Sri Lanka reopens borders to international travelers

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

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

“The livelihood of about 3 million people depends on tourism in Sri Lanka,” Ranatunga told the media. “It is our national responsibility 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 “biological bubble”, which will give visitors relative freedom to travel within the country while continuing to observe safety protocols.

While there is no minimum time a visitor must spend in the country, anyone coming from abroad must stay in a government-approved hotel or resort for up to two weeks after their arrival.

This means that travelers coming only for a short trip will stay at their resort the entire time, while people planning longer stays will be able to move more freely within Sri Lanka once they complete the two weeks of semi-quarantine.

Unlike places like Hong Kong and Australia, where people quarantined upon arrival must remain in their hotel rooms for the duration, Sri Lanka’s regulations are a bit more lax. Guests will have free access to the property, so they can use facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, beauty salons and restaurants.
Travelers can also leave the hotel during the quarantine for sightseeing, as long as they do so carefully. About a dozen tourist sites and attractions are open to foreign visitors, but with caveats.
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, as part of 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 private vehicle and not make unauthorized side stops. Some sites will only allow tourists during designated time slots or on certain days of the week.

Currently, 55 hotels and resorts are under “level one safe” guidelines. They are not allowed to accept local guests or host any events while they are part of the bio bubble.

With additional security, there are additional fees.

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

All people 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 guests staying longer than seven days will be required to take a third test the following week.

Once the two weeks are up and they have tested negative for coronavirus, travelers can stay at their hotel or change to another of the approved hotels. Airbnbs, guest houses and other forms of accommodation are prohibited. Public transport is not recommended.

All prospective travelers must apply for a visa online and download the Visit Sri Lanka app. The app will be used to track contacts and store information about test results and hotel reservations.
The Sigiriya fortress is among the dozens of Sri Lankan attractions open to foreign tourists.

The Sigiriya fortress is among the dozens of Sri Lankan attractions open to foreign tourists.

ALEX OGLE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

While almost all countries can demonstrably show that their tourism revenues have taken a hit amid the coronavirus pandemic, Sri Lanka has suffered a particularly unfortunate time.

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

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