Sri Lankan prices remain comparable to other places in South and Southeast Asia. How much you spend is entirely up to you. Generally speaking, Sri Lanka is a pretty affordable country to travel around in. Transportation and food are ridiculously cheap that oftentimes, a short tuk-tuk ride from the bus stop to your hotel would cost you more than the 4-hour bus you took to get to a place.
The main expense in Sri Lanka would be accommodations, although there are lots to choose from. A good budget for a day would be 4500-5500 LKR (25-30 USD). Taking a tour or renting a vehicle will obviously bump costs up considerably. Entrance fees for archeological sites and national parks can also strain tight budgets.
As a tourist, you’re likely to pay slightly over the odds for a range of things, from rickshaw rides to market groceries. It’s worth remembering, however, that many prices in Sri Lanka are inherently fluid – there’s often no such thing as a “correct price”, only a “best price”. Many hoteliers, for instance, chop and change their prices according to demand, while the price of anything from a tuk-tuk ride to an elephant carving may depend on anything from the time of day to the weather or the mood of the seller. Given this, it’s always worth bargaining.
Tipping is a way of life in Sri Lanka – visitors will generally be expected to offer some kind of remuneration for most services, even on top of agreed fees, and the whole business of what to give and to whom can be a bit of a minefield. Many hotels and restaurants add a ten percent service charge to the bill, although it’s worth bearing in mind that the staff who have served you won’t necessarily see any of this money themselves. If a service charge hasn’t been added, a tip won’t necessarily be expected, although it is of course always appreciated.
Food can be dirt cheap, but it also can be pricey depending on if you’re willing to delve into the local cuisine or stick to western choices. A Sri Lankan dinner of kottu costs around 165 - 200 LKR (1 USD), while a chicken curry in a beach town can cost you up to 900 LKR (5 USD). On average, expect to pay between 200 and 300 LKR (1-1.50 USD) for local food and 600 to 900 LKR (3 to 5 USD) for a dish in a tourist restaurant.
If you prefer to stick to western food, there are some western chains like Pizza Hut and KFC, and you can find sandwiches, burgers and pizza in the beach towns. Western meals are between 600 and 1000 LKR (3-5.50 USD).
Transportation in Sri Lanka is some of the cheapest you can find – a 7-hour train ride would cost you a mere 230 LKR (1.30 USD) in 2nd class!
Long distance buses are a bit more expensive but still cheap by western standards – expect to pay around 80 LKR (0.50 USD) for a 1-hour ride. Tuk-tuks range anywhere from 50 to 600 LKR (0.30 to 3 USD), always negotiate before you get in. As a rule of thumb: anything up to 3 kilometers shouldn’t be more than 100 LKR (0.50 USD), but the more touristy the area, the higher the prices the drivers charge.
Tourist attractions are the most expensive category in a Sri Lanka travel budget. Sri Lanka offers its heritage sites and national parks at a steep price, unproportionally higher than anything else that’s sold at deflated tourist pieces. Tourists don’t pay double or tenfold what locals pay, they pay around 40 times the local price. An example: Sri Lankans pay 50 LKR (0.30 USD) to enter Yala National Park, foreigners pay more than 2000 LKR (11 USD).
As you can see, Sri Lanka is very affordable – not as cheap as India, but you can get by on an average 5500 LKR (30 USD) a day, if you stay in budget accommodation and don’t take expensive tours every day.