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Home / General Travel Tips /
XYZ Consular Info: Sri Lanka

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XYZ Consular Info: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Consular Information Sheet
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
April 11, 2002
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. The country has been seriously disrupted since 1983 by a civil war and related urban terrorism. Despite the armed insurgency, Sri Lanka's beaches and archeological sites attract tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. The capital city of Colombo, the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa), and the west and southwest coasts all have good tourist facilities.
ENTRY/EXIT AND REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS: A passport and an onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required. A no-cost visit visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted at the time of entry into Sri Lanka to bona fide tourists and business travelers. Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must pay residency visa fees. Yellow fever and cholera immunizations are needed if arriving from an infected area. All travelers departing Sri Lanka (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport tax, in cash. 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 guesthouses.
Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 28, fax numbers (202) 232-7181 or 483-8017, e-mail address: slembassy@clark.net, home page: http://www.slembassy.org. There is a Consulate General in Los Angeles at 5371 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 201, Los Angeles, CA 90036, telephone (323) 634-0479 or (323) 634-1079 and a Consulate in New York City telephone (212) 986-7040. There are two honorary Sri Lankan consuls in the United States: New Orleans, LA telephone (504) 455-7880 and Atlanta, GA (404) 881-7164. Sri Lanka maintains a Permanent Mission to the United Nations at 630 3rd Avenue, 20th floor, New York, NY 10017.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: Sri Lanka recognizes dual nationality in some cases. For further information, please contact either the Sri Lankan Embassy or one of the consulates.
SAFETY/SECURITY:
Terrorism:
Since 1997, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been on the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations. Terrorist activities in the capital city of Colombo and other areas of the country remain a serious threat. On July 24, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacked the Colombo International Airport and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft. Several military personnel were killed in the attack, military and airport employees were injured, and civilians were caught in the crossfire. In the past several years, the LTTE has also attacked several commercial ships flying foreign flags in the waters off the north and east of the country. In 1998, threats were directed at domestic air carriers flying between Colombo and Jaffna, and in September of that year, a domestic civilian aircraft flying from Colombo to Jaffna crashed, killing everyone on board. The cause of the accident is still unknown.
Bomb attacks remain the greatest terrorist hazard. The LTTE has attempted or carried out numerous political assassinations or attempts. In 1999, suicide bombings resulted in the death of 30 persons and injury to 143 others in Colombo, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Medawachchi. In January 2000, a suicide bomber killed more than a dozen and wounded several passers-by when she detonated her bomb outside the Prime Minister's Office after being detected by security personnel. In March 2000, as many as eight LTTE terrorists attacked a government motorcade traveling on a major Colombo thoroughfare, killing 25 people and wounding many others. In June 2000, a suicide bomber assassinated the Minister for Industrial Development in a Colombo suburb. Twenty-one others were killed and 60 people were injured in the attack. In October 2000, two American and one British women and their Sri Lankan driver were seriously injured in their vehicle in Central Colombo when an LTTE suicide bomber confronted by police exploded his device rather than surrender. Three policemen were killed. In October 2001, an LTTE suicide bomber stopped by police in the vicinity of an election rally in Colombo detonated his device rather than surrender, killing five people and injuring 16 others.
In addition to individual suicide bombers, vehicle-mounted bombs have been used by the LTTE. 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 October 1997, a number of American citizens suffered minor injuries when a vehicle bomb was detonated near five-star hotels in Colombo. In January 1998, the Temple of the Tooth, an important religious and tourist site in Kandy, was subjected to a truck bomb; eight people were killed, and the temple, nearby businesses and an historic hotel were damaged.
Small bombs have frequently been placed against infrastructure targets such as telephone switchgear or electrical power transformers. Public buses have also been the targets of terrorist attacks. In September 1999, bombs were detonated in buses in separate incidents in Negombo and Badula. In one week in February 2000, seven separate explosions of bombs left on public buses in Colombo and other cities killed three and wounded over 140 people. Bombs have also been found on trains and on train roadbeds, resulting in one death and injuries to over 50 people.
