Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

The research for this website was carried out mainly in 2011 and 2012. Therefore there is a good chance that much of the information may now be out of date. This is particularly true of countries in the developing world, especially Asia and Africa where conditions can change often. Also, the political climate in many countries has changed a lot in recent years. Therefore the information on this website should be treated with caution. You should always check with your Government’s website or the UK Foreign office travel advice website before finalising plans to drive abroad.

Driving in Sri Lanka
Officially you need both an International Driving permit and a Sri Lankan recognition permit to drive in Sri Lanka, though I wasn’t asked for the latter when I drove there around 5 years ago.Ask the rental company if you need the Sri Lanka permit at the time of making the reservation and ask them to arrange it for you if so. Sri Lanka drives on the left side of the road. Roads are generally in poor condition both in and out of towns. Lighting is non existent in rural areas and driving at night should be avoided. Many parts of Columbo are chaotic- if you need to drive in Columbo try and get the rental company to take you to /collect you from the outskirts to avoid getting lost. Driving standards are poor – the uncongested rural roads present a particular danger- buses and lorries will overtake in the face of oncoming traffic –you should always be prepared to take evasive action. Expect the unexpected when approaching corners, junctions and hills- its not unusual for a vehicle to be on the wrong side of the road at a blind bend. There are likely to be a number of military checkpoints across Sri Lanka. Pay particular attention to the instructions you receive at road blocks and make sure you stop if requested to – the army are liable to open fire on a vehicle which doesn’t stop when requested. In summary, Sri Lanka is a typical asian driving abroad experience – you should drive confidently and defensively and always expect the unexpected.

Sri Lanka Car Rental –
Hertz, Europcar, Avis, Budget all have offices in Colombo or at Negombo airport.

This company say they have been operating since 1995 and have a professional looking website –

Home page

This is a long establish Columbo company who rent self drive cars –


This company also rents cars, usually with driver but they may also be able to help with self drive –

In Kandy, this company rents self drive cars which are a great way to get to the ancient Cities. I used them (in around 2005) and they were fine. If you’ve ever yearned to rent a tuk-tuk they even have one of those for self drive!

Sri Lanka Self Drive Rules
Cars can’t be taken off Sri Lanka and many of the big companies don’t allow cars to be taken on ferries. There may also be restrictions on taking cars to certain locations in the North and East of Sri Lanka so check this with the rental company.Also make them aware of you plan to go to Yala NP.


  1. Driver Abroad

    Hi Novak -it wasn’t a surprise when I followed your link and found that your company provides airport transfers and hired drivers! Nevertheless, I’ve posted the link. My view is that people should be informed enough to make their own decision on whether to drive themselves- thats the whole point of

    Personally, I have driven myself in Sri Lanka and found it typical of other Asian Countries. For a confident,sensible driver, I don’t think its necessarily a scary experience, especially away from City centres. I have actually had some of my scariest driving experiences in Asia with a hired driver. Both myself and my partner feel safer with me driving.

    Anyway, travellers can get some useful info from my site and yours and make their own decisions.


  2. I’m going to contact the company in Kandy because I really want to hire a rickshaw for 2-3 weeks this October! touring sri lanka!!!

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