Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 1 September 2022, 10:32 NZST
  • Still current at: 7 October 2022

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If you are planning international travel at this time, please read our COVID-19 related travel advice here, alongside our destination specific travel advice below.

Exercise increased caution

Exercise increased caution in Sri Lanka due to the impacts of the economic crisis and the potential for civil unrest (level 2 of 4).

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Sri Lanka

The economic situation has deteriorated significantly since February 2022. There have been large protests, demonstrations and political rallies relating to Sri Lanka’s economic and political situation. There have been shortages of basic necessities and at times there may be long queues in a range of shops, including supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies. 

In terms of the security environment, clashes between security forces and anti-government actors; episodes of civil unrest; and opportunistic criminality have occurred in recent months.  There is an increased police and military presence in the streets, particularly around queues. There has been some violence, harassment of passers-by (especially women) and general social disorder at some queuing sites, particularly fuel queues. Police have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse certain demonstrations and violent situations, and authorities have imposed states of emergency and curfews at short notice. Further such incidents cannot be ruled out.

There is a shortage of fuel (diesel, petrol and cooking gas), which is being rationed. The rationing system has reduced queues but there may still be difficulties or delays obtaining fuel, food deliveries, taxis, ride share services and public transport as well as delays in accessing emergency services. Travellers should ensure they have transport plans and contingency plans in place ahead of any journeys to or around Sri Lanka. Local authorities have also imposed rationing of electricity, which may result in short power outages daily.

We advise New Zealanders in Sri Lanka to avoid protests, demonstrations, rallies, large crowds and queues. Comply with any instructions issued by the local authorities, including any curfews. Monitor local and international media, review personal security plans and be aware of your surroundings. If unexpectedly in the vicinity of a protest, demonstration or violent clashes, exercise caution and leave the area quickly.

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Sri Lanka.

Attacks in public places, including in places targeting foreigners are possible.

On 21 April 2019, multiple bomb blasts occurred at churches and hotels in Colombo and other parts of Sri Lanka causing more than 250 deaths and 500 injuries. In response, the country’s security presence has increased.

New Zealanders should be aware that curfews (typically restricting movement in the evening) can be imposed at short notice.  New Zealanders are advised to follow instructions and restrictions issued by the local authorities including the regulations currently banning any clothing that conceals the face to the extent that a person’s identification is hidden. 

New Zealanders throughout Sri Lanka are advised to exercise a high degree of personal security awareness at all times and remain alert during religious or national festivals. We also advise avoiding large public gatherings and exercising caution in areas with large crowds. Further attacks, including low-scale or opportunistic attacks, cannot be ruled out.

Regional tensions
While significantly reduced since the end of the conflict in May 2009 between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), some additional security measures remain in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. Military and police checkpoints are sometimes established and roads can be closed without warning.

While most demining operations since the civil war are completed, landmines may still be present in more remote areas of the northern and eastern provinces. If you are travelling to these areas it is advisable to remain on well-used roads and paths and look out for any signs warning of landmines.

Incidents of violent crime against foreigners, although infrequent, have been reported in Sri Lanka, including sexual offences, harrassment and theft. We advise New Zealanders to exercise security awareness and guard personal belongings carefully. Women travellers should take particular care and avoid travelling alone, especially at night.

There have been reports of drink spiking so care should be taken to ensure your drink is not left unattended. We recommend being cautious about accepting drinks from strangers or recent acquaintances.

Credit card fraud, including credit card skimming, can occur in Sri Lanka. New Zealanders are advised to use cash wherever possible and take extra care when paying with credit cards or withdrawing money from ATMs. We advise covering PIN numbers when entering them, keeping cards safe and carefully checking credit card statements to ensure no fraudulent charges are present.

General Travel Advice
New Zealanders are advised to carry photo identification, or a photocopy of their passport, with them at all times and produce this if asked by authorities.  Respect religious and social traditions.  Posing for a photograph next to a statue of Buddha is illegal in Sri Lanka, as can be displaying jewellery, tattoos or clothing associated with Buddhism. 

New Zealanders travelling or living in Sri Lanka should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.

New Zealanders in Sri Lanka are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel tips

The New Zealand High Commission Colombo, Sri Lanka

Street Address Unit 2401−2402, Level 24 One Galle Face Tower 1A Centre Road, Galle Face 00200 Colombo Sri Lanka Postal Address Unit 2401−2402, Level 24 One Galle Face Tower 1A Centre Road, Galle Face 00200 Colombo Sri Lanka Telephone +94 11 217 4717 Email Web Site

See our regional advice for South Asia

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New Zealand High Commission Sri Lanka

Street Address
Unit 2401−2402, Level 24 One Galle Face Tower 1A Centre Road, Galle Face 00200 Colombo Sri Lanka

Telephone: +94 11 217 4717



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