GETTING DRINKS ISN’T CHEAP IN SRI LANKA. HERE’S HOW TO GET AROUND IT.

Most people who go to Sri Lanka for a holiday are looking forward to relaxing on a blue ocean with a cold beer (or cocktail) in hand. But one thing that isn’t clear until you get there is that drinks aren’t as cheap as you had hoped. The Sri Lankan government has very strict alcohol policies that create all sorts of niggles that might interrupt your cocktail dream. Here’s how to get around it.

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Enjoying a cold Lion beer at Sha Sha fish shack on Marakolliya Beach.

A Lion lager is a pretty decent beer served cold in large 625ml bottles. However, almost every hotel or bar will charge a minimum of R500-600 per bottle, the equivalent of £3. Although that won’t break the bank, it’s not cheap either, especially for locals, so it has the side effect of meaning the only other people you’ll be sharing a beer with are tourists.

If you’re just sick of having beers in colonial style establishments full of tourists, looks out for little beachside shacks (like the fantastic Sha Sha seafood shack) that are family-run, simple affairs. They’ll serve you a cold beer that you can enjoy in peace!

Alternatively, if you’re on a tight budget and have a fridge in your accommodation, you can go to the supermarkets or the smaller roadside kiosks to buy your own. The cost of a 625ml bottle of Lion, Lion Stout or Anchor beer at these places is around R250 per bottle. You will need to pay a nominal fee for the glass bottles, but if you’re really on a super tight budget, you can take the glass bottles back and get the glass deposit back!

If beer isn’t your thing but you’re looking for a beachside cocktail, do be a little bit wary. Because the prices are quite high for locals, there is a huge black market for alcohol. Often the cheap 2-4-1 cocktail deals (like those on over-hyped Hiriketiya Beach) generally us the kind of alcohol that is more on the ‘moonshine’ side of things. The Gin tastes exactly like the Vodka and exactly the Rum! If a moonshine headache doesn’t sound like your idea of fun and you’re looking for a really quality cocktail, you’ll have to go to a decent hotel.  Try something made with the local Arrack liquor made from coconut flowers. It’s generally the cheapest cocktail on any list and good bars use high-quality Arrack. It’ll set you back R600 – 700, so just have to pay the money, try to ignore the tourists and enjoy the moment.

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Enjoying an excellent Arrack Sour with a view, at the Sigiriya Hotel.

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