Trial: Sri Lanka To Eliminate Visa Requirements For Some

Filed Under: Travel

Update: This new policy ended up being postponed, but was implemented as of August 1, 2019.

I’m a big fan of countries eliminating barriers to entry, whether that comes in the form of removing the hassle or cost associated with visiting. Over the past few months we’ve seen quite a few countries shake up their visa requirements, both for better and worse.

It looks like the latest country to adopt a friendlier policy for visitors is Sri Lanka. I’ve been to Sri Lanka many times, and as a visitor with a US and German passport, I’ve long had to either pay for a visa on arrival, or apply for an electronic visa in advance, at the cost of 35USD.

Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Minister has said that the country will introduce free entry for visitors from multiple countries as of May 1, 2019. At least that’s being reported by Sri Lankan media, so you’ll still want to check Sri Lanka’s official immigration page closer to the date it’s implemented to make sure they actually follow through with this plan.

This is intended to boost tourism arrivals during the quieter months.

As the minister explained:

“We will start granting a six-month free visa period from 1 May for selected countries during our lean period to boost tourist arrivals.

As the next step of this program, we are planning on setting up a permanent system at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) to issue visa on-arrival, like in many other countries. We believe this would be a major breakthrough in attracting more visitors from this year.”

With this policy, free entry will be granted to those from all EU countries, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Furthermore, they hope to extend this to all SAARC countries and China.

Initially this will just be introduced as a six month trial to see the impact it has on tourism, though it has the potential to be extended.

Sri Lanka hopes to attract over three million tourists this year.

(Tip of the hat to Point Me To The Plane)

  1. Unless the visa requirements are crazy I don’t think the need for a visa has ever influenced my decision to visit a country. Especially for countries that do online e-visas like Sri Lanka. I usually have made up my mind where I want to travel before thinking about visas.

  2. Lucky will you post a detailed review of amanwella? Thinking of booking it in January for 3 nights

  3. It’s interesting that China isn’t already visa free given that they just colonized their main port and all the land around it.

  4. @Andrew

    Yeah I wonder how many people were avoiding visiting Sri Lanka just because they had to pay a $35 visa either online or on arrival…

  5. They’ve already made it very easy. My evisa came within about thirty seconds. Sure, I’ll take back the $35 anytime they want to send it but that kind of money would have nothing to do with me entering or not entering a country.

  6. @themonkeytech: No, China did not “colonize” any part of Sri Lanka. Stop spreading false information, based on your ignorance and willingness to get brainwashed by media from countries that HAVE proven to be colonizers and invaders past and present, so stop being hypocritical and start criticizing those countries – most likely your own – if you dare.

  7. @Jeffrey, what China is doing around the world (I would argue in Africa more than anywhere in Asia) can only be described as a sort of colonialism.

  8. @ Jeffrey
    @ Robert Schrader

    Both China and US play geopolitics. The difference is China does it through overextending loans, followed by a loan to asset swap when loans cannot be served, the US does it via sanctions, military actions, both stealth and visible.

    That said, the China approach does still seem to have a ‘voluntary’ component whereas the US approach is typically unilateral. Most ‘democracy’ seem to be brought to countries with oil reserves.

  9. I never heard of people deciding not to go to a country because visa cost is sub $50. However, I heard plenty of people don’t want to go to countries like Brazil (thankfully not anymore) because you have to jump through hoops to get visa. If Sri Lanka wants to increase tourism, how about inviting run of the mill brands like Marriott as well as companies like Four Seasons/ Mandarin to set up hotels in places like Kandy or Sigiriya Rock with easy access roads?

  10. This is great news! I’m with you Ben in the progress of barrier-free travel! And no, such things do not influence my desire to travel somewhere, but I believe the way you enter a country and how they welcome you tells you a lot about them.

  11. Aaron – using that logic the US could introduce a $35 fee and start raking in billions!

    Visa prices influence my decisions all the time (though admittedly generally more than $35). It’s the only reason I’ve never been to Russia or India, for example.

  12. Kevin – one of the last things I’d ever want to see are huge generic chain hotels popping up in small towns across Sri Lanka. Nor would I really want to see the country full of the type of tourist that would only stay in a Marriott!

  13. I’ll hold off applying for my Visa until after May then! Flights are already booked for July but if I can save $140 (there’s 4 of us) that’s a plus. As has been said though, I was going even with a visa requirement so not sure how effective at increasing tourism this would be.

  14. @Callum – the US has one of the most stringent, expensive and frustrating visa issuance process. The US rakes in billions annually from visa fees.

  15. Going in April so we just miss out. But Sri Lanka is still the best country to get a visa online, even if it costs $35usd. Seven seconds after I push the button I get my visa in an email.

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