If you’re interested in a Tuk-Tuk rental, Sri Lanka is the best place for your three-wheeled adventure.
For travelers that have visited Asia and been taxi’ed around by the little three-wheeled go-carts called “Tuk-Tuks”, there is a feeling of adventure attached to the sight of them. When you see a Tuk-Tuk, 9 times out of 10 you’re far from home, in an exotic place, and right where you want to be. But…what if you could drive your own Tuk-Tuk? What if it was possible to command that little motorized adventure tricycle through some exotic locale, to go as far as the road might take you…and then going a little further? In Sri Lanka, Tuk-Tuk adventures like this aren’t just possible, they’re recommended.
Experiencing Sri Lanka by Tuk-Tuk over three weeks of wandering “pearl of the Indian Ocean” was one of the most potent travel experiences I’ve had over 50+ countries and a few years of travel. Surfing, hiking through tea fields, hand feeding wild elephants on a “self-guided safari”, and walking alone through 2500-year-old ruins are just a few of the adventures I had. All in one place. All in one trip. All in three weeks.
…but is the Sri Lanka Tuk Tuk experience for you? Free-spirited wandering across varied landscapes in a part of the world you might know very little – is that experience worth three weeks of your life?
My bet: Absolutely.
Read on to hear about my experience renting a Tuk-Tuk in Sri Lanka (and how easy it was), what you need to do to make a similar trip happen (even if you’re thousands of miles away right now with only two weeks vacation), and why it is the best travel adventure you can have right now.
Note: If you book your Tuk Tuk using the discount code “ABROTHERABROAD” at TukTukrental.com, you will receive a small discount, and A Brother Abroad will receive a small bit of compensation at no additional cost to you. Any proceeds from booking will go towards testing out the Tuk Tuk Rental India adventure and writing a guide on that. So, thanks for supporting A Brother Abroad and helping create more travel resources for you!
CONTENTS OF THIS Tuk Tuk RENTAL SRI LANKA REVIEW
- Quick Review of my Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka Experience
- How to Rent Your Tuk Tuk with a Discount
- Full Review
- My Experience of Renting a Tuk Tuk and Riding Around Sri Lanka for 3 Weeks
- Verdict: Highly Recommended, Here’s why…
- Tips for Driving a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka
- 10 Reasons to Choose Tuk Tuk Rental
- Sri Lanka Tuk Tuk Rental FAQ
Do I Recommend Traveling Sri Lanka by Tuk Tuk? Absolutely!
When I first learned about the possibility of exploring Sri Lanka by Tuk Tuk my initial response was “hell yeah!!” followed by a “Wait…is this a good idea? Is it even possible?”
I learned about the possibility of Tuk Tuk rentals in Sri Lanka from a flyer on a hostel wall. I couldn’t find any reviews about the experience (the way I wanted to do it), or the company, so I was a bit skeptical. But let’s be honest – given my track record of motorbiking across Asia and infatuation with wandering through amazing landscapes like Patagonia and the Himalayas I was absolutely going to try out the adventure…even if it was just for the story.
But would I recommend the experience to other travelers? To new travelers? To travelers with only a couple weeks of vacation? To friends and family, I’m trying to get on the road more?
Absolutely. Here’s why…
WHY I RECOMMEND RENTING YOUR OWN Tuk Tuk
…because it’s the perfect adventure…
- Sri Lanka is a compact adventure, perfect for 2 -3 weeks: and the three-wheel freedom makes it easily doable. You can drive across the entire country in 8 hours
- Everything can be arranged before you arrive: booking the Tuk Tuk, getting your Sri Lanka driver’s license, booking the “must-see” sites, etc.
- Sri Lanka and the experience is safe – much safer than you think. The roads are calm and beautiful, and the locals are awesome. Watch out for water buffalos though!
- Its cheap! Easily doable on $50 a day, including your Tuk Tuk rental! Much less if you take a partner
- It’s a one of a kind adventure: experience such varied, beautiful landscapes and adventures in such small area and in a unique way (in a Tuk Tuk???) happens nowhere else
- The variety of adventures suits all traveler types: trekking, wild animals, surfing, and 2500+ year old ruins with insane stories means Sri Lanka has something for everyone, taking your Tuk Tuk lets you go at your pace and skip the guides and costly, style-cramping tours
Ultimately, I recommend renting the Tuk Tuk because it makes your Sri Lanka adventure truly your own and adds an amazing layer experience that I didn’t even expect
As for Sri Lanka itself, I have hundreds of reasons to recommend it and five great itineraries for doing it. You can find them free in our Ultimate Guide to Traveling and Backpacking Sri Lanka
QUICK TIPS FOR YOUR SRI LANKA Tuk TKU ADVENTURE
- Get your International Driving Permit while you’re at home
- Consider letting your Tuk Tuk agency get your Sri Lanka license for you – so everything is ready on arrival
- Aim for a 3 week itinerary in Sri Lanka, which is the perfect length of time. Two weeks is definitely great too.
- Book your Tuk Tuk in advance as early as possible
- Use my discount code “ABROTHERABROAD” to save (if you book at TukTukRental.com) …which also contributes to the India version of this adventure & guide, which I’ll write next year…
- Check out our Guide to Traveling and Backpacking Sri Lanka – its free, and absolutely the best Sri Lanka guide available on the net right now
- Check out our 2 perfect 3 week Sri Lanka itineraries for the best path during both seasons of the year. Also check out the 1 week, 2 week, and surf itineraries
- Look at our Sri Lanka FAQ to answer all of your questions about safety, money, vaccinations, must-see sites, and more.
- Just do it! You’ll thank yourself once you’re on the
PROS | CONS
No travel adventure is perfect (which is part of what makes it an “adventure”) so let’s review the positives and negatives of a Tuk Tuk adventure in Sri Lanka
Spoiler Alert: For me, the pros far outweighed the cons
- Limited space in the Tuk Tuk: You have seat space for 3 people and you can strap gear on top and that’s it – so its best to keep this adventure minimalist. Backpacks are best (I recommend a carry on sized backpacks) and going with a more minimalist packing list that has the essentials for adventure is best. But I did manage to bring a surfboard, a backpack, and a duffle bag full of food no problem.
