Sri Lanka

Getting your Tuktuk in Sri Lanka with Tuktuk Rental

We arrived in Sri Lanka at the beginning of March without any specific plan. We only knew we wanted to see elephants and nice beaches. We stumbled upon a poster of Tuktuk Rental in our hostel in Colombo and were instantly intrigued. We phoned up Tuktuk Rental early in the morning to check whether it’s possible to rent a tuktuk that same day, it was possible if we arranged the local driving license permit ourselves and came to their office to pick up the tuktuk. And so started our 29 days tuktuk journey through Sri Lanka, which turned out to be one of the best decisions we made on our world trip so far!

Get 5% off renting a Tuktuk with Tuktuk Rental using our promo code:

generationnomads

Rent your Tuktuk here

Why driving a Tuktuk is the best way to see Sri Lanka?

  • You get to see the whole beauty of this island. The landscapes never get old! Even after 4 weeks of driving around. From tropical palm trees surrounding a lagoon at the side of the road to incredible mountain views, Sri Lanka has it all! Driving 40km/h with the Tuktuk ensures you take your time to take it all in with all your senses. 
  • The flexibility! Being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want makes the experience in Sri Lanka so much better! Spending as much or as little at any place you go allows you to maximize your experience in the time you have. 
  • Getting off the beaten track. There are so many things to do and see, which you won’t be able to easily go to without your own vehicle. Stopping for a dip by a waterfall on the way or visiting some off the beaten track temples. 
  • Mingling with the locals! Locals are always amused when they see you driving a Tuktuk. It instantly sparks up a conversation! Also for any issues you have along the way, they are more than happy to help you out.
  • You have a unique story to tell! How many of your friends can say they explored an entire country in a local 3 wheel vehicle? It is an experience you can never forget and others will always want to hear about.

Check out our 4-weeks itinerary for all the hidden gems

Off the beaten track with our Tuktuk
Off the beaten track with our Tuktuk

Who are Tuktuk Rental?

Tuktuk Rental is a social enterprise, helping local tuktuk owners earn extra income by matching them with adventurous travelers looking to see Sri Lanka from a unique perspective. They take care of the entire process, from preparing the Tuktuk for the renters to returning a clean Tuktuk to the owners.

Tuktuk rental is a professional organization, which makes you feel safe embarking on the adventure of driving a 3 wheeled vehicle in a foreign country. Lastly, they form a community of like-minded travellers who get to know and help each other on the trip in Sri Lanka. 

The processes of getting a Tuktuk – what to expect:

1. Getting your documents in order

The first step was to get a local Sri Lankan drivers license. We were advised by Tuktuk Rental that the fastest option would be to go to the Autombile Association of Ceylon office in Colombo. The office is located near the Galle Face Boulevard, which was close to our hostel. We got there just after opening time, and the whole process went smoothly. We were able to get the Sri Lanka driving license with a normal Dutch driving license (no international license needed). The local license is valid for 1 month and allows you to drive a 3 wheeler, a.k.a Tuktuk.JThe cost of the license was 4000 Sri Lankan Ruppees (±€20). 

Tuktuk Rental can also arrange the documents for you if you book everything in advance and want to start tuktuking out of the airport 🙂

2. Picking up the Tuktuk from the Tuktuk Rental office

The Tuktuk Rental office is located about a 30 minutes ride from Colombo center in Mount Lavina neighborhood. We took a tuktuk from the AAC office directly there, which cost us 550 SLR with Uber and took about 40 minutes.

On arrival at the office we were welcomed with a nice cup of coffee and watched a 30-minute intro video to driving a Tuktuk and the Sri Lankan driving culture. The video was well made and has all essential information needed to start driving. If you book in advance, you can watch the video ahead online to save time when picking up the Tuktuk. 

Exploring tea plantations with our Tuktuk
Exploring tea plantations with our Tuktuk

3. Learning to drive the tuktuk 

After the video, we had the practical driving test. First Tuktuk Rental’s driver explained all the in’s and out’s of the Tuktuk (some thing are very different than a car!). After that, he drove around explaining shifting of gears mainly, which is similar to when driving a car, but just not using your feet. 

