Sri Lanka is surging the travel Industry with new visa-free entry policy for 3 countries Maldives, Seychelles and Singapore


Saturday, June 29, 2024

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Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is a captivating tourist destination renowned for its stunning beaches, rich cultural heritage, lush tea plantations, and vibrant wildlife. Visitors can explore ancient cities like Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, admire the sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, or embark on scenic train journeys through the picturesque hill country. Adventure seekers can enjoy safaris in Yala National Park, while beach lovers can relax on the pristine shores of Mirissa and Unawatuna. Sri Lanka’s diverse offerings make it a prime spot for leisure travel, cultural exploration, and nature adventures. Additionally, citizens from three countries—Maldives, Seychelles, and Singapore—can enter Sri Lanka without a visa, making it a hassle-free destination for travelers from these nations. For other countries, an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is required, which can be conveniently obtained online. This ease of access, combined with Sri Lanka’s enchanting attractions, enhances its appeal as a top global travel destination. Indian travelers need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) before their arrival, which is a simple and free process during the program’s duration. This visa-free entry is part of Sri Lanka’s efforts to recover from economic challenges and increase tourist arrivals, with India being a significant source market.

TTW Editor in Chief Mr. Anup Kumar Keshan said: “The implementation of Sri Lanka visa-free policy for 3 countries, has been a transformative force for the tourism sector. This strategic move has not only simplified the entry process for millions but has also broadened our appeal across diverse travel sectors. Additionally, this policy has invigorated niche travel markets, such as culinary tourism, adventure travel, and wellness retreats, enriching the travel experience and fostering significant economic growth and cultural exchange.”

Sri Lanka recently had introduced a pilot program offering free visas for citizens of India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand until March 31, 2024. For other nationalities, the visa fee for a 30-day tourist visa remains at $50. But though it has expired, still there are avenues that one can explore for travel boom.

Visa-Free Countries

  1. Maldives
  2. Seychelles
  3. Singapore

Top Airlines in Sri Lanka

  1. SriLankan Airlines
    • Description: SriLankan Airlines is the national carrier and largest airline in Sri Lanka. It operates flights to various international destinations across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as domestic flights.
  2. FitsAir
    • Description: FitsAir is a privately owned airline in Sri Lanka that operates both passenger and cargo flights. It offers domestic flights within Sri Lanka and international services to select destinations.

Major Airports in Sri Lanka

  1. Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB)
    • Location: Katunayake, near Colombo
    • Description: The main international gateway to Sri Lanka, Bandaranaike International Airport handles the majority of international and domestic flights. It offers modern facilities and services for travelers.
  2. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI)
    • Location: Hambantota
    • Description: This airport serves the southern region of Sri Lanka and aims to boost tourism and economic development in the area. It handles both international and domestic flights.
  3. Ratmalana Airport (RML)
    • Location: Colombo
    • Description: Ratmalana Airport primarily serves domestic flights and general aviation. It is located closer to Colombo city center compared to Bandaranaike International Airport.
  4. Jaffna International Airport (JAF)
    • Location: Jaffna
    • Description: Serving the northern region of Sri Lanka, Jaffna International Airport facilitates regional connectivity and supports the development of the Jaffna Peninsula.

Top Railway Services in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka boasts a well-connected railway network that offers scenic and comfortable travel options across the island. Here are the top railway services and a suggested itinerary for travelers.

Major Railway Services

  1. Sri Lanka Railways (SLR)
    • Description: The state-owned railway operator, Sri Lanka Railways (SLR), provides extensive train services connecting major cities and regions. Known for its scenic routes, especially in the hill country, SLR is a popular choice for both locals and tourists.

Popular Scenic Routes

  1. Colombo to Kandy
    • Description: This route takes you from the bustling capital city of Colombo to the cultural capital of Kandy, passing through lush greenery and scenic landscapes.
    • Duration: Approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.
  2. Kandy to Ella (via Nuwara Eliya)
    • Description: Known as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, this route winds through tea plantations, misty mountains, and picturesque villages.
    • Duration: Approximately 6 to 7 hours.
  3. Colombo to Galle and Matara
    • Description: This coastal route offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean and connects the capital city to the historic city of Galle and further down to Matara.
    • Duration: Approximately 2 to 3 hours to Galle and 3.5 to 4 hours to Matara.

Itinerary: Exploring Sri Lanka by Train

Day 1: Arrival in Colombo

  • Activities: Explore Colombo’s attractions such as the Gangaramaya Temple, Galle Face Green, and Pettah Market.
  • Overnight: Colombo.

