TOUR GUIDES AND DRIVERS IN SRI LANKA | HOW IT WORKS
To be a Tour Guide in Sri Lanka the guide must have a license from Tourism Development Authority under the Ministry of Tourism (Sri Lanka Tourist Board and Guides Association).
There are different types or categories of Tour Guides and drivers in Sri Lanka
1. LICENSED SITE GUIDES
These guides have the authority to do guiding in a particular area only. You will find them especially in the Cultural Triangle, such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, and Dambulla, as well as in the Kandy temples.
You can find various language speaking site guides too.
2. LICENSED TOUR GUIDES
LICENSED TOUR GUIDES ARE DIVIDED IN TWO DIFFERENT CATEGORIES:
- CHAUFFEUR/ GUIDES (By Cars or Mini Vans): they handle small groups and parties from 01-07 pax. The tours are conducted in air-conditioned micro vans and in semi-luxury cars driven by the guide. The guiding is done by the Chauffeur/Guides, who drive their own vehicle.
- NATIONAL GUIDE LECTURER: they can take any number of people to any part of the country. They usually work for large coach buses and groups. However, they can also be engaged in private tours with the support of an additional driver and helper. National tourist guides generally handle large groups of tourists and travel in large tourist coaches driven by a dedicated driver.
EXCURSION GUIDES: A national tour Guide or Chauffeur tour guide is authorized to take a smaller group or larger group (as shown above under the 02 different Licensed Guide categories) on a Day Excursion or a small number of days excursions in the country and are allowed to Guide in the main tourist sites.
3. LICENSED TOURIST DRIVERS IN SRI LANKA
These drivers are approved by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authorities and Tourist Board: in case of any disputes, travellers can take legal actions or sort tourism governing bodies’ assistance to resolve any issues arising by using the services of licensed tourist facilitator.
The Duties involve only taking tourist to various tourist destinations and sites in Sri Lanka and does not involve any Guiding experiences. These tourist facilitators typically use Site Guides (approved at different sites by tourist board) to explain in various sites for tourists and travellers.
Standard drivers and tourist drivers/facilitators or taxi/airport transfer drivers should NOT be involved in any form of Guiding but should sort out expert site guides assistance to explain, where necessary, for tourist sites.
If engaged in tours, it should only be for driving purposes and not for guiding purposes regardless of the experiences acquired by them in the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.
4. Standard Drivers in Sri Lanka
Despite not having a Tourism Board License, standard drivers can be a great solution if you have a tight budget and you are just looking for transportation from one point to the other.
Standard drivers in Sri Lanka are not authorised to engage in guiding activities at Archaeological Sites, National Parks or other Tourist Sites. They may speak from excellent English to very Basic English, where it helps the customer to get from one place to another.
5. TAXI OPERATORS (INCLUDING AIRPORT COUNTERS AT Bandaranaike international airport).
There are many taxi services that operate in Sri Lanka.
They range from luxury cars and SUVs to Vans, to the very popular mini Tata Nano cars used by many taxi services. These drivers are not approved by Sri Lankan Tourism Authorities, so as a result there are no responsibilities taken by the Ceylon Tourist Board or any tourism-related governing bodies. However, they are a good solution – especially Tata Nano Cabs – for cheap transport from one city to another of Sri Lanka or within Colombo.
Remember: they can drive tourists around Sri Lanka but should not be hired as a Tour Guide.
LANGUAGE(S) SPOKEN DURING GUIDING
How Guides/Drivers have selected their “Language Level”
We have suggested Guides and Driver to tick the boxes on the following guidelines when accepting their listing profile.
- If they speak the language they will use during travels as their first language, then should select select “NATIVE”.
- If drivers of Guides are able to understand 90% of what customers say, and if they can explain anything to tourists in the communicating language in a brief manner, and if the driver or guide makes few errors in pronunciation and grammar, then they should select “FLUENT”.
- If drivers of Guides are able to understand 60% to 70% of what customers say, and if they can explain most things to tourists in the communicating language in a brief manner, then select “INTERMEDIATE”.
- If the Driver of Guide speaks very little English and understands a little, but is experienced handling tourist or has a fair knowledge of how things work in relating to the operations and movements, and if they are able to provide customers with a satisfactory trip, albeit with communication difficulties along the way, they have selected “BASIC“.
The drivers and Guides with Basic Language Skills are advised to charge less or no fee for language usage. However, there are some Tour Guides and drivers on SLTG that provide services for free, in order to practice their English or make friends.