Hire a driver in Sri Lanka

By: sachilefever on March 12, 2006 - 4:18am

Note: While in Sri Lanka we worked with a driver and tour guide who we whole-heartedly recommend. His name is Mervyn Perera of SSS Travels. He can be reached by email pereramervyn2005.mp@gmail.com and his specialties include:

  • Tour organizing for individual and groups
  • Transportation organizing (cars, vans, buses)
  • Hotel bookings, (Top class hotels, Standard Hotels, Guest Houses)
  • Transfers and day trips

You can find reviews about his tours that I have collected here. His website also has a number of reviews from happy travelers. He's highly recommended!

Learn more about Mervyn's travel company and tours: SSS Travels

To learn more about Mervyn view pictures of him, go here: Drivers and Guides in Sri Lanka

We’ve learned from several sources that Sri Lanka is not for the shoestring traveler – those who spend around US$15 day or less on travel expenses. But it is great for those who are tired of spending $100US/night and having dinner bills of $30US/person.

This our driver, Mervyn, showing us how to drink from a King Coconut:

We were looking for a good way to see the major cities, cultural sites, beaches and wildlife of Sri Lanka in just 9 days, and read that it was just not possible to see all that we wanted using public buses and trains. The schedules were unreliable, the pace was very slow and it would be a headache to find the hotels and sights with most signage in Sinhalese etc. Plus, Sri Lanka has a history of being a bit unsafe. So we hired a driver based on a first-hand recommendation and it has turned out to be a great decision.

Here’s what US$90 per day includes for both of us.

  • Modern 4 door sedan with A/C and a full gas tank each morning
  • English-speaking, honest and safe driver available to us 24 hrs/day (includes his R&B)
  • Pick-up and drop-off at the airport
  • Lodging at mid-range and top-end hotels and guest houses
  • Sit-down breakfasts each morning
  • All entry fees to parks, museums, temples and tourist spots (between $3 and $40 each)
  • All expenses for an afternoon wildlife safari (entry fees, Land Rover & driver, tracker guide – about US$80)
  • 3 expert English-speaking guides to the 3 ancient cities
  • Full itinerary/tour planning for the 9 days

What is not so obvious makes this decision very worthwhile:

  • A local driver to explain the colonial history, politics, local etiquette, scams, and local street vendor snacks like King Coconut freshly cut with a machete
  • Someone to set us heading in the right direction and watch our bags during every activity – the car is never out of his sight
  • Someone to make all reservations and sort out any issues
  • Complete independence from tour busses or vans – it’s just Lee and me
  • No need for road navigation so we can enjoy the sights
  • Comfortable rides in A/C where public transport squeezes 17 people in a 7 person van – no A/C of course
  • Flexibility to change a day’s schedule on a whim – very important when your stomach isn’t doing so well or you’re tired from the day’s hike

To this expense, add a few tips here and there, and lunch and dinner for two (less than US$20 total) and you have a great trip to Sri Lanka. We know we could have paid $75-80 per day instead and seen less sights or gambled more on our driver, but it’s worth the few dollars extra when the reliability and service we have is impeccable.

What about the adventure of figuring it out for ourselves? Yes, we factored that in when we made our decision. We like the adventure, but with so little time here we wanted to make the most of it, and as Lee mentioned earlier, we’re not 20-year old backpackers and are greatly appreciating the A/C six degrees from the equator.

You can learn more about our driver and his contact information on this post.