Weligama, Sri Lanka - Travel, Expenses, and Income Report: Feb 2020

It's been a fun month coworking, surfing, and traveling in Sri Lanka. For those who haven't been here, it's basically the better, cheaper, cleaner, less touristy, version of Bali. I'm excited to dive in and breakdown the costs of living here, compared to what I earned from the month. I feel really fortunate to be able to live a life of location independence and not have to deal with things back home such as cold winters, elections, media scares, coronavirus and the other stresses of "normal life" back in reality.

It almost feels like being on vacation full time, moving to different exciting destinations to explore, eat new food, experience different cultures, and most importantly having the time and flexibility to enjoy it at our own pace without being rushed. I still work Monday - Friday, but the difference is, I get to do it from cozy cafes, or shirtless from my hotel room with an ocean view. That and the fact that every weekend we can go on a short trip somewhere that would normally be reserved for bucket list travel adventures. This has been my second year in a row coming to Sri Lanka, and this this time I brought a crew of friends with me from the Nomad Summit, making it an adventure for all of us. Here's this month's travel, goals, income, and expenses update.

Bangkok to Colombo

I started the month and spent almost a week in Bangkok this trip, which was fun, but honestly not necessarily at all.  I made the mistake of having my Airbnb in Chiang Mai end almost a week before my flight was to Sri Lanka. I had booked it all so far in advance that even though I got an amazing deal on both the room and the flight, I somehow messed up and left it too flexible as I wasn't sure if I was going to go to Taiwan on vacation with my parents. I ended up not going as when I looked there were no direct flights from CNX (Chiang Mai) to the south of Taiwan where my parents were visiting in Kaohsiung (KHH). Lesson learned is that if you look too early, sometimes flight routes don't yet exist, but may start closer the tourist season.

I also didn't think it would be a big deal to extend my room for another week in Chiang Mai, but it turns out that Airbnb overcharges you to extend, and you also no longer get the monthly discount if adding more days later. That being said, I ended up spending a useless week in transition in Bangkok, and even though I made the most of it and had fun, and luckily I had some friends flying through there the last few days, ultimately, it would have been better for my life, routine and budget if I had planned better and either fly to Sri Lanka sooner, or stayed in  Chiang Mai longer.

I ended up eating some good food, going to some cool rooftop bars and hidden speakeasies such as Above Eleven and Havana Social. Also my buddies were staying at the Conrad hotel so I got to use their gym, pool and hang out there during my trip as well, even though I was staying in a private room at Hostel 13 to save money. From there I flew with Thai Lion Air from DMK airport in Bangkok to Colombo Airport in Sri Lanka. It was an easy 3.5 hour direct flight, and Thai Lion was surprisingly a great airline to fly with and much better overall than AirAsia.  I had originally booked a direct flight with Airasia months ago,  but ended up getting a refund as they had canceled the direct flight and tried to rebook me on one that went through Kuala Lumpur (KUL). A good travel hack is book low cost carriers months in advance and don't confirm to agree to flight changes right away, wait a few days and figure out if there's a better flight or not as low cost carrier airlines normally don't refund flights, but they make an exception when they change the flight time or schedule.

Dim Sum Buffet in Bangkok 
At Havana Speakeasy in Bangkok

Posing it up at the Conrad in Bangkok

Arriving in Colombo 

Since I knew I wanted to stay for 2 months in Sri Lanka this time around, my original plan was to apply for a 90 day Tourist Visa at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Bangkok. However, it turned out it wasn't very straight forward, and they basically said don't bother, and to just go to Colombo instead. The plan was then to land in CMB, take a taxi directly to Colombo Immigration to get the extension on day 1, for the next month so I wouldn't have to go all of the way back to Colombo just to extend the visa. However, since five of us ended up on the same flight and most of them were staying for less than 30 days, we decided to share a taxi van straight to Weligama and deal with the extension later.

I was busy withdrawing cash from the ATM, so when my buddy Patrick said he had found us a van for 17,000 lkr, I had assumed he had asked around a few places or negotiated a bit to get us the best price, or at least a fair one. It turns out that after we all got in the van, that he had just accepted the first tout that walked up to him, and we definitely ended up overpaying for the ride. Luckily, there were 5 of us to split the fare, so it ended up being relatively inexpensive anyways, but be warned, make sure you look up prices or book in advance. Or at the very least, shop around a bit and don't take the first price you hear like we did so you don't end up overpaying for a old beat up van like we did.

Also make sure you take out some cash at the ATM in the airport, usually only one of the three will work with your card. Then make sure you get a SIM card with Dialog at the airport when you arrive as well, they are the best carrier for most places that tourists will be at for service. For more tips and advice about traveling in Sri Lanka read my blog post here from my trip last year.

