A recent European traveler’s experience in Sri Lanka
“My time in Sri Lanka was one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever had. Given that there were fewer tourists around I felt like I had the whole country to myself!” ~ Karen from the Netherlands, on her recent trip to Sri Lanka in September 2021
Sri Lanka consistently ranks among the world’s most popular destinations for travelers seeking authentic travel experience and was recently voted among `The Best Countries to Travel to in 2021’ in Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards. Boasting golden beaches, sunny weather, lush tropical jungles, awe-inspiring wildlife, beautiful lakes, rivers and waterfalls as well as friendly locals, Sri Lanka offers the perfect tropical getaway for European travelers.
Almost 60% of the population is currently fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and the aim is to reach 70% by year end. The country has also recently relaxed all entry restrictions for fully vaccinated international travellers who can present a negative PCR done 72 hours prior to arrival. Most local hotels and restaurants are now reopening after the lengthy closure due to the impact of the pandemic.
In addition to this, the upcoming season between December and April, while being cold and grey in most of Europe, is the best time to visit the west and south coasts of Sri Lanka as well as the Cultural Triangle.
We understand that some of you may have a few questions before you book your trip to Sri Lanka, that’s why we spoke to Karen, a recent traveler from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to find out exactly how she found her experience on her recent trip to Sri Lanka and what processes she followed. Karen is fully vaccinated and her last vaccination was 2 weeks prior to her trip to Sri Lanka. The below is a summary of Karen’s trip to Sri Lanka from 5 – 25 September 2021.
1. What country & town do you live in?
2. Can you please talk us through the process of formal applications/ booking tickets that you went through?
- I visited Sri Lanka’s Hello Again website and reviewed what visitor entry rules applied to me as a fully vaccinated traveler.
- I booked my flight ticket online.
- I contacted a hotel (as recommended on the Hello Again website) that I wanted to stay in for my 2-day quarantine/PCR test. They confirmed that they had a room available and would provide information to the immigration department if required. – Please note that entry rules have changed as of 1 October (post Karen’s visit) and fully vaccinated international travelers who can produce a negative PCR done 72 hours prior to boarding, are no longer required to do an ‘on arrival PCR’ or be subjected to any quarantine, so traveling to Sri Lanka is now even more convenient!.
- I made my online visa application via the Online eVisa Service – my visa was approved the next day (they sent me an email).
3. Which SL websites or information sources helped you most?
- Sri Lanka Tourism Hello Again Website
- Sri Lanka Online Electronic Travel Authorization System
- South Sri Lanka Surf Community
4. What was the process to fly out from your town – were there any special protocols?
- I booked my PCR travel test via the Dutch government website.
- The test was taken just over 24hrs prior to my flight being due to depart; my test result was delivered to me the evening prior to my departure to SL.
- I was asked for my negative PCR result and proof of double vaccination prior to boarding my flight to SL.
5. Describe your journey from Amsterdam to Sri Lanka
- Did you feel safe? YES
- What steps did you follow to protect yourself? I wore my facemask in transit – taxi, airports and airplane and I regularly washed my hands and used hand sanitizer.
6. What happened from the moment of landing
- I presented my arrival card, health declaration, negative PCR result and proof of vaccination at immigration in SL upon arrival.
7. Was the process of arriving in SL smooth? YES
- Did you feel safe? YES
- What steps did you follow to protect yourself? I wore my face mask and sanitized my hands each time I handled paperwork, money or luggage that others had handled. I requested my driver take a rapid test prior to us departing (I bought 10 rapid tests with me for my trip).
8. Tell us what your time in Sri Lanka was like, where you stayed and how you met with people
- My time in SL was one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever had. Given that there were fewer tourists around I felt like I had the whole country to myself. I visited Mirissa, Weligama, Ella and Arugambay. I also took day trips along the south coast to Koggala Lake and Wijaya Beach. I stayed at a variety of hotels. My options for eating dinner were a little limited when I was on the South Coast but I used the https://www.sridelivery.com/ app to order food to my hotel for a few nights. I did have friends in SL that I had met on previous trips – a mix of expats and locals, which meant that I didn’t have to worry so much about making friends/ finding people to do activities with, if I was traveling alone and without local contacts, I will admit that this trip would have taken a very different shape for me; I would have chosen different accommodation and probably sought out traveling/activity buddies at the cafes and restaurants I visited.
9. Tell us a bit about your exit experience
- I booked my exit PCR test at a local private health clinic in Weligama. The total cost was LKR 8000. (test 6000, admin 1500). I collected my results from the clinic just over 8hrs before my departure. The clinic was fast, professional and they assured me that the result would be delivered in time for my flight.
10. What is your advice to people who want to visit Sri Lanka?
- Just GO! If you are traveling alone then be sure to make your accommodation plan ahead of time (the first few nights at least!), maybe book into a retreat or a surf camp for your first few days in the country that will allow you to connect with other travelers and get the ‘lay of the land’. Be sure to book your transport ahead of time also- there are tonnes of recommendations on TripAdvisor for good, safe drivers that will get you from the airport to your accommodation in a cheap, a/c private vehicle. If you can drive, hire a scooter to get around locally; it’s the best way to see this beautiful country and it allows you freedom to go wherever you like. Be sure to be generous with your smiles and your tips; local people – especially daily wage earners have had a hard time over the last 18months and need the income. Just GO! The country may not be 100% operational just yet, but nature and beauty is always open – and that’s what Sri Lanka has in abundance!.
We hope reading Karen’s story will encourage you to start planning your trip to Sri Lanka! For all the necessary information you need to make your trip to Sri Lanka seamless, read our latest blog on “All You Need to Know if You’re Travelling to Sri Lanka from Europe!”