Trincomalee Backpacking Travel Guide

Information on hostels, transportation, cheap food and drinks, sights to see, activities and more.


Trincomalee is a beach-side town on the north-east coast of Sri Lanka. The coast in Trincomalee is protected from the rough seas seen in other parts of Sri Lanka. It’s a great spot for beach lovers and those looking to try their hand at snorkelling or diving. There are many PADI dive schools located in Trincomalee and some great diving spots close by.

Trincomalee, Sri Lanka


Trincomalee is really only just emerging as a travel destination in Sri Lanka. At the moment there is not a large choice of online accommodation available compared to other places in Sri Lanka. There are however a lot of small beach side guesthouses on the beaches to the north and south of the town. To find these places you can just arrive in town and head down to the beach. Walk along the beach and look for a guesthouse that looks nice and enquire within for prices. Often these places will be very cheap.

Nilaveli Beach Hostel

Nilaveli Beach Hostel features basic rooms with a terrace and a nice outdoor dining area. Guests can easily arrange activities such as fishing, diving and snorkelling through the hostel. Each room is fan-cooled, and offers garden views. Bathroom and toilet facilities are shared between the guests. The hostel is generally very basic, but typical of other accommodation in the area.

The Residence Nilaveli

The Residence Nilaveli is located less than a 10 minute walk from the beach and very close to Pigeon Island. It offers quiet and comfy accommodation with free WiFi access throughout the property. Simply furnished, fan-cooled rooms come with a clothes rack, lockers and clean linens. Guests have access to either a shared or private bathroom with shower facility, towels and free toiletries. Like most places in Trincomalee, activities such as fishing, cycling, diving and snorkelling can be arranged through the hostel reception. Shared kitchen facilities and common lounge area is available.

Sights and Highlights

Uppuveli and Nilaveli Beach

Uppuveli beach is about 6km north of Trincomalee and is a wonderful pristine beach. To reach Uppuveli take the bus north and get off at the church on the west side of the road 5-6km north of Trincomalee. Directly after the church there is a side road leading directly to the beach along which there are some hotels and guesthouses.

Nilaveli, slightly farther north, is similar to Uppuveli but less crowded. There is a big military base right in the middle of Nilaveli, but the nice beaches make up for it. The main Nilaveli beach is long and pristine with no crowds.

Pigeon Island

Located a short 1km boat ride away from Nilaveli beach, Pigeon Island is a fantastic spot for a day trip while in the Trincomalee  region. A nesting area for rock pigeons, the island is beautiful enough, with rock pools and paths running through thickets, but it’s the underwater landscape that’s the real star. The reef here is shallow, making snorkelling almost as satisfying as diving, and it’s home to dozens of corals, hundreds of reef fish (including black tip reef sharks) and turtles. All of the dive shops and small guesthouses in the area can arrange transport and a snorkelling tour of the island.

Scuba Diving

Diving and snorkelling are the two most common tourist activities in Trincomalee. There are a plethora of dive operators in available, TripAdvisor has a list Trincomalee dive operators. You can also find a list range of the dive locations at

Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick is a fort built by Portuguese colonials on Swami Rock from the debris of the world-famous ancient Hindu Koneswaram temple. The temple was destroyed by the Portuguese occupiers of the Jaffna kingdom in 1622. This fort was then captured by a Dutch fleet in 1639 and in 1665 a new fort was built to defend against the advancements of the British. In 1795 it was taken over by the British, and remained a British garrison till 1948. Today it remains garrisoned by a regiment of the Sri Lanka Army, but is accessible to visitors. Visitors can visit the reconstructed Koneswaram Hindu temple and admire the views from Swami rock. When visiting look out for the resident population of deer that wander freely around the fort.

For Food

Trincomalee has many small family run restaurants (often labelled hotels) along the main streets. These places are very cheap and the food is delicious. The other decent option for food in Trincomalee is to head down to the beach front area and order food at one the beach bars or guesthouses. The food here will be more expensive than on the main road but the location is impressive. For general information on popular Sri Lanka dishes, check out my article Sr Lankan Food on a Budget.

To Drink

Trincomalee is not known for its night life. Most guesthouses sell beer but they are they can be a bit expensive. The solution is to head to the local liquor store (referred to by locals as a wine store). There is one located in down town Trincomalee near the bus station. If you ask locals on the street they may be able to direct you small shops that do not have an online presence.



Tuk-tuks are the best way to get around Trincomalee. Speak to the staff at your accommodation to arrange one or just walk out into the street and flag one down. Make sure you agree on the price before you get in. A good guide to pricing is that you will have to pay a flat 50 LKR plus about a further 50 LKR for each kilometre after the first. So a two kilometre trip from your hostel into town somewhere should be about 100 LKR.

Getting In and Out


There are regular buses that go from Dambulla to Trincomalee and vice versa. The easiest way to catch the bus is to simply head to the bus station and ask almost any local where the next bus to Dambulla leaves from.


Buses also regularly make the journey north up the coast to Jaffna. Very few tourists head in this direction but if you are one of the few who does you will be rewarded with a very local experience. Expect to make a lot of new friends. The other option to get to Jaffna is to head inland by bus to Vavuniya and then catch the train from Vavuniya up to Jaffna.


There are at least 3 bus services a day to Anuradhapura. The journey takes about 3 1/2 hours and costs around 200 LKR. It might be best to ask a local the day before you depart to enquire about departure times.


In order to head south along the coast to Batticaloa (and then Arugam Bay) take any bus from the main bus station that starts with no 76.

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