Travelling in Sri Lanka during COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
The high-level summary is as follows:
- Sri Lanka Tourism has made arrangements for the departure of 18,093 foreign tourists who are currently stranded in the country, says the Tourism Development Authority. (source)
- Access the COVID-19 Tourism Map Sri Lanka: Here
- “Isolation” Curfew / lockdown information in Sri Lanka: Here
- Inward international commercial passenger flights “Arrivals” will stop in Sri Lanka with effect from 0400hrs on 19 March 2020 until 2359 on the 25th March (source). Departures have been dramatically slashed, and can change daily. If you want to leave the country we suggest you do so ASAP. Especially if you have any at-risk medical conditions.
- If you arrived in Sri Lanka between the 1st and the 15th of March from either (1) Europe, (2) South Korea, or, (3) Iran, the Sri Lankan government is requesting that you visit the nearest police station for verification. They have released updated information here including an email. We have provided a standard form for you to fill out and instructions on how to register below.
- Automatic visa extensions “Due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the country, it has been decided to extend the validity period of all types of Visas issued to all foreigners who are currently in Sri Lanka”. You do not have to visit the Dpt of Immigration to get this extension. More details below.
- There are reports of hotels not accepting foreigners all across the island. This is mostly due to lack of business but also due to fear of the Corona virus [updated 16/03/2020]. Please refer to the Tourism Map for hotels that are still open.
ALL Arrivals to Sri Lanka stopped
[17/03/2020] – Inward international commercial passenger flights (i.e arrivals) will stop in Sri Lanka with effect from 0400hrs on 19 March 2020. There is a high chance that departures will stop shortly afterwards given the global situation and airlines / governments being unable to fund empty flights. For this reason we suggest that if you want to return to your home countries (ie. if you have any at-risk medical conditions) you should ASAP.
Previous arrivals in Sri Lanka from 1st – 15th March
Please note this only applies for people who arrived in Sri Lanka between the 1st and 15th of March AND came from one of the following places: (1) Europe, (2) South Korea, or, (3) Iran. The United Kingdom is part of Europe!!! If this is you we recommend you:
- Download the standard document here (Police Station Report for COVID-19)
- Print it out and fill it in or do so digitally
- Take a photo / scan / PDF
- Send the document to firstname.lastname@example.org
In light of the situation of there being mixed information at every police station, we have decided to make a standard for tourists to use in order to lodge at their local police station. If you fit the categories above we request that you please download this form, fill it out, and then hand it over to the closest police station. Please take a photograph for your own records.
Local Police Station Response / Confusion
Some police stations have the forms and others tell you to go somewhere else as an avoidance tactic so they (1) don’t have to do any work, and, (2) don’t have to talk with someone who potentially has COVID-19. The list of reactions we have received from different local police stations so far are:
- We filled out a form it was fine – police mentioned all tourists need to do this.
- They told us you don’t need to do anything.
- All good to catch your flight in the coming days.
- They tell you to call the number 119 which is constantly busy.
- They said stay in your hotel we will send the police and a medical officer to visit you and do the needful.
The police stations that this has been done successfully so far are: Nilaveli, Welligama, Tangalle
We have not had success at: Unawatuna, Ahangama
Visa Questions / Status
[18/03/2020] – Due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the country, it has been decided to extend the validity period of all types of Visas issued to all foreigners who are currently in Sri Lanka. The validity period of all types of Visas will be extended for a period of 30 days with effect from 14th March 2020 to 12th April 2020. Accordingly, any foreign national is informed to visit the Visa Division of the Department of Immigration and Emigration on either 08th or 09th of April 2020 to pay the relevant fee and to get the visa endorsed in the Passport.
If one intends to leave the island during the aforementioned period; the journey will be facilitated by paying the relevant visa fee at the Airport without any penalty.
[27/03/2020 – UPDATED POLICY]
This is an auto-response email that you now get from the Dpt of Immigration.
“The validity period of all types of visas expiring after 14th March 2020 can be extended for a period of 30 days. The Department of Immigration has provided the 8th and 9th of April 2020 as the dates for obtaining these extensions by paying the standard fee. No penalty will be charged for this. However, these dates may vary depending on the ongoing situation and on government instructions.”
- If you are currently in Sri Lanka on ANY TYPE of VISA, this will automatically be extended for 30 days.
- You do not have to go to the Dpt of Immigration to obtain this extension, except,
- If you are staying in the country past April 08 / April 09, you will have to go to the Dpt of Immigration and pay the fee (let’s wait and see how chaotic this might be, I’m not sure this will happen).
- If you are leaving before April 08, you will have to pay the relevant visa fee at the airport (not an overstay fee, just the normal extension fee).
Entering the country
[18/03/2020] – ALL ARRIVALS TO THE COUNTRY HAVE STOPPED AS OF 0400 ON 19TH MARCH.
[17/03/2020] – ALL NEW VISAS HAVE BEEN BLOCKED INCLUDING E-VISAS.
[15/03/2020] – All visa-on-arrival services have been blocked and all NEW visa’s (not just on-arrival) from “at-risk” countries have been blocked. I believe there is a high likelihood that they will soon block all new visas into the country. HOWEVER, if you already have an approved e-visa you will be able to enter. I know of people who entered Sri Lanka without issues as recent as the 16/03/2020. If you would like to apply for an e-visa and you are not coming from a high-risk country you should apply through this link.