- 40 kph Speed Limit: Sri Lanka sets separate speed limits for cars, motorcycles, and Tuk Tuks/tractors. Tuk Tuks can only go 40 kph so you’re going nowhere fast – but it’s honestly fast enough, and the perfect pace to enjoy the awesome views.
- Can’t do one-way train rides: The legendary Ella -> Kandy train is a 7-hour ride, so you won’t be able to do it round trip, back to your Tuk Tuk, in one day. Luckily, Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka offers Tuk Tuk pickup and dropoff to anywhere in Sri Lanka so you can pick up the Tuk Tuk after your train ride or drop it off before.
Also, you can ride short round trip legs on the train, like the Ella to Haputale route. I like more this approach more because the views from the Tuk Tuk are just as beautiful as the train ride, so I didn’t need much train ride to be satisfied. This 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary explains how to make up for the “missed” train ride.
- The price of the Tuk Tuk ($14-$20 per day) is cheap, considering the hassle it saves, the convenience it gives, and the cost relative to a private driver or rental car (~$50 per day)
- The Freedom to not plan…or change plans frequently makes room for adventure and lowers stress
- The ability to carry awkward luggage (like a surfboard) that isn’t allowed on a bus or train
- The ability to do your own self-guided tours, like a safari through Yala National Park solo, a self-guided tour of Anuradhapura, and beautiful road trips, like Ella to Lipton’s Seat
- The chance to interact with locals and experience culture in a different way, whether just randomly giving rides, or wandering through a village that doesn’t see locals
PRICE AND COST BREAKDOWN | Tuk Tuk RENTAL VS. OTHER OPTIONS
WHAT YOU PAY FOR A Tuk Tuk RENTAL
- $14-$24 per day (depending on the length of your reservation)
WHAT YOU WOULD PAY WITHOUT YOUR Tuk Tuk
- Free Yala National Park tour ($35-$100 saved)
- Bus and Train tickets (~$1-$5 per leg)
- Private Drivers (~$100 for a cross country trip – Colombo to Arugam Bay)
- Tuk Tuk driver per day for Surf Towns and Ruins complexes ($25-$40 per day)
- Anuradhapura tour ($30-$60 otherwise, free in a Tuk TuK)
So, for a 3 week adventure, traveling solo in a Tuk Tuk, I would plan to spend between $1000 and $1200
This would include:
- Tuk Tuk rental costs ($20 per day)
- Breakfast, lunch, and a western dinner
- A comfortable, private hotel room ($15-$20 per night, easily available in Sri Lanka)
I would also include
- ~$5 a day for tours and attractions
- ~$3 a day in gas/petrol
Keep in mind, you can do a safari for free in Yala National Park, pay $3.50 to do Pidurangala instead of the $30 to do Sigiriya, and you can wander the ancient city of Anuradhapura for free if you have your own Tuk Tuk. So in the end, this experience is cheap and saves you money while delivering A TON of adventure.
Why Rent from the TukTuk Rental (Sri Lanka) Team
Now you know that I absolutely recommend doing Sri Lanka by Tuk Tuk, but who should you rent from?
There are a handful of good options (I’ll share those later) but I adamantly recommend the “Tuk Tuk Rental” team in Sri Lanka. Their small touches, options, and attention to detail make for the smoothest experience for travelers arranging the experience from out of town or limited to 2-3 weeks of travel and need it to go smoothly.
From my experience, this is what makes the Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka experience pretty awesome:
- Customer/Traveler Support is on point for the entire adventure: From translating at repair stops to tips on where to go, to connecting you with other “Tuk Tuk’ers” and helping you solve normal travel problems. They rock!
- Booking Process is seamless and easy: So you can arrange everything before you arrive, and start your adventure day 1 in Sri Lanka. I literally arranged everything (even my Sri Lanka driver’s license) from my bed.
- The Team’s Sri Lanka Driver’s license service helps you maximize the use of your time: I emailed them my passport, driver’s license, and international driving permit, and had a Sri Lankan driver’s license the same day
- They do everything legally, including registration and insurance, which means when the cops stop you, it’s a fun and friendly conversation…not one you have to bribe your way out of
- They’re reasonable if you do damage the Tuk Tuk, unlike some places in SEA. If damage something on the Tuk Tuk, you’ll pay the cost to fix it, which is tiny. That fairness brings peace of mind
- The team’s Tuk Tuks are great quality and well maintained which means you don’t have to worry about breaking down in the middle of nowhere, or not being able to outrun a pack of monkeys (only happened once though)
- Tuk Tuuk Rental is a socially responsible company, giving 50% of profits back to locals to encourage moving from Tuk Tuk taxiing into high skill professions
- You get a discount when you book using the code “ ABROTHERABROAD” at TukTukRental.com
Note: There is a Tuk Tuk Rental India team, allowing you to do the same adventure…in India. If all goes well, I’ll do the same adventure through India in 2020. If you book with Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka using the discount code above (ABROTHERAROAD), A Brother Abroad receives a small bit of compensation (at no additional cost to you) which will go to pay for the “Tuk Tuk India”adventure in 2020, the review of how to rent and drive a Tuk Tuk through India, and A Brother Abroad’s free travel guide – India, on Two Weeks and a Tiny Budget. Thanks for supporting! And stay tuned…
WHO ELSE CAN YOU RENT FROM?
A Brother Abroad is about getting people traveling, and no single option is perfect for everyone. I recommend the Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka company because I had a great experience (which I paid for out of my own pocket) and think they’re the best option for myself, and my readers – which is why I plan to use them again on the India trip. BUT I want you to be completely confident in your choice, and to do that, you need to research the other options for yourself.
These are the other popular Tuk Tuk rental in Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka TS Tours: Very popular with the Dutch crowd and a few dollars cheaper, but insurance isn’t included
- Lanka Tours
There are three things that set Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka apart from the other companies I researched, based on my conversations with other Tuk Tuk renters:
- Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka had a seamless booking and prep service, having your Tuk Tuk, driver’s license, and documents ready the day you arrive in the country.
