Well, before we break it down to you about grey areas of Sri Lankan safety, here is a recount of the attacks that have occurred thus far.
On Easter Sunday, April 2019, Islamic extremists bombed many hotels and churches, leading to 290 deaths and over 500 casualties. These explosions took place in the cities of Negombo, Batticaloa, and Colombo, and the hotels included the Tropical Inn, Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Shangri-la Hotel, and The Kingsbury. But the deadliest bombing attack took place in one of the churches in Negombo, a city close to Bandaranaike International Airport. This led the governments across the world to announce Sri Lanka as a Level 2 travel advisory, on its four level-scale of threat, which explains why the tourists should practice extra caution because of the recent civil unrest.
However, the Bottom LineJust like any significant attack in the world, the government issues orders for strict police presence and tight surveillance. Thus, visiting Sri Lanka now is also probably the best and safe time. On the contrary, these warnings have been lifted and are made secure to travel to this exotic country.
That said, is Sri Lanka safe otherwise?For a country flourishing with beautiful scenery, nature, culture, amicable and hospitable people, and wildlife, this exotic destination has seen a violent history, mainly due to Civil Wars and now the recent attacks. Cradling between Southeast Asia and India, Sri Lanka inhabits its own unique culture, geography, landscape, features, and customs.
Similarly to how every country inherits its beauty, quirks, and snags, Sri Lanka has its hiccups too. Despite the recent attacks and 25 years of the horrific civil war, Sri Lanka, as a country, is otherwise safe to travel around and heinous crimes against foreign nationals are unprecedented. But, on the flip side, aggressive peddling, petty thefts, and scams are very common in a few parts of the country. So what should you NOT do when visiting Sri Lanka?
Here are some of the things tourists should never do in Sri Lanka, under no circumstance.
1. Don’t turn your back or pose with your back to the Buddha statue.
Since Theravada Buddhism is officially the main religion of the country and most of the population follow Buddhism, this action of taking pictures while turning your back to the Buddha, is considered highly disrespectful. So much so that a wrong pose will take you on a one-way trip to the jail. Although, it is certainly okay to take pictures, just keep in mind to pose facing the Buddha statue, or any other deity, for that matter.
Also, don’t wear any outfit that has Buddha in it or displays a Buddha tattoo, if you have any.
2. Don’t indulge in PDA
Public displays of affection, also known as PDA, is still considered a taboo in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, if you want to shower some love to your lover with a quick peck, do it like the locals and grab an umbrella.
3. Don’t drink tap water
Whatever the reason may be, just avoid drinking tap water under any circumstance. The micro-organisms found in the tap water may affect your digestive system. Other than washing yourself, ensure you don’t consume tap water.
4. Don’t be reckless while on the road
Many road deaths are accounted in Sri Lanka. Most of these fatal accidents are due to reckless driving, which can be due to many reasons including tuk-tuks driving on the wrong side of the road, motorbikes cutting and blocking on the sidewalk, and buses racing the red lights.
5. Avoid eating with your left hand
In Sri Lanka left hand is used for “washing” purposes and is known for being “unclean” even if the hands are washed over 100 times. Sri Lankans follow eating with their right hands, and no matter how hard you find it to eat with your right hand when you are left-handed, respect the culture and oblige. And this follows while shaking hands, giving something or receiving things from someone, as well.
6. Don’t let tuk-tuks scam you
Don’t get into a tuk-tuk without checking whether the meter is functioning correctly or if they even have one. Negotiate the price if need be, when you know how much the cost is.
7. Don’t get bitten by mosquitoes
Although a malaria-free country, one must ensure to pack mosquito repellent sprays or creams to take precautions for dengue and other illnesses.
8. Don’t forget to read a bit about the religion
While visiting any temple, take your footwear off before entering. And never, ever touch a monk. Also, ensure to cover your knees and shoulders in religious sites.
9. Never take a picture without asking
If you want to photograph people, ask for their permission beforehand. The same rule applies when you want to take a picture of the paintings or artefacts at galleries or museums. One has to purchase a permit if they wish to capture alluring pictures of the displays.
Is Sri Lanka safe for women?
If a solo woman traveller traverses through the “Paradise Island,” be aware that you will garner a lot of unwanted attention from the peddlers, sleazy men, local men or just the curious men asking about your business. And when you travel with a group of people, these men are usually parked at bay. However, it is perfectly all right if a woman wishes to travel by herself. Keep in mind the pros and cons of your decision. If at any chance you are approached by men, make sure not to have any kind of eye contact and have a stern response to get the message across. If all else fails, trust the pepper spray to get the job done.
Along the way of your beautiful journey, you will meet many lovely, kind-hearted local souls, but still, be wary and never let the friendliness make you trust them blindly. Preparation is always vital no matter where you travel. Research about the attractions, hotels, the opening hours of places, addresses, ticket prices, etc.
Do keep in mind to never wander alone at night, especially in deserted places. It is important to feed curiosity, but as long as you do it cautiously.
So, after reading the article, you will be better able to answer the question yourself to “is it safe to travel in Sri Lanka?”