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A Finnish citizen friend of mine will be stopping in Sri Lanka at the ports of Colombo and Hambantota (back to back, but on separate days, boarding the cruise ship to sail between the two) and is getting conflicting information about the availability of e-visas and visa on arrival (VOA).

Based on Wikipedia and the near-useless official site, this is what I've been able to work out so far:

  • They're not eligible for the free single-entry visa (only a few countries are, and even that's ending May 2024 at time of writing).
  • They are eligible for a double-entry e-Visa, which costs US$75.

However, I'd like to get confirmation on the following questions:

  • Are they are eligible for visa on arrival at the ports of Colombo or Hambantota?
  • If yes, how much does the visa cost?
  • Would they be required to obtain two VOAs, one per port of entry, even though the ship will presumably sail in Sri Lankan waters between the two?
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  • Could you check with the cruise line? (Or the CruiseCritic forum, not the normal site). Cruises sometime has special deals (but sometime with string attached), and I found often official sites doesn't provide informations (e.g. cruise lines may get full set of immigration officers at port (so with different procedures as people arriving with boats, and so limited entry points). And the forum I wrote above has first hand information (but if you are on first cruise on such ports and year). I think TIMATIC has limitation with cruises (and in general: non airline operations) Commented May 16 at 13:58
  • Note: tourism is one, crew has different rules, and the entrainers/special guesses (short stay) are in grey area (they do not have sailor card, but also not tourists). Commented May 16 at 14:00
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi The travel agency selling the cruise is insisting they are eligible for the free online e-visa. Commented May 16 at 21:01
  • Ask the cruise line (not only the travel agency). My experience with India: confusing informations, but we got just one immigration process (3 different queues because why not? IIRC: two to provide different stamps, and one to check that you have the stamps, so: do not teleport yourself), and mandatory at first port, simple check on other ports: I'm still not sure if there were written rules on that, or why we had to have multiple entry e-visa. So I would not look (also for Sri Lanka) official information, but experience from other people and cruise line. Commented May 21 at 7:16
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi They directly talked to the cruise line, apparently they're the ones telling people to apply for the (non-existent) free e-visas. Commented May 21 at 9:32

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Are they are eligible for visa on arrival at the ports of Colombo or Hambantota?

Having a e-Visa, since 2024-04-17, seems now to be expected having replaced the previous ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) system.

Based on the Visa Guidelines for Tourists site (quoted below), the visa on arrival (VOA) seems now to be more of a fallback solution when an ETA/e-visa is, for whatever reason, not possible. (That page is the only page that I found that actually states this)

... how much does the visa cost?

  • eVisa: Tourist Visa - Single Entry for 30 days for US$40 (plus a possible service fee)
    • VOA: US$60.00
  • A printed copy of your eVisa approval letter should be made

Would they be required to obtain two VOAs, one per port of entry,
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Sri Lanka at the ports of Colombo and Hambantota (back to back, but on separate days, boarding the cruise ship to sail between the two) ...

Based on Section 53 (quoted below) of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act, this will be considered 1 entry, since the cruise ship will not be calling into a port outside of Sri Lanka when sailing between the 2 ports.

... and is getting conflicting information about the availability of e-visas and visa on arrival (VOA)

There is, indeed, a lot of conflicting information which seems to be caused by the transition from the (old) ETA system to the, since 2024-04-17, eVisa system. Many other sites may therefore be outdated.

The travel agency selling the cruise is insisting they are eligible for the free online e-visa

The Immigrants and Emigrants Act contains no special conditions for cruise ships.

Since none of the eVisas seem to be free of charge (except for Diplomatic or consular activities), this claim seems to be dubious.

The Sri Lanka eVisa Fees page contains no option for a 'Tourist Visa aboard a cruise ship'.


Immigrants and Emigrants Act - 1949-11-01

53. Act not to apply to Journey between places in Sri Lanka.

Nothing in this Act or in any regulation, order, direction, instructions or other instrument made or issued under this Act shall be deemed or construed to prohibit or restrict in any manner whatsoever the entry into or departure from any place in Sri Lanka of any person on a Journey by ship from or to, as the case may be, any other place in Sri Lanka if that ship has not called or will not call at any place outside Sri Lanka in the course of his journey by that ship.


Sources:

  • Immigrants and Emigrants Act - 1949-11-01 (Blackhall’s Laws of Sri Lanka)
    • Act 27 of 2021
  • General Information on Visa (official Sri Lanka eVisa Website)

    IMPORTANT NOTICE
    With effect from 17th April 2024, all Tourist or Business travelers to Sri Lanka must have e-Visa for entering in to Sri Lanka.

  • Visa Guidelines for Tourists - Embassy Berlin
    1. On Arrival visa at the Port of Entry to Sri Lanka:
      Submit visa application and payment at Colombo International Airport. A fee of USD 60 will be charged for this service. Please observe that this option of obtaining a visa is available only for German passport holders, who have tried to obtain a visa via the ETA-system www.eta.gov.lk, but failed due to not being able to pay the fees with credit card.
  • All you need to know about the Sri Lanka eVisa.

    Sri Lanka has transitioned from the ETA system to the new eVisa scheme. All visitors must complete an eVisa application prior to their arrival in the country.

    Sri Lanka eVisa Fees

    • Tourist Visa - Single Entry for 30 days
      • Single Entry for 30 days: US$40.00
    • Tourist Visa - Standard Visitor Visa
      • Double Entry for 60 days: US$75.00

    Please note: All eVisa categories will be charged an additional 10 or 18.50 USD service fee. Does not include charges towards payment gateway, taxes and other transaction fees.

    Documents to be carried at the Airport

    1. A printed copy of your eVisa approval letter issued by the Sri Lanka Department of Immigration and Emigration.
    2. Your passport with at least six months validity from the date of entry into Sri Lanka.

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