- Extremely responsive Tuk Tuk Rental support team while you’re on the road made being in the remoteness of some parts of Sri Lanka (where they might not speak English) easier, less intimidating, and more enjoyable
- The community of drivers renting from “Tuk Tuk Rental” and the extremely active Whatsapp group keep you informed, connected and making the best use of your time. Having someone (or 150 someone), like you, driving Tuk Tuks, spread throughout Sri Lanka, with your same perspective, and all ready to chat on Whatsapp is awesome. Way more awesome than I’d expected.
The Tuk Tuk Rental Whatsapp group made it easy to find out what the weather was like in a different region of the country (to potentially change my schedule accordingly), to ask if a destination is overrated ( from being overhyped by bloggers), to find underrated stops that many don’t hear about (like the Lipton’s Seat Ride or the self guided Tuk Tuk safari stopping at a monastery).
Yes, there are Facebook groups for traveling and backpacking Sri Lanka but this Whatsapp Group had 150 active users (in the country at the time I’m writing this) exchanging tips, driving advice, and asking to tag along on adventures or meet up for a beer (especially in Ella).
The Tuk Tuk Rental Whatsapp Group was a clutch plus that helped make the experience of navigating Sri Lanka easier and more fun
Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka team @ TukTukRental.com – Highly recommended.
VERDICT: DO IT, AND CHOOSE TUK TUK RENTAL
I absolutely recommend the experience – renting a Tuk Tuk and wandering across Sri Lanka
Just as much, I absolutely recommend using the Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka team.
You’ll thank yourself for doing both. Trust me.
HOW TO RENT A TUK TUK AND BOOK BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
So I absolutely recommend Tuk Tuk Rental, but how do you rent?
Simple, head over to TukTukRental.com and use my discount code “ABROTHERABROAD”, to get a solid discount.
Follow the booking process and then enter the code. This way, you get a discount, and A Brother Abroad gets a little change towards the “Tuk Tuk through India” adventure. If you’re worried about this review being biased then still head over and book, just don’t use my discount code. Then I won’t save any cash, and neither will you…sounds fair ;).
Either way, absolutely book this adventure. Absolutely do it with the Tuk Tuk Sri Lanka team.
Now that you’re sold on the experience, read on below for more information on the full process of renting a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka…
Now for the…
FULL TUK TUK RENTAL SRI LANKA EXPERIENCE REVIEW
HOW I DISCOVERED THE IDEA OF RENTING A Tuk Tuk
Sri Lanka was on my list for a long time, but oddly for one reason: surf. With its warm waters, sunny beaches, and crystal clear waters, I knew that the island of Sri Lanka was a beachy paradise.
I didn’t know much about Sri Lanka beyond that…so I loaded up my surfboard and flew to Sri Lanka with the intention of taking the train around the south of the country, making my way to Arugam Bay. There, in Arugam Bay, I’d sell my surfboard and continue by bus and train to the highlands for hiking and trekking, and to the “cultural triangle” for 2500+ year old ruins.
I had no idea I could rent a Tuk Tuk.
Then, on my first night in Sri Lanka I arrived at my hostel at 2AM, tired AF, checked in, paid, and passed a sign saying “Hire a Tuk Tuk and travel Sri Lanka”. I thought it was cool but dismissed it, thinking it meant to hire a driver to drive me in a Tuk Tuk around Sri Lanka. That could be fun for a day, but maybe not for the whole 3 weeks I had in Sri Lanka…but the idea was worth considering. I snapped a picture and dismissed it to check later.
The next morning I went checked the details on the flyer. I was wrong, in a way that changed my entire trip.
The offer was to rent a Tuk Tuk from a local and drive yourself around Sri Lanka. This sounded interesting.
I immediately thought back to my experience of motorbiking Vietnam and Laos, going to places way off the beaten track. That experience of wandering on two wheels in Asia was easily in my top 4 travel experiences ever, with the others being hiking to Mount Everest Base Camp, trekking Patagonia solo, and visiting the Galapagos islands.
My mind started reeling as I realized, driving a Tuk Tuk around Sri Lanka was a once in a lifetime, extremely unique experience.
I was in.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO VISIT SRI LANKA?
Sri Lanka is similar to Ecuador and few other places on the planet in that it packs so many different landscapes into such a small area – fantastic beaches, dry brushland, towering mountains, dense jungle, green tea country and more.
Within these landscapes, countless wild animals dwell within eyeshot and sometimes within reach – like leopards, monkeys, elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, and more.
After you’ve finished with nature, there’s an entire sector with 2500+ year old ruins that rival Angkor Wat and Bagan, some of which have backstories that rival game of thrones.
Plus, if you want true adventure, surf, zipline, or jeep safari until your adrenaline is tapped.
All within an island country that you can drive across in 8 hours.
So, why Sri Lanka? Because it offers so many unique experiences in such a small space.
I honestly don’t know of many (or any) other places this size that pack in those adventures.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO RENT A Tuk Tuk IN SRI LANKA?
Sri Lanka has a great set of travel infrastructure, perfect for budget travelers as the trains and bus lines run from any city to any city for cheap. So, why would I even consider renting a Tuk Tuk?
- Freedom from a set schedule or itinerary
- Ease of getting around
- Money saved (vs. a private driver)
- Easy to tote surfboards around
- The experience: Getting off the beaten path, doing safaris, and the experience of driving a Tuk Tuk
- And…you get to drive a Tuk Tuk! That alone seems bucket list worthy
Ultimately I chose to rent a Tuk Tuk because:
- I like to travel on things with less than 4 wheels
- I would be able to get off the beaten track whenever I felt like it
- I could move quickly and more efficiently through the country, not worrying about train and bus schedules and booking, or overpriced private drivers
Now that I was absolutely in for a Tuk Tuk Sri Lanka Tuk Tuk experience, it was time to figure out who to rent from.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO RENT FROM TUK TUK RENTAL? | PROS OF TUK TUK RENTAL SRI LANKA
The flyer on the wall was from a company that was ingeniously called Tuk Tuk Rental (Sri Lanka), probably to keep me from forgetting it. They also run a similar operation in India (FYI) hence why these guys (and gals) are Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka.
