Traveling can be one of the most exciting experiences. That is to say, whether you’re traveling in your own country or you choose to travel to a far-off destination, the gain you have is unmatched. Sri Lanka is widely acknowledged as being an exotic destination – which is primarily why it attracts so many tourists from all parts of the world. And, in spite of the country’s rather violent history, the people are hospitable. To that end, the odds are you will feel welcome in their country.
Of course, the natural landscapes of this beautiful country are something else, accounting for a significant part of its original charm. But the question that naturally follows is: is Sri Lanka safe to visit? It is only natural to ask this question, considering the incidence of crimes and accidents worldwide. So, do read our detailed Sri Lanka safety guide to find out more about traveling to this country.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Sri Lanka
Overall Risks in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM to HIGH
It is quintessential to note that a country’s safety is somehow linked to the political situation. On that note, the political situation in Sri Lanka is, unfortunately, unstable. More specifically, on the 26th of October 2018, the President of Sri Lanka wanted to dismiss the Prime Minister. On this political background, some demonstrations were organized in Colombo. To that end, it is expected for these demonstrations to occur once again. They might be even more severe.
In addition to that, even if criminal incidents against tourists are rather infrequent, that doesn’t mean they can be excluded altogether. Aside from that, recently, the numbers of reports of sexual offences including minors increased, which is worrying. This is what led to demonstrations against this.
This makes it primordial for you to collaborate with a reputable traveling company when planning a visit to Sri Lanka.
On a different note, Western women travelers have usually dealt with unpleasant incidents of sexual harassment. Such incidents included suggestive or lewd comments or even violent sexual assaults. Of course, there are other risk factors worth noting, as well. We will focus on presenting a range of quintessential Sri Lanka safety travel tips.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM to HIGH
Furthermore, pickpocketing and theft are also quite commonplace in Sri Lanka. In addition, it’s worth pointing out that, in lines with official statistics, the crime levels in Sri Lanka have increased over the last three years. Concurrently, burglary seems to raise a lot of concerns in this country, which only means tourists should be doubly precautious when visiting Sri Lanka.
In general, pickpocketing and theft incidents occur in overcrowded places. That’s because this makes it really easy for the criminal to get away with it. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you should leave your guard down when you’re not visiting popular tourist destinations, as such incidents can occur in these scenarios, as well.
Aside from that, you should be aware that credit card fraud is rather widespread in Sri Lanka. This is why you should try to use cash in the most cases. Also, if you must utilize an ATM, make sure it is attached to official banks or big, reputable hotels. Otherwise, you risk being the victim of credit card fraud.
Aside from that, if you plan on using your credit card in Sri Lanka, make sure you inform your bank of your upcoming journey. If you don’t do that, you might be unable to make any transactions.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Sri Lanka?
Unfortunately, you cannot eliminate the risk of pickpocketing and theft altogether. Whether you’re traveling to Sri Lanka or any other country, this is, perhaps, the most common types of crime. However, you can still significantly reduce the possibility of being a victim by simply remaining vigilant at all times.
Aside from that, you should refrain yourself from displaying your wealth. Expressly, avoid carrying expensive purses, or wearing expensive clothing. On a different note, big, professional cameras might also draw unnecessary attention towards you, the same with jewelry.
Try to blend in the crowd as much as possible, so that criminals won’t target you.
At the same time, since there had been many reports of fraud and robbery even at hotels and guesthouses, you should take the necessary precaution measures for protecting your belongings.
Scam Risk in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM to HIGH
Unfortunately, the incidence of scams in Sri Lanka is rather high. There are many scams that are quite widespread, such as the cigarette scam, the tea shipping scam, the fake gemstone and certificate scam, the unofficial tour scams, the spice garden scam, and the list may go on.
For instance, the cigarette scam is ever-present in the proximity of Galle Face Road. Usually, this entails the approach of a scammer, who starts to tell you a lot of secret information concerning Sri Lanka, claiming that he can take you to places in the area that are hardly frequented by tourists.
However, since those places are quite far away, instead, he invites you to a restaurant. At the restaurant, during the meal, he will also order a packet of cigarettes. Expressly, the tourist is then expected to pay for the price of the meal in exchange for the authentic tour. Nevertheless, due to the packet of cigarettes, the price of the meal is really high.
