Safety in Sri Lanka
Safety & hazards
Ever since the end of the civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has been considered a safe travel destination without any attacks or acts of terrorism. For the first time, on Easter Sunday, 21 April 2019, there were seven almost simultaneous attacks on churches and luxury hotels near Colombo and an explosion in a church in Batticoloa on the east coast.
At the time of the attacks we were in Unawatuna on the south coast of Sri Lanka.
In response to the attacks, nationwide curfews were imposed, and roadblocks were set up. Throughout the country, controls and security measures in all public places were tightened immediately. The military was visibly present and still is in some parts.
For approx. 2 weeks after the attacks, the situation was very tense. Once the government, according to its own statement, had arrested all suspects connected with the crimes and had lifted the curfews, the situation calmed down again quickly. The relationship between the religions, between the Muslims and the rest of the population respectively, is still tense, but during a holiday trip it is rarely ever noticeable.
Islamist terrorism has never been a problem in Sri Lanka before, which is why, unfortunately, no precautions had been taken. Due to this lack of security controls, Sri Lanka was an easy target for such an attack.
As the much-needed tightening of all security measures and controls have now taken place, Sri Lanka can still be described as a safe holiday destination from our point of view. It is still possible to travel the entire island without having to obtain a permit for certain areas.
However, as a tourist you should bear in mind that, due to the increased security precautions, you should arrive at the airport at least four hours before departure.
Violence & Crime
Violent crimes are an absolute exception and women can travel alone problem-free, as long as they adapt clothing and behavior to the culture.
Crime in general is also very low in Sri Lanka, apart from the usual petty crime. Serious attacks on foreigners over the last 10 years can be counted on the fingers of one hand and took largely place in respective milieus.
In addition, the police are very consistent when it comes to taking action against threatening or harassment of foreigners, which the people are well aware of. Since the country is an island relatively small in size, the means of escape are also rather limited.
Of course, Sri Lanka is not Europe, which entails considerable differences in terms of security. Therefore, the following points should be considered for your own safety:
In Sri Lanka there is still a considerable number of unexploded mines in former crisis regions. The government and various aid organizations have already been very successful in finding and defusing mines, but the work has not yet been completed. Therefore, when travelling through former crisis regions, you should always stay on paved paths and never walk outside the accessible areas. If you find cartridges or grenades, do not touch them under any circumstances.
Likely the most dangerous thing in Sri Lanka is the road traffic – especially the busses.
You should not be taking a bus at night. If you have experienced the driving style of the bus drivers in Sri Lanka already, you will understand this recommendation immediately.
Therefore, special caution should be exercised when crossing the streets. In Sri Lanka there is left-hand traffic.
The increasing number of traffic accident victims over the last 10 years can, on the one hand, be blamed on the lack of attention paid to road safety. On the other hand, the infrastructure development does partly not meet the requirements. In addition, many cars and other means of transportation do not even come close to meeting crucial safety standards. If you rent a vehicle, make sure you check all essential functions.
Small thefts / minor offences
Due to the increasing number of tourists and the poverty of the population, small crimes and petty thefts occur every now and then. Therefore, you should always carry your valuables, documents or papers on your body or lock them in a safe. Luggage should never be left unattended (especially for unaccompanied travelers).
Unfortunately, credit card fraud is not uncommon in Sri Lanka. If possible, you should pay a large part of your expenses by cash and use your credit card only in trustworthy places.
Swimming in the sea
Depending on the season, there are very strong currents and waves in Sri Lanka. Also, currents can change strongly in a minimum of time. Therefore, for your own safety, you should inquire about the conditions in advance with a contact person on site.
Please note that this information is non-binding and may not reflect the current state of affairs in Sri Lanka. If you would like a binding statement about the subject of security, please contact the relevant embassy.
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