a budget-friendly guide to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka: how to see Sri Lanka's "Little England" for cheap

Nestled away in the tea hills of central Sri Lanka is Nuwara Eliya, a small town best known for being a retreat for British colonialists to so all the most “British” things: play cricket, drink tea, hunt foxes and deer, and put on a polo match.

Despite its reputation for high-class visitors playing golf and staying in posh Tudor-esque hotels, Nuwara Eliya can still easily be done on a budget!


READ ON FOR MY BUDGET GUIDE TO NUWARA ELIYA


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HOW TO GET TO NUWARA ELIYA

COST: 225 RUPEES {for 2nd Class tickets}/ USD $1.29 

Budget traveler’s will delight in knowing the best way to get from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is on the same famous train that takes you from Kandy to Ella. Nuwara Eliya is ideally located 4 hours into the 7-hour scenic train ride, making it the perfect place for a night’s rest. Purchase your train tickets from the station in Kandy and get off at the Nanu-Oya stop.

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WHERE TO STAY

COST: you can find beds for $12 per night through AirBnB

All the Tudor-themed hotels and swanky British resorts will cost you a pretty penny. Instead, head a little out of town to some of the fantastic AirBnBs on offer! Almost all of the AirBnBs will have a stunning view of the tea fields. My travel companion and I stayed at The Hidden Gem in a double room with en suite bath {which would normally cost USD $21}.

PSST… Save yourself even more by using my code for USD $40 of travel credit

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TOUR THE DAMRO LABOOKELLIE TEA PLANTATION

COST: FREE tour + tea, tuk-tuk ride to damro will vary

The real reason I wanted to visit Nuwara Eliya {besides it breaking up the train journey from Kandy to Ella}, was to sip tea at one of the sprawling tea plantations that the little town is known for. Cheesy, I know. I wanted to see if the tea really is better in Sri Lanka’s highest “city”. I can now say for the record it so is. While I wasn’t blown away by Nuwara Eliya town, its surrounding tea terraces were absolutely stunning.

What once was known as Mackwoods Tea Plantation is now officially “Damro Labookellie Tea Centre”. The government leases the land to the highest bidder. At the end of Mackwoods’ lease, Damro won the bid and took over the area’s main tea plantation.

It’s free to take a guided tour of the multi-level tea factory with a wonderful English-speaking guide. Tipping at the end of your tour is encouraged, though the guides never ask. After your quick tour, where the guide will explain the entire process of tea production in Sri Lanka, you get a free pot of tea in a café area that overlooks the fields. The view is truly stunning, and who says no to free tea?! There are also an assortment of cakes to choose from for an additional 150 rupees {less than USD $1}.

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SEND A LETTER FROM THE NUWARA ELIYA POST OFFICE

COST: ~ USD $0.35

Not only is the Tudor-style red and white post office a funky visual, it’s also historic! The Nuwara Eliya Post Office is over 100 years old, making it one of the oldest in the whole country. The cost of sending a post card from here will vary depending on where you want it to go, but the postage starts at USD $0.35 so it could be a very cool {and very cheap} memento from your time in Sri Lanka.

ONE OF THE MANY FOUNTAINS IN VICTORIA PARK

ONE OF THE MANY FOUNTAINS IN VICTORIA PARK

STROLL THROUGH VICTORIA PARK

COST: 300 RUPEES/ USD $1.72

OPEN EVERY DAY {EXCEPT HOLIDAYS} FROM 7 AM - 7 PM

Usually, the idea of paying to wander through a public park turns me off. However, Victoria Park is a landmark of the tea town, and was the most British thing about Nuwara Eliya, which is often referred to as Sri Lanka’s “Little England”. The park was named after Queen Victoria in 1897 to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee. The park is filled with fountains and flowers just like the parks in merry old England. I was surprised by how big the park is. You could definitely spend a couple of hours here if you brought some snacks and a good book.

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GRAB A BITE WITH THE LOCALS AT HELA BOJUN HALA

COST: 20 RUPEES PER DISH/ USD $0.11

OPEN EVERY DAY {EXCEPT HOLIDAYS} FROM 7 AM - 7 PM

One of my favourite stops during my time in Nuwara Eliya was Hela Bojun Hala, a hawker-style food center with multiple stalls selling truly affordable Sri Lankan food. These open-air food centers are part of a program run by the Ministry of Agriculture to promote female entrepreneurship focused on food. As a bonus, most of the food is vegetarian! I had everything you see here for less than USD $1.

TIP: Bring lots of small bills with you! You pay for each dish at separate stalls operated by different women. Since meal items are only 20 rupees, big bills aren’t ideal. Cash is the only accepted form of payment.

Here’s a fantastic article about the Hela Bojun eateries popping up all over Sri Lanka.

CENTRAL MARKET IN NUWRA ELIYA

CENTRAL MARKET IN NUWRA ELIYA

CHECK OUT CENTRAL MARKET

COST: FREE

OPEN EVERY DAY {EXCEPT HOLIDAYS} FROM 7:30 AM - 7 PM

Central Market in Nuwara Eliya is small and quiet in comparison to other market places around Asia. Here, you’ll be able to buy local produce, candies, spices, and {of course} tea. The market won’t take you long to stroll through, but at the exit of the market sits Hela Bojun Hala. My suggestion would be to head that way towards dinner time and do it all in one go, so that you don’t go to that side of town just for the market.

TOTAL COST for 1 day + 1 night: usd $15.47

*Excluding the cost of your tuk-tuk ride from Nanu-Oya station to Nuwara Eliya town, which varies based on your negotiation skills.


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a budget-friendly guide to Nuwara Eliya
a budget-friendly guide to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka