Retire Early in Kandy Sri Lanka

In this report, I will share the cost to Retire Early in Kandy Sri Lanka Highlands including rents, utilities, groceries, restaurants, transportation, and other expenses for low to middle-range living costs.

After completing our retirement research in Galle Sri Lanka we headed north for the hills. We wanted to tour the highlands where it is cooler and hit some famous tourist spots while we looked for a cool highlands community for retirement.

So we traveled through Udawalawa, Ella, Kandy, Dambulla, and finally back to the Colombo Airport for our departure to Turkey. Some by bus, some by taxi, and some by train as we shall now explain. Then I will explain which place we would retire in the high country.

Google Map


The Galle Main Bus Station was just two blocks from where we stayed, so we rolled our luggage down to the bus station and jumped on a bus north to see wild elephants in the Udawalawa National Park.

The bus to Udawalawa was leaving Galle twice a day when we were there, at 6:30 AM and 1:30 PM. Just ask the guy in the white information booth where to stand to catch the bus to Udawalawa.

He walked us over to the spot to wait for the bus. As each bus passed, we asked “Udawalawa” and we jumped on when they said yes. They even had a place to store our luggage.

When we were near Udawalawa, we called our accommodation’s host and handed our phone to the bus attendant so our accommodation’s host could tell the bus attendant where to drop us in Udawalawa. Our host was waiting at that spot when the bus dropped us there.

We had booked a few nights at our accommodations, the Dew Safari Cottage, for $14 USD per night. The place was amazing and included breakfast. They even booked our Elephant Guide and Jeep Tour of the National Park.

Wild Elephants Safari

Our guide was amazing and even saved our lives by hitting the gas pedal hard when a bull elephant charged from the side with little warning. It had been 15 years since I had seen wild elephants.

They were just as beautiful and graceful as I saw in Africa in 2010. We even got to watch a mother elephant bathing her young elephant. We also saw beautiful birds, alligators, monkeys among other things.

We ate at two great restaurants while in Udawalawa (links below), but our favorite meal was a lunch prepared for us at our accommodations, so make sure to try their food.

As always, links to all of the resources we collected for you are at the first link in the notes below this video at our webpage.

Next, we headed further up into the mountains to a gorgeous mountain town called Ella. Ella is famous for its beautiful steep mountain terrain and for the 9 Arches Train Bridge.

We hired a taxi to drive us to Ella for 130k SLR ($43 USD) which took about 2.5 hours. The taxi was suggested to us by our host in Udawalawa and he was a great driver which we list below.

Cool Mountain Weather and Waterfalls

Ella was the highest elevation we encountered in Sri Lanka and had the most beautiful landscape, but it was a bit too touristy for our taste and the restaurants and accommodations reflected that with high prices.

But we enjoyed some great overpriced food, and we took a tour of the tea plantation, the 9 Arches bridge, Ravana Falls, Ravana Pool Club, and the Cave Temple. The Tuk-Tuk cost 12k SLR ($40 USD) for about half a day to this tour.

Google Map


Our accommodations in Ella were $16 USD per night in Ella but we were not happy with them so we will not recommend staying there. We include all of the restaurants and other resources we used while in Ella in the report below. Next, we headed to Kandy.

Most Beautiful Train Ride in the World

Many tourists who come to Sri Lanka’s highlands say that the train from Ella to Candy is the most beautiful train ride in the world. I haven’t been on all the trains so I can’t confirm that, but I can tell you this train ride is amazing.

You catch the train here in Ella and it drops you here in Kandy. We bought our train tickets at Ella station. The first class train is 2500 SLR ($8.33USD) per person. The taxi from the train station to our accommodations was 500 SLR ($1.67 USD).

Kandy is where we would stay long-term if we decided to retire Sri Lanka. So I will save details and video about Kandy for last. So now I will talk about our last stop on the tour of Sri Lanka before returning to the airport to depart.

Must See in Dambulla

So, we took a taxi from Kandy to Dambulla for 12k SLR ($40 USD). This guy was a crazy dangerous driver, so we won’t share his contact information with you. But I will share a contact number below for ordering taxis all over Sri Lanka.

We went to Dambulla to see two very important historical places for Sri Lanka. After I discuss Bambulla, I will tell you about our favorite place, Kandy, along with an estimated cost of living there and my retirement desirability factors and score.

In Bambulla, you must go see Sigiriya which is also known as Lion Rock. It was selected by King Kashyapa in 477 AD to build his palace where he could safely keep his wives, mistresses, and servants.

While there, make sure to see the topless frescos or paintings of a dozen or so of the King’s most beautiful mistresses. That can’t be shown here because someone might perceive it as pornography instead of a significant work of art. But you can Google “Sigiriya Wikipedia” to see these exquisite ancient cave paintings.

The other thing you must see in Dambulla is the Dambulla Cave Temple. The Dambulla Cave Temple is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings.

We spend a few days in Dambulla before heading back to the Colombo International Airport to catch our flight to Istanbul. More on Istanbul in future reports.

Now I will show you video of Kandy Sri Lanka while I share our estimated cost of living there and our desirability factors. But you should know that our estimated living costs for Sri Lanka are more than double what this Australian shared with us in this interview. I will include a link to that interview.

Estimated Cost Retire in Kandy Sri Lanka

Here are my estimated costs of living converted into US dollars if the two of us moved to Kandy, Sri Lanka year-round on a tight budget. We will also include more typical expenses we have heard from other expats to give you another data point.

Rents: I found this furnished 1-bedroom 1-bath house for rent for 75k SLR ($250 USD) per month on a 12-month rental rate in the city of Kandy. If you rent for a shorter period of time on Airbnb it would be much more expensive.

If you rented a larger home or townhouse the rent would be higher, about $4500 USD per month.

Here is the process we use to find great apartments. So, we will show you a table of all expenses in a moment. We will use $250 per month for our lower rent estimate and $450 per month for the middle cost of living estimate for expats who want more space.

Utilities: We estimate that the year-round average for our utilities would be about $50 USD per month. The utilities would be more for expats that rent the larger space, about $70 USD per month.

Groceries: We normally shop for fresh fruits and vegetables in wet markets to save money rather than the more expensive grocery stores, but also shop in grocery stores for things like shampoo and detergents. We estimate about $250 per month for groceries. Other expats are likely to shop more often in expensive grocery stores often spending more than $400 per month on groceries.

Restaurants: We would go out to eat two or three times per week mostly in more local-style restaurants averaging about $3 to $5 USD per meal but also in tourist or expat-style restaurants for about $8 USD per meal per person. If you add that up, we would spend around $45 per week or $180 per month in restaurants for the two of us.

Other expats are likely to eat more Western-style foods in expensive expat-style restaurants and less in local-style restaurants, so they would likely spend around $280 per month for 2 people in restaurants.

Cell Phone Data: The cost to recharge our Mobitel prepaid smartphone service was about $4 USD per month. My Android phone will act as a hotspot so we can both be on the internet at the same time when we are out of the house together.

Other expat couples are likely to buy two prepaid SIM cards so they would send $8 per month.

Laundry: We would spend about $38 USD per month sending out our laundry.

Drinking Water: We would spend about $12 USD per month for R/O drinking water.

Internet: 80 MBPS up and down is $10 USD for in-home wifi.

Transportation: We would take local buses or trains for a change of pace. The buses usually cost around 70 SLR ($0.23 USD) per person each way. We estimate about $16 USD per month for the two of us for transportation. Other ex-pats might walk less and spend more on transportation, so $60 per month.

Alcohol (Optional): Large local beer (Lion 500 ml) are about $2.33 in stores and about $3.40 USD in restaurants. So, we would spend about $120 per month on alcohol for the two of us.

Many other expats would spend a higher amount for imported foreign or craft beers in expat bars, so about $220 USD per month for 2 people assuming they are not into imported whiskey or wine.

Entertainment (Optional): We would budget about $200 per month for entertainment for the two of us. We generally enjoy doing more do-it-yourself kinds of entertainment so expats would spend a little more, maybe $300 per month, for 2 of them?

Estimated Cost to Retire Early in Sri Lanka Highlands


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The above lower estimated cost of living would be if the two of us lived in Kandy Sri Lanka on a tight budget. The middle estimate is just an example of what other expats might spend if they moved here.

To understand what it would cost you to live here, you must put your feet on the ground, see how you would choose to live, eat, and entertain yourself, and add it all up. It doesn’t matter what anyone else spends because we are all different.

Why We Would Live in Kandy Instead of Ella

First, Udawalawa and Dambulla are much too small for me to consider for the long term. I would go bored out of my mind in a matter of a few weeks. For me, that leaves only Ella and Kandy to consider for long-term living.

We really enjoyed spending time in Ella. Ella is at 1140 meters (3400 feet) above sea level so it is much cooler than Kandy. But is so highly concentrated with tourists that everything there is too expensive and not Sri Lankan enough for my taste.

But Kandy, although a significant tourism hub because of its amazing history, temples, and culture, it also has a very distinct separate, and significant Sri Lankan culture. So it would allow me to learn more about myself and Sri Lanka if I lived here.

Now, this video has gone on a bit longer than expected. So I will cover the Kandy livability factors in writing at the first link in the notes below this video. I will include walkability, internet, food, weather, things to do, social considerations, expat communities, medical. visas, hospitals, real estate, and our Kandy Overall Retirement Desirability Score.