Day 2: Colombo to Kandy

  • Travel: Morning train from Colombo Fort Station to Kandy.
  • Activities: Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy Lake, and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
  • Overnight: Kandy.

Day 3: Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

  • Travel: Morning train from Kandy to Nanu Oya Station (closest station to Nuwara Eliya).
  • Activities: Explore tea plantations, visit the Gregory Lake, and enjoy the cool climate of Nuwara Eliya.
  • Overnight: Nuwara Eliya.

Day 4: Nuwara Eliya to Ella

  • Travel: Train from Nanu Oya Station to Ella.
  • Activities: Visit the Nine Arches Bridge, hike Little Adam’s Peak, and explore the Ravana Falls.
  • Overnight: Ella.

Day 5: Ella

  • Activities: Relax in Ella, explore the Ella Rock hike, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the town.
  • Overnight: Ella.

Day 6: Ella to Galle

  • Travel: Morning train from Ella to Colombo, followed by an afternoon train from Colombo to Galle.
  • Activities: Explore the Galle Fort, visit the Galle Lighthouse, and stroll through the charming streets of the old town.
  • Overnight: Galle.

Day 7: Galle to Matara

  • Travel: Short train ride from Galle to Matara.
  • Activities: Visit Matara Fort, enjoy the beach at Polhena, and explore Dondra Head Lighthouse.
  • Overnight: Matara.

Day 8: Return to Colombo

  • Travel: Morning train from Matara to Colombo.
  • Activities: Last-minute shopping and sightseeing in Colombo.
  • Overnight: Colombo or departure.

How to Reach and Travel Tips

  • Tickets: Purchase tickets in advance for popular routes, especially during peak tourist seasons. Tickets can be bought at train stations, online, or through travel agents.
  • Train Classes: Sri Lankan trains typically offer three classes—First Class (air-conditioned, reserved seating), Second Class (reserved and unreserved seating), and Third Class (unreserved seating).
  • Safety and Comfort: While train travel in Sri Lanka is generally safe, keep an eye on your belongings. For longer journeys, bring snacks and water.
  • Scenic Views: For the best scenic views on the Kandy to Ella route, sit on the right side of the train when traveling from Kandy to Ella, and on the left side when traveling from Ella to Kandy.

Cruises in Sri Lanka and Sample Itineraries

Sri Lanka is becoming an increasingly popular destination for cruise ships due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, rich cultural heritage, and scenic beauty. Here are some of the cruise services available and sample itineraries.

Major Ports for Cruise Ships in Sri Lanka

  1. Colombo Port
    • Description: The largest and busiest port in Sri Lanka, located in the capital city.
    • Attractions: Colombo city tour, Gangaramaya Temple, Galle Face Green, Pettah Market, National Museum.
  2. Galle Port
    • Description: Located on the southern coast, known for its historic significance.
    • Attractions: Galle Fort (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Dutch Reformed Church, Galle Lighthouse, local markets.
  3. Trincomalee Port
    • Description: One of the world’s largest natural harbors, located on the northeastern coast.
    • Attractions: Koneswaram Temple, Fort Frederick, Nilaveli Beach, Pigeon Island National Park.

Sample Cruise Itineraries

1. 7-Day Sri Lanka Coastal Cruise

  • Day 1: Colombo
    • Arrival: Board the cruise ship in Colombo.
    • Activities: City tour including Gangaramaya Temple, Galle Face Green, and Pettah Market.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 2: Colombo to Galle
    • Travel: Sail from Colombo to Galle.
    • Activities: Explore Galle Fort, visit the Dutch Reformed Church and Galle Lighthouse.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 3: Galle
    • Activities: Optional excursions to nearby beaches like Unawatuna or surfing at Hikkaduwa.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 4: Galle to Hambantota
    • Travel: Sail from Galle to Hambantota.
    • Activities: Visit Bundala National Park or Yala National Park for wildlife safaris.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 5: Hambantota to Trincomalee
    • Travel: Sail from Hambantota to Trincomalee.
    • Activities: Visit Koneswaram Temple, Fort Frederick, and Nilaveli Beach.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 6: Trincomalee
    • Activities: Optional excursion to Pigeon Island National Park for snorkeling and diving.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 7: Trincomalee to Colombo
    • Travel: Sail back to Colombo.
    • Activities: Disembark and explore more of Colombo or transfer to the airport for departure.

