Location: South Asia
Capital: Colombo (the official legislative capital is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, a suburb of Colombo)
Time zone: GMT/UTC plus 5.5 hours
Daylight savings time: no
Current time: 19:13
Currency: Sri Lankan rupee
Dialling code: +94
Internet suffix: .lk
Sri Lanka is a strategically-located south Asian island country notable for its cultural diversity and natural beauty. It is a very popular traveller destination.
Overall security situation: security challenges exist
Crime rate: low
Murder rate: moderate
Gun ownership levels: moderately low
Kidnapping hotspot: no
Maritime piracy hotspot: no
Do landmines/unexploded munitions pose a significant risk in parts of the country: yes
Sri Lanka faced years of heavy, countrywide violence, most notably between 1983 and 2009 when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) waged a hefty war of Tamil separatism against the government.
The defeat of the LTTE (also known as the Tamil Tigers) ushered in a new period of peace. However, intercommunal grievances, while much reduced, are still present.
Radical Islamist terrorism has also reared its head. Long-feared as a theoretical concern, the Easter bombings of 2019 punctuated the end of a decade of relative peace in the country. It also demonstrated that Sri Lanka was at risk of jihadi violence like many other parts of the world..
Inter-faith dialogue and the fostering of community relations remain as paramount as ever for maintaining peace and security in the island. Nonetheless, tensions continue to emerge and further sporadic violence should be anticipated.
State institutions can be inefficient and poorly managed, but the security forces are relatively strong and able to clamp down on domestic threats. As such, security measures are likely to be increased. The government will be keen to prevent any further incidents and will want to send a strong message that the country is safe for tourists to visit. Tourism is a huge part of the Sri Lankan economy but the industry is also highly risk averse.
Otherwise, portions of society still struggle with issues such as under-development, unemployment and poor services. A fall in tourist visitors will likely exacerbate this.
Protests and demonstrations can be frequent and disruptive, but they are usually non-violent. Exceptions do occur, particularly in the event of mob violence directed at certain businesses, people or communities (such as ethno-religious rioting which sometimes occurs).
The crime rate is low overall, but there are some issues of petty crime and limited violent crime to be aware of. Gun ownership levels are also low in comparison to the rest of the world.
Aviation safety levels: potential concerns
Annual road fatality rates: high
Vehicles drive on the: left
Infrastructure quality: very poor
Urban ATM availability: limited
Electricity supply: 230V 50Hz
Electricity supply reliability: poor
Plug types: D and G
Plug type D (3 round pins, top pin is larger than the others, grounded/earthed, socket compatible with plug type C, unsafe socket compatibility with plug types E and F)
Plug type G (3 rectangular pins, grounded/earthed)
Is tap water drinkable: no
Healthcare quality: good healthcare provision
Infectious disease prevalence: relatively low
Travellers should consult a medical practitioner prior to their trip but the following vaccines may be considered before travelling to the country, depending on factors such as specific destination, planned activities, intended time and length of stay as well as personal medical conditions (in some cases no additional vaccines may be required at all):
- Cholera (usually only recommended for aid workers or those spending time in at-risk areas)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B (not always needed)
- Japanese encephalitis
- Rabies (usually only for long-term stays, or for those spending time in isolated areas or coming into contact with animals)
- Standard vaccinations (ie those commonly used in the developed world, such as diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tuberculosis and tetanus)
Malaria risk: none
Yellow fever presence: no
Dengue fever prevalence: frequent cases
Rabies prevalence: high risk
HIV prevalence in society: low
Hepatitis A prevalence: high
Hepatitis B prevalence: intermediate
Hepatitis E prevalence: not highly endemic
Cholera status: fairly low risk
Chikungunya virus presence: present
Zika virus presence: not recently reported
Japanese encephalitis presence: yes
Cutaneous leishmaniasis presence: endemic
Visceral leishmaniasis presence: some reported cases
Onchocerciasis presence: non-endemic
Schistosomiasis presence: none
Tick-borne encephalitis status: low/non-existent risk
Chagas disease presence: none
Typhoid fever presence: strongly endemic
African trypanosomiasis presence: none
Plague status: not thought to be present
Rift Valley fever status: not present
Lassa fever status: not present
Polio status: not endemic
Ebola outbreaks: no
Meningococcal meningitis hotspot: no
Climate: tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March); southwest monsoon (June to October)
Terrain: mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior
Natural disaster risk: high
Natural hazards: cyclones; storms; flooding; landslides; previously subjected to rare but devastating tsunami
Tropical storms: occasional
Volcanic activity: low/none
Previous earthquake(s) with over 1,000 fatalities: no
Government type: republic
Socio-economic development score: 5/10 (medium levels of socio-economic development)
Adult literacy rate: 92.6%
Unemployment rate: very low
Civil liberties: restricted
Investment rating: sub-investment grade / speculative grade / junk status
Corruption levels: fairly high
Same-sex sexual activity: illegal
Death penalty: official punishment but not used in practice
Languages: Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%, English (semi-official) is widely understood
Ethnic groups: Sinhalese 74.9%, Sri Lankan Tamil 11.2%, Sri Lankan Moors 9.2%, Indian Tamil 4.2%, other 0.5%
Beliefs: Buddhist (official) 70.2%, Hindu 12.6%, Muslim 9.7%, Roman Catholic 6.1%, other Christian 1.3%, other 0.05%
- The following advice has been compiled by travel safety specialists and ex-special forces personnel.
