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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 throughout the summer. With the implementation of local and then national lockdowns, the case numbers flattened and since August 2021 have declined significantly. 

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 hotels. Initially, visitors were required to stay within the bubble for 14 days but since April, vaccinated travellers have been able to travel freely throughout the country, initially after a negative PCR test result on arrival but now on proof of a recent negative test.

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.

Does the FCDO advise against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka?

There is no COVID 19 specific FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) advice in place for travel to Sri Lanka. This means that the UK government do not believe there is any specific risk relating to COVID 19 whilst you are there. In turn, this means that most standard insurance policies will be valid for your trip.

What are vaccinations levels like in Sri Lanka?

After a slow start to their vaccination program, Sri Lanka is making good progress with 55% of the population fully vaccinated and 67% 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?

All travellers over the age of 2 must have a negative PCR test result from within 72 hours of their flight departure. 

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 are the rules for vaccinated travellers? 

Fully vaccinated travellers are able to travel freely as soon as they arrive in Sri Lanka, providing they have a negative result from a PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure and have proof of their vaccination status. Once in the country, there are no restrictions on what they can do and where they can go, although mask-wearing is mandatory. 

Under 18s travelling with their parents are considered to have the same vaccination status as their parents, although unvaccinated children aged 12-18 need to take a PCR test on arrival. 

What are the rules for unvaccinated travellers? 

Unvaccinated travellers must stay within the Bio-security travel bubble for 14 days (unless to leave the country). The bubble consists of hotels that have been given Level 1 ‘Safe & Secure’ status by SLDTA (Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority) and travellers cannot leave the hotel, unless to transfer between level 1 hotels or visit approved excursions and sites. However, while at the hotel, guests can move around the grounds freely. 

Level 1 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 also have procedures in place to reduce the risk of COVID cases making it into the bubble from the local community or vice versa. 

It is worth noting that with the relaxation in the rules on vaccinated travellers, we do not expect there to be a large network of Level 1 hotels available for the bio-bubble from the Autumn onwards. 

View of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

Will Chauffeur Guides be fully vaccinated? 

There is no requirement for chauffeur guides to be fully vaccinated, although, with vaccination rates high, we would expect most to be so. We will certainly ensure all of our chauffeur guides have been full vaccinated before they take our clients on a tour. 


Will Chauffeur Guides be staying in covid secure accommodation? 

With many travellers in Sri Lanka having a chauffeur guide to take them around the country, a lot of hotels have ‘driver’s accommodation’ for their guests. The quality of these facilities does differ from hotel to hotel, with certain hotels only offering shared accommodation. 

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. If travelling in a private vehicle in a small group (eg a family) when you don’t need to wear a mask in the vehicle but do once outside.  

Can I eat in local restaurants in Sri Lanka?

Yes, unless you are within 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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