Sri Lanka was one of the most up and coming tourism destination in the world at the start of the year thanks to gorgeous beaches, incredible hill stations, tea plantations and an experience just “off the beaten path” enough to bring a much needed reprieve from mass tourism. On April 21st, everything changed when a horrific terror attack crippled the country, killing citizens from all over the world and putting a pause on many travel plans.

To have a single digit drop in tourism is bad, but Sri Lanka has experienced year over year dips up to 70%, as foreigners are wary of potential for future violence. To remind the public that Sri Lanka is open, beautiful and ready again, the country will test free visas to citizens of 36 countries starting August 1st, 2019. Americans, Brits and more will save $35 in visa fees thanks to this decision.

Even better, you don’t have to apply online prior to travel. You can just show up in Sri Lanka ready to explore an amazing country.We’re all for making travel easier so count us as big fans of this decision.

Why Is Sri Lanka Doing This?

Sri Lanka experienced tremendous growth in tourism in the last decade. In fact, we listed it as one of our top 10 destinations to visit for 2018 and noted that it’s becoming a hot spot. Visa fees have been a huge source of income, but all countries requiring visas in advance of travel are less attractive than those that don’t. After the horrific attacks, Sri Lankan’s knows this and is looking to rebound tourism growth by streamlining the entry process.

With the monsoon season over, August through the rest of the year is one of the best times to visit and this waived visa could go a long way. Tourism is generally at its highest from September through April when weather is dry, but if you want to go off season from May through August during Monsoon, Lonely Planet notes that heading north or east is the best way to stay dry and enjoy beach life.

Countries Included In The Free Visa Trial

During this six-month trial period starting August 1st, 2019, citizens of the US and the UK will get visa-free entry. Other countries that will also enjoy visa-free entry to Sri Lanka include:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • European Union member countries
  • Malaysia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Thailand

Hopefully, this trial will be successful and visa-free travel will be extended long-term and to the citizens of other countries.

Why Visit Sri Lanka?

The Maldives might get all the media attention but you shouldn’t overlook Sri Lanka. As we mentioned above, it’s a great place to visit if you want to relax on the beach but, unlike some destinations, the crowds will be much smaller. If that’s not enough, the natural beauty of the country should do it. Top it off with wonderful hospitality and it’s hard to justify not visiting.

How To Get There With Points

While not the most convenient destination for those in the US — similar to the Maldives, there are some great ways to fly to Sri Lanka with points and miles. If you haven’t tried Qatar Airways Qsuites, this could be a great opportunity to use 70,000 American miles to book a one-way ticket to Colombo (CMB) with a connection in Doha (DOH). Alternatively, you could fly Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong (HKG) for the same number of American miles.

Make sure you check out our in-depth guide on using American AAdvantage miles.

However, if you do decide to fly Cathay Pacific, you might want to use Alaska miles to book the ticket. In doing so, you’ll be allowed to include a stopover in Hong Kong to break up the trip and explore another amazing destination. For 62,500 miles in business class all the way to Colombo, it’s a great way to book. If you’d like to fly first class from the US to Hong Kong before picking up a business class flight to Colombo, you can book with 70,000 Alaska miles.

Use our complete guide to redeeming Alaska Mileage Plan miles to make sure you get the most out of your miles.

Final Thoughts

Sri Lanka has come a long way since the civil war that long divided it. In the ten years since its end, the tourism industry has boomed and isn’t showing any signs of stopping. With visa-free entry, we can only expect more people will want to visit.

If you want a quick primer on Sri Lanka before visiting, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unkown visited the country in 2017 for season 10, episode 5.

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Sri Lanka

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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15 Comments

  1. I booked a trip to Sri Lanka yesterday using AA miles as a precursor to our Maldives vacation. We’re going LAS-DFW-DOH-CMB with DFW-DOH operated (as of now) by their A350-1000. I’m pretty excited. I was able to ticket completely online now that QR flights show up in AA’s search results.

    We’ll probably pay cash for CMB-MLE though I’m not sure what we’ll do for MLE-???-???-LAS, but we’ll figure something out.

    I have no idea what our itinerary is going to consist of, but it certainly seems like Sri Lanka is a happening place with lots of chances for fun outdoor activities.

    1. That’s an amazing trip! I hope you’ll share your thoughts on Sri Lanka when you get back.

      1. I will absolutely do so. I’m really looking forward to it. I really appreciate the highlights on this site – lots of inspiration for places to go and things to do!

    1. Hey Evan – Gib is taking a much deserved holiday in Australia but will be back soon. As to this article, visa-free entry in Sri Lanka applies to the UK as well. 🙂

  2. It is good immigration policy but number is visa free countries are limited. They should make it open like Maldives. They should become broad minded. well, it is good initiative.

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