As Sri Lanka opens its doors to the world once again, Sri Lanka Tourism has pulled out all the stops, ensuring that every precautionary measure has been set in place to make the island getaway as safe, secure and serene as possible for the visitors. In this regard, Sri Lanka Tourism has published ‘Safety Protocols’ to be followed by the tourism industry stakeholders and visitors. These protocols were issued by the Ministry of Health and adopted by Sri Lanka Tourism after a thorough analysis of the situation and following multiple consultations with all relevant stakeholders and health professionals to ensure a smooth transition to begin operations in the midst of this new normal.
As per the safety protocols published, Sri Lanka does not require a minimum number of days to stay, i.e. visitors to the island can stay even 3 to 4 days.
Sri Lanka offers a ‘Quarantine free’ visitor experience where the visitors can enjoy all facilities in their respective hotels, including the swimming pools, spas, gym etc. However, the only requirement put in place for the safety of the traveller, tourism stakeholders and Sri Lankan community is the need for the travellers to stay at a ‘Safe and Secure’ certified Level 1 hotel or hotels in the initial 14 days of their stay. This protocol ensures the creation of a bio-bubble for the international visitors, assuring the safety of the local communities, industry employees, and visitors to the industry. The respective hotels and accommodation providers, along with the travel agents and tour operators, will be entrusted to ensure that visitors don’t break the bubble of safety.
‘Safe & Secure’ Certified hotel
These are hotels or accommodation providers who comply with the COVID-19 Health Protocols and the Tourism Operational Guidelines (visit srilanka.travel for details of the Tourism Operational Guidelines issued). The hotels have been subjected to an audit by an independent audit firm and will be continually assessed. The ‘Safe & Secure’ certificate is issued with a QR code unique to each certified hotel. By scanning the QR code using a smartphone, visitors can check the key information of the certified hotel and immediately report to Sri Lanka Tourism any violations related to the guideline procedures with photo evidence. Sri Lanka Tourism believes this certification will serve as a mark of trust, safety and assurance to all international guests. Hotels with the certification are encouraged to display the certificate with the QR code that all guests can easily access.
‘Safe & Secure’ Certified Level 1 hotel
From all the ‘Safe & Secure’ certified hotels, these are the accommodation service providers who will provide accommodation services exclusively for international tourists during the first 14 days of their stay. The level 1 hotels cannot accept bookings from locals and are not allowed to hold any events or banquet functions for locals. International travellers are allowed to stay in any number of ‘Safe & Secure’ Certified Level 1 hotels during the initial 14 days of their stay. Visit srilanka.travel/helloagain for the complete list of Level 1 hotels.
It will be mandatory for international visitors to have a pre-booking at a ‘Safe & Secure’ Certified Level 1 hotel.
Process of applying for a visa for international travellers
Visitors planning to visit Sri Lanka must apply for their visas online through the Immigration ETA portal (www.eta.gov.lk). Before applying for a visa, potential visitors are required to have a confirmed hotel booking, pre-purchased PCR tests and mandatory COVID-19 Insurance Cover.
The cost per PCR test will be $40 and the number of pre-purchased PCR tests depends on the number of days of stay (e.g. pay for 2 PCR tests for 7 days stay and 3 PCR tests if the travel exceeds 7 days). Mandatory COVID-19 Insurance Cover from People’s Insurance PLC will cost $12 for a policy of $50,000 for a period of one month. Sri Lanka Tourism advises visitors to contact their ‘Safe and Secure Level 1’ hotel or Travel Agent when making their booking. Upon the payment of the PCR tests and insurance premium, the hotel will issue a reference number which the visitors need to include on their visa form under the section ‘contact details’. You will be asked for ‘address in Sri Lanka’ under which you need to indicate your hotel name, address and the reference number issued by the hotel confirming the payment for mandatory PCR and insurance premium.
Sri Lanka Tourism has made it mandatory for the Hotels to provide confirmed booking number (reference number) only after collecting funds for necessary PCR tests ($40 per PCR test and the number of PCR tests depends on the duration of stay) and insurance premium of $12 for a cover of $50,000 for one month.
Going forward, the visa process will be directed through the Sri Lanka Tourism mobile app, ‘Visit Sri Lanka’.
PCR Testing for International Visitors
Prior to boarding, all visitors will have to carry a negative PCR test result from an accredited laboratory 96 hours before their departure. This report will be checked at the respective airport (BIA or Mattala). The first of the prepaid PCR tests would be carried out on arrival at the guest’s hotel, prior to check-in. The second PCR test would be conducted 5-7 days after or if any symptoms should develop before. If a test should result as positive, initial isolation would be accommodated at the hotel; and if necessary, transfers to a private hospital or a designated hotel to be quarantined would be arranged. Costs will be covered via your COVID-19 insurance, already paid for at the time of visa issuance. Currently, no exceptions are made for vaccinations taken; all safety protocols should be adhered to regardless.
Visiting sites and attractions
Sri Lanka Tourism with the tourism industry has created a bio-bubble for international visitors to explore multiple sites and attractions in Sri Lanka. This includes places such as Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Yala, Udawalawe, Kaudulla and Wilpaththu National Parks, Mirissa Whale Watching, Sigiriya Fortress, Anuradhapura (excluding ‘Sri Maha Bodhiya’) and Polonnaruwa, to name a few. (Visit srilanka.travel/helloagain for a complete list of approved sites).
Connecting with Sri Lanka Tourism for updates
Sri Lanka Tourism will take every possible step to provide the international visitors to the paradise island an amazing time while ensuring their safety, providing a safe and secure operational environment for the tourism industry’s service providers and ensuring that local communities are protected and secured. All information related to the re-opening for international travel are listed on srilanka.travel/helloagain, along with important notices to the industry. Thus Sri Lanka Tourism invites all international travellers and industry stakeholders to connect with its social media and official channels to obtain timely, authentic information.