Sri Lanka Travel Information

Photo Welcome to Sri Lanka. An island in the Indian Ocean is located to the south of the Indian subcontinent. The total land area is 65,610 sq. km. and is astonishingly varied. A length of 445 km. and breadth of 225 km. encompasses beautiful tropical beaches, verdant vegetation, ancient monuments and a thousand delights to please all tastes. Palm fringed beaches surround the island and the sea temperature rarely falls below 27 degrees Celsius.

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean about 28 kilometers (18 mi.) off the southeastern coast of India with a population of about 19 million. Density is highest in the southwest where Colombo, the country's main port and industrial center, is located. The net population growth is about 1.3%. Sri Lanka is ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse.

The actual origins of the Sinhalese are shrouded in myth. Most believe they came to Sri Lanka from northern India during the 6th century BC. Buddhism arrived from the subcontinent 300 years later and spread rapidly. Buddhism and a sophisticated system of irrigation became the pillars of classical Sinhalese civilization (200 BC-1200 AD) that flourished in the north-central part of the island. Invasions from southern India, combined with internecine strife, pushed Sinhalese kingdoms southward.

With an economy of $18.4 billion (est.), and a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of about $950, Sri Lanka has mostly enjoyed strong growth rates in recent years. Sri Lanka began to shift away from a socialist orientation in 1977. Since then, the government has been deregulating, privatizing, and opening the economy to international competition. The ethnic disputes of 1983 precipitated a slowdown in economic diversification and liberalization. The JVP uprising in the late 1980s caused extensive upheavals and economic uncertainty.

The United States enjoys cordial relations with Sri Lanka that are based, in large part, on shared democratic traditions. U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka is characterized by respect for its independence, sovereignty, and moderate nonaligned foreign policy; support for the country's unity, territorial integrity, and democratic institutions; and encouragement of its social and economic development. The United States is a strong supporter of ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka and the peace process that began in December 2001.

Important: Travel to Sri Lanka may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Sri Lanka visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Capital city: Colombo
Area: 65,610 sq km
Population: 21,481,334
Ethnic groups: Sinhalese 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors 7.2%, Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, other 0.5%, unspecified 10%
Languages: Sinhala
Religions: Buddhist
Government: republic
Chief of State: President Mahinda Percy RAJAPAKSA
Head of Government: President Mahinda Percy RAJAPAKSA
GDP: 116.3 billion
GDP per captia: 5,700
Annual growth rate: 8.3%
Inflation: 7%
Agriculture: rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, vegetables, fruit, tea, rubber, coconuts
Major industries: processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, tobacco and other agricultural commodities
Natural resources: limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower
Location: Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India
Trade Partners - exports: US 19.8%, UK 9.2%, India 6.5%, Italy 5%, Germany 5%, Belgium 4.4%
Trade Partners - imports: India 25.6%, China 15.9%, Singapore 7.1%, Iran 6.2%, Japan 5%