What kind of vaccines should I take when  traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health

This is the featured image for the blog post "What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health" . Collage consists of 4 pictures relating to health. One picture where a young man gets a vaccination. One where a lady is washing her hand with soap. One with syringe where a drug taken in from a vial. One photo where a doctor in a surgical costume giving a thumbs up.

Health always comes first. So before your next vacation, whether it is to Sri Lanka or any other tourist destination, it is always helpful to know what kind of infectious diseases are present in that area and what preventive measures you can take to avoid such infections. Infections can occur anywhere in the world. But the type of infection differs depending on the climate, geography, and other factors of a particular region. Sri Lanka, being a tropical island, shares the infections that are common to tropical regions with many other countries in the area. In this blog post, I will talk about the types of vaccines to take before your trip to Sri Lanka, the dos and don’ts that will protect you from any infections, and some words about the most talked-about infectious diseases in Sri Lanka.

I’ll be referring to UK travel guidelines, CDC travel guidelines for Sri Lanka, and WHO recommendations for this article. I’ll leave the links at the end of the post.

What kind of vaccine certificates are required when entering Sri Lanka?

There is just one vaccine certificate that is necessary to enter Sri Lanka, and it doesn’t apply to everyone who is entering the country.

Travelers who are coming to Sri Lanka from countries where there is a risk of yellow fever or who have transited in an airport of a country where yellow fever is endemic and spent more than 12 hours in the airport will have to provide a valid vaccination certificate against yellow fever that was issued at least 6 days prior to departure from the yellow fever risk area.

This includes all adults as well as children over 9 months old.

A photo of a young man is getting a vaccination - What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
Be up-to-date with routine vaccination courses - Photo by CDC on Unsplash

There is no risk of yellow fever in Sri Lanka. This certificate requirement is to ensure zero-yellow fever status in the country.

The following table indicates which countries are considered at risk for yellow fever transmission.

African Continent

American Continent



Burkina Faso



Central African Republic



Democratic Republic of the Congo

Equatorial Guinea







Ivory Coast








Sierra Leone

South Sudan









French Guiana






Trinidad and Tobago*


In countries marked with *There is a yellow fever transmission risk only in some parts of the country. Since it’s hard to confirm the whereabouts of the traveler, the country is considered a whole unit for the yellow fever transmission risk when it comes to the vaccination certificate requirement.

You can read more about yellow fever from this link.

Did you know?

Sri Lanka doesn’t have malaria anymore. In 2016, WHO accepted Sri Lanka as a malaria-free country. And Sri Lankan health authorities are actively participating in sustaining zero malaria status on the island.

Here are two articles from the WHO and CDC that confirm there is no risk of malaria in Sri Lanka.

Does Sri Lanka require any Covid-19 vaccination Certificates?

A photo of a paper on a type writer. On the paper it is written "COVID-19 VACCINE" - What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

No. There is no such requirement now.

Currently, it is not required to provide a COVID vaccination certificate or negative PCR test result on arrival in Sri Lanka.

Since we still haven’t fully eradicated COVID-19 from the world, there is a small risk of getting infected while you are in the country. If you become positive for COVID while you are in Sri Lanka, you are required to quarantine yourself for 7 days in a private hospital, hotel, or in your place of residence.

For updates on COVID-19-related requirements in Sri Lanka, you can visit the Ministry of Health website in Sri Lanka by clicking the above link.

Currently, there is no pandemic situation in Sri Lanka during the time I’m writing this article on November 24, 2023. You can check the COVID situation in Sri Lanka through this link.

A picture of a doctor in a surgical costume giving a thumbs up-What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
Photo by Sander Sammy on Unsplash

Shoutout to my wonderful infectious diseases professor for inspiring this article. I recently finished my infectious diseases cycle, and I was very interested in the subject, mainly because of the way my professor taught us. At the end of the cycle, I got the idea that I should write an article about infectious diseases in Sri Lanka and ways to prevent them. So here we are… (If you guys are confused with the origin story of the article, maybe this information will shed some light. I’m a part-time blogger and a full-time medical student. Lettersfromceylon.com is my passion project.)

