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U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

 
 

Sri Lanka

August 11, 2004

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. A civil war and related urban terrorism have seriously disrupted the country since 1983. On February 22, 2002, The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed an indefinite cease-fire agreement. Peace talks have stalled, but the cease-fire has not been broken to date. In the past, however, the LTTE have abandoned peace talks and reverted to terrorist activities. Despite the armed insurgency, Sri Lanka's beaches and archeological sites attract tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. The capital city of Colombo, the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa), and the west and southwest coasts all have good tourist facilities.

ENTRY/EXIT AND REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS: A passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required. A no-cost visitor visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted to tourists at the time of entry into Sri Lanka. Business travelers are required to have a visa prior to arrival. Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must pay residency visa fees. Travelers need yellow fever and cholera immunizations if they are arriving from an infected area. All travelers departing Sri Lanka (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport tax, in cash. 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.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 26, fax numbers (202) 232-7181, e-mail address: consular@slembassyusa.org, home page: http://www.slembassy.org. There is a Consulate General in Los Angeles at 3250 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1405, Los Angeles, CA 90010, telephone (213) 387-0210 and the U.N. Mission in New York City telephone (212) 986-7040. There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States. They can be located at the Sri Lankan Embassy web site.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

DUAL NATIONALITY: Sri Lanka recognizes dual nationality in some cases. For further information, please contact either the Sri Lankan Embassy or one of the Consulates General.

SAFETY/SECURITY: Since 1997, the State Department has included the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Terrorist activities in the capital city of Colombo and other areas of the country remain a serious threat. The LTTE and the GOSL have not engaged militarily over the past sixteen months; however, the LTTE have assassinated Sri Lankans. No suicide bombings or truck bombs have been directed at civilian targets since the cease-fire; however, on July 7, 2004, a suicide bomber detonated in a police station in Colombo, killing herself, 4 policemen and critically injuring 11 people.

On July 24, 2001, the LTTE attacked the Colombo International Airport and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft. Several military personnel were killed, military and airport employees were injured, and civilians were caught in the crossfire. In the past year, the LTTE have also attacked several foreign commercial ships in the waters off the north and east coasts of Sri Lanka.

The LTTE have attempted or carried out numerous political assassinations. They have also carried out many suicide bombings at political rallies, government buildings and major economic targets. In addition to using individual suicide bombers, the LTTE have employed vehicle-mounted bombs. In the past they have detonated bombs near major hotels, a tourist site in Kandy, and have targeted buses and trains.

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. American citizens traveling or residing in Sri Lanka may be inadvertently caught up in random acts of violence. Travel in restricted areas is dangerous. In April 2001, grenade fragments seriously injured an American citizen when she was caught in a skirmish between government and insurgent forces in the eastern part of the country.

American citizens should be alert to outbreaks of communal violence, such as that which occurred in April 2003 when two hand grenades were detonated in tourist hotels in Arugambay, killing or injuring three tourists. In October 2002, riots between Muslim and Sinhala factions in the Greater Colombo area precipitated short-term curfews. In May 2001 a disturbance between Buddhist and Muslim communities near Kandy reportedly resulted in one death during a police shootout and extensive property damage.

Americans are advised to avoid political rallies and other mass gatherings, limit exposure to government and military installations and avoid public transportation if possible. Non-Sri Lankan citizens of Tamil heritage have occasionally been detained during security operations. 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.

American citizens are advised not to travel north of a line from Puttalam on the west coast through Anuradhapura in the central north and Nivaveli (just north of Trincomalee) in the east. Areas north of this line contain many land mines, making travel off paved roads very dangerous. In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka does not exercise effective control of the civil administration in many sections of the north, where the LTTE operate openly. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to this area is restricted, and their unofficial travel is prohibited. Travel in the east in the area south of the Anuradhapura-Nivaveli line (including Trincomalee, Batticaloa and points south) poses significant safety risks. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to Batticaloa is restricted, and their unofficial travel is prohibited due to factional fighting within the LTTE. Roads are often substandard, and police, medical and other emergency help is severely limited or not available. Communications within the eastern areas are also limited, with no cell phone accessibility and very limited landline telephone access. Because of these considerations, the U.S. Embassy may not be able to provide consular services in a timely manner to American citizens who travel to the north and east.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

CRIME: Sri Lanka has a rising crime rate. Violent crime is increasing, and there have been reports of police inaction in certain cases. In February 2002, a British couple was kidnapped and robbed near the Polonnaruwa ruins. In recent years, the Embassy has received reports of violent criminal incidents, including attempted sexual assault, in the towns of Negombo,Hikkaduwa and Dambulla. American citizens should exercise caution in these towns, especially at night. Children should not be left unattended, even on hotel/resort premises. There have been reports of attempted child molestation by hotel staff.

Petty street crime such as purse snatching and pick-pocketing is common, especially on crowded local public transportation, in transportation hubs, and in public markets. Travelers should keep money or jewelry, when not in immediate use, in hotel safe deposit boxes. Cases of credit card fraud have been reported. Travelers are encouraged to either pay with cash or to watch when a merchant'swipes' the card during a transaction to ensure it is not swiped more than once.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities outside Colombo are limited. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of private physicians who may be consulted. Medical supplies are uneven; travelers should carry any special medications with them. There are six large hospitals in the Colombo area, including three with emergency trauma service--Asiri Hospital, Apollo hospital, and the government General Hospital. Serious medical problems may require evacuation to the United States or to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment is available, usually Thailand or Singapore. Neither Thailand nor Singapore requires American citizens to have an entry visa.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if 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.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, 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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

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 conveyances on the road, ranging from ox carts, elephants and bicycles to new four-wheel drive jeeps, make driving a challenge and dangerous. Many visitors hire cars and drivers or use radio taxicabs.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html. Additional information is available from the Sri Lankan national tourist organization offices in New York via the Internet at http://www.lanka.net.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service between the U.S. and Sri Lanka by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service,, 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 website at http:// www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/ index.cfm.

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 DOD at (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 or one of Sri Lanka's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special301.htm.

Sri Lankan customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit www.uscib.org for details.

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, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

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/family/index.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Sri Lanka are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website and to obtain updated information within Sri Lanka. Americans without internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, you'll make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94)(11) 244 8007. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(11) 244-8601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(11)-243-6943. 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 Maldives U.S. citizens may register at the Embassy upon arrival in Sri Lanka or via the Embassy's e-mail address.

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet for Sri Lanka dated August 1, 2003 to update information on Entry/Exit and Registration Requirements,Safety/Security, Crime, Medical Insurance, Other Health Information, Customs Regulations, Criminal Penalties, Children's Issues and Registration.