Sri Lanka

Latest guidance for tourists as president flees country

Due to the worsening economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently advises against essential travel to Sri Lanka.

Shortages of basic necessities such as medicine, fuel and food in Sri Lanka have sparked civil unrest. The situation continued to escalate, with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing to the Maldives yesterday, just hours before his expected resignation. Protesters then stormed the prime minister’s office and the country’s national television channels were suspended.

A state of emergency has now been declared, and an island-wide curfew will remain in place until 5 a.m. on July 15. During this period, the FCDO advises any visitors to the country to stay in hotels and not travel.

What does this mean for your planned Sri Lanka holiday? Here’s everything you need to know.

What has changed in the advice of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

From July 5th, the Foreign Office (FCDO) has advised against travel to Sri Lanka, but essential travel.

“Sri Lanka is going through a severe economic crisis, leading to shortages of basic necessities, including medicines, gas, fuel and food,” the FCDO’s recommendation reads.

“Severe fuel shortage [diesel and petrol] Affects traffic, commerce and emergency services. There are daily power outages due to power outages. This led to protests and violent riots.

“Further protests, demonstrations, roadblocks and violent disturbances are likely to occur within a short period of time.”

The FCDO had previously issued a recommendation on May 13, but it was withdrawn on June 10.

What does this mean for my vacation?

When the FCDO warns against traveling to a country for non-essential reasons, it means (unless you have booked through a specialist company like Battleface) that your travel insurance policy will almost certainly lapse.

It also means that travel agents will cancel vacations to the relevant destinations. Tui has cancelled all holidays in Sri Lanka up to and including 31 July 2022.

If you have booked a holiday in Sri Lanka, contact your insurance company or travel agent immediately. If you booked separately, please contact your airline and accommodation provider.

I am in Sri Lanka now, what will happen next?

A state of emergency has been declared and an islandwide curfew has been imposed from 12 noon on July 14 to 5 am on July 15. “You should stay at your accommodation or hotel and not travel at this time,” the FCDO advises.

Those who need to catch a flight will be able to make their way to the airport.

Will I get a refund on vacation in Sri Lanka?

If you booked through a bonded travel agency, you will have the option of rebooking or a refund. They will contact you, but if your vacation is in the near future, contact your operator now to hear your options.

If you booked separately, you will need to contact your accommodation and airline to check if you are entitled to a refund or alternative.

Should I cancel my vacation now?

Can’t. If you unilaterally cancel your holiday, you are unlikely to be entitled to a full refund or rebooking.

Can I still legally go to Sri Lanka?

Yes. FCDO recommendations are – recommendations, not legally binding. If the state of emergency ends as planned, you are entitled to continue your Sri Lanka holiday, but it is important to understand the ongoing crisis in the country and the risks of travelling without holiday insurance.

Some flights may continue to Colombo Airport from the UK, but it is worth noting that airlines are suspending flights to the country. For example, FlyDubai has cancelled flights to Sri Lanka until the end of August. However, Emirates and Etihad are continuing to operate their routes for now. SriLankan Airlines has reduced its flight schedule.

Can I transit through Sri Lanka?

Yes. “This advice does not apply to airside transit through Sri Lanka International Airport,” the FCDO said.

What are the Covid regulations in Sri Lanka?

Earlier this year, the government lifted the requirement for pre-departure Covid-19 testing for fully vaccinated arrivals.

However, unvaccinated travelers 12 years of age and older are required to take a PCR test 72 hours before travel, or a rapid antigen test 48 hours before travel. Self-swab tests are not accepted.

Children aged 12 to 18 will be considered fully vaccinated if they have received a single dose of a recognised vaccine. People under the age of 12 accompanied by fully vaccinated parents can travel without taking the test.

How is the fuel situation in Sri Lanka?

Fuel shortages are affecting transportation and businesses in the country. The country’s fuel stocks have been brought down to the end and are used only for essential services. That means, in addition to long lines at gas stations, there could be delays in emergency services and problems with food distribution.

What is the political situation in Sri Lanka?

Since March 31, 2022, there have been frequent protests in Sri Lanka, some of which have been violent and have resulted in casualties. More protests are likely to take place in a short period of time, which could disrupt services such as traffic. “You should avoid political rallies or protests and be wary of spontaneous large gatherings,” the FCDO said.

Will the economic crisis lead to more crime?

The FCDO said: “Low-level crime has increased due to shortages of basic necessities and fuel. Mob violence erupted following the Easter Sunday attacks. These could happen again with little or no warning.

“You should remain vigilant, keep abreast of developments and follow the advice of local authorities and hotel security staff.”

Will this take Sri Lanka off the holiday map?

This is a turbulent time for Sri Lanka. After decades of bloody civil strife between the army and the Tamil Tigers, coupled with the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, in the 2010s the island nation finally earned its reputation as a relatively safe destination for British holidaymakers. However, on Easter Sunday 2019, jihadists rocked the country with a major suicide attack on churches and hotels that killed more than 350 people and damaged its reputation again.

Sri Lanka has introduced entry restrictions during the pandemic, affecting its already struggling tourism industry. With the reopening to fully vaccinated, test-free arrivals just four months ago in February 2022, the recent economic crisis couldn’t have been worse for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. While proportionate as it may be, the latest travel advice will only further damage the struggling island nation’s economy.

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