Sri Lanka is offering free tourist visas to citizens from 48 countries

Sri Lanka will give offer one-month visas to citizens from nearly 50 countries in an effort to boost tourism following April's terrorist attacks.

Sigiriya Lion Rock fortress and landscape in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is attempting to lure visitors back with a number of initiatives. Image by SylvainB/Shutterstock

Sri Lanka's Tourism Minister John Amaratunga announced Wednesday the government will waive the existing visa fee ($20 for nationals from South Asia and $35 for everyone else) from 1 August for arrivals from 48 countries* as it continues to revive its punctured tourism industry. According to Reuters, the free visa applies to both tourists and those visiting for business purposes and will be effective for six months.

Sri Lanka started off the year in the middle of a tourism boom. Visitor numbers were up by 12% in 2018 compared to the previous year and the island was named as the top country in our Best in Travel 2019 thanks to its beauty, wildlife, astonishing natural wonders and incredibly welcoming locals - that's the short list. But tourism stalled dramatically after the country was hit badly in a series of terrorist attacks in April, which killed 263 people. International arrivals in May fell 71%, the lowest since Sri Lanka's civil war ended a decade ago, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

Travel News - Boats lined up on a sandy beach on Mannar Island.
Boats lined up on a sandy beach on Mannar Island. Image by ©Jonathon Stokes/Lonely Planet

It's a dramatic reduction that paints a stark picture but the situation is improving, albeit modestly. In June arrival numbers increased to 63,072 compared to 37,802 in May as Foreign Offices around the world downgraded their travel warnings. Additionally, the Sri Lankan government announced in July that it will reduce airline fees for six months to encourage visitors and a number of hotels are promoting a similar initiative by offering hefty discount packages of up to 70%.

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A section of the Naga Pooshani Ambal Kovil on Nainativu Island in the Jaffna region of Sri Lanka. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Ambal. Image by ©Thomas Wyness/Shutterstock

*The free visa initiative applies to nationals from US, Canada, the UK, European Union nations, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, China, India and Indonesia.