Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Flag
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Sri Lanka is a parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. Tourist facilities outside the capital and major tourist areas may be limited.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds ($15 U.S. per day) are required. A tourist visa, valid for 90 days or less, may be granted at the time of entry into Sri Lanka Business travelers may be granted a landing endorsement at the port of entry for a one-month period under certain circumstances. Yellow fever and cholera immunizations are needed if arriving from an infected area. Further information can be obtained by contacting the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 8, or the Sri Lankan Consulate in New York, telephone (212) 986-7040. There are also honorary Sri Lankan consuls in Los Angeles, Honolulu, New Orleans and Newark. Sri Lankan law requires all persons, including foreigners, who are guests in private households to register in person at the nearest local police station. Individuals who stay in private households without registering may be temporarily detained for questioning. This requirement does not apply to individuals staying in hotels or guest houses.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: The 15-year-old armed conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and a Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), continues. The military launched a major offensive in the north in May 1997. Fighting has been intense. The LTTE responded with stepped-up military and terrorist activity in the east. The military conflict in Jaffna, the northern peninsula and the eastern provinces, including the towns of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, is expected to continue. Sri Lankan defense regulations restrict travel in much of the islands northern area, including Wilpattu and Gal-Oya national parks. Yala National Park was closed following several terrorist incidents in July 1996, and access by the public continues to be restricted. Travelers are advised not to travel to the north, east and far southeast of the country. The U.S. government maintains tight security procedures regarding travel of U.S. government employees, officials, and dependents to those areas.

Terrorist Activity: In October 1997 the State Department designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization. Terrorist activities in the capital city of Colombo and other areas remain a serious threat. Political assassinations are routinely carried out by the LTTE. In 1997 the LTTE attacked several commercial ships flying foreign flags in the waters off the north and east of the country. While no terrorist attacks against international or domestic aviation in Sri Lanka have been recorded since 1987, in late 1998 threats were directed at domestic air carriers flying between Colombo and Jaffna. As mentioned above, the U.S. Government maintains tight proceedures regarding travel of U.S. Government employees and dependents to this area.

Colombos major hotels have been directly affected by terrorist activities and could be again because of their proximity to likely economic, government and military targets in the capital. An October 1997 truck bomb in downtown Colombo killed 18, injured over 100, and badly damaged nearby office buildings and adjacent five-star hotels. In December 1997 a truck carrying a bomb and traveling along the Galle-Matara road exploded just outside Galle, killing the three individuals in the truck and damaging nearby shops. In January 1998 the Temple of the Tooth, an important religious and tourist site in Kandy, was bombed. Eight people were killed and the temple, nearby businesses, and an historic hotel were damaged. In February 1998 an LTTE suicide bomber killed herself and eight others when she detonated the vest she was wearing at a police checkpoint in Colombo. In March 1998 a large bomb concealed in a bus was detonated near a busy intersection in Colombo, killing 39 and wounding 250. Except for minor injuries in the October 1997 truck bombing, no U.S. citizens were killed or wounded in these incidents.

Although U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, LTTE operations have been planned and executed with the knowledge that Americans and other foreigners may be killed or injured. Tourists or business representatives traveling in Sri Lanka who are in the wrong place at the wrong time may be inadvertently caught up in random acts of violence. Additional attacks, especially on infrastructure facilities, could result in future tightening of security, causing hardship to travelers.

Americans are urged to exercise extreme caution in Colombo because of possible terrorist activities there. In addition, Americans are advised to avoid political rallies and other mass gatherings, limit exposure to government and military installations and use caution when traveling on public buses and trains and on domestic air carriers. Street and highway checkpoints staffed by security personnel are common; travelers should closely follow any instructions given. Non-Sri Lankan citizens of Tamil heritage have occasionally been detained during security operations. All U.S. citizens, of any ethnic heritage, are encouraged to keep their passports with them at all times in Colombo. In the event of a terrorist attack, Americans should monitor local radio and television, seek cover away from windows and return to their homes or hotels when it is safe to do so.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities are limited. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. A serious illness or injury may require evacuation to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment are available, usually Thailand or Singapore. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including medical evacuation coverage, may prove useful. For further information, travelers can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions international travelers hotline at 1-888-232-3228, their autofax service at 1-888-232-3299 or their Internet site at

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Petty street crime such as purse snatching and pickpocketing is common, especially on crowded local transportation. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the U.S. Embassy. Useful information on safeguarding valuables, personal security and other matters while traveling abroad is provided in the pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to South Asia." They are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

DRUG PENALTIES: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: Vehicular traffic moves on the left (British style). Traffic in Colombo is very congested. Narrow, two-lane highways, dangerously driven intercity buses, overloaded trucks and the variety of vehicles on the road, ranging from ox carts and elephants to new four-wheel drive jeeps, make driving a challenge. However, fatalities of foreign visitors are low. Many visitors hire cars and drivers or use radio taxicabs.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sri Lankas Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Sri Lankas air carrier operations. For further information contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

Embassy Location and Registration: Updated information on travel and security within Sri Lanka is available at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. The mailing address is P.O. Box 106, 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassys telephone number during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, is (94)(1)448-007. The Embassys after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(1)447-355. The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of the Maldives. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register at the Embassy upon arrival in Sri Lanka.

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