Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean is a holiday paradise. Sinharaja rainforests, banana and tea plantations, a great variety of species, beautiful beaches and a culture that is thousands of years old: the “beautiful island”, as Sri Lanka has been translated, has all this to offer. However, the island country is currently in the midst of a severe economic crisis that is also affecting tourism, which is important for the country. TRAVELBOOK has spoken with travel experts and tourists and knows what vacationers should consider right now.
Hours of power outages and shortages of food and medicine. In addition, there are ongoing protests in the capital, Colombo, a nationwide curfew and shortages of petrol and gas. Sri Lanka has been in crisis mode for weeks. An indebted country cannot pay for the import of many goods. The reason, among other things, was the strong devaluation of the national currency, which made imports significantly more expensive. What vacationers in crisis-ridden Sri Lanka should watch out for now.
I have a tourist visa for Sri Lanka. Can I enter the country at all right now?
You can enter. The government has not issued any entry bans for tourists. However, you should check where you live for the local situation and consider if you want to travel. Also contact the carriers relevant to your trip and ask if their service providers run regularly.
In addition, you should consider Corona’s entry rules and on-site measures, which you can read on the website of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Also interesting: 8 must-see places in Sri Lanka
Is it safe to vacation in Sri Lanka now?
Although there is no travel warning for Sri Lanka, the German Foreign Ministry urges caution. Violent riots can break out at any time. In the event of disturbances, a state of emergency can also be declared at short notice or a curfew can be imposed on affected areas. Therefore, the website of the German Foreign Ministry states the following:
- Find out from local media.
- Avoid demonstrations, political gatherings, and large crowds.
- Follow the instructions from the security guards.
Due to the attacks on churches and hotels in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa on April 21, 2019 which resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries, the security situation remains tense according to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and there is still a risk of further terrorist attacks.
I want to cancel my booked leave to Sri Lanka. Is this possible?
Whether you can cancel a Sri Lanka vacation for free primarily depends on whether you’ve booked a package or a solo flight.
In an interview with TRAVELBOOK, attorney Jan Barthol clarified that travelers can opt out of a travel reservation free of charge “if exceptional and unavoidable circumstances occur at or in the vicinity of the destination which significantly affect the implementation of the package tour” (cf. § 651h para 3 BGB) . “This free cancellation option does not yet apply to Sri Lanka,” Jan Barthol added. Therefore, he advises: “It is best for travelers to contact the tour operator and ask about the situation on site at their destination in Sri Lanka.”
If vacationers organize their trip themselves, different rules apply than for group trips, says Jan Barthol in the Travel Book: “Individual travelers must comply with the relevant national law. Options for terminating the accommodation contract or the lease (hotel reservation) contract are based on this.”
I want to travel to Sri Lanka. What should I focus on?
Please note that any curfews that may be imposed may also affect your flight times and you may have to automatically rebook or cancel. Prepare for power outages, hotels not being able to provide normal service due to lack of food, or commuting locally due to lack of fuel.
My vacation did not live up to expectations. Do I have the right to reduce the price of travel?
Hours of blackouts, shortages of food and fuel. Despite their best efforts, some Sri Lanka tour companies cannot provide the usual service. Regarding compensation, it is again necessary to distinguish between individual tours and group tours, since in both cases the situation on the site should be understood.
Jan Barthol explains: “If there is a package flight, passengers are entitled to a travel fare reduction for the duration of disruptions (power outages, etc.), see section 615 m BGB.” He continues: “If a power outage is observed for the duration of the flight, travelers may in individual cases be entitled to a full refund of the travel fare in addition to compensation for lost vacation time.”
For package travelers, Torsten Schäfer from the German Travel Association (DRV) assesses the situation in comparison with TRAVELBOOK: “The advantage of a package tour is that the organizers look after the guests, actively inform them of developments and are constantly exchanged with the tour guides or with the officials on the site. The hotels of the organizers are connected. Also mostly with their own emergency power supply.If there are any restrictions, travel programs – such as round trips – will be adjusted accordingly.In case of long-range restrictions, tour operators will consult with the customer regarding the return flight or rebooking.One thing Confirmed: The safety of passengers is the top priority of the organizers. Even in the event of a curfew during the return trip, the organizer tries everything to ensure that guests arrive at the airport early – and therefore on time – and start their journey home.”
