Travel to Sri Lanka: What it’s like to visit now during the Covid pandemic

Otto I. Eovaldi

I dwell in Hong Kong, which has done a great job containing the pandemic. But the tradeoff is that it has been exceptionally hard to vacation any place.

Thanks to Hong Kong’s rough quarantine mandates, most citizens have been minimal to our city and can’t even cross the border into mainland China.

Typically I am a hyperplanner, but just about two decades of not going more than 30 kilometers from my apartment experienced long gone to my head. The idea of a country in Asia becoming open up to travelers was so thrilling to me that I failed to even do substantially analysis, figuring I could form it out later on and make positive regulations failed to modify before my journey.

Here is how it went.

1 7 days beforehand

In purchase to get into Sri Lanka, I wanted additional than a spontaneously ordered airplane ticket. Most visitors to the island country will have to commit up to 14 times at a “amount 1” lodge or resort, which means it has gained an official governing administration designation as a harmless, accepted put to quarantine.

I’m happy that quarantine went easily, due to the fact a couple times into my remain Sri Lanka loosened its guidelines, permitting vaccinated travelers to expend only 1 solitary night time in quarantine presented they examination unfavorable on arrival. I’m immune compromised and have been bummed out about not getting vaccinated but — at minimum this eradicated just one layer of FOMO.

And this was no common quarantine. Even though some areas — like Australia and China — call for all quarantiners to stay inside their resort rooms other than for when they are supplied PCR checks, Sri Lanka has appear up with an innovative 3rd path.

Guests are allowed to go everywhere on hotel or resort premises and can take a look at certain pre-accredited “bubble points of interest” offered they observe rigorous requirements. They are also permitted to continue to be at extra than 1 property for the duration of all those two months as extensive as all the inns are stage one particular-stated.

The Anantara Peace Triangle Tangalle is a level one listed resort, meaning they can host quarantiners.

The Anantara Peace Triangle Tangalle is a stage a person shown resort, which means they can host quarantiners.

Courtesy of Anantara

Based mostly on that, I went with a two-in-just one deal from the Anantara hotel group — I would expend a person week at its resort in Tangalle, at Sri Lanka’s southernmost suggestion, and then 1 7 days at a sister assets in Kalutara, on the western coastline.

In addition to the rooms, I was ready to fork out for my 3 mandated PCR assessments up entrance and get the obligatory wellbeing insurance plan (just $12 to go over up to $50,000 in clinic prices) as a result of the hotel’s reserving assistance, therefore satisfying all my travel specifications in a single go.

After I had everything verified in writing, I submitted the sorts to Sri Lanka’s tourism board web page and, immediately after a few tense days of consistent refreshing, obtained my tourist visa.

I scheduled a PCR exam for 48 hours just before my flight and pre-booked a resort to quarantine in upon my return to Hong Kong (a should for staying authorized out of the city in the initially location). With anything in hand — basically, as I printed it all out in circumstance of cell phone malfunctions — I was prepared to go.

Bandaranaike International Airport reopened to international travelers in January 2021.

Bandaranaike Global Airport reopened to worldwide vacationers in January 2021.

Xinhua Information Company/Getty Visuals

The working day of travel

The Hong Kong airport was deserted, but I still arrived two and a 50 percent several hours just before my flight just in situation there have been any very last-minute snafus. I’m glad I did — it appeared like each single member of the gate personnel at HKG experienced to browse all my paperwork in triplicate. But I was sooner or later awarded a boarding pass and sailed as a result of stability in about 10 minutes.

I might introduced some treats and an vacant drinking water bottle with me, assuming that anything in the airport would be closed. Fortunately, there were being a few organizations functioning — I was capable to use the ATM, purchase a sandwich and trade my Hong Kong dollars for Sri Lankan rupees.

My flight was quite empty — I’d presently guessed as much dependent on how extensive open the seat variety selections were when I checked in on-line the working day right before. Even with that, cabin crew continue to insisted that the dozen or so passengers board by sections just to continue to keep everyone socially distanced.

I experienced an complete row to myself and certainly zero anxiety about whether there would be place to stow my luggage in the overhead bin.

