Sri Lanka Requiring Visitors To Get Up To Four COVID-19 Tests

Filed Under: SriLankan, Travel

Countries around the world are drawing up plans to ramp up tourism. For many countries tourism is an important part of the economy.

For countries looking to encourage tourism in the coming months, the challenge is how to do so responsibly without creating so many hurdles that a visit seems like more trouble than its worth.

Sri Lanka will welcome tourists as of August 2020

Sri Lanka has outlined plans to restart tourism from all countries as of August 1, 2020, and it will require visitors getting up to four COVID-19 tests.

The coronavirus pandemic is only Sri Lanka’s most recent challenge when it comes to tourism, as there was a terrorist attack in the country in 2019.

Let’s take a look at Sri Lanka’s plans for tourism:

Sri Lanka will require visitors to get up to four COVID-19 tests

The most interesting part of Sri Lanka’s new policy is the sheer number of COVID-19 tests required for visitors:

  • Visitors will be required to show a negative PCR test prior to boarding the flight to Sri Lanka, which needs to have been taken within 72 hours of boarding
  • Upon arrival in Sri Lanka another PCR test will be done (with no charge); by August it should take only four to six hours to get the result, but in the event that a 24 hour wait is required, you will be able to stay at a four or five star hotel in Colombo or Negombo for one night for free
  • A third test will be required four to five days after arrival, by a mobile unit in coordination with your accommodation provider
  • A fourth test will be required if you’re staying for more than 10 days, again by a mobile unit in coordination with your accommodation provider

In the event of a positive PCR test, a 14-21 day quarantine in a designated hotel or hospital will take place depending on the details of the case.

Colombo Bandaranaike Airport

Sri Lanka will also require a $100 visa

All visitors to Sri Lanka will be required to get an e-visa prior to visiting. This will be valid for 30 days, but is extendable to six months after arrival. Information required for the visa application includes:

  • Booking details at certified accommodation (audits will be done, so only certified hotels will be allowed to house tourists)
  • Itinerary in Sri Lanka
  • Return ticket
  • Proof of medical insurance

SriLankan Airlines A321

Other tourism restrictions from Sri Lanka

The above are the main points, though there are a few further points maybe worth mentioning:

  • A minimum of a five night stay in Sri Lanka is required
  • All transportation must be arranged prior to arrival with your certified accommodation provider or travel agent, as public transport should not be used
  • All tourist sites in the country will be open from August 1 onwards, with safety protocols and measures in places to ensure the wellbeing of travelers
  • There will be no restrictions for tourists in terms of traveling between districts

Galle, Sri Lanka

Bottom line

Governments in countries that rely heavily on tourists have a tough job right now. What’s the best way to reopen a country to tourism responsibly, without creating so many barriers that people won’t want to visit?

Most visitors will need at least three PCR tests for visiting Sri Lanka, while some will require four. That’s a lot. At the same time, I respect the country’s approach — logically you’d want to make sure people don’t have it when they board a plane, and also want to make sure they don’t have it when they get to the destination.

What do you make of Sri Lanka’s approach to restarting tourism? Would these requirements make you more or less likely to go?

  1. This negative test result within 72 hours requirement has been announced by Alaska, French Polynesia, and Sri Lanka so far. I’m not sure how realistic that timeline is if you live in the US. I recently got tested and it took 4 days to get my results. Would travel insurance cover your missed flight and hotel if you can’t board a flight due to delayed test results?

  2. Given how infectious COVID 19 is I think as long as there are tests involved a large proportion of potentially expensive trips will be put off until not testing is required.

  3. @Nezar – Right, airlines and hotels would have to adjust their cancellation policy if they want to bring international tourists back

  4. A lot of travellers will certainly be put off with all these testings, especially with the added costs and expenses.
    I support the idea of being tested 3 days before your departure and and around 3 to 4 days after your arrival. These seems fair and should be sufficient to determine any infection. But one thing is sure, not only in Sri Lanka but the test of the world as well, they will need a more tranparent and organise travel plans from the tourists so they can follow them up if needed.
    That is more complicated for independent budget travellers.

  5. Hey Ben, what about people transiting? I have for now mle-cmb-auh, would I be exempt?

  6. Whenever I read about meassures like this, I can’t help myself wondering whether they seriously expecting someone to go through so much hassle just to visit the country. Are they that special?

