In our earlier post, we tried to convince you to consider Sri Lanka to bring in the New Year. Some of you asked, ‘that’s fine, but what about Sri Lanka visa and all, bros?’
Well, the good news is that Sri Lanka Visa is super easy to get. In fact, in all my travels to about 20 countries, the only other country which provided easier entry was Ecuador(all nationalities except 7 of them get 90 day free entry, no questions asked!).
Having said that there are a couple of things you might want to keep in mind to make your entry smooth to the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Number One: No, you cannot enter via sea.
Yes, Sri Lanka is an island. Yes, many islands can be reached by boat. Yes, Sri Lanka at its closest is only 30 kms away from India.
Despite all these statements, the legal way to enter Sri Lanka for tourists is by air (except maybe if you are on a cruise liner). Boat services between India and Sri Lanka which were suspended since the civil war have not resumed yet. And it looks like it will be a while before they do.
So yes, unless you can swim 30 kms, are okay with being captured by the Sri Lankan navy and put into a prison cell; do not try to take the sea route to Sri Lanka.
Just go to Skyscanner and look for good flights.
Number two: Book a return flight ticket.
I have been to Sri Lanka twice, and both times the immigration did not ask for the return flight. However, the rules in the Sri Lanka visa application state that every traveler needs to have proof of onward journey.
So yes, book a return flight to ensure you do not face any problems at the immigration. Once this is done, you can apply for the visa.
Number three: Sri Lanka visa on arrival? Or Electronic visa?
Residents of all countries excluding a few (like Afghanistan, Pakistan, some African countries; etc) are eligible for a visa on arrival at a fee.
But the ETA(electronic travel authorisation) or an electronic visa is so easy to get that both times I used this process. It saves time at the airport and the issue of paying with US dollars or Sri Lankan Rupees. For the ETA you pay 20 USD with your credit card and the whole process does not take more than 15 minutes.
For people of SAARC nationalities, online visa fee is 20 USD and 35 USD for others. And visa on arrival is 25 USD and 40 USD respectively. One more reason for going online. You can have may cups of Ceylon tea with the saved 5 dollars! This info was pointed out by a reader in the comments.
Number four: ETA or Electronic visa process.
All you need to do is keep your passport and flight ticket ready.
Now log in to Sri Lanka ETA website, and apply for the form. It is a simple form which needs your passport, flight details and address in Sri Lanka(this could be the hostel/hotel you have booked). And in no time you will have to pay the 20 USD fee. Voila! That’s it, form business over.
You will get an email acknowledgment first – which is NOT your ETA. Within 24 hours you will get another email with your ETA(unless you are a career criminal or something of that sort). Now you are ready.
Number five: At the airport:
Now you are the airport in Colombo, after getting off your flight.
If you have the ETA, proceed directly to the immigration counter. If not, you need to look for the visa on arrival counter. Before getting to the immigration you have to first fill a small form which no one may tell you about. It is on the left before the immigration counter. It will ask for your passport details, flight and address in Sri Lanka. That’s it.
The immigration officer will place a stamp on your passport which gives you thirty days with double entry. Now, walk away and explore one of the most fascinating island nations on the planet. It’s that simple!
Feel free to ask questions or add tips; etc in the comments, and we will be happy to talk to you.