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Travel Security Advice for Sri Lanka

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 

Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary democracy with a developing economy.  Civil war and terrorism have seriously disrupted the country since 1983.  On May 19, 2009, the Sri Lankan government announced that it had achieved victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed insurgency group, after more than 25 years of civil conflict.

Despite the history of conflict, Sri Lanka's beaches, hill country, and archeological sites continue to attract thousands of visitors each year from around the world.  The Asian Tsunami on December 26, 2004, caused severe damage and loss of life to several coastal areas of eastern, southern, and southwestern Sri Lanka.  Most of the affected resorts have completely recovered.  The capital city of Colombo, the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa), and many southern beach towns have good tourist facilities.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Sri Lanka for additional information.



REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Sri Lanka are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

 

U.S. Embassy Colombo

210 Galle Road
Colombo 03
Sri Lanka
Telephone: +94 11 249 8500
Emergency after-hours telephone: +94 11 249 8888
Facsimile: +94 11 249 8590
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Please note that the U.S. Embassy’s normal business hours in Colombo are Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon. The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of Maldives.



ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport, onward/return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required.  A no-cost landing visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted only to tourists at the time of entry into Sri Lanka.  Business travelers are required to have a visa prior to arrival.

Individuals traveling to Sri Lanka for purposes other than tourism (e.g. religious work, volunteering or working) must obtain an entry visa from the nearest Sri Lankan Embassy or Consulate before their arrival in Sri Lanka. Foreigners entering Sri Lanka on a landing/tourist visa cannot convert their visa to a non-tourist one, and risk deportation if they engage in activities other than tourism without the appropriate visa.

Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must obtain a visa extension from the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo and pay the relevant visa fees.  Travelers must have yellow fever and cholera immunizations if they are arriving from an infected area.  Sri Lankan law requires all foreign guests in private households to register in person at the nearest local police station.  Individuals who stay in private households without registering may be temporarily detained for questioning.  This requirement does not apply to individuals staying in hotels or guesthouses.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC  20008, telephone (202) 483-4025, fax (202) 232-7181, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by e-mail;  the Sri Lankan Consulate General in Los Angeles at 3250 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1405, Los Angeles, CA 90010, telephone (213) 387-0210; or the UN Mission in New York City, telephone (212) 986-7040. There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States.  Visit the Embassy of Sri Lanka website for the most current visa information.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Sri Lanka;  however, Sri Lankan law does allow immigration officials to refer visitors and foreign residents to a physician for examination if a public health risk is suspected.  In practice this is a rare occurrence, but travelers should be aware that Sri Lankan law allows for the denial of entry to any foreigner who, upon referral from an immigration officer, is certified by a physician as posing a public health risk.  Travelers who refuse a medical examination under these circumstances may be refused entry.  Please verify this information with the Embassy of Sri Lanka before traveling.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war ended in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan Army defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.  A Travel Warning remains in effect however, due to continued security concerns, especially in the northernmost areas and most of the country’s Eastern Province, as there are still uncleared landmines and the potential for security incidents to be caused by remnants of the LTTE.  With the LTTE’s defeat, stability in the southern and western areas of the country has improved.

The Sri Lankan government restricts travel in the Northern Province, and the U.S. Embassy restricts travel for its employees to the northernmost areas as well as most parts of the Eastern Province for other than official business.  Both regions were previously the primary areas under LTTE control, and remnants of LTTE may still exist there.  U.S. citizens are advised to defer all travel to the Northern Province and the northernmost areas of the North Central Province, as defined by the A14 road, Medawachiya town, and the road from Medawachchiya to Horowupatna.  The U.S. Embassy restricts non-official travel by U.S. government personnel to the Eastern Province, other than the A6 road corridor and Trincomalee Town (including as far north as Nilaveli and as far south as China Bay) and areas in Ampara District south of the A4 road and west of Maha Oya.

During the war, the LTTE had a history of attacks against civilians, though none were directed against Americans.  Since the conflict’s end there have not been any attacks; however, the Sri Lankan government's security posture remains heightened with increased armed checkpoints throughout the country.  Newspapers occasionally report that former LTTE members are being located and arrrested. 

Hidden and abandoned caches of weapons, ammunition and military explosives left over from the war also continue to be discovered.  Civilians have access to these weapons, as exemplified by the October 2, 2009, explosion of an improvised explosive device aboard a school bus that killed one child and the driver.  Officials determined this was an isolated incident between two private citizens. 

