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Renting a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka

Wait a minute…renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka? Can I drive a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka? Is that even a thing? Oh yes it is! The best thing!

To rent a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka is the best way to explore the country and to guarantee the experience of a lifetime. Visit this beautiful country at your own pace and like a local.

We spent a magical month in Sri Lanka, during which we felt completely in love with the country. Our rented tuk tuk was a big part of the reason why, becoming one of the highlights not only of this trip, but of our all-time traveling memories.

In this guide we will tell you everything you need to know about driving and renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka. Turn that key, check the mirrors to see if someone is coming and let's get on our way!

10 Reasons Why to Rent a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka

Are you still in doubt if visiting Sri Lanka in a tuk tuk is for you or not? It is completely understandable, you probably have a ton of questions, we did too. With that in mind, here are the 10 reasons why, in our opinion, to rent a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka and drive it across the country is a fantastic experience you should not miss out on.

1. Close Contact with the Locals

The people in Sri Lanka are absolutely amazing! We never met such kind people, always willing to help, waiting for nothing in return, and all with a huge smile on their face.

Tuk tuks are everywhere in Sri Lanka and are used as a cheap taxi alternative. We wondered how a traveler driving a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka would be received, but we got nothing more than confused faces that, within a split second, turned into the widest smiles, waves, nice chats and even snacks and contact exchanges by the side of the road. People would stop to make sure we were doing ok and guarantee we were having the best time in Sri Lanka.

woman looking out of Sri Lanka train
two smiling men in Nuwara Eliya

There are about 1.5 million tuk tuks in Sri Lanka. Everyone seems to know how to fix one, so you never feel alone or “in trouble”.

We had locals stop traffic so we could turn around on a busy road, help us change a tire under the rain, and even keep an eye on our belongings while we were doing some sightseeing. The tuk tuk was the perfect conversational ice breaker and experience maker.

Group of smiling kids from Sri Lanka

2. Freedom & Flexibility

To rent a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka is to have the freedom of not having to follow someone else’s schedule during your vacation, which is priceless! No need to rely on tours or depend on the speed of people you don’t know when visiting the country’s main attractions. No need to bargain every time you need a taxi to the city center from your hotel. Neither to be on the hunt for a bus stop for 45 minutes, only to figure out it doesn’t exist since 1975, or wait for a bus that maybe is late, or perhaps it drove by too early.

two traditional stilt fishermen from Sri Lanka
woman in a Sri Lankan beach during sunset

Get off the beaten path, find waterfalls you didn’t even know existed, stop for a delicious samosa in a small village that no travelers visit, cross roads between national parks and see an elephant or even leopard crossing the road. There is no better feeling than this.

When we say “off the beaten path” we mean it! Our tuk tuk took us everywhere! This little 3 wheel badass, drove on concrete, sand, rock, mud…you name it!

Woman on a tuk tuk in Ella
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3. Easy to Drive

Let’s get something straight, we both have driver licenses but none of us has driven a car for pretty much 10 years, only scooters, occasionally. We went from being super excited, to be petrified the day prior to picking up our tuk tuk in Sri Lanka. But it didn’t even take a full day to get us addicted to driving it.

To put it simply a tuk tuk is like a hybrid between a motorbike and a car. So if you have ever driven a manual motorcycle, or are used to changing gears in a manual car, you are halfway there.

Man in rental tuk tuk in Sri Lanka
reflection of Sigirya on a tuk tuk

If you rent your tuk tuk via Tuktuk Rental like we did, you get a driving lesson prior to being let loose on the Sri Lankan roads. We were hitting the main roads after a couple of hours practicing with our instructor. If we manage to do it, so can you!

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4. Safety

Driving a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka is safe! But that doesn't mean it won't come with its challenges. If this is your first time driving around in Asia you will need some time to get used to the traffic and the concept of  “going with the flow”. Always drive with caution, mainly in big cities and around buses. Oh yes! Bus drivers in Sri Lanka are a bit cray cray😅. Accept the fact that buses are the kings of the road, don't be startled when they honk, simply move to the side, curse inwards, and let them drive by.

man in front of tuk tuk in Nuwara Eliya post office

Tuk tuks in Sri Lanka are at the bottom of the road hierarchy, just above chickens and probably tied with monkeys😅. The faster you understand that, the smoother the journey will be.

On the bright side, most roads are in good condition and well maintained throughout the country. Outside the big cities the roads are peaceful and the scenery is mesmerizing. Its beauty will make you want to stop the tuk tuk to stare at the greenery every few minutes.

woman smiling in a rental tuk tuk

If you rent via Tuktuk Rental you get a fully inspected reliable tuk tuk, all the paperwork up to date, extra tire and 24/7 support.

While we are aware all this might sound a bit overwhelming, rest assured it is a perfectly safe adventure, which you will never forget!

