If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka and wondering how to get around, you could cover long distances on the trains, seaplanes, or self-drive tuk tuks, or you could hire a private driver and car. I’m writing this post as I struggled with finding a driver in Sri Lanka. I wanted a reliable and honest company and someone I’d feel comfortable to leave my bags in the car with. We were really happy with the company we found, and we discovered that Kuoni use them too (only for a much higher price)!
Trains & Seaplanes in Sri Lanka
I ummed and ahhed as I’d heard how scenic the train routes are, and the idea of landing on a reservoir in a seaplane was so romantic! However, trains largely aren’t air conditioned – so if you want that iconic picture leaning out of the open train door, then you’re travelling in 2nd or 3rd class. 3rd class if you don’t want to be jostling with other tourists for space to take photos. The trains can also leak when it’s raining and the services can be unreliable. The seaplane schedules are also unpredictable, with the airline known to cancel flights last minute if they haven’t sold many seats or if one of the few planes has technical issues (according to trip advisor). It’s not really that big of an issue as it’s all an adventure but we wanted more freedom, reliability and a bit more comfort.
Should I hire a driver in Sri Lanka?
Hiring a chauffeur in Sri Lanka made for a relaxed experience, allowing us to pack whatever we wanted to without worrying about heaving suitcases around. Plus we had air conditioning, freedom to stop and explore, get food, or use a decent loo whenever we wanted to. You can also catch up on sleep between all your adventures! Having a knowledgeable driver means you get to know some good local spots, can locate the nearest shoe repair shop en route in an instant if your sandal breaks (mine did), or can be whisked straight to hospital if you have an altercation with a cat and need a rabies jab (I did).
Is driving in Sri Lanka safe?
As long as you’re a confident driver you would be ok driving yourself. We considered driving ourselves or hiring a tuk-tuk for parts of our trip, but the standard of driving is really terrible and it would be tiring trying to negotiate the constant overtaking, weaving cars, tuk tuks, ox carts, cows, dogs, scooters, and the occasional elephant! Plus the distances are vast if you really want to explore the island. You also need an international driving license or a temporary license from the Sri Lankan Department of Motor Transport which some companies will help you arrange ahead of time.
Where to hire a car and driver in Sri Lanka
We used Aitken Spence to hire our driver Udaya and he was fantastic. It cost about $75/day including your driver’s food and accommodation. Some hotels have driver accommodation attached, otherwise they will stay somewhere nearby. We used WhatsApp to stay in touch with him which worked perfectly.
Udaya ferried us around safely, was constantly cheerful with a big smile on his face (despite us always being late), and intuitively helped us when things went wrong. He even missed the monthly Poya Day celebration with his family to take me to hospital and translated everything when I needed the rabies jab – without the slightest hesitation. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Sri Lanka Travel Guide
If you’re interested in more info about Sri Lanka, check out our Travel Guide here.