all the info I can find online is VERY expensive!
    Where did you organise your day tour? Do you remember who you went with?

    Also how did you find out about the Sri Lankan family? We have a whole month in Sri Lanka so we will be travelling slowly and looking to stay with locals if we can to get the ‘real’ experience.


    1. Agness Walewinder

      One local approached us and offered a cheap tour. There is no need to book it online. You can get a great bargain once you get there. As for Sri Lankan family, we met them accidentally in the middle of the street :).

      1. I love it when stuff like that happens! Thanks for the info, I’m so looking forward to going and I’ll have a look at some couch surfing too like you said in the other post.

  10. Hi, Your pictures look amazing! Just wondering where you were able to get the elephant rides from? Was it from the elephant orphanage in pinawalla or was it from somewhere else in the region?

  11. Agness, this is a great post. Yes, you can find a lot of miracles to see in Sri Lanka apart from the places you roamed. Mesmerizing beaches, Misty mountains, adventures safaris, historical monuments etc. When you are coming next time to this magical island please let me know. I may be able to show you some hidden wonders of this small island

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