Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka? Governments update advisories

The UAE has advised Emiratis to postpone travel to Sri Lanka due to the ongoing security situation, and other countries have issued cautionary advice

The Galle Face promenade in Colombo, which is the location of the Shangi-La, one of the targets of the devastating attack: the UAE has issued a travel warning for Sri Lanka, and other countries have updated travel advisories. Courtesy Shangri-La Hotels
The Galle Face promenade in Colombo, which is the location of the Shangi-La, one of the targets of the devastating attack: the UAE has issued a travel warning for Sri Lanka, and other countries have updated travel advisories. Courtesy Shangri-La Hotels

After blasts at churches and hotels across Sri Lanka claimed over 200 lives and injured many more, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has issued a travel warning for the country. The advice is for Emirati citizens to postpone travel plans due to the current security situation.

Other countries have also issued warnings with Australia's department of foreign affairs urging people to officially reconsider their need to travel. In the United States, the country has been listed at a Level 2, which means travellers should exercise increased caution and Canada is advising its citizens travelling to Sri Lanka to do so with a high degree of caution.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office directed travellers to follow the advice of local security officials and noted that security has been stepped up across the island.

The Sri Lankan Government has set up an international hotline for all foreign nationals affected by the incidents and declared a state of emergency.

A nationwide curfew commenced yesterday and will be in place until 4am on Tuesday April 23. During the curfew, travellers flying out of Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport were able to travel to the airport but needed to have proper documentation and faced longer waiting times and increased security checkpoints.

"SriLankan Airlines assures passengers of all airlines flying out of Bandaranaike International Airport during the period, that they can reach the airport during their curfew by producing their air tickets and passports to security forces and check points," said the airline in a statement on Twitter.

Some travellers shared pictures of long lines of passengers waiting at the airport during the curfew when there was limited taxi and transfer services.

Continue to arrive at the airport early

Following the series of explosions at churches and hotels in the country Sunday morning that claimed the lives of at least 290 people, security at the airport was increased.

For the moment, passengers travelling should be prepared to show travel tickets and passports at security forces and at check points when travelling to the airport.

All passengers on all airlines should also arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport four hours before flights. According to the country's national airline, this is “in order to clear security which has been increased following incidents in the country this morning.”

Flights still operating, some delays expected

All travellers in Sri Lanka are advised to reach Bandaranaike International Airport at least four hours before flight time to clear stricter security measures. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Balou46
All travellers in Sri Lanka are advised to reach Bandaranaike International Airport at least four hours before flight time to clear stricter security measures. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Balou46

AirAsia has said that while flights it operates to and from Colombo's airport are operating as normal, they will offer three options to those who wish to change their travel plans. The first is to change their flight to a different date on the same route within 30 calendar days at no additional charge. The second is to receive credit for the cost of the flight (for a flight to be booked within 90 calendar days. The third option is a full refund.

Etihad Airways advised customers to arrive at Colombo airport early. A spokesperson explained that delays are expected on flights due to depart Sri Lanka today and tomorrow due to the suspension of crew layovers in Colombo. Etihad also told passengers to exercise caution.

Emirates confirmed to The National that flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Sri Lanka continue to run to the normal schedule. Emirates reiterated the advice from SriLankan Airlines for passengers to arrive early for flights departing from Colombo.

A flydubai spokesperson said: "We are saddened to hear about the news in Sri Lanka. Our double daily flights to Colombo are operating to schedule this evening. We continue to monitor the situation." The airline also advised all customers arriving in Colombo to keep their boarding pass with them as they exit Bandaranaike International Airport in case local security request to see it. Passengers who wish to rebook travel are advised to call flydubai directly.

The hotels affected: operations at Cinnamon Grand have returned to normal

The series of blasts happened at churches and at four hotels in Colombo. The five-star Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La, Colombo and the Kingsbury Hotel were all targeted in the incident, as was a smaller hotel in Dehiwala. The Sri Lanka Development Authority released a statement urging all hotels in Sri Lanka to take maximum measures to strengthen security.

The Shangri-La Hotel group confirmed in a statement that an explosion took place at 9.05am at Table One cafe at the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo. The hotel is remaining closed until further notice with alternative accomodation being provided to guests.

A spokesperson from Cinnamon Hotels confirmed to The National that travellers can continue to check-in at The Cinnamon Grand and that all guest operations have resumed as normal while the Kingsbury Hotel took to Instagram to inform guests that areas of the hotel had been isolated for further clearance and safety requirements.

Updated: April 22, 2019 05:02 PM

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