Rather of printed out menus, there were being lists of obtainable items on the seat-again screens, furthermore handy wipes for all people to sanitize the TVs with before touching them.

Upon arriving in Sri Lanka, we deplaned as standard. Security strains were small, but everyone — nearby and foreign alike — waited in two short strains. I had the total sheaf of paperwork in my hand together with my passport, but the agent only asked to see my PCR examination. He gave me a nod, stamped my passport and despatched me on my way.

In the arrivals corridor, a consultant from my lodge was waiting around. A person issue of quarantine is not having any community transit, so the Anantara had contacted me forward of time to verify my flight particulars and ensure a private car would be waiting to decide on me up. The driver wore a mask and complete PPE.

At the time I arrived at the resort, a personnel member took my baggage to be sanitized ahead of it was dropped off in my home. Before I could check out in, I went to a kiosk in the vicinity of the parking lot that experienced been set up to perform PCR checks. My nose and mouth ended up swabbed and then I was sent off to my space with out interacting with any other company.

To lower get in touch with with many others when waiting around for the check final results to appear back again, I was asked to remain in my area and have breakfast sent to me. Totally free breakfast in bed, in scenario I’d contracted coronavirus in the previous 72-ish several hours, seemed like a pretty decent provide.

No one particular was authorized to clean up my home right until the test arrived back again unfavorable — and, as soon as it did, I had total operate of the vacation resort, which involved a pool, spa, fitness center, a few restaurants and obtain to the beach front.

Week just one

All through the 7 days I invested at my first quarantine resort, I was examined for Covid two times — on arrival
, and then once more on day five. Day 4 was a Saturday, and the hotel concierge experienced arranged an outing for me. That’s ideal — an outing.

I was taken to Udawalawe National Park, about 90 minutes away from the resort. A safari-model practical experience exactly where everybody stays in their possess Jeep, retaining conversation minimal, it was the closest of Sri Lanka’s 18 “bubble attractions” open to quarantiners.

Eddie, the hotel’s nature tutorial, accompanied me in the Jeep, the two to give extra data about the animals and to make confident everything was kosher with polices.

A glass partition divided us from the driver, so we knocked on the glass if we desired him to quit. There have been toilet services at the park entrance, with independent, evidently labeled sections for foreigners and locals.

On checking in at the visitor’s center, Eddie and I experienced to show my detrimental Covid check and an endorsed letter from the hotel confirming I experienced authorization to go to the web-site. (A rep had called the working day ahead of to double-verify that it was continue to fine for quarantiners to stop by.)

It was pretty painless, and the trade-off — real, are living elephants, some just a several yards absent from me — was more than worthy of it.

On day seven, I checked out of the Anantara Tangalle and headed by private car to the Anantara Kalutara. Since I booked the package deal offer, the accommodations arranged anything.

From secluded shorelines, incredible wildlife and gorgeous architecture, the southern shores of Sri Lanka are amid the island’s top attractions.

Week two

Switching resorts gave me the chance to see a different area of the region. This time, the closest “bubble” functions were the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Open Zoo in Pinnawala, just outside the house of Kandy.

I took my third and ultimate PCR take a look at on day 13. Once the check came back again adverse the next working day, the Anantara Kalutara sent all of my information and facts to the national tourism board, which issued an formal letter confirming that I had done all the quarantine needs and was now equipped to journey freely about the country.

It was time for phase two — the holiday family vacation — to get started.

sigiriya sri lanka

Normally, Sigiriya is packed with tourists.

CNN/Lilit Marcus

Weeks three and four

Free of charge to examine the state, I was on what basically felt like a pretty typical holiday break. I frequented 3 major towns — Kandy, the cultural cash in the island’s quite centre Galle, a southern coastal gem very best identified for its Dutch-era colonial fort and Colombo, the most populous metropolis.

As for every the procedures, I saved paper copies of my most new PCR take a look at and the government letter with me. That reported, I was only asked to clearly show my papers 2 times all through the relaxation of the journey — the moment when I checked into my first stage two hotel and yet again when I was the lone straggler going for walks as a result of the “foreigners” gate at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Kandy.

