Commonly recommended vaccinations for short term visits include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis, Tetanus and Typhoid. Advice can vary. For example, rabies protection is recommended by a minority of medical centres or countries. Also consider Japanese encephalitis if travelling in rural areas.
Compulsory vaccination certificates: Sri Lanka's immigration department may request compulsory vaccination certificates from travellers from certain countries to allow entry into the country. This would be advised when you apply for your online visa. This has recently included an insistence on yellow fever certificates for travellers from or who have recently visited many African and South American countries.
Bring insect repellent, sun screen and a hat. Wear long-sleeves if you are outside at dusk. Drinking water in sealed plastic bottles is freely available in much of Sri Lanka, but not without some environmental cost - you may want to think about other options. Chlorine tablets are cheap, light and easy to use. An ultra violet light filter provides very effective sterilization including parasites - these are newly available in pen type format so extremely portable but a little expensive. Many larger travel shops in the UK stock these and other types of portable filters. Also remember to bring any regular medication, anti-diarrheals, simple pain relief, plasters and a torch.
Travel insurance is essential, and should be booked independently.
Disabled Travellers: In general, health advice is similar to that of other travellers. Please discuss any special requirements in advance with your doctor and Red Dot. Our hotel profiles seek to give appropriate advice for disabled travellers, but please also check with your consultant.
While in Sri Lanka…
Water: It is unadvisable to drink the tap water in Sri Lanka. Drinking water or filtered water should always be used, even when cleaning your teeth.
- If the drinking water is in a sealed plastic bottle, check that the seal is not broken.
- There is some environmental cost in the extensive use of plastic bottles, so you may want to consider other ‘greener’ options. Chlorine tablets are cheap, light and easy to use. An ultra violet light filter provides very effective sterilization, including parasites. Many larger travel shops in the UK stock these and other types of portable filters.
Protection from the Sun: The sun is strong and pale skin will burn quickly. Consider avoiding sunbathing between 11.00 am and 3.00 pm when the sun is strongest. Wear factor 15+ sunscreen for short periods in the sun and re-apply regularly especially after swimming. Use higher protections for longer periods. Wear a hat and sunglasses. If you overdo it one day, cover up and stay out of the sun the following day.
Avoiding Diarrhoea and Dehydration: Sri Lanka has a long-established tourist industry and, influenced by this, it has a sound hygiene record. For maximum safety, eat freshly cooked, piping hot food and wash your hands (and your children's) before meals. Many package hotels use buffets where food remains for long periods and late eating should be approached cautiously. Only drink bottled, boiled or treated water and use this for brushing your teeth. Avoid ice and salad if not confident of hygiene standards as well as raw or undercooked shellfish.
Travellers' diarrhoea can last for up to five days and will often peter out of its own accord, untreated. Sometimes a change in bowel habit can be caused by stress, an increase in alcohol intake, change in diet and hot weather. The majority of those affected will recover without any specialist treatment. Keeping well hydrated is vital so drink plenty of clear fluids, keep cool and out of the sun. Oral rehydration salts are available in many local chemists. Medical advice should be sought if symptoms do not improve within a few days, blood and/or mucous is present in stools, or if a fever develops. Medical advice should be sought earlier for those with special health risks including the elderly, and immediately for children whose diarrhoea is accompanied by dehydration, vomiting, fever or bloody stools.
Mosquito bites, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya and Malaria: Mosquito bites can be aggravating so minimising your chances of being bitten is the best approach. Sri Lanka was officially declared malaria free in 2016 so anti-malarial drugs are no longer required or recommended. Dengue fever and Chikungunya are present, particularly after the heavy rains. You are most at risk of being bitten a couple of hours after sunrise and just before sunset. Wear long tops and pants and apply repellent. Most infections cause no or minimal symptoms. In worse cases, symptoms usually appear within 5-8 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. These include severe headache, fever, joint and muscle pain, sometimes nausea and vomiting, and a red rash. There is no particular treatment for this disease other than rest and plenty of plain fluids. The vast majority of infections clear up on their own within a week. If you develop a fever that lasts more than three days seek medical advice and do a blood test for dengue fever. It is strongly advised to avoid taking any ibuprofen and aspirin if you have dengue.
Rabies: Try to stay away from street dogs as rabies is a possible risk. In the event of a bite, seek prompt medical advice. It is not just dogs that can carry rabies: cats, monkeys and bats can do as well.
Other bites and stings: Other biting animals include snakes, sea creatures, spiders and scorpions. If you are bitten or stung, try to remember the animal’s colour, size, shape and markings. This will help with your treatment.
Snakes tend to keep away from humans, but if you are walking at night, take a torch and wear shoes. In the unlikely event of a bite, restrict movement of the limb as much as possible and cover the area with a clean, dry bandage, but do not apply a tourniquet. Remain calm and try to get to the nearest hospital immediately.
Swimming: There are some fantastic beaches to enjoy, but beware of strong currents in some areas and take local advice. The seas along the West and South Coast are suitable for swimming only between December and April. Even during the season, some of the coastal areas are not suitable for swimming due to reefs and strong currents. Much of the East Coast is generally more placid for swimming, especially in peak season from June to September. Always take note of red-flag warnings.
Emergency Medical Services in Sri Lanka: In case of an accident or a medical emergency while on holiday, go directly to the emergency department of the closest private or government hospital and you will be seen by an emergency physician.
Before You Travel...
Sri Lanka is one of the finest holiday destinations in the world, but sensible health precautions are advisable even for the most experienced travellers.
Red Dot recommends that before your departure you visit your local medical centre or a specialist travel health centre for specific advice regarding recommended vaccinations, malaria and dengue prevention, and to discuss any underlying health concerns. Do this at least six weeks before you are due to travel to allow any new vaccinations time to take effect