Already in Sri Lanka
[18/03/2020] – Refer to the above summary, 30 day visa extensions granted automatically.
[17/03/2020] – Apart from this, we believe that visas can still be extended in Sri Lanka as usual, however the Dpt of Immigration will only re-open again on Friday the 20th of March. It has been closed from MON – THU due to the public holiday announcements from the government.
[15/03/2020] – If you are already in Sri Lanka the natural question that arises is “what should I do if my visa is going to expire?”. If your visa is going to expire you have two main options (1) leave the country before it expires, (2) extend the tourist visa up to 6 months. If you have a 1 month tourist visa, you can first extend this for 2 months for a total of 3 months, following this extension you can again extend for 3 months giving you a total of 6 months. The maximum amount of time you can stay in Sri Lanka is 6 months on a tourist visa. The steps you can take to extend your visa are listed lower down in this article under “visa extension procedure”.
What happens if I overstay my visa?
[15/03/2020] – Based on my discussion with the immigration dpt and the tourism department because of the unprecedented global situation, exceptions would be made. I must stress this isn’t official but it is also understandable given that you could be stuck in Sri Lanka unable to travel to another country due to travel restrictions. If you are faced with this situation please reach out to us so we can do our best to help.
Visa extension procedure
If you need to have your visa extended, you can use the Immigration Services Centre from many parts of the island:
- You can contact them through email@example.com or call them on +94-727-591-591 / +94-112-375-972.
- They will email you a breakdown of the costs of the extension, the official form you need to print, fill your details and add a passport size photo.
- Arrange for a courier to pick up your passport and the filled out the application form.
- We will transfer the costs from our Sri Lankan bank account to them and send you an invoice you can pay by PayPal or Credit Card.
- Once the visa has been obtained, they will courier your passport back to you.
Please CC firstname.lastname@example.org in all the emails you have with them so we are aware. If you are looking for full details about how to get the visa yourself please visit: https://tuktukrental.com/everything-visa-visa-extension-sri-lanka/
Travel Restrictions to Sri Lanka (ALL INBOUND TRAVEL STOPPED ON 17/03/2020)
[17/03/2020] All arrivals to Sri Lanka have been stopped as of 4am on the 19/03/2020. Departures are still operating, for now.
Passengers who are from, transit through or have been in below countries are not allowed to enter Sri Lanka until further notice:
- Korea (Rep.)
Passengers who are from, transit through or have been in the past 14 days are not allowed to enter Sri Lanka until the 29th of March:
- Qatar (announced 17/03/2020)
- Bahrain (announced 17/03/2020)
- Canada (announced 17/03/2020)
Flights are suspended from the following countries from 16/03/2020:
- United Kingdom
We have received reports of some (not all) hotels are closing all over the island. Their closure is due to a mix of (1) there are not many tourists on the island and it’s cheaper to close doors than to keep operating, and, (2) the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are booking hotels we suggest that you call the hotel and not just rely on online booking facilities. Please call them to confirm they will be open. We have started compiling a list of hotels that we are 100% sure will be staying open here: https://tuktukrental.com/list-of-hotels-staying-open-during-corona/
If you have a hotel that is staying open or a suggestion of a hotel to add to the list we would appreciate it if you could let us know in the comments section.
Closure of National Parks & Museums
Zoological gardens, botanical gardens and national parks under the purview of the Wildlife Department are to be closed for two weeks. The Department of Government Information announced that this measure will be in effect from tomorrow the 15/03/2020. We have reports of tourists visiting Sigiriya / Lions Rock on the 15/03/2020 and it was open – it is not under the jurisdiction of the Wildlife Department. There is as yet no official word on the closure of historical sites but we wouldn’t be surprised if this changes.
The Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs has decided to temporarily close all museums in the country due to the prevailing situation concerning the spread of coronavirus. 11 national museums around the island will be closed until further notice [effective on 16/03/2020].
Tourist Area Closures – local groups
There has been 1 reported case (9:56am on the 16/03/2020) that a local tourist group put a sign up to close local areas from tourists as a preventative measure to combat COVID-19. The first reported case of this occurring is with a sign in the Ella region, see below. This is not a central government initiative nor has there been any official mention of historic or other non-mentioned (National Parks above) sites being closed off.
Quarantine arrivals from Italy from 01/03/2020 – 09/03/2020
The government announced that both locals and foreigners who arrived in Sri Lanka from Italy from the 1st to the 9th of March and had not undergone a quarantine period will need to self-quarantine for 14-days. Steps would be taken to identify these people and ensure they are not showing symptoms and spreading the virus.
<UNVERIFIED> Quarantine for all foreign tourists
There is a rumor currently being circulated about there being a 2-week self-quarantine for all foreigners into their respective hotels amid the COVID-19 outbreak. We have so far NOT RECEIVED ANY INFORMATION THAT SUGGESTS THIS IS TRUE true from any official sources. This is fake news. We have called the Ministry of Tourism and they confirm this is not official nor are they currently considering this action (16/03/2020). However, given the information is still being circulated, we are seeing some locals, especially in small villages and non-touristic areas are fearful of foreigners. We have also been informed that some local hotels have stopped accepting foreign guests. In light of this, we suggest you find accommodation today that you are happy to spend the next 2 weeks at.