• how to rent your own tuktuk sri lanka

Everything you need to know on how to rent a tuktuk in Sri Lanka

The one skill that every backpacker in Asia has in common is saying “No thank you sir, I don’t need a tuktuk”. We often thought about how awesome it would be if we could turn the tables and drive these tricycles by ourselves. Little did we know that it was possible. Until we arrived in Sri Lanka! And after 30 days of tuktuk fun we were even more convinced: this is the best mode of transportation and by far the best way we ever explored a country. And it didn’t even cost us a fortune. Ever dreamed of infinite tuktuk rides? In this guide you will find step by step information on how to rent a tuktuk.

Searching for a tour company 

The most convenient place to rent a tuktuk is Negombo. There are some good reasons for that. First, it’s close to the international airport of Sri Lanka, so you probably will start your travel journey here. Second, there are plenty of companies that rent out tuktuks, so bargaining is a little easier. Third, it’s close to the Automobile Association of Ceylon (AA) in Colombo that issues the Sri Lankan driving license for three wheelers. Transportation between Colombo and Negombo (20 km apart) can easily be done by bus. Just look for bus 240 at one of the main streets, flag one down and the bus driver will tell you when to get off.

When arriving in Negombo head to a street called Lewis place. This is where most (budget) hotels are situated and as a result where most tourists go. In this street there are numerous tour companies that offer bicycles, cars, motorbikes and also tuktuks for rent. Visit a couple of tour companies and ask for a price. Don’t be shy to bargain a bit. An honest price is between 10-15 USD a day.

The advantages of renting from a tour company?

In Sri Lanka, it is also possible to rent a tuktuk from a private person. Although this can be cheaper, we would advise to rent your tuktuk from a tour company. Below, we explain why:

  • They offer a contract between you as a driver and the company.
  • You have the option to take an insurance (e.g. 50 dollar) that covers theft or mechanical breakdowns.
  • Most of the tour companies are reviewed online, so you have a guarantee that they are trustworthy.
  • You get the assurance that you can call the company anytime for any issue you have along the way.
negombo beach sri lanka

The beach near Lewis place in Negombo

Obtaining your Sri Lankan driving license

To drive a tuktuk legally, you have to be the owner of a Sri Lankan driving license for a three wheeler. During our road trip through Sri Lanka, we often got pulled over by the friendly police. They always asked for our driving license, so it is important to make sure you have this. Besides that, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, it is easy to get and it makes a hell of a souvenir!

You have two options for obtaining this license:

1. Apply for a license yourself at the Automobile Association of Ceylon (AA) in Colombo if you have an international driving license with you. If you don’t have an international driving license you need to go to the department of Motor Traffic

What do you need to take with you?

  • Passport
  • (International) driving license from your country of origin
  • Photocopies of passport photo page, visa page and driving license.
  • 3636.30 Sri Lankan Rupees

2. A second possibility is to let the tour company arrange the driving license for you. In our case, it took only 300 rupees extra (2 USD). For that price we couldn’t take a bus to Colombo. Within 24 hours we had a bright and new Sri Lankan driving license.

elephant sign road trincomalee

Not only elephants pulled us over a couple of times. So did the police.

Learning to drive the tuktuk

With all the paper work done it’s time for the exciting part: your first tuktuk ride! Depending on how experienced you are with driving a motorcycle this can take some time getting used to driving a tuktuk. Same as with a motorcycle your clutch for shifting gear is at the left handle. The right handle is for gas and you use your right feet to brake. Important to notice is that you have a lever at your right side. If you pull this upwards you’re gear shifts in reverse. Don’t forget to use your clutch of course.

Fun fact: your tuktuk can ride as fast forward as it can ride backwards. For safety reasons we didn’t try this.

The traffic in Sri Lanka

The traffic in Sri Lanka can be quite hectic. It’s not like India, but it is certainly as chaotic as driving in Vietnam, or maybe worse. Especially busses don’t care too much about smaller vehicles. So don’t be surprised that a bus tries to pass you just before a bend with or without another vehicle coming from the other way. Be prepared, drive assertive but give them their space. It’s a short turn to become a goner on the road in Sri Lanka.

And don’t forget just as in the UK and Australia Sri Lankans drive on the left.

traffic in sri lanka

Cars, bikes, scooters, tuktuks and people everywhere in the traffic!

