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Can I Travel to Sri Lanka Now?

by Nick Clark
Local people driving in rural Sri Lanka

This article focuses on the critical question, ‘Can I travel to Sri Lanka now?’. We’ll detail if and how you can travel to Sri Lanka and the practicalities of travel there too. 

Back in March 2020, Sri Lanka was quick to close its borders and with an initial lockdown, managed to keep COVID cases low throughout the first year of the pandemic. After a successful re-opening of their borders in spring 2021, cases did increase significantly due to the spread of the Delta variant from India throughout the summer. With the implementation of local and then national lockdowns, the case numbers flattened and since August 2021 have declined. The country is still in lockdown but the Sri Lankan government have indicated that this will end on October 1st. 

When will Sri Lanka open its borders to foreigners?

The Sri Lankan government re-opened its borders in January 2021, creating a Bio-security travel bubble for tourists within safe and secure level 1 accredited hotelsInitially, visitors were required to stay within the bubble for 14 days but since April, vaccinated travellers can leave the bubble and travel freely throughout the country, after a negative PCR test result on arrival in Sri Lanka. 

View of pool, garden and beach at Tanamera Estate near Galle in Sri Lanka

Is Sri Lanka on the UK ‘Go’ list?

Yes, Sri Lanka was removed from the UK’s ‘red’ and added to the ‘go’ list following the government’s announcement on 17th September 2021. This means that fully vaccinated travellers do not have to quarantine on return from Sri Lanka after the rules kick in on 4th October 2021.

What are vaccinations levels like in Sri Lanka?

After a slow start to their vaccination program, Sri Lanka is making good progress with 52% of the population fully vaccinated and 64% received at least one dose. In August & September, the Sri Lankan government proceeded with a large-scale procurement of vaccines and as of mid-September, vaccines were being offered to those in the 20-30 age group and children with notable health conditions.

Do I need to be fully vaccinated to get into Sri Lanka?

No, you do not need to be fully vaccinated to get into Sri Lanka as the original Bio-secure bubble still exists. However, if you are not fully vaccinated, you will not be able to leave the bubble (unless to leave the country) for 14 days, whereas if you are fully vaccinated, you can leave the bubble following a negative PCR test result on arrival.

A Swimming Pool with a view in Sri Lanka

What tests do I have to take to get into Sri Lanka?

There are no pre-travel test requirements to enter Sri Lanka but all arrivals, whether vaccinated or not, are required to take a PCR test on arrival in Sri Lanka.

Do I have to quarantine on arrival in Sri Lanka?

No, there is no quarantine on arrival in Sri Lanka, but all tourists do enter the bio-secure bubble. While in the bubble, you can move freely within your hotel and visit certain approved sites.

Men hauling in fish on Sri Lankan beach at Ravana Garden hotel

What is the Bio-Security Bubble?

The Bio-security bubble was designed to encourage visitors to Sri Lanka, while protecting the local population from the spread of COVID. It is for all tourist arrivals into Sri Lanka and in brief, travellers stay in hotels that have been given Level 1 ‘Safe & Secure’ status by SLDTA (Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority).  

The length of time visitors spend in the ‘bubble’ is determined by their vaccination status but after receiving a negative PCR test result, it is possible to transfer between level 1 hotels across the country and visit approved excursions and sites. 

Fully vaccinated travellers can leave the bubble once they receive a negative PCR test result so we recommend those travellers start a holiday with two nights in a level 1 hotel before leaving the bubble and travelling freely throughout Sri Lanka. Non-vaccinated travellers must stay within the bubble for 14 days before being able to travel freely across the country but can move between hotels.  

It is possible to stay for longer than required in the bubble if for example travellers would like to spend longer in a Level 1 hotel but once you leave the bubble, it is not possible to return. 

What is a Level 1 ‘Safe & Secure’ hotel in Sri Lanka? 

This is a status given to hotels by SLDTA (Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority) and means they are within the Bio-secure bubble. Hotels have to meet certain requirements to be able to apply for this status and can only accept guests that are within the bubble and are not open to local guests or tourists that have left the bubble. They will also have procedures in place to reduce the risk of COVID cases making it into the bubble from the local community or vice versa. 

View of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

Do I have to wear a mask in Sri Lanka?

Yes, wearing a mask in public is mandatory for all in Sri Lanka including tourists. Masks can be removed at restaurants and beaches. 

Can I eat in local restaurants in Sri Lanka?

Yes, after being tested negative and leaving the bio bubble you are free to move about as locals, including going to local restaurants.

Locals barter over fruit in a market in sri Lanka

Do I have to quarantine in the UK on return from Sri Lanka?

Following the UK government’s announcement on September 17th 2021 that Sri Lanka is on the ‘Go’ list, which means that fully vaccinated travellers do not have to quarantine on return from Sri Lanka after the rules kick in on 4th October 2021. However, travellers that are not fully vaccinated will have to self-isolate on return.

Why should I book a trip to Sri Lanka now?

  • Booking a holiday to Sri Lanka will start to provide hope to the 1 in 8 families that are dependent on tourism and have been so badly affected by the pandemic. 
  • Sites such as Sigiriya are currently nearly empty so there is a great opportunity to see them in a way that is not normally possible. 
  • There is currently some great availability, especially for those families looking for a special post-covid holiday.
  • Any trip booked with ETG is backed by our Covid Promise. Your deposit is fully refundable, and if Sri Lanka were to be on the red list when your travel date comes, you’ll be able to claim a full refund. 


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