Rent a car with a driver in Sri Lanka costs and what do you need to know?

Sri Lanka is a tropical country with golden beaches, crashing waves, Misty hills, strong mighty elephants, ginat whales, cunning leopards, a regal past, lovely tea and friendly smiles. The travellers can enjoy riding waves in the morning while admiring green capped mountain at an elevation 1800 meters above sea-level in the afternoon. Because Sri Lanka is condensed with places and activities into small geographical area, variations of experinces are so varied that every tarvellers will have something to do on the island from sun-kissed beach vacations to wildlife exploration and visitng historical monuments to white water rafting, jungle trekking and many more. Sri Lanka is also popular for its spicy delicious cuisine, delicious fresh fruit, friendly people and aa verity of sweetmeat that evolved over many thousands of years and many generations. The island offers a large number of festival and celebrations throughout the year, representing all four major religions. So much to see and do in Sri Lanka it is highly important to have efficient, trustworthy and comfortable way of travelling in Sri Lanka, here are the tips and tricks when rent a car with a driver in Sri Lanka.

Table of Contents

Rent a car with a driver in Sri Lanka cost and what you need to know?

When you rent 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’re coming from a western country and in Sri Lanka for the first time. This is mainly due to the different driving conditions. We as a local tour operator receive a large number of enquiries for vehicles from travellers. And most travellers wish to have private tour packages with local drivers. The car and driver in Sri Lanka cost largely varied based on many factors such as type of vehicle, duration of the trip, language requirement, etc.

Hire a Car and driver in Sri Lanka: What You Need To Know

Unlike in most other countries in Asia, renting a car in Sri Lanka with a driver is a very common practice among travellers, especially among foreign travellers. Rather than renting a self-drive car, I feel it is safe to have a local driver-driven car especially if you are not familiar with Sri Lankan traffic. Usually, when you book a Sri Lanka trip such as Sri Lanka 5 days trip, or a Sri Lanka classical 7 days tour, you are entitled to have a luxury car with an experienced local driver/guide, unless you ask for a tour package without a vehicle.

Hiring a car and driver in Sri Lanka during the economic challenging time

Sri Lanka is facing a scarcity of hard currency due to various reasons such as reduced export earnings resulted from COVID-19. Owing to foreign currency scarcity, the island has considerably reduced the import of many items such as crude oil. The vehicle owners are issued fuel on limited capacity, thereby most taxi drivers find it difficult to provide uninterrupted service to their customers. However, tourism-related businesses such as tour operators, that earn foreign currency for the island, have been provided with enough fuel for their vehicles. The program was started by the Sri Lanka tourist board and the facility can be used by governemnt registered travel companies such as Seerendipity tours. So, be careful when you hire a vehicle with a guide next time and make sure that your taxi gets enough fuel for the trip.

Do I get a driver when I rent a car in Sri Lanka?

When you rent 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 rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver for the first time. It is highly recommended to arrange your driver with a car in Sri Lanka before landing at Colombo airport. If you are renting a car in Sri Lanka at the last moment, it might cause you a big loss due to the high rate and on the other hand, you will have to compromise with the quality of the vehicle.

Some important facts you need to know when you rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver.

Why should I rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver?

Why should I rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver? why can’t I drive myself? Or take a bus, train or inland flights? Or book a package tour that includes entire ground transportation? rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver is the best option for travellers, who like to have privacy and comfort while exploring the country at their own pace, most of all it is safe amidst Sri Lanka’s chaotic traffic.

Self-drive vehicles

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 mental health and safety reasons, as roads are not in good condition in some areas and traffic rules are largely forgotten by many people.

Inland flight Vs hiring a car with a driver

Even though 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 of 200km a day.

What decides the car and driver in Sri Lanka costs?

Car and driver Sri Lanka’s cost largely depends on the distance you cover in the trip, the type of vehicle, and the linguistic capabilities of the driver/guide. Usually, the distance to be covered on the trip is the main cost factor when you think of the car and driver in Sri Lanka cost. The type of vehicle also makes a big difference e.g if you opt for a luxury sedan such as Mercedes, the cost of the hive is very high compared to the trip with a Japanese car.

Is it possible to hire a driver with foreign language proficiency?

Yes, you can hire a driver/guide with your language preference. If you hire a driver that capable of speaking languages such as German, Italian, French, English, etc with the car the rates increase around US$ 10-20 per day. Most companies charge their customers per kilometre, and the customers are charged a minimum of 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.

Rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver – a Family sedan car

Typically air-conditioned cars, most of them are Japanese brands such as Toyota, Nissan, and 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, and 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 US$ 50 per 100 kilometre.

Car and driver Sri Lanka cost with a sedan

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

I have booked the hotels on my own and I need only the car and a driver

There are many travellers, who book their accommodation in preferred hotels on their own, therefore, the local agent should provide them only a taxi with a driver. Many travellers opt for this option, however, it increases their travel budget considerably. When the travellers book accommodation with agents they do not charge for the driver’s accommodation or meals from their customers. However, if the travellers book only the taxi and the driver, the passengers should pay extra for the driver’s accommodation and meals, which cost around 25% of the total transport bill.

Rent SUVs and luxury vehicles in Sri Lanka with a driver

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

Usually, the travellers are charged for the entire trip. For instance, you will cover a distance of around 1000 kilometres (US$ 500) in a 7-day 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 US$ 10-20 more per day.

Rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver, where can I do it?

Organizing transportation is a primary function 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 time most hotels have a travel desk providing transportation, tours, and excursion to house guests. Usually, the rates for the vehicles at the travel counters are high compared to the rates of tour companies.

Car and driver hire in Sri Lanka at the airport

Most travel counters are capable of handling airport arrivals and departures very effectively, however, it is a 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, and Kandy it is recommended to hire a car from a reputable tour company on the island. Unlike hotel travel counters tour companies have a large fleet and are capable of acting swiftly in a situation like a breakdown of a vehicle.

Car and driver hire in Sri Lanka through individual suppliers

Hiring a car and driver in Sri Lanka from an individual is also possible usually some people do it through the internet or private contact. You will also find an attractive rate for your trip if you book a car in this manner. If you are hiring a car and a driver from an individual it is highly recommended to check if the vehicle is fully insured with passenger coverage. Usually, most private vehicle on the island does not have the passengers covered due to the high premium.

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 a 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.

Arrange your driver with a car in Sri Lanka through a tour operator

Usually, the tour companies in Sri Lanka provide hotel booking, vehicles, tour guides and if necessary sightseeing tours to their customers. Some recommendations are given in 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.

Benefits of hiring a car and driver through a tour operator

Tour operators maintain a vehicle fleet in order to meet the transport requirement of their customers. Unlike vehicles owned by an individual owner, the vehicle of tour operators maintains good running conditions and they have dedicated staff for every individual vehicle. Even during the economic downturn in Sri Lanka, when the fuel supply was restricted for individual vehicle owners, tour operators like seerendipity tours were granted fuel for their customers without any limitations through the meditation of the Sri Lanak tourist board. Due to the large pool and well-maintained vehicles, the travellers should not need to have any worry in case of a breakdown during the trip, because they can replace the vehicle immediately.

The staff of travel agents, especially the guides are going through regular training sessions organized by the tour operators and they are thoroughly educated on how to provide the best service to travellers. The tour operators hire only tourist board-trained tour guides means you get the service of qualified tour guides. It is not difficult to hire a guide in Sri Lanka, however, most of them are not qualified.

Therefore, It is highly advisable to organize your holidays through an agent because travel agents take care of the organizing part of the tour. If you are travelling for the first time in Sri Lanka, you may find it difficult to find places to stay and important attractions.

Where does the driver eat and sleep?

When you are hiring a car and driver in Sri Lanka, the 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 accommodation. Some hotels provide driver accommodation 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 often asks their driver to dine with them, especially when they are on the road, during lunch hours. This is not customary in 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 rest and have a chat with fellow drivers who come by; therefore they may not be comfortable sitting in the sable with you. Inviting the driver to dine with, does not hurt him, and perhaps he might accept your invitation. Don’t be surprised if he is reluctant to accept your invitation, you know the reason already.

What do you really need to travel to Sri Lanka (officially)?

  • Visa
  • Valid passport
  • How is it to travel alone to Sri Lanka?

Rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver- Tips and gratuities

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

Private driver with tour guide license

First hand, you need to have a national tourist guide license holder to accompany you around the country. They are specially trained by the national tourist board of Sri Lanka; they are well-educated and capable of giving trustworthy information about the country, history, nature, and people of Sri Lanka.

Cheap alternatives for travel agents

There is a possibility of hiring a tourist guide to lecture for your trip to the country. You can find the contacts of these tourist guides on the internet. Hiring a trustworthy Tourist guide to solve most of your problems pertaining to Sri Lanka travel. They are also providing all services rendered by the costly travel agent for a fraction of the cost charged by the travel agents.

