Travel insurance for holidays in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka travel insurance

Searching for a truly exotic winter sun destination? Sri Lanka could well be it. The Indian Ocean nation that sits to the south east of India is laid back, beautiful and full of fascinating sites and tourist hotspots. But it is perhaps best known for its beautiful beaches. They may well be some of the most spectacular you will ever set your eyes upon.

So if you are looking for a fantastic winter sun destination, let's get started with some essential travel advice and a quick introduction to our Sri Lanka travel insurance!

Sri Lanka is a favourite among Brits for winter sun on a budget because it's still relatively cheap to stay and travel around. There are few huge hotel complexes outside the main resorts close to the capital, Colombo, so boutique, independent hotels and guest houses are the norm. Travel is easy, with plenty of tuk-tuks and taxis for hire and the West Coast Railway offering a slow but spectacular journey through coconut groves close to the sea between Colombo and Galle.

The railway also offers a cheap and gentle – if slow - way to travel up to the tea plantations high in the central hills at Ella and the former capital, UNESCO World Heritage site Kandy. As the train chugs up steep slopes among tea plantations and hawkers sell coconuts, chai and sweets alongside, it's easy to imagine you're living in the days of the Raj. The views, of women tea picking in the sunshine, are unforgettable.

Sri Lanka's history has been documented as far back as 1000 BC and, as a result has a few very special sites of historical interest. The fortress at Sigiriya is magnificent, while the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is one of the most important sites in the Buddhist world. Galle's old town is impressive too, and the temple's carving and ancient wall of Polonnaruwa cannot be missed.

If you like wildlife then it may excite you to know that, in certain places you should not be surprised to see elephants wandering down a village street. Depending on where you are they may be wild or under the charge of a handler, but either way it's a lovely surprise! If you want to see more then a visit to the The Sinharaja Forest Reserve may reward you with a glimpse of one of the country's rare and secretive leopards, as well as many other species of birds, insects and reptiles.

Travel safe with World First

Whether you are going on a holiday of a lifetime with family or backpacking around Sri Lanka, we can offer you a choice of great value policies that will give you all the benefits and cover you'll need. We can cover families, groups or individuals and can also offer cover to people with medical conditions.

You can choose the level of cover you go for depending on the way you like to travel. Our Backpacker and Longstay policies, for example, offer medical emergency cover from £1m to £5m depending on how much of a shoe string you are travelling on. So if you like the reassurance of gadget cover along with all the usual benefits - cancellation, loss of baggage, documents and money – then the Longstay Max policy will be right for you. However, if you can live without cover for travel delays and missed departures then our Longstay Lite policy will be your cheapest option – but without compromising on public liability, medical expenses and personal luggage.

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Your quick guide to travelling in Sri Lanka

Official language(s):
Sinhalese (74% of population) and Tamil, as well as English in urban and tourist areas.

59.5 million

Rupee (LKR)

Sri Jayawadenapura Kotte

Emergency services:
Police 118, Ambulance / Fire and Rescue 110

Dialling code:

Staying safe: Vaccinations

You will need to ensure your standard immunisations are up to date, as well as having boosters for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. If you are travelling from an area where there is a risk of Yellow Fever transmission you will need a vaccination certificate.

You may also want to consider hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies and tetanus depending on where you are going in Sri Lanka. Your travel clinic will advise.

You will also need to take precautions against malaria if you travel to the north of the country.

Entry requirements: getting an ETA

You will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. This can be an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) from the Sri Lankan government, which costs $30 US and will be valid for 30 days. You can apply online at If you wish to stay for longer you can apply for an extension once you reach Sri Lanka.

Alternatively you can apply for a 30 or 90 day visa through the Sri Lankan High Commission in London. Business visas may also be obtained through the Sri Lankan High Commission in London. 30 day visa cost $45US.

All passports must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of arrival in Sri Lanka. You must also be able to show a valid return ticket and show that you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses in Sri Lanka.

Need cancellation cover for your flights? Get a quote now.

Apply for your ETA through the Sri Lanka Electronic Travel Authorisation System.

Entry requirements: Travelling with a medical condition

Nothing should hold you back from a good holiday. That's why we're happy to insure thousands of medical conditions at a price that's fair. However, if you're taking prescription medication with you on holiday, take the paper prescription itself in case you have trouble at customs. A letter from your doctor outlining your condition and the medication you are taking for it may also help to smooth the way – just in case.

Get a quote for medical travel cover now.

Laws and Customs: Carry ID

Everyone visiting is required to carry some form of official photo ID at all times. If you do not you may end up being detained. If this happens you should ask to contact the British High Commission.

Our travel insurance policies cover you against the loss of vital documents. Our superior policy, for example, includes up to £500 against loss of cash and documents.

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Laws and customs: Modesty may smooth the way

While it may be hot in Sri Lanka, with daily temperatures in Colombo in January averaging around 81 degrees Fahrenheit, don't be tempted to bare all. Sri Lanka has a relaxed attitude to informal dress styles but women travelling alone are advised to dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention. It should also be noted that sunbathing topless or nude is generally not allowed.

When visiting Buddhist temples you should make sure that you remove hats and shoes and cover legs and shoulders. And don't forget that the mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Sri Lanka.

Laws and Customs: Careful with that camera

Sometimes it pays to be prudent with the camera. Posing for a photograph next to the statue of Buddha is a serious offence, as is the mistreatment of Buddhist images. Both are punishable by fine or arrest. Travellers with tattoos of Buddha images should also keep these covered at all times.

Also, keep the camera away when you pass military bases, government buildings or vehicles used by VIPs. Sri Lankan law permits arrest or detainment without a warrant.