Where We Stayed

The good thing about Sri Lanka is that it's not overly touristy yet. The bad thing is that because there are so few digital nomads and long term travelers, none of the guests houses, apartments, or hotels are set up for month long stays. Finding a place on Airbnb was useless as there were only a few options. The places we found online either didn't respond at all, or were overpriced as they were the only ones with any sort of web presence. I ended up finding a place on Booking for only $231 a month, but for a second person, they wanted $350 a month for the same room for no real reason. It was in a decent location but was dark, and not very nice, so we used it as an opportunity to shop around and look for places in person which turned out to be a fantastic idea.

There are tons of places to stay in Sri Lanka that don't have websites and aren't even on the map. It reminds me of Thailand 10 years ago when showing up and walking around was the best option and the only way to find apartments. The annoying thing was though that every place charged per night and were confused when we asked for a monthly rate. Read the post above for why I prefer Weligama and decided to come back here again for a second year in a row. 

I ended up booking a really nice ocean view room with a balcony for 90,000 LKR a month. At just around $500 a month, it would normally be more than I would want to spend, especially in cheap countries like this. But since I'm traveling with a German girl, at $250 each per month, it's a bargain for what we're getting as it comes with a big balcony, kitchen and living room access, and weekly cleaning and including wifi, electricity and water.  I didn't realize how nice of it a travel hack it is, but if every digital nomad would just pair up we could all get much nicer apartments at half the cost. It makes me never want to travel solo again. 

Our hotel room in Weligama

Our balcony and view in Weligama

Living Expenses

The other nice thing is that she takes much more detailed notes than I do when it comes to expenses. Below is a spreadsheet that she put together tracking all of her expenses, which were pretty much exactly the same as mine if you swap out a few veggie bowls for roast chickens. With 1 Euro equaling exactly 200 LKR at the time of writing, it makes it really easy to calculate how much things costs as you just turn the last two digits into cents, and divide by two. That means that instead of something costing 1000 LKR, you make it 10.00/2 which is 5.00 euros, which is close enough to US dollars for comparison. 

Our biggest expense has definitely been the room which is $250 a month each, but even then that's a really amazing value for living across the street from the beach in a hotel. Other than that most of our day to day costs are extremely low as lunch is usually 70 cents for her as a vegetarian, and $1.77 for me as a meat and extra egg kinda guy. Dinner isn't much more as our meals are usually $2.76 each, or $3.75 with a freshly prepared fruit shake. Our daily coconuts cost us anywhere from 70 lkr to 150 (40-83 cents) depending on where we get them. Taxi's around town are 100LKR (55 cents) and to the next city over, Mirissa where we often go to eat or hang out is 300 lkr ($1.66). We even take the bus sometimes which is even cheaper starting at just 20 lkr (11 cents) per ticket. 

That being said, we do often splurge on most days having double americanos for 500 lkr ($2.60) or smoothie bowls at near western prices at 750-900 lkr ($4-$5). But since everything else is so cheap, with our surf board rentals costing only 250 lkr per hour ($1.38) and even our weekend getaway trips not being that expensive, we've managed to do a lot of amazing things this month for not that much money. Going on a weekend trip out to a Safari, then a Rainforest the next weekend, would have costed us hundreds or thousands of dollars in another country, but here each trip was around $60 all in, including staying overnight, and taxis to get there and back. I still give my parents $1,000 a month for their retirement but will no longer include them in my expenses reports as it's not really a cost of living expense and is not relevant to most people. Check out mine as well as a screenshot of partner's expenses spreadsheet for the month for an idea on what we spent. 

Flight to Sri Lanka: $79.66 (direct, Lion Air)
1 Month Visa: $35 (ETA - EVisa) 
Rent: 1 Month, Beachfront Apartment: $500 ($250 each)
Weekly Room Cleaning: $0 included
SIM Card: 20GB 4G data: $7.19 ( 1 month)
Electric/Water/Utilities: $0 (included)
Wifi: $5 (extra 10gb of dedicated wifi)
Breakfast: Local Egg Roti (17 cents)
Lunch: Rice and Curry (.66 cents for Vegetarian/$1.27 for chicken)
Coconuts: 39-89 cents (street vs. cafe)
Bananas/Mangos/Watermelon/Papaya: $1-2 a kilo. (2.2lbs)
Smoothie Bowls: $4.98 (hipster cafes)
Coffee: $2.76 (hipster cafes)
Bottled Water: 39 cents (1.5L)
Dinner: $2.21 (vegetarian) or $3.32 (chicken/fish/beef)
Tuk-Tuks Local: 55 cents (100 lkr)
Tuk-Tuks to Mirissa or Midigama: $1.66 (300 lkr)
Laundry Service: $1.94 per kilo
Gym: $2.50 per entrance ($15 for a 10 pack)
Surfing: $1.38 per hour surf board rental
Surf Lessons: $13.82 (90 minutes)
Safari Trip to Yala: $60
Rainforest Trip to Sinharaja: $99.53

