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Is traveling Sri Lanka safe?

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Is traveling Sri Lanka safe?

Lirene CilliersBy Lirene Cilliers   Posted 30th Jan 2024

The year 2019 started with so much promise, Sri Lanka was named Lonely Planet's top travel destination in their annual “Best in Travel” round-up, and tourism was on the rise, a major source of revenue for much of the population.  
But in April, things took a turn with the Easter bomb attacks, and overnight, Sri Lanka became a no-go destination on travel watchlists. As the year rolled on, tourism businesses suffered until it became clear to the international community that the attacks were an isolated incident.  
So, Sri Lanka started 2020 poised to have its big comeback. Optimism was short-lived, however, with the onset of the global pandemic, then just to add insult to injury, as the clouds of COVID began to finally clear, the country was struck with an economic crisis, and political unrest soon followed.  

While many suffered through the pandemic, the Sri Lankan people, and particularly the many reliant on the travel industry, have surely suffered a disproportionate amount of hardship in recent years. Thankfully, the nation is now emerging from those dark times; there is optimism in the air, and the Sri Lankan people are more than ready to welcome back travelers with open arms. It looks like 2024 may finally be the year Sri Lanka can claim back its “Top Destination” status.  
So as would-be travelers, such as yourself, set their sights on the prospect of cycling through highland tea plantations, exploring UNESCO-listed ancient sites, taking a scenic train ride through spectacular hill country, lazing on sun-kissed beaches, or going on safari in the country’s many well-maintained national parks,  there is still one question on everyone's mind: Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka? 

The short answer is, yes! And there’s no better time to do it than now. Read on to find out more...  

As Sri Lanka returns to people’s travel radars, officials and our team at Grasshopper Adventures have been tireless in our efforts to ensure travelers have an unforgettable experience that is both safe and memorable for all the right reasons. With almost a dozen tours now behind us since 2023 to the time of writing, we can confidently say that traveling in Sri Lanka is safe, and indeed, the country is open for business and waiting for you! 

Only weeks after the 2019 incident, Steve Grace, a senior member of our team, visited Sri Lanka to evaluate the safety of our guests in-country. He cycled our Sri Lanka by Bike route with two enthusiastic American travelers, Buddy and Holly (pictured above), who refused to have their holiday plans impacted by extremists. The event, though causing deep affliction, did not diminish Sri Lanka's innate hospitality, beauty, and spirit of optimism.

The feedback in 2019 was that, yes, Sri Lanka had been deeply affected, the peace of the nation was threatened, and the people were impacted emotionally. But the stronger message was that Sri Lanka, as it is famous for, was quickly full of optimism, smiles, open-heartedness, and eagerness to proudly display the hospitality and natural beauty that define this remarkable island.

Fast forward to today, our in-country team, led by Vinoli (pictured above), has kept a close eye on local media and security. In a conversation with her just before writing this update, it was very much her opinion that the unrest and uncertainty have abated and life is returning to normal. To demonstrate as much, we have run multiple tours over the past months without issues, delays, or interruptions. 

Our support team has spent lots of time on the phone with guests over the past months, and we appreciate the initial hesitations when deciding to choose Sri Lanka over our range of other beautiful destinations. Our philosophy has been the same: we can’t let fear dictate our lives, but we also need to balance that with putting the safety of our guests and our teams first. 

Foreign Office travel advice? 

As the months and years have passed, the measurable risk has continued to lower, with reductions in travel warnings from American, Australian, and UK embassies. Be it at home or abroad, travel can never be guaranteed to be 100% safe. Remaining travel warnings advise avoiding crowds and demonstrations should they happen nearby. This is very much a “just-in-case" scenario that our team is well briefed on, but we have encountered no incident or cause for concern. It is recommended to check in on the latest travel advice and be mindful when traveling. At the time of writing, we can confidently say that Sri Lanka is ready to welcome back travelers and is a destination absolutely worthy of exploration. 

Is Sri Lanka safe for female travelers?

An increasing number of our guests are interested in unique solo travel experiences, and among them are many solo female travelers. To answer the question, “Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka as a solo female?” While Sri Lanka is a traditionally conservative society, based on our experience and feedback from our previous female guests, the answer is a big yes. Sri Lanka is safe to visit as a solo female traveler. 

"“I have cycled, solo – as this trip was, in Vietnam, Mexico, Bulgaria, throughout Western Europe, the UK, and Canada – and I can honestly say [Sri Lanka] was a fabulously supported trip.” - Alison S.
Read Alison's story as she cycled through Sri Lanka as a solo female on a self-guided bike tour.

Sri Lankans are known for their friendliness towards travelers and appreciate how this contributes to the nation's economy. Nevertheless, like any destination, it's important to recognize local norms and customers and be considerate of the culture. This includes dressing modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. Travelers should also exercise common sense practices, like avoiding isolated areas, particularly after dark. 

For solo female travelers who are eager to explore Sri Lanka but would prefer not to travel entirely alone, they can join our guided tours. Interestingly, one in three of our guests are solo travelers, ensuring a comfortable and diverse group dynamic. Participating in our organized tours provides a safe and welcoming environment while also offering an opportunity to share the experience with like-minded adventurers

"Hear more from our guests: Read Jo Ann's account, an explorer, photographer, and writer, of her 2-week solo travel experience, where she joined a group tour with Grasshopper Adventures in Sri Lanka.

We encourage solo female travelers to keep family and friends updated about their whereabouts, and register travel plans with their country’s relevant government department if available. If traveling with Grasshopper Adventures the team is always available for support, ensuring that all travelers, including solo female adventurers, feel safe and well-cared for during their travels in Sri Lanka. Our experience and support provide an extra level of comfort, allowing solo female travelers to focus on immersing themselves in the mesmerizing beauty of this island nation and its rich cultural heritage. 

Is a Visa Required for Travel to Sri Lanka?

Yes! Everyone traveling to Sri Lanka needs a visa. Luckily, the process of applying is very quick and easy. 

As stated on the Sri Lanka ETA website, travelers must not arrive in Sri Lanka without first receiving the ETA Approval Notice. 

To apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), you can proceed online here, and you can see the most current entry information on the official Sri Lanka ETA website

For more tips on travel in Sri Lanka, dive into our Sri Lanka Travel Guide, where we spill the details on everything you need to know before you go. 

Rebuilding Tourism and Enjoying the Benefits 

The entire team at Grasshopper Adventures takes safety and security seriously. With our two decades of experience in travel, in an often-complex region, we are very pleased to be part of the effort to rebuild Sri Lankan tourism.  
Beyond security concerns, there are lots of extra benefits for being in the early waves of tourists coming back to Sri Lanka. Crowds at previously busy sites are more moderate in numbers, stunning hotels which were once full of waiting lists now eagerly await your visit. And more than that, the Sri Lankan people who rely on travelers like you to support tourism, are now more enthusiastic and passionate than ever about displaying their beautiful country and culture.

Even throughout 2019 Lonely Planet still ranked Sri Lanka at #1 on their “Best in Travel” list, they didn’t give up on the island and through the hard years neither have we. Now, emerging from the other side, it’s the perfect time to join us on a Grasshopper Adventures tour and experience why this is such an incredible country to visit sooner rather than later

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