Sri Lanka was an absolute shocker. I’m not sure what I expected but I now understand why it’s made the top travel lists for several years in a row. Travelers seem to fall in love and if you’re looking for a warm safe tropical place to visit – this is it!
Keep reading to find out why it’s amazing and learn what to wear in Sri Lanka!
What to Wear in Sri Lanka
General Travel Info
The overall ambiance in Sri Lanka is calm. Things are relatively orderly and the country is welcoming. The island as a whole is generally very clean. There is little trash on the streets, the beach, or even the train stations.
The people here were incredibly kind to us beyond anything I’ve ever experienced anywhere in the world. When I didn’t have the exact change to pay for water or shampoo in the street stalls several of the owners told me to take the item and come back and pay later. I’m certainly not used to this type of trust anywhere.
We were received with genuine smiles; people offered help usually not expecting anything in return; and there was very little hassle from vendors or touts. How refreshing!
The west coast was lined with pristine beaches free from people, stores, or buildings. As I rode the bus and train I saw kilometer after kilometer of palm tree lined white sand beaches with a turquoise ocean.
As a woman I felt relatively safe, hardly anyone stared at me or even made a second glace at my boyfriend’s bright blonde hair (his hair usually equates to a walking ATM). We hardly experienced any hassle whatsoever!
If you’re a solo traveler looking for an exotic, untouched destination look no further than Sri Lanka!
Here are some tips on what to wear in Sri Lanka:
➊ City: Colombo
For the most part, the local dress seamed to be either jeans and a short sleeve top or a knee length skirt and a short sleeve top. I wasn’t sure if there were any guidelines, per say, but if you stick to these basic lengths for clothing items you’ll play it safe.
Most travelers avoid Colombo like the plague and I’m not sure why but since this is the main entrance to the country you’ll be passing through it at one point or the other.
It’s easy to hire licensed taxis upon arrival at the airport and if you want to take the local transport the slow buses were cheap but long and the train was easy and clean (2nd class).
➋ Beach Towns: Negombo, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Trincomalee
Standard beach attire is acceptable near the beach. Shorts, sundresses, and tank tops are suggested near the tourist streets. As you go on the main road try to cover up slightly more but you won’t get hassled if you wear a dress or shorts. Add a cardigan, hoodie, or light jacket for the evenings.
If you go whale watching in Mirissa make sure to bring layers and a waterproof rain jacket or poncho just in case! For scuba diving, Sea Horse in Unawatuna were very nice and knowledgeable.
➌ Inland: Kandy, Sigiriya, Dambulla
Once you travel away from Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches modesty is encouraged. As the heat rises you may be tempted to walk around half naked but follow the local lead. What are they wearing in these towns?
Some easy suggestions are loose fitting airy short sleeve tops and comfortable pants or capris. The Dambulla Cave Temple and Sigiriya are not to be missed so you’ll definitely want to cover your knees and shoulders to visit them. They are amazing!
A Few More Tips on Dressing for Sri Lanka
I visited in March and the weather was unforgiving. The heat was relentless and only my lightest clothing provided some relief. A hat is suggested to help shield your face from the sun especially when climbing up the steps of the Sigiriya temple.
A comfortable pair of no-slip shoes are also helpful. Normally, outdoor sandals aren’t my thing but my Birkenstocks didn’t feel secure enough to walk up the steps of the temples. Trainers may be a comfortable option but your feet may prefer to breathe in the scorching temperatures. Personally, I can’t wear trainers in the heat because my feet swell.
These are cute travel sandals recommended by one of TFG’s writers and there are also a few suggestions in the below Sri Lanka packing list.
Sri Lanka Packing List (10-13 clothing items)
- Two airy pants; highly recommend Athleta featherweight collection
- Five-seven tops in various sleeve lengths such as sleeveless, 3/4 sleeve, and short sleeve in cotton, rayon fabrics
- One midi-maxi skirt (for towns)
- One shorts (for beaches)
- One or two sundresses (beaches, dinners, towns)
- Two-three breathable shoes recommended: one flip-flops for beaches and one pair of comfortable sandals for walking around flights of steps in temples such as Teva Kayenta or Zirra (or trainers instead of outdoor sandals if you don’t mind the heat). Optional: espadrilles or sneakers
What are your tips on what to wear in Sri Lanka? Please comment below!
For more Asia packing tips, please read:
- 10 Step Packing Guide for Southeast Asia
- What to Wear in the Philippines: Island Hopping Adventure
- Packing List for Siem Reap: What to Wear in Angkor Wat
- India Packing List
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