red concrete building
cooked rice on brown wooden bowl
green trees and brown dirt road

Is Sri Lanka Safe?

Sri Lanka is generally safe for travelers, but caution is advised due to occasional civil unrest and petty crime. Terrorist attacks, though rare, remain a risk in crowded areas. Travelers should avoid protests, remain vigilant, and follow local advisories. Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever are prevalent, so take precautions. Natural disasters like flooding and landslides during monsoon seasons can disrupt travel plans.

Download Vigilios

Your Pocket-Sized Travel Safety Guide

A phone displaying the Vigilios app and it's safety features.
App Store

Safety & Security

Sri Lanka is generally considered a safe travel destination, but there are some risks that travelers should be aware of.

  • Petty Crime: Petty crimes like bag snatching, pickpocketing, and theft from vehicles are common, especially in crowded areas and tourist hotspots. Remain vigilant and take precautions to secure your belongings.

  • Civil Unrest: While rare, civil unrest and protests can occur, particularly in response to political or economic issues. Avoid large gatherings and monitor local news for updates.

  • Terrorism: The risk of terrorism exists, though incidents are infrequent. Exercise caution in public places and follow the advice of local authorities.

  • Scams: Be wary of common scams targeting tourists, such as overcharging for goods or services, fake tour guides, and gem scams. Only use reputable vendors and tour operators.

  • Disputes: Disputes or confrontations with locals can escalate quickly. Remain calm, avoid confrontation, and seek assistance from local authorities if necessary.

  • Road Safety: Road conditions and driving standards can be poor, especially in rural areas. Exercise caution when driving or using public transportation.

While Sri Lanka is generally safe, it's essential to exercise common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and follow local laws and customs. Consult travel advisories and register with your embassy or consulate for the latest updates.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Sri Lanka should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. While the country has decent medical facilities in major cities, rural areas may lack adequate healthcare services.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure routine vaccinations are up-to-date, including hepatitis A, typhoid, and tetanus. Yellow fever vaccination is required for travelers arriving from affected countries.

  • Mosquito-borne Diseases: Dengue fever, chikungunya, and malaria are present in some areas. Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and consider antimalarial medication if visiting high-risk regions.

  • Food and Water Safety: Drink only bottled or purified water and avoid raw or undercooked food to prevent traveler's diarrhea and other foodborne illnesses.

  • Air Pollution: Air quality in major cities like Colombo can be poor, posing risks for those with respiratory conditions. Carry necessary medications and avoid prolonged outdoor exposure on hazy days.

  • Animal Bites: Exercise caution around stray dogs and monkeys, which can transmit rabies. Seek immediate medical attention for any animal bites or scratches.

Natural Disasters

Sri Lanka is prone to several natural disasters that travelers should be aware of. The island nation experiences tropical cyclones and monsoon rains that can lead to flooding and landslides, particularly during the monsoon seasons from May to September and December to February. Droughts are also a concern, especially in the dry zones.

  • Earthquakes and tsunamis pose a risk, as Sri Lanka is located in a seismically active region. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused significant damage and loss of life.

  • Wildfires can occur during prolonged dry periods, especially in forested areas and national parks.

  • While not as frequent, volcanic eruptions from the nearby Andaman and Nicobar Islands could potentially impact Sri Lanka with ash fall and air travel disruptions.

Travelers are advised to monitor weather forecasts, follow local advisories, and be prepared to adjust plans accordingly. Purchasing comprehensive travel insurance and being aware of evacuation procedures is also recommended.


Transportation in Sri Lanka can be a mixed experience for travelers. While public transportation options like buses and trains are generally affordable, they can be overcrowded and unreliable, especially in remote areas.

  • Road Safety is a significant concern, with a high rate of traffic accidents due to reckless driving, poorly maintained roads, and a lack of enforcement of traffic laws. Hiring a private driver or renting a car with a reputable company is recommended for safer travel.

  • Tuk-tuks (three-wheeled taxis) are a popular mode of transportation, but travelers should exercise caution when using them. Negotiate fares beforehand and be wary of overcharging or scams, especially around tourist areas.

  • Rail Network is relatively extensive and can be a convenient way to travel between major cities, but delays and overcrowding are common issues.

  • Domestic Flights are available but can be expensive for shorter routes. They offer a faster and more comfortable alternative to long-distance train or bus journeys.

Travelers are advised to research transportation options thoroughly, plan routes in advance, and remain vigilant for potential safety risks while navigating Sri Lanka's transportation system.

