Sri Lanka travel advice
Latest updates: The Need help? section was updated.
Last updated: ET
On this page
- Risk level
- Safety and security
- Entry and exit requirements
- Laws and culture
- Natural disasters and climate
- Need help?
Sri Lanka - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Sri Lanka due to the economic crisis which has led to shortages of basic necessities including fuel, food and medicines.
Safety and security
Current economic situation
Sri Lanka is experiencing a severe economic crisis and shortages of basic necessities including medicines, fuel and food. Local authorities continue to ration electricity, resulting in power outages.
The economic instability may also affect the delivery of public services, including healthcare. Limited access to resources could contribute to a further deterioration in the security environment.
If you are in Sri Lanka:
- keep supplies of food, water and fuel in case of lengthy disruptions
- make sure to have sufficient supply of medicines as they may not be available
- make sure your travel documents are up to date
- avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- follow the instructions of local authorities
Demonstrations and civil unrest
Demonstrations occur frequently in Colombo, and occasionally elsewhere in the country. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
The Sri Lankan military continues to maintain a strong presence in the country’s North and East, including the Jaffna Peninsula. Military and police checkpoints can be established and road closures can occur suddenly.
Security forces have wide-ranging powers, including the authority to:
- impose curfews
- detain without charge for extended periods
- search individuals, vehicles, residences and commercial premises
Individuals of Sri Lankan heritage, including those who don’t have Sri Lankan citizenship, have been detained on occasion by police or security forces.
- Avoid military areas and High Security Zones
- Always carry formal photographic identification with you
- Remain on heavily travelled roads and avoid walking in forested areas and abandoned properties due to the risk of unexploded mines
- Monitor local developments via local news
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- If you’re detained, ask the authorities to contact the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka and Maldives
There is a threat of terrorism. Past attacks have resulted in fatalities.
Further attacks can’t be ruled out. Targets could include:
- government buildings, including schools
- places of worship
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners
Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places.
Violent crime occurs, including harassment and assault aimed at Western foreigners.
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. To minimize risks, you should opt to pay in cash whenever possible.
Ensure that your personal belongings, including passports and other travel documents, are secure at all times.
Inter-communal and religious tensions exist throughout the country and have led to violence. Further violent incidents could occur.
Spiked food and drinks
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. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Women are often the target for unwanted attention. They should exercise caution when travelling alone.
Swimming conditions may be unsafe. Follow the advice and warnings of local authorities.
Tourist facilities are widely available but quality varies, especially inland. You should arrange travel to remote areas through a reputable travel agency.
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.
Roads may be closed on short notice.
Travel by bus is generally unsafe due to aggressive drivers and the risk of theft.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Entry and exit requirements
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Sri Lankan authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Sri Lanka.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Tourist visa: required
Business visa: required
Student visa: required
Work visa: required
For stays of up to 30 days, you can apply online for a tourist visa. You can obtain all other visas 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.
You cannot convert a visa status once in Sri Lanka. Non-compliance with visa restrictions may result in deportation.
Apply for the Electronic Travel Authority - Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration
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
Learn more about travelling with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.
Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary.
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 professional.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.
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.
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.
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 (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air..
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is very low for most travellers. Travellers at relatively higher risk may want to consider vaccination for JE prior to travelling.
Travellers are at higher risk if they will be:
- travelling long term (e.g. more than 30 days)
- making multiple trips to endemic areas
- staying for extended periods in rural areas
- visiting an area suffering a JE outbreak
- engaging in activities involving high contact with mosquitos (e.g., entomologists)
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.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
For destination entry and exit requirements, including for COVID-19 vaccination requirements, please check the Entry/exit requirements section.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
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.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Travellers going to countries in South Asia should speak to a health care professional about getting vaccinated.
Safe food and water precautions
Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.
- Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
- Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs.
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 among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insect bite prevention
Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:
- Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
- Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
- Minimize exposure to insects
- Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed
To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.
Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.
There is a risk of chikungunya in this country. The risk may vary between regions of a country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- In this country, dengue is a risk to travellers. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue.
Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may put you at higher risk of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.
Closely supervise children, as they’re more likely to come in contact with animals.
Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:
- washing your hands often
- avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
- avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness
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 professional.
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 the standards you might normally expect in Canada.
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.
Medical facilities may require confirmation of insurance coverage, guarantee of payment or an up-front deposit before admitting patients.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
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
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict.
Alcohol consumption in public places is prohibited.
Smoking is prohibited in many indoor public places, workplaces and on public transport. Use designated smoking areas.
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 and behaviour
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.
Carry official identification at all times.
2SLGBTQI+ travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Sri Lanka.
Traffic drives on the left.
Checkpoints may be set up. Carry personal identification at all times and comply with government and security force instructions.
You should carry an international driving permit.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Sri Lanka.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Sri Lanka, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and Sri Lanka.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Sri Lanka, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the Sri Lankan court.
If you are in this situation:
- act as quickly as you can
- contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in Sri Lanka to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- The Hague Convention - Hague Conference on Private International Law
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR).
Credit cards are widely accepted in major urban and tourist centres. You may encounter difficulties in making Visa and MasterCard cash withdrawals. There are ATMs in major cities, but some do not accept international cards.
Natural disasters and climate
Monsoon and rainstorms
The rainy (or 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 can lead to deaths, injuries and large population displacements.
- Stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Weather forecasts - Sri Lankan Department of Meteorology
- Disaster warnings and weather reports – Sri Lankan Disaster Management Center
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Sri Lanka is located in an active seismic zone and may be prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.
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. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
- Date modified: