Advice levelsWhat does this mean?
- Terrorism is a threat in Sri Lanka. Attacks could happen anywhere at any time. Terrorists may target tourist areas. Avoid crowds. Follow the advice of local officials.
- Security has increased across the country following the 21 April 2019 terrorist attacks. Always carry travel and identification documents. Allow additional time to clear security checks, especially at airports.
- There are marked and unmarked minefields and unexploded weapons in the Northern Province and parts of the Eastern Province. Stay on main roads. Pay close attention to landmine warning signs.
- Violent crime, including sexual assault, harassment and robbery, occurs. If you’re a woman travelling alone, arrange travel through a reputable company.
- Scams and fraud are common, including credit card fraud, overcharging and fake goods. Be alert to fake goods, especially jewellery and gems. Check your bank statements often.
- Flooding and landslides occur during the monsoon season. This is December to March in the north-east and May to October in the south-west. Be prepared to change your travel plans.
Full travel advice: Safety
- COVID-19 remains a risk in Sri Lanka. It's mandatory for individuals to maintain social distancing in public spaces and to wear face masks. If you violate the requirements, you'll be either imprisoned for six months or incur a fine of within LKR 10,000.
- Outbreaks of dengue are common. Use mosquito repellent. If you have a fever, get medical help.
- Other insect-borne diseases include chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and filariasis. Use mosquito and insect repellent. Get vaccinated for Japanese encephalitis before you travel.
- Foodborne, waterborne and other infectious diseases include typhoid, hepatitis, leptospirosis. Drink only boiled or bottled water. Rabies is present in dogs, monkeys and bats.
- Medical services in Colombo are below Australian standards. Outside Colombo, they’re limited. If you’re seriously ill or injured, you’ll need medical evacuation. Ensure your travel insurance covers this.
Full travel advice: Health
- Always carry photo identification. If you don't, officials may detain you. It’s illegal to cover your face in a way that prevents identification.
- The legal drinking age is 21. It is illegal to drink alcohol or smoke in public.
- Be careful when taking photos. You must not photograph or video inside High-Security Zones (HSZs). These include military sites, some government buildings and official residences. HSZs aren't always marked.
- Respect the local culture. It’s illegal to mistreat Buddhist images. This includes posing for photos with Buddha statues, or wearing tattoos, clothing or jewellery associated with Buddhism. Get local advice before photographing places of worship.
- Sri Lanka has conservative dress and behaviour standards. Take care not to offend.
Full travel advice: Local laws
- All travellers departing from Sri Lanka to Australia must present a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test report conducted within 72 hours of departure. Contact your airline for more information.
- Incoming commercial passenger flights are operating. Outgoing commercial passenger flights departing for Australia have resumed operations. Flights schedules continue to change at short notice.
- All travellers to Sri Lanka must present a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test report in English when checking in. The test must be conducted within 72 hours of your departure or you will be unable to board your flight.
- Entry into Sri Lanka and quarantine arrangements is dependent on your vaccination status. Guidance for tourists visiting Sri Lanka can be found through the Ministry of Tourism.
- Curfews may be implemented and travel restrictions changed at short notice.
- The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Exchange Australian dollars at the airport or commercial banks in major centres. Most major towns and cities have ATMs, but not all accept international cards. Hotels and major shops accept credit cards.
Full travel advice: Travel
A terrorist attack could happen anywhere in Sri Lanka at any time, targeting anyone. Terrorists may target areas popular with foreigners.
To reduce your risk of being involved in a terrorist attack:
- avoid crowded areas
- always be alert
- follow the advice of local authorities
- monitor the media and other sources
Security has increased across the country following the 21 April 2019 terrorist attacks. The attacks targeted prominent hotels and churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. Over 250 people were killed and more than 450 injured.
When you're travelling:
- carry travel and identification documents for any checkpoints
- allow additional time to clear security formalities
- be prepared to undergo increased security checks at Bandaranaike International Airport
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Civil unrest and political tension
Demonstrations and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent. Such events may become a target for politically motivated attacks.
