Sri Lanka may be known as the teardrop isle (due to its distinctive shape), but the country’s refreshingly straightforward visa system shouldn’t be a source of too much anguish for travelers. 

Here’s our guide to navigating the entry requirements for visiting Sri Lanka as a tourist, with information on visa types, costs, and how to apply for one.

Who needs to apply for a visa for Sri Lanka?

With the exception of citizens from Singapore, the Republic of Maldives, and the Republic of Seychelles, all travelers will require a visa to visit Sri Lanka. Fortunately the process for acquiring one is relatively straightforward. 

Beach landscape, Mirissa, Matara, Southern Province, Sri Lanka
The popular beach town of Mirissa is on the south coast © Getty Images / RooM RF

Applying for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA)

For trips to Sri Lanka of up to 30 days, visas (also known as ETAs) can be obtained from the government’s Department of Immigration and Emigration website. The application involves completing a simple form and making an online payment, with no need to submit passport copies, documents, or photographs. An application is also available upon arrival.

It costs US$50 for a double-entry, 30-day tourist visa (US$20 for residents of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan). Two-day transit visas are free and only necessary if you plan to leave the airport. There is also no charge for tourist visas for children under the age of 12. 

Buddha statue at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Visit Buddha statues in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa © HeadSpinPhoto / Shutterstock

It’s possible to check the status of an ETA online. Once approved, print out a copy of the ETA approval notice to show immigration officials on arrival in Sri Lanka. For an ETA to be valid, you must arrive in Sri Lanka within three months from the date of issue. 

ETAs can also be applied for through travel agents and in person at Sri Lankan embassies or consulates ahead of a trip. Embassies can offer longer visas, such as those granting entry for 90 days. 

In addition to an ETA, visitors to Sri Lanka need to make sure they have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of arrival, a confirmed return ticket and sufficient funds to meet their expenses during the stay.

Can I apply for a tourist visa on arrival in Sri Lanka?

A limited facility runs at Bandaranaike International Airport (Sri Lanka’s main international airport), offering ETAs on arrival. These visas cost more than those obtained before travel (US$60; or US$25 for residents of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan). It’s also worth noting if your visa application is unsuccessful for any reason, you will be returned to your original destination.

Young man on the bow of a boat in a Sri Lankan lagoon
Most travelers will need a visa to explore the wonderful landscapes of Sri Lanka © Chalabala / Getty Images

How do I extend a tourist visa in Sri Lanka?

You can renew a 30-day tourist visa up to three times once in Sri Lanka. The initial extension is usually granted for 60 days, and the maximum length of a tourist visa is 270 days. Visitors wishing to apply for an extension should make sure they do so before their current visa expires and must ensure their passport is valid for at least two months after their intended stay. 

Applications can be submitted via the online visa extension portal. The fee depends on your nationality and length of stay. Contact the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo should you need further advice on extending your stay. 

This article was first published March 2021 and updated October 2023

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