Although U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, LTTE operations have been planned and executed with the knowledge that Americans and other foreigners might be killed or injured. Tourists or business representatives traveling in Sri Lanka may be inadvertently caught up in random acts of violence. Security is very tight in major cities, particularly Colombo and Kandy, and along roads linking Colombo with the north and east. U.S. citizens and other visitors, particularly those of Sri Lankan ancestry, may be subject to unwelcome scrutiny by irregular neighborhood security units known as the Home Guards. . Travel in restricted areas is dangerous. In April 2001, an American citizen was seriously injured by grenade fragments when caught in a skirmish between government and insurgent forces in the eastern part of the country.
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 avoid public transportation if possible. 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. U.S. citizens of any ethnic heritage are encouraged to keep their passports with them at all times. 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. The Government of Sri Lanka has periodically imposed curfews in Colombo; Americans should strictly observe curfew regulations and monitor local radio and television. In May 2000, the Sri Lankan Government activated provisions of the Public Security Ordinance, giving certain government authorities sweeping powers to deal with threats to national security.
Travel Restrictions:
American citizens are advised not to travel north of a line drawn from Puttalam on the west coast through Anuradhapura in the central north and Nivaveli (just north of Trincomalee) in the east. Areas north of this line contain many land mines, making travel off paved roads very dangerous. In addition, the LTTE rather than the Government of Sri Lanka is effectively the civil administration in many sections of the north. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to this area is restricted, and their unofficial travel is prohibited. Travel in the east in the area south of the Anuradhapura-Nivaveli line (including Trincomalee, Batticaloa and points south) poses significant safety risks. Roads are often substandard, and police, medical and other emergency help is severely limited or not available. Communications within the eastern areas are also limited, with no cell phone accessibility and very limited landline telephone access. Because of these considerations, the U.S. Embassy may not be able to provide consular services in a timely manner to American citizens who travel to the north and east.
CRIME INFORMATION: Sri Lanka has a rising crime rate, and criminals, including outlaw gangs of military deserters, increasingly use automatic weapons when committing crimes. There have been reports of police inaction in certain cases. In January 2001, bandits raided a resort in the southern coastal town of Tangalla with the intention of robbing Europeans guests; the owner, a German national, resisted and was killed; his daughter was reportedly raped. In recent years, the U.S. Embassy has received reports of criminal incidents involving violence in the towns of Negombo and Hikkaduwa. Please exercise caution in these towns, especially at night. Children should not be left unattended, even on hotel/resort premises. There have been reports of attempted child molestation by hotel staff. Petty street crime such as purse snatching and pick-pocketing is common, especially on crowded local public transportation. In addition, visitors should be alert to outbreaks of communal violence, such as a May 2001 disturbance between Buddhist and Muslim communities near Kandy that reportedly resulted in one death during a police shootout and extensive property damage.
The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to South Asia," for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities outside Colombo are limited. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of private physicians who may be consulted in emergency cases. Medical supplies are uneven; travelers should carry any special drugs with them. There are five large hospitals in the Colombo area, including two with emergency trauma service, which are Asiri Hospital and the government General Hospital. Serious medical problems may require evacuation to the United States or to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment are available, usually Thailand or Singapore. Neither Thailand nor Singapore requires American citizens to have an entry visa.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), autofax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sri Lanka is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Vehicular traffic moves on the left (British style). Traffic in Colombo is very congested. Narrow, two-lane highways, dangerously driven buses, overloaded trucks and the variety of vehicles on the road, ranging from ox carts, elephants and bicycles to new four-wheel drive jeeps, make driving a challenge and dangerous. Many visitors hire cars and drivers or use radio taxicabs.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Sri Lankan driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Sri Lankan National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at http://www.lanka.net.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, nor economic authority to operate such a service between the United States and Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sri Lanka's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. 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 DOD at telephone (618) 256-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Sri Lankan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Sri Lanka of items such as firearms, antiquities, business equipment, obscene materials, currency, gems and precious metals. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington, D.C., or one of Sri Lanka's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sri Lankan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Persons charged with crimes may be remanded without possibility of bail for months prior to a trial date. Prison conditions in Sri Lanka do not meet international standards and suffer from overcrowding, inadequate food and medical resources, poor sanitation and risk of violence and extortion.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Sri Lanka are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo and obtain updated information on travel and security within Sri Lanka. The U.S. Embassy is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94)(1) 448-007. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(1) 447-601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(1)-436-943. The Embassy's Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The e-mail address for the consular section is consularcolombo@state.gov. 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 or by e-mail.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet for Sri Lanka dated November 6, 2001, to update the section on Safety and Security regarding travel restrictions information.