International Drivers Permit Sri Lanka

International Drivers Permit Sri Lanka

World famous for the smiles, hospitality, and spicy food, Sri Lanka is a top tourist place for those seeking an ideal recipe for joy and peace. It is well-known by the name ‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean due to its shape and location.

This small island, situated near India, is filled with majestic mountains, golden beaches, high tides, and mighty elephants. Sri Lanka is filled with some of the oldest cities and destinations in the world, in addition to the best agriculture and wildlife conservation that will fuel your inner adrenaline junkie. This beautiful island country is well-known for its delicious cuisine and yearly festivals. Despite Sinhala and Tamil being the official languages spoken in the country, you will be surprised at how fluent some Sri Lankans can speak the English Language.

If you wish to explore Sri Lanka to the fullest, you will need to ensure that you have the correct form of transportation and the documentation required in foreign countries. Below, we will provide all the information you might need regarding an International Driving Permit, driving rules in Sri Lanka, tourist destinations, and more.

What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driver’s License (IDL)?

An International Driving Permit is a small grey booklet marginally larger than a passport containing a translation of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. It is recognized by 141 countries worldwide and is valid for one year.

In comparison, an International Driving License is not a legal document and cannot be used to drive in foreign countries or instead of an IDP.

United Nations Agreement on Road Traffic

Otherwise known as the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, the Convention on Road Traffic treaty was mainly developed to establish and increase road safety and traffic rules.

As mentioned above, an IDP works in full agreement with the United Nations Road traffic convention and is only issued through authorized institutions by the United Nations. Over the past years, three significant international motor traffic conventions have existed, and these have taken place in Paris (1926), Geneva(1949), and Vienna(1968).

How does an IDP work in Sri Lanka?

Having an IDP is a requirement for tourists who wish to drive in Sri Lanka. Checkpoints, authorities, and car rentals require you to show your IDP document for driving on the roads.

In addition to having an IDP, you must have your non-Sri Lankan license “verified” before driving in the country. You have the following two options if you wish to drive:

Get your International Driving Permit approved by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka (AA)

Your International Driving Permit is approved by the Automobile Association of Ceylon, situated in Colombo. You can either get this done by visiting the place yourself or let a car rental agency take care of it on your behalf. This process will cost you around 4400 Rupees (about US$ 25). This driving permit is valid for one year, while on the other hand, the driving license received at the Department of Motor Traffic is only valid for your tourist visa, which is usually a month.

How To Get An International Driving Permit In Sri Lanka?

You can apply for an IDP through our online services. For identity verification, you will need to provide your driver’s license details, a photo of yourself, and your driver’s license.

Can you Drive using your Local Driver’s license in Sri Lanka?

No, you can not drive legally in Sri Lanka using a driver’s license belonging to your home country. You need to obtain a temporary driving permit or have your International Driving Permit endorsed by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka (AA). These have been explained in detail above.

Benefits of carrying an IDP in Sri Lanka

Identification document

Under circumstances where you cannot carry your passport or ID, an IDP can help prove your identity of being a foreigner traveling in another country. Showing your IDP at checkpoints and stops in Sri Lanka can make checking much easier and faster for you.

Removes Language Barriers

Your IDP comes printed in several languages, making it easy for car rentals or government officials to understand your driving license abroad. An IDP is meant to bridge the gap between you and those who may have difficulty understanding you.

Requirement For Rental Companies

Most car rental agencies in Sri Lanka require you to provide an IDP in addition to other documents before you can rent a car. Therefore, if you wish to drive around in Sri Lanka using a rental, ensure you carry your International Driving Permit. Driving without an IDP may trigger exclusion under your travel insurance policy if you claim loss or damage caused while driving a motor vehicle in another country.

Driving Requirements for Non-Citizens in Sri Lanka

How long is your International Driving Permit valid in Sri Lanka?

