Foreign travelers visiting Colombo on a cruise ship often have doubts about the type of Sri Lanka visa they should be applying for. This is especially confusing when the stopover in Sri Lanka is short, typically under 1 or 2 days, and passengers wish to spend time ashore.
Read our expert travel advice to get a clear understanding of the documents you need when traveling to Sri Lanka by cruise ship in order to make the most of your stay.
Make sure to read until the very end where you will find a compilation of the best historical, religious and natural Sri Lanka sights you won’t want to miss.
Do I Need a Visa for Sri Lanka on a Cruise?
The entry requirements for Sri Lanka are quite simple. Passengers of most nationalities will need:
- A current passport issued by an ETA-eligible country with at least 6 months validity at the moment of arrival
- An approved Sri Lanka visa
There are 3 types of Sri Lanka Electronic Travel Authorizations. This is where it gets confusing for most foreign travelers.
Passengers onboard cruise ships docking in Sri Lanka may get off the vessel and tour the island with a Sri Lanka tourist ETA.
Can I Get off My Sri Lanka Cruise with a Transit ETA?
The confusion often arises because the Sri Lanka transit ETA allows passengers up to 48 hours in transit. However, transit visas are meant for travelers making a stopover in the country and waiting at the airport or port.
The Sri Lanka transit ETA does not allow travelers to leave the transit area and visit the country.
If you are unsure exactly how many hours your ship will stay in Colombo -or another Sri Lankan port- the safest bet would be to obtain a tourist visa. This is also true of cruises that stop at more than one Sri Lankan port.
Holding a tourist ETA for Sri Lanka will ensure that you have permission to leave the ship and experience all the beauty the island has to offer.
Can I Get a Sri Lanka VOA for a Cruise?
The third option is to get a visa on arrival for Sri Lanka, also known as VOA. However, this option is not advisable because it usually entails waiting in long lines upon arrival.
Nevertheless, travelers of certain nationalities may be eligible for a Sri Lanka VOA, and certain international ports may offer this option.
However, it is not practical to rely on obtaining a last-minute visa simply because cruise ships usually make short stops in Sri Lanka and most travelers want to spend the little time allotted visiting the location, rather than waiting in line.
Therefore, the most convenient option for cruise line passengers who are short on time and want to make the most of their brief stay on the island is to apply online for a Sri Lanka tourist ETA.
Sri Lanka visa holders are advised to print their ETA confirmation and bring it along to cruise check-in to speed immigration processing.
Worthwhile Tourist Attractions in Colombo
If your cruise ship docks in Colombo, make sure to note our round-up of nearby sites you will not want to miss during your trip.
Cultural Sites to See In Colombo, Sri Lanka
The following locations will be of special interest to tourists looking to discover Sri Lanka’s historic buildings, art, and cultural places:
- Sri Lanka Planetarium
- National Art Gallery
- Slave Island
- Colombo Dutch Museum
- The Independence Square
- National Museum Of Colombo
- Traditional Puppet Art Museum
- Old Dutch Hospital
What Nature Lovers Should Visit in Colombo
Travelers who wish to experience Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches, luscious vegetation and enchanting fauna will surely enjoy the following destinations:
- Crow Island Beach Park
- Beddagana Wetland Park
- Diyatha Uyana
- Arugam Bay Beach
- Galle Face Green
- Old Galle Buck Lighthouse
- Beira Lake
- Viharamahadevi Park
- Attidiya Bird Sanctuary
- Dehiwala Zoo
Religious Temples Worth Visiting in Colombo
From Buddhist temples to mosques and cathedrals, experience the juxtaposition of different religions cohabitating in Sri Lanka by visiting the following locations:
- Sri Ponnambala Koneswaram Kovil
- Sambodhi Chaithya
- Bellanwila Rajamaha Viharaya
- Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
- Seema Malaka
- St. Lucia’s Cathedral
- Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
- Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple
Now that you know what to visit in Colombo when your cruise ship stops there and what documents you will need to enter the country, make sure to apply for your Sri Lanka Tourist ETA.
Doing so entails filling out a simple form that takes under 10 minutes to complete, and most applications are approved within a business day, so go ahead and get that out of the way.