The Tooth Relic Temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic city of Kandy.

The Tooth Relic Temple is section of the UNESCO Globe Heritage-mentioned historic town of Kandy.

Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Pictures

Multiple staff members came in excess of to browse and re-browse my paperwork — I suspected it was a blend of pleasure at ultimately acquiring anything to do, nerves about messing up the method due to the fact there experienced been so handful of vacationers to exam it on, and heightened recognition as we ended up closing in on Sinhala New Yr, a massively important vacation celebrated by several of the country’s Buddhists, which intended that the temple complex was packed.

Becoming one particular of the only foreigners browsing Sri Lanka was a double-edged sword.

On the plus aspect, I frequently had places to myself. Becoming in a position to go to Sigiriya, Sri Lanka’s most iconic attraction, with no just one else all around was a spectacular expertise — there ended up no folks placing up elaborate Instagram photograph shoots or suit hikers whizzing previous me on the trails.

But the isolation was also difficult. It was sad to see all the roadside booths deserted and many little enterprises boarded up.

Soon after 8 months of becoming shut off from the rest of the entire world, men and women in the hospitality business were being understandably anxious about their livelihoods, and when I was the only traveler I received the brunt of it. While it is common for a tuk tuk driver to present you a trip or a vendor to check with if you want to invest in a carving, there was an air of insistence and approximately just about every question came with a sob story.

No matter how a lot of bottles of h2o I bought or taxi rides I took, it hardly ever felt like adequate to definitely assist.

Becoming the lone unfamiliar face in a crowd arrived with other perks and threats.

A male on the avenue in Kandy shouted “Coronavirus! Coronavirus! Go back to the lodge!” at me.

At a person resort, it felt like the other attendees — all locals, as it was a degree two house — unconsciously edged their seats absent from me at breakfast.

At the exact place, a staff members member informed me that he wasn’t permitted to cleanse my space all through my continue to be because of Covid regulations, even although he had just cleaned each individual other occupied place on my ground.

Many Sri Lankans believe that whoever controls the Tooth Relic Temple controls the country.

Many Sri Lankans believe that that whoever controls the Tooth Relic Temple controls the country.

Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Photographs

Nonetheless there had been also times of magnificence. A woman walked up to me at a cafe to say how joyful she was that vacationers have been coming back to her state, and some helpful locals preferred to listen to about the coronavirus problem in Hong Kong and requested how people today ended up coping.

Colombo and Galle each have expat populations, so I stood out way significantly less after I moved to people towns.

The very long way dwelling

3 times prior to I was due to leave the state, my phone pinged. Hong Kong experienced up to date some of its quarantine laws, stating that tourists from
Australia, New Zealand and Singapore could shave one particular 7 days off of their quarantine situations.

The draw back? Hong Kongers couldn’t transit in one particular of those people nations lest they be puzzled for a person who now fell underneath the new rules.

That meant that my return flight home — by using Singapore yet again — was canceled.

I managed to come across another way dwelling, but it expected me to transit via Doha, which is in fully the opposite way, and included a 13-hour layover.

This also intended I had to update my Hong Kong resort facts and that I might be getting sprung on a Monday in its place of a Saturday, so wrecking however a different weekend.

You know the opening scene in “Actuality Bites,” in which Winona Ryder’s character opens her graduation speech by reciting her social stability range, stating it was the detail she needed to know the most? Well, I now can recite my passport selection and expiration date with my eyes closed.

The Anantara Kalutara Resort is on a quiet peninsula just south of Colombo city.

The Anantara Kalutara Vacation resort is on a peaceful peninsula just south of Colombo metropolis.

Courtesy of Anantara

In get to go away Sri Lanka, I wanted 1 more PCR take a look at. This was uncomplicated to reserve on the web and was a travel-by means of course of action, so I got a taxi and had the driver just take me via. My benefits ended up emailed to me in about 23 hrs.

Paperwork accomplished, printed out in the Hilton Colombo enterprise center and in my palms, I was prepared to head home. But I wasn’t ready to leave.

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