Guide to Renting a Tuk-Tuk in Sri Lanka
Renting a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka is fast becoming a very popular way to travel this rather small, but beautiful island nation.
When I first started researching Sri Lanka we came across a blog that mentioned renting a tuk-tuk for the trip.
To us, renting a tuk-tuk sounded crazy at first, but as we looked into it more we realized that it was actually going to be the best way to travel Sri Lanka. So we did it!
For 27 days we drove around Sri Lanka with so much freedom. We visited secluded beaches, ate lunch in small towns, and got so far off the beaten path the locals laughed at us!
Looking back now, it was the best decision we ever made and we would do it again in a heartbeat. Renting a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka is by far the best way to travel Sri Lanka.
But how was it? Was it crazy? Was it scary? Was it fun?
Well, it was a little bit of everything, and in this blog, I’m going to share my experience and answer everything you need to know about tuk-tuk rental in Sri Lanka!
Thinking about renting a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka? Well, now is the time to book! Use our discount code DEST for your booking to get a tuk-tuk for only $13.50/day! This is a limited time offer and bookings need to be made before the end of June!
Our Sri Lankan Tuk-Tuk Experience
We drove our tuk-tuk well over 2000km in 27 days! Not a bad feat in a 3 wheeled cart that can only legally drive 40km an hour!
We visited Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, Udawalawa, Haputale, Ella, Nuwara Eliya, Knuckles Mountain Range, Trincomalee, Nilaveli, Sigiriya, Marble Beach, Dambulla, Maduru Oya National Park and many more places along the way.
During those 27 days, we saw more of Sri Lanka than most visitors and many locals were shocked.
We saw over 50 wild elephants from our tuk-tuk and drove through national parks on our own safari for free. On top of that, we saw lots of water buffalo, monkeys, spotted deer, tortoises, lizards, and birds.
Whoever says you need to do a safari to see wildlife in Sri Lanka didn’t rent a tuk-tuk.
We had no accidents, didn’t get one speeding ticket (I’ll put that down to luck), and never felt unsafe in any village, town or city. We did, however, get chased by an elephant, but, that was probably our fault… no, it was definitely our fault.
The freedom of having a tuk-tuk completely changed how we traveled and I really believe Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to do it!
What you need to drive a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka
To legally drive a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka you need a temporary Sri Lankan tuk-tuk license. To get your Sri Lankan license you must hold a valid license in your home country or have an international license.
The easiest license to get transferred is the international license, and most companies will get you your Sri Lankan license before you arrive if you have one – for a small fee of course.
However, we booked our tuk-tuk last minute, so I only had my Australian License. With most companies, this meant we needed to visit the licensing center in Colombo to get ours. This process can be painful and costly when you consider getting to and from the licensing office.
Luckily for us, Tuk Tuk Rental (the company we chose) was able to organize my license before I arrived anyway! They were the only company we found while researching who did this. The fee for this was $40 USD (it cost around that just to get your international license in Australia). This includes the fees payable to the licensing office.
If your license is not in English then you may need to obtain a translation so please check with your tuk-tuk rental company prior.
In my opinion, getting the license done before arriving is worth the money. It meant we could start our adventure right away!
Learning to Drive a Tuk-tuk
Driving a tuk-tuk is surprisingly easy but also very unique. In a tuk-tuk, you have one brake pedal at your right foot – this is your back break. On your right handlebar, you have your throttle which is pretty self-explanatory. Then on your left handlebar, you have your cutch and gears.
Your left hand will do most of the work when it comes to the technical side of things whereas your other hand and foot will act very natural.
Learning to drive your tuk-tuk will take a little practice so it’s good to choose a rental company who does a driving lesson. During my lesson, I practiced with my instructor on small streets with little to no traffic.
During this part of the lesson, I got used to changing gears and getting the feel for the tuk-tuk’s turning circle and indicators. After, I moved onto busier roads until I was ready to tackle the main road.
The lesson is a great way to give you more confidence on Sri Lankan roads and by the end, you’ll have learned how to drive a tuk-tuk.
Driving on Sri Lankan Roads
In Sri Lanka, you must drive on the left-hand side of the road and your tuk-tuk is also only allowed to travel at a maximum speed of 40km an hour.
I’m not going to lie, driving on Sri Lankan roads can be a bit crazy sometimes. In some areas, it’s really busy and can get a little overwhelming. However, one of the best things to do is stay left and let everyone else pass you. The reason for this is that buses and cars can do 60 – 70km an hour and won’t want to be stuck behind you.
