2021 Mar 8
With Sri Lanka now open for visitors after almost after 9 months of being out of bounds due to COVID-19, you might be wondering what the travel to the island nation in 2021 looks like. And who better to talk to, than someone who is actually visiting Sri Lanka right now?
Paul Thomas arrived in Sri Lanka nearly a week ago from the UAE, and is staying at ME Colombo, a unique design hotel located in the heart of Colombo. The hotel is also designated as a Level 1 ‘Safe and Secure’ hotel, which means it can host guests during the first 14 days of their stay under a ‘bio bubble’. “I chose to visit Sri Lanka because it’s a place that I love, and have kept coming back to multiple times. And the beaches are to die for, obviously” said Paul.
Paul, who is self-employed, last visited Sri Lanka in 2018 during his summer break. He thinks the visa and booking process hasn’t changed much compared to then. “Obviously, there are a few new things, but once you try it out for the first time, you realise that it’s not really a big deal. I was able to apply for my visa, pay for PCR tests, and a COVID-19 travel insurance policy, all online. The only pre-requisite was a confirmed booking at a Level 1 hotel, which for me was ME Colombo”.
Under Sri Lanka’s current rules, visitors will have to pay USD 12 for a COVID-19 travel insurance policy that is worth USD 50,000 and is valid for one month, and USD 40 for each PCR test that will be carried out. The number of PCR tests that will be carried out depends on the length of the stay. For instance, if a traveller stays for 4 nights/5 days or less, then only 1 PCR test will be carried out. If the stay is more than 5 days but less than 13 nights/14 days, 2 PCR tests will be carried out, and if the stay is 14 days or more 3 PCR tests will be carried out. Children under 12 years of age are exempt from PCR tests.
Paul booked his flight through a travel agent, as he has always done. “It saves me time,” he said, “but before boarding my flight, I had to produce a negative PCR test obtained within the 96 hours prior to departure”. Once he arrived in Colombo, Paul said that he had to fill in a Health Declaration form before passing through the immigration counter. His hotel had arranged for him to be picked up from the airport.
“The officers at the airport were quite helpful, in that warm way Sri Lankans are generally known for,” said Paul. But it is the hotel staff for whom Paul is full of praise— “They have been absolutely amazing throughout my stay. Nimesh and his team have gone above and beyond to make my stay quite enjoyable!”
No restrictions (mostly)
Sri Lanka has chosen to allow guests to make full use of all the facilities in the hotels they are staying in. For their part, the hotels also make sure to follow all health guidelines to ensure the safety of their guests and staff. It also means visitors like Paul can choose to dine at an on-premise restaurant, which is an experience he hasn’t had in quite a while. “Back home, I tried to stay in as much as possible though I could go out. But since I’m in a bio bubble here, I can enjoy a spot of fine dining without a worry while sipping a drink at the bar. The hotel (ME Colombo) has quite a brilliant spread, and the chef is a gastronomic genius, I must say,” Paul pointed out.
A passionate and competitive surfer, Paul is looking forward to visiting Sri Lanka’s south coast to catch some waves. “I’ve been swimming laps, hitting the gym and getting plenty of rest to boost my energy levels. Sometimes I sunbathe on the rooftop and the view from the pool is absolutely beautiful! The gym is not overtly flashy or anything, but it has some top notch equipment that is among the best I’ve come across in any hotel” he said. When the city becomes cooler in the evenings, the hotel has arranged for a chauffeur to drive him around the city (Colombo tends to become a little warmer in February and March). He tells us that he is looking to buy an apartment in Colombo, which is why he is happy to spend some time in the city before heading south.
“I was able to visit the museum and also enjoy some well-prepared Sri Lankan crab curry from a restaurant here” said Paul, who admits he is slowly starting to fall in love with Sri Lankan cuisine. “If anyone is thinking of visiting Sri Lanka, my advice is to go for it. It’s not really complicated as your mind sometimes makes it out to be. Also, rates may be a little bit cheaper than usual, so you tend to get quite a good deal”.
Sri Lanka is now welcoming tourists back to the country. For more information visit https://www.srilanka.travel/helloagain/