Other vaccines to consider:

Even if there is only one vaccination certificate requirement for entering the country, we should think about other vaccinations that can protect us from infectious diseases while traveling. In the UK guidelines for traveling to Sri Lanka, they have categorized vaccine recommendations according to three categories.

  1. Vaccines Recommended for all travelers
  2. Vaccines Recommended for most travelers
  3. Vaccines Recommended for some travelers

Vaccines for all travelers:

It is recommended to be up-to-date with routine vaccination courses and boosters recommended in their country.

In the UK, these vaccines include the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) and Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio vaccines.

Vaccines for most travelers:

The tetanus vaccination is recommended for most travelers.

If the last dose of the tetanus vaccine was given more than 10 years ago, a booster shot is recommended.

Tetanus is not a country-specific infection in Sri Lanka. It is caused by a toxin produced by a bacterium named Clostridium tetani that occurs all around the world and lives in the soil. Through a wound or a puncture, it can enter the body and cause tetanus. So it is safe to take the booster dose once every 10 years, even when you are not traveling to another country.

Vaccines for some travelers

Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, tuberculosis, and typhoid vaccines are recommended for some travelers that travel to Sri Lanka.

Read further to find out whether you should also consider getting vaccinated against these infections.

The vaccines listed above are not just for travelers who are visiting Sri Lanka. These infections occur all around the world. Therefore, it is always advised to take prophylaxis so that you may enjoy your trip and return home with just happy memories rather than a sickness that might have been easily avoided by taking the appropriate preventive measures.

A picture of a hand in blue gloves holding a syringe with some kind of drug-What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Let’s get to know what these infections are, how they spread, how to prevent them, and whether you should also consider getting vaccinated against them before traveling to this paradise island, so-called Sri Lanka, for your next vacation.

Hepatitis A

Who should consider getting the vaccination?

  • those who are staying with or visiting the local population.
  • frequent and/or long-stay travelers to areas where sanitation and food hygiene are likely to be poor.
  • adventure travelers visiting rural areas and staying in basic accommodation such as backpackers.
  • those with existing medical conditions such as liver disease or hemophilia.
  • men who have sex with men.
  • people who inject drugs.
  • those who may be exposed to the virus through their work. (for e.g, medical workers)
  • those going to areas of hepatitis A outbreaks who have limited access to safe water and medical care.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It typically spreads through contaminated food, water, or close contact with an infected person. The virus affects the liver, leading to symptoms like fever, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Most people recover fully with no lasting liver damage, but in some cases, particularly in older adults or those with underlying health conditions, it can lead to severe complications. Prevention primarily involves vaccination, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding consuming contaminated food or water.

Good practices that will help you prevent Hepatitis A:

You should take care of your personal, food, and water hygiene.

A picture of a lady washing hands with soap at home-What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
Washing your hands can protect you from many infections - Photo by N.C.I on Unsplash

Hepatitis B

Who should consider getting the vaccination?

  • those who may have unprotected sex.
  • those who may be exposed to contaminated needles through injecting drug use.
  • those who may be exposed to blood or body fluids through their work (e.g. health workers).
  • those who may be exposed to contaminated needles as a result of having medical or dental care e.g. those with pre-existing medical conditions and those traveling for medical care abroad including those intending to receive renal dialysis overseas.
  • long-stay travelers.
  • those who are participating in contact sports.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that targets the liver, caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It spreads through contact with infected blood, bodily fluids, or from an infected mother to her newborn during childbirth. The virus can lead to both acute and chronic forms of hepatitis. Symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, and in some cases, can progress to severe liver damage, liver cancer, or even death. While some people recover from acute hepatitis B, others develop a chronic infection that requires ongoing medical care. Prevention primarily involves vaccination, practicing safe sex, avoiding sharing needles or personal items that may carry infected blood, and ensuring proper precautions during medical procedures.

