Sri Lanka and India – Why you need to see both

A tiny island just off the Southwest tip of India, what could Sri Lanka promise that you haven’t already seen on the mainland? You’re in for a surprise.

We’ve curated a list of differences here, to highlight the absolutely, positively, all-important need for us all to visit Sri Lanka, someday.

why visit Sri Lanka Sri Lanka has a beautiful, mountainous landscape to discover (Photo Credit – Michael Kafta, Flickr)


At first glance, it seems like the hills are just another Kerala, the beaches another Goa, the temples another Tamil Nadu. Yet every leaf is a shade greener, the beaches whiter, the streets cleaner, the smiles wider. Sri Lanka’s deeply rooted sense of civic cleanliness and respect for public property is a stark opposite to India’s apathy.

While both have their fair share of scenic cities, Galle definitely takes the cake for cuteness. Even the tourism infrastructure is better – check-ins are faster, and national parks and coasts are better maintained. Roads are smoother and pot-hole free, and officials better at their jobs. Locals are equally as friendly, but less likely to stop you every few steps and ask for a photo. Perhaps most importantly, Sri Lanka is simply safer.

India and Sri Lanka tours Mirissa Beach (Photo Credit – Farhath Firows)


Sri Lanka’s food is definitely similar to South India’s, with a heavier prevalence of fish in the coastal country. With only a population of 20 million in contrast to India’s billions, it is a smaller country and has less cultural divergence. Needless to say that options are limited. And you will find that most dishes are a variant of the basic boiled-rice-and-curry, with delicious sambol on the side.

You’ll be able to find foreign influences scattered through the country with dishes like lamprais from the Dutch and kool from Jaffna. Sri Lanka misses out on the widespread Indian tradition of street food, which means you’ll be spending a bit more on food here.

Sri Lankan Food and Indian food Sri Lankan cuisine (Photo Credit – Aiko Konishi)

Things to see

Sri Lanka’s culture is ancient and very well preserved. Visit the ruins of their erstwhile capital and hike up into the fortresses. Explore the 1,300 kms coastline dotted with palm-fringed slices of paradise.

Further inland you have national parks and botanical gardens that are rich reserves of the country’s biodiversity. Add a cherry on top – Sigiriya. The preserved ruins of an ancient civilisation are hidden away inside a massive, imposing rock structure.

Best places to visit in Sri Lanka and India Preserved ruins of Sigiriya (Photo Credit – Claire Rowland)


Compared to India the costs do vary but spending is similar overall. In contrast, Sri Lanka is definitely more expensive for a backpacker as there are fewer hostels and cheap hotels. Homestays and budget hotels cost the same. But, if you’re hiring a car and driver it’s around 30% more expensive in Sri Lanka.

If you’re using the extensive, well-maintained and much less crowded public transport system, Sri Lanka definitely comes out ahead. Notable exceptions here are the incredibly high monument fees, all-around USD 10-30. While many are well worth the cost that goes into their upkeep, some aren’t.

Our overall verdict would be that even if you’ve been to South India, Sri Lanka will still blow you away with its unique identity. Small differences in sari draping and curry-seasoning are part of a bigger picture of historical influences, geographical differences and a gentler and more respectful ethos. Still not sure? Let us book you a trip and you can see for yourself!

Train in India, Trains in Sri Lanka

Feel free to get in touch with us to plan your trip to Sri Lanka!

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