- However, please note that it is of a general nature only and may not reflect the reality of your circumstances.
- Ensure you have proper insurance cover in place.
- Select good quality accommodation and properly prepare for any tasks, excursions or other activities you have to undertake.
- Be mindful of local laws and cultural norms, bearing in mind that they might be different to what you are accustomed to.
- Consider conducting or obtaining a risk assessment specific to you, your profile and your trip, task or operation.
- This should take into account the likelihood of potential risks affecting you, as well as the likely impact they will have, and will help you decide, depending on your risk appetite and implementable risk mitigation measures, whether or not you should proceed.
- Be prepared for potentially poor-quality roads and other forms of transportation.
- This can make it difficult to get around.
- Consider obtaining a high-quality vehicle that can handle difficult terrain if you intend to travel anywhere with particularly bad-quality roads.
- Bear in mind that traffic safety conditions may be poor.
- Try to ensure that any accommodation or workplace is located in a good quality building.
- Bear in mind that in the event of an accident or emergency, the emergency response services may have very limited resources available.
Road traffic accident
- Be aware of local driving conditions and hazards.
- Drive defensively and adhere to speed limits to minimise the risk of being caught up in an accident, or request that your driver(s) do the same.
- If using a taxi or local driver, ensure that they are qualified and competent and that their vehicle appears well maintained.
- Ensure that vehicles are in good working order before travel.
- Perform regular checks on your vehicles for oil, fuel, tyres and seatbelts.
- Consider taking additional equipment such as a jack, spare tyres, water, blankets, torches and a first aid kit, especially if travelling to more rural or isolated areas.
- Consider using four-wheel drive vehicles for particularly poor road conditions.
- Car users should know how to perform emergency repairs.
- Try to use reputable airlines.
- Check the safety records of any companies you use to charter flights.
- Check the weather forecast in advance of travel – particularly for domestic flights.
- Consider delaying your trip or using an alternative means of transport rather than taking a risky flight.
- Bear in mind that healthcare facilities and services may be significantly less extensive than more developed countries.
- There may be very limited facilities, staff, techniques and medications available, especially in more isolated or underdeveloped areas.
- There may not be adequate reliable blood supplies in local hospitals.
- Pharmacists and other sources of even basic medical products may be difficult to find.
- Aim to be as medically self-sufficient as possible, taking basic medical supplies.
- Research whether or not certain medications are legal in your destination(s).
- Take extra supplies of any routinely-taken medicines.
- It may also be advisable to have them accompanied by a note from your doctor.
- Avoid carrying medication for other travellers.
- In the event of serious illness or injury it may be necessary for a patient to be evacuated out of the country.
- Ensure that there is sufficient medical insurance in place to cover such an event.
- Find out what specific diseases are present in your intended travel destinations.
- Research the specific measures you should take to lower the risk of infection, bearing in mind that the disease(s) in question could be water, air or insect-borne.
- It might be useful to seek medical advice prior to your trip.
- If possible, do this several weeks in advance of your travel, in case you need to obtain specific vaccinations, some of which can take time to be administered properly.
- Be aware of any potential outbreaks which may be taking place in the country.
- Be careful with any cuts and grazes which might be more susceptible to infection in your travel destination than at home.
- Hygiene will be very important, but it can be more challenging to maintain good standards of hygiene in some parts of the world where sanitary products, cleaning products and even clean water can be hard to obtain.
- It might be advisable to bring extra supplies with you.
- It would be better to take them and not use them than to leave them behind and then need them in a challenging situation.
- You may also encounter challenges over where and what you want to eat.
- Try to avoid venues which appear unsanitary.
- Be very aware of any medical symptoms which might arise, both when you are travelling and for up to a month after you return home.
- Seek medical assistance if you have any concerns.
- Bear in mind that local doctors in your home country might not be familiar with certain tropical diseases.
- If you become ill on your return, inform your doctor where you have been and ensure that unfamiliar tropical diseases are taken into consideration as a possible diagnosis.
- Civil unrest can lead to road closures and even curfews, which can affect your travel plans.
- Be prepared for delays and route alterations.
- Avoid demonstrations as they can turn violent.
- Large gatherings of people can be difficult to predict or control and can lead to issues such as mob violence, arson, assault and looting.
- The security forces may use excessive force to control events in some circumstances, posing an indiscriminate risk to anyone in the area.
- Even without any particular violence, large demonstrations can be at risk of poor crowd control, which can lead to crushes and stampedes.
- If demonstrations take place on a frequent basis, research the trends which tend to accompany them.
- Where do they tend to take place? Do they tend to turn violent? Do attendees target specific types of building or representative interests associated with a specific nationality, industry, political group (such as party-political offices, state buildings or foreign-owned businesses)?
