Yes, you will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. Travellers intending to visit Sri Lanka for a short stay for the purposes of tourism, business or transit, need to obtain ETA prior approval. You can apply for the ETA here.
The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is an official authorisation for a short visit to Sri Lanka and it can be applied for online. The issuing authority of the ETA is the Department of Immigration & Emigration, Colombo, Sri Lanka. The ETA is initially limited to a validity of 30 days. However, it may be extended for up to six months.
A comprehensive list of ETA processing fees can be obtained from the ETA website.
You can submit the ETA application online through the ETA website. Select the language, click ‘Apply’ and follow the instructions.
You can also use one of the following options to apply:
You can apply for an extension should you wish to stay in Sri Lanka for longer than 30 days. The application for an extension should be submitted to the Visa Section of the Department of Immigration. You can do this by visiting the Department or through an authorised agent. Visit http://www.immigration.gov.lk/ for more information.
Sri Lanka is a great year-round destination. It has two monsoons that occur at different times in different parts of the country. The weather is best in the western and southern coasts between December and April, while the best time to visit the east coast is between May and September.
Sinhalese and Tamil are the official languages of Sri Lanka, with the majority of Sri Lankans speaking primarily Sinhalese. English is generally understood and spoken by many, especially in the cities. There are some tour operators who can provide guides and translators in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Chinese to visitors who require assistance.
Much of the island is covered by telecommunication operators, meaning you will have connectivity wherever you go. However, do not expect to have connectivity if you venture out into very remote, uninhabited areas. It would be advisable to procure a local phone and data package during your stay in the country. There are many options available from local mobile network operators such as Dialog, Mobitel, Airtel and Hutch. Make sure that your mobile phone is `dual band’ and unlocked.
Sri Lanka’s country code is 94, (E.g. If you need to call a number in Colombo, dial +94 11 2XXXXXX). If you are calling a mobile number, you dial the number after the country code (E.g. dialling a Dialog number, dial +94 77X XXXXXX).
All mobile network operators support GSM technology on GSM 900/1800 bands. WAP & GPRS is widely supported. 3G and wireless broadband is available in Colombo and other major cities.
It is very likely that the hotel you are staying in will have free internet access. Smaller properties may limit usage, but you may be able to pay for more data. Internet connectivity in smaller towns and more remote areas may be slower.
As with any destination, you need to take precautions to safeguard your belongings when travelling in Sri Lanka. It is advisable to lock your valuables in the hotel safety locker (usually available in all rooms). Do not leave your belongings unattended on the beach or any other public spaces. If you are travelling by public transport, ensure that your bags are locked and that you take your belongings with you when you disembark. There is no guarantee that you will be able to recover any belongings left behind on a public bus or train.
Sri Lanka prides itself on its sate run healthcare system, which is considered a good model for many nations in the region. Although all cities have a government run hospital, they may not all have emergency medical facilities. Severe medical situations will need to be treated at larger hospitals in the main cities. There are a number of privately operated hospitals which also provide good care. It is advisable to procure a comprehensive health/travel insurance when you plan your trip.
Mosquito borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria are common in the country. You can purchase effective mosquito repellents at local supermarkets.
Most hotels will provide you with a plug-in mosquito repellent which will usually be switched on during turn down. Mosquito nets in hotels are a rarity. It would be wise to apply some mosquito repellent lotion if you plan to spend time outdoors. You can easily purchase mosquito repellent from local supermarkets or pharmacies if you forget to bring some with you.
If you are planning to go trekking or hiking in the mountains or rainforests, you will most likely encounter leeches. Carry a pair of leech socks as a precaution. If you do find a leech on your body, do not pull it off. Wait for it to fall off, or apply some salt or soap to the area, this will release the leech.
If you have discomfort such as itching and redness due to insect bites, it would be best to visit a pharmacy and purchase an over the counter topical medication. If the bites continue to be an issue it would be advisable to seek medical attention.
Sri Lanka has a great cuisine which includes rice, bread, vegetables, fruits, fish and meat. The island’s culinary scene is a great example of the wide variety of cultures that have influenced Sri Lankan society. Traditional Sri Lankan food may be rather spicy, so be mindful to always request for less spice in your food. If you are not adventurous with your gastronomic experiences, you can opt for international dining options, which are available in all major hotels and restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask for your preference, as people are generally willing to accommodate your needs. A number of popular fast food franchises can be found in the larger cities.
Always ask for bottled mineral water. If you are carrying your own reusable water bottle, you can ask your hotel to refill it with filtered water.
Many of the larger hotels and restaurants have a vegetarian section in their menus. Smaller local food shops will also provide vegetarian meals if you request it. There are a number of South Indian style vegetarian restaurants in more urban areas that serve 100% vegetarian fare.
The currency used in Sri Lanka is the Rupee (Rs.) and it is divided into 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 & 5000. Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5 & 10.
Some larger hotels may accept US$ / Euro, but this is not common.
Many local establishments accept credit cards. The most widely used card types are Visa and Mastercard. Amex is used at select establishments.
ATMs are widely available in the main cities. You can use your Visa and Mastercard to withdraw cash from local ATMs. However, make sure you have informed your bank that you will be using your card in Sri Lanka for cash withdrawals.