Good practices that will help you prevent hepatitis B infection:

You should avoid contact with blood or body fluids. This includes:

  • avoiding unprotected sexual intercourse.
  • avoiding tattooing, piercing, public shaving, and acupuncture (unless sterile equipment is used).
  • not sharing needles or other injection equipment.
  • following universal precautions if working in a medical/dental/high risk setting.

Japanese encephalitis

Who should consider getting the vaccination?

  • Travelers who are spending less than a month in areas with Japanese encephalitis but will be doing activities that increase risk of infection, such as visiting rural areas, hiking or camping, or staying in places without air conditioning, screens, or bed nets.
  • Travelers who are going to areas with Japanese encephalitis who are uncertain of their activities or how long they will be there.

Not recommended: for travelers planning short-term travel to urban areas or travel to areas with no clear Japanese encephalitis season.

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection transmitted through mosquito bites, caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). It primarily occurs in parts of Asia and the Western Pacific and is characterized by inflammation of the brain. Most people infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms, but in cases where symptoms manifest, they can range from mild flu-like symptoms such as fever and headache to more severe complications like seizures, paralysis, and even coma. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent Japanese encephalitis. Travelers to regions where the virus is prevalent are often advised to get vaccinated. Additionally, measures to avoid mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent and mosquito nets, can help prevent infection.

Good practices that will help you in preventing Japanese Encephalitis:

You should avoid mosquito bites, particularly between dusk and dawn.

A picture of a green color mosquito coil which has been lit up. There is smoke coming at the end of the coil-What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
Mosquito repellent coil - Photo by Ronald Langeveld on Unsplash


Who should consider getting the vaccination?

Consider rabies vaccination before your trip if your activities mean you will be around dogs or wildlife.

Travelers more likely to encounter rabid animals include:

  • Campers, adventure travelers, or cave explorers (spelunkers)
  • Veterinarians, animal handlers, field biologists, or laboratory workers handling animal specimens
  • Visitors to rural areas where access to post-exposure treatment and medical care is limited.
  • Those at risk due to their work (e.g. laboratory staff working with the virus, those working with animals or health workers who may be caring for infected patients).
  • Those planning higher risk activities such as running or cycling.
  • Long-stay travelers (more than one month).
  • Since children are more likely to be bitten or scratched by a dog or other animals, consider rabies vaccination for children.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is usually transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. The virus primarily targets the brain and spinal cord, leading to severe neurological symptoms. Symptoms often start with fever, headache, and a tingling or prickling sensation at the site of the bite, progressing rapidly to more severe symptoms such as confusion, agitation, hallucinations, and difficulty swallowing. Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal.

Good practices that will help you in preventing Rabies:

  • You should avoid contact with all stray and wild animals. In Sri Lanka, stray dogs are common. Your sympathetic nature will make you want to pet them. Please don’t. Most of the stray dogs in Sri Lanka aren’t vaccinated against rabies. This applies to any other stray animal that you come across during your visit.
  • Following a possible exposure, wounds should be thoroughly cleansed and an urgent local medical assessment sought, even if the wound appears trivial.
A photo of 3 stray dogs on a side of the road-What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash


Who should consider getting the vaccination?

  • unvaccinated, children under 16 years of age, who are going to live for more than 3 months in Sri Lanka. A tuberculin skin test is required prior to vaccination for all children from 6 years of age and may be recommended for some younger children.
  • unvaccinated, tuberculin skin test-negative individuals at risk due to their work such as healthcare or laboratory workers who have direct contact with TB patients or potentially infectious clinical material and vets and abattoir workers who handle animal material, which could be infected with TB.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It primarily affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. TB spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, making it highly contagious.

