Learn about the Healthcare System & Medical Insurance Options for Expats in Sri Lanka

The tropical nation of Sri Lanka is blessed with natural beauty, from thick jungles to lush emerald islands. The exotic mixes beautifully with the rustic as well as the bustling metropolis. Home to several ancient cities, Sri Lanka is reputed for its hospitality and friendliness. Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital and the largest city, which is also a major port, is a vibrant mix of colonial and modern characteristics as well as land and water.

Travelers flock to Colombo to explore its colonial past and enjoy its colorful heritage. But one of the major concerns for most travelers and expats moving to Sri Lanka is the condition of the healthcare system in the country. Here’s what you need to know about the Sri Lankan healthcare system and insurance options for expats.

Most people tend to worry about contracting infections and getting seriously ill. But the fact is that most travelers end up experiencing nothing more than an upset stomach. Yet, all expats can get themselves a comprehensive international health insurance coverage that covers them for all expenses at any private medical facility across Sri Lanka and beyond.

The CDC has more information on vaccinations for expats visiting Sri Lanka.

Overview of Healthcare System

The standard of overall medical treatment in Sri Lanka is low as compared to that in developed nations. Public healthcare is almost completely free of charge, but patients do complain about long waiting periods and encountering serpentine queues.

Though hospitals and medical facilities in cities are well equipped and have enough medical professionals, emergency services are limited only to the capital city of Colombo. Citizens and expats prefer to be treated at private institutions. As compared to those in other nations, private medical facilities in Sri Lanka are not too expensive. It is one primary reason why Sri Lanka has seen a spurt in its medical tourism industry.

Medical care is readily available in cities, which also have many English-speaking doctors. Sri Lankan doctors are well-trained and experienced in handling medical emergencies, though the number of such professionals is low. Both locals and foreigners can avail of facilities at public hospitals, but non-Sri Lankans have to pay for the medicines.

Get Insurance Quote Online

How the Sri Lankan Healthcare System Works for Expats

Buying International Health InsuranceExpats need to safeguard themselves against specific health hazards. There are mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, Malaria, and chikungunya fever.

Expats should also be aware of infectious diseases like rabies, hepatitis, typhoid, and leptospirosis, as well as travelers’ diarrhea and amoebic dysentery.

It is a good practice for expats to ensure they are up to date with their vaccines before entering Sri Lanka. Also, they should try as much as possible to stay away from tap water, ice cubes, and consuming uncooked food.

Expats should refrain from self-treatment or self-medication as much as possible. Some of the well-known private medical facilities in the country include Durdans Hospital, Asiri Central Hospital, Nawaloka Hospitals, Lanka Hospitals, and Oasis Hospital.

Public Healthcare System

Before moving to Sri Lanka, expats must ensure they have taken all necessary medical precautions. Public healthcare is open to all expats free of cost, but they have to pay for the medicines. At times expats are even asked to donate to that specific care facility. However, public hospitals have long waiting periods, and many may not have medical care up to Western standards.

Private Healthcare System

Private medical facilities have better standards and quality than public ones. However, rural private medical care centers lack standard facilities. The ancient medical system of Ayurveda is still in practice in Sri Lanka. In our experience, expats and global citizens should NOT participate in the local health coverage offered by insurers in Sri Lanka. It makes more sense to get a comprehensive global health plan from Cigna or IMG.


Expats have to purchase all medicines, even if they avail of medical facilities in a public hospital where treatment is free. Prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs are readily available. Still, the buyer must ensure the medication is adequately sealed and check the expiry date on the container or pill strip.

Pharmacies in Sri Lanka are regulated by the National Medicines Regulatory Authority, ensuring the safety and quality of drugs. Traditional and modern pharmacies coexist, with traditional Ayurvedic remedies also widely available. Access to healthcare varies by region.

Emergency Services

Dial 110 for help and assistance in case of a medical emergency. This number is operational in all the districts of Colombo, Galle, Kandy, and Jaffna. There are plans to provide this facility at a national level.

In major cities like Colombo, private hospitals such as Asiri, Nawaloka, and Lanka Hospitals offer high-quality medical care.

Best Private International Medical Insurance for Expats Living in Sri Lanka

Purchasing a comprehensive health insurance plan is a must for all expats. They should invest in one that covers medical emergencies and emergency evacuations. A difficult medical situation where local hospitals cannot treat a patient could require evacuation to another country with better medical facilities. Also, medical insurance should cover facilities provided by private healthcare centers in Sri Lanka. An accident or a medical emergency can arise at any time. At such times, a health insurance policy comes in handy.

Cigna Global and Allianz International are two of the most popular global insurance companies that currently offer international health insurance plans to expatriates residing in Sri Lanka. You can compare their programs before choosing the right one or contact us to learn more.

Get Insurance Quote Online

Learn about top 5 countries in Asia to retire.