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SRI LANKA - Exercise a high degree of caution
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Sri Lanka. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the security situation.
Safety and security
Safety and security
The conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan army ended in May 2009. There have not been any recorded incidents of terrorist violence since the end of the war.
East and North
The Sri Lankan military continues to maintain a strong presence in the North and East, including the Jaffna Peninsula. Military roadblocks and checkpoints may be encountered when travelling in the region. Remain on heavily travelled roads and avoid walking in forested areas and abandoned properties as demining operations are on-going.
Caches of weapons continue to be found.
The resettlement of internally displaced persons is also ongoing. Reports of increased criminal activities and land disputes are more frequent
Some Canadians of Tamil origin report encountering difficulties, including arrest or detention, during screening and security operations. Ensure that you carry proper identification at all times.
Exercise a high degree of caution at all times, monitor local developments via local news reports and follow the advice of local authorities.
Violent crime occurs, including harassment and assault cases aimed at Western foreigners. Foreigners have been targeted in incidents of drink spiking, often combined with sexual assault or theft. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers, and pay attention when drinks are being prepared and served. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have been drugged.
Petty crime such as purse snatching and pickpocketing is common, especially on public transportation. Theft has occurred in hotels and guesthouses. Credit card fraud is common. Pay very close attention to your credit card when it is being handled. Cash transactions are recommended.
Women are often the target for unwanted attention. They should exercise caution when travelling alone. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, as they have the potential to suddenly turn violent, and follow the advice of local authorities.
Inter-communal and religious tensions remain throughout the country. Further violent incidents could occur.
Road conditions are usually poor outside major cities. Road accidents, often causing death and injuries, are common due to poorly maintained vehicles, erratic driving practices, and pedestrians and roaming animals on the road. Travel by bus is generally unsafe due to aggressive drivers and the risk of theft.
Roads may be closed on short notice.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
The runway of Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo will be resurfaced from January 6 to April 6, 2017. If you are planning to travel to Colombo on or around those dates, check with your travel agent or Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. to determine if airport closures will affect your travel plans.
Swimming conditions may be unsafe. Follow the advice and warnings of local authorities.
Tourist facilities are widely available but quality varies, especially inland. Travel to remote areas should be arranged through a reputable travel agency.
General safety information
Carry official identification at all times. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and travel documents are secure at all times.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Sri Lankan authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the High Commission for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Sri Lanka, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must also be in possession of a valid visa to visit Sri Lanka. For stays of up to 30 days, you can apply for a tourist visa online using the Electronic Travel Authority. All other visas can be obtained at a Sri Lankan government office in Canada or abroad. Visas may be extended at Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Work visa: Required
You cannot convert a visa status once in Sri Lanka. Non-compliance with visa restrictions may result in deportation.
Journalists and media crews need permission to travel to some northern districts.
Entry into Sri Lankan waters, at any point, requires prior permission.
An onward or return ticket and proof of sufficient funds to sustain you while you are in the country are required to visit Sri Lanka.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
- Measles: Global Update - July 28, 2016 00:00 EDT
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending a large amount of time outdoors) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Travellers to countries in South Asia should speak to a health care provider about getting vaccinated.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in South Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in South Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis and malaria.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Southern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Medical services and facilities do not meet Canadian standards. Medical facilities in certain areas outside of Colombo are limited, particularly in the North. In the event of a major accident or illness, medical evacuation is often necessary. Medical transport is very expensive. Establishments may require confirmation of insurance coverage, guarantee of payment or an up-front deposit before admitting patients.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act permits prolonged detention without charge or trial.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict.
Smoking is prohibited in many indoor public places, workplaces and on public transport. Use designated smoking areas.
Alcohol consumption in public places is prohibited.
LGBT travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Sri Lanka. See Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travel for more information.
Exporting antiques without a proper licence is illegal.
Photographing and videotaping government and military installations, as well as in any designated high security zone, is prohibited.
Dress conservatively, behave discreetly and respect religious and social traditions and artefacts to avoid offending local sensitivities. Posing for a photograph next to a statue of Buddha is a serious offence, punishable by a fine or an arrest. Tattoos, jewellery and clothing associated with Buddhism are considered offensive and may lead to fines, arrest or deportation.
An international driving permit is required.
Traffic drives on the left. Checkpoints may be set up. Carry personal identification at all times and comply with government and security force instructions.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Sri Lanka. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Sri Lankan citizen. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Sri Lankan passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). You may encounter difficulties in cashing traveller’s cheques as well as permit Visa and MasterCard cash withdrawals. Credit cards are widely accepted in major urban and tourist centres. There are automated banking machines in major cities, but some do not accept international cards.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
Sri Lanka is located in an active seismic zone and may be prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.
The monsoon season extends from December to March in the northeast and June to October in the southwest. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides, which in turn can disrupt essential services and transportation. Consult Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre for updates and advice about local travelling conditions.
Typhoons usually occur between April and December. These storms can result in loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and can hamper the provision of essential services. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.
The Department of Meteorology provides local weather forecasts.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 119 / 118
- tourist police: 94 (11) 242 1052
- medical assistance: 110
- firefighters: 94 (11) 242 2222
Colombo - High Commission of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka in Colombo and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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