Total Expenses for February: $871.85

*increase from $818.34 last month in Chiang Mai (including flights, visa, and trips)

Costs of Living Weligama Part 1 (100LKR = $.55)
Costs of Living Weligama, Sri Lanka Part 2

Digital Nomads in Weligama Dinner

Quality of Life

This a new section of the monthly updates, but a really important one as what's the point of living cheaply, if the quality of life suffers. If I wanted just to live cheaply, I would move to somewhere in Mississippi or back in with my parents. The things I look for in a high quality of life, while still keeping my monthly costs of living low enjoy to save money, and have great experiences is as follows.

10/10 Location: For me, it's extremely important to be a 5 minute walk to things like grocery stores, the gym, coffee shops, and a place to cowork from. Here in Weligama, I'm across the street from the beach, a place to do pull ups, and two hipster coffee shops where I can cowork from. Restaurants, the gym, and everything else I need is also with a 5 minute walk.

8/10 Getting Around: I thought this would be super low as even though Sri Lanka has Uber and PickMe, our town of Weligama doesn't really. However, it's been fine as although slightly annoying to use Tuk-Tuks and the local Bus, they're always around, super cheap, and you get used them quickly. Also being by the beach and main city area, we can also walk to most places.

9/10 Accommodations: After a lot of searching around, and moving once, I think we found the best place to live for $500 or less per month. We have a bright, clean room, a large desk, small flat screen tv, and a nice bathroom, plus a great balcony. We also have a shared kitchen just outside our room and a common area with couches and a large six person dining table what I work from, all with great airflow and lighting. The only downsides are the size of the room itself, being basically a hotel room, the lack of a couch in the room, the TV being only 24", and the fact that mosquitos still sometimes come in the room even though we put screens on the window. The double/full bed is okay but the mattress is just fine and not amazing.

9/10 Fitness: The gym itself is terrible at a 4/10 as it's super hot, old and not very clean. However, the good thing about being in Weligama is that the beach is your gym. I do pull ups everyday at the children's park at the beach, and surf for fitness as well as fun.

8/10 Food: I like the food in Sri Lanka, but I don't love it. I'm extremely happy eating rice and curry, fish, egg rotis, or chicken biryani, especially for the prices here. The problem is, that there isn't much variety and you end up eating the same three dishes for every meal, every single day. There are a bunch of nicer hipster western restaurants, but when you get a delicious all you can eat rice and curry for 400lkr ($2.21) you feel silly spending 1,500lkr ($8.29) for a Falafel bowl.

7/10 Coworking: It's doable here and I've been able to upload photos, and do skype calls for my podcasts (Travel Like a Boss and Invest Like a Boss), without too much issues, but it's not the best. There are a few hipster cafes to work from, but it's not Chiang Mai for sure. There's also no coworking spaces in Weligama yet.

8/10 Social Life: This category could have been much lower if we didn't come with a crew of digital nomads, but since we put the group together, we've been having meetups a few times a week and have never been bored. But even aside from that, if you're staying at a hostel, there are tons of other tourists, backpackers and surfers to meet, as well as nightly parties. You just need to find where they are as they change each night.

9/10 Weekend Trips: I'm sure this number will go down if I stayed longer than a few months as we'll run out of nearby places to go, but so far it's been really incredible to take weekend trips to some really cool places including the rainforest, yoga festivals, incredible beaches, and even to a Safari.

9/10 Overall Life: For me, I'm happy when there's good weather, a walkable city, a good place to workout, relax, eat good food, use decent internet, and have fun, and Sri Lanka has checked all the boxes. The only thing that was missing during my first trip here last year was a community, so this time I brought my own by creating the after Nomad Summit group, the cowork and surf crew.

Jeep Safari Crew

Beach Bonfire Party

Tropical Fruit Coworking

Income Earned 

The best thing about this lifestyle design of slow travel while working online is being able to earn income while living in amazing, low cost places like Sri Lanka and being able to see the world, experience cool things, and still earn money. Income wise, this was a really strange month, as on one hand I technically lost -$20,155.78 in the stock market this month and another -$2,000 running facebook ads to the Tony Robbins and Dean Graziosi product launch as an experiment to learn how to run cold traffic to an offer. It's actually a really good product and the live event was really inspirational and full of value, so I'm sure i'll end up making back some of the money from people who will purchase before the carts close next week, but so far, the only two sales that came in were both organic, one from my twitter and one from my email list.