    Sorry, but there are plenty of destinations that will welcome me with open arms, rather than treating my like a bio hazard. One test is what I’m willing to accept – and even then only if the destination is special enough to be worth the inconvenience and if I can expect to live fairly normal life upon arrival (no quarantines, no curfews, no restrictions on where I can and can’t go). Otherwise, I’m out and I’m going somewhere else.

    Countries need to realize that tourism is all about having a good time. If travel becomes a nuissance, no one is going to bother. People can simply stay at their balcony and save money, while having equally good/bad experience.

  7. These requirements are too much hassle and too costly.
    I have been to Sri Lanka 23 times but I am sorry to say that I will not be back again until the prospect of multiple testing, and the requirement to stay at ‘accredited hotels’ are removed
    I am actively looking for another destination this year.
    Also the visa cost is OK at $100 but what are the costs for a visa extension?

  8. Test certificate 3 days prior is sufficient. The rest is risks that we all take in life. A quick temperature check on landing and a certificate should suffice,unless there is s second or third spike in the UK . In which full 14 day quarantine from the UK upon landing .

  9. What’s missing from all of these policies is some way of sensibly handling individuals who have had the disease and since recovered. Positive antibody tests should clear people, but they don’t seem to be being considered.

  10. Honestly, this sounds just about right. I’m happy to hear about their plans, I think it’s the best, most responsibly balanced plan for “opening” that I’ve read yet. I wish more countries took this approach, and honestly, this is going to make me put Sri Lanka on my list of first places to considering visiting.

    My only gripes about this are providing all the itinerary details info ahead of time, but I can live with that – I never use a travel agent, don’t do organized tours, and want no part of prepackaged tourism. But I’m assuming that first and last night’s hotel confirmation, a plan for my itinerary, a confirmed ticket home, and proof of insurance should satisfy. I’m going to want to take a look at what the health care system is like there before booking a flight and watch how they have managed the pandemic, but I find their approach perfectly reasonable generally.

    To those like Samo who whine: “Sorry, but there are plenty of destinations that will welcome me with open arms, rather than treating my like a bio hazard”: dude, get a fracking clue. You ARE a biohazard. We are ALL walking biohazards – and those with that attitude are the most dangerous. Even with the best of intentions, and with whatever test or certification you wave, every one of us is a walking potential bomb. Fer cryinoutloud, why are so many people so utterly ignorant and in such deep denial that they can’t/won’t understand what a pandemic is, and how this particular virus is so contagious and dangerous?

    I applaud Sri Lanka, and think they’re getting it about right. I hope more places will follow their example. If they did, tourism worldwide would not only be safer, but for those of us who are responsible and follow common-sense rules, it would be more enjoyable with all the outraged morons back in their Ozark pool party.

  11. Reminds me of school organized trips. No freedom, will be herded to a tour bus and will be given a standard tour guide. Visa fee is highest ($100) in the world and that’s just for 30 days.
    I Can visit India/China for 10 year visa ($70) less than this amount and there’s much more to see, with multiple visits in 10 years. They do this because, they think we are cash cows not because of the pandemic. Wait and see until they realize how unpractical this is and scrap all these policies.

  12. This is insane. Sri Lanka will have near zero tourism. Better to just keep the country closed to tourists.

  13. I agree with D. Bupkiss that this is probably the most sensible approach to reopening I’ve seen. This notion that you get tested on departure from your home airport or arrival into your destination only, completely ignores everything that is already known about the virus and how it spreads. My only real concern would be whether the Sri Lankan government is going to be able to actually enforce this? I wish some countries that were a direct flight away from the west coast would implement similar policies – would definitely make me more likely to visit them knowing everyone else is having to get tested repeatedly to minimize the risk of an additional outbreak.

  14. I noticed some call out the $100 visa fee, prior to Covid the fee was about $30-$40, the increase in fee is actually to cover the test on arrival and the one or two needed whilst you are in the country which will be done by a mobile unit. Also it may cover your first night in a 4 or 5 star hotel whilst you wait for your results. To me this appears reasonable. I have been there many times and the public health system is ok but there are very good private hospitals so much so that they are looking to promote health tourism.

  15. With the amount of experiences Sri Lanka offers, I wouldn’t mind the visa fee and the testing. It is also comforting to know that everyone else is COVID-19 free.