I’ll go over your other options for renting a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka, but ultimately I chose TukTukRental and here’s why…
Tuk Tuk Rental Donates 50% of its profits to local Tuk Tuk drivers
The first thing that caught my eye about Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka is that the company doesn’t own any of its own Tuk Tuks. Instead, it borrows them from local drivers and gives the local drivers 50% of the profits. For the local Sri Lankans, who would normally be Tuk Tuk taxi drivers, receiving this income frees them up to learn something new, hopefully, a new skill that will free them from the trap of unskilled labor as Tuk Tuk taxi driver.
Personally, I think that’s a pretty sick concept.
You Get the Right Paperwork (insurance, driver’s license), making it easy to deal with cops in Sri Lanka
The Tuk Tuk Rental team ensures everything is done the best way possible – as in, legally. This means that you’re provided the right documents (registration), you’re provided Tuk Tuk insurance (that is legally required in Sri Lanka), and they guide you through getting your driver’s license, or just get it for you.
This all means that when you get stopped by the cops for a routine traffic stop – or actually just for being a foreigner driving a Tuk Tuk, which is fairly uncommon enough for stops to stop you and ask “wtf, mate?” – you’ll be ok. Just show your documents, enjoy how entertained they are by the oddness of you driving a Tuk Tuk (which is pretty cool), and you’ll be on your way. No fines. No bribes necessary.
If you decide to drive without insurance, a driver’s license, or Tuk Tuk registration, then plan on getting stopped and plan on paying a hefty bribe to stay out of trouble. Police checkpoints are everywhere. Personally, I’d prefer to go with a company that handles everything the right way – like Tuk Tuk Rental.
If (like me) you’re too lazy to apply for your Sri Lankan driver’s license, you can email the Tuk Tuk Rental team and they’ll do it for you.
Funny side note: All of the posts and articles on Tuk Tuk Sri Lanka experiences I’ve read talk about how people will call you out because “you’ll be the only white person they’ve seen driving a Tuk Tuk.” For one, not all travelers are white (hence, this brother abroad), for two, even if you’ve got that beautiful brown to black skin (like this fella) you’ll still have some amazing experiences because of your uniqueness in Sri Lanka.
At one traffic stop, the cop was confused about why I couldn’t speak Sinhalese because he swore I was Sri Lankan (because of that brown skin). In other cases, I always got mistaken for a Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk taxi, so I’d just pick them up and let the interaction roll. The confusion on the passengers’ faces was hilarious, and the interactions were great, totally worth being a taxi driver for five minutes.
So, for the other travel writers out there – fyi, there are travelers out there that don’t look like they’re of European descent.
For all of the brown to black-skinned travelers out there considering Tuk Tuk’ing Sri Lanka – you’ll be just as much of an entertaining novelty in a positive way, with your own misadventures happening too, so roll with it and enjoy the experience!
The Tuk Tuk Team is Standing By Literally Constantly via Whatsapp to Help you Out
Whether your Tuk Tuk is having trouble and you need to find a repair shop, or you’re stopped in a random town by a cop that doesn’t speak English and needs something translated, the Tuk Tuk Rental customer support team is pretty awesome. I saw this as a light perk before, but after they found me a repair shop to re-grease my Tuk Tuk and then translated (because no one spoke English) I realized how awesome the team was, and how nice that safety net can be.
This streamlined experience, ample support, and good quality Tuk Tuks make Tuk Tuk Rental perfect if you only have 2 or 3 weeks of vacation and need everything to go smoothly because they do their best to make sure it does.
To avoid beating this point into the ground, here are a few other reasons I chose Tuk Tuk Rental
- You can pick up or dropoff your Tuk Tuk in any part of the country, and rent for as long or short as you want.
- The team provides training and a good lesson of how to drive a Tuk Tuk — definitely more valuable than I thought it would be
- Even with all of these perks, price is within $1-$2 per day of their competitors when you account for insurance, but be sure to research the other options yourself
- Tuk Tuk Rental was created by travelers for travelers – so the small details that matter to backpackers and travelers are considered, plus the price is low enough for most backpackers, especially if the cost is shared
- Did I mention you get a discount if you use the code “ABROTHERABROAD” at TukTukRental.com?
WHO ELSE CAN YOU RENT Tuk TukS FROM?
A Brother Abroad is about getting people traveling, and no single option is perfect for everyone. I recommend the Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka Company because I had a great experience (which I paid for out of my own pocket) and think its the best option for myself, and my readers – which is why I plan to use them again on the India trip in 2020. BUT I want you to be completely confident in your choice, and to have that, you need to research the options for yourself.
These are the other popular Tuk Tuk rental in Sri Lanka
- TS Sri Lanka Tours: Very popular with the Dutch crowd and a few dollars cheaper, but insurance isn’t included
- Lanka Tours:
Note: If any travelers know of any other Tuk Tuk rental options or can share their experiences (positive or negative) please comment or email me at [email protected] to help a traveler out
THE PROCESS OF RENTING A Tuk Tuk IN SRI LANKA
HOW IT GOES DOWN…
No matter which company you rent your Tuk Tuk from, the process of renting a Tuk Tuk is generally the same (or should be). Again, I rented from Tuk Tuk Rental so this is the exact process for renting from Tuk Tuk rental but may vary slightly with the other Tuk Tuk rental companies.
Here’s a checklist of what you should do before coming to Sri Lanka, so you can start your adventure straight away (details of each step listed below):
- Book your Tuk Tuk in advance (highly recommended)
- Get an International Driving Permit (optional)
- Have the Tuk Tuk team get your Sri Lanka Driver’s License before arrival (Optional, costs $40)
Here’s a checklist of what you should do before coming to Sri Lanka, so you can start your adventure straight away:
- Get your Sri Lankan driver’s license if your agency won’t be getting it for you
- Get a driving lesson in the Tuk Tuk
- Inspect the Tuk Tuk for damage
- Check the documents for the Tuk Tuk (registration and insurance)
- Understand key “Tuk Tuk” skills: jumpstart, changing a tire, checking the oil
PREP BEFORE ARRIVAL
The major things you’ll need to do before arrival generally are arranging your Tuk Tuk rental and getting the appropriate documents and licenses in order.
