While the potential dangers of Sri Lankan travel may seem worrisome, most travelers experience nothing more serious than an upset stomach. Travelers tend to worry about contracting infectious diseases, but infections rarely cause serious illness or death in travelers. Note that hygiene standards are casual at best and downright bad at worst in many kitchens throughout the country.
Tap water is not safe to drink. Use bottled or filtered water; for the former, look for the small round ‘SLSI’ logo which shows the water has been tested by the government’s Sri Lanka Standards Institution (the majority of local brands).
Before You Go
Even if you’re fit and healthy, don’t travel without health insurance: accidents do happen. A travel or health insurance policy is essential. You may require extra cover for adventure activities, such as scuba diving. If your normal health insurance doesn’t cover you for medical expenses abroad, get extra insurance. If you’re uninsured, emergency evacuation is expensive, and bills of more than US$100,000 are not uncommon.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends travelers consider the following vaccinations for travelers to Sri Lanka (as well as being up to date with measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations).
Adult diphtheria and tetanus Single booster recommended if none in the previous 10 years.
Hepatitis A Provides almost 100% protection for up to a year.
Hepatitis B Now considered routine for most travellers.
Japanese Encephalitis Recommended for rural travel, people who will be doing outdoor activities or for anyone staying longer than 30 days.
Polio Incidence has been unreported in Sri Lanka for several years but must be assumed to be present.
Rabies Three injections in all. A booster after one year will then provide 10 years’ protection.
Typhoid Recommended for all travelers to Sri Lanka, even if you only visit urban areas.
Varicella If you haven’t had chickenpox, discuss this vaccination with your doctor.