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5. You Can Help the Locals

Renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka will allow you to stop in lesser-visited areas, supporting a community that is not often impacted by tourism, but also, one of the reasons that made us choose Tuktuk Rental was their fantastic social work. They don’t actually own the rental tuk tuks, but rather match you with local owners, enabling them to earn extra income while you enjoy an unforgettable experience. An absolute win-win!

fishermen in Sri Lanka beach
Sri Lankan artisan man

Most tuk tuks in Sri Lanka belong to people with low incomes, and these three wheel beasts are very expensive, making it challenging for drivers to repay the loans they take to purchase them. While you embark on your dream vacation, they are getting paid for their tuk tuk rental, allowing them to generate income in other ways and significantly improve the lives of their families.

Tuktuk Rental were kind enough to provide us with a discount code for our readers💛. Please put the code “Gambozinos”, under “I have a coupon code”, when renting your own tuk tuk.

6. It is Comfortable

We must admit we were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable our cute tuk tuk was. Perhaps our jaded bottoms, accustomed to long journeys on tiny scooters, were easily satisfied, but we felt the tuk tuk had plenty of space, the seats were comfy and the ability to drive under rain or shine was just superb.

woman in rental tuk tuk near smoothie shop
woman in a back seat of tuk tuk with luggage

The maximum we drove in one go was 6 hours, with some small pit stops to refill the belly and the tank. We were traveling with two 70Liter backpacks which we shoved with brute force into the small space in the back, plus two smaller 30 Liter ones which traveled on the floor of the back seat. Maxing out the tuk tuk luggage capacity. This scenario with two people is doable, but if you are 3 people or have more luggage, we would strongly recommend you contact Tuktuk Rental and ask them to leave some luggage at their main office until your return.

While you might see tuk tuks in Sri Lanka carrying 3 generations of the same family, 10 chickens and taking Amazon packages to the nearby village all in one go, in our opinion a comfortable trip is with a maximum of 3 adults per tuk tuk, including the driver.

7. Price < Value

Ok…so driving a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka is safe, comfortable and gives me freedom to explore at my own pace, while helping the local community. That doesn’t sound cheap🤔! So, is renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka expensive? No, it is not expensive!

woman with tuk tuk in Galle

If your focus is entirely on the price point, indeed you can travel around Sri Lanka by bus, reducing the costs significantly. But if you put into perspective the value that comes with this experience, it is so cheap it will be hard to say no to!

The more days you rent a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka, the cheaper it gets, starting from $14 per day (it gets cheaper if you use our coupon code “Gambozinos”🥳) including insurance, and if you travel with more people, you can share the cost among all of you. To fill up a tank is super affordable and the tuk tuk has surprisingly good gas mileage.

couple sitting in a tuk tuk near Sigirya

We spent, in April 2023, a total of €41 in gas for 1185 km.

So, is renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka worth it? For us it was worth every cent! We loved having the freedom and it was in itself an experience we will never forget. We highly recommend it.

pig illustration

8. It is Fast (Enough)

The maximum speed for a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka is 40 km/h, so they are not allowed on highways. While that might not sound like an adrenaline rush out of a Fast & Furious movie (because it is not), you won’t be that bothered with the speed limit with the amount of times you will stop to enjoy the scenery. On the other hand, think of all the fantastic hidden gems you will be able to find thanks to your tuk tuk, as Sri Lanka has a fair share of off the beaten path roads (to call it a road is a bit of a stretch, but ok…) you will probably want to explore.

tuk tuk from above near tea plantations of Ella

The main roads are very well paved in Sri Lanka, making the tuk tuk ride quite smooth, and the fact that you control your time, makes it easier to avoid traffic and get faster to your destination than with a tour or bus.

9. You Won’t Miss Out on Anything

Visiting Sri Lanka for the first time naturally includes certain must-see locations and experiences, one of the most famous being the Kandy to Ella train ride. We entertained the idea of Eneas racing the train in the tuk tuk while I waved from afar, enjoying the journey solo, but then we realized there was a better alternative for enjoying the train ride from Kandy to Ella together, even with a rented tuk tuk.

Blue Plus Sign
woman riding famous Sri Lanka blue train

For an extra fee Tuktuk Rental sends someone to pick up your tuk tuk in the station you decide to start your journey, and drops it off at your final station, allowing you to enjoy the scenic train ride peacefully. We left our huge bags in the tuk tuk and when we arrived in Ella, there it was, waiting for us!

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10. Once in a Lifetime Experience

To this day, our Sri Lanka tuk tuk rental adventure in Sri Lanka pops up in conversations often, and Eneas keeps dreaming about buying one and driving it around as our main means of transportation. While Sri Lanka has become one of our favorite countries, and it has some of the most stunning sights we ever witnessed, most of our fondest memories are associated with our awesome tuk tuk.

couple having fun with rented tuk tuk

It is a thrilling and liberating adventure everyone should experience when visiting Sri Lanka. Sing out loud driving along the coast, cruise around immense tea plantations while eating your 10th samosa of the day, and cross a natural park with your eyes wide open, ready to spot an elephant at any moment.

man near the beach in Sri Lanka on his rental tuk tuk

The day we return to Sri Lanka we will have to rent a tuk tuk again. There is no plan B after you get spoiled with the best travel experience of your life.