…and here’s some explanation of the steps to do before arriving in Sri Lanka
- I highly recommend booking your Tuk Tuk online (at TukTukrental.com come with discount code “ABROTHERABROAD”, for a cheaper rate and to ‘help a brother out’). During high season availability can be slim – I had to wait an extra day because I booked at the last minute and ultimately wasted two days in Sri Lanka
- Get an International Driving Permit before arrival. This isn’t necessary but makes the process of getting a Tuk Tuk license on your own easier and allows you to get a Sri Lankan driver’s license valid for a year, instead of just the 6 months allowed with your home country driver’s license alone.
- Have your Tuk Tuk team agency get your Sri Lanka Driver’s License before arrival is an optional step that I highly recommend if you’re on a short vacation (~1-3 weeks). The cost is an additional ~$14 USD on average, but that is essentially $14 paid to have one additional day of adventure, beaches, and safari, and saving a day dealing with Sri Lankan bureaucracy. Very much worthwhile to me. If you want to save the $14 and get your Sri Lankan Driver’s License on your own, that’s possible and relatively easy too. Just read on…
AFTER ARRIVING IN SRI LANKA
Once you get to Sri Lanka the process is fairly simple – just pickup your Tuk Tuk, (hopefully) get a lesson, inspect the Tuk Tuk and documents, and then drive off and start your adventure.
If you didn’t have your Tuk Tuk team get your Sri Lankan Driver’s license before your arrival, you’ll need to get your Sri Lankan “Three Wheeler” license first.
Here’s an explanation of the steps you’ll take once you arrive in Sri Lanka:
- Get your Sri Lankan driver’s license if your Tuk Tuk rental agency won’t be getting it for you. The process for getting your Sri Lankan “Three Wheeler” license depends on whether you have an international driving permit or just your home country driver’s license.
If you have an International Driving Permit go to Automobile Association of Ceylon in Colombo and they’ll handle the process of getting you a Sri Lankan three-wheeler license for only ~ 4400 Sri Lankan Rupees / ~ $26 USD (price changes often, so be ready)
If you only have your home country license (and don’t have an International Driving Permit) go to the Department of Motor Traffic
For both processes of getting your Sri Lankan Driver’s License you’ll need:
- Driver’s License from your home country
- International Driving Permit (optional, but makes life easier)
- Photocopies of the passport photo page, visa page and home country driving license.
- ~ 4400 Sri Lankan Rupees / ~ $26 USD (price changes often, so be ready)
- Get a driving lesson in the Tuk Tuk
After you have all of your documents, your Tuk Tuk rental agency should give you a lesson on driving the Tuk Tuk. These awesome little creatures (Tuk Tuks) are easy and fun to drive, but take a second to get used to. The controls are more like a mountain bike than a car or motorcycle in that you accelerate with your right hand and shift with your left hand. Its very interesting.
The Tuk Tuk Rental team had a Tuk Tuk driving instructor that gave me a one-hour session with a quick period of instruction and actual driving around Colombo together to make sure I was comfy. At the end, she had to approve whether or not I was ready to drive.
I’m no stranger to wheeled adventures and have ridden motorbikes since before I could drive, but I still appreciated this session. I highly recommend ensuring the Tuk Tuk rental company you pick gives a Tuk Tuk familiarization and driving session.
If your Tuk Tuk agency doesn’t offer a class on driving the Tuk Tuk, check out Tom’s video (from TukTukRental) below on everything you need to know about Tuk Tuks
- Inspect the Tuk Tuk for damage
At this point, you’ll be ready to drive, but (just like you should when renting anything in Asia) walk around the Tuk Tuk and check for any damage. Things to look for are anything broken, dinted, or scratched, working headlights, functioning brake lights, and signals that work, easy starting, and that all of the additional equipment (tools, jacks, screwdriver, extra fuses) are either present or noted as missing
Take pictures of anything wrong and ensure each problem is written down in the rental paperwork
For your own awareness, ask how much damage to the Tuk Tuk will cost and how it will be determined – better safe (by knowing what to expect) than sorry.
- Check the documents for the Tuk Tuk (registration and insurance)
Registration for the Tuk Tuk and insurance for the Tuk Tuk are the two documents you need to have at all times to avoid problems with the police. Check the registration and insurance to ensure they’re valid and be sure to take these documents with you whenever driving the Tuk Tuk in addition to your own driver’s license, international driver’s license (if applicable) and Sri Lankan driver’s license.
- Understand key “Tuk Tuk” skills: jumpstart, changing a tire, checking the oil
If you stall out, a battery goes dead, or you pop a tire, you’ll be at the mercy of generous locals or you can have the team show you how to handle the problems in advance. The skills I recommend asking about are
- How to jumpstart your Tuk Tuk
- How to switch from your main gas tank to the reserve tank
- How to change a tire
- How to check the oil
- How to add oil
After all of these steps, you’ll be ready for your Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk adventure!
Tuk TKU RENTAL OPTIONS TO CONSIDER
Not only is the process of renting a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka straight forward, you also have a few options to make it more convenient.
The best additional options are:
- Have your Tuk Tuk delivered to anywhere in Sri Lanka, and drop it off anywhere when complete
- Renting a Tuk Tuk by the day in your destination
Tuk Tuk Pickup and Delivery
If you don’t want to spend your entire 3 Week itinerary in Sri Lanka driving a Tuk Tuk, then you can just have it dropped off to you anywhere or picked up anywhere.
For instance, if you wanted to experience the north & tea country by train, you could head to Ella and alternate between trekking and taking the train to Haputale, Nuwara Eliya, and finally Kandy. In Kandy, you could finally have your Tuk Tuk delivered to you to drive through the ruins of Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Anuradhapura on your own before heading to Trincomalee on the coast and cruising in a Tuk Tuk between safari filled national parks and beach cities until you arrive back at Colombo.
By having your Tuk Tuk dropped off you have the benefits of an epic train experience through beautiful country, and the convenience of self-guided tours and adventures in places you would otherwise need a driver.
You can also go in reverse, dropping the Tuk Tuk off anywhere.
The Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka team offers this service, but so do most of the larger Tuk Tuk rental agencies, so just ask.
