Beginning in 2012, Sri Lanka did away with its free visas, which had been issued on arrival. To nearly universal criticism, an online visa system was introduced. At time of research, this system was still being refined (e.g. after the number of people doing a short stopover permitted, the visa fees were waived for certain 48-hour visits).
Obtaining a Visa: Before visiting Sri Lanka you should do the following to obtain a 30-day visa:
Visit the Sri Lanka Electronic Travel Authorization System (www.eta.gov.lk) several days before arriving. Follow the online application process and pay with a credit or debit card. Once approved, print out the visa confirmation.
You can still obtain visas at Sri Lankan embassies abroad and there is a counter at Bandaranake International Airport for people who arrive without a visa, although you’ll have to wait with the other visa-less masses and pay a small penalty.
Transit visa good for 48 hours Free
Tourist visa good for 3-7 days US$ 10
Standard 30-day tourist visa US$ 20
Visas secured at Bandaranake International Airport cost US$ 5 more. You can pay in rupiah, Euros, UK pounds and Australian dollars in addition to US dollars.
For stays in Sri Lanka beyond the usual 30-day visa, contact the Department of Immigration and Emigration (www.immigration.gov.lk). They are not hard to get but require jumping through some bureaucratic hoops.