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Hiring a Car and Diver in Sri Lanka: What You Need to Know

Hiring a Car and Diver in Sri Lanka: What You Need to Know

Hiring a Car and Diver in Sri Lanka: What You Need to Know

Unlike most other countries in Asia, when you need to hire a car in Sri Lanka, it is customary to get a driver along with it! Presumably, you need some time to get used to it, especially if you hiring a car for the first trip to Sri Lanka and you have never hired a car in Sri Lanka before. Here are some important facts you need to know when you hire a car and a driver in Sri Lanka.

Why should I hire a car and a driver?

Why can’t I hire and drive myself? Or take a bus, train or inland flights? Or book a package tour that includes entire ground transportation? Hiring a car with a driver is the best option for travellers who like to have privacy and comfort while exploring the country at their own pace.

You can stop the car at places that you find interesting to you and no need to worry about getting around. There are many options in Sri Lanka for travellers who look for self-drive cars. Several international companies, as well as many Sri Lanka firms, allow you to have self-drive cars. But self-driving cannot be recommended, especially for foreigners due to the mental health and safety reasons, as road are not in good condition in some areas and traffic rules are largely forgotten by many people.

Even though the train and inland flights are good alternatives to a car and you can cover much of the ground in a short period of time, you will not be able to see much of the country as you travel. Therefore hiring a car with a driver is the best way to explore the island; after all, Sri Lanka is not a very big country and I bet you would not exceed the travelling distance 200km a day.

Sri Lanka car hire with driver cost?

The cost of the car with driver largely depends on the distance you cover in the trip. Usually, the type of the car does not make a big difference with regards to the rate of the hired car.

If you hire a driver that capable of speaking languages such as German, Italy, French, English etc with the car the rates increases around USD 10-20 per day. Most companies charge their customers per kilometre, and the customers are charged a minimum for 100 kilometres per day, no matter what distance they travel. There can be slight variations in the rates depending on the company; however, the following are the general estimates.

Family sedan car

typically an air-conditioned car, most of them are Japanese brands such as Toyota, Nissan, Honda. There might be Korean brands such as Kia and Hyundai as well. The vehicle that can be expected in this range is Toyota Axio, Honda FIT Shuttle, Kia Spectra, Nissan Sunny. These vehicles can comfortably accommodate 4 passengers (including the driver) and can cover large distances without any inconvenience. The cost of this type of car is around USD 50 per 100 kilometres.

Large car

Toyota Premio, Toyota Allion, Nissan Skyline, Nissan bluebird are coming under this category. These vehicles have the seating capacity of 5 (including the driver). The rates of the car are around USD 70 Per 100 kilometres.

SUV’s and luxury vehicles

Toyota land cruises, Mitsubishi Montero, Mercedes Benz, Bluebird are typical vehicles provided in this category, the vehicle has very spacious interior and they are categorized as luxury vehicles. This is the type of vehicle coming under the most expensive category and it would cost around USD 150 per 100 Kilometers.

Usually, the travellers are charged for the entire trip. For instance, you will cover a distance of around 1000 kilometres (USD 500) in a 7 days Sri Lanka tour. Earlier mentioned rates include Gasoline, insurance, tolls, all government taxes, parking, drivers’ food and lodging. If you hire a driver/guide that speaks a foreign language other than English it would cost you USD 10-20 more per day.

Where to Hire From?

Organizing transportation is a primary functionality of any travel company in Sri Lanka. Therefore you can hire a vehicle with a driver at any of the tour companies on the island. Same times most hotels have a travel desk providing transportation, tours and excursion to in houses guests. Usually, the rates for the vehicles at the travel counters are high compared to the rates of tour companies.

Most travel counters are capable of handling airport arrivals and departures very effectively, however, it is known fact that most drivers of travel counters are not able to provide information about the tourist attractions furthermore their language abilities are also not as good as drivers of tour companies. If you plan a short trip from the resort and do not expect much information on the places you visit, hiring a car from the hotel is totally ok. But if you plan a multi-day road trip covering important tourist attractions such as Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Kandy it is recommended to hire a car from a reputable tour company on the island.  Unlike hotel travel counter tour companies have a large fleet and capable of acting swiftly in a situation like a breakdown of a vehicle.

Hiring a car from an individual is also possible through the internet. You will also find an attractive rate for your trip if you book a car in this manner.

But it is not possible to give you a guarantee of the quality of the vehicle if you book your car this way. For instance, the car can be air-conditioned but without much cool. Because there is no quality control of the vehicle but if you hire a car from a tour company or the hotel the quality of the vehicle is guaranteed. Therefore it is very important to have a trustworthy contact if you going to book a car in this manner.

Usually, the tour companies in Sri Lanka provides hotel booking, vehicle, tour guides and if necessary sightseeing tours to their customers. Some recommendations are given on the latter part of the article. Most tourists in Sri Lanka start their trip in Colombo and head to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, so these places have many options. Plan your trip properly and make some research and comparisons before deciding on what suit you best.