Healthcare: Medical costs

Sri Lanka has no reciprocal agreement with the UK for the provision of health care. That means you will have to pay for any treatment, if it is available. Emergency medical treatment is not readily available outside the main cities and getting adequate treatment for an emergency may require being taken to Colombo. Even then, facilities may not be of the same standard you would expect at home in the UK. Treatment in private hospitals can be expensive and repatriation options are limited and very expensive.

Make sure your travel insurance will cover you for any emergency and that you have adequate resources if you need treatment or repatriation.

Don't travel without adequate medical cover. Get a quote now.

Healthcare: Beware the mozzies

Both malaria and dengue fever are present in parts of Sri Lanka. While outbreaks of malaria are restricted to the very northern tip of the country, the dengue fever mosquito is present almost everywhere, with the exception of the highlands around Ella. Both dengue fever and malaria are carried by mosquitoes, which means to avoid the diseases you must avoid being bitten. Cover up at night, use mosquito repellent and sleep under a mosquito net.

Healthcare: Water

Tap water is generally unsafe to drink in Sri Lanka, unless boiled and filtered, which means you should always try to drink bottled water that has an SLSI (Sri Lanka Standards Institute) mark. That also means cleaning teeth with bottled water, rather from the hotel tap. If you can't get bottled water then coconut water is a safe alternative, as long as it is cut open in front of you.

Staying safe: Rain and flooding

Sri Lanka has two distinct monsoon seasons, which means there is a risk of landslides and flooding, depending on where you are. It is May to August in the South West, November to February in the North East. During the rainy season you should consult your tour operator or accommodation provider before travelling and monitor local media for weather warnings.

Staying safe: Driving can be hazardous

Driving in Sri Lanka

If you decide to drive in Sri Lanka, take the utmost caution. Driving is erratic, roads are bad and night driving is particularly dangerous. Accidents are frequent. Animals and pedestrians may appear in the road at any time without warning and vehicles do not stop at pedestrian crossings.

If you have a collision, stay with your vehicle for as long as it is safe to do so. If not, report to the local police station.

Buses are notorious for driving fast and rarely giving way. They are often poorly maintained. Some serious bus accidents have occurred in recent years.

Getting a licence

You cannot drive in Sri Lanka on a British driving licence. You must obtain an International Licence and also a recognition permit to drive in Sri Lanka. You can get one of these at the AA in Colombo. Always wear a seatbelt and make sure you're insured.

Checkpoints and roadblocks

You may come across security checkpoints and roadblocks in parts of the country. Take care when passing through them, and always obey instructions. Some security forces have opened fire on vehicles that don't stop when asked. Roads around Government and military sites in Colombo are regularly closed for security reasons.

Staying safe: the threat from terrorism

In 2009 the military conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or ‘the Tamil Tigers') ended. The last reported incident of terrorism was in July of 2009, and in 2011 the state of emergency was lifted. However, in some parts of the country, particularly the north, there is a heightened level of security. This means you should be vigilant and avoid militarised zones, always carry formal ID with you and show it when asked.

The Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act permits prolonged detention without charge or trial. If you are detained, you should ask the authorities to contact the British High Commission.

Getting around: Taxis, trains and rickshaws

Taxis are inexpensive in Sri Lanka. Motorised rickshaws (tuk-tuks) are available for hire in most towns and villages and can be fun. However, make sure you agree the price before you set off and go for one with a working meter. Most travellers have few difficulties but some have reported harassment.

If you are concerned about the driver or safety, change rickshaws.

Travel by train

The train can be a fantastic way to see Sri Lanka. Some trains have observation carriages and first class so you can sit in relative luxury and see the scenery roll by. Some of the journeys, like the one from Kandy to Ella, are considered to be among the most scenic in the world. The train to Galle from Colombo travels along the coast most of the way, giving wonderful views of the coast and beaches.

Crime: Be vigilant

Most visits to Sri Lanka are trouble-free. However, watch out for petty crimes such as pick pocketing, particularly in crowded areas such as railways stations. There have been reports of crimes against foreigners but these are infrequent. But do take precautions: carry your tickets, cash and cards separately, be wary after dark, don't flash your cash in public and keep an eye on your personal belongings.

Our travel insurance policies will cover you against personal belongings. Our superior policy will cover you for your, luggage, toiletries and gadgets too, and will even cover you for unauthorised calls on your mobile phone.

Get a quote now.

Currency: Be careful with your money

Credit card fraud is the most common type of crime affecting visitors. If you do use your card you must make sure it remains in sight at all times so it can't be cloned or swiped twice. This means you should try to use cash whenever you can. If you need to use an ATM use one attached to a bank or a major hotel.

The FCO also advises British nationals to inform their bank that they will be travelling to Sri Lanka as the card may be automatically blocked if you try to use it.

There are money changers in most tourist areas.

Electricity: power, wifi and data roaming

Sri Lanka uses 3 Pin plugs on the same voltage as the UK, although some of them may be the old fashioned round pins. If in doubt, take an adaptor. You won't need a voltage adaptor.

Wifi is widely available in larger hotels and guesthouses, as well as some cafes, bars and restaurants. Look out for signs.

3G or 4G is available, with 4G currently in major cities and 3G in populated areas – but not everywhere. However, beware of roaming charges and check with your UK supplier before you go. No one wants to come home to a hefty roaming bill.

Sri Lanka: Know Before You Go

For up to the minute travel news that doesn't make the headlines, check out the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's website. Their Know Before You Go site has information on all risks to all travellers in more than 255 countries and territories around the world.

See the latest information at Know Before You Go HERE.

Follow the FCO on twitter HERE.

Of course, if you have any questions about our Italy travel insurance, please call us using the number at the top of this page or email

Taking more than one holiday in the next twelve months? Save money with our annual travel insurance.

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