How to get an International Drivers Permit for Sri Lanka

The entrance to the Department of Motor Traffic

Getting an International Drivers License in Colombo.

Its a pretty straight forward process getting an international drivers license for Sri Lanka. It will cost you 1000 Sri Lankan Rupees. Learn about renting tuk tuk in Sri Lanka here.  In all it took me no more that 30 minutes to get the permit once I’d found the place. Everything I’d read online said that you had to get the permit from the Automobile Association (The AA) in Colombo. This is no longer true.  You now have to go to The Department of Motor Traffic in Werahera. Its on Dept of Motor Traffic Road which is just off Horana road. Be careful as there are two Departments of Motor Traffics in Colombo. The department of motor traffic

The address of The Department of Motor Traffic.

The Department of Motor Traffic
Dept of Motor Traffic Rd,
Boralesgamuwa,
Sri Lanka

What does the permit allow you to drive?

Technically not a tuk tuk. Everyone I spoke to at the Department of Motor Traffic gave me different answers. My UK Driving license permits me to drive a tuk tuk in the UK. However, new laws in Sri Lanka require you to have a 6 months + visa for a tuk tuk license.  It’s a very big grey area and no one really seems to know what’s actually true.  My permit with a standard UK license allowed me to drive the following;

This is what a Sri Lanka driving permit looks like for foreigners. A4 sheet of paper with a photo, a list of vehicles you can drive all printed in black and white.Driving Licence Class
A – Motorcycle Engine capacity > 100 cc
G1 – Two Wheel Tractor with a Trailer
A1 – Motorcycle Engine Capacity <=100cc
B – All Cars/Dual Purpose – GVW <=3500kg. Passengers<=8, Trailer<=250
G1 – Two Wheel Tractor With a Trailer

 

 

When I applied I went with two friends. A girl from Holland and a guy Australian. My Dutch friend like me had no problems with getting a permit. Although on her permit she was only allowed to drive cars. The Australian was not allowed a permit as he didn’t have a full license.

How much does it cost to get there?

Tuk tuk – From Colombo Fort Station it should cost around 700 Rupees if you go by the meter.
Bus – If you ask at Colombo Fort Station for either Ahalape junction or Katuwawla Bus stop you will be dropped off no more than a minutes walk away. This should cost you around 30 Rupees.
Train - The closest train station is Rathmalana Station. From Colombo For to Rathmalana Station costs 30 Rupees. From there its about a 300 Rupees tuk tuk ride away.

What you need to take with you?

  • Passport.
  • Photocopies of passport photo page, visa page and driving license.
  • driving license from country of origin.
  • 1000 Sri Lankan Rupees

right next door to The Department of Motor Traffic is a small shop that will do photocopies for 10 rupees per page.

 

12 comments

  1. Lukeybou   •  

    Hi Rich, very inspiring blog about your tuk tuk travels.
    Me and my gf are hoping to spend 18 days exploring Sri Lanka in a tuk tuk. Would I be right in thinking you didn’t have a motorbike licence but a standard car licence that you had validated in Colombo?
    When you were stopped was it an issue with the Police?

    • Richard   •     Author

      Hello Lukeybou,

      All I had was a UK driving licence which got me a driving permit in Colombo. (which technically doesn’t allow you to drive a tuk tuk)

      We only got stopped once, they seemed to be more interested in what a UK and dutch driving licence looked like (the friends I was with was Dutch) The friend driving at the time had neither.
      I showed them the Sri Lankan Permit and they didn’t know what it was until I said Sri Lanka Licence.

      Hope that helps. Most of the time the police were just laughing at the sight of foreigners driving tuk tuks

      Let me know how you get on

      Rich

      • Lukeyboy   •  

        I’ve since discovered I can get my international drivers permit Authorised by the AA Of Ceylon in Colombo. Heard some long winded stories about going to the Motor transport departure, bribes queues etc. It’ll be something we do as we land so the smoother it can go the better.

        Will be sure to let you know how we get on.

        Is there any lockabke storage space on the tuk tuk or a way to safely store luggage?