After about 15 minutes of explanation, it was my time to try it out. Hopping in the tuktuk driver’s seat for the first time and having to prove my ability to drive felt a bit like going through my driving license test again. I quickly managed to get the hang of it (it may have turned off once… J) and could drive the tuktuk around the block. After showing I was able to drive the tuktuk, we returned to the office to finalize the handover of the keys.

4. Handover of the keys

We went through damages of the tuktuk. Everything was recorded with pictures in an online document. I verified that I understand how to drive the tuktuk in Sri Lanka and how to maintain it. Tuktuk Rental have a map with approximate timing of driving to the main spots in Sri Lanka with the tuktuk and they can help you think of the best route for you. After about 2 hours, we got our keys and were ready to hit the road. 

Get 5% off renting a Tuktuk with Tuktuk Rental using our promo code:

generationnomads

Rent your Tuktuk here

Going surfing with our Tuktuk
Going surfing with our Tuktuk

What is it like to drive a Tuktuk in Sri Lanka?

Driving a Tuktuk in Sri Lanka is easier than you might think. Being the 2ndsmallest vehicle on the road (before a scooter), it might seem frightening at first, but then again there are so many Tuktuks on the road. If you are an experienced car driver, you will get used to driving the Tuktuk quite quickly. If you just got your drivers license, we would recommend you take it for a good amount of spins around a quite block before hitting the big roads. 

The driving culture is more similar to what we are used to in Europe (Netherlands / Germany) than other Asian countries that we have visited. There seems to be a sense of law and order on the road, which definitely makes you feel safe in your 3-wheeler! Most roads are well-maintained and easy to drive on, with the exception of some B roads that lead to smaller villages, etc. The mountain area between Kandy and Ella can be a bit more challenging, since the motor of the Tuktuk is small and you have to drive in 1stor 2ndgear to get up the steep parts. There is police patrolling the roads everywhere in Sri Lanka. The police stopped us twice just out of curiosity. They checked our license and registration, but besides that they just wanted to chat with us about our trip and how we like Sri Lanka 🙂

Tropical roads with our Tuktuk
Tropical roads with our Tuktuk

How do you drive a Tuktuk?

The Tuktuk is a bit different than a car, but also similar in many ways. The right handlebar is for gas and where you control the speed of the Tuktuk. The left handlebar is for changing the gears and goes from 1-4 gears and neutral. The breaks are controlled by a paddle on the right side (with your right leg). To reverse you have to pull up a handle bar on the right to change in to reverse gear.

Tuktuk Rental walk you through all the ins and outs of the Tuktuk to make sure you can drive safely on your road-trip through Sri Lanka.

Things to keep in mind when driving a Tuktuk

Driving on the left side of the road

If you are from a country where you drive on right, getting used to driving on the left might take you a day or two. Especially you need to mind roundabouts (traffic circle) as there you will need to go left instead of right, and look for cars coming from the right instead of left. Nonetheless, the Tuktuk’s steer is in the middle, so no confusion there 🙂

Driving in the evening or night

It is more challenging and is also not advised by Tuktuk Rental. That is because the windscreen of the Tuktuk is vertical and therefore lights of other cars shining on it makes it difficult to see through. Also, in some regions (near national parks) there are wild animals that may cross the roads, which can be hazardous to a Tuktuk driver.

The busses think they own the road! 

There local public busses seem to always be in a hurry, and they take over cars and Tuktuks in any situation while honking for everyone to move out of the way. Driving the small Tuktuk and seeing a bus approaching you on your lane with little room to go back to their lane is frightening. However, they always seem to make it back to their lane, with us having to slow down a bit. 

Being taken over

The maximum speed limit for a Tuktuk in Sri Lanka is 40km / h, which means that everyone else can drive faster than you. When a car or a bus approaches behind you they normally honk to let you know they are taking over, this can be a bit stressful and annoying as back at home we use honking for emergencies and not for taking over cars. Nonetheless, you get used to this after a few days. You just keep driving as you were and they will take over when they can.

