My friend recently came from America (via India) and applied for the ETA, the new Electronic Travel Authorization. Sri Lanka was visa on arrival and this new $20 visa has been the subject of much debate. My friend, however, said it was quick, painless and that he wished more countries did visas this way. Of course, no visa is better, but the new system doesn’t seem that bad.
While the roll-out of the system was a debacle (the fees were revised multiple times, dates kept changing) it is now in place and has brought in Rs. 170 million over the first 45 days of this year. More importantly, going by a sample of one, it seems to be painless for tourists.
My friend said he just went online, filled out the form, paid, and got an email confirmation. He didn’t need to print anything, the approval was just attached to his passport number which they scanned upon arrival. The website is still kinda cludgy, but the system seems to work. So that’s nice.
To apply for the ETA, just visit eta.gov.lk. It’s all online and you should get an email receipt rather promptly. AFAIK.