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Where to Rent a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka

Tuk tuk rentals in Sri Lanka are becoming increasingly popular, but its quantity is not necessarily proportional to the quality. Remember, the goal is to have the experience of a lifetime, so choosing the right company from whom to rent your tuk tuk from should not be taken lightly.

We have met a fair share of people that rented from a random person upon arrival in Sri Lanka and none of those stories ended well. Take risks with things like “how spicy should I have my curry”, not on a three-wheel thingy you will drive around for weeks.

rented tuk tuk in Ella tea fields
woman looking Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

As you know by now, we choose Tuktuk Rental, and we recommend you do the same. They have a solid reputation, offer 24/7 support for their super well maintained tuk tuks, are insured, get your local driving license sorted, have plenty of pick-up and drop-off options and have thought of everything, so you don’t have to! Not to mention the team is fantastic and you are helping the community.

You will be added to a whatsapp group with everyone that is renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka at the time, from where you will get great tips, warnings to avoid traffic jams and even get together for a nice dinner with strangers that might become friends.

They are located in Negombo, near the airport, so you can land and go straight to their office if you wish to, but make sure you account for around 2-3 hours to be spent at the office, as you will have a introduction to the company’s mission, some suggestions for the perfect itinerary, and a driving lesson before leaving with your beloved tuk tuk.

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Sri Lanka Tuk Tuk Driver License

To drive a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka you need a local driver license, which you can pre-order from Tuktuk Rental (for an extra fee) and they will have it ready when you arrive, or you can go to the Automobile Association of Ceylon (ACC) in Colombo and take care of the paperwork yourself.

tuk tuk driver license for Sri Lanka

This process in ACC usually takes around 4 hours. If you are short on time or don’t plan on going to Colombo in the start of your trip, we strongly suggest you request Tuktuk Rental to sort it for you.

Via Tuktuk Rental you will need:

  • Your country’s driver’s license B/C or International Driving Permit (IDP)

  • A valid passport

  • A passport type photo

Via ACC you will need:

  • International Driving Permit (IDP)

  • A valid passport

  • An Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) visa

  • A passport type photo

  • A bank card

If you don’t have an International Driving Permit and only a B or C driver’s license from your country, you will need to visit the Department of Motor Traffic (DMT) if taking care of the paperwork yourself.

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Tips to Driving a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka

The decision is made: you will rent a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka and you will send this guide to your mom, to calm her down, when she finds out and has a minor panic attack. [Warning: She might want to tag along with you after reading this!😅]

To make sure your trip goes as smooth as possible, and you are ready for anything that comes your way, here are our ultimate tips to driving a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka:

  • Google Maps works fine in Sri Lanka, but always be prepared for more travel time than estimated, and leave room in your planning to go with the flow. Turn off the highway and toll roads on the app.

  • Check the engine oil and tires daily. Have the vehicle greased by a local mechanic every 1000 km (around €2).

  • Use your horn, not only for the purpose a horn was installed in a vehicle, but also as a blinker. Expect the same from others, don’t be scared with all the beeping. 

  • It is common to see animals (of all sizes🐘) on the road, so always drive carefully, mainly near national parks. Do not try to feed them and keep your distance.

  • There are a lot of police on Sri Lanka roads so always carry your passport and license with you.

man greasing a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka
water buffalos in Yala National Park

When they see the Tuktuk Rental logo they usually don’t give any problems, as they know the company sorts out all the travelers’ paperwork. The only time we thought we were being asked to stop by the police, they were in reality just waving at us. So drive safely and follow the rules and you will have no problems.

  • Don’t leave food or small objects inside the tuk-tuk, and always close it with the rain cover. Monkeys are very sneaky and no banana or cookie is safe in a lonely tuk tuk.

  • Order a tuk tuk pick-up or drop off if you decide you don’t need or want the tuk tuk for the entire length of your trip. Tuktuk Rental provides this service all over the country.

  • You can park your tuk tuk almost anywhere. Overnight try to keep it at your accommodation and during the day if you are doing some sightseeing and want to leave your luggage inside, ask a nice street vendor or shop owner to keep an eye on it for you. Just make sure to buy something from them afterwards to repay their kindness.

  • Always try to fill up your tank when at a petrol station. The tuk tuk has a 9 liter tank. 95 Octane petrol is the recommended, but 92 petrol also works.

black face monkey in Sigirya

While there were severe shortages of fuel due to the 2022 economic crisis in Sri Lanka, we had zero issues filling up the tank during our trip in April 2023, mainly in privately owned stations such as IOC.

Planning Time

If you are ready to start planning your next trip, here you have all the usefull links you need to make it happen! By using them you are supporting our work as we might get a small fee from it. But hey! You pay the same (or might even get a discount), so is a win-win situation!

This applies to all the links in this website marked with a *

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