The establishment collaborates with the scammers, and they divide the earning. This is merely an example; there are many more other scams on the streets of Sri Lanka, unfortunately.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Sri Lanka?
To avoid being caught in such a scenario, you should read a detailed Sri Lanka safety guide regarding the most common scams. In this way, you’ll know what to expect in this respect.
At the same time, it wouldn’t hurt to treat strangers that approach you in a weird manner with a pinch of salt. In this way, you’ll diminish the likelihood of being a victim of such scams.
Kidnapping Risk in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM to HIGH
Unfortunately, the rates of kidnapping in Sri Lanka are quite worrying, as well. Since the 1980s, thousands of people have disappeared in this country. As a matter of fact, in lines with a study from the 1999, Sri Lanka earned the second place for the highest numbers of disappearances in the world.
To that end, it is known that organized and armed gangs operate in Sri Lanka. These gangs are mainly responsible for numerous violent attacks, as well as kidnapping incidents. To make matters worse, the justice system in Sri Lanka isn’t the most efficient one, as it actually operates quite slowly.
Hence, if something were to happen, a solution might not be found right away.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Sri Lanka?
Perhaps one of the most important Sri Lanka safety travel tips is to be vigilant. This might seem like a cliché piece of advice, but, unfortunately, as cliché as it may sound, many tourists neglect this.
You shouldn’t explore remote areas after nightfall, as this makes it easier for kidnappers to target you. At the same time, in areas in which there are hardly any people, criminals can get away with almost anything. This is something you should bear in mind when traveling to a country with perturbed history such as Sri Lanka.
At the same time, you should inform someone from home of your itinerary and whereabouts. In this way, if something were to happen, at least someone will know.
What is more, if you’re traveling by yourself, then, the incidence of being kidnapped is greater. To that end, if it’s possible, you should plan your journey with a larger group.
Terrorism Risk in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM
What about terrorism in Sri Lanka? Does it pose any risks? While it is true that the risks of terrorism aren’t that worrying in Sri Lanka, this doesn’t mean we can argue that they cannot happen. On top of that, even if the military conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the government has ended, in some parts of the country, there are still some noteworthy security risks.
- How to avoid terrorism in Sri Lanka?
In order to avoid being involved in violent attacks, you should steer clear of military areas, as well as high security zones. Aside from that, if you do notice that something unusual is happening in your proximity, you should get distance on the spot.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM to HIGH
Due to the worrying rates of rape and sexual assault, it might not be such a good idea to travel to Sri Lanka alone. That would entail exposing yourself to the risks mentioned beforehand. Nonetheless, if you decide to do that, make sure you do your research beforehand regarding the way in which you should dress to avoid drawing attention to yourself, or how you should behave, so on and so forth.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Sri Lanka?
If you plan on traveling alone in Sri Lanka, it is imperative to know that most foreign women that have traveled there have experienced incidents of physical and verbal harassment.
Moreover, these incidents have occurred even in markets, railway stations, public streets, and buses - thus, we recommend you to not travel alone. Get some of your friends accompany you or hire a guide from a reputed travel agency before venturing throughout the country.
Furthermore, it is advised that you draw as little attention as possible towards you, in terms of clothing, display of certain valuables, such as gadgets or jewelry.
Rape Risk in Sri Lanka: HIGH
Is Sri Lanka safe for solo women travelers? If you Google this question, the odds are you’ll stumble across a variety of answers. Some people might say that it is utterly safe to travel by yourself to this beautiful country; whereas others might contraindicate you do so. Still, we will get into more detail further in our Sri Lanka safety guide.
The sad truth is that rape presents some noteworthy risks in this country. Official reports actually point out that there is a gang rape in Sri Lanka, which may occasionally target tourists, as well.
Unfortunately, the activity of such gang rapes has intensified over the years. This may be rooted in the locals’ approach to sexual relations, as statistics point that no less than 33 percent of the men have behaved in a sexually violent manner against their intimate partner, at least once. This could be associated with the 30-year-long war, which had severely impacted this country in this respect.
To make matters worse, such gangs target foreign women in tourist areas. A common practice is adding drugs to women’s drinks when at a bar or restaurant.
- How to avoid getting raped in Sri Lanka?
To avoid such unfortunate situations, it is best to avoid accepting drinks from strangers, as well-intentioned as they may appear. Aside from that, even if you don’t accept such a drink, you should be mindful of leaving your drink unattended.
Is it is a possibility; you shouldn’t go to Sri Lanka by yourself or in a small group. If you do that, though, you should carry a personal alarm with you.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM to HIGH
Considering all the aspects we pointed out in the previous sections, there are many safety risks linked with traveling with children in Sri Lanka. This is why, if possible, you should avoid traveling there. If you do that, though, make sure you take the necessary precaution measurements.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Naturally, you should not travel with your children all by yourself, especially in Sri Lanka. It is recommended that you have someone keep an eye on them at all times - because, obviously, you won't be able to deal with everything that's surrounding you and with your children as well.
In short, make sure that your children are taken care of and not let to wander off through the crowds of tourists, the highly populated markets and such.
Natural Disaster Risks in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM
Is Sri Lanka safe to visit when it comes to natural disasters? Should you be wary of something in this respect? Bear in mind that extreme weather conditions can occur – such as tropical cyclones. At the same time, due to monsoon rains, flooding might also occur in Sri Lanka. This is why you should be wary of the local weather report and plan the timeframe of your journey accordingly.
Transportation Risks in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM to HIGH
In terms of transportation, there are 4 regions that we have to take into account - North, Jaffna Peninsula, the areas including Kilinochchi, Mullaittivu, Mannar, and Vavuniya, and the East.
There are ongoing military activities in North, which is why you should comply with all of the orders you are given when traveling through this area - moreover, pay attention to any signs of warning that might indicate land-mine danger.
In the Jaffna Peninsula there are some High Security Zones that foreigners are not allowed to access - other than that, the region is classified as having free movement, as the operations to clear the landmines continue.
In the 4 aforementioned areas military presence is ongoing as well as heavy. Tourists and locals are able to move mostly freely, with the exception of a couple of checkpoints that still stand.
In the Eastern part there are a couple of locations, such as former police and military stations, that are still marked as minefields. Military operations are still ongoing in this area - thus, it is advised that you comply with any given orders.
When it comes to road travel, most of the roads outside the major towns are in a very poor condition - better said, a concerning state of disrepair. There are frequent road accidents, mainly because the roads are poorly lit. Some reports also tell of vehicles that don't bother stopping at pedestrian crossings.
If you encounter a checkpoint or roadblock, it is best to stop your car and obey to any rules given - security forces are known to have opened fire on the vehicles that refused to stop at checkpoints.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Sri Lanka: MEDIUM to HIGH
Given certain aforementioned risks, it is only natural that there have been some reports telling of spiked drinks and such, especially in the southern beach resorts.
Naturally, women are usually the ones that are targeted - in this respect, we recommend you to really take care of your drink once you've ordered it. Clearly, don't leave it unattended and, obviously, don't accept drinks from strangers - one of the most common rules one must apply in order to ensure their safety in such facilities.
It is also not recommended for tourists to go unaccompanied in night-clubs, pubs, and bars - have your friends come with you or group up with another tourists/ travelers/ foreigners. Of course, make sure they are trustworthy before doing so.
Health Risks in Sri Lanka
When it comes to personal health, you should know that, outside of the main cities, emergency medical treatment is mostly not available. In a worst-case-scenario, you will most likely be brought to Colombo.
Moreover, it is worth mentioning that private hospitals come with costly treatments - in this respect, make sure that you come equipped with proper travel health insurance and that you have enough money to cover the cost of any treatment that you might be subject to.
List of Vaccines You Need when Traveling to Sri Lanka
Are there any vaccines that are compulsory for visiting Sri Lanka? Below you have the list of recommended vaccines:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Yellow Fever
Most Dangerous Areas in Sri Lanka
- Galle Road Segment in Kollupitiya
- Regions marked with Minefield Dangers
Concluding Remarks: How Safe Is Sri Lanka for Tourists?
On a final note, we hope that our guide has answered the question: how safe is Sri Lanka for tourists? While we could wholeheartedly affirm that this is far from being the safest destination, with the right precaution measurements, you will be able to enjoy what this country has to offer in terms of culture and natural landscapes, among other things.