  16. Those like Wilhelm, Samo, James, and Gary who yearn for pre-COVID 19 days should stay away from Sri Lanka and the locals will be very happy for it. When I checked, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was <1900 with 11 deaths and, although one cannot vouchsafe that the numbers are spot on, I think the country would like to keep its population safe rather than welcome irresponsible and self-centered visitors like the quartet above.

    100 USD for a visitor visa is a freakin' bargain in the circumstances because it covers the tests plus a night's stay at a 4- 5-star resort near the airport! Sheesh! Agreed that this is a bit of a hassle but the old system cannot cope. Remember this is a poor country of 22 million with not a heck of a lot of equipment to cope if the pandemic takes off. The medical system, which I had to use once, is very good (although govt. hospital facilities — free for locals, I think — can be a bit grungy) but capacity is probably limited.

    There have been recent stories of backpackers who had run out of money being 'adopted' by local families with no expectation of compensation; perhaps those whiners on this thread from rich Western countries should open their hearts a little bit to the plight of poor nations. I am booked to go to SL at the end of the year and would gladly comply with these restrictions because I know that when I am in that country I will be safe. Can you say that of the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, and so on? And I am sure that as the pandemic picture changes policies will also change.

  17. I also think this is the correct strategy and also feasible in the country. For a poor country, SL has exceeded all expectations in controlling COVID19 and it has a robust public health infrastructure that was aided in this instance by the military. This highly indebted country cannot afford a COVID19 epidemic. They’re wise to forego short term profits.

  18. @Indopithecus +1. Sri Lanka looks and sounds awesome. I’m checking out flights tonight.

  19. haha, what a joke

    Just ban outsiders and suffer the lack of any tourist income.

    Hate to tell you ,but nobody is going to go, unless they have a business or personal relative.

  20. I won’t fly until the PCR test is offered in the U.S. very consistently. But right now, where I live, it can take over five days to get the results, and they are impossible to get over the weekend, which takes weekend travel basically off the table.

    So, I am not able to currently plan any global travel. Also, the test protocol makes multi-country itineraries basically impossible.

    It would make the most sense for countries to require tests which are possible for people to actually get.

    Here is to hoping this requirement evolves into something much more realistic; the idea of sitting in the U.S. all year gives me the heebie-jeebies.

  21. I have tickets to Sri Lanka, but could postpone them to 13th of December 2020. I think I will cancel them if the restrictions stay as discribed. 2 tests is reasonable, but 4? And in Sri Lanka all tourist travel inside the country, mostly with public transport, carhire will increase my costs and stay in 4/5 star hotels only? We can nog affort that. We liked the airbnb and small places te stay. So if it stays this wat, we won’t be going. Sorry for my bad Enlish.

  22. Kirstin,
    I agree with your worries, 4 tests is a big ask. I like you am worried about additional costs of travelling around SL and Accredited Accommodation.
    Travelling around will be expensive if you use Tourism companies, check out Uber instead,
    they are a lot cheaper.
    Accredited Accommodation… after speaking with friends in the Hotel sector in SL, my understanding is that if your PCR test takes 24 hours the SL gov will accommodate you in a 4*/5* hotel for 1 night until test results arrive. The rest of you trip can be in other sorts of accredited accommodation which are not 4/5*. Lots of accredited options at,
    Overall the feedback I am getting from hoteliers is that these restrictions will only be in place for a short time and will be relaxed before main tourist season, Dec/Jan. I am going in Dec but waiting for a while before booking any accommodation, I usually book small places also

  23. I applaud Sri Lanka for taking this cautious approach to reopening its borders with the necessary safeguards.

    The $100 visa fee, which used to be $35, is a bargain in my view considering that it covers the hotel room until your test results come and the cost of the local tests. These extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

    The coronavirus reportedly has an incubation period of up to 2 weeks. So, the third locally administered tests makes sense for folks staying for a couple of weeks or longer.

    As a New Yorker, would I rather go to Sri Lanka, Florida, LA, Brazil, Russia, India or the UK (still more than 250 COVID deaths daily)? Not even a question.

    Be safe folks. This is not the time to be cavalier.

  24. I wonder how it will be for resident visa holders (spouse).

    I left for Europe before the lockdown and am not able to return to my wife and child in Sri Lanka.
    My resident visa expires in early October and it looks likely they won’t open until then as the mid-August restart of flights has already been postponed indefinitely.

    Considering the guy in charge of resident visas is an arrogant idiot (like a whole host of the island’s bureaucrats), the prospects look fantastic.

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