Sri Lanka reopens borders to foreign travelers

(CNN) – The island state of Sri Lanka is now open to tourists from all countries.

Sri Lanka Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga made the official announcement during a press conference on Thursday, confirming that they will reopen the country’s borders from 21 January. Both of the country’s international airports reopened on the same day.

“The livelihoods of about 3 million people depend on tourism in Sri Lanka,” Ranatunga told the media. “Our national responsibility is to consider the needs of our citizens who depend on this industry.”

As part of efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Sri Lanka has created a “bio-bubble” that will give visitors relative freedom to move around the country while following safety protocols.

While there is no minimum time a visitor must spend in the country, anyone arriving from overseas must stay at a government-approved hotel or resort for up to two weeks upon arrival.

This means that travelers only coming for a short trip will simply stay at their resort the entire time, while those planning a longer stay will be able to move around Sri Lanka more freely once the two-week semi-quarantine is over.

Unlike places like Hong Kong and Australia where people are quarantined upon arrival. should stay in their hotel rooms for all time Sri Lanka’s rules are a bit lenient. Guests will have complete freedom of action regarding the property, so they will be able to enjoy amenities such as pools, gyms, lounges and restaurants.
Travelers can also leave the hotel during the lockdown to go sightseeing, as long as they do so discreetly. About dozens of tourist sites and attractions open to foreign visitors, but with reservations.
The five-star Anantara Peace Haven in Tangalle is on the list of approved hotels.

The five-star Anantara Peace Haven in Tangalle is on the list of approved hotels.

Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle

For example, within the bio-bubble, attractions such as Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) and the Royal Botanic Gardens, both in the central city of Kandy, require visitors to come as part of an organized tour group. or with an approved Sri Lankan guide.

They must travel in a personal vehicle and not make unauthorized side stops. Some sites allow tourists only during certain times or on certain days of the week.

There are currently 55 hotels and resorts that are subject to “Level 1 Safety and Security” regulations. They are not allowed to host local guests or host any events while they are part of the bio-bubble.

With extra security comes additional fees.

In addition to paying for airfare and accommodation, travelers are responsible for the cost of Sri Lankan government-sanctioned health insurance ($12) and up to three Covid tests in the country ($40 each).

Everyone arriving in the country must show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 96 hours of travel and complete an online health declaration form. Guests will be retested at their own expense on the fifth and seventh day after arrival, and people staying more than seven days will be required to take a third test the following week.

After two weeks have elapsed, when they test negative for coronavirus, travelers can choose to stay at their hotel or move to another of the approved hotels. Airbnb, guest houses and other types of accommodation are prohibited. Using public transport is not recommended.

All potential travelers must apply for watch online and download the Visit Sri Lanka app. The application will be used for contact tracing, as well as storing information about test results and hotel bookings.
Sigiriya Fortress is one of about a dozen sights in Sri Lanka open to foreign tourists.

Sigiriya Fortress is one of about a dozen sights in Sri Lanka open to foreign tourists.

ALEX OGLE / AFP / AFP / Getty Images

While almost every country can showcase its tourism revenues have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Sri Lanka has suffered a particularly bad time.

After the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, most countries in Asia closed their borders to tourism, and few have reopened since then. Sri Lanka join the Maldives as one of two destinations in the region with open borders.