- Once you have identified the sorts of risks, trends and areas of higher risk to be avoided you can start planning to minimise your exposure.
- If civil unrest appears to be particularly volatile, or set to last for an extended period, try to stock up with essential items (including food, water and medicine) in case you are stuck in your accommodation or work place or other location for an extended period of time.
- Be prepared to alter your plans at short notice and even to leave the area or even the whole country if conditions escalate. deteriorate.
- Identify evacuation routes and safe havens in case you need to get out of harms way at short notice.
- It is also advisable to identify the evacuation routes and fire safety procedures at your accommodation and/or work place in case you need to leave in a hurry.
- Beware of photography at sensitive sites or during civil disturbance.
- Bear in mind that conditions could deteriorate in the future.
- Monitor the news closely and pay attention to official advice issued by foreign governments (such as the British Foreign Office or US State Department).
- Stay in communication with other people working and/or travelling with you, as well as your colleagues, employers and/or loved ones out of the country.
- If such a deterioration takes place, note that the process could be gradual, or it could be very sudden.
- Have contingency plans in place, including evacuation routes, safe havens and alternatives if these areas suddenly become unsafe or unreachable.
- During a crisis, roads might be blocked or congested, airports could be chaotic, and borders may be sealed so it helps to have a range of potential options.
- In times of heightened tension, be prepared to leave at short notice.
- Alternatively, if the situation on the ground is hazardous, it might be preferable to stay in a ‘hold fast’ position in secure accommodation and await conditions to stabilise.
- Have adequate stocks of fuel, food, water and medication to either stay in the hold fast position, or to take with you on your journey, in case it involves lengthy delays.
- Have your valuables and other essential items close at hand and ready to take with you at short notice (for example in a ‘grab bag’).
- Ensure that you have adequate insurance in place to cover you for an evacuation if one is required.
- If rainfall, flooding, extreme temperatures or other types of severe weather are a concern, check the local weather patterns to find out if there are times of the year where the risk is much higher.
- Consider avoiding travel to at-risk destinations during these times.
- Try to stay in good quality accommodation.
- Take appropriate clothing and footwear.
- Take appropriate protection for any sensitive equipment you wish to bring.
- Note that storms, flooding and other types of harsh weather can overload infrastructure, lead to traffic jams and power cuts.
- Flooding and heavy rainfall can also raise the risk of landslides, as well as insect- and water-borne diseases in some parts of the world.
- As such, be prepared to delay, alter or even cancel travel plans to affected or high-risk areas.
Religious or conservative attitudes
- Exercise sensitivity in societies which place a high value on perceived morality, even if it goes against personal beliefs and values.
- Research what local cultural practises, attitudes, values and laws you will need to be mindful of before travelling.
- Note that some behaviours, interactions and attire may also attract unwanted attention, cause offence or trigger a hostile response.
- Note that some subjects may be taboo so avoid discussing them with people if you think it might cause offence.
- Find out where the at-risk areas are in a country and consider avoiding them, particularly if any minefields are poorly demarcated.
- If you have to go to an at-risk area, consider undergoing minefield awareness training first.
- Seek local knowledge on the whereabouts of potential unexploded ordnance as residents will often have the most up-to-date information.
- Stick to well used roads, routes and paths.
- Don’t touch or approach suspicious items.
- If in doubt when travelling, especially on foot, turn back and retrace your steps.
- If driving in an at-risk area, avoid leaving the vehicle as far as possible.
- Take particular care after heavy rainfall as flooding can wash away warning signs or even displace unexploded ordnance and move it into new areas.
- Research and familiarise yourself with your destination in advance of travel.
- Find out what the local criminal trends are and identify any potential hotspots, such as certain neighbourhoods.
- You may wish to avoid the higher risk areas, but this is not always practical.
- As such, in higher risk areas exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.
- Note that jewellery, watches, mobile phones, laptops or other items may mark you out as a potential target for petty thieves.
- Be careful with your wallet and cash.
- Note that crime trends can change, and the level of risk can become higher, after dark.
- In general, use your gut instincts and be prepared avoid situations, places or people that seem suspicious, odd or wrong in some way.
- Terrorism can pose a risk, even in otherwise mostly safe countries.
- Assess the trends and tactics of any relevant terrorist organisations with the potential for targeting your location and identify potential targets.
- Be vigilant in and around these areas, which could include crowded places, symbolic or sensitive political sites, or busy restaurant, nightlife or tourist spots.
- Use your judgement on the frequency of incidents taking place. Just because an incident has taken place in a certain city does not mean that the city will regularly be hit again – use rational judgement to decide whether or not there is a likelihood that you will be caught up in any future incidents.
- Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to react at short notice in the event of an incident.
- In the event of an incident, get out of the area quickly if it is safe to do so.
- Alternatively hide and try to keep out of harm’s way.
- In most cases you should only try to help other people if it is safe for you to do so.
- Keep quiet and notify the relevant authorities, colleagues or loved ones only when you are out of danger.
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