        • Richard   •     Author

          We left the bulk of our belongings at the Colombo Beach Hostel. There’s a small shelf behind the seats in the back which you can get a surprising amount on and a small lockable glove box. This would be very easy to break in to. I wouldn’t leave anything in the tuk tuk when your’e not with it. Someone stole our map and emergency fuel bottle whilst we were surfing.

  2. Vinoj Kumar   •  

    I can herewith confirm that until now (May 2015) one can get – in a few minutes, copy passport and international drivers license to be sure – a document to drive in Sri Lanka, from AAC in Colombo.

  3. Andrej   •  

    Hello!
    I do have a driver licence in Slovakia for car and it includes also a 125 cc motorbikes here.
    But on my DL stands car (group B and B1) and motorbikes ( group AM), but not groups A1 and A.
    What do you think? Can I drive a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka?
    Thank you for fast response.

    Andrej

    • Richard   •     Author

      Hello Andrej,

      When we were applying the Aussy with us was 18 and only had a provisional license. They rejected him from getting a permit. However, on the road he drove a lot and the police didn’t seem to care. It seemed that as long as some of you had the papers they just laughed about it.

  4. Alexis   •  

    Hi Richard,

    I’m from Germany and we here have a license class “M” that allows us to rent scooters up to 50cc. Unfortunately, the international drivers permits (IDP) and the Sri Lankan Permit do not have anything similar. Am I correct in my understanding that that means that without an A or A1 license, I wont be able to rent a Scooter? Or do they just not care, and if they do, how loud does money speak?

    Regards,

    Alexis

    • Richard   •     Author

      Hello Alexis,

      The Aussy that was with us only had a provisional license and got rejected for a permit. However, once we were on the road he drove a lot. The first time we got pulled over he was driving, and speeding a bit. We showed them the papers and they seemed to not really give a damn. Far more interested in us than what we were doing.

      Richard

  5. nilanka prageeth kumara   •  

    hi;
    im working abudhabi
    i wil come in srilanka only one moth vacation
    how to get light vehicle license in srilanka
    i will wet uuuuuuuu are reply

    • Richard   •     Author

      Hello Nilanka,

      Providing that you have a drivers license you can just head to the The Department of Motor Traffic and get a permit.

      From there you can find car rental places all over the city – I’m sure a lot of them will even sort the permits out for you.

      Richard

  6. Eleise   •  

    Enjoyed your post. I’m not expert but as your friend was an Aussie, I thought I would leave a comment here for fellow Aussies who want to rent their own wheels. Unless you are an experiences rider, don’t do it:

    I ride a 1000cc Sports bike in Australia (hubby likes his Harley) and it’s nothing like riding overseas. I have ridden motorcycles and scooters in Asia and (this applies only to Australians) the amount of wankers I see in my travels who ride without helmets, party all night and ride back home to their hotel, without protective clothing and think they are bullet-proof speeding along and cutting in and out of traffic astounds me and frankly makes me ashamed to breath the same air as them. If you’re reading this and you don’t have a bike licence and ride regularly, don’t consider this as a good idea. Even a 3-wheeler is a tricky beast in traffic. If you don’t do it in your own country, don’t try it in Asia. HOWEVER….If you have half a brain and follow the rules, you’ll be fine and it’s so much fun (we prefer our own transport whenever possible). All you need to do is have an R-Class motorcycle licence in Australia and go to the RACQ in Qld or NRMA in NSW and get your International Drivers licence which will be valid for 6 months. From memory, it cost me $60 last time in 2015 and that included the passport photos which I already had. You’ll need to have those prepared when you front up which is a fair bit of hassle but if you sort this out a week or 2 before you travel, it’s less hassle than taking time out from your holiday and lining up in a hot government office. Make sure you check that it has “three-wheeler” listed on the pages. Mine was a handy little booklet and it fitted neatly in with my passport wallet along with my Australian Licence. No sweat. A great way to get around but ask at your hotel – don’t go to a rental agency or you’ll be paying through the nose and the guy at the hotel will want you to come back and stay so he is likely to look after you. Make sure you have a licence and travel insurance for pity’s sake!

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