Renting a Tuk Tuk in Sri Lanka
The idea was born on an awful train ride from Colombo to Kandy. Read about my terrible experience here and why I didn’t like Kandy. In an attempt to travel on a budget we booked 3rd class tickets with no reservation. Thinking “How bad can it be?” Pretty damn awful actually. This was the week leading up to Sri Lanka’ biggest festival Vesak. Which marks the final week you can climb Adams Peak until December. This meant that every man and his dog was heading to Adams peak… quite literally.
This however sparked the idea to rent a tuk tuk/three-wheeler once we’d finished climbing Adams Peak. (we still travelled back from Kandy to Colombo in 3rd class as it’s what budget backpackers do best)
How to find a tuk tuk?
Our method was simple yet a bit stupid. We were just pulling over as many tuk tuk drivers as possible asking how much it’d cost to rent their vehicle for the month. We made the decision that we’d pay 25,000 – 30,000 Rupees for the month. (but ended up paying far too much) The responses where mixed from not understanding what we meant to laughing in our faces. But even after about 30 minutes we collected 3-5 numbers of drivers willing to rent for 25,000-30,000 rupees a month. Read more about our tuk tuk experiences here.
Advice for renting a tuk tuk.
- Get out of Colombo - These drivers make a lot of money in the city so there tuk tuks are worth a lot more to them. The cheapest I found was in Nilaveli/Trincomalee area.
- Find someone who has more than one tuk tuk - If a person has multiple tuk tuks they will be willing to rent the ones they aren’t using to make a living out for a much lower price.
- Find someone who owns a tuk tuk and isn’t a tuk tuk driver - We found that a lot of hotel workers just have tuk tuks for their everyday vehicle. These are the cheapest.
- Make sure the tuk tuk is in fully working order - Got for a test drive around the city for a good 45 minutes before agreeing to it.
- Make a contract - Ours wasn’t legally binding by any means. It was more of a ‘Just encase bargaining chip’ Look at is as a way to cover your own back if you get a con artist of a tuk tuk driver. Click here to download what we used.
- Learn the basics - Before you set off get the driver to show you the basics, where the spark plugs are, where to put petrol, where the oil goes, tyre PSI, steering lock, hand brake etc
What are the different types of tuk tuk?
This was our weapon of choice. By far the quietest of the 4 most common. We were getting around 20-25 kilometres from a litre of fuel. There is a lot of rivalry between tuk tuk drivers brand loyalty. You’ll be a bit of an underdog driving around in a TVS but they are a better option in my opinion.
Bajaj RE 2 Stroke
Loud and uncomfortable would be the best way to describe the Bajaj. They are slightly smaller than the TVS King which means you can only really use one of these if your insane and in a pair.
Bajaj RE 4 Stroke
Still pretty loud but bar far the most popular tuk tuk in Sri Lanka. Still smaller than the TVS King but apparently had better fuel economy.
The Italian Stallion. These Italian made three-wheeler would be the best option for a long trip. They are the size of small family cars and extremely comfortable for both driver and passenger. We spent the day in one doing a tour of Sigiriya and I was instantly won over. Not only that they get the best fuel economy with an incredible 35 kilometers per litre of fuel. The only down side to the Paggio is they are loud.
How much did our tuk tuk Cost?
Not wanting to spend any more time in Colombo we accepted an offer of 40,000 Rupees ($307USD) for the month. We paid far too much for our tuk tuk the only consolation was that we were in a three making it $103USD each. This wasn’t a very budget backpacker decision to make but every now and then you do just have to accept the price to get on with it.
How much should it cost to rent a tuk tuk?
Throughout the trip a lot of other drivers and hotel staff asked us how much it cost to rent the tuk tuk. Every time the response was a shocked face followed by “oooo that’s very expensive sir” If you get out of Colombo you will quite easily find tuk tuks to rent for around 500-700 rupees a day.
What you need;
- International driving permit. Click here to learn how to get a driving permit for Sri Lanka.
- License from country of origin.
- Tuk tuk registration form.
- Tuk tuk Insurance card.
Note: I got asked to produces documents once in the month we had the tuk tuk. All the police were interested in seeing was my UK license, the tuk tuk registration form and the tuk tuk insurance card. YOU MUST MAKE SURE YOU GET THESE FROM THE PERSON YOU HIRE FROM.
Do I need Motor Vehicle Insurance?
The owner of the vehicle has to legally have it insured to drive it on the roads in Sri Lanka. This insurance is to cover the vehicle for anyone driving it. If you are worried you can take out your own policy with the following insurers;
Do I need personal insurance?
100% yes. You should always travel with insurance no matter what you’re doing especially if you are driving a tuk tuk. Tuk tuking is incredibly dangerous. Although I’d recommend doing this to everyone I’d make it clear that it’s at your own risk. You must make sure that your personal insurance covers you for driving a tuk tuk before you set off.