Accommodation

Accommodations are available in plenty for travellers in Sri Lanka. The prices of accommodation varied depending on the type of accommodation. One can find expensive luxurious accommodation to accommodation with very basic facilities for a few dollars.

It is highly advisable to have your accommodation confirmed before arriving in Sri Lanka. Otherwise, you may have to face some difficulties to find a proper place to stay. Furthermore, it is usually expensive when you make a hotel reservation as a walk-in guest.

Note: be careful with online hotel reservations. Some accommodation providers make a very rosy picture of the property through the internet but you may find it to be totally different once arrive in the place.

Travelling in Sri Lanka

It is highly advisable to sit in the back seat of the car. The drivers of Sri Lanka have their own traffic rules, which are known only by them. It may seem to be a deadly task to drive in Sri Lanka but once you are familiar with it, you can live with it. Hiring a vehicle is the best way to travel to Sri Lanka. Public transportation such as Buses and trains take a lot more time than required for a drive and is usually very crowded. Tuk Tuk is a good option against public transportation; it is cheap but not suitable for a long drive.

Should I take a Sri Lanka package tour?

Sri Lanka is a country with one of the oldest histories in the world. It is one of the few countries that are continuously inhabited since the pre-Christian era. This Asian country has a lot to share with you such as thousands of years of old ancient cities, ancient religious sites, wildlife reserves, primaeval rainforests, attractions with Colonial influence, and many UNESCO-declared world heritage sites. Just pack your bag and take the tour it is highly worth taking a tour in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Money

Sri Lanka Rupees (Rs) is the official name of the Sri Lankan currency and it is divided into 100 Cents. Most currencies available in the world are accepted on the island. You can change the money at the airport, where there is a large number of bank counters. Changing the money at banks enables you to have the best exchange rate while exchange rates in hotels are always lower than at the banks.

What’s the meal like

Sri Lanka’s kitchen is known to be very spicy. Like most Asian people, Sri Lankans also like to eat spicily and add a lot of spices, chillies, and pepper. But for most palates, the foods are spicy but very tasty.

Note: if you can’t bear spicy food ask the cook to prepare some food with less spicy or without chilli. It does not cost you extra. Another alternative is to have some ground coconut with spicy dishes. Ground coconut reduces the impact of spicy foods.

Drinks

The country is endowed with a large array of tropical fruits. There is plenty of opportunities to get fresh fruit juices at very cheap rates. Thambili or King Coconut is the most popular thirst quencher in the country. It is a variety of coconut with a lot of tasty water and is full of vitamins and minerals.

Rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver – 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 slow-moving traffic in the cities. Otherwise, the road conditions in Sri Lank are very good, therefore travelling time in remote areas is considerably lower than in cities. Take the travelling time between cities to consider when you plan the Sri Lanka trip and allocate plenty of time you need to pass cities.
  • In the 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 experienced drivers too. Google navigator can save time for you.
  • Every 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 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 jobs saving a lot of money for 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.

Rent a car in Sri Lanka with driver – 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 maybe to their children, I know that many tourists grant financial assistance to these drivers. If the guy had been nice to you and if you are 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, shopping is included in most Sri Lanka tour itineraries. Even if 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 these shopping areas that are 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 gives you the know-how of the 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 gemstones 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 activities in the tour itinerary is compulsory and guests have the freedom to cancel 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, and he will respect your request.

Seerendipity tours is a company with a very good history that provide tailor-made Sri Lanka tour itineraries. They also offer many pre-planned tour programs, therefore, you are not required for hiring a car and driver in Sri Lanka. The company has Sri Lankan management and local staff. You make a booking directly with the local company 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.

Rent a car with a driver in Sri Lanka with Uber

App-based taxi services like Uber Cabs have set foot on the island many years ago and Sri Lankans had been a place for them to thrive. There are many local taxi services similar to Uber that provide valuable services to Sri Lankan commuters. All taxi services charge their customers based on the distance of the hire.

Car and driver hire in Sri Lanka: 9 important tips

1. Car and driver hire in Sri Lanka: do it in advance

It is strongly advisable to search for the vehicle and drive it before arriving in Sri Lanka. Recommendations from friends and relatives are very useful in renting a car in Sri Lanka with the driver, that way you can get very trustworthy and credible information on the vehicle and the driver you going to hire.

