Guide to Driving In Sri Lanka - Drive Safe in Sri Lanka

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Sri Lanka?

Driving in Sri Lanka

Driving in Sri Lanka is a challenge given the poor standards of driving from locals. They drive on the left as in the UK so that will help British drivers. Animals, people, bicycles and more often choke streets in the cities so allow plenty of time for travel.

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

The law states that all occupants of a moving vehicle in Sri Lanka must wear a seat belt where they are fitted

Drinking and Driving

The drink driving laws in Sri Lanka are different to the UK. You must have no more than 60mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in your body. You are rarely breathalysed. If a police officer suspects that you are drunk you will be taken to a medical officer for a blood test. It’s a long and drawn out process so the best advice is not to drink and drive at all.

Must Have Documents

You will need to carry your original driving licence together with an international driving licence. You will also need a valid insurance certificate. Whilst not compulsory, we’d also recommend that you carry the registration documents and a copy of your passport.

Speed Limits

The speed limits for Sri Lanka are as follows:
Open roads:                72 km/h
In Town:                     56 km/h  
Motorway/Highway  120 km/h

Minimum Driving Age

You have to be at least 18 to be able to drive in Sri Lanka. If you're renting a car the minimum age is 21 and you’ll need to have at least a year’s experience of driving. If you are under 25, you’re likely to have to pay a premium for your lack of experience and age.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Safety camera warning devices are legal in Sri Lanka but speed limits are not strictly enforced anyway and speeding fines are low. That said, for your own safety and that of other road users we recommend that you stick to the speed limit.

On the Spot Fines

There are spot fines in Sri Lanka for minor offences. These are becoming less prevalent now as the government tries to crack down on corruption. Previously drivers suspected that the ‘fine’ was going into the pocket of the police officer. Now you’ll be issued with a ticket and given an indication of where to pay it within fourteen days. Some offences which seem minor such as running a red light can incur a suspended prison sentence.

Child Safety Rules

There are no specific regulations for the safety of children in cars. It’s up to parents to ensure the safety of their children. If you hire a car from us, tell us the age of the children and we’ll ensure an appropriate restraint system is fitted.


A basic requirement of third party insurance is compulsory in Sri Lanka and you must carry proof of it by way of a valid certificate.

Rules of the Road

Standard international driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
  • Many drivers completely ignore road rules so drive with caution
  • Fully tinted windows are illegal
  • Sri Lanka drives on the left

Towing Regulations

There are no specific laws on towing. Simply make sure that the towed vehicle is securely attached and that you have clear all round visibility.

Speed Cameras

There are no fixed speed cameras in Sri Lanka but there are regular mobile speed traps. To avoid being caught, make sure you stick to the speed limits.

Using Mobile Phones when driving

Despite many people doing so, it’s illegal to use a mobile phone without a hands free kit in Sri Lanka


Parking regulations
Parking in Sri Lanka is a very haphazard affair, a little like the rest of the road regulations. Simply exercise common sense and you should avoid problems.
Paid parking
You’ll find paid parking most useful in the centres of the big cities. Elsewhere there is plenty of free roadside parking. Paid parking can be outside in asphalted stands or on waste land but is usually attended. Multi-story car parks are appearing in the cities now.
Enforcement of parking is done by the police but often infrequently and usually as a result of a complaint from a resident that you are inconveniencing. 
Disabled parking
Disabled drivers get no specific concessions in Sri Lanka but if you use an attended parking lot and explain your needs, you will usually get help.

Motor Way Signs

Motorway signs in Sri Lanka will be familiar to UK drivers in having white writing on a blue background. 


I have broken down - Nāṉ uṭaintu
Where is the police station? - aṅku pōlīs nilaiyam uḷḷatu?
I have a flat tyre - Nāṉ oru piḷāṭ ṭayar vēṇṭum
I have been in an accident - nāṉ oru vipattu
Where is? - eṅkē?
Where can I buy petrol? - Nāṉ eṅkē peṭrōl vāṅka muṭiyum?

Traffic Lights

In Sri Lanka traffic lights follow the Vienna Convention and the sequencing will be recognisable to UK drivers. Running a red light is a common occurrence but is still a serious crime given the number of accidents that arise from it. Don’t be tempted to join the local mentality – you will come off worse for it.

Toll Roads

The expressways in Sri Lanka- their equivalent of our motorways incur tolls. The tolls are low by western standards and mean you cover long distances in comfort and at speed.


The emergency number in Sri Lanka is 119 for the police or you can dial 118 for the National Assistance helpline.

What to do in an emergency

The rental company will have advised you of an emergency number when you collected your car. If you’re driving your own car, make sure you have the telephone number of a local rescue organisation with you before you set off. 
In the event of an accident you don’t always have to stop. In minor accidents without injury, you simply have to report it to the local police station within 24 hours and present your documents.
For an accident where there are injuries you must call the emergency services and, where possible, leave the vehicles in place. If this is not possible, you must mark the position of the wheels on the road before moving the vehicles.

Fuel Costs

As of September 2014, the average price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in Sri Lanka is 77p whilst diesel is 68p. Prices can vary between the cities and towns and the smaller villages.


  SathaWhat the hell is this Language? Sri Lanka using Sinhala :D. Soo funny. Do you think itnis tamil :D 
4/26/2017 2:54:37 PM

Leave your comments here

 Security code
Click here to enter an extra message...

Hiring a Car

With our Drive Smart guide you're fully prepared to hire a car in Sri Lanka and stay safe on unfamiliar roads.