Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Driving in Sri Lanka

You should check your government’s website for updated information if you intend to travel to the north of Sri Lanka as there may be travel advisories in place for some regions.Sri Lanka drives on the left side of the road. 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 on the island.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. Alternatively you can obtain a recognition permit at the AA in Colombo.

Roads in Sri Lanka are graded by letter –

E – Expressways, usual speed limit 100kmh

A -National Highways speed limit 70kmh

B – Major provincial roads, speed limit 60kmh

C- local roads, usual speed limit 50kmh

The main expressway is the 126km Colombo–Matara Expressway linking Colombo, Galle and Matara. Work is ongoing on developing further expressways including The Colombo–Katunayake Expressway, Colombo-Kandy Expressway and Outer Circular Expressway (Colombo bypass road). Expressways and National highways are generally in good condition, smaller rural roads may have deteriorated and be in poor condition.

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 often 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.

Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.

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

We currently have no local car rental partners in Sri Lanka. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on

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 if you plan to go to Yala NP.


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