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Sri Lanka should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow prudent security practices.  They should avoid political rallies, military bases, military or police convoys, and high security zones.  U.S. citizens are advised against travel on public buses in Sri Lanka, as they were previously targets of LTTE bomb attacks and remain targets of criminal activity; U.S. embassy personnel in Sri Lanka are currently prohibited from traveling by public bus. 

Demonstrations at or near Western embassies have increased in frequency, often with inadequate police response for crowd control. Given the frequency and unpredictability of demonstrations U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution when demonstrations are announced or reported and avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring or crowds are forming.  Demonstrations can occur with little or no advance notice.  U.S. citizens are urged to consult media sources and the U.S. Embassy web site for current security information and to sign up with the Embassy to receive Warden Messages.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to always carry their U.S. passport while in Sri Lanka.  U.S. citizens of Sri Lankan origin, particularily Tamil speakers, may be subject to additional scrutiny upon arrival and while in the country.  In some cases, foreigners of Sri Lankan origin may be detained without their embassies being notified.  The activities of journalists, researchers, aid workers, and volunteers receive particular attention. 

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada or, by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME:

While Sri Lanka has a high crime rate, relatively few incidents have been directed against American citizens.  Most violent crime occurs within the local community, although violent crime directed at foreigners is not unheard of.  Routine petty crime, especially thefts of personal property and pick-pocketing, is not uncommon if the traveler does not take appropriate safeguards.  Street hustlers or “touts” are common around hotels, shopping centers and tourist sites.  Incidents of credit card fraud are increasing; travelers should consider paying in cash whenever possible, and should carefully review billing statements to ensure that purchases displayed on the statements are accurate.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. 



INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Sri Lanka is 119 if dialed from a landline and 112 from a cell phone.  This number only contacts the police and does not provide access to emergency medical services.  Although the number is answered 24 hours a day, police responsiveness may vary.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Persons violating Sri Lankan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Under the Cultural Prosperity Act and the Antiques Ordinance, the unlicensed export of antiques from the country is considered a criminal act.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Sri Lanka recognizes dual nationality in some cases.  For further information, please contact the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington DC, the Consulate General in Los Angeles or the Sri Lankan Mission to the United Nations in New York City.  Please see our Customs Information.

Because of the numerous check points, U.S. citizens are advised to carry identification such as their passport with them at all times while in Sri Lanka.  Photography is prohibited in designated high-security zones and near many government facilities such as offices and military installations.  Hotels in security zones post ‘no photography’ warnings at their windows in guest rooms.  Occupants seen taking pictures from these windows have been detained by police. 

Consular services to U.S. citizens in the northern part of the country will be delayed due to travel restrictions of the Sri Lankan government and the U.S. Embassy’s travel policy.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical Facilities and Health Information:  There are six large hospitals in the Colombo area, including three with emergency trauma service:  Asiri Surgical Hospital, Apollo Hospital, and the government-run General Hospital. Medical facilities outside Colombo are limited.  The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of private physicians which may be obtained upon request. The availability of medical supplies is uneven; as such, travelers should carry any special medications with them.  Serious medical conditions may require evacuation to the United States or to a nearby country with more advanced medical facilities, such as Thailand or Singapore.  Neither Thailand nor Singapore requires U.S. citizens to have an entry visa.

Several mosquito-borne diseases, including chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and malaria, are present in Sri Lanka.  Adequate mosquito protection is strongly advised.  See the section on Entry/Exit Requirements (above) for information on communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.



MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Vehicular traffic in Sri Lanka moves on the left (British style).  Traffic in Colombo is very congested.  Narrow two-lane highways, overloaded trucks, dangerously-driven buses and a variety of conveyances on the road, ranging from ox carts and bicycles to new four-wheel-drive vehicles, make driving challenging and dangerous.  Unexpected road blocks and one-way streets are common and may not be clearly marked.  Many visitors hire cars and drivers for long trips through the country.  Individuals choosing to hire three-wheeled vehicles (“trishaws”) should negotiate prices beforehand to avoid confrontations.  Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of Sri Lanka's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Sri Lanka’s  Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.



CHILDREN’S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Sri Lanka dated June 26, 2009, to update the sections on Threats to Safety and Security, and Special Circumstances.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Sri Lanka HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).......

There is also a Malaria Warning for Sri Lanka provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HERE......

Be advised as to a Travel Warning for Sri Lanka HERE.....

Regards

The SW Team........

 

Direct Gov Travel News and Alerts