The busiest places I drove were actually in the south along the coast (which is also where I first started). I found the areas everywhere else in the country very uncrowded and easy to drive (except major cities of course).
If you’re nervous about driving then I highly recommended heading out towards either the north or central areas first. Here you’ll have time on easy roads to learn about the rules and become a pro tuk-tuk driver.
How Many People can Rent 1 Tuk-tuk?
With a standard tuk-tuk without a roof rack, a tuk-tuk could fit up to 3 people with 3 big bags and 3 small day packs. This would be a little squished but is more than doable for those wanting to save some money by splitting the rental three ways.
For two people it’s a breeze and there is plenty of room.
If you want to fit four then it’s going to be squished and you will need to hire a roof rack to store some of your luggage. We actually met four French travelers traveling in one tuk-tuk. They opted to get a roof rack and said they managed just fine.
Please Note* Roof racks on tuk-tuks are illegal in Sri Lanka as the chance of tipping is much higher. That being said, we did see tourists with them, so only do so at your own risk make your own choice!
Storage in a Tuk-tuk
In a tuk-tuk there is a “boot” that is accessed from the back seat that can easily store 2 big travel bags (60 to 70L) and tightly squeeze three.
On top of that, the back seat can easily fit two or three, day packs and one person comfortable – two a little squished.
Suitcases could be a little more difficult because if they are too large you’ll have trouble making the most of your room whereas a bag can squish into place. For that reason, I recommend traveling with bags or a small suitcase.
Dealing with the Police
We never had a problem with the police. We did get pulled over a few times but just for a license check and to ask how we were.
The police seemed very friendly and most laughed at us in our tuk-tuk and sent us on our way. We also didn’t speed (or get caught) so we never had an issue with that. But if you are speeding or breaking the law you will have to pay a fine.
We have heard stories of some police wanting bribes saying you didn’t have the right license but we were told if that happens to call Tuk Tuk Rental and a local guy will speak to the police.
Is it Safe to Travel by Tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka?
If you asked me this on day one I probably would’ve said no way! However, after a few days, I began to see how the Sri Lankan road system works and how to navigate it.
In my opinion, if you drive defensively and concentrate then it’s no different to driving at home. In fact, once another vehicle realizes you’re a tourist they usually give you more room and watch out for you more – probably for their own safety!
What does it all Cost?
Renting a tuk-tuk costs between $14 and $20 USD a day depending on how long you have it and the company you choose.
Fuel is set at a government controlled price and was 132 rupees per liter (about $0.75 USD) while we were there in May 2019.
It’s important when deciding what company to choose to factor in a few things such as:
Will your company cover general repairs and maintenance?
Maintenance and repairs aren’t that costly however it will add up if your tuk-tuk has not been properly maintained and you run into many problems.
A couple we met rented their tuk-tuk cheap, however, they spent 3 days at garages getting repairs that cost them 2500 rupees that the company wouldn’t cover.
Will they replace your tuk-tuk in the event it needs major repairs?
Spending a few days in the middle of nowhere waiting for your tuk-tuk to be repaired won’t be fun. So finding a company who will bring you a new one to you, in this case, is important.
Do they limit the kilometers?
You would be surprised how many km’s you will do. In fact, we did over 1000 kilometers in our first two weeks (and we travel slow).
Having the freedom to do as many kilometers as you want is great and will save you any hidden costs. The company hired our tuk-tuk from (Tuk-tuk Rental) does NOT limit or charge for kilometers so we were free to drive as much as our hearts desired!
Does the tuk-tuk come with spare parts and tools?
Break downs can happen so having a tool kit and spare parts can make life much easier. Things you need are a spare tire, fuses, and tools for changing a tire. Even if you don’t know how to do it a local will be more than happy to help.
Are you insured?
You need insurance to drive in Sri Lanka so make sure you have it or you’ll likely face lots of fines. Also, be sure to check that not just your tuk-tuk is insured, but also YOU are. In the unlikely event of an accident, this will come in handy.
The Cost of NOT having a Tuk-tuk
Here is a short list of transport costs associated with the most popular attractions in Sri Lanka if you don’t have a tuk-tuk. This is dependent on a lot of factors, however, we made an effort to find out prices in most towns for this blog.