I will also include links to all the resources we learned about on our tour of the Sri Lanka Highlands such as our favorite restaurants, where we stayed, how we got to each location, and things we did also.

Thanks for watching our video Retire Early in Sri Lanka Highlands. Click the video in the upper right-hand corner of the screen now if you would like to learn how this Australian lives on USD 400 per month in Sri Lanka.

Plus, grab a free copy of my eBook if you would like to know how I was able to retire early and start traveling the world more than 17 years ago.

Kandy Sri Lanka Livability Factors

Before you move anywhere outside your home country, make sure to create a list of things that you must have for your happy retirement. Here are my livability factors and I will rank each as high, medium, or low before assigning an overall retirement desirability score to Kandy.

Walkability: High. We would walk everywhere in Kandy. When we wanted to go to another town in Sri Lanks we would just ride the local buses and trains. The prices are reasonable and you don’t have to worry about where to park when you arrive.

Internet: Medium. In-home wifi alone is not as reliable in Sri Lanka as it is in Malaysia or Thailand. So I would suggest also having a smartphone that acts as a hot spot as a backup when your in-home wifi fails. We were able to use our cell phones as hot spots all over Sri Lanka without paying anything extra.

Food: Medium. You will find local places off the beaten tourist path that have veggie curries for as little $3-4 USD per meal. But you should be prepared to buy ingredients at the wet markets and grocery stores and to make dishes at home or you will eventually get bored of eating the same dishes. The are also foreign foods in Kandy available for about $6 to $10 per entre.

Weather: Medium. Daily highs average from 82 F (28 C) in July to 90 F (32 C) in March. Nightly lows average from 64 F (19 C) in January to 72 F (22 C) in August. So it cools down more at night here than the beaches. The rainy seasons are April, October, and November when it rains 180 mm (7 inches), 270 mm (11 inches), and 275 mm (11.8 inches), respectively.

Things to Do: High. Kandy is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. Whenever Europeans attacked over the centuries, Kandy was able to repel them more easily because they were protected by the terrain and the distance from the beach. Over the centuries, this has meant that the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka has been better maintained here. So the original foods, temples, traditions, and cultural pride of Sri Lanka seem stronger here to me. You also have beautiful lakes, gardens, markets, and historical treasures here. You also have everything you would expect in a slightly cooler mountain town at about 500 meters above sea level. So it is just a more interesting place to explore than many other parts of Sri Lanka.

Social Considerations: Sri Lanka was a former English colony and no matter where you go people seem to be able to communicate with you in English. The people are very friendly and nice. I don’t believe you will face any additional challenges because you are a foreigner.

Expat Community: You will see ex-pats from all over the world here. However, it is still relatively undiscovered by Westerners as compared to other parts of Asia. Here are a few Facebook pages that cater explicitly to expats from overseas living in Sri Lanka: 1, 2, 3. These online expat communities are great for learning all about things that expats want to learn when they first move overseas. But do check each before asking any specific questions. You will often find that someone has answered your questions recently so don’t waste their time by asking it again before checking. That way they will be willing to answer any new questions you have that have not yet been answered.

Medical: The quality of health care services in Sri Lanka in both the private and public sectors, while better than in most developing countries, still lags behind those offered in more advanced countries. The National Hospital (Teaching Hospital) Kandy is the second largest hospital in Sri Lanka. A large number of private hospitals have appeared in Sri Lanka, due to the rising income of people and demand for private healthcare services. They provide much more luxurious services than government hospitals, but they are mostly limited to Colombo and its suburbs. I have read that public healthcare is free to expats, but medicines are not. Expats may be asked to donate to medical facilities.

Tourist Visa: Tourists wishing to stay more than 30 days in Sri Lanka, may apply for an extension for a maximum of 270 days from the date of arrival. The extensions may be awarded in 30, 60, and 90 days at a time. Then the tourist must do a visa run to another country and come back to start the process over again.

Retirement Visa: Any foreign national over 55 years of age can apply for a long-stay visa renewable in 2-year blocks. It requires $15000 USD or the equivalent in a fixed deposit account in any approved Sri Lanka bank. And mist show a monthly remittance of US$ 1500 or the equivalent in an approved foreign currency for the principal applicant and US$ 750 or the equivalent in an approved foreign currency for each spouse and dependent child. The Application must include a Bank Statement, Police clearance from the country of domicile, and a Marriage certificate if a Visa is required for your spouse.

Real Estate: Foreigners can own real estate via a corporation with a trustee owning 51%. However, I do not recommend buying real estate in a foreign country until you have lived there for at least 2 years. You should also get your own lawyer that has no conflict of interest with you. For example, do not use a lawyer recommended by your real estate broker or local lover.