Renting a Tuk Tuk by the Day in Your Destination City
If driving in between cities sounds intimidating, you can always just rent a Tuk Tuk for day adventures. Arugam Bay has a ready supply of Tuk Tuks for rent, as do many other beach cities in Sri Lanka. This isn’t available everywhere, but the number of cities with Tuk Tuks for rent is increasing.
Note: If you have the info of any local Tuk Tuk rental agencies, feel free to share it in the comments to help other travelers
MY EXPERIENCE DRIVING A Tuk Tuk ACROSS SRI LANKA
When I first planned my trip to Sri Lanka I had no idea that renting and driving a Tuk Tuk was possible. All I had in mind a little surf, some beaches with warm water, and some good seafood curry.
So how did I go from “just surfing” to wandering Yala National Park solo in a Tuk Tuk chasing elephants?
I’m glad you asked…
The Adventure Begins
(**This is a brief overview of the adventure. For the full recounting, checkout our Stories of Travel: Sri Lanka**)
The adventure that followed was one of the best I experienced in a long time. Not only was Sri Lanka amazing, but having the Tuk Tuk gave me the freedom and options to take on adventures that other travelers don’t get to.
Here are a few highlights of my Sri Lanka Tuk Tuk adventure
Solo & Free Yala National Park Safari
I leveled up on the National Park Safaris and took the Tuk Tuk on my own Yala National Park Safari, taking a backroad from Tissamaharam into Yala National Park to Situlpawwa monastery. On the way, I had the park all to myself, driving myself, with elephants, monkeys, wild pigs, sloth bears, and more in eyeshot and arms reach. Completely free, without anyother foreigners on the journey.
The journey peaked when I ended up standing alone in front of a wild, tusked, bull elephant feeding it my lunch by hand as it let me stroke its trunk and tusks. This was probably the highlight of my adventure and something that would have never happened on my tour.
Bummed Around Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka’s Surf Capital
After plenty of driving, I stopped off in Arugam Bay, a place with a true island vibe and surf town feel with surf from beginner to advanced levels and great parties when the sun went down. Having a Tuk Tuk here allows you to explore beginner and intermediate surf breaks, without paying $25 a day to hire a driver. Additionally, you can check out the east side of Yala National Park on your own seeing crocodiles on the other half of your self-guided safari
Exploring the 2000+ Year Old Ruins at Anuradhapura
This ancient city and capital of the Sinhalese kingdom is impressive, sprawling, and rivals Angkor Wat. Having my own Tuk Tuk not only let me see the major sites sites of Anuradhapura quickly and at my own pace, but I also found several “hiking trails” that led to 2000+ year old buildings and tiny castles, strewn about, that I otherwise couldn’t explore on a tour or with someone else driving.
Just being able to turn right and wander when “the plan” was to go left made this all possible.
On the shady side, if you have your own Tuk Tuk, you can wander into Anuradhapura on the side opposite the normal entrance (i.e., ticket office) and save that $30 USD fee if you’re a good-intentioned but slightly broke backpacker
One-Upped the “Most Beautiful Train Ride in the World”
As beautiful as the train ride from Kandy to Ella admittedly is, any drive-by Tuk Tuk in tea country is just as beautiful. Before taking the Ella to Kandy train I had been hiking around Ella and riding the tea country roads, which were amazingly beautiful, so beautiful that the train ride wasn’t a big deal. Very beautiful, but just another “on par” experience in Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, I found the ride from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy to be just as stunning with so many beautiful viewpoints to stop at and take pictures at that it makes the ride take forever – in a good way. I stopped off and had coffee and “string hoppers & curry” to make the views last a little longer when I wanted. If you have a choice between the train experience and taking your own Tuk Tuk, take the Tuk Tuk
And there are countless other experiences you open yourself up to when driving a Tuk Tuk…
From stopping in desolate surf towns and empty beaches to have lunch alone with the ocean – to having my Tuk Tuk swarmed by monkeys – to hunting for coffee shops on a rainy day in Nuwara Eliya – to long cruises on coastal roads and stopping for elephants on the side of the road – having a Tuk Tuk absolutely made my Sri Lanka experience far better than it otherwise would have been.
Even giving rides to locals (who thought I was a taxi driver) and getting stopped by cops wondering why an American would want to drive a Tuk Tuk were memorable experiences.
ON THE Tuk Tuk RENTAL SRI LANKA EXPERIENCE…
The experience of renting a Tuk Tuk was quick, seamless, and easy with the Tuk Tuk Rental team.
They were very responsive before and during the rental, helped through a handful of situations, and made the whole process easy. If you are renting a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka, I highly recommend renting from them
ON THE EXPERIENCE OF WANDERING SRI LANKA BY Tuk Tuk
The experience of driving a Tuk Tuk through Sri Lanka was unreal, leading to a ton of great travel experiences that I in no way expected when I bought my ticket, and wouldn’t have experienced if I didn’t rent a Tuk Tuk.
If you have 2-3 weeks available and you’re looking for a fun, cheap adventure, rent a Tuk Tuk from Tuk Tuk Rental and ride across Sri Lanka. You’ll thank yourself later.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR SRI LANKA Tuk Tuk TRIP HAPPEN
Now that (I assume) you’re sold on the experience…or at least you should be… do you make it happen?
- Head over to TukTukRental.com to book using the discount code “ABROTHERABROAD” to get a discount. Yes, I receive a little compensation for you using this code (at no cost to you) and (as mentioned before) the proceeds will go to testing out TukTukRental India and writing a free guide for that adventure – thanks in advance for supporting J
- Get your docs in order to get your Sri Lanka Driver’s License, and review this section for the documents you need and details on the process.
- Consider letting the TukTukRental team arrange your driver’s license for you in advance to save time and energy, its worth the ~$14 fee
- Read our free ultimate Guide to Backpacking Sri Lanka for the perfect itinerary and all of the info you need about where to go, what to see, vaccinations, safety, and more
SOME TIPS FOR DRIVING ON SRI LANKA ROADS
As you rent your Tuk Tuk and take off, keep these tips and pointers top of mind
- The Speed limit for Tuk Tuks is 40 kilometers per hour, so avoid breaking that if you don’t want to chat with the cops
- Everything on the road is bigger than Tuk Tuks, including buses, trucks, tractors, and elephants, so be on the safe side and give them as much space possible and right of way as possible.