Communal and inter-ethnic tensions have been high since the Easter 2019 attacks. Isolated incidents of violence can occur with little warning.
In response to protests in Sri Lanka, police have:
- used tear gas and water cannons
- imposed curfews at short notice
Always carry an ID, such as your passport or a copy of your passport biodata page and visa page certified by the Australian High Commission in Colombo.
To stay safe during periods of unrest:
- avoid all protests and large public gatherings
- monitor the news for planned or possible unrest
- obey curfews and seek local advice on safety and security
- obey the instructions of security personnel
If you're detained, ask to contact the Australian High Commission. See Local contacts
Security forces are visible, particularly in the Northern and Eastern provinces.
Communal and inter-ethnic tensions have been high in the Eastern provinces in the past. Isolated incidents of violence can occur with little warning.
If you travel to the Northern or Eastern provinces:
- stay on main roads
- obey landmine warning signs
- ask local authorities about unsafe areas
- be ready to adjust your travel plans if travel restrictions or security issues arise
Military and police have wide-ranging powers, and may:
- establish checkpoints or road closures without warning
- impose curfews
- detain people without charge for long periods
- search people, vehicles, homes or commercial premises
Security forces have at times detained non-Sri Lankan citizens of Sri Lankan heritage.
Authorities may apply travel restrictions for foreigners without notice.
Marked and unmarked minefields and unexploded weapons remain in some areas. Most are in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Most of the Eastern Province has been cleared but some isolated areas remain uncleared.
Pickpocketing, bag snatching and other petty crime are risks. Be careful of theft in crowds, and in these locations:
- sporting events
- public transport
- hotels and guesthouses
Women may experience unwanted attention. Sexual harassment and assault are risks. Take care in:
- areas popular with foreigners
- public buses
- 3-wheeled vehicles (tuktuks)
If you're a solo female traveller, arrange your trip through travel agents with a good reputation.
Avoid unlit areas and places away from crowds, including city streets, village lanes and beaches.
The following crimes have also been reported:
- verbal harassment
- physical advances
To protect yourself:
- keep your belongings close, especially in crowded areas
- don't accept food, drinks, gum or cigarettes from strangers
- don't leave your drinks unattended
- if you aren't sure if a drink is safe, leave it
- stick with people you trust at parties and in bars, nightclubs and taxis
Scams and fraud
Scams and fraud are a problem, such as:
- credit card fraud, including skimming, which happens often
- traders overcharging foreigners for goods or services
- traders selling travellers fake goods, especially jewellery and gems
Ask your credit card provider how to prevent credit card fraud.
Tours and adventure activities
Transport and tour operators don't always follow safety and maintenance standards. This includes adventure activities, such as water sports.
If you plan to do an adventure activity:
- check if your travel insurance policy covers it
- check operators' credentials
- ask about and insist on minimum safety requirements
- always use available safety gear, such as life jackets or seatbelts
If proper safety equipment isn't available, use another provider.
Swimming conditions at some beaches are unsafe and there are often strong rips.
Lifesaving services are rare and not to the same standard as Australia.
Take appropriate precautions.
Climate and natural disasters
The monsoon season is from:
- December to March in the north-east
- May to October in the south-west
Flooding and landslides are frequent.
If a natural disaster occurs:
- secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag)
- follow the advice of local authorities
- monitor the media and other sources
- keep in touch with friends and family
- consult with your tour operator about disruptions to your travel plans
Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance.
Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. You will not be able to enter Sri Lanka without evidence of adequate travel insurance. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
- what activities and care your policy covers
- that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away
Physical and mental health
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition. Consider whether you may be in a vulnerable category for COVID-19.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
- have a basic health check-up
- ask if your travel plans may affect your health
- plan any vaccinations you need
Do this at least 8t weeks before you leave.
If you need counselling while overseas, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre on +61 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Sri Lanka. Take enough legal medicine for your trip. Consider bringing an extra supply in case your trip is unexpectedly extended.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
- what the medicine is
- how much you'll take
- that it's for personal use
COVID-19 remains a risk in Sri Lanka.
