Sri Lanka Piloting Visa-Free Entry Starting May 1

by Chris Dong

Sri Lanka is looking to boost its tourism during its summer shoulder season by providing visa-free entry to citizens from a handful of countries. Currently, a visa is required for most foreign visitors with the exception of the Maldives, Seychelles, and Singapore.

For US citizens today, a 30 day double entry tourist visa costs $35 USD with the ability to complete the visa application online or on arrival to Sri Lanka’s main international airport, Colombo’s Bandaranaike International (CMB).

Visiting Sri Lanka Visa-Free

Starting May 1, 2019, citizens of these countries are set to have visa-free entry on arrival to Bandaranaike International Airport for at least six months.

  • All European Union countries
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Malaysia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • United States

Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said that the trial period of six months has the potential to be extended further, and to also include other Asian nations such as China which is a top Sri Lankan tourist market.

Getting To Sri Lanka

Qatar's QSuite will product direct aisle access for passengers in its fully enclosed suites

Sri Lankan Airlines is part of the Oneworld alliance but does not offer flights to the US. While there are no direct flights, there are a ton of great one-stop options either via transpacific or transatlantic.

  • Transpacific Recommendation: Fly Cathay Pacific business class via Hong Kong using 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles.
  • Transatlantic Recommendation: Fly Qatar Airways’s Qsuite via Doha using 70,000 American AAdvantage miles.

The transatlantic route is slightly shorter via the Middle East, especially if you’re on the east coast of the US.

You could also book directly through a travel portal like Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an awesome 1.5 cents per point meaning its current 50,000 point welcome bonus is worth $750 toward travel to Sri Lanka.

The Upshot

Visa-free entry will hopefully not only make it slightly cheaper to visit Sri Lanka, but also shorten immigration wait times at the airport. I visited Sri Lanka in January, and it’s an absolute gem of a country. It’s also not a huge tourist spot for Americans — yet. While Sri Lanka doesn’t have the current infrastructure in place to handle a mass influx of visitors, I expect that to change in the coming years.


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