Kandy Sri Lanka Overall Desirability Score: Medium. Although Sri Lanka is a lovely place to visit, if I were going to settle down today for more than a year or two, I would more likely pick any of my top places in the world to retire as I shared in this video. But we are all different so I bet many of you would be very happy living in Kandy permanently.

What would it cost you to live in Kandy Sri Lanka?

To get a better understanding of things you should add to our estimated cost of living watch this video: 9 Reasons You Can’t Retire on $1000 Month Overseas.

Most people will likely be unable to retire the lower range estimate above. I give example reasons why in this report. Plus, this other report explains how to avoid coming home early with your tail between your legs.

Also, if you are going to try to retire cheap offshore, make sure to read my report, the Two Biggest Risks of Retiring Early for Cheap Offshore, which explains why you should have emergency funds available for unexpectedly large expenses.

You should also add anything to the above table that you spend money on in your home country that is not listed in the above table. Presumably, you find those things necessary in life. To do that, visit the Numbeo Kandy and add anything not mentioned in the above table.

Never move anywhere until you have visited first personally to verify the living costs for your lifestyle and needs. I am not guaranteeing these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different depending on your lifestyle and the time since this post.

Many of the expats we meet living overseas are self-insured for medical care. That means that not everyone buys health insurance when they move overseas. That probably sounds crazy to many of you.

I didn’t carry medical insurance for most of my first 17 years living overseas. But last year I bought medical insurance. If you are wondering what it costs and what it covers, watch my medical insurance video at this link. This is not an affiliate link.

More typical expat living costs in Sri Lanka range from about $1500 to $3000 per month. But people spending that much often have higher savings, incomes, or pensions. They often report spending more on accommodations, entertainment, eating out more, traveling, and alcohol. Many also have more expensive cars, houses, or apartments.

Where we stayed in Kandy Sri Lanka

We stayed at this homestay just 1 block from Kandy Lake and 4 blocks from Central Kandy, so we were able to walk every. They are a high-quality educated family and they are very helpful, polite, and knowledgeable. When we stayed here it was $17.00 USD per night.

Bars, Restaurants, Services


No 26D, Homestay: $17 USD per night

Mandiya Restaurant: 550 SLR per person lunch, yellow rice curry 600

Vito Wood Fired Pizza: Nice View

Balaji Dosai: Best place for dosas

Sri Krishna Dosai: Pure vegan

The Last Drop Happy Hour: Happy hour 3-7 pm, beer 700 SLR


Dew Safari Cottage: $14 per night including breakfast. They also talked to the bus attendant about where to drop us, set up an elephant guide for us, and set up a taxi to Ella when we transferred to Ella. They also served us two of our best meals there.

Udawalawe National Park: Foreigner price 11500 SLR ($40 USD) per person, elephant guide includes jeep 9500 LKR ($32 USD for 3 hours) (private tour), tour set by accommodations.

Rasika Raja: Taxi for Udawalawa to Ella, private good car, 2.5 hours, 13000 SLR ($43 USD). Whatsapp: +98765589374, Set up Dew Safari above.

Sun Rich Restaurant: Buffet 650 SLR ($217 USD) per person.

Hungry Monkey: Vegetarian rice + curry 1700, lion large bottle 1000, juice 1250


Cafe mango banana: Best cheap vegetarian curry 600, fish curry 1000, best food in town is also the cheapest! You have to know where to go.

Barista Cafe: Americano 16oz 950

Cafe Chill: Vegan string hopper 900 / Vegan Lumpire 1575

Café UFO: Big Breakfast 1790, Masala tea 650, Omettle 1590

Saranke Best Sri Lankan Food: Vegetarian Curry dishes 950 SLR, fruit juice 600, mango lassi 850

Bread Time Cafe (by Superrelax): Banana cake 300

Ella Super: Mini market

Cocinita bar: Coconut 250, at 9-Arch bridge

Hiking Bar & Restaurant: Lion larger can 1000, chicken Biriyani 1700, Tomato soup 920

Sampath Laundry service: 700 per kg – wash, dry, fold


Restwell Homestay: $23 per night (They booked our tour of the Cave Temple and Lion Rock).

Sambole Restaurant: Veggie Buffet 1200

Taxis In Sri Lanka:   Our taxi back to Colombo Airport: Our accommodations host back in Mirissa said that we could call him whenever we needed a taxi around Sri Lanka. So we contacted him to arrange our taxi from Dambulla back to Colombo International Airport. WhatsApp Number: +94 75 882 9299 (Ushari)

Thanks for reading our report, Retire Early in Kandy Sri Lanka.