Sri Lanka Has Reopened for Tourism

But multiple PCR tests are required and strict rules will be enforced to prevent travelers from mixing with the local community.

The UNESCO-listed ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya. (Photo: Shashank Hudkar/Unsplash)

After a 10-month ban on overseas visitors, Sri Lanka is now accepting tourists from all countries except for the United Kingdom (a flight ban has been imposed to keep out a new variant of Covid-19). Kimarli Fernando, the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, said in a statement, “As we open our doors to the world once again, we have 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.”

Up to 2,500 tourists will be allowed into Sri Lanka each day; the government hopes to create a Covid-19 testing facility near the airport and also incorporate a mobile app named Visit Sri Lanka into the visa application process. While applying for a tourist visa online, travelers now have to pay US$40 per PCR test (for up to three swab tests, depending on the length of stay) and US$12 for mandatory Covid-19 insurance of up to US$50,000, valid for one month. Another requirement is an advance booking at one or more of 52 properties certified as Level 1 hotels under the Sri Lankan government’s Safe and Secure scheme. These lodgings will be used exclusively by foreign travelers during the first 14 days of their visit; all Level 1 hotels are located outside Colombo, and include properties run by hospitality brands such as Anantara, Cinnamon, Heritance, Jetwing, and Taj.

Wild elephants at Yala National Park. (Photo: Silver Ringvee/Unsplash)

Incoming travelers must then prove that they are clear of the virus in a pre-departure PCR test taken up to 96 hours before their flight, and submit a health declaration form before boarding or upon arrival in Sri Lanka. From the airport, each group of visitors will be whisked directly to their hotels for an on-arrival PCR test prior to checking in. A second PCR test will be conducted on tourists on the fifth to seventh day; those staying longer than a week are required to undergo a third test between the 10th and 14th day.

Foreign tourists are urged to refrain from mixing with other groups and cannot leave their hotels except to visit any of 14 approved tourist sites in allocated timeslots. Top draws like Yala National Park, Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth, the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, and whale-watching spots at Mirissa are all on the list. After the 14-day period is up, travelers will be able to interact with the local community and move to any accommodation of their choice, although use of public transportation is still discouraged.

More information here.

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