Cultural Norms

Sri Lanka is a culturally rich and diverse country with a blend of Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian influences. As a traveler, it's essential to respect local customs and traditions to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Dress Modestly: While beachwear is acceptable in coastal areas, it's advisable to dress modestly when visiting religious sites, covering your shoulders and knees. Removing shoes before entering temples is also expected.

  • Religious Observances: Be mindful of religious festivals and observances, such as Poya Days (full moon days) when some establishments may be closed or have limited operations. Avoid public displays of affection during these times.

  • Gestures and Etiquette: Avoid pointing with your feet or touching someone's head, as these gestures are considered disrespectful. When greeting elders or monks, a respectful nod or a "wai" (a slight bow with palms pressed together) is appreciated.

  • Photography: Exercise caution when taking photographs, especially at religious sites or when capturing individuals. Always seek permission before photographing people.

  • Alcohol and Drugs: While alcohol is widely available, public drunkenness is frowned upon. Drugs are strictly illegal and can result in severe penalties.

  • Festivals and Events: Sri Lanka celebrates numerous vibrant festivals throughout the year, such as the Esala Perahera in Kandy and the Nallur Festival in Jaffna. Attending these events can provide a unique cultural experience, but be respectful of local customs and traditions.

Embracing and respecting Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage will not only enhance your travel experience but also foster a deeper appreciation for the country's diverse traditions.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Sri Lanka are generally available, but their reliability and quality can vary depending on the location and the specific situation. While major cities and tourist areas have better access to emergency services, remote or rural areas may have limited resources.

  • Ambulance Services: Ambulance services are available in most urban areas, but response times can be slow, especially during rush hours or in remote locations. Private ambulance services are also available but can be expensive.

  • Police and Fire Services: The police and fire departments operate nationwide, but their resources and response times may be limited in certain areas. Tourist police units are available in major tourist destinations to assist foreign visitors.

  • Medical Facilities: Sri Lanka has both public and private hospitals, with private facilities generally offering better services and shorter wait times. However, the quality of medical care can vary, and some specialized treatments may not be available.

  • Tourist Assistance: Several organizations, such as the Sri Lanka Tourism Police and the Tourist Police Division, provide assistance to tourists in case of emergencies or incidents. However, their resources may be limited, and language barriers can be an issue.

It is advisable for travelers to research and have contact information for reliable emergency services, hospitals, and tourist assistance centers in their intended destinations. Additionally, purchasing comprehensive travel insurance and carrying necessary medications can help mitigate potential risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

A colorful illustration with three people and the letters "FAQ" representing a Frequently Asked Questions section

Is Sri Lanka safe for tourists?

Sri Lanka is generally safe for tourists, but caution is advised due to occasional civil unrest and terrorist incidents. Avoid crowded areas, monitor travel advisories, and be vigilant in public places. Petty crimes like theft can occur, so take precautions with valuables.

Is Sri Lanka safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise caution in Sri Lanka. While many areas are safe, harassment and cultural norms may make some women uncomfortable. Dress modestly, avoid isolated areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings.

Is Sri Lanka safe for families?

Sri Lanka is a family-friendly destination with plenty of attractions and activities for children. However, take precautions regarding food and water safety, as stomach illnesses are common. Ensure your family has comprehensive travel insurance and access to quality medical care.

Is Sri Lanka LGBTQ+ friendly?

Same-sex relationships are legal in Sri Lanka, but LGBTQ+ individuals may face societal discrimination and harassment. Public displays of affection should be avoided. Same-sex marriage is not recognized, and legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community are limited.

Do you need a visa to go to Sri Lanka?

Most visitors require a visa to enter Sri Lanka, which can be obtained online or upon arrival. Citizens of certain countries, including the United States and European Union, can obtain a short-term visa on arrival for up to 30 days.

Can you drink tap water in Sri Lanka?

Tap water in Sri Lanka is not safe to drink. Stick to bottled or purified water to avoid waterborne illnesses. Be cautious with ice cubes, and avoid raw fruits and vegetables washed in tap water.

What is the currency in Sri Lanka?

The Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) is the official currency in Sri Lanka. While credit cards are accepted in major cities and tourist areas, cash is preferred in rural areas and smaller establishments.

Download the App

Map, Insights & Support - Vigilios is your Personal Safety Companion

A phone displaying the Vigilios app and it's safety features.
App Store QR LinkApp Store
Google Play QR Link
Coming soon to Android
Google Play