Pristine beaches, palms, ocean, surfing, nature, scooter trips, sounds like the ultimate tropical paradise. Oh wait, and now you feel confused, seems like you would like to go to Bali. Or Sri Lanka? If you cannot make your mind, this article with the comparison of two islands is what you have been searching for. The comparison is based on several criteria that, according to my personal experience traveling to both islands, represent the similarities and differences in the best way.
Season in Sri Lanka and Bali
Dry season in Bali starts in March-April. However, it is warm all the year round, so if you are not afraid of short rain showers during the day, Bali is a great choice. I left Bali at the end of July, right before the high season started, and I would definitely not recommend going there in July and August – the number of tourists merely goes off the scale.
The weather in Sri Lanka is dictated by two monsoon seasons. The dry season in the south-western part runs from December to March and, once it starts raining more frequently in the South, you can simply move to the east, where the monsoon brings the dry season between May and September.
Cost of living
Both islands are relatively cheap. The average price for one spacious room in a nice villa (and probably with breakfast included) would vary between $300 and $400, depending on your demands it is possible to find cheaper or more expensive options. If you are planning to stay for a longer period, you can always negotiate the price.
Renting a scooter in both places would cost around 50-60$ per month, which is also fairly cheap.
Both Bali and Sri Lanka have very diverse and cheap local cuisine. Besides, the choice of tropical fruits is awesome! Buying a coconut for 20 cents and pineapple for 50 has been a part of my daily routine. Sri Lanka doesn’t have a dragon fruit though, but I guess I can live with that.
Beaches, Palms, waterfalls – nature is extremely beautiful in both islands. In my opinion, surfing for beginners would be slightly better in Sri Lanka, as you can expect long sandy beaches with long soft waves almost throughout the whole southern coast.
Unfortunately, in the past years, especially in the rainy season, Bali has faced a huge problem – trash. Waves wash ashore plastic bottles and other results of human (tourists’) activity. Sadly, tourists brought not only money but also plastic to Bali, and locals, who always had only organic trash, started burning plastic along with organics, as they are uneducated about the causes of burning plastic trash. In Sri Lanka I haven’t noticed any trash issues, it probably has to do with the fact that Sri Lanka is less discovered/promoted tourist-wise than Bali, hopefully, with the increase of tourists in the next years the situation will not change to the worst.
As I mentioned before, Sri Lanka is less touristy than Bali, which is both a huge advantage and disadvantage. The biggest problem I faced in Sri Lanka so far is the Internet: you can easily buy a sim card, which will provide you with great mobile internet, however, when it comes to Wi-Fi, honestly, the internet sucks. The Wi-Fi is there, but it rarely works properly. Whereas in Bali there are many coworking spaces with wonderful and established communities and digital nomad cultures, Sri Lanka is simply far behind that. I guess in 5 years the digital nomad community alongside coworking spaces will be established, at least it has great potential for that, but for now, the only chance left is to go to one cafe or another in search for good Internet.
Cafes & Music
Following the recent healthy food trends, there are so many raw-vegan-organic cafes with avocado tosts and smoothie bowls in Bali. It is not easy to find similar cafes in Sri Lanka though, which I believe will change in the next couple of years though.
As a music lover, I was really surprised that locals from Sri Lanka mostly listen to house and techno music, whereas locals in Bali seem to try to catch up with popular pop charts in Europe. I guess the supply is where the demand is.
Weekend trips to nearby destinations
You are going to Sri Lanka or Bali to absorb the local culture and dive into the local experience. But let’s be honest, short weekend trips to other islands would be such a gem. If you are in Bali, you can easily take a boat to other incredibly beautiful and more deserted islands like Nusa Penida (40 min), Lombok, Gili’s. When in Sri Lanka, you don’t have such a great choice, you can take a 1-hour plane to Maldives or 3-h plane to the southern part of India. In my personal biased opinion, Gili islands are nature-wise very similar to the Maldives but are several times cheaper.
You can check out my review on the Maldives here: https://markovavera.com/blog/the-maldives-on-a-budget-survival-guide/
I fell in love with both islands, and it would be really hard to make a choice between Bali or Sri Lanka. I hope though that based on the criteria listed above it will be slightly easier for you to decide on your next travel destination. Remember, your choice will be right in any way!
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