• Sri Lanka may have opened its borders, but travelling to the country comes with strict rules, such as having a valid visa.
  • With borders closing and reopening all over the world, it can be difficult to remember which countries welcome foreign visitors and which don’t. Sri Lanka is one of the countries that is slowly accepting tourists again. But this comes with certain very strict requirements, such as a mandatory visa requirement.

Travelling to Sri Lanka possible?
In theory, it is possible to travel to Sri Lanka again for European travellers. Sri Lanka opened its borders to foreign tourists on 21 January 2021. This was done because the government feels that the coronavirus pandemic is sufficiently under the control within the country.

Although Sri Lanka is seeing an increase in Covid cases, overall cases and deaths are relatively low when compared to other countries in the region.

The borders opening does not mean that all holidaymakers are free to enter the country. The Sri Lanka government is well aware of the risks involved with permitting foreigners to enter the country. As such, entering Sri Lanka is subject to strict requirements. Failure to meet them means you are not allowed to board the plane.

If you have not yet been fully vaccinated, you will be tested several times during your stay in Sri Lanka, depending on how long you are staying: people staying longer than 14 days are tested a total of three times throughout their stay. If tested positive, you will be isolated and if needed transported to a hospital.

If the tests turn up negative, no quarantine is required and you are allowed access to all of the hotel’s facilities. However, during the first 14 days of your stay in Sri Lanka, you cannot contact the locals. This is to limit any possible chance of spreading the coronavirus. You will be made to stay in a “bubble” of people during your first two weeks in Sri Lanka.

You can freely travel around the country with this group, provided you follow the general coronavirus rules such as safe distancing. After these two weeks have passed, you are allowed to freely interact with the local population. However, the covid rules still need to be followed.

Sri Lanka visa mandatory
Along with the opening of the borders, the Sri Lanka government has also started issuing visas again. All travellers headed to Sri Lanka are required to have a valid Sri Lanka visa in their possession before boarding the plane. The visa cannot be applied for on arrival in Sri Lanka.

Instead, the application must be submitted online in advance of your trip. To qualify for a visa, you need to have booked a special hotel designated as a  Safe and Secure Hotel Level 1 by the Sri Lanka government. A special health form must be filled in and you must be able to present a negative PCR test result (or proof of vaccination).

If all of this is in order, you can submit your Sri Lanka visa application online, rather than going to the embassy or consulate. After filling in all the required information and making the payment, you will receive the visa by e-mail.

Returning home
Also keep in mind the rules of your home country regarding returning travellers. Failure to meet them can result in hefty fines. For instance, British travellers returning from abroad need to provide all of their travel details as well as a negative coronavirus test result. Two additional tests in the UK must be booked before you arrive. Finally, you must self-isolate for 10 days.

These rules differ per country. Always check before departure what rules apply to your particular situation.