Sri Lanka opens its airports for tourism in 2021

It has been officially announced that Sri Lanka is reopening tourism in 2021 after 10 months of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While airports will once again be open, there will be strict measures in place that visitors must comply with when travelling to the country.

That said, those who meet the entry requirements can enjoy a relaxing stay at a Sri Lankan hotel and see a number of tourist attractions without having to completely quarantine themselves. Read on to learn more about how to visit Sri Lanka as it reopens for tourism.

Is it OK to visit Sri Lanka now?

After several delays, Sri Lanka reopened its borders to foreign nationals travelling as tourists in January 2021.

There are still a number of coronavirus-related travel restrictions for Sri Lanka in place, including where visitors are allowed to stay and various requirements for entry.

Only foreign tourists and Sri Lankan nationals have been given the all-clear to enter the island country. People travelling for other reasons are still barred from entering.

While interaction with locals is limited, it is permitted to visit approved tourist sites, including a number of Sri Lanka’s World Heritage Sites, under the safety of a bio-bubble.

Due to the emergence of a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom (UK), individuals who have spent time in Britain or Northern Ireland within the previous 14 days, including in transit, are not permitted to visit Sri Lanka.

Conditions for visiting Sri Lanka as it reopens for tourism

The current entry rules for Sri Lanka are strict. This is to lower the risk of another outbreak of coronavirus in the country. Foreign visitors are only allowed to enter for tourism and must have the following:

  • Hotel reservation for 14 days
  • Printed medical certificate in English proving that a PCR test was taken within 4 days before arrival (with a negative result for COVID-19)
  • Insurance that covers up to US$50,000 of any coronavirus treatment required

There are over 50 designated hotels around Sri Lanka where tourists can stay. They are not permitted to leave the hotel for 14 days, with the exception of visits to approved tourist sites. This is to minimise contact with locals, since the only Sri Lankan residents allowed into these hotels are staff.

Visitors must also agree to further testing throughout their stay. The number of PCR tests depends on the length of stay:

  • Up to 7 days: 2 PCR tests
  • Longer than 7 days: 3-4 PCR tests

The traveller must cover the cost of the PCR tests, which can be done when applying for a Sri Lanka ETA online.

Are Sri Lanka’s airports open?

Two of Sri Lanka’s international airports are now receiving flights from abroad:

  • Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) (Colombo)
  • Mattala International Airport (MRIA) (Hambantota)

However, not all flights to the country are currently operating.

Sri Lanka is taking a cautious approach to reopening international travel to reduce the risk of imported cases of coronavirus. However, it is making an effort to boost its tourism industry, which has suffered under the restrictions of the pandemic.

To this end, flights carrying tourists are permitted to land in Sri Lanka. Additionally, flights repatriating Sri Lankan citizens are also operating.

All other flights remain suspended until 28 February 2021 at the earliest.

All flights from the UK (including for tourists) are currently cancelled due to the new variant of COVID-19.

Are Sri Lanka’s borders open?

Sri Lanka’s borders are now open to tourists as well as to the country’s own citizens. However, they remain closed to foreign nationals travelling for other purposes, such as business.

The Sri Lanka tourism reopening date was Thursday 21st January 2021.

“It is with great pleasure and excitement we announce that Sri Lanka will be open for tourism from Thursday,” said Kimarli Fernando, chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

“As we open our doors to the world once again, we have pulled out all the stops, ensuring that every precautionary measure has been set in place to make the island getaway as safe, secure and serene as possible for the visitors.”

Travellers from all countries are permitted to enter for tourism purposes, with the notable exception of anyone who has been in or passed through the UK within the past 2 weeks.

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