Sri Lanka - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel. 

Last published date: 2021-09-28

Business Customs

The language of business is English.  Business cards are a necessity.  Courtesy is highly valued in Sri Lanka and personal graciousness may play a role in securing deals.  While punctuality is not as highly prized as in the United States, most appointments and similar commitments are relatively honored.

Travel Advisory

The Embassy Consular Information Sheet is available.

Visa Requirements

For current information on obtaining business visas to Sri Lanka, please visit the 

Embassy of Sri Lanka website.

Specific inquiries regarding entry and exit requirements should be addressed to:

 

Embassy of the Democratic Social Republic of Sri Lanka

3025 Whitehaven Street NW

Washington DC 20008

Email: slembassy@slembassyusa.org

Telephone: (202) 483-4025

Telephone (Emergencies/After hours): (202) 580 9546

Fax: (202)-232-7181

 

There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States.  Visit the Embassy of Sri Lanka website for current visa information.

If you are going to live in or visit Sri Lanka, please take the time to tell the U.S.  Embassy about your trip through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.  It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program: https://step.state.gov/

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process.  Visa applicants should go to the following link:  https://travel.state.gov/

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates:

 

U.S. Embassy Colombo

210 Galle Road

Colombo 03

Sri Lanka

Telephone: +94 11 249 8500

Fax: +94 11 249 8590

Email for American Citizens Services issues:  ColomboACS@state.gov 

Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Colombo:  https://lk.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/

Telecommunications/Electronics

International direct dialing and cellular telephones are widely available.  Mobile phones with GSM roaming facilities and wireless communication devices can be used in Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka has 4G LTE internet network available in the capital Colombo and major cities.  International mail and courier services (including FedEx, UPS and DHL) are also available.  A number of local providers offer Internet and e-mail services.  Because the phone-line quality varies, connections are sometimes unreliable.

Power outages are more common outside of Colombo, especially in rural areas.

Transportation

Sri Lanka is served by several airlines.  U.S. airlines do not serve Sri Lanka except indirectly through partner airlines.  There are no direct flights to Colombo from the United States or to the United States from Colombo.  A common way to travel to Sri Lanka from the East Coast is through London, Dubai or Doha.  Visitors flying from the U.S. West Coast may transit in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok. 

Rs.; code: LKR) is the currency of Sri Lanka, divided into 100 cents.  It is issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and is generally written Rs. (though SLRs. may occasionally be used for disambiguation). 

As of August 05, 2021:  $1.00 = Rs. 199.90

ATMs are widely available and generally accept U.S. ATM network cards (e.g. MasterCard and Visa).  ATM fraud (stealing card information) is a risk.  Be cautious of your surroundings while using ATMs and monitor your bank accounts closely.   

Major U.S. credit cards are widely accepted to purchase goods and services.  Be cautious of using credit cards as credit card fraud (stealing credit card information) is a risk.

Telecommunications/Electronics

International direct dialing and cellular telephones are widely available.  Mobile phones with GSM roaming facilities and wireless communication devices can be used in Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka has 4G LTE internet network available in the capital Colombo and major cities.  International mail and courier services (including FedEx, UPS and DHL) are also available.  A number of local providers offer Internet and e-mail services.  Because the phone-line quality varies, connections are sometimes unreliable.

Power outages are more common outside of Colombo, especially in rural areas.

Transportation

Sri Lanka is served by several airlines.  U.S. airlines do not serve Sri Lanka except indirectly through partner airlines.  There are no direct flights to Colombo from the United States or to the United States from Colombo.  A common way to travel to Sri Lanka from the East Coast is through London, Dubai or Doha.  Visitors flying from the U.S. West Coast may transit in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok. 

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Sri Lanka’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. 

