7 May 2024 10:18

Sri Lankan govt decides to keep free tourist visas for 7 countries including Russia

MOSCOW. May 7 (Interfax) - Sri Lanka's government on Monday decided to continue the current visa rules for foreigners entering the country, keeping the $50 fee for a 30-day visa, which tourists from seven countries, including Russia, can get free of charge, the president's office said.

"It was decided today [...] the free visa service currently offered to citizens of seven countries, India, China, Russia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia will continue," the president's office said in a statement.

Visa issuance will be managed by the immigration department, it said.

On May 3, host agencies notified Russian tour operators that a visa to Sri Lanka for tourists of all ages would cost $75 from June 1. Starting from April 17, the government appointed private company VFS Global to handle visas, abolishing the former state-run Eta electronic visa system. The visa costs, including related fees, increased as a result. Tourists would have to pay $102.5, including the fees, per person to enter Sri Lanka. Until November 2023, a visa to Sri Lanka cost $50-$60, and was free for children under 12 years old. In late November, the Sri Lankan authorities cancelled the visa fees for citizens of seven countries for the winter period, until the end of March, and extended the free visa service until late May.

According to Sri Lankan media, the decision to hire VFS Global was sharply criticized by the opposition and tourist companies alike. The latter called on President Ranil Wickremesinghe to retain the $50 fee to support the island's tourism sector.

The Russian Union of Travel Agency earlier voiced concern that the tourist flow from Russia to Sri Lanka could decrease if the free visas were cancelled and the visa fees were raised.