- Gas up whenever you get the chance. Tuk Tuks are imperfect machines and (even on the good ones) the gas gauge gets stuck on full often, so save yourself a headache and fuel up when you have a chance, and learn how to switch to the reserve tanks
- Bring stuff to give away like cookies and chocolates for the kids. I ran into little monks, and sharing cookies with them and helping them practice their English was a highlight experience of my time in Sri Lanka. It’s just an easy, good way to connect.
- Wander, and don’t be scared of it. Sri Lanka is very safe, and getting off the beaten track will take you to some wonderful places – it took me to many. Don’t be scared to get lost. It’s part of the adventure
- Take pictures of the damage on your Tuk Tuk before driving off. TukTukRental.com was extremely fair to me and I had no issues, but I can’t say the same will happen with other companies
- Bring a rain jacket and something to stay warm as it can unexpectedly get wet and cold in the high country, especially Nuwara Eliya
- Get a smartphone with a data plan or local sim card, and download both Google Maps and Maps.Me. Google Maps gives the best directions in Sri Lanka and Maps.Me is perfect for finding trekking trails and saving points of interest.
- Absolutely get travel insurance in addition to your standard Tuk Tuk insurance, which should be provided. The Tuk Tuk insurance covers the damage to the Tuk Tuk…not damage to you or an emergency flight to your home country
- Bring friends. I didn’t and as much fun as I had, I would have had more fun with some “road dogs”. If you need to inspire them, send them this Guide to Traveling Sri Lanka
10 REASONS I CHOSE TukTukRENTAL.COM
- Their customer support available on-demand via Whatsapp makes navigating a foreign country, culture, and language easy. From translating at repair stops to tips on where to go to connecting you with other “Tuk Tuk’ers” and helping you solve normal travel problems. They rock!
- The TukTukRental.com booking process is seamless and super easy: You can arrange everything before you arrive, and start your adventure day 1 in Sri Lanka, just go to TukTukRental.com and use discount code “ABROTHERABROAD”
- The option to have the team get your Sri Lanka Driver’s license before you arrive maximizes the use of your time and the adventure you pack in: I emailed them my passport, driver’s license, and international driving permit, and had a Sri Lankan driver’s license the same day
- With the TukTukRental team, everything is done legally including registration and insurance, which means when the cops stop you, it’s a fun and friendly conversation…not one you have to bribe your way out of
- They’re reasonable if you do damage the Tuk Tuk, unlike some places in SEA. If you damage something on the Tuk Tuk, you’ll pay the cost to fix it, which is tiny. That fairness brings peace of mind
- Tuk Tuks are great quality and well maintained. I’m picky about my motorized options and my Tuk Tuk was in great condition.
- 50% of profits from TukTukRental.com go back to locals to encourage locals to move from Tuk Tuk taxiing into high skill professions
- You get a discount when you book using the code “ ABROTHERABROAD” at TukTukRental.com which saves you money and pays for the upcoming “Tuk Tuk Adventure: India” guide and stories
SRI LANKA Tuk Tuk RENTAL FAQ
What is the price of renting a Tuk Tuk with Tuk Tuk Rental?
Prices for renting a Tuk Tuk (Sri Lanka): Rental rates vary by day
- 1-4 Days: 25 USD/Day
- 5-15 Days: 22 USD/Day
- 16-22 Days: 20 USD/Day
- 23-38 Days: 18 USD/Day
- 39-55 Days: 16 USD/Day
- 56+ Days: 14 USD/Day
- Refundable Deposit: 150 USD
- License Service (Ready when you arrive): 40 USD
- License Fee if You Get it Yourself (and have an international driving permit): 4,400LKR / 26 USD
- Tuk Tuk delivery to Kandy, Hatton, Ella, or Nanu Oya: 49 USD
Rental includes Tuk Tuk and insurance.
How much does fuel cost in Sri Lanka:
- 132 Rupees per liter of gas ($.75 USD)
What is the cost of not having a Tuk Tuk?
- Intercity Bus or Train Ride: ~$1-$5
- Hired Tuk Tuk for a day: $20 -$25 USD
- Jeep Safari: ~$35- ~$100 (as opposed to a Self-guided Tuk Tuk safari)
What about Tuk Tuk insurance in Sri Lanka?? How does it work? Do you need any?
- With every rental, Tuk Tuk Rental provides comprehensive insurance that covers damage to the Tuk Tuk or injury to you but highly recommend considering travel insurance for an adventure like this. Flying you to your home country hospital in the event of an accident isn’t covered
What happens if you damage the Tuk Tuk?
- There is a $150 USD deposit and any damages are taken out of that deposit. I didn’t have any accidents happen or damage to my Tuk Tuk so I’m not familiar with the process but to my understanding, they are very fair and keep the fee you’ll pay limited to the actual cost of the damages. Repairing Tuk Tuks s fairly cheap, with most issues (bent fender or bumper) costing less than $20 USD to fix.
What happens if your Tuk Tuk breaks down on the road?
- The Tuk Tuk rental team is always standing by via Whatsapp to help but you likely won’t need them. Tuk Tuk repair shops are ubiquitous and everywhere through Sri Lanka, and repairs are cheap, costing anywhere between $2 and $20 for most major repairs
Where do you pickup and drop off the Tuk Tuk?
- You can pick up the Tuk Tuk in Colombo for free, or, have the Tuk Tuk delivered to most places in the country for $49 USD
What about maintaining the Tuk Tuk on long trips?
- Routine maintenance includes checking the oil daily (which takes 2 minutes) and adding oil as necessary (the rental team will show you how to do this), and having the Tuk Tuk greased by a mechanic once every 500km, which costs less than $5 USD
Is driving a Tuk Tuk safe? Is Sri Lanka safe?
- Driving in Colombo is pure chaos, but the drive only lasts about 30 minutes. Outside of Colombo, the roads are still well paved, the traffic is lighter, and driving is actually very sane. Tuk Tuk Rental (from what I experience) does a great job maintaining their Tuk Tuks so they are very reliable and safe.
