Sri Lanka

Foreign Office lifts ‘all but essential travel’ warning for Sri Lanka

The UK Foreign Office (FCDO) today lifted its warning for “all but essential travel” to Sri Lanka.

FCDO’s advice to Sri Lanka from 16 May until Friday is: “Due to ongoing political and economic instability, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is now advising against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.”

Removing this claim means holidaymakers can again book trips to the Indian Ocean island without fear of their travel insurance policy being voided.

The warning came in mid-May after a series of violent clashes and protests in the face of a national economic crisis.

On May 6, Sri Lanka declared a state of emergency; the following week, protesters set fire to homes and businesses belonging to ruling party lawmakers and politicians. According to local police, eight people were killed in the riots and more than 200 were injured.

The violence led to the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 9. Many have blamed Rajapaksa and his brother, President Rajapaksa, for plunging the country into its worst economic crisis in decades.

As a result, a curfew has been imposed, although many travel agencies are advising clients to end their holidays as planned.

Package holiday company Tui subsequently canceled all Sri Lankan holidays up to and including 31 May 2022.

Yesterday the UN launched a “Humanitarian Needs and Priorities” plan, appealing for $47.2m (£38.2m) to assist some 1.7m people worst affected by the crisis.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did continue to warn travelers about the economic conditions on the island, saying: “The economic situation in Sri Lanka is challenging, with shortages of basic necessities including medicines, cooking gas, fuel and food imports due to a lack of hard currency.

“There may be long queues at shops, supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies. There may be difficulties or delays in getting taxis and other public transport. Power outages are ongoing every day due to brownouts.

“There have been multiple protests since March 31, 2022. Violence has occurred against peaceful protesters resulting in casualties. Security authorities have used tear gas and water cannon on protesters. Galle Road, Colombo Protests continue in the Galle Face and Fort areas. Further protests are likely island-wide.”

Sri Lankan tourism experts say the island, which was first hit hard by pandemic travel disruptions and the current economic crisis, will be popular with tourism.

Sam Clark, founder of Experience Travel Group, said: “It is fantastic and very welcome news that the FCDO has lifted its warning for travel to Sri Lanka.

“With the new government in place, this is a hopeful time for Sri Lanka. The situation is far more stable than in March and April when we managed to arrange a lot of holidays.

“Tourism is a key way through the crisis in the longer term, delivering an average of $183 (£149) per person per day in much-needed hard currency.

“The move means British tourists can enjoy exceptional hospitality, incredible scenery and brilliant summer weather, while local livelihoods are protected.”

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