Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.
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 honored.
The Embassy Consular Information Sheet is available.
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
Telephone: (202) 483-4025
Telephone (Emergencies/After hours): (202) 580 9546
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
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/
The rupee (signs: රු, 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 October 17, 2022: $1.00 = Rs. 362.00
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.
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.
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/).
The language of business is English. Sinhala, Tamil, and English are official languages.
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: travel.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.
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:
1. 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).
14 January 22 Tamil Thai Pongal Day
17 January 22 Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day
4 February 22 National Day
16 February 22 Navam Full Moon Poya Day
1 March 22 Mahasivarathri Day
17 March 22 Madin Full Moon Poya Day
13 April 22 Day prior to Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day
14 April 22 Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day
15 April 22 Good Friday
16 April 22 Bak Full Moon Poya Day
1 May 22 May Day
3 May 22 Id Ul-Fitr
15 May 22 Vesak Full Moon Poya Day
16 May 22 Day following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day
14 June 22 Poson Full Moon Poya Day
10 July 22 Id Ul-Alha
13 July 22 Esala Full Moon Poya Day
11 August 22 Nikini Full Moon Poya Day
10 September 22 Binara Full Moon Poya Day
9 October 22 Milad un-Nabi
9 October 22 Vap Full Moon Poya Day
24 October 22 Deepavali
7 November 22 Ill Full Moon Poya Day
7 December 22 Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day
25 December 22 Christmas DayNote:
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: email@example.com.
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.