For information on Sri Lanka’s COVID−19 vaccination program, refer to Ministry of Health Sri Lanka and your local Public Health Inspector. You should consult your local health professional for advice on vaccine options, including assistance that may be available locally. The Australian Government cannot provide advice on the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines that have been approved for use outside of Australia's regulatory process.
Outbreaks of dengue occur in all regions of Sri Lanka.
In 2020, authorities reported more than 30,000 suspected cases. 12,851 suspected dengue cases were reported from all over the island from January 2021 to now.
More than 40% of cases were from the Western Province.
If you have a fever, seek medical attention.
Outbreaks of other insect-borne diseases often occur, including:
To protect yourself from disease:
- use mosquito and insect repellent
- wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
- get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis
Other health risks
Foodborne, waterborne and other infectious diseases sometimes occur, including:
Rabies can cause death. It is found in dogs, monkeys and bats.
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.
To protect yourself:
- drink boiled water or bottled water with sealed lids
- avoid ice cubes
- avoid uncooked and undercooked food, such as salads
Get medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.
Medical services and care in Colombo are below Australian standards. Outside of Colombo, facilities are limited, especially for emergency services.
Private hospitals will ask you to pay a deposit or prove you have insurance cover before treating you. Public general hospitals are free for Sri Lankan nationals. Foreigners will need to pay for any treatments received at public general hospitals.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be sent to a designated hospital or a quarantine hotel. This will be a private cost to you.
The Sri Lanka Navy Base in Trincomalee has a decompression chamber.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a place with better facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Penalties for carrying or using illegal drugs are severe and include the death penalty.
Authorities may apply the death penalty for murder or rape.
The legal drinking age is 21 years.
In certain cases, Sri Lankan law permits:
- arrest without warrant
- extended detention without charge or trial
- reversal of the onus of proof
Always carry official photo ID. If you don't, authorities may detain you.
In Sri Lanka it's illegal to:
- cover your face in a way that prevents your identification
- smoke in most public places
- drink alcohol in most public places
- engage in same-sex sexual acts
You must not take photos or record video in High-Security Zones (HSZ), including:
- military establishments
- some government buildings
- official residences
Some HSZs may not be signposted.
It's illegal to mistreat Buddhist images, including:
- having your back to Buddha
- posing for a photograph next to a statue of Buddha
- wearing tattoos, jewellery or clothing associated with Buddhism
You must have legal authorisation to export certain items, such as antiquities. Contact the Sri Lankan Department of Archaeology for details.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
Sri Lanka recognises dual nationality.
Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative in Sri Lanka. Respect religious traditions and objects. Take care not to offend.
Respect local restrictions and observances around religious holidays.
Full moon (Poya) days are celebrated once a month. Authorities ban the sale and purchase of alcohol and fresh meat on these days.
Seek local advice before you take photos of places of worship and nearby areas. You may cause offence.
Entry and exit conditions can change. Details on Sri Lankan entry requirements can be found on Sri Lanka Travel.
You need a visa, in the form of an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA).
Tourists are unable to obtain visas on arrival. Select the correct visa category for your situation. Depending on your ETA category, you may be charged a processing fee. You will need to apply online and obtain a valid visa prior to arrival in Sri Lanka. If you engage in activities that breach your visa conditions, authorities could detain or deport you.
Contact the High Commission of Sri Lanka for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
Pay close attention to the date your visa expires. You could receive a large fine if you overstay your visa.
Yellow fever and Cholera
If you're travelling from a country with yellow fever or cholera you need to present evidence that you've received the relevant immunisations.
You need a yellow fever vaccination certificate even if you've only transited through an affected country. This rule applies for the 9 days before you enter Sri Lanka. Babies under one year old are exempt.
Find out about returning to Australia after exposure to yellow fever.
Entry to Sri Lanka
All passengers flying to Sri Lanka must present a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test report in English when checking in. The test must be conducted within 72 hours of your international departure or you will be unable to board your flight.
