The price of being a (digital) nomad in Sri Lanka

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

If the (digital) nomad life chose you, Sri Lanka is a destination you’ve been sleeping on. So let’s get down to nitty gritty of what it is really like to live here, and live here well.


These prices are updated as of 9th November 2021


Inspiration

The nomad lifestyle is about inspiration. It is about choosing to live large but also working hard. When choosing a destination, inspiration is key. Sri Lanka is a small island, which is also essentially a country. This means while being surrounded by stretches of beach from all sides, it also has the lushest flora, fauna and wildlife the region has to offer. Essentially with a half day drive, that costs you anywhere from USD 20 -40, you can in the middle of Nuwara Eliya, a quintessential slice of England, then on a bumpy wildlife safari in Yala, whilst being assured that a beach like Peanut Farm in Arugum Bay, is close if you feel like catching a wave. Sri Lanka, with its bustling nightlife and art scene in Colombo and its historical ruins in Anuradhpura, is essentially every holiday you can have, in one. Whether its wellness or adventure, a digital nomad in Sri Lanka will be spoilt for choice on how to spend a weekend.


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Connectivity

With Sri Lanka on the cusp of 5G revolution, you are bound to find a strong 4G signal in most parts of the island. Depending on where you choose to call home, your villa, guesthouse or dormitory will provide you limited Wi-Fi for free. But if your work entails more than just emails and the cloud, you can choose between purchasing data on your phone via a service provider like Dialog or Mobitel and using your device as a tether. Although this does tend to drain your phone battery, the apps that come with these unlimited data packages allow you to control the data and top up immediately.


The fiber optic routers in Sri Lanka also provide speeds of up to 7 - 8MBps on average, and purchasing one that is pretty compact, though wired is only around USD 20 with your monthly rental varying depending on usage. Overall, data usage for the average Work from Home Situation can be rounded up at USD 45 the most. Work with your service provider to tailor make a package that best suits you. By allowing them to know which apps and programs you use the most they will be able to recommend ‘unlimited’ data packages and data bundles that will ensure you don’t pay as you go, which is the more expensive alternative. For a more in-depth breakdown on the ISP's in Sri Lanka check out our blog on it here. (It's become Shehaan's past time to fight with the telco's on a weekly )


Additionally, most café’s around the island especially in tourist hot spots and cities in the Western Province, provide free Wi-Fi to their patrons. Colombo and its outskirts are also home to some great co-working spaces that will cost around USD 75 per month for a desk, with great connectivity, decent coffee and a view of the city.

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Meals and groceries

According to the Big Mac Index, Sri Lanka averages on the higher side at USD 3.50, while other affordable countries in the region like Malaysia, average a whole dollar less. Eating out, especially in Colombo and highly tourist dense areas is expensive, with a bistro type meal for one running up to USD 15. What is interesting to note is that the same USD 15 can easily buy you milk, eggs, bread and a decent cut of beef or chicken to last you a few days or even up to a week. Every town has a supermarket that has a variety of meat, vegetables and stock local brands that sell widely-used condiments.


Depending on the town you are in, the variety of vegetables, cheese and meat and access to international food brands may vary. The county’s economic hubs are also home to amazing fine dining eateries, bars and other local specialties. A night on the town, with a nice dinner, drinks at a fancy bar begins at USD 50 depending on your taste and who you’re with. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind the heat, local bazaars dish out spicy local/Asian fusion dishes like Kottu, fried rice and various flat bread and curry dishes for as little as USD 2.

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Accommodation

While renting a small apartment in the Western Province, that is furnished with a bed and sofa, basic kitchen appliances and AC could cost approximately USD 300 a month. If you wish to be closer to nature, and want to pursue surfing or other adventures, you can still pay the same price for an entire tropical villa just for yourself down south. If you prefer a more cultural experience, towns like Ella, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy allow more peace of mind, but have less access to facilities, repair services and any type of night life.


There is also a range of dorms and guesthouses that will allow you to stay for as low as USD 100 a month if sharing. The best way to make the right decision in this regard is to think about what you would like to be close to, the city or the beach. The great thing about Sri Lanka, is you can probably do both because of how easy it is to find safe, secure accommodation and how quick it is to travel between locations.

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Travelling

Depending on where you are going, the local taxi-hailing app will cost you approximately $19 cents per kilometer. If you are going longer distances for leisure, there are larger vehicles with drivers you can rent, both via an app or through a friendly recommendation. While hailing a tuk tuk yourself is not recommended if you don’t know how much the going rate is, apps like PickMe or Uber allow you to pre-book and even send packages and larger items like furniture via their platforms. These services don’t always reach smaller beach towns, but your guide or landlord will be able to introduce you to the local driver and its best to calculate how far you’re going ahead of time and negotiate a fee before confirming their services. Most drivers will be able to communicate with you in some form in this regard.

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Tourist Attractions

Depending on what you want to do, and your budget, Sri Lanka has an adventure for everyone. A surfing lesson with a local pro can cost up to USD 40 in places like Ahangama and Arugam Bay. Diving is also great in many parts of the Island like Galle and Kalpitiya, complete with both local and foreign instructors who are able to ensure you are PADI certified for around USD 300. The country boasts of multiple epicenters of culture and religious worship, most of which require a price of admission, which for foreigners can be as low as USD 10 -20.


Living in Sri Lanka is not only hassle -free, it’s enjoyable. With a large expat community and friendly locals, it’s easy to make it your temporary home. If you want a view of the beach as you reply an email, whilst feeling safe, connected and supported, an all- year summer destination awaits.



Check out our entire vlog on everything you need to know as a digital nomad before coming to Sri Lanka



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