Other common advice recommended by all governments which have issued travel advisories includes always carrying relevant identification and travel documentation; avoiding crowds, protests, and other gatherings; and complying with local government rules including curfews.
Most governments also warn about the potential for shortages of basic goods such as food, fuel, and medicine, as well as the potential for further civil unrest.
Severe resource shortages, riots and government resignations
It follows several weeks of civil unrest in the island nation which has led to at least eight people being killed and 200 more injured in clashes with police. Authorities have reportedly used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protests in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo in the past week, and incidents have also been reported in the city of Kandy and other parts of the country. A state of emergency has been declared and an island-wide curfew has been imposed in response to the crisis.
The crisis has also led to a mass cabinet resignation, culminating in the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday 9 May. The Rajapaksa’s brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has since installed senior opposition MP Ranil Wickremesinghe in the office in the office, to lead a proposed cross-party government.
The unrest has been driven by severe resource shortages. Sri Lanka is heavily reliant on imported food, fuel, medicine, and other resources, with much of these supplies being purchased using income from the country’s tourism sector. Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has traditionally been its third largest foreign exchange earner.
However, revenue has collapsed in recent years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the 2019 Easter bombings, which saw three churches, three luxury hotels, a guest house and a housing complex attacked by Islamist terrorists in a single day.
Food shortages were exacerbated by the Sri Lankan government’s decision in 2021 to ban the import of all chemical fertilisers, in a poorly planned bid to encourage organic farming without addressing the underlying limitations of the country’s agricultural infrastructure first.
New Zealand recommends comprehensive travel insurance before travel to Sri Lanka
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) recommends that Australian citizens ‘reconsider their need to travel’ to the country and recommend ‘carrying relevant travel and identification documents’ at all times.
New Zealand High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Michael Appleton has also confirmed that his government is also ‘advising New Zealanders against undertaking non-essential travel to Sri Lanka’.
The government of New Zealand also advised that New Zealanders who live in Sri Lanka or must travel there for essential purposes should purchase comprehensive travel insurance coverage ‘that includes provision for medical evacuation by air’ and should ‘register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.’
Ireland advises citizens to register with its embassy
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) advised against all non-essential travel to Sri Lanka, encouraged Irish citizens in the country to register their details with the Irish Embassy in New Delhi, India. They also advised that ‘protests, demonstrations and crowds should be avoided’ and that they should ‘follow the instructions of local authorities’ and ‘inform themselves of any restrictions on movement put in place by closely following local media’.
The Norwegian government also advised its citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka except on essential business, warning that the ability of its embassy in Columbo to assist Norwegians in the case of an emergency is limited. It also recommended that Norwegians monitor local news and ‘contact your insurance company to check that the travel insurance is still valid’.
The UK recommends using airline tickets and passports as curfew passes
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against all non-essential travel due to the crisis, warning that in light of recent unrest ‘further incidents could take place’ and that the government of Sri Lanka ‘may impose local restrictions at short notice’.
The FCDO also advises that there may be power cuts due to electricity rationing in the country, and says that the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority has confirmed with them that travellers can use airline tickets and passports as curfew passes travelling to and from the airport.