2. 10-Day Indian Ocean Cruise Including Sri Lanka

  • Day 1: Embark in Mumbai, India
    • Activities: Explore Mumbai before boarding the ship.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 2-3: At Sea
    • Activities: Enjoy onboard amenities and activities.
  • Day 4: Colombo, Sri Lanka
    • Activities: Colombo city tour including Gangaramaya Temple and Pettah Market.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 5: Galle, Sri Lanka
    • Activities: Explore Galle Fort, visit local markets and beaches.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 6: Hambantota, Sri Lanka
    • Activities: Visit Bundala National Park or Yala National Park.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 7: Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
    • Activities: Visit Koneswaram Temple and Nilaveli Beach.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 8: At Sea
    • Activities: Enjoy onboard amenities and activities.
  • Day 9: Maldives (Male)
    • Activities: Explore Male, visit local markets, and enjoy water activities.
    • Overnight: Onboard the ship.
  • Day 10: Disembark in Male, Maldives
    • Activities: Transfer to the airport for departure or extend stay in Maldives.

Booking and Additional Information

  • Cruise Lines: Major international cruise lines such as Costa Cruises, AIDA Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Princess Cruises include Sri Lanka in their itineraries.
  • Booking: Cruises can be booked through travel agents, online platforms, or directly with the cruise lines.
  • Facilities: Ports in Sri Lanka offer modern facilities, including passenger terminals, tourist information centers, and easy access to local attractions.
  • Customs and Immigration: Passengers typically go through customs and immigration processes at the ports. It’s advisable to check visa requirements before travel.

Sri Lanka is renowned for its diverse attractions, from cultural landmarks to scenic landscapes. Here are some top tourist destinations and how to reach them:

1. Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Description: Known as the “Lion Rock,” Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a remarkable ancient fortress with beautiful frescoes and gardens. How to Go:

  • By Train: Take a train from Colombo to Habarana and then a short taxi or bus ride.
  • By Bus: Direct buses from Colombo to Dambulla, followed by a tuk-tuk or taxi to Sigiriya.

2. Ella

Description: A small town in the Badulla District, Ella is famous for its breathtaking views, hiking trails, and attractions like the Nine Arches Bridge and Ella Rock. How to Go:

  • By Train: The train ride from Kandy to Ella is one of the most scenic in the world.
  • By Bus/Taxi: Buses and taxis are available from major cities like Kandy or Colombo.

3. Kandy

Description: Home to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy is a cultural and spiritual hub with beautiful botanical gardens and a picturesque lake. How to Go:

  • By Train: Regular trains from Colombo to Kandy.
  • By Bus: Buses from Colombo and other major cities.

4. Galle

Description: A coastal city known for the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with colonial-era buildings, museums, and vibrant cafes. How to Go:

  • By Train: Direct trains from Colombo to Galle.
  • By Bus: Regular buses from Colombo and other southern cities.

5. Yala National Park

Description: Famous for its wildlife, including leopards, elephants, and various bird species, Yala offers exciting safari experiences. How to Go:

  • By Train/Bus: Take a train or bus to Matara or Tissamaharama, then a taxi to the park.
  • By Car: Rent a car or taxi for a direct and flexible journey.

6. Anuradhapura

Description: One of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, known for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization. How to Go:

  • By Train: Trains from Colombo or Kandy to Anuradhapura.
  • By Bus: Direct buses from Colombo.

7. Nuwara Eliya

Description: Often referred to as “Little England,” this hill station is known for its cool climate, tea plantations, and colonial architecture. How to Go:

  • By Train: Scenic train journeys from Kandy or Colombo.
  • By Bus/Taxi: Buses and taxis available from Kandy or Colombo.

8. Colombo

Description: The bustling capital city of Sri Lanka, with a mix of modern and colonial architecture, vibrant markets, and a bustling waterfront. How to Go:

  • By Air: Bandaranaike International Airport serves as the main gateway.
  • By Train/Bus: Well-connected to other parts of the country by train and bus networks.

9. Mirissa

Description: Famous for its whale watching, beautiful beaches, and relaxed atmosphere. How to Go:

  • By Train: Trains to Matara followed by a short taxi or bus ride.
  • By Bus: Direct buses from Colombo to Mirissa.

10. Polonnaruwa

Description: Another UNESCO World Heritage site, Polonnaruwa is known for its ancient temples, statues, and stupas. How to Go:

  • By Train: Train to Habarana, then a taxi or bus.
  • By Bus: Direct buses from Colombo and other major cities.

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