Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka travel advice: How has guidance changed and is it safe for holidaymakers amid protests?

Sri Lanka travel advice: How has guidance changed and is it safe for holidaymakers amid protests?

Violent protests have taken place in Sri Lanka as the country faces an economic crisis.

In late July, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FCDO) updated its guidance for the Southeast Asian country, causing at least one travel agency to cancel Sri Lankan holidays for the next few weeks.

Anger clashes between protesters and authorities have injured or killed some locals; meanwhile, the country faces shortages of essentials such as medicine, fuel and food.

Last week, a Scottish national had her passport confiscated by Sri Lankan authorities after she campaigned for local activists on the island.

So what are the latest rules and are holidaymakers safe to travel there? Here’s everything we know so far.

What happened in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has been plagued by protests for nearly five months that have spread from the capital to the countryside. They were in response to severe shortages of fuel, gas and medicines, as well as rolling blackouts. Locals have been queuing for hours to buy essentials.

A state of emergency was declared on May 6; on May 10, protesters set fire to homes and businesses belonging to ruling party lawmakers and politicians. Eight people were killed and more than 200 injured in the riots, according to local police.

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

Sri Lanka’s new president and then prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said last month that the island nation’s debt-ridden economy had “collapsed” because it had no money to pay for food and fuel.

At least 75 people were injured during protests in Colombo in mid-July after authorities used tear gas and protesters were injured trying to enter the prime minister’s office.

Mr Wickremesinghe extended the country’s state of emergency after taking power on July 21, saying it was “in the interest of public safety”.

A state of emergency allows the military to arrest and detain suspects, and the president can create regulations that override existing laws to deal with any disturbance.

Last week, Scottish national Kayleigh Fraser told reporters her passport was confiscated by authorities after she campaigned for local activists on the island. The Foreign Office is understood to be assisting Ms Fraser in retrieving her documents.

Will the holiday be cancelled?

British travel and holiday company Tui began cancelling holidays to Sri Lanka back in May and last week cancelled all flights up to and including August 22. A spokesman for Tui told independent All holidaymakers who traveled with the company have now returned home. Watch its Travel Alerts section online for the latest updates.

Several other tour operators have modified their itineraries in recent months to avoid affected areas of the island. However, the key thing to note is the impact of the Foreign Office advice on holiday bookings…

What does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say?

The July 22 update reads: “Due to the current economic crisis, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel to Sri Lanka, but essential travel. This advice does not apply to airside transit through Sri Lanka International Airport. .

“There is a state of emergency. In recent months, there has been violence against peaceful protesters, resulting in casualties. Security authorities used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters.

“Protests, demonstrations, roadblocks and violent disturbances are likely to occur at short notice. Curfews and emergency regulations may be imposed.

“Sri Lanka is experiencing a severe economic crisis resulting in shortages of basic necessities such as medicines, gas, fuel and food. There is a severe shortage of fuel (diesel and petrol) affecting transport, commerce and emergency services.

“Long queues (sometimes more than 24 hours) at petrol stations. Daily power outages due to power outages. Hospitals and other medical services may be affected by shortages, including ambulance fuel shortages. Get travel insurance and check that it provides adequate Security is more important than ever.”

Are vacationers subject to a curfew?

No. The last curfew was imposed on the western province of the island between 13 and 15 July. However, the FCDO warned that “curfews and emergency regulations may be implemented for a short period of time”.

When the government imposes a curfew, holidaymakers can still leave the country at any time. The Sri Lanka Tourism Board has confirmed that international travelers can present their passports and air tickets to travel to and from the airport during the curfew.

Can I cancel my holiday to Sri Lanka?

The Foreign Office (FCDO) updated its travel advice for Sri Lanka on 22 July and now advises against all but essential travel to the country.

This is important for two reasons: First, package holiday companies should refund your trip under the Package Travel Policy, even if they didn’t cancel the holiday themselves, within 14 days. This does not include travel where flights and accommodation are booked separately, but you can try to request a refund.

Second, the “all but essential travel” FCDO recommendation invalidates most travel insurance policies, with a few exceptions.

Note that the “except essential travel” advice does not apply to those passing through Sri Lanka in transit (ie connecting flights) – according to the FCDO, travelers should have no problem doing so.

If Britons are currently in the country, what should they do?

The Foreign Office advises: “If you are abroad and need urgent help from the UK government, please contact the nearest UK embassy, ​​consulate or high commission.”

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