Choosing your route

The great thing about Sri Lanka is that it is not a huge country, so distances from one place to another are doable. For some itineraries, highlights and more information about Sri Lanka, read our complete guide to Sri Lanka.

jaffna sri lanka desolated house

Jaffna and its desolated houses were one of the highlight of our trip through Sri Lanka

Advantages and disadvantages of driving your own tuktuk 

If you are still in doubt whether or not to rent a tuktuk, we listed all advantages and disadvantages we could think of.

Advantages

  • Freedom! By far the biggest advantage. You can stop or continue your journey whenever you want. You can drive where public busses don’t drive.
  • A once in a lifetime experience! Admit it, how cool is it that you can say that you explored a country with your own tuktuk. Not many people can say the same.
  • It is cheap. Renting a tuktuk is not that expensive, but also the price for gas is cheap. And it allows you to do other activities for a cheap price as well. We did different safaris with our tuktuk, without any guides or jeeps. A lot of main roads go through national parks. So just taking those roads means you are on a safari for free. We saw almost the same mammals and birds that safaris in Sri Lanka promise as well.
  • Local contact, everybody is interested! Driving your own tuktuk is highly appreciated by the locals and they think it is really funny. Even tuktuk drivers are friendly when they see you driving, waving and taking pictures of you.

Disadvantages

  • The traffic in Sri Lanka. As previously mentioned, the traffic in Sri Lanka, especially near big cities, is crazy. You have to drive aggressive defensive. You have to claim your place in traffic, but always be aware that they might not have noticed you or are not willing to give you right of way.
  • Limited space. A tuktuk is not an enormous vehicle, so keep in mind that there is only room for two adults, two large backpacks and two daypacks. That’s it.
  • You are allowed to drive 40 kilometers/ hour. We managed to get a fine for driving too fast with our tuktuk 🙂 (42 kilometers/ hour). Keep in mind that if you have a lot of kilometers ahead of you, it might take a while. Luckily, Sri Lanka is not a large island, so it’s probably the best country to discover with this type of vehicle.
elephants uluwawe national park

One the many elephants sightings we had. Everyday was a safari day with our tuktuk!

Why not pin it for later?

2018-08-29T07:35:41+00:00By |Saving money, Sri Lanka blog, Travel guides|

20 Comments

  1. David from Travelodium September 27, 2017 at 1:42 am - Reply

    Oh No the traffic and driving is as bad as Vietnam. That is something I didn’t want to hear. Never thought of getting around on a tuk-tuk everyone has a nightmarevstory about tuk tuk drivers. Think I might have to stick to the trains and bus.

    • Matthias September 27, 2017 at 3:58 am - Reply

      Actually the busses are the problem, they drive really aggressive and dangerous. As for tuk tuk drivers, we only had good experiences, I never felt unsafe with a tuk tuk driver. If you drive a tuk tuk yourself, it is always adjusting to the driving behavior of the country you are in.

  2. Praveen October 23, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Great article for everyone who wants to ride this cute little vehicle called tuk-tuk in the island. This is a completed guide to ride a tuk-tuk. Will be gem for future travelers who looking for some adventure. Thanks for sharing this informative gem with us. Keep travel and be safe cheers.

    • Matthias Verstrynge October 23, 2017 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the compliments, that is exactly what we are trying to do! So glad you liked the information.

      Cheers,
      Matthias & Mieke

  3. Eric Brownlow November 21, 2017 at 3:37 am - Reply

    Cool! I didn’t even know this was a thing. We might have to give this a go when we are there in the spring! It’ll just be a matter of convincing Meg we won’t die 🙂

    • pack to life November 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      Haha, I’m sure you and Meg will have a great time in Sri Lanka! If you need any extra information, just shoot :)!
      Thanks for reading,
      M & M

  4. Marion Paul January 28, 2018 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    Hey, i love your article and it makes it much more clear for me on how to proceed to rent a tuk tuk. am about to go to Sri Lanka and would like to know which agency you decided to book from in Negombo ? Thanks so much in advance for your answer.

    • pack to life January 29, 2018 at 6:47 am - Reply

      Hi Marion Paul,

      Thanks for reading and nice to hear that it was informative. We went for Stanley tours Negombo. The service was excellent and flawless. He takes care of all the paper work and you have an insurance.
      The price was also very reasonable. If you have any more questions, feel free to aks.

      We hope you will have a great trip and enjoy Sri Lanka!

