Locating petrol is not as tough a job as it used to be in Sri Lanka. The current situation in Sri Lanka is very stable, and the National Fuel Pass System (QR Code) has relaxed long queues at the fuel station (this system does not affect tourists driving in tourism-registered vehicles). Further, the Tourist Fuel Pass Card has been introduced, making it somewhat more accessible.

As the ‘fuel crisis’ in Sri Lanka affects us quite a bit, we have written this article to keep you updated on development over the last couple of months. We’ve gathered information and written down an important which will help you find the easiest way to locate petrol, get priority at the fuel line and even get tips for saving more petrol on the road.

Please note all this information is community-sourced, tested and recommended by our on-the-road customers, our driving instructors driving all over the island, and our friends operating in the tourism industry.

Before anything else, keep in mind, the island is still a paradise, the sun still shines, and despite the challenges, people are still friendly and will welcome you with open arms!

General Info on Tourist Fuel availability in Sri Lanka

  • Fuel is limited but stable in supply, so fuel stations aren’t operating every day or 24/7. You will be driving on the street and see ten fuel stations, of which only 4 will be open, or sometimes only Diesel will be available.
  • Your trip will not be affected by the current situation in Sri Lanka. Filling up mid-way from one destination to another will help you plan your next day’s journey effectively. 
  • When your fuel tank is half full, and you see an open station, don’t hesitate and fill up to be sure.
  • On request, we provide all our customers with five or ten litres of extra fuel.
  • We provide all our customers with the official vehicle registered QR code, sent digitally to your email after a tuktuk has been assigned to your booking.
  • We recommend only using the extra cans with petrol and the QR code provided by tuktukrental.com as an absolute backup.

Tourist Fuel Pass Card in Sri Lanka – unlimited fuel for tourists

Detailed information about this unlimited fuel card in Sri Lanka can be found in our blog. Generally, we advise buying one at the airport when you arrive (costs are $55 in cash USD) and showing your passport with a tourist visa). You can use it where possible or use it as leverage where it’s not possible. At the end of your trip, we will buy back the card from you and pay you in your overseas bank account in your currency.

Finding Petrol / Fuel in Sri Lanka

As mentioned earlier, not all fuel stations in Sri Lanka will have petrol available to fill up your tuktuk. It is much better than before, but you may still encounter empty or closed fuel stations. Especially in very rural areas, this can be a challenge. There are some tips, though!

Mobile App – Helakuru

The locally developed mobile application “Helakuru” is a recommended source to find fuel. It’s a community-driven platform, but the information is trustworthy.

  • You can download the application here: iOS & Android
  • Set your language preference as “English” from the burger menu on the top left.

Instructions on what the colours on the fuel map in Helakuru mean:

Red – Not available.

Yellow – Information is not updated.

Green – Fuel is available! Best to check the last available time.

Map to find fuel in Sri Lanka through mobile app Helakuru
Helakuru – Fuel Map App Sri Lanka

Through the Local Community

The local community knows more on-ground information about fuel availability. They will advise you to locate the nearest filling station. You can ask people walking around, most people will know what the words ‘petrol shed’ or ‘fuel station’ mean.

Fuel Map

When the crisis was at its worst, we created a map which we kept updated daily with fuel stations and their availability. This was based on recommendations from customers and friends around the island. We had a dedicated ‘Fuel Master’ whose sole job was to call fuel stations and ask them if they had fuel. This was quite an exciting job for a few months!

The map still shows the fuel stations around the island. As well as the emergency fuel depots at army camps. We currently only update the map in regard to the Tourist Fuel Pass Card, a top-up unlimited fuel card available for tourists, more information about this card you can find here.

You can find our fuel station map below, with a link here to open it in your mobile phone.

When you locate an open fuel station in Sri Lanka

  • When you find an available fuel station, It is best to keep your tuktuk fully loaded with your backpacks so that they see the urgency of a full tank for travelling long distances. Always top up when possible!
  • Make sure you hide your extra cans/ jerry cans, they station people don’t like to give you a full tank if they see you have extra available still.
  • Always ask the fuel station employee to fill out the tuktuk till nothing more can be put in the tuktuk. Sometime shaking the tuktuk a bit helps you to identity if fuel is visible at the top.

QR Code National Fuel Pass System in Sri Lanka

All local vehicles are to be registered under the National Fuel Pass quota. It’s a weekly quota given to locals to receive fuel througha QR code scanning system. This has been introduced to tackle the fuel problems in Sri Lanka, the government decided to give all vehicles a quota per week. The quotas are:

  • Motorbike – 4 liters per week
  • Tuktuk – 5 liters per week (to be used as a last resort!)
  • Car – 20 liters per week
  • Bus – 40 liters per week
  • Truck – 50 liters per week

Do note, this is for the general public. Our customers have almost always been able to get a full tank, no questions asked! If all else fails, you can use the QR code.

