Traveling to Sri Lanka and not sure what is the best way to get around? Yes, there are buses and trains, but these can be limiting and exhausting. Tuk-tuks are fun but also limited in range and speed. And there are so many more places to see beyond Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa that require you to go on smaller, less popular roads. 

If you truly want to immerse yourself in the country and go off-the-beaten-track, renting a motorbike is the way to go. Driving a motorbike gives you the flexibility and speed, and gives you the chance to explore the roads less trodden. All you need to do is rent a motorbike and get your local temporary driving permit sorted. Here’s all you need to know about how to do it so you can experience the freedom of the open road in Sri Lanka.

Can foreigners drive in Sri Lanka?

Yes, you can. However, according to the Sri Lankan law if you are a tourist with only a foreign driving license you will be prohibited from driving and penalized if caught. You may end up having to pay a penalty fee to the cops or face adverse repercussions should you get into any accidents.

We recommend that you save yourself the troubles by obtaining a valid permit. To do this, you have two options:

  1. Obtain a temporary Sri Lankan driving permit at the Department of Motor Traffic
  2. Get your International Driving Permit (IDP) endorsed by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka (AA)

Who is Eligible for a Temporary Driving License?

If you are a foreign national, older than 18, with a tourist visa and a valid license from your country, you can apply for a temporary driving permit. You don’t actually need to have a motorbike/scooter license to drive one in Sri Lanka but you do need at least a full car license.

sri lanka bike rent temporary drivers license sri lanka


Option 1 – Applying for a Temporary Driving Permit in Sri Lanka

All it takes is a few hours of your time and a handful of documents. And hey, we’ve got your back with some handy tips to make sure you breeze through the process without any roadblocks.

Where to Apply for the Temporary Driving Permit?

The Department of Motor Traffic (DMT) in Werahera is the place you need to go in order to get your temporary permit. Use a ride-hailing app such as PickMe or Uber instead of a road tuk-tuk to travel; it will cost you a bit more (around 1500 LKR) but will be more convenient and take you around 30 minutes. 

Address: Department of Motor Traffic Rd, Boralesgamuwa, Sri Lanka.
Phone: +94 112 518 926 / +94 112 518 950


  • DMT opens from 9AM – 4PM, Monday to Friday. Get there early to stay ahead of the queue – it can get crowded. Check the public calendar to ensure there are no public holidays falling on this day. Remember, the full moons every month are national holidays called Poya!
  • Take cash as cards are not accepted.
  • If you want to get there by bus, take the bus number 120 from Colombo Fort to the Borelesgamuwa bus station. From there you need to take a tuktuk for about 6 minutes, or walk if you wish. 

What Documents Are Needed?

Having the originals and photocopies of the following documents in hand will significantly help speed up the process:

  • Your Passport
  • A copy of your passport
  • A copy of your Sri Lankan visa issued (make sure there is at least one month validity)
  • A valid driving license from your country
  • A copy of the driving license
  • Enough cash for payment. Card payment is not possible. 


  • If your license is not in English, a translation by the respective embassy or any authority in the country of origin is required.
  • Take at least 2 photocopies of each of your documents in case you lose a copy. If you want to be extra safe, take a pen drive with you that has all the documents in case you need to reprint anything else. There are some print shops nearby, you can find them on Google Maps when you’re in the area. Keep an eye out for “Print Talk.”
  • You will not be able to take any photocopies after getting inside DMT. So make sure you get this done before you arrive.

How Much Does it Cost and How Long Does it Take?

The temporary driving permit will cost you LKR 1,000 for every 30 days you want the permit for. The validity period of the Sri Lankan driving license will be decided based on the remaining Sri Lankan visa of the applicant.

The entire process can take you between 45 minutes to 2 hours, often longer if there is a queue. So make sure you pay attention to the stated tips so you don’t end up running around because of any missed documents.

The fee is payable in cash during application and the permit will be issued the same day.

The Process Breakdown

There are several counters and direction boards that might seem overwhelming, but the following steps will break down the entire process into simple steps. 

Step 1 – Find the building marked “H” in red for “Driving License Unit.”

Step 2 – Head to the reception and collect your tokens (one per person). Keep them safe, you will need it for Step 5.

Step 3 – Find the building with yellow pillars. You will be stopped by the security who will review all of your documents before entering the premises.

Step 4 – Find the counter to register your fingerprints, have your photo taken and e-sign a form. These will be printed and handed over for your next steps.

Step 5 – You will then be directed to counters 15-20 to verify all your documents before being sent to the payment counter. Once you make the payment, after one last final check, you are good to collect your permit.


Make sure it is properly verified and endorsed by the DMT authorities before leaving the premises. And remember, your temporary permit will expire on the stated date, so be sure to renew it the moment it is due!

Option 2 – Endorsing your License with Automobile Association of Sri Lanka

In case you forgot, there were two options on how you may drive around Sri Lanka as a foreigner!

If you hold a valid IDP, you may also alternatively head to the Automobile Association (AA) office in Colombo to get your IDP endorsed. The office is open Monday-Friday, 9AM-4PM. It may cost between LKR 7,000 to LKR 8,000, though fees are subject to change.

Address: 40 Sir Mohomad Macan Markar Mawatha, Colombo 00300
Phone: 0112 421 528

Do it Faster with Sri Lanka Bike Rent!

Looking for convenient and faster ways to get your temporary driving license? Don’t worry! You can count on Sri Lanka Bike Rent for that.

Among the many services we provide like hassle-free options to rent a motorbike or car, tours and insurance, we also assist in getting your temporary driving permits. All you need to do is fill out the permit request form and we’ll help you out!

  • If you are in a hurry, apply online in advance, even before you arrive in Sri Lanka, and we will handle the rest of the paperwork for you.
  • If you are coming with a group, make sure you apply separately as the process is limited to individuals.
  • We can courier your permit anywhere in the country. So you don’t have to waste a day in Colombo trying to get it sorted yourself.
  • It only costs $40 USD!

After obtaining your permit, it’s time to explore Sri Lanka! Make sure you obey traffic rules at all times and you are good to go! Here are some of our favorite roads to explore:

  • Colombo to Matara: This is a beautiful coastal road in the south of Sri Lanka. Give yourself flexibility and make some stops on the way. There is Hikkaduwa, Ambalangoda (famous town for Sri Lankan masks), Galle (Old Dutch Fort), Ahangama, Weligama, Koggala (famous for stilt fishing) and more!
  • Balangoda to Maskeliya: Beautiful tea country roads! One of our favorites.
  • Kandy to Riverston through Matale: Amazing mountain scenery, you’ll be driving around the Knuckles Reserve.
  • After Riverston, you can get back to Kandy by driving through Hettipola to Hunnasgiriya. You’ll pass the famous 18 bends road (Daha Ata Wanguwa) here.

Wherever you go, we recommend that you exercise caution and pay attention in our roads. Good luck and enjoy your time here!