In-country air travel is extremely limited and road travel is relatively slow and dangerous.  Charter helicopter service is available as are rental cars with drivers.  Taxis are readily available in Colombo.  Ridesharing mobile applications, including Uber, Pickme, and others, are available in Colombo and Galle but are not generally available in smaller towns and rural areas. 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  Vehicular traffic in Sri Lanka moves on the left (British style).  Traffic in Colombo is very congested.  Narrow two-lane highways, overloaded trucks, dangerously driven buses, ox carts, motorcycles, and new four-wheel-drive vehicles, make driving challenging and dangerous.  Unexpected roadblocks and one-way streets are common and may not be clearly marked.  Many visitors hire cars and drivers for long trips through the country.  Individuals choosing to hire three-wheeled vehicles (“trishaws”) should negotiate prices beforehand to avoid confrontations.  When renting a vehicle, working seatbelts must be specifically requested.

Please refer to the Embassy’s Road Safety page for more information.  We also suggest visiting the website of Sri Lanka’s national tourist office (https://www.srilanka.travel/) and the National Council for Road Safety (http://www.transport.gov.lk/).

Language

The language of business is English.  Sinhala, Tamil, and English are official languages.

Health

For up-to-date information on health services in Sri Lanka, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s website which contains information specific to Sri Lanka:    t ravel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/sri-lanka.html

Good information on vaccinations and other health precautions can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website (https://www.cdc.gov/) or by calling the hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747).  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website (https://www.who.int/en).  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed, country-specific health information.

Medical Insurance

Do not assume that your insurance will go with you when you travel.  It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave.  Be sure to ask your insurance company two questions:

Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
Will it cover emergencies such as a foreign hospital stay or an evacuation?
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service.  Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover visits to hospitals and doctors in other countries.  If your policy does not go with you when you travel, consider taking out another one for the trip.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays

To travel to Sri Lanka, businesspersons should check whether any local holidays will occur during their trips.  There are about twenty public holidays during which government offices and banks are closed.  Private companies also close on most of these holidays. 

Sri Lankan holidays are connected with the country’s four religions:  Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.  Dates change from year to year.  Holidays with fixed dates include Independence Day (February 4th), Labor Day (May 1st) and Christmas (December 25th).  Each full moon is marked by a Poya Day holiday.

Sri Lanka is GMT+5.30 hours.  Sri Lanka does not observe daylight-savings time.  Business hours are generally from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Monday through Friday).  Government offices are open for business usually from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Monday through Friday).

 

Holidays 2021

14 January 21                                        Tamil Thai Pongal Day

28 January 21                                        Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day*

4 February 21                                        National Day*

26 February 21                                     Navam Full Moon Poya Day*

11 February 21                                        Mahasivarathri Day

28 March 21                                           Madin Full Moon Poya Day*

2 April 21                                                Good Friday

13 April 21                                              Day prior to Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day*

14 April 21                                              Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day*

26 April 21                                              Bak Full Moon Poya Day*

1 May 21                                                  May Day*

14 May 21                                               Id Ul-Fitr

26 May 21                                               Vesak Full Moon Poya Day*

27 May 21                                               Day following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day*

24 June 21                                               Poson Full Moon Poya Day*

20 July 21                                                Id Ul-Alha

23 July 21                                                Esala Full Moon Poya Day*

22 August 21                                          Nikini Full Moon Poya Day*

20 September 21                                  Binara Full Moon Poya Day*

19 October 21                                        Milad un-Nabi

20 October 21                                        Vap Full Moon Poya Day*

4 November 21                                       Deepavali

18 November 21                                   Ill Full Moon Poya Day*

18 December 21                                   Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day*

25 December 21                                     Christmas Day*

Note:  Private companies are closed on holidays marked with *

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Temporary entry for exhibition material is allowed under the Carnet system of the International Chamber of Commerce.  The exporter should ensure that required documents under the Carnet system are certified in the country of origin of the material.  These documents should be presented at the time the goods are being cleared from Customs.  Goods brought into the country under the Carnet system must be re-exported within six months.  For additional information, contact the approving authority: Director General of Customs, 40 Main Street, Colombo 11, telephone 94-11-2347881, fax 94-11-2446364; e-mail: dgc@customs.gov.lk .

Business travelers and visitors can enter with a portable computer, with or without encrypted software, as personal baggage.  No duties or taxes are charged.  Customs does not check for installed software which comes as personal baggage, but removable software must be declared.  Global Positioning System or similar devices are technically prohibited from entry into country without prior special permission.