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Jan 12 2016

13 Essential Items for Travelling Around Sri Lanka

13 Essential items for travelling around Sri Lanka pin

I have created this list because, on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, I used the majority of these items on a daily basis.  It is a list of useful travel items that you can take with you wherever you go, as I do, although some are specific to Sri Lanka.   I am fully aware that this list is subjective.   There may be some items you agree with but not all.  That’s fine.  Pick and choose, as you wish.  The main aim of this post is to get you thinking more broadly about what you might need for your trip to Sri Lanka, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.

1.  Sleeping Bag Liner

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I have mentioned the usefulness of sleeping bag liners before.  In all the places I stayed at in Sri Lanka, a couple of them either didn’t have a sheet to put over me, or it was a blanket which probably isn’t washed after every guest.  In those instances, I was glad to have my trusty sleeping bag liner.

2.  Travel Towel

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I have probably mentioned travel towels before.  The one above isn’t the same as mine.  Mine is so old, I don’t think they produce it anymore, which is a shame.  I’ve had mine for years, and I take it everywhere, and I mean everywhere, with me.  It was useful on this trip because a couple of places I went to didn’t provide towels.  Whichever travel towel you decide to buy, it will dry quickly, and be small and light to carry.

3.  Head Torch

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Someone who had been to Sri Lanka told me to bring a head torch because he said it was very dark at night. How right he was!  I normally take a head torch with me, but mine was broken.  After what he said, I made a point of buying a new one.  I’m glad I did.  Apart from at night, I found it useful for a squat toilet I used in the day.  I couldn’t see a thing with the door closed, and it’s one of those places where you want to see where you’re stepping.  It’s also useful wherever you stay.  None of the places I stayed at had a bedside table, which meant turning off the light with the switch by the door and finding my way to the bed.  Once the light was off, the head torch was useful if I needed to get up in the night as well as for reading and writing in bed.  The head torch was also useful for taking photos at night. The one above isn’t the exact make I bought.  You can look through the list of head torches and choose one that you will be happy with.  The main thing is, you have one to hand.

4.  Small Daypack

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I had my main backpack, but I took an additional small, foldable one with me.  I’ve used it every day to carry my valuable items.  When you take a local bus, you have to part with your main backpack because there isn’t any room on the bus.  They pack people in tightly.  So, it either goes in the boot or up front with the driver.  Having seen how they handle the luggage, you really wouldn’t want your laptop or camera in it.  Keep them with you in a small daypack.  I don’t have this one, but i might upgrade because it has a chest strap.

5.  Two Bank Cards

Bank cards

This is really useful if one of your cards doesn’t work or stops working while you are abroad.  I forgot to tell my bank that I was going to Sri Lanka.  I’d used my debit card a few times, but, one day, it stopped working.  I couldn’t get any money out at all.  If there is any unusual activity on my account, as a precaution, my debit card is temporarily disabled until I can confirm it is me using it.  That’s a great way to protect me from fraud, but it doesn’t help when I am left stranded abroad, on my own, with no money.  I was glad to have my credit card with me for back up.  I knew it would cost me more to get money from an ATM, but I didn’t have any choice.  To be honest, I felt relieved that I had another option.  So, there are two things: inform the bank of your travel plans and take two cards that can be used in an ATM and for payment with you.

6.  An Umbrella

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When I was packing for this trip, I looked at my umbrella and put it down, thinking it would be unlikely to rain.  The thing is, I had forgotten about the dual purpose of umbrellas in Asia.  They use umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun as well as to shelter from the rain.  I have a small, light umbrella which would have been perfect.  I must remember to take it next time for its dual purpose.

7.  Two-socket Extension Lead

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If, like me, you have a few electrical and electronic items that need charging, this is handy.  It’s a tip I got a long-term traveller I met in Albania.  Often you will have only one plug, so this makes it easy to charge a couple of things at once.

8.  USB Charging Station

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Sticking with the same theme, if you have a few devices that are charged using USB cables, this is worth considering.  I use it every day to charge two or three devices at once.  It has the capacity to charge up to five, although I rarely use all the slots.  This is a new model with an extra slot, should you need it

8.  Local SIM with Data

SIM card

As you go through immigration, you will be given a free SIM card. It’s a great idea because there isn’t as much WiFi as I thought there would be.  This means you can keep in touch and search for accommodation etc. as you travel around.  You can recharge it by buying cards at local shops or phone to top up.  I got one top up card for 99 rupees which had 600 mb of data.  It was the data I was most interested in.  I couldn’t get mine working for a while, and I couldn’t understand why.  I had to phone the customer service number to get it sorted out.  They sent me a text message with instructions on how to configure my phone.  Once I had done that, it started working, although I had on-going problems with the SIM.  It never worked properly.

