Driving in Sri Lanka

We visited Sri Lanka in the end of 2016 for a 6 days road trip. With such limited time, we rented a car to be able to drive around the country more efficiently than taking public transport. It also allows us a great flexibility as we can stop wherever and whenever we want. 

Honestly, we don’t really know what to expect driving in Sri Lanka. We had a driving experience in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Singapore. But we were sure that Sri Lanka will give us a different driving experience. So, we dare ourselves to drive in Sri Lanka. How was it like?

It was actually not bad! At least not as bad as we imagined. We enjoyed the driving, especially in the countryside. Well, that’s because most of our road trip destinations were in the countryside. But, we did drive in one big city, Kandy. We will share our driving experience in Sri Lanka in the following. 

Car Rental

Most of the rental car companies in Sri Lanka limit the millage on maximum 100Km per day. If you exceed that you will be charged for excess Km. We exceed by 200Km from our free allowance 500 Km for 5 days of rental. For that, we have to pay 40 LKR/km for the excess. We will share our story on renting a car in Sri Lanka in a different post.

Driving License

To drive, driving license is a must have. Sri Lanka acknowledges Indonesian international driving permit. However, we need one more obligatory document to be able to drive in Sri Lanka.

In addition to International Driving License, we need an endorsement document from Sri Lanka Automobile Association. To apply, the car rental company can help you with this. Or, you can just go the AA office and apply by yourself. The process of endorsement takes less than 10 minutes and costs about 3.600 LKR/permit for up to 1-year validity.

Application form for AA endorsement
Endorsement from Sri Lanka Automobile Association


One of the things that bring joy or misery to a drive is the road condition. The road Sri Lanka is in an excellent condition in almost all area we passed. Along the route, there were very few potholes and very few uneven surface. Road signs are also clear.

Parking is free in most of the places, except in dedicated paid parking buildings. There was only one time we encounter an unofficial parking attendant when we parked at the entrance of Little Adam’s Peak, Ella. It was just an empty land, not a parking lot though.

On the road

Road trip in Sri Lanka is a very great experience. You will see so many beautiful natural sceneries and people daily life in the country. Interestingly, there are so many hybrid cars in the country. They comprise maybe up to 50% of all cars. Motorcycles are not as many as in South East Asian countries like Vietnam or Indonesia.

Speed limits are varied. Max 72 km/h in open roads, 56 km/h in town, and 120 km/h in the highway. Expect a slower speed in hill countries like Nuwara Eliya or Ohiya, as there are endless bends.

Based on our experience, we rarely can drive faster than 70 km/h in town as well as the open road. It’s simply because the road is full of everything. Tuk-tuks (three-wheeled vehicle) are everywhere. They can make sudden maneuver almost every time. Big trucks and buses also fill the road. They can hog the road like a snail in a steep road, but they also can act like an F1 driver when a bus chases another bus.

Driving situation in countryside
Driving situation in a big city, Kandy.

Besides vehicles, animals sometimes fill the road too. Stray dogs are ubiquitous. They lie in the middle of the road, crossing the road suddenly and sometimes aggressively woofing when a car passes. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a cow suddenly stand still in the middle of the road. In some area, you will see wild Elephant warning sign. They usually roam around after dark and they’re not friendly.

Elephant warning sign

Overall, our driving experience in Sri Lanka is good. We didn’t encounter something bizarre during our trip. We wish to have more time to explore more places.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.