Running into wild animals

Nearby national parks, especially on the road going through Yala National Park – B35, it is not rare to find a wild elephant standing on the road. While this is a very cool experience, it should also be treated with cautious. We have heard many stories from locals about people getting hurt by getting to close to the animals and trying to take cool pics. Just drive by the elephant as you were and make sure you are driving in front of it, and not behind it (not to scare it). 

Avoid getting cheated fueling

The Tuktuk fuel tank is about 8 litters with an additional 1 litter for emergency. When you are tanking, make sure to look that the teller is reset properly before they start fueling and that the total liters do not exceed 9 liters if you are fueling full tank. We have always watched out for this, and once in Hikkadura, the guys did not reset it and started fueling. We spotted them and informed them about it. They tried to give all kinds of explanation, but we eventually agreed on a reasonable price. 

Reaching the best surf beaches with our Tuktuk
Reaching the best surf beaches with our Tuktuk

Maintaining the Tuktuk

Like any other vehicle the Tuktuk requires some maintenance when you are on the road. In a short trip, you would probably not have to worry about it too much. However when you are driving for more than 1000 km over the course of 4 weeks, you will have to take some maintenance measures. After 1000 km the Tuktuk has to be greased. This means taking it to a garage to get all the spinning and moving parts greased, which costs 500 SLR (2.5 Euros). Besides that, Tuktuk Rental suggests to check your motor oil and breaks oil every day before driving. This is a small tasks you do before setting off on a long journey in the morning to make sure the Tuktuk will keep you going. Lastly, checking the tire pressure once in a while is also important to have a smooth ride through this beautiful island. 

Fuel / patrol stations in Sri Lanka

There are plenty of patrol stations scattered all over the island. Usually you will find one every 20-30km, in cities and crowded areas more frequently. Sri Lankans call them patrol stations, they will not understand if you ask about a gas station or fuel station. We have only once almost run into a problem with patrol in our Tuktuk, which was in Sigiriya. There are longer stretches of road there without patrol stations, however it was also slacking on our side as we should have fuelled sooner.

Parking in Sri Lanka

In the majority of places parking is widely available and is free. In some of the major cities, it can be a bit busier and more difficult to find a parking spot, nonetheless there is usually somewhere to park for free. In some cities there are paid parking spots (usually not more than 50 SLR for an hour). There should be sign somewhere stating some times and prices in Sri Lankan, and there will a person with a receipt book. Make sure to ask and check the receipt. Near some tourists sites, beaches, waterfalls, and other points of interest there might be some parking lots that have a sign for parking with a price. This is locals trying to make some bucks off of tourists. You can choose to park there or usually a bit further away for free. 

Be cautious of where you park. There are many Tuktuks parking around, sometimes at the side of the road where it is not allowed. Always double check with a local if it is ok to park where you choose to park. They will also inform you ahead if you need to pay for the parking. 

Get 5% off renting a Tuktuk with Tuktuk Rental using our promo code:

generationnomads

Rent your Tuktuk here

Are you not convinced about renting a Tuktuk yet, Check out our 4-weeks itinerary for all the hidden gems, and you we are sure you’ll want the Tuktuk 🙂

Stopping by a  beautiful lake with our Tuktuk
Stopping by a beautiful lake with our Tuktuk

Book Your Trip: Our Best Logistical Picks and Tricks

Book Your Flight

Find a cheap flight by using skyscanner.com. They are our favorite search engine because they compare airlines and agencies around the globe so you always know you have the best deal. Tip: Play around with your location until you find the best price for your flight!

Book Your Accommodation

Our go-to platform for booking hotels and hostels is booking.com as they have the best rates for all budget categories. If you’re travelling in Asia, make sure to check out agoda.com. They belong to the booking.com group but have the largest inventory for places to stay in Asia.

If you are planning a longer stay and are looking for a home away from home, try vacationrentals.com. They are our best find for booking entire homes and villas.

Looking for travel gear to make your journey perfect?

Whether you need trekking shoes for your mountain trip or are looking for the best camera gear to capture precious travel memories, Amazon will have you covered. We consistently return to them as they have the best deals for quality products and offer worldwide shipping.

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