Ella to Diyaluma Falls – 3,500 to 4,000 rupees
Ella / Haputale to Lipton Seat – 1,500 to 2,000 rupees
Ella to Nine Arch Bridge – 400 rupees
Nuwara Eliya to Worlds End hike – 1,500 rupees
Bus stops to hotels in each place – 300 to 600 rupees
General trips around town – 200 to 400 rupees per trip
Scooter rental – 1000 to 1500 rupees per day
This just scrapes the surface of the transport costs but every day you will at least save 500 to 1,500 rupees on transport alone by having your own tuk-tuk.
Staying closer to the center means paying more for accommodation. Without a tuk-tuk, you really need to pay the extra money (or you’ll spend it on taxis). With a tuk-tuk, you can stay further out (in nicer locations) and get better value for money.
We often stayed at small guesthouses located about a ten-minute drive from the main tourist street or center. This often meant we had very scenic views (especially in places like Ella and Nuwara Eliya) and our accommodation was very good value!
Although the buses can be quicker than a tuk-tuk we didn’t have to spend time walking to and from bus stops or waiting for the bus. From the second we decided to leave for our next destination we were on our way.
We also saved a lot of time organizing day trips or tours. When we wanted to go exploring we just jumped in our tuk-tuk and let Google Maps do the navigating. No negotiating prices with taxis or tuk-tuk drivers, no booking tours, it was just so easy!
This was a huge factor in getting more out of our trip and saved us lots of time researching and planning.
8 Reasons we Chose Tuktuk Rental
We chose Tuktuk Rental during our trip to Sri Lanka. Overall they are a very good company who made renting a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka hassle free. Here are a few of the reasons we chose to hire our tuk-tuk from them:
1. Socially Responsible
All of Tuktuk Rental’s tuk-tuks (new tongue twister?) are not owned by them and in fact, they rent the tuk-tuks from local Sri Lankans. This puts money in the hands of locals making this a responsible way to travel Sri Lanka.
2. Driving lesson
The driving lesson is a huge reason we chose this company. We actually had an in-depth lesson with checklists to complete. Then we watched a video and answered around 40 questions on tuk-tuk driving in Sri Lanka.
Believe me, I was shit-scared before we did the lesson but afterward, I felt ready to hit the road.
3. Repairs are covered
All repairs caused by general wear and tear are covered in the rental price. This meant we could actually budget for our trip and not have any surprises along the way.
4. WhatsApp group
When you rent a tuk-tuk from Tuktuk Rental you get access to a group on WhatsApp. This group has past and present tuk-tuk renters in it and you can ask questions, share stories, and organize meetups.
We found it really handy and a great way to get off the typical tourist trail.
5. Fully insured
In our tuk-tuk rental price, not only was our tuk-tuk insured but so were we. As my travel insurance wouldn’t cover me driving a tuk-tuk (some do) this was very important to me.
6. On road support
Having a number we could call any time on the road was reassuring. We also had a lot of faith in the staff as they all spoke really good English.
7. License before we arrived
Because I didn’t have an international license before I left from Australia, Tuktuk Rental was the only company who could get my license before I arrived. Looking back, I actually wouldn’t even bother with an international license because in Australia they cost $70 and only lasts a year.
8. Well maintained tuk-tuks
Because they cover the costs of maintaining the tuk-tuk you know they make sure everything is up to scratch. Our tuk-tuk ran really well and we had no problems (unlike some others you see driving around!)
You can book your tuk-tuk with Tuk Tuk Rental here. Don’t forget to use our referral code DEST to get a huge discount making the tuk-tuk cost only $13.50 per day! (This price is for bookings made in May and June ONLY so hurry!)
Would I do it again?!
Yes! Without any thought I would love to do it again. In fact, Tuktuk Rental also rent tuk-tuks in India so that’s something I’ll be looking forward to next year. Oh, and we’re also planning on doing a tuk-tuk tour around Italy – which would be so much fun!
Maybe we should just travel everywhere with a tuk-tuk from now on…we could be called “Destinationless Tuk-Tuk”!
17 Things to do in Mirissa – Mirissa is one of the most popular beach destinations in Sri Lanka and theirs a ton of things to do there!
Things to do in Haputale – Known as little Ella, Haputale is a much less touristic town and a great place to stop if your driving through in your tuk tuk.
Things to do in Hikkaduwa – Hikkaduwa is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see turtles.
May 26, 2019