What is traffic like in Sri Lanka?
- Traffic in Colombo is pure chaos. Traffic outside of Colombo is very light with drivers following laws of speed limits, passing, and turn signal usage religiously. I somehow expected traffic in Sri Lanka to feel similar to the chaos of India or Vietnam, but (outside of Colombo) it was much like traffic in suburbia and mountain roads of the US. Safe. Calm. Easy.
What route should you take through Sri Lanka? Where should I go in Sri Lanka?
- The best Tuk Tuk route to take depends on the
time of year you travel to Sri Lanka.
For November to April, I recommend this
itinerary and from April to November I recommend this
itinerary due to the monsoon season.
- For more info on route, check out the itinerary section of our Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Sri Lanka
Perfect Sri Lanka Travel Route for November to April
- Day 1: Arrive in Negombo
- Day 2: Hikkaduwa: Sun and relax in a low key surf town
- Day 3: Galle: Walk along the walls of an oceanside fort and through local markets
- Day 4: Weligama: Surf and relax on the beaches of Weligama Cape
- Day 5: Tangalle: Arguably the most peacefully beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka. Just relax.
- Day 6: Tissamaharama (for Yala National Park): See leopards and elephants on a jeep safari
- Day 7: Travel to Ella: Enjoy a beautiful road trip as you ride from beaches to hilly tea country
- Day 8: Ella: Hike to Little Adam’s Peak or Ella Rock for epic views from towering cliffs
- Day 9: Ella: Take a tea factory tour + a scenic ride to Lipton’s Seat
- Day 10: Ella: Take a beautiful train ride to Hiputale and back or one-way train ride to Nuwara Eliya
- Day 11: Nuwara Eliya: Hike World’s End in Horton’s Plains National Park
- Day 12: Nuwara Eliya: Hike Adam’s Peak + Wander “Little England” + Drive to Kandy
- Day 13: Kandy: See the Temple of [Buddha’s] Tooth and the traditional dance show
- Day 14: Travel to Sigiriya, stopping at Dambulla Royal Caves on the way
- Day 15: Sigiriya: Visit Pidurangala Rock Monastery for a view of Sigiriya’s Lion Fortress
- Day 16: Travel to Anuradhapura
- Day 17: Anuradhapura: Wander the 2500+-year-old ruins of the Sinhalese Kingdom
- Day 18: Travel back to Negombo
- Day 19: (Option day)
- Day 20: (Option day)
- Day 21: Fly out of Sri Lanka
What is the weather like in Sri Lanka? How does it affect driving a Tuk Tuk? What if it rains?
- The Tuk Tuk has storm flaps that roll down and
do a great job of keeping the rain out, but I still recommend bring a rain
jacket and insulating layer
- Read our recommended itineraries by season to understand the two monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka, where they happen, and how to avoid them.
Where do you get petrol/gas?
- Gas/petrol stations are dotted across Sri Lanka. You’ll never run too far without seeing one, but I do recommend keeping your tank half full. The standard rate is 132 Rupees (~$.75) per liter
Is driving a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka as a foreigner legal?
- Foreigners can drive Tuk Tuks legally if they
have 1) A Sri Lanka “Three Wheeler” License, 2)Registration for the Tuk Tuk
they’re driving, and 3) Insurance for the Tuk Tuk they’re driving
- If you have these three things, police will let you go no problem – as long as you haven’t broken any laws
How long should I rent the Tuk Tuk?
- 3 weeks is the perfect length of time for an itinerary for Sri Lanka. Click here to learn why
Is it hard to drive a Tuk Tuk?
- No harder than driving a motorcycle…and much easier actually, once you get the hang of shifting gears
Can you buy a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka?
- Yes, you can. I saw Tuk Tuks on sale through Sri Lanka for anywhere from $500 to $1,000 USD.
Will you get stopped by the police? How should you deal with it?
- The police and military routinely run traffic checkpoints throughout Sri Lanka, so, if you are driving between cities (or across Sri Lanka) you will be stopped several times. When you’re stopped, simply present your driver’s licenses (home country, International Driving Permit, and Sri Lankan Three Wheeler license), Tuk Tuk registration, and Tuk Tuk insurance. The police will inspect your documents quickly, and then ask why the hell you’re driving a Tuk Tuk…because foreigners driving Tuk Tuks is actually kind of odd to them.
- Then, they’ll let you go. That’s it. The whole process will take 3 minutes tops. I was stopped about 10 times in Sri Lanka and never had a single issue. I did get a few “Sri Lanka Cop Selfies” though
How many people can you fit in a Tuk Tuk?
- Three, generally. I bet you could fit like 40 if you tried hard though. Send pics if you do hit the big 40 mark
What are some other rental options besides Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka?
What are average rental rates with other agencies
- From 01 – 06 Days hire. Rate: US$20 per day
- 06 – 09 Days hiring. Rate: US$ 18/Day.
- Quoted from: https://www.ceylontusker.com/Tuk-Tuk-Rent-Sri-Lanka.php
RECOMMENDED SRI LANKA TOUR PACKAGES
If you’re pressed for time or if planning out a good trip seems daunting then I recommend checking out the package country tours from Intrepid Travel’s Sri Lanka Tours as well as G Adventures for one to three weeks. Both offer a great way to experience the best of Sri Lanka within a short amount of time, and without worrying about the logistics of getting from place to place or booking. If you’re a partier or in the early 20’s crowd, then opt for Contiki Travels for a “lively” time.
The added bonus of traveling with a ready group of other travelers eager for experience and adventure adds a nice, social element to the travels.
- Click to check out G Adventures tours of Sri Lanka details, prices, and availability (7 Days, South Coast Itinerary, 18-30 Something Itinerary, etc.) details
- Click to explore Intrepid Travel Tour of Sri Lanka itineraries
- Also, if you’re a partier, consider the Contiki Travel options for Sri Lanka
MORE GREAT SRI LANKA CONTENT
- The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Sri Lanka
- 3 Weeks on 3 Wheels through the Pearl of the Indian Ocean: My Tuk Tuk Rental Sri Lanka Experience
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