Sri Lanka Travel Advice: is it Safe to Visit?

travel advice sri lanka

Sri Lanka is an enchanting island of beautiful temples, colorful festivals and paradise beaches. The easiest way to visit is with the Sri Lanka ETA, an electronic visa which is available to nationals from most countries including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.

The ETA is quick and easy to process using the straight-forward Sri Lanka ETA application form. In order to apply, you will just need a passport that is valid for at least a further 6 months, an active email address, and a credit or debit card with which to pay. You should give yourself plenty of time to apply for your ETA electronic visa. In the vast majority of cases, it will only take a 5 business days to process, but on rare occasions, it can take longer.

In order to get the most out of your stay, here are some tips and travel advice for Sri Lanka.

Food and Drink: Do’s and Don’ts

For those who are used to going for a curry in their home country, be prepared for a shock. Curry is a very distinct affair in Sri Lanka. Apart from the fact that the names of the dishes will be completely different, also be prepared to be surprised by the incredible variety. Every area will also have its local specialty. You should never drink the tap water, always buy bottled water and take it with you.

Try to make sure that your fish or meat have been thoroughly cooked to avoid getting sick. Also, be careful about salads that have been rinsed in tap water in case that the water is dirty. This could pose a risk to your health. The same applies to drinks that have ice in them, when the ice melts it could contaminate your drink.

Common Scams in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankans are known for being warm and hospitable people. Sadly, however, a small minority of the population target tourists and try to subject them to a variety of money-making scams. Here are some common scams used on the island:

  • Taxi Scam: A taxi driver claims to know a great unmissable attraction that you should visit. They then proceed to drive you to a poor slum and then threaten to leave you there unless you pay an exorbitant fee
  • Fake Charity Collector: Typically an older and well-dressed person will claim to be collecting money for a local charity. Real Sri Lankan charities never try to raise funds in this way
  • Milk scam: A local will tell you how poor they are and that they need to purchase milk powder for a child. They will then take you to a local pharmacy where you will be asked to buy the surprisingly pricey powder. The scam artist will later return to the pharmacy to refund the powder and take your money
  • Photo scam: A local will show you something interesting going on (for example the famous stilt fishermen) and suggest that you take a photo. You will then be asked to pay a fee for the privilege

By taking the necessary precautions you need not be affected by such scams, it’s just a case of being vigilant and aware.

Health and Safety Tips

Most people who visit Sri Lanka have a thoroughly enjoyable stay without any issues, but here is some advice just to be on the safe side:

  • The general number for the emergency services in Sri Lanka in 199. The specific number to call for an ambulance is 110
  • Malaria is a real risk on many parts of the island, although less so in the big cities like Colombo and Kandy. Mosquito repellent is recommended, especially during the rainy season. This will also help to protect against Dengue fever. 
  • Basic health services are available in the larger towns for minor injuries and illnesses but you should be sure to have your vaccines to travel to Sri Lanka and  take out health insurance and your vaccines to ener to Sri Lanka in the unlikely event that you require more serious treatment, as this would probably involve travel

Is Sri Lanka Safe to Travel Now?

Terrorism in Sri Lanka was previously a huge problem, particularly during the period of civil war in the country (1983-2009). However, since the end of the conflict, Sri Lanka has been known as a safe holiday destination.

On Sunday, April 21st, 2009, explosions occurred at several churches and hotels in Colombo, the capital. A local Islamist terrorist group was later identified as the culprit for the attacks and security was significantly increased across the island. The Sri Lankan authorities made a number of arrests related to the Easter bombings and stepped up police operations, including temporary evacuations of buildings and controlled explosions of suspicious packages and vehicles.

Despite the sorrowful April 2019 events, those who are planning to visit or have already made travel arrangements need not abandon their plans completely. Foreign citizens are still able to travel to and within Sri Lanka. It is only advised that they exercise caution, keep up to date with developments and follow government travel advice.