9.  Duct Tape

Duct tape

There are lots of uses for duct tape, which I have written about before.  Particularly important in Sri Lanka is using it to tape up holes in mosquito nets.  Some places don’t change or repair the nets when they have holes in them, which defeats the purpose of having them.  You need to be proactive and seal those holes.  The alternative option is to bring your own mosquito net.  I have never done that, but it’s an option.

10.  Hand Gel

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I don’t normally carry hand gel with me, but I think I might from now on.  Often there isn’t any soap, and when you are handling money, shaking hands, and all the things you touch in a day, it’s good to disinfect your hands to keep the germs at bay.  I used it more than I thought I would.

11.  Mosquito Repellant

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Once I got the beach areas, I started getting bitten a lot.  I know I am an easy target for mosquitoes, a bit of mosquito magnet, but I got more bites in 2-3 days than I had ever had.  I had 21 bites on one knee alone!  Apart from being incredibly itchy, there is a risk of contracting dengue fever.  You really need to have an effective mosquito repellant to hand.  This is the one I’m going to be taking with me on my next trip because it is DEET-free.  It’ll be interesting to see if it works.

12.  A Sri Lankan Adaptor

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I have a travel adaptor that has worked in every country I have been to.  It has been fantastic.  However, after all these years and all the countries I have travelled to, I finally found a country where it doesn’t work – Sri Lanka.  They use a 3-pin plug, but it is different to the UK because the pins are curved.  A Czech couple I met said that if I put a pen in the top hole, a European plug in the other two pins would work.  I didn’t fancy trying it in case I got an electric shock.  I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to try it, either.  I was fortunate that the guesthouse owners had an adaptor I could use in all bar one place.  If you are going to Sri Lanka, check you have a travel adaptor that will work.

13. Ear Plugs

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I always carry ear plugs with me when I travel.  They don’t block out the noise completely, but they do help a bit, especially when staying in places that are noisier than you are used to.  I found Sri Lanka to be a noisy country.  If it wasn’t listening to drivers constantly sounding their horns, it was stray dogs fighting, an all-night remembrance service that was broadcast to the whole town via loud speaker, or people starting their day in the wee hours and not doing so quietly.  Just when I thought I had found a quiet place, away from the traffic, something else was around to keep me from sleeping soundly.  I haven’t tried these particular ear plugs, but I like what I have read, so I might just upgrade and buy myself a pair.

Have your say

If you have been to Sri Lanka, would you add or remove anything from this list?  If so, what?


If you click on the images that take you to Amazon, I will receive a teeny, tiny commission if you buy it.  If you do, thank you!  If you don’t, that’s fine.  Some of the items aren’t the exact models I have, because mine are so old, whereas others, like the earplugs, mosquito repellent, and foldable backpack are the ones I’m thinking of getting for my forthcoming trip to Costa Rica.

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.


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  1. Jane Savage

    Hi Teresa, thanks for the article, some useful tips. Interested to hear if the Mosquito repellant worked and I have just brought some too!

  2. Teresa Keane

    Hi Jane,

    You’re welcome! When are you going to Sri Lanka? It seems to work as well as any mosquito repellant I have had. I still got bitten when I was in Sardinia. None work perfectly for me because I’m not particularly good at reapplying it often enough. I need to work on that. Have you used it yet? I’d be interested to know what you think of it.

    All the best,

  3. Sue Roberts

    I was in Sri Lanka in 2015. My advice is to buy a SIM with data at one of the kiosks in the arrivals area. They will configure your phone there and make sure it is working. I was travelling alone on public transport and it was great to have internet connection wherever i was. The other comment is that the pen trick really does work and doesn’t electrocuted you. I was shown it by a homestay owner

  4. Teresa Keane

    That’s useful to know, thank you! So, the best place to buy a SIM is on arrival. I was also travelling alone on public transport and hadn’t booked any accommodation in advance, so a working SIM would have been great.

    Best wishes,

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