If this was 7 years ago when I first got started as an entrepreneur, I would have been really stressed, but I'm really fortunate that I've invested 80% of the money I've made these past few years and have multiple streams of income still coming in as well as diversified investments. One of those I actually cashed out of this month, Art of FX from Episode 04 of Invest Like a Boss. I've been cashing out of various accounts these past few months trying to free up some cash to potentially acquire a business, and this was one of them, as I've always viewed it as high risk/high return with no guarantee of ever getting my money back. Luckily it worked out and my $10,000 investment I made while drinking a bottle of Jonnie Walker Platinum at Brian's Bangkok penthouse ended up paying off and turning into $18,692, giving me a profit of $8,692. Also for the stock market, even though on paper I've lost $20k, since I haven't and don't plan on selling any of the shares, I technically haven't' lost anything yet and have already bought more shares of VTI (Vanguard Total Stock Index) at $151.41 and it's already up by 4% in the time of writing.

Another challenge is that we got hit by -$14,000 worth of refunds this month for items being out of stock. The good news is that most of the items we sell are either made in the USA or warehoused here following Anton's Method of dropshipping so we were still able to sell and fulfill $11,957.70 worth of products, but it was still a huge hit this month. But overall, combined with all of my various sources of online income, the $8k from the investment cash out, and everything else combined, I somehow still ended up earning a good amount of money during an otherwise, crazy month.

Total Profit for February: $14,199.59

*increase from $6,920.54 last month.

Revenue from Dropshipping

The huge $20k dip in my ETFs

Goals and Thoughts

This past month has been really amazing in a lot of ways. If you had read my previous month's update you would have known that I was a bit sad to end my time in Chiang Mai so quickly this year and to fall out of the amazing routine I had built there. Here in Sri Lanka it's been pretty much impossible to stick to the OMAD IF Buffet diet where I was only eating one large meal a day, as most meals here are super carb heavy with rice, lentils and rotis and serve very small portions of meat. The gym here is also not somewhere I'd want to go every day, so instead I've been surfing 3-5 days a week and doing pull ups and beach workouts almost daily. Fitness and health wise, i'm making decent progress here, but the diet is far from ideal. Luckily I've stayed true to sober 2020 and have not had a drop of alcohol since I left Playa Del Carmen in November.

Business wise, I'm in a strange limbo of wanting to be in peak productive state, but acting like i'm in deep relaxation, meaning that I'm probably actually in the wasteland as described in my last blog post.  A big part of me just wants to take this next month to completely relax, enjoy the beach, surf, do yoga and travel around Sri Lanka. But it's honestly just too hot during the afternoons to want to do anything, and too comfortable with the routine I've built now which consists of a morning beach workout/stretch, working from 10am-4pm then going for a sunset surf before dinner with friends. It's on one hand ideal, and I should just allow myself to enjoy it, but it also feels in some ways that I'm not doing enough, especially since I haven't been practicing language learning, listening to or recording podcasts or being super productive.

My main goal for March will be to surf 5 days a week as that's the one thing that I can do here that I won't be able to do once I leave Sri Lanka. Aside from, my sidequests are going to do Yoga at least once a week, practice language learning 3 days a week for at least 15 minutes, and record two podcast episodes while i'm here. Overall, I can't complain as life here really is great, especially with everything else going on in the world. Let me know what your goals for the month!

With Love from Sri Lanka,

Johnny FD

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Post a Comment

  1. This is hilarious and should be on the door of every co-working space - "if every digital nomad would just pair up we could all get much nicer apartments at half the cost."

  2. Have you watched The Game Changers? You're basically battling with diet because of outdated info about nutrition

    1. I was strict Vegetarian/Vegan for more than half a year and it was terrible for my health. I've studied both sides and it's not for me.

      The best I ever looked, felt, and health measured was when I was strict Paleo eating Grass-Fed meat, Eggs and Butter for one year.


  3. Hey Johnny,

    Out of curiosity where do you keep your money when you're surfing? In a condom lol. I can't think of anywhere apart from a waterproof wallet.

    1. This is one of the reasons I like to live 2 blocks from the surf spot. I walk out of my door with nothing, just my keys, a bottle of water, and sunglasses. No shirt, no shoes, no phone, money, nada.

      But one of the things that makes Weligama so nice is that they have surfboard rental shops right on the beach. I sometimes will bring a small bag with me with my phone and leave it with them. Board rentals there are only 250 lkr per hour ($1.40) so I just bring exact change or small bills. It's easy here.


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