What to Wear in Sri Lanka

Tourists at the Maha Oya river, in February

Tourists at the Maha Oya river, in February

Local tea pickers, in March

Local tea pickers, in March

On the beach, Colombo in May

On the beach, Colombo in May

Colombo streets, in December

Colombo streets, in December

Local fishermen near Colombo

Local fishermen near Colombo

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to help you pack with confidence and stay safe, secure and comfortable.

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General Style Tips

  • Pack light as it's very easy to get clothes laundered.
  • Surprisingly, considering the heat, jeans are very popular especially with younger people.
  • Our advice though would be to pack lightweight clothes in natural fabrics; cotton, linen and silk. Particularly if you are used to much cooler temperatures and have to acclimatise, these fabrics will be better in the heat - and have the added benefit of washing and drying quickly.
  • light wool is a good choice to wear against your skin as it naturally helps to regulate your body temperature. It keeps you warm in the cold, wicks away moisture when it's hot, and doesn't retain odours - even after prolonged wear.
  • Light colors work best reflecting the sun.
  • Absolutely don't forget your sunscreen (we love the Riemann P20 range for 10 hour protection), sunhat and sunglasses.
  • In Sri Lanka over 70% of the population is Buddhist, so if you are visiting any of the Buddhist temples ensure that your body - including your shoulders - is covered. If you are visiting Buddhist and Hindu shrines, then hats and footwear should also be removed.
  • Generally the more conservative your dress, the less unwanted attention you will attract.
  • Keep your swimwear just for the beach or pool and cover up with a sarong or kaftan when walking around. Public nudity - and that includes females being topless - is not only unacceptable, but illegal.
  • We recommend Thorlos hiking socks - they have options to keep your feet dry and comfortable when trekking in all climates.

What Shoes To Pack

  • Choose comfy shoes that slip off easily, as you will need to remove them at religious shrines. We love Hotter shoes, and they have a range of styles for any occasion.
  • Or why not try the Lindsay Phillips Switch Flops range - using interchangeable shoe and flip-flop bases with snap-on decorations, you can change your look from day to evening in an instant whilst still packing light.

Clothing Tips for Women

  • A skirt or loose-fitting pants are good in the heat and will protect you from the sun.
  • Some simple costume jewelry will dress up any outfit if you need it.
  • And a pashmina or sarong is very versatile - add a bit of 'glam' to an outfit, cover your shoulder for modesty, or cover up in the sun.
  • If you are here on business, then opt for a dress or skirt and blouse, as business suits are hardly ever worn.

Clothing Tips for Men

  • If you're looking for versatile and stylish beachwear, try the Madda Fella range of shirts, shorts, polos and swimwear.
  • In some temples men should be prepared to go topless.
  • If you are here on business, you will be expected to wear a tie.
  • For great versatile travel jackets with multiple pockets including RFID security options, we love the SCOTTeVEST range.

Pack for the Weather

  • Sri Lanka has a tropical climate. It's always hot, but hotter still in March and April.
  • October, November, December and January is the Monsoon season in the north, when a lightweight raincoat and travel umbrella will come in handy.
  • We love the Weather+ app - it gives an accurate 6 day forecast for day and night, which when you're planning from home is really helpful. You can keep all the places you've been to too - a nice way to remember your trip :) Download for iPad/iPhone or Android

Regions of Sri Lanka

  • If you have plans to visit the hill country, you may want to pack a warmer sweater or jacket as temperatures do drop on the higher ground.
  • In May, June, July, August and September expect rain in the southwest, but it's a good time to visit the north.

Other Things To Pack

  • A bag or soft-sided rucksack is a more practical option than hard cases when traveling around the country, and using packing cubes can help to keep your belongings tidy whilst compressing the volume too.
  • Combine your main bag with a fold away day sack or beach bag that will carry your daytime essentials.
  • Look after your mobile phone with a phone bunjee - it protects against loss, theft and damage. You might want to consider a solar powered charger too, as a back-up for your battery.
  • To use electrical gadgets you may need a travel adapter plug, and also a step down voltage converter if your devices are not designed for the local voltage (230V).
  • Avoid paying unexpected baggage fees - use an accurate luggage scale to ensure you keep within the weight allowance. Don't forget to leave room for souvenirs on the way home! Carved wooden elephants or batiks are popular buys.
  • Remember to change any currency back before you leave the country.

Last updated 16 December 2016.

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Pack Light

  • Less luggage to carry
  • Save time packing and unpacking
  • Save money on baggage fees

Pack Right

  • Respect local cultures
  • Feel comfortable and confident
  • Suitable outfits for all occasions

A Message From Helen



I want you to have an amazing vacation. That's why I started WhatToWearOnVacation.com,
to help you pack with confidence and stay safe, secure and comfortable.