How To Dress Like A Local In Sri Lanka


The most stunning aspect of life in Sri Lanka is perhaps its colourfulness, something that is well and truly reflected in the way locals dress up. One glance outside from your family’s rooms in Wellawatte or a hotel window in Kandy, and you will realise this notion in an instant: the local attire is seldom dull or subtly hued. From sarees to sarongs, the country has its fair share of traditional clothes that are an integral element of its culture.

They say the best way to experience a place is to do as the locals do, and the same goes for Sri Lanka. If you are planning to visit the splendid island nation anytime soon, then here is a little guide to dressing up like a local:

For men

As it is common in many south Asian countries, the sarong is the traditional garment of choice for men in Sri Lanka. For the uninitiated, a sarong is a long piece of cloth that is knotted and folded at the waist, and is done so for different lengths. Worn by men from almost every culture, place or occupation in the country, the sarong is usually paired with a shirt, a basic T-shirt or nothing at all!

With the rapid westernisation of many parts of the country, it is not uncommon to spot men in trousers, casual jeans, capris, shorts, and tees. Also, the tropical climate makes it essential to wear loose, airy and breathable fabrics. In this regard, linen and cotton clothes are preferred. Batik men shirts, made using wax and colour dyes, are also popular in Sri Lanka.

For women

Sarees are synonymous with women’s clothing in Sri Lanka, and come in a variety of designs and styles, thanks to the country’s booming textile industry and handmade woven looms.  From silk and batik to linen and cotton, sarees of all make and kind form the main part of their wardrobe. For girls, half sarees are popular, which are basically skirts styled as sarees with a scarf or a cloth top which is tucked inside the skirt.

Another traditional dress to try in Sri Lanka is the Javanese-inspired redde (a 2.5m piece of cloth wrapped around the waist), and hatte (a round or V-neck linen blouse). You will also find local women wearing jeans, skirts and more western outfits, especially in cities like Colombo.

Where should you purchase local dresses?

Colombo is the undisputed shopping paradise for clothes and textiles in the country. Odel in Alexandra Place and the Pettah Market offer an extraordinary range of cheap local clothing. Also, don’t forget to visit the Barefoot Gallery in Colombo and Galle for a rich assortment of handloom outfits. For the perfect Colombo or Galle accommodation near the local textile shops, we recommend staying at Yoho Bed’s premium budget hotels that offer free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, AC rooms and authentic Sri Lankan hospitality.

Spending a day in Sri Lanka donning the garb of the locals will be an experience you don’t want to miss out on. Well, that’s another thing on the bucket list, then!