Unlike package travelers, individual travelers cannot go back 651m BGB. Individual travelers must also comply with relevant national law. Jan Barthol knows: “It is very difficult for individual travelers to claim compensation and, in particular, to impose compensation due to significant disabilities (power cuts, etc.).”
Report of vacationers from Sri Lanka
Yannick Benthen traveled around Sri Lanka with his partner, two children and her parents-in-law for a month and returned on Saturday 2 April. Currently Tamara Bezold is still in Sri Lanka, in Kalutara, about 40 kilometers from Colombo. They both spoke to us:
Travel book: Have you noticed the effects of the crisis on tourism?
Yannick Benthen: “Of course we noticed. Long queues at petrol stations or at the gas station: we as tourists had no fault except for the closure of many restaurants. We arranged our flights ahead of time. We were also allowed to pass as tourists at gas stations, which is very inconvenient. For us “.
Tamara Bezold: “We haven’t noticed the food shortage yet – we always take good care of it. There are blackouts in the hotel about two to three times a day, but only for a few seconds. WLAN and over all social media are severely restricted for a short while. But you don’t notice. A lot in the hotel – it’s different on the streets: you can see queues of up to 200 meters at gas stations and we were in shops where we could only move around with flashlights.During our trip to Kosgoda we also noticed protests in the evening hours.I felt a little uncomfortable Because people were standing in the street with signs and lights on. But our driver said there was no need to worry.”
Travel book: Have you experienced hotel restrictions and how did you deal with them?
Yannick Benthen: “Our drivers or people in the lodging reported to us when the power went out. We were almost exclusively in small hotels – so we didn’t have an emergency generator. There was no way to ask for a rate cut or a refund: people aren’t doing well with the situation. Why Are we still negotiating? We’re fine with it. We didn’t even notice a shortage of food and only ate outside.”
Tamara Bezold: “I feel completely comfortable and will not complain even if there are strict restrictions because I can understand the population.”
The Travel Book: Did You Feel Safe?
Yannick Benthen: “We always felt safe. The situation was also difficult for the locals and we could understand that people were taking to the streets.”
Tamara Bezold: Aside from street protests, I feel safe. It’s an unusual situation to see so many angry people – even if it’s not against us as tourists.”
Travel book: Were you aware of the situation there when a) you booked and b) prior to your departure?
Yannick Benthen: “We only booked flights. At that time we knew nothing of the current situation. We only read shortly before departure that some things are becoming rare – but that didn’t stop us. We found people very grateful to us and we will travel to Sri Lanka again.”
Tamara Bezold: “I was not aware of the situation before leaving. However, our vacation was wonderful. We traveled the first week, and were in Colombo, on the tea plantations between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya and in Yala National Park. Cave temples, animals and nature: it was great! However, if I am going on vacation, I may wait until the local situation calms down.”
The current situation in Sri Lanka
The government has already lost its parliamentary majority. Just one day after the cabinet was dissolved, on Tuesday, April 5th, at least 41 MPs announced their withdrawal from the ruling coalition. Meanwhile, the new finance minister, Ali Sabri, has resigned – ahead of important talks with the International Monetary Fund over a much-needed loan programme. The opposition is demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – both of whom have faced regular protests for weeks, sometimes accompanied by violence.
On Sunday, April 3, a few hours after the nationwide lockdown began, online social platforms were blocked. “The ban on social media is temporary and has been imposed based on special instructions from the Ministry of Defense,” TRA Chairman Jayantha de Silva told Reuters. In the capital, Colombo, soldiers armed with rifles and police checkpoints monitored compliance with the curfew in place until Monday, 4 April.
With material from Reuters