Important Information for Sri Lanka

On Sunday, there was an unbelievable fare loaded for Etihad Airways that allowed people to begin their travel in Colombo, Sri Lanka and fly to Dallas. It could be booked as a one-way or a round-trip. One-way in First Class cost under $1,000 and round-trip was around $1,400. There were many, many people who got it on this. The details can be found here at this Flyertalk thread. Here is some information from my trip to Colombo last January.

Entering Sri Lanka

Written from my trip in January 2013

If you are going to be in Sri Lanka for two days or less, you would be eligible for a transit visa that is free. You can apply for this electronic visa here. If you are planning on staying at the airport, there is a transit hotel called Serenediva transit hotel. When you land and walk by all the different shops and lounges, you will arrive at the end of the concourse where you will see a statute of Buddha. If you were to take a left, you will see the signs for the hotel just before the immigration area (there are actually two immigration areas – one is farther up on the left and the other is back from there on the left of the counters). If you opt for a Visa on Arrival, the desk for that is behind the Buddha statue.

I headed toward the hotel upstairs since the Qatar Airways counter would not open until the next day (it was outside the immigration counter so I planned on leaving the hotel early enough to pass through immigration). I had e-mailed with the hotel and was told that I would not have to go through immigration but could go right upstairs. The fee for the hotel is $10 an hour with a minimum of $55. I planned on staying there just for the 5 hours. Before I went up the elevator, I tried to find a bottle of water. Unfortunately, there was no area around there to find water and this is one of the places where you do not want to drink the water from the tap!

When I got upstairs, I found the hotel easily enough and went to the counter. This airport was actually a lot nicer than I had thought it would be and the upstairs was no different. When I spoke with the man at check-in, he told me that I would not be able to stay there unless my flights were with Sri Lankan Airlines. I reminded them about my e-mails and how they said it was no problem. It turned out that the week before, the Sri Lankan security department had changed the rules to state that you had to go through immigration within 30 minutes of your flight landing or else the flight would be cleared from their systems and you would be in big trouble to still stay in the airside part of the airport. It was a good thing I had not decided to stay in the airport area itself!

The man kept insisting that I would not be able to stay there and would need to quickly go though immigration. I asked him if I would be able to then come back in and check-in. Because Qatar Airways was not open until the morning, I would be unable to get my ticket and come back through so I would have to stay in a hotel away from the airport or stay outside the airport on a bench. It was now almost 11PM and I was not about to stay on a bench overnight in Sri Lanka! Furthermore, the nearest hotel was going to cost over $200 for the night and I was not about to pay that. I kept asking him for some help and he finally must have felt bad enough about it to take me downstairs to talk to the immigration people.

After talking to them for 15 minutes, he said I would need to wait in a chair until the line was clear and an official would come to talk to me. Apparently, I would then be able to go back upstairs (but the language barrier was a little difficult so I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do). So, I sat and waited there for almost an hour. After I saw the line had been empty for a while and no one had come to me, I went back to the line and asked the official for some help. He explained that he would give me a sticker that night and I would come down in the morning and they would stamp it and I could go out to get my ticket. Finally!

Serenediva Hotel

I went back upstairs and was shown to my room and was told that there were two bottles of water that were free. Yes! I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the room was. The bed was nicely made, the room was large (with a seating area), the bathroom was also very nice.

Serenediva Hotel

Serenediva Hotel

Serenediva Hotel

Serenediva Hotel

So, if you ever were to find your way to Sri Lanka, or you just want to use it as a starting point for cheap tickets, hopefully this post helps you with some info about what to expect.

Here is the link to the site for the Serenediva Hotel – link

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I happened to be one of those who jumped the gun and got the ticket. Thank you for this helpful post about SL. We are still debating whether we should explore the country for a day or two. Hmmm…

    • Glad you were able to get a ticket! I really wanted to get one as well but I could not find a good time. If I was going back, I would try to spend a day or two. I spoke with some people who loved Sri Lanka and the beaches! Have a great time no matter what!

  • What about transfer within the airport? We will be at Maldives and connecting to Hong Kong via Sri Lanka. We have a 6 hours overlay. We thought we can stay at the airside and the transfer desk can retrieve the tickets for us without clearing the immigration.