The QR codes are reset on Monday morning at 12am. You could experience a queue on Sunday, when people choose to quickly finish their balance. Also Monday mornings are busy, as people need their fuel topped up after finishing it the week before.

In contradiction to what you might think, in certain popular tourist areas (where they rely on tourism), they will not issue fuel without a QR code. This is always the case in Arugam Bay, and at some places on the south coast. For example the small station near the bridge in Mirissa is very difficult, but the next station towards Matara there are no issues at all. If you have already used your code for the week, please get in touch with us and we will provide a code from one of our tuktuks at office!

Very rarely you may come across a few agitated people at stations, if the situation is too tense, please move out from that location to the next station. Do note, this has not happened for months!

We email and WhatsApp all our tuk tuk rental customer this code automatically, after you fill out the Start Form (where you take pictures of your tuktuk, etc).

Fuel Saving Tips while self-driving in Sri Lanka

  • Tuktuks are made with a 9 liter fuel tank (7.5 lliter regular tank plus a 1.5 litre reservoir tank). In all our CabrioTuks and most of the regular ones, we have modified this tank to 15 liters! We will let you know at pickup if this is the case for your tuk tuk.
  • With a maximum speed (in Sri Lanka) of 40 kmph, we calculate an average of 20 to 25km distance per liter of petrol in a tuk tuk (taking flat roads, busy cities and mountains during your journey into account).
  • As the roads outside of cities are mostly empty right now, you should be able to drive without breaking too often. If you really monitor your speed, you can reach 30km per litre. This means you could drive around 200KM to 210KM on a full tank.
  • Drive in 4th gear when possible.
  • If you’re climbing, don’t accelerate too fast. Keep the acceleration gradually.
  • Some of our customers have been averaging 30 to 35 km per litre driving 30 kmph! Please note, this was in the worst of the crisis, all is well now please speed along 😉

Discontinued Advice / Not relevant anymore:

Below is the list of information relevant in the past (when it was difficult to get fuel) but is not anymore — just keeping this here so you can see what others experienced and how things have changed for the better now!

What to do when you reach a fuel station

  • When you head to the entrance of the petrol station, don’t hesitate to go straight ahead to the gate and make sure that everybody (police, station manager and all the people in front of the queue) recognizes you as a naive tourist.
  • It’s not the most cliche way to make your appearance, but people (locals) will notice your presence immediately. 
  • As you step out of the tuktuk and smile and wave, locals will understand that you’re a tourist on the road. 
  • While you talk to the authorities and use charms, your friend/partner can have a small chat with all the people surrounding you. 
  • Tell them where we’re heading (somewhere far away), what a beautiful country. This is and how friendly people are for tourists, and you will conquer all their hearts. 

Flight Ticket or Hotel Booking

  • Sometimes, you will need to provide more information to the relevant officer/army man or the filling station owner that you are in a hurry.
  • You sometimes would need to show your flight ticket to the officer and explain that you are flying in a day or two.
  • Or that you need to travel X amount of kilometres to your next destination where you have a hotel booking.
  • As you’re in a hurry, you will need a full tank of fuel to reach the airport/hotel. Not saying you should do this, but a fake ticket is what some people have used regardless.

Pushing your tuktuk

Just before you rock up to the fuel station, you can get out and start pushing your tuktuk the last 100 meters or so. In this way, it looks like your are completely out, and people will be more than helpful to help you to the front of the line and get a top up!

Fuel Removal

As many fuel stations do not allow you to fill up the extra cans, some have been emptying their regular tank in the extra can just before a top-up. Here is a quick instruction video if you want to do this yourself. This can help you to receive 9 litres of petrol from an open filling station. Again, this is a personal choice and no one is judging.

Hotels

  • As you’re driving from one place to another, you’ll book your hotel or hotel accommodation in advance.
  • What many of our customers have done, is message ahead to the owners and asked them if they know someone who has fuel or if they can get some for them. 
  • This often works, as the people will go out of their way to ensure you have an uninterrupted holiday in Sri Lanka!

At the fuel stations

  • When you head to the entrance of the petrol station, don’t hesitate to go straight ahead to the gate and make sure that everybody (police, station manager and all the people in front of the queue) recognizes you as a naive tourist. 
  • It’s not the most cliche way to make your appearance, but people (locals) will notice your presence immediately. 
  • As you step out of the tuktuk and smile and wave, locals will pretty much understand that you’re a tourist on the road. 
  • While you talk to the authorities and use charms. Your friend/partner can have a small chat with all the people surrounding you. 
  • Tell them where we’re heading (somewhere far away), what a beautiful country this is and how nice people are for tourists and you will conquer all their hearts. 

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