Sri Lanka may be known as the teardrop isle (due to its distinctive shape), but the country’s refreshingly straightforward visa system shouldn’t be a source of too much anguish for travellers. Here’s our guide to navigating the entry requirements for visiting Sri Lanka as a tourist, with information on visa types, costs and how to apply for one.
What you need to know about visas in Sri Lanka
With the exception of nationals from Singapore, the Republic of Maldives and the Republic of Seychelles, all travellers will require a visa to visit Sri Lanka.
Fortunately the process for acquiring one is relatively straightforward. For trips of up to 30 days, visas, also known as ETAs, can be obtained from the government’s Department of Immigration and Emigration website. It costs US$35 for a double-entry, 30-day visa (US$20 for residents of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan). Two-day transit visas are free. Children under 12 do not require a visa to enter Sri Lanka. Once your visa has been approved, print out the visa confirmation to show immigration officials on arrival in Sri Lanka.
ETAs can also be applied for through travel agents as well as in person at Sri Lankan embassies or consulates in your country of origin ahead of a trip. Embassies are able to offer longer visas, such as those granting entry for 90 days. A limited facility also runs at Bandaranaike International Airport (Sri Lanka’s main international airport), offering visas on arrival. These visas cost more (US$40; or US$25 for residents of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan), and it’s worth noting, if your visa application is unsuccessful for any reason you will be returned to your original destination.
Application for any visa requires a passport valid for at least six months from the date of arrival, a confirmed return ticket and sufficient funds to meet the expenses during the stay.
You can renew a 30-day tourist visa twice, for 30 days each time, to a total of 90 days (providing your passport is valid for at least two months after the end of the 90 days). Contact the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo for further assistance. The process involves jumping through some bureaucratic hoops, paying a fee, and downloading some forms; to complete the process in one day, arrive at the office by 10am and expect it to take at least four hours.