Obtain a temporary driving permit at the Department of Motor Traffic. Your permit will be valid for the period of your Sri Lankan visa, which is usually around a month.

On the other hand, if you get your International Driving Permit approved by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka (AA), your permit will be valid for one year.

Does your IDP replace your Native Driver’s license?

No, the purpose of an IDP is merely to translate your driver’s license information for everyone to understand. It can never replace your Native Driver’s license, nor can it act on your behalf of it.

Renewing Your IDP

You can renew your IDP through our online services. In 2 hours, you will receive a digital IDP in your mail, while a printed copy will be sent to your postal address in 2-30 working days. On the other hand, if you choose to go with an Express Order, we can process your application form within 20 minutes.

When should you get a Sri Lankan driving license?

If you wish to stay in Sri Lanka for more than six months, you become eligible to apply for a Sri Lankan driving license. Alternatively, if you are on a visa for less than six months, you will be issued a temporary driving license.

Renting a vehicle

Nothing beats sitting in the comfort of your air-conditioned car, listening to your favorite songs, and enjoying the company of loved ones. If you wish to explore this beautiful island, renting a car is the best option. Mentioned below are all the requirements that should be met to rent a car in Sri Lanka.

Age Requisites

The legal age to rent a car in Sri Lanka is 21 years. Moreover, like in many other countries, car rental companies in Sri Lanka charge an extra fee for those that are either underage or exceed the age limit. If you are over 75 or younger than 21, you are subjected to a senior driver fee and a young driver fee, respectively. These age limits can vary according to car companies and categories.

Car rental

Europcar and Sixt are the best options if you’re looking for cheap and popular rentals. However, if you’re looking for something with the most coverage and dealer networks, you should consider SR rentals, which have around 22 locations across the country.

Almost all of these car rentals have an online booking system, which makes it easier for you to rent your desired car. Booking beforehand will save you from all form-filling nuisance you otherwise have to face when renting a car.

Cost of Car Insurance

Rental insurance can save you from paying thousands in repair costs. According to the law, a vehicle must have third-party liability insurance. According to the terms of your rental agreement, your car rental business will cover any claims that the other parties might make in the event of an accident.

Documents Required

Sri Lankan car rental companies require you to provide the following documents to rent a car- Your home country driving license written in English, your passport along with a copy of the photo page, and your Sri Lankan Visa. Apart from this, if your driving license is not in English, you will have to provide an IDP which meets the driving requirements of Sri Lanka.

Driving and Safety in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is known for its chaotic traffic and dangerous roads. Before driving in any country, it is essential to understand the road rules and conditions.

Below are a few tips that may help you while driving around this beautiful country.

Driving Culture

Sri Lankan drivers can be highly aggressive while driving, and it is vital to remain alert since drivers do not follow the right lanes and often occupy other lanes on the road. Drivers in public transport such as tuk-tuks, buses, and taxis are the primary cause of road accidents since they tend to overtake without warning and are guilty of breaking road rules in rush hours.

Subsequently, erratic driving, unexpected roadblocks, one-way streets, and poorly maintained roads can make driving on Sri Lankan roads quite an experience for a traveler.

Use of Mobile Phones while Driving

In Sri Lanka, using a cell phone while operating a vehicle is strictly prohibited unless a hands-free kit is used.

Phone usage while driving has been increasing and is becoming a concern for law authorities. As a result, Penalties and heavy fines are being implemented to stop this activity. In the case of an emergency, you should first stop your car on the side of the road and, after that, attend to the call.

Car breaking down

Learning emergency numbers enables you to quickly call for help instead of wasting time searching for other options.

Emergency Hotline numbers are as follows:

  • Emergency -110
  • Police – 118 / 119
  • Fire Department –
  • 011-2422222

Drinking and Driving

Sri Lanka has stringent laws for drunk driving, and a recent initiative to stop the act has made it a lot more serious. Sri Lankan law prohibits drivers under the influence from having more than 60 mg of alcohol in every 100 ml of blood in their bodies. Since police officials in Sri Lanka do not use a breathalyzer for measuring alcohol levels, you will most likely be taken to a medical officer for a blood test.