Don’t rely on the information published on forums such as Lonely Planet’s Thorntree, the recommendation available in those forums are mostly bogus reviews and most of those reviews are done by the drivers themselves (or their family members), and some of their services are dubious.

2. Hire your driver and vehicle from a trustworthy source

If you can’t find trustworthy information on a driver, it is better to rent a car in Sri Lanka with a tour operator. You will possibly pay a few US$ extra for their commission; however, you do not need to be worried about the quality of the service of the driver and the quality of the vehicle.

The tour companies do not leave any room for complaints from their customers, because renting cars with drivers is one of their main services. The vehicles are technically very good since they are periodically checked by the travel companies, as a rule, travel companies do not use old cars due to the technical issues that arise due to ageing.

3. Make sure the vehicle is fully insured with passenger cover

When you rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver, special attention should be drawn to the insurance policy of the vehicle. Most privately owned vehicles in Sri Lanka are not insured with passenger cover due to the very high premium.

4. The cost of renting a car with a driver at a hotel

Renting a car in Sri Lanka with a driver can also be done at the travel counter of the hotel, usually, most hotels have a travel counter near the reception, where the in-house customers can rent a car. However, the rates are a little bit higher than the average rate.

5. Make sure the driver you hire can speak English

The linguistic capabilities of the driver/guide make a direct impact on car and driver Sri Lanka cost. When you rent a car in Sri Lanka with a travel company, you can make sure the driver speaks English, however, if you rent a car from an individual there can be instances that the driver does not speak English. Due to communication difficulties, you will be deprived of valuable information about the places you go to.

6. Car and driver hire in Sri Lanka: Avoid taxi scam

Be clear about what you pay for. If you rent a car with a driver from an individual there are many add-ons that pop up as the tour proceeds. Therefore it is advisable to ask about the cost for the entire package from beginning to end including driver fees, vehicle charges, gas, parking, taxes, etc. Thereby you can avoid unlawful charges coming towards the latter part of the trip. 

However, if you rent a car in Sri Lanka with a driver from a travel company, they will give you an all-inclusive rate leaving no room for you to pay anything for the transport once you started with the tour.

7. Ask for a written document from the company as your rent a car with a driver in Sri Lanka

Before starting the tour, it is advisable to write down the cost agreed upon for the trip by both parties and duly signed by both parties. Keep a copy of the agreement, so there will be no question about whether it is 1000 rupees or 10000 rupees. If you rent a vehicle from a company there will be no such issues as the company issuing a valid invoice and receipt on their letterhead.

8. Rent a car with a driver in Sri Lanka when you travel solo

Travelling solo in Sri Lanka is totally safe, however, having a friend or partner on the trip allows you to share the cost making you pay only half of the entire cost for the taxi, Usually, a sedan car can accommodate up to 3 adults.

9. importance of hiring a professionally qualified tourist driver/guide and

You will encounter a professional tourist board-trained driver if you rent a car in Sri Lanka through a travel agent. They are professional tourist guide drivers, they drive very carefully and cautiously so that tourists feel very safe with them.

Most drivers in Sri Lanka are very fast ad the roads are chaotic, it makes you have a heart attack in the back seat due to all the weaving back and forth, sudden stops, and speed-ups, ask your driver to slow down. Don’t be afraid to do this! The driver might think that his fate is in the hands of the god but I like to believe that I have a little more control over my life.

Why you should choose Seerendipity for your car and driver hire in Sri Lanka?

Seerendipity Tour is an entirely locally owned travel company with a head office in Colombo. The highly experienced local staff is a key strength of Seerendipity Tours, and they can plan your dream holiday to Sri Lanka.

The best price guaranteed for your Sri Lanka trip

When you book a tour with Seerendipity Tours, you directly book the tour with the local company, which means there are no middlemen and therefore you can guarantee the best price. Simply get in touch with us and let us know when you travel and what you like to see.

Plan your best Sri Lanka trip with-expert

Our staff makes a personalised programme for you, which you can change until you find the best Sri Lanka trip package for you. You can also browse our existing tour packages for inspiration (www.sirilaktours.com); all our ready-made tour packages are customizable and can be tailored to meet all your expectations. Write to us at admin@seerendipitytours.com, tel. 0094-77-440977, WhatsApp 0094-77-4440977

Please support us

We have put a lot of time and effort into compiling this blog post. Please be kind enough to leave your very own comments.