      Cheers,
      Matthias & Mieke

  5. Calvin ho October 19, 2018 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Hi, I really love reading your article and inspired me to go on a road trip by Tuktuk in Sri Lanka. I will go to Sri Lanka on next month and I have a international driving licence, but it is only for automatic car, so can I drive a tuktuk with this license?

    • pack to life October 30, 2018 at 8:21 am - Reply

      I think they won’t make any issues about the international / automatic license. They don’t make many problems in Sri Lanka.

  6. Nathalie October 19, 2018 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Very nice to read you story and summary of advantages and disadvantages. Two questions, how was your experience driving in the rain > as in getting wet + keeping you backpacks dry?
    Next to that how did you manage your packbacks when you wanted to get out along the way to go somewhere?
    We are considering to hire a tuktuk as well ! 🙂

    Thanks.

    • pack to life October 30, 2018 at 8:24 am - Reply

      Hi Nathalie, most of the time we first looked for a place to stay and left our backpacks in the hotel / hostel. That was by far the most convenient way. After storing your backpack you have total freedom to explore the surroundings and city.

      As for the weather: we stored our backpack in the back, there’s enough room to store two big (70 L) backpacks. Every tuk tuk has sidings / leather curtains with transparent windows to close the tuk tuk when it is raining. Although I recommend driving when it is good weather. Much safer and more pleasant.

      Have fun! 😀

  7. Chris November 12, 2018 at 2:44 am - Reply

    Hi guys,

    I wondered what it was like covering the longer distances in the tuk tuk was like? Did you have any 4-5 hour rides? Was it bearable? Just planning a route around Sri Lanka and trying to figure out what sort of distances are reasonable to assume I can cover in one go.

    • pack to life November 13, 2018 at 8:01 am - Reply

      Hi Chris,

      It is possible to cover longer distances. However keep in mind that the tuktuk has a max speed of 40 km/h. The traffic in Sri Lanka is also much more hectic than a driving in a European/western country. If we drove longer distances we tried to aim for around 100 – 150 km max a day. Try to stick to the main roads, else you will not be able to do 100 km a day.

      Hope that helps, cheers Matthias & Mieke

  8. Jelle November 21, 2018 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Lovely to read your article, thanks! My girlfriend and I want to travel with a tuktuk, but we also want to take the train from Kandy to Ella. Is it possible to let our tuktuk transport from Kandy to Ella by companies like Stanley tours Negombo? If so, do you know what the extra costs are?
    Like to hear from you, thanks!

    • pack to life November 25, 2018 at 11:27 am - Reply

      It is certainly possible. They have “taxi” drivers that will ride your tuk tuk from A to B. We don’t know the price as we drove ourselves through the tea fields. Which was actually an equally as good experience as taking the train. Extra tip: we highly recommend visiting a tea factory and tasting excellent quality tea fresh from the fields.

      Enjoy!

      M & M

  9. Joana Magalhaes November 21, 2018 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Hi!! thanks for the tips! that is what we want to dom going in March. Which company did you use?? The ones I checked was around 22 dolars/day

    • pack to life November 25, 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply

      Hi Joana!
      Thanks for your comment.
      The company we rented from is called Stanley tours, but we strongly recommend that you do some “shopping” in Lewis place Negombo.
      Companies and owners change very often so having a look yourself will always get you the best deal/service. The price you say sounds reasonable, but we strongly believe that you can bargain some more especially if you rent the tuktuk for a longer period.

      Good luck and enjoy your stay in the wonderful Sri Lanka!
      Greets,
      M & M

  10. Audry November 29, 2018 at 5:48 am - Reply

    Thanks for writing this article! I want to rent a tuk tuk for the time I am in Sri Lanka but do not have time to find someone while I am there, so I want to rent prior to going. I googled the company you mentioned and found their Facebook page. I saw you said to rent from a company and just wanted to confirm with you what was included in your tuk tuk rental? Did you have any problems? Was the tuk tuk in good shape, or did it need repair?

    • pack to life November 29, 2018 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      Hi audry, in 1 day you can arrange a tuk tuk there. You can rent it prior as well. It includes the arrangement of driving permit, insurance and the ability to call the company if something is wrong with the tuk tuk. Many people speak good English but a translator can be helpfull. The tuk tuk was in good condition, but even if you have any problems there are a lot of local mechanics that will help you for very little money. It’s all part of the experience and adventure 🙂 ! Enjoy

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