Sri Lanka - Consular Information Sheet
June 14, 2000
Sri Lanka - Travel Warning
July 24, 2001
The Department of State urges American citizens to defer nonessential
travel to Sri Lanka. Those who must travel to Sri Lanka, or who
are resident there, should exercise extreme caution. 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. The attack demonstrates the LTTEs
ability and willingness to select targets without regard for the
safety of civilians, including tourists. The U.S. Embassy may
temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time
as necessary to review its security posture and ensure its adequacy.
American citizens should also be aware that Sri Lanka may be
entering a period of increased civil unrest and mass political
demonstrations. On July 10, the President of Sri Lanka suspended
Parliament. In protest of the suspension, opposition parties have
mounted a campaign of civil unrest.
U.S. citizens who remain in Sri Lanka are urged to contact the
Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo to register and
obtain updated information on travel and security in Sri Lanka.
The Consular Section phone is 448-007 during working hours and
447-355 for after-hours emergencies.
This Travel Warning supersedes the Public Announcement for Sri
Lanka dated July 13, 2001.
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary
democracy with a developing economy. Tourist facilities outside
the capital and major tourist areas, which include the west and
southwest coast and the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura,
and Polonnaruwa), may be limited.
ENTRY/EXIT AND REGISTRATION 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. All travelers departing Sri Lanka (except diplomats and
certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport tax, in cash.
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
28, fax numbers (202) 232-7181 or 483-8017, e-mail address: email@example.com,
home page: http://www.slembassy.org;
or the Sri Lankan Consulate in New York, telephone (212) 986-7040.
There is a Consulate General in Los Angeles at 5371 Wilshire Blvd.,
Suite 201, Los Angeles, CA 90036, telephone (323) 634-0479 or
(323) 634-0581. There is an honorary Sri Lankan consul in New
Orleans, telephone (504) 455-7800. 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.
SAFETY/SECURITY: The 17-year-old armed conflict between
the Government of Sri Lanka and a Tamil separatist group, the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), continues. Combat operations
in the north-central and eastern parts of the country have been
intermittent and often intense. Since March 2000, there have been
particularly violent confrontations between government forces
and the LTTE in the Jaffna Peninsula. Sri Lankan defense regulations
restrict travel in much of the island’s northern area, including
Wilpattu and Gal-Oya national parks. Yala National Park in the
southeast was closed following several terrorist incidents in
July 1996, but Block One of the Park has since re-opened. Travelers
are advised not to travel to the north, east and far southeast
of the country. Travelers should not travel further north than
Puttalam on the west coast and Anuradhapura in the central north
of the country, nor further east than Polonaruwa and Badulla.
Travelers are advised not to travel to Trincomalee, Batticaloa
and Arugam Bay. The U.S. Government maintains tight security procedures
regarding travel of U.S. Government employees, officials and dependents
to the north, east and far southeast. those areas.
Because of the security situation, the U.S. Embassy may not be
able to provide many consular services to American citizens who
travel to the north, east, and far southeast of the country. For
example, the Jaffna Peninsula has been at times entirely inaccessible
to non-military transport, and civilians have been stranded.
Terrorist Activity: In October 1997 the State Department designated
the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization; that designation
was renewed in October 1999. Terrorist activities in the capital
city of Colombo and other areas remain a serious threat. 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. While no terrorist attacks against international
or domestic aviation in Sri Lanka have been recorded since 1987,
threats were directed at domestic air carriers flying between
Colombo and Jaffna in 1998. A domestic civilian aircraft flying
from Colombo to Jaffna crashed in September 1998 killing everyone
on board. The cause of the accident is still unknown.
Bomb attacks remain the greatest terrorist hazard. Political
assassinations or attempts are routinely carried out by the LTTE.
In March 1999, a suicide bomber killed four people in an attempted
assassination in a suburb of Colombo. In July 1999, a suicide
bomber killed a prominent moderate Tamil Member of Parliament
and his escort in a residential section of Colombo. In December
1999, during the Presidential election campaign, a suicide bomber's
attack on the Sri Lankan President killed 14 and wounded hundreds
of others, including the President. Also in December 1999, a bomb
attack at an opposition-party political rally killed 10 and injured
43. 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 8 LTTE terrorists attacked a government
motorcade traveling on a major Colombo thoroughfare, killing 25
and wounding dozens. In June 2000, a suicide bomber assassinated
the Minister for Industrial Development in a Colombo suburb. Twenty-one
others were killed and 60 injured in the attack.
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 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
Small bombs have frequently been placed against infrastructure
targets such as telephone switchgear or electrical power transformers.
Since the September 1999 detonation of three bombs placed in buses
in separate incidents in Negombo and Badula, attacks on buses
have increased. 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. Bombs have also been found on trains
and on train roadbeds, resulting in one death and injuries to
Except for minor injuries resulting from an October 1997 detonation
of a vehicle bomb near five-star hotels in Colombo, 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 might 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 avoid
public transportation if at all 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.
All 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. 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. The government also broadened
censorship of foreign and domestic media.
CRIME INFORMATION: Petty street crime such as purse snatching
and pickpocketing is common, especially on crowded local public
transportation. The Embassy has received an increase in reports
of incidents involving violence in the coastal towns of Negombo
and Hikkaduwa. Exercise caution in these towns, especially at
night. 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 are limited. Serious
medical problems may require evacuation to the nearest country
where adequate medical facilities or treatment are available,
usually Thailand, Singapore, or the United States.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your
policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation
and adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization
and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of
thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to
the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed
later for expenses 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. 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
a service, between the U.S. 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 U.S. at 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) 229-4801.
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 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.
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 Sri Lanka and obtain updated information
on travel and security within Sri Lanka. 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 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) 447-355.
The fax number is (94)-(1)-437-345. The Embassy’s Internet address
The e-mail address for the consular section is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.