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Sri Lanka

If you’re travelling to Sri Lanka, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution.

Latest Travel Alerts

Severe weather events have caused widespread flooding in parts of Sri Lanka, leading to displacement of people, injuries and deaths. Heavy rains and landslides have also led to road closures affecting local transport links. Irish citizens in the region are advised to see the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Centre website for the latest updates on flooding and seek local advice before travelling to affected areas.

There remains a strong and visible military presence in Sri Lanka, especially in the North and East. Political demonstrations are not uncommon in Colombo and elsewhere, and can become violent. Irish citizens are advised to avoid demonstration and large crowds, and to exercise caution at all times. You should follow local news for any information on unrest, curfews or other travel restrictions. You are advised to carry photo ID at all times.

While most visits to Sri Lanka are trouble-free, incidences of crime and fraud targeting tourists do occur. In the monsoon period, landslides can also present a risk.

Emergency Assistance     

Because there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in Sri Lanka, we’re limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. However, if you need assistance, you can contact the Honorary Consul in Colombo.

We suggest you learn as much as you can about Sri Lanka before your trip from travel agents, tour operators and guide books. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems when you’re in Sri Lanka, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

Other EU embassies

You can contact the Embassies and Consulates of other EU countries represented in Sri Lanka for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates   
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and security

Unrest

The political climate in Sri Lanka is now relatively stable. However, demonstrations are not uncommon, and can become violent. If you’re living in Sri Lanka or visiting the country, we advise you to exercise a high degree of  caution. Follow local developments closely, monitor local media, be aware of your surroundings and avoid political gatherings or demonstrations. Always comply with government and security instructions.

There is a large and visible military presence in Sri Lanka, particularly in the North and East. You are advised to carry photographic I.D, such as a copy of your passport, at all times, and if detained, ask the authorities to contact the Irish Embassy in New Delhi.

Regional travel

Foreign nationals, with the exception of foreign media crews, no longer need to have permission from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence before travelling to the northern districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaittivu and Vavuniya. 

However, there is still a heavy military presence in the north and north-east of Sri Lanka. Freedom of movement is possible, but if you’re travelling to the north, you may still come across access restrictions around military establishments and areas where demining operations continue. You can get up-to-date information on access to a particular village or area from the Sri Lankan Military Liaison Officer (tel: +94 11 2430 860).

Landmines

Unexploded mines and ordnances can be a hazard in the north and north-east of Sri Lanka so obey orders from the security forces and signs warning about the danger from landmines. Don’t stray off main routes, particularly in rural areas, and always check with local security authorities before travelling to affected regions.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorism in Sri Lanka. Although the LTTE suffered a military defeat in 2009, attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate.

Crime

While most visits to Sri Lanka are trouble-free, watch out for petty crime such as pick-pocketing, especially in crowded places. Although not very frequent, there have been reports of violent crime against foreigners so always take sensible precautions: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place. 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Credit card fraud has been reported in Sri Lanka so take care of your credit and ATM cards. Use cash wherever possible and only use ATMs attached to banks or major hotels. Don’t let your credit card leave your sight when you use it.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Sri Lanka, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Honorary Consulate of Ireland in Colombo or the Irish Embassy in New Delhi in India if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Sri Lanka, you should be careful. Poor standards of driving and bad road maintenance lead to frequent traffic accidents. If you want to drive, an Irish or international licence alone will not suffice – you’ll need to bring your international driving permit and a Sri Lankan recognition permit to drive in Sri Lanka. You can get a recognition permit at the AA in Colombo.  Make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance

Hiring a vehicle

Hiring a car is cheap in tourist areas. However, if you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Public transport

Buses and trains are particularly dangerous modes of transport in Sri Lanka. Consider taking taxis instead, as they’re cheap in tourist areas.

Water safety

Many beaches and coastal areas in Sri Lanka have strong currents, dangerous rip tides and big surf. Always seek local advice before entering the water and be alert to the dangers.

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Personal identification

It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for possession, dealing and trafficking drugs are severe and include the death penalty. 

Homosexuality

Homosexuality is illegal in Sri Lanka. Caution and discretion are advised at all times.

Clothing

Be sensitive to local norms of dress and sensibilities. Nude or topless sunbathing is generally not allowed, and you should dress modestly when visiting religious shrines or temples.

Photography

You are not allowed to take photographs near government or military establishments. Be respectful when visiting religious shrines or temples. In 2012 three foreign nationals were sentenced to six months in prison with hard labour, suspended for five years, and given a fine for wounding the religious feelings of Buddhists by taking pictures that were deemed insulting. You should not pose for photographs with a statue of Buddha.

Natural disasters and climate

Rain and flooding

Inland flooding and landslides happen frequently in the rainy seasons. Be aware that there are two different rainy seasons in Sri Lanka. It is May to August in the South West, November to February in the North East.

During the rainy season you should consult your tour operator or accommodation provider before travelling and monitor local media for weather warnings.

Tsunami

The December 2004 tsunami killed more than 30,000 people and caused extensive damage in the south western, southern and eastern coasts of Sri Lanka. Be alert for tsunami warnings that may be issued by the authorities. You can also learn more about what to do in the event of a tsunami by checking out the International Tsunami Information Centre website.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

All holiday travellers to Sri Lanka must have Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) before entering to Sri Lanka. You can learn more about ETAs here.

If you’re unsure about the entry requirements for Sri Lanka, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the nearest Embassy of Sri Lanka in London. You can also check with them how long your passport must be valid for.

Passports

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you when travelling to Sri Lanka and you should carry your passport at all times during your stay.

Health

Always check with your health care provider before you travel to Sri Lanka about vaccinations or other preventative treatments you may need.

Malaria and Dengue fever

Malaria and Dengue fever are risks in Sri Lanka. Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by covering up and using mosquito repellents.