Speed Limits

Speed limits for vehicles are marked on traffic signs and road markings for drivers to follow. In situations where there are no signs or markings indicated, you must obey the following general speed limits:

  • Speed limits in urban areas are 0-50kmph
  • Speed limits in rural areas are 0-70kmph (However, these depend on the site, and close attention should be given to the limit stated on the side of the road)
  • The speed limit on a highway is 80-100kmph (If you exceed these limits, you will be fined as soon as you leave the street)

Top 6 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of India, presents tourists with an array of environments to enjoy and experience.

Tourists can experience its captivating history, stunning landscapes, and safari experiences found in the country’s giant elephant and leopard-filled national parks. Home to some of the most beautiful beaches and beach resorts in the world, the following destinations are a must-visit for anyone that wishes to experience a journey around this island country.


Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, combines urban luxuries with the country’s colorful indigenous and colonial history. First ruled over by the Portuguese, followed by the British, this tourist destination is filled with museums and activities that will tie you up with Sri Lankan culture. Architecture and art found in Colombo ties you up with the cultures of these European trading powers.

The Colombo Lotus Tower is one of the top places to visit while in Colombo. This tallest free-standing tower in Southeast Asia provides the most satisfactory city views. Along with breathtaking views, you can also enjoy delicious cuisines from the fancy restaurant located at the top of the tower.


This major city is famous for its cultural significance in Sri Lanka’s hill country. The second-largest city in the country is surrounded by rainforests and tea plantations and is home to a breathtaking lake. The Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha) is a famous pilgrimage site that falls as one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world. Furthermore, UNESCO declared this site a world heritage site in 1988.

Every year, between July and August, the city hosts the glorious Festival of the Tooth (Kandy Perahera). At this festival, you will see beautifully adorned elephants, drummers, fire eaters, energetic dancers, and stilt walkers.


Anuradhapura is a famous UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich Buddhist history and well-preserved ruins. This cultural triangle holds various memorials; one said to be Buddha’s collarbone. Another famous tourist site that you will find in Anuradhapura is the Bodhi Tree. It is located in the Mahamewna Gardens and is the oldest known tree planted worldwide. Grown from the southern branch of a sacred fig tree in India, it is where Gautama Buddha was said to have achieved knowledge.


Mirissa is the perfect place for those seeking solace from a chaotic day. This small beach village will make it very difficult for you to get bored. You can enjoy a lazy, laid-back day on any of the best beaches in Mirissa. If your visit falls from October to April, you are in for some tremendous blue whale watching treat. After a relaxing day in the sun, enjoy delicious food and cocktails from restaurants and bars which fall right along the beach.

Nuwara Eliya

If you are a nature lover, you will fall in love with this mountain surrounded town. Famously referred to as Little England, Nuwara Eliya holds British colonial buildings such as the Queen’s Cottage and the General’s House. Here, you will also find breathtaking views of waterfalls, tea plantations, and hills, as well as Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. You should try a cup of tea from this top tea-producing spot in Sri Lanka.


What is the legal driving age in Sri Lanka?

The legal driving age in Sri Lanka is 18 for residents and 21 for tourists.

Can you drive with a foreign license in Sri Lanka?

No, you need to have your non-Sri Lankan license “verified” before you can drive in the country.

Can you drive in Sri Lanka using your IDP?

A foreign driver needs to obtain a Sri Lankan recognition permit before driving in Sri Lanka.

On which side of the road do you drive in Sri Lanka?

People drive on the left-hand side of the road.

How old do you need to rent a car in Sri Lanka?

You must be 23 years old.

Is it advisable for everyone to drive in Sri Lanka?

No, traffic in Sri Lanka is very congested, and roads are generally in poor condition. Hence, making it difficult for foreigners to drive.

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