What to Wear in Sri Lanka

what to wear to sri lanka

If you got to the point of wondering what to wear in Sri Lanka and what to pack for your trip, it means that you’ve already chosen Sri Lanka as your next destination, applied for your Sri Lankan visa, designed your itinerary, and booked your flights.

Congratulations are in order, because Sri Lanka will offer you the adventure of a lifetime: on the pearl of the Indian Ocean, you’ll find golden beaches, a multicultural and friendly society, and breath-taking temples. All spiced up by mouth-watering food.

This article will help you figure out what to pack in Sri Lanka — including a Sri Lanka travel essentials list and what to bring around with you as you visit — to feel comfortable throughout your holiday. You’ll find out what to wear according to the Sri Lankan weather as well as the dress code for sightseeing and visiting religious sites.

Sri Lanka Climate and Clothes

Sri Lanka is close to the equator and therefore, presents a hot and humid climate. Although some parts of the country can be cooler (especially the mountains and the tea-growing highlands), Sri Lanka is generally warm all year round, with the average temperature being between 25 and 30 degrees on coastal areas.

Sri Lanka is also hit by monsoons at specific times during the year. If you wish to learn in detail about what to expect weather-wise in Sri Lanka, you can read this article about the Sri Lankan climate.

Packing according to Sri Lankan weather means choosing light, loose-fitting summer clothing in materials such as cotton and linen. If you plan to head to the mountains, you will be most comfortable with a wool sweater at night, when the temperatures drop. A light cardigan should suffice during the day.

Must-have items in Sri Lanka include hats to shield your face from the sun and non-slipping shoes or sandals to climb up temple steps.

Clothing Law Sri Lanka — What to Wear while Sightseeing and on Religious Sites

The clothing law in Sri Lanka is mostly made of a set of specific yet unwritten etiquette rules. However, female tourists should be aware that it’s illegal to sunbathe topless on Sri Lankan beaches. Nudity in public spaces is considered an offense by the Sri Lanka’s local laws and it’s best to avoid trouble by wearing at least a complete bikini.

Beach attired, in general, is accepted near the beach. Hems above the knee and sundresses as well as tank tops can be worn on the most tourist streets but it’s advisable to cover up as you get away from the beach. Looking at the locals will give you a good feel of what’s the acceptable attire and you will feel comfortable at all times if you follow their lead.

Knee-length shorts in Sri Lanka are perfectly acceptable for both men and women if worn while sightseeing and walking around town (excluding religious sites). The same goes for sleeveless tops, t-shirts and knee-length skirts and dresses.

The dress code to visit sacred sites and shrines is more modest. Your body should show as little as possible and especially women will need to cover their legs and shoulders. Many tourists find it useful to wear long light trousers and bring a light scarf with them for such occasions.

Men in shorts and t-shirts may also be denied entry to sacred sites. You’ll probably be asked to remove your shoes before entering a religious site — sandals and flip-flops are the preferred footwear for most visitors as they’re quick and easy to take off.

Sri Lanka Packing List

Sri Lanka is a varied country rich in different landscapes and activities. Here’s a short list of travel essentials for Sri Lanka focused on clothing:

  • Light, airy trousers (2 pairs at least)
  • Knee-length shorts
  • Tops of various sleeve lengths: sleeveless, ¾ sleeve, and t-shirts, preferably cotton
  • Airy maxi skirts for women
  • A summer dress for women
  • A wool sweater (if you’re going to the mountains)
  • A cardigan for cool evenings and mornings
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats or caps
  • Sandals and flip-flops
  • Hiking boots or trainers and socks
  • Rain gear, especially if you’re planning to travel during the wet season
  • Sunscreen