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U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

Consular Information Sheet

 


Please click on this link to read important information you should see before you travel abroad

This information is current as of today,

Sri Lanka

Americans planning travel to Sri Lanka should read Intercountry Adoption Sri Lanka Travel Warning for Sri Lanka  and Worldwide Caution  Public Announcement available on the Department of State web site at http://travel.state.gov

June 30, 2006

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary democracy with a developing economy.  Civil war and terrorism have seriously disrupted the country since 1983.  On February 22, 2002, the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed an indefinite cease-fire agreement.  Over the past four years, incidents of violence have increased tensions but the cease-fire has largely held to date.  Despite the armed insurgency, Sri Lanka's beaches, hill country, and archeological sites attract thousands of visitors each year from around the world.  The capital city of Colombo, the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa), and many Southern beach towns all have good tourist facilities. 

The Asian Tsunami on December 26, 2004 caused severe damage and loss of life to several coastal areas of eastern, southern, and southwestern Sri Lanka.  Many affected resorts have completely recovered.  Travelers planning to visit Sri Lanka should consult with travel agencies or the Sri Lankan Tourist Board, however, to ensure their itineraries take this event into account, and plan accordingly.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Sri Lanka for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:  A passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required.  A no-cost visitor visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted to tourists at the time of entry into Sri Lanka.  Business travelers are required to have a visa prior to arrival.  Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must pay residency visa fees.  Travelers need yellow fever and cholera immunizations if they are 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, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 26, fax numbers (202) 232-7181, e-mail address: consular@slembassyusa.org, home page: http://www.slembassy.org, the Sri Lankan Consulate General in Los Angeles at 3250 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1405, Los Angeles, CA 90010, telephone (213) 387-0210, or the U.N. Mission in New York City, telephone (212) 986-7040. There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States.  They can be located at the Sri Lankan Embassy web site.  See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Sri Lanka and other countries.  Visit the Embassy of Sri Lanka web site at http://www.slembassyusa.org for the most current visa information.

Find more information about Entry and Exit Requirements pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.  Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Since 1997, the State Department has included the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on its list of foreign terrorist organizations.  Terrorist activities in the capital city of Colombo and other areas of the country remain a serious threat.  The LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have not engaged in large-scale combat since the signing of the ceasefire; however, smaller-scale violence occurs periodically, and the LTTE have assassinated Sri Lankans that oppose their aims.  The most serious cease fire violation since the agreement was signed in 2002 occurred on June 15, 2006, when a claymore mine, likely the work of the LTTE, destroyed a passenger bus in north central Sri Lanka, killing over 60 civilians. 

Throughout their history, the LTTE have engaged in numerous terrorist acts, including suicide bombings at political rallies, government buildings, and major economic targets.  In 2001, the LTTE attacked the Colombo International Airport and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft.  Several military personnel were killed, military and airport employees were injured, and civilians were caught in the crossfire.  In 2003, the LTTE attacked several foreign commercial ships in the waters off the north and east coasts of Sri Lanka.  On July 7, 2004, a suicide bomber detonated in a police station in Colombo, killing herself, 4 policemen, and critically injuring 11 people.  On June 17, 2006, LTTE frogmen were apprehended north of Colombo; they may have been trying to attack ships in the port of Colombo.  The LTTE have also engaged in political assassinations, including the August 12, 2005 assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar at his residence in Colombo.  

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.  American citizens traveling or residing in Sri Lanka may be inadvertently caught up in random acts of violence.  Travel in restricted areas is dangerous.  In April 2001, grenade fragments seriously injured an American citizen when she was caught in a skirmish between government and insurgent forces in the eastern part of the country.  In May 2006, seven people were killed when a jeep carrying Sri Lankan tourists hit a landmine in Wilpattu National Park in the northwest of the country.  The park had reopened in 2003, after being closed for 17 years due to the ongoing conflict.  While most national parks are quite safe, tourists should be aware that the LTTE has the capability to operate in many national parks located in the north and east of Sri Lanka.  Travelers should also be aware that the LTTE have employed vehicle-mounted bombs.  In the past they have detonated bombs near major hotels, a tourist site in Kandy, and have targeted buses and trains. 

