You are here > 1Up Travel > Travel Warnings & Consular Information Sheet > Sri Lanka


Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets

By Name of Country


Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Sri Lanka

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 LTTE’s 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: slembasy@clark.net, 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 were damaged.

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 over 50.

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 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.

Go Up - Top of Page


More Travel Related links for Sri Lanka

  • Presents the Country Guide to Sri Lanka

  • Explore Large, and Detailed Maps of Sri Lanka

  • Browse Hotels in Sri Lanka , and make Online Reservations

  • View the Country Flag of Sri Lanka

  • Reveals every detailed facts about the Country Flag of Sri Lanka

  • Uncover the Geography, and Geographic Facts of Sri Lanka

  • Read the Consular Info Sheet, and Travel Warning related to Sri Lanka


    Make 1Up Travel your HomepageSend this Page to a FriendGo to Top of PagePrint this PageAdd 1Up Travel to your Favorites


    Compare Country InfoHotel DirectoryGeographyFlagsWorld MapsTravel WarningsNational Parks


    AsiaAfricaCaribbeanMiddle EastNorth AmericaSouth AmericaCentral AmericaOceania PacificEuropePolar Regions


    DestinationsMonumentsAncient WondersModern Wonders Natural Wonders


    World TimeISD CodesTravel Links Link Exchange


    Disclaimer: Although we've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any person resulting from information published on this site. We encourage you to verify any critical information with the relevant authorities before you travel.

    Copyright © 1Up Travel All Rights Reserved.
    Go Up

    Privacy Policy