The need to quarantine on arrival in Sri Lanka is dependent on your vaccination status. The Ministry of Tourism has published health protocols for arrival to Sri Lanka.
You'll need to pay any costs associated with quarantine or COVID-19 (PCR) tests.
If you're fully vaccinated you must carry proof of your vaccination status is English.
Requirements for arriving in Sri Lanka (including transit) in the past 14 days continues to be restricted for some countries. These rules apply regardless or your COVID-19 vaccination status.
Cruise ship passengers are not allowed to disembark in Sri Lanka.
Staying in Sri Lanka
Social distancing and other COVID-19 health-related measures, including the use of face masks in public places is mandatory. Curfews may be implemented and travel restrictions changed at short notice. You'll be fined or imprisoned if you don't comply.
Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Lost or stolen passport
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR).
You can change Australian dollars for LKR at:
- the airport
- commercial banks in major centres
Most major towns and cities have ATMs. Some ATMs don't accept international cards.
You can withdraw cash from Visa and MasterCard cards at most major banks.
Hotels and major shops will accept credit cards.
Before you travel, ask your bank if your cards will work in Sri Lanka.
Check your statements, as credit card fraud and card-skimming occur.
High Security Zones
You must get approval from the Ministry of Defence to:
- meet military officials
- visit military establishments
- enter High Security Zones
Limit travel in High Security Zones and near military and government installations.
Be ready to present your approval documents at roadblocks and checkpoints.
To drive in Sri Lanka, you need either:
- a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) endorsed by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka (AA)
- a temporary Sri Lankan driver’s licence from the Department of Motor Traffic
To apply for a local licence, you must pay the fee and provide:
- your Australian driver’s licence
- a copy of your passport
- a copy of your Sri Lankan visa
- passport photos
If you drive without an IDP or Sri Lankan driver's licence, you may not be covered by your travel or vehicle insurance.
Driving in Sri Lanka is hazardous. Road accident injuries and deaths are common. You’re over three times more likely to die in a motor accident in Sri Lanka than in Australia.
Driving standards are poor. Vehicles aren't well maintained.
If you plan to drive in Sri Lanka:
- learn local traffic laws and practices
- drive carefully and legally
- don't drink and drive
Ask your travel insurer if your policy covers you when riding a motorbike.
Always wear a helmet.
When tourists arrive at the airport, airport transfers to quarantine must be pre-arranged by either your Certified Safe & Secure level 1 hotel or Certified Safe & Secure travel agent. You cannot make personal arrangements.
If you have a local SIM card, ridesharing apps are available in major cities. However, vehicle standards vary.
Safety standards on buses and trains may be lower than in Australia.
There are a high number of road deaths and injuries, especially on intercity buses. There have also been fatal accidents on Sri Lankan railways in recent years.
Take care of your belongings because theft occurs. See Safety
Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka.
Get piracy reports from the International Maritime Bureau.
Allow additional time to clear security formalities and be ready to present travel documents at checkpoints.
Curfews and other security measures could affect domestic travel, including flights.
Commercial domestic Sri Lankan Air Force flights may not meet international airline standards for safety and maintenance.
When Australian officials book scheduled flights with Helitours, the Air Force-run domestic airline, they choose only MA60 aircraft.
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check Sri Lanka's air safety with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
- family and friends
- travel agent
- insurance provider
Fire and rescue services
In Colombo, you can also call (+94 11) 269 1111.
Call 118 or 119 or go to your local police station.
Call (+94 11) 242 1052 or (+94 11) 242 1451.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products or call the Tourism Hotline 1912.
You can also call the Sri Lankan tourist police on (+94 11) 242 1451.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in Colombo.
Australian High Commission
21, Srimath R. G. Senanayake Mawatha (formerly Gregory's Road)
Colombo 7, Sri Lanka
Phone: (+94 11) 246 3200
Fax: (+94 11) 268 6453
Facebook: Australia in Sri Lanka and Maldives
Check the High Commission website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
24-hour Consular Emergency Centre
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
- +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
- 1300 555 135 in Australia