How to get an International Driving Licence Sri Lanka (updated 2022)
If you have just landed in Sri Lanka and want to go on a road trip, or you have been here a while and the need has arisen for you to drive or rent a vehicle – you have come to the right place! Getting a driving permit (or Recognition Permit) in Sri Lanka is relatively easy; there are two main options when getting it yourself as listed below.
- With an international driving license/permit (referred to as IDP)
- With your home-country driving license
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Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that requires you to get your license verified in-country before you can drive. This means, driving on an IDP or foreign national license is illegal in Sri Lanka. You need to get your non-Sri Lankan license “verified” in Sri Lanka before you can drive. The document you receive is called a Sri Lankan Recognition Permit.
Here is an example of the laws as an excerpt from the Automobile Association of America (AAA):
If you are looking for information on a regular Sri Lankan driving license (same as for a local Sri Lankan), You’ll have to look elsewhere!
International Driving Permit (IDP)
|the permit that you get in your own country before travelling abroad usually at an Automobile association (eg. The Automobile Association of America).|
Temporary Driving License
|the license issued by the Sri Lankan authorities that allows you to drive certain classes of vehicles in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka there are two authorities that will issue this license, (1) Automobile Association of Ceylon and (2) Department of Motor Transport|
Sri Lankan Driving license
|the license available to resident or tourists with over 6 months on their visa and is the same license that a local Sri Lankan would obtain.|
The following is a summary of each the two options you have to obtain a Temporary Driving License; (1) At the Automobile Association of Ceylon, and, (2) at the Department of Motor Traffic. Further details are given specifically for IDP and Country of Origin License below the table.
AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION OF CEYLON
|Department of Motor Traffic (BORALESGAMUWA)|
|You Have?||· International Driving Permit, or,
· Country of Origin License
|· Country of Origin License|
|Requirements||Bring a copy of your:
||Bring a copy of:
If you have <15 days left on your visa you will also require: 2 Passport Photo’s
|Foreign Language||If your license if in a language other than English you will have to get it translated by a sworn translator, preferably at your own country embassy.||If your license if in a language other than English you will have to get it translated by a sworn translator, preferably at your own country embassy.|
|Outcomes||1yr Driving License (as per the period of validity left on your IDP)
**able to drive vehicles as specified within your IDP
|Temporary Driving License
variable length – for the duration of your visa (maximum 6 month)
**able to drive vehicles as indicated on your license
Extra 300LKR if you want the AAC to print your passport size photo as well.
|LKR 1000/month approx|
|Location||Automobile Association of Ceylon (AAC)||Department of Motor Traffic (BORALESGAMUWA office)|
1) With an international driving permit (IDP)
An international driving permit is often obtained from automobile companies in your home country, and looks similar to the one shown in the following picture.
If you have an international driving permit you can obtain a 1yr driving license in Sri Lanka by presenting the following to the Automobile Association of Ceylon located in Colombo (link to google map).
You will need the following:
- LKR 6000 ($26 USD approx, exchange rates fluctuating!)
- International Driving Permit (IDP) or National Country Licence
- Bring your: Passport, drivers license and visa just in case!
The permit will allow you to drive vehicles as listed on your IDP, and within the surrounding documentation as provided by your IDP.
Don’t have an IDP?
If you’re still in your home-country, you should apply at your local motoring agency for an IDP.
If you have already left your home country you can use this alternative:
We found that this is the only IDP which is issued by an online agent which is accepted by the AAC in Sri Lanka!
If you are able to drive a motorcycle in your own country, it will be listed and covered under the IDP as “Type A”.
To drive a scooter in Sri Lanka, you need to have a motorcycle licence in your own country. Scooters are often more than 100cc and is then classified as a motorcycle. With a regular car licence, you can however drive a moped (max 49.99CC).
If you have an IDP or your own country license that has an endorsement for cars (Type B), the AAC will write “3WHEEL” specifically onto you license. Just remember to ask if you go in and do it yourself! In other countries this is covered under Type A, and the IDP even states “three wheel” under Type A… we know. The Automobile Association of Ceylon gives a tuktuk license if you have a Type B (car) endorsement.
2) With a Normal Driving License
If you have your normal country specific driving license, you can get a license to drive in Sri Lanka at either the Automobile Association of Ceylon (AAC) or at the Department of Motor Traffic (DMT). The process for the AAC is the same as mentioned above for the IDP, please follow the instruction above but replace IDP with “your regular license”.
If you would prefer to get a cheaper license you can get a license for up to 6 months from the DMT, depending on your visa length. This option will take around 30 minutes after you get to the DMT, but the traffic and distance from Colombo means it will take minimum 3 hours overall, and can take up to a full day depending on how busy it is. Please note the DMT does not issue a licence to drive a tuktuk!
You will need to following:
- LKR 1000 ($7 USD approx)
- Photocopy & Hardcopy of Driver License
- Photocopy & Hardcopy of Visa
- Photocopy & Hardcopy of Passport
- If you have <15 days on your visa, you will also require 2 passport size photographs!
Note: if you forget the photocopies there is a photocopy centre outside!
You will get:
When you go to get a temporary driving permit from the department, you will receive a license that gives you permission to drive vehicles IDENTICAL to your existing license. So if you have a “car” license you will be able to drive a car, and if you have a “motorcycle” license you will be able to drive a motorcycle etc…
To drive a motorcycle you need a specific A type license on your national license to get approval (see section 3 for further information).
Unfortunately at the DMT you cannot get a license to drive a tuktuk. The only way is with an IDP and through the AAC.
We have been in discussions with the Department of Motor Traffic since December 2016 to clarify the laws surrounding foreigners driving tuktuks in Sri Lanka, and for them to update their requirements to match the Geneva and Vienna conventions on Road Traffic, of which Sri Lanka is a signatory country. It’s common for countries to include the three wheel license (Type B1) in either the CAR license or the MOTORCYCLE license, however, the DMT will not issue the Type B1 permit. You can see the problem here… We have been in discussions with the DMT including the head commissioner since December 2016, and after 7 months and over 50 visits, in July 2017 we were issued a letter outlining that people with Type B (car) license can drive a tuktuk provided they pass a practical exam (this is similar to the AAC requirement, above). Although the letter has been issued (see it attached below), the logistics of this actually happening have still not been sorted out and we are still waiting patiently for this this option to come through (as of June 2019, still waiting). For the most up-to-date information here you will have to email us directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
There are two different Department of Motor Traffic (DMT) offices in Colombo. One is in the city itself, and the larger one (the one you NEED) is located in BORALESGAMUWA – link to google map. As shown on the following map, it is located inland of Mt Lavinia, in South Colombo.
In the Department of Motor Traffic:
(1) >15 days to 6 months on Visa (most people should fit this category!)
You will need to head to counter H, which is located near the back of the centre. Walk past all of the people doing their driving tests and waiting for their medical, and through another security gate. There is a specific counter for Temporary Driving Licenses for foreigners, counter 1, and the wait shouldn’t be too long because of this.
You will have to fill out the application form they provide you, hand over your documentation (license, visa etc) and the whole process takes about 15 minutes.
(2) <15 days on Visa
If you have a visa with less than 15 days remaining, you can still obtain a temporary driving license though you will need to go to counter 39, which is outside section H. It might be easier to go to counter H first, and then be redirected.
The application form:
3) Vehicular Types and Permits
The following image presents is a list of vehicular permits for Sri Lanka.