Travel to Sri Lanka: latest Covid rules and holiday advice

Sri Lanka is starting to see some return to normalcy after a difficult six months. Despite handling the situation relatively well throughout 2020, a rise in cases from April this year resulted in a trio of lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the delta variant. The latest (six-week) lockdown ended on October 1 after a decline in Covid-19 cases and a successful vaccination drive (over 60 per cent of adults have been fully vaccinated), with a further relaxation of rules coming into effect on 1 November. Whilst there haven’t been any restrictions on tourists travelling around the island, residents were not, until November 1, permitted to travel outside of their districts. They now can. Another significant step is that schools have just reopened for the first time since the pandemic began. 

If you’re aching for a taste of the tropics, Sri Lanka is a superb destination for winter sun and a great year-round destination, well worth the 11-hour flight time. Enquiries are hotting up though there is still availability and reasonably priced accommodation over the peak festive season and into the start of 2022 (rare in normal years). Go sooner, and you’ll likely have the most popular tourist attractions to yourself. A typical tour of Sri Lanka offers plenty of diversity – think sandy beaches, tea-clad hills, nature reserves and ancient cities. Wellness is a growing trend, and yoga, meditation and Ayurveda-themed holidays are in high demand. Given that most attractions are outdoors, social distancing is a breeze. Entry rules for fully vaccinated visitors has been simplified, making the arrival process more straightforward.  

Can I go to Sri Lanka?

Yes; England’s travel rules now depend on an arrival’s vaccination status rather than the destination from which they have arrived.

What’s more, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has dropped its advice against non-essential travel to Sri Lanka. In turn, Sri Lanka is welcoming British arrivals, but there are some restrictions in place (see below).

Are flights operating?

Yes, Sri Lankan Airlines is currently flying direct between London Heathrow and Colombo.

Will I be insured if I go?

The FCDO has dropped its advice against visiting, making travel insurance policies easier to come by.

You must also purchase Covid insurance when applying for your visa; for more on this, see below. 

Do I need to take a test before travelling to Sri Lanka?

Yes, you’ll need to carry certification of a negative PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours prior to embarking your flight. This applies to all passengers aged two years and older, regardless of their vaccination status.

Do I need to fill in any forms?

Every tourist must complete a Health Declaration Form, before they apply for a visa on eta.gov.lk. To complete the visa process, you must also purchase a PCR test (US$40/£29 per test, though longer stays or the unvaccinated may require additional tests), as well as Covid insurance (US$12/£9) – this can be done via visitsrilanka.gov.lk. 

If you haven’t been vaccinated, you’ll need to pay and provide a booking confirmation for a government-approved Level 1 Safe & Secure hotel(s), for up to 15 days depending on the duration of your stay. See more on this below. 

Do I need to self-isolate on arrival?

Not if you are fully vaccinated, and received your second dose within 14 days of travelling. On arrival, you will need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of catching your flight, along with your visa, proof of vaccination status (which must be your official paper certificate) and proof of insurance. With these documents, you will be permitted to continue your journey and travel in Sri Lanka without restriction. Non-vaccinated children under 12 can also travel freely with their vaccinated parents/guardians; non-vaccinated children aged 12-18 will need to take a PCR test on arrival before travelling onwards. There is a testing centre at the airport. More information here.

The rules for non-vaccinated Britons are significantly tighter. If travelling without proof of inoculation, or before two weeks have passed since your second jab, you must pre-book at least one night in a ‘Level 1 Safe & Secure Certified hotel’, at which you must take a PCR test on arrival. If fully vaccinated (but without proof or within two weeks of arrival), you will be permitted to leave the hotel and travel without restriction when a negative result is returned and proof of vaccination has been established, or two weeks have passed since your second dose. If not fully vaccinated, you must remain in the approved hotel (or move to another) for 14 days, upon which you will take a second PCR test. When the negative result is returned, you will be released from quarantine.

Families travelling with unvaccinated children are advised to pre-book at least one night in a ‘Level 1 Safe & Secure Certified hotel’, in case of delays to the necessary PCR test result(s). 

If, at any time you test positive for Covid, you will be admitted to hospital or an ‘Intermediate Care Centre’ (ICC) until you are deemed recovered. This should be covered by the Covid insurance which is mandatory for every arrival (see above). 

Hotel bookings can be made directly with the hotel or through a ‘Safe & Secure’ certified travel Agent or OTA. Visitors are allowed to move within L1 hotels and use all facilities of the hotel upon a negative PCR on arrival, as well as go on approved excursions. For more information, see srilanka.travel/helloagain. 

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