Where Does the Driver Eat and Sleep?

A daily allowance so-called driver bata is included in the price (usually a few hundred Sri Lankan rupees), with this allowance the driver is able to cover his daily expenses for meals and accommodations. Some hotels provide driver accommodation for within the hotel at the driver’s quarters, at an affordable rate. Usually, drivers are not sleeping in the car and vehicle owners arrange some form of accommodation for their drivers before the tour starts.

Some foreigner who visit the island (who are used to quality) often ask their driver to dine with them, especially when they are on the road, during lunch hours. This is not customary to Sri Lanka though. In every tourist restaurant (tourist board registered restaurant) there is a special table for drivers, which is the preferred place among drivers to eat. It is the place for them to have rest and have a chat with fellow drivers come by; therefore they may not comfortable sitting in the sable with you. Inviting the driver to dine with, it does not hurt him, and perhaps he might accept your invitation. Don’t be surprised if he reluctant to accept your invitation, you know the reason already.

Tipping the Driver

Tipping and gratitude are customary on the island! And most drivers expect it. But how much should I give him? Is a question that every foreign traveller has his mind? Usually, we recommend between USD 7-10 per day (however it depend on the service he provides)

What to Keep in Mind

  • Travelling between 2 cities in Sri Lanka might take more time than in many countries in Europe and other developed countries; it is mainly due to the slowly moving traffic in the cities. Otherwise, the road conditions in Sri Lank is very good, therefore travelling time in remote areas are considerably lower than in cities. Take the travelling time between cities to consider when you plan the Sri Lanka trip and allocate the plenty of time you need to pass cities.
  • In Sri Lankan case Google maps are working very well. And it shows you alternative routes when the main road is fully packed. Sometimes these alternative roads are known to the experienced drivers too. Google navigator can save time for you.
  • What every the vehicle you go for (Luxury, SUV, or an average sedan car) all are coming with well functioning Air-conditioning system. It would be difficult to drive in Sri Lanka without Air conditioning.
  • Don’t leave your valuables in the vehicles, especially the money and jewellery.
  • Try to plan your trip always with the return journey, because when you reserve a car it should return to the starting point and normally the price of the vehicle includes the price of the return journey.
  • You can book a car with a guide. Most travellers go for a driver/guide so that 1 person does both job saving a lot of money to you. Get hold of an experienced driver/guide to have the best experience on your tour. It is best to have a tourist board licensed driver/guide because they are well trained for the job.

Other Things to Expect

  • Sri Lanka is a country with friendly people and therefore you might be invited to visit the family of your driver. Usually, people do it in Sri Lanka to show their friendliness and it is a warm gesture. However, most drivers are coming from middle-class families, they might be thinking that you give them a gift may be to their children, I know that many tourist grant financial assistance to these drivers. If the guy had been nice to you and if you willing to make some kind of support to him, you can go ahead and do it! It is most welcome by your driver.
  • There is a possibility of suggesting some shopping to you by the driver. Usually, the shopping is included in most Sri Lanka tour itineraries. Even you book the tour with a tour operator or with a private driver/guide shopping is a part of the program. However, some activities are directly involved with shopping such as Kandyan cultural show and a cooking class at the spice garden.

Don’t be afraid to visit this shopping that included in the tour itinerary, it does not cost you anything, in fact, you can have a look into the places and their products while declining to buy. Because some of them help you to gather some knowledge about something you don’t know.  Visiting a spice garden give you the know-how of Ayurveda healing method, which is one of the oldest healing methods in the world, at the spice garden you also learn about a large number of trees, plants and herbs, most of them are not available in European countries.

At the gem museum you can learn about the gem stones that are been discovered on the island and at the factory, you will be able to see the manufacturing process of the jewellery. So is the Tea factory you see the entire production process of World renowned Ceylon tea. None of the activits in the tour itinerray are compulsory and guests have the freedom to cancell any of the activities on their wish, so if you feel that it is not necessary to visit those shops please convey the message to the driver, he will respect your request.

Some Recommended and Reliable Companies

Seerendipity tours is a company with very good history and provide tailor-made Sri Lanka tour itineraries.  They also offer many pre-planned tour programs. The company has a Sri Lankan management and a local staff. When you make a booking you book directly with the local company, it means there is no middleman. Therefore you can make sure that you get the best rates for your activities. Click here for tour itineraries and rates. Seerendipity tours also offer a free consultation for travellers who need local expertise to plan a Sri Lank trip. Click below link and leave you to contact details they will contact you and make a free session.

Free Consultation To Plan Your Best Sri Lanka Holiday Package

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

This blog is all about travelling in Sri Lanka, I am trying to illuminate my readers with a wide range of information related to Sri Lanka travel. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you need more information. Furthermore, we can organize your holiday package or any travel related requirement in Sri Lanka. Please contact us on

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