Getting a visitor visa to Sri Lanka used to be free at the airport. Quite recently, the government implemented an online pre-authorization process which cost us $20 each. It did help us sail through immigration when we arrived on November 29th. The hitch is these visas continue to be valid for just a month and must be extended by showing up at the Immigration building in Colombo. That’s not very easy if someone is on an extensive tour of the island.
Since we are based fairly close to Colombo, I didn’t think it would be too much of a hassle. We went today to get it done early so we can do some travelling around Sri Lanka in earnest. We left at 8:15 am and didn’t get back here until 3:45 pm. Traffic in Colombo is a nightmare.
I honestly assumed the computerization of the pre-approval process meant that the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration had streamlined all operations. They have not.
My honest suggestion to them is to get their act together if they truly want promote tourism in this country. In competing destinations such as Malaysia, one need not do anything before arrival. At the airport, visitors are granted free three-month visas. Similarly, Thailand immigration just snaps a webcam photo and stamps a month’s free visa immediately. Sri Lanka seems to be making an arrival unnecessarily difficult.
Today we needed to cough up $100 between is to stay another two months. It seems as if the $20 fee increased to $25 and it’s per month and not per transaction. It is not revenue for the government as much must be consumed in the embarrassingly unorganized system. There were no signs so everybody was running around trying to figure out the procedures. It is not even possible to pay with a credit card although I can buy a bottle of shampoo at any supermarket in Sri Lanka with one. Really? All of this seems like an enormous number of steps backwards and a misdirection of human resources for those involved. Many tourists would consider the day we spent a total waste.
I totally agree. Sri Lankan Government is just killing tourism with these new regulations. Tourists will go to Thailand, Malaysia, or Cambodia instead.
There is not much natural resources in the island, so tourism is one of the industries that could help the country to flourish.
However, it seems like Sri Lanka decided to close this source of income by making it difficult for tourists to come.