We advise all Americans to stay away from military bases and vehicles in Sri Lanka.  On June 6, 2006 a claymore mine exploded 50 meters from the Welisara Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) camp in Ragama, on Colombo-Negombo Road. On April 25, 2006, a female suicide bomber attacked the vehicle of the Commander of the Sri Lankan Army at army headquarters in Colombo, killing several members of his staff and injuring many more bystanders. 

American citizens should also be alert to outbreaks of communal violence, such as that which occurred in April 2003 when two hand grenades were detonated in tourist hotels in Arugambay, killing or injuring three tourists.  In October 2002, riots between Muslim and Sinhala factions in the Greater Colombo area precipitated short-term curfews.  In May 2001 a disturbance between Buddhist and Muslim communities near Kandy reportedly resulted in one death during a police shootout and extensive property damage.

Americans are advised to avoid entirely political rallies and other mass gatherings, public transportation, and to limit their exposure to government buildings if possible.  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 has periodically imposed curfews in Colombo; Americans should strictly observe curfew regulations and monitor local radio and television.

American citizens are advised not to travel north of a line from Puttalam on the west coast through Anuradhapura in the central north and Nilaveli (just north of Trincomalee) in the east.  Areas north of this line contain many land mines, making travel off paved roads very dangerous.  Americans are also advised against travel to the city of Jaffna in the North.  In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka does not exercise effective control of the civil administration in many sections of the north, where the LTTE operate openly.  On April 18, 2006, the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka urged all American citizens to avoid travel to any location in the Jaffna Peninsula or the Trincomalee area and urged Americans in these parts to give serious consideration to departing.  Furthermore, Americans are advised to consider their personal security foremost before traveling or working in the area of Batticaloa in the East. 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-Nilaveli line (including Trincomalee, Batticaloa and points south) poses significant safety risks.

In addition, roads in these areas 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 factors, 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.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Sri Lanka has a rising crime rate, and criminal incidents may well rise in many of the areas affected by the tsunami.  Violent crime is increasing and there have been reports of police inaction in certain cases.  In recent years, the Embassy has received reports of violent criminal incidents, including attempted sexual assault, in the towns of Negombo, Hikkaduwa and Dambulla.  American citizens should exercise caution, especially at night.  Children should not be left unattended, even on hotel/resort premises.  In Colombo, women in particular should avoid traveling at night in the small, three-wheeled motorized taxis, or “three-wheelers,” due to a risk of assault.

Petty street crime such as purse snatching and pick-pocketing does occur, especially on crowded local public transportation, at bus or train stations, and in public markets.  Travelers should keep money or jewelry, when not in immediate use, in hotel safe deposit boxes.  Cases of credit card fraud have been reported and travelers are encouraged to either pay with cash or to watch when a merchant “swipes” the card during a transaction to ensure it is not swiped more than once.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities outside Colombo are limited.  The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of private physicians who may be consulted.  Medical supplies are uneven; travelers should carry any special medications with them.  There are six large hospitals in the Colombo area, including three with emergency trauma service--Asiri Hospital, Apollo Hospital, and the government-run General Hospital.  Serious medical problems may require evacuation to the United States or to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment is available, usually Thailand or Singapore.  Neither Thailand nor Singapore requires American citizens to have an entry visa.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, 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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.  Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

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 whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

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.

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 conveyances 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 for long trips through the country.  Individuals choosing to hire three-wheeled vehicles should negotiate prices beforehand to avoid confrontations.  Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Visit the website of Sri Lanka's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.lanka.net.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air 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 ICAO international aviation safety standards.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa/.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Sri Lanka recognizes dual nationality in some cases.  For further information, please contact the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Consulate General in Los Angeles, or the U.N. Mission in New York City. 

Please see our information on customs regulations.

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 in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Sri Lanka's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. 

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website. 

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:  Americans living or traveling in Sri Lanka are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Sri Lanka.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Colombo.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy in located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka.  The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94) (11) 249 8500.  The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94) (11) 249 8888.  The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(11)-249 8590.  The Embassy's Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka.  The Consular Section has a specific email address dedicated to American Citizens Services at ColomboACS@state.gov.  The general email address for the consular section is consularcolombo@state.gov.  The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of Maldives. 

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 8, 2006 to update the section on Safety and Security.