Good practices that will help you prevent tuberculosis:

  • Travelers should avoid close contact with individuals known to have infectious pulmonary (lung) or laryngeal (throat) TB.
  • Those at risk during their work (such as healthcare workers) should take appropriate infection control and prevention precautions.

Relevant suggestions:

Don’t forget to visit a travel clinic 6–8 weeks before your trip to ensure that you will be able to get all the vaccinations you need in time.


Who should consider getting the vaccination?

  • Vaccination could be considered for those whose activities put them at increased risk. (Those staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities or rural areas.)
  • Oral and injectable typhoid vaccinations are available.

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella typhi. It spreads through contaminated food, water, or close contact with an infected person. Symptoms typically include a high fever, stomach pain, headache, weakness, and sometimes a rash.

Typhoid can be a serious illness if left untreated, leading to complications such as intestinal perforation or bloodstream infection, which can be life-threatening. However, with appropriate antibiotics, most people recover fully.

Good practices that will help you prevent Typhoid:

Prevention involves practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands thoroughly, especially before handling food or after using the bathroom, and ensuring that food and water sources are clean and safe.

In Sri Lanka, these preventable diseases can be avoided by taking the appropriate precautions.

Dengue fever:

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection caused by the dengue virus, transmitted primarily by the Aedes mosquito. It is prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. 

In Sri Lanka, especially after the rainy season, there is an increase in dengue fever transmission. 

If you missed my previous post about “The Best Weather to Visit Sri Lanka,” follow the link and take a look.

A picture of a mosquito-What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
The Aedes mosquito that spreads the virus is active during the day. - Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Lower the risk of getting dengue by protecting yourself from mosquito bites by using: 

  • clothes that cover as much of your body as possible
  • mosquito nets if sleeping during the day, ideally nets sprayed with insect repellent
  • window screens
  • mosquito repellents (containing DEET, Picaridin or IR3535) 
  • coils and vaporizers.

If you get dengue, it’s important to:

  • rest
  • drink plenty of liquids
  • use acetaminophen (paracetamol) for pain
  • avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and aspirin
  • watch for severe symptoms and contact your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any.

Read more about Dengue fever from this article from WHO.

A picture of a bed with a white mosquito net-What kind of vaccines should I take when traveling to Sri Lanka? Your Guide to Sri Lanka Travel Health
Mosquito nets are available in most of the accommodations in SL - Photo by Volodymyr Yarossvit on Unsplash


Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, particularly the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species. The virus causes a sudden onset of fever and severe joint pain, often accompanied by muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, and rash.

Prevention methods are basically the same as for dengue fever. It involves reducing exposure to mosquito bites by using repellents, wearing long-sleeved clothing, and eliminating mosquito breeding sites around homes. There is ongoing research into potential vaccines, but currently, none are widely available.

Even after vaccination, don’t forget your common sense. Basic rules are still in force.

  • Eat and drink safely
  • Prevent bug bites
  • Stay safe outdoors
  • Keep away from animals
  • Reduce your exposure to germs
  • Avoid sharing body fluids
  • Maintain personal security
  • Select safe transportation
  • Know how to get medical care while traveling
  • If you feel unwell on your return home from traveling abroad, always seek advice from a healthcare professional and let them know your travel history.

Your health and safety while traveling are paramount. Ensuring you have the right vaccinations and take necessary precautions can make your trip to Sri Lanka enjoyable and worry-free!

Remember, while vaccines play a crucial role, practicing good hygiene, staying hydrated, and being mindful of food and water sources are equally important during your travels.

Some important links for you to check out:

  • In case you have an emergency while staying in Sri lanka
    • The emergency ambulance number in Sri Lanka is 1990.
    • You can look for more emergency numbers at this link.

I hope that you found this article informative and useful. Please share your thoughts about this post and what you would like to read about Sri Lanka in the future in the comments section. 

I will meet you with another interesting post next week.

Until then, I say goodbye!

නැවත හමුවෙමු😉 (Newatha hamuwemu = Let’s meet again)

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