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Self Driving in Sri Lanka

Melbourne, Australia
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Self Driving in Sri Lanka

We drove around Sri Lanka over 4 weeks and loved it. We chose not to use a driver as we were spending a lot of time in each location and didn't need to be driven each day but we are experienced Drivers in Asian countries so don't attempt to drive yourself if you are only used to the freeways of the USA or Europe.Here are some tips:

You need an International drivers Licence and you will have to ring the AA of Sri Lanka in Colombo on 011 2421528 or 2446074 Open 8.30 - 16.30 Monday to Friday to obtain a free "rec ognition permit". You will have you papers checked by Police quite often when you are on the road.

Never overtake any vehicle( from a push bike to a stationary bus) near or on a pedestrian crossing - you will be picked up for this.

The roads are good everywhere except the Highlands, but be aware that pedestrians, push bikes, motor bikes, cars, buses, trucks, cows and goats are all on the road at the same time and most roads are single lane. Because of this you will average no more than about 30kms per hour and because high concentration levels are required I would recommend only driving for a maximum of 200kms per day, which will be a full days driving. Better to try to travel just 4 hours per day. In the highlands/ Tea Country, the roads are potholed and here you should do no more than 100kms per day as this may take you 5-6 hours, depending on the weather and road conditions. The A7 from Nuwara Eliya to Hatton should be avoided unless you have a 4WD - its not suitable for sedans. The A4 from Wellawaya to Haputale is drivable but very potholed, so for this reason I would avoid Haputale from the easterly direction.

Fill up with 95 Octane petrol when ever you see it available - many service stations don't have it, but your hire car will drive better for the 6 rupees a litre more it will cost you. There are very few working and correct air pressure gauges for the tyres, so check the tyre pressures when air is available. New Ceypetco Petrol stations have good gauges and toilets too.

A GPS with SL maps is essential.

We paid approx. US$30 /day for our Avis car and had good service from them, so this was a lot cheaper than Car and driver options, but cost should not be the reason for self driving.

79 replies to this topic
St Albans
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1. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

This is all good constructive advice for anyone who is really determined to self-drive. We've driven on our last couple of trips, but we used to live in Sri Lanka and my wife used to drive around Colombo a lot (something which I still refuse to do).

I agree that one big advantage of self-drive is that you don't have to worry about spending a few days in each place, as you're not paying a driver to do nothing. We haven't used GPS, but I planned our routes carefully using a road map plus checking against Google maps for detailed directions. Last time we didn't go very far off the beaten track, so we were OK, but as you say there is a problem with judging the quality of some roads and the maps are not always reliable.

One extra point: on our last trip our car hire company organised the permit for our licences, which saved some messing around in Colombo.

However you shouldn't self-drive if you haven't done something like this before. You do need to have a good idea of what you're letting yourself in for: the traffic conditions, how to navigate, what to do if you have an accident. If you've not been there before and/or you don't know much about the country and the culture, then it is a big risk.

Hannover, Germany
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2. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

Hello @MadamJosephine,

Which kind of car you got. Toyota ?

Have you paid some fees additional in Sri Lanka?

How was the return procedere, they check the car in detail ?

Colombo, Sri Lanka
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for Sri Lanka
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3. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

Wow, lucky you.... I drive to work everyday and back and I hate it. Driving around in Sri Lanka is a big risk even with all the experience you have and I would love to avoid it as much as possible.

I m glad you enjoyed the drive around the country.

Treshi.

Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

Hi we used Avis Car and they were great. We had a small accident (Not our fault, the motor bike rider was texting as he drove) and the two Insurance Companies came within 30 minutes. They sorted everything out so no paperwork involved. Avis had no problem with this accident and we didn't pay any extra premium.

Melbourne, Australia
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208 posts
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5. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

Sorry I forgot to answer one of your questions.

Our first Avis car was a Nissan 4 door (not 4WD) and after an air con problem they sent us a Toyota which was smaller but also good. As you can't drive fast the size of the car and motor don't mean much.

Prague, Czech...
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6. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

We just got back from a 2 week trip to Sri Lanka. Rented an older Toyota, drove about 960km from Colombo, through Adam's peak and down to the southern beaches. Seen some of the worse roads I've seen in my life through the tea plantations and hills in the middle of the country, but overall the roads in Sri Lanka are not bad. The few highways there are brand new, have a 100km speed limit, but are nearly empty due to the tolls. I enjoyed driving in SL and it was fun, speed limit is low and if you just drive defensively, you should not have any issues. We did get pulled over 3 times, but as we did have the recognition permit, had no isues at all. So unless you are a sunday driver with little driving experience, I do not agree with what people say about how bad it is there. I was more worried driving in NYC or Paris than in SL.

Doha, Qatar
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7. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

We will be traveling to SL for 6 days in April. I have driving experience in Asia, so I am not particularly concerned about navigating and handling roads. I'm more interested in how much of a hassle it is to get the recognition permit or how much I would pay to hire a car and driver per day. Also could I hire a driver from Kalpitiya. We plan to make three stops: 1. A few days in Kalpitiya with side trip to wildlife park. 2. A day or two in the cultural triangle. And 3. Back to Colombo for a night or two. Thanks for feedback.

Edited: 21 March 2014, 11:01
Fredericia, Denmark
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8. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

Count on approx. USD 60-65/day for car and driver.

Hans

Doha, Qatar
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9. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

Thanks Hans.

Mumbai, India
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10. Re: Self Driving in Sri Lanka

Hi,

I along with my wife and 5yr old plan to do a weeks drive trip around Srilanka.

Our route will mostly be from Colombo to the central province, down south to the Yala National Park Area, and then back via the South Western Coastal road via Galle.

I wanted to ask if any of you have used Google Maps on your phones to navigate and if cellular network is available in this region.

Or is it wise to rent out a GPS with the vehicle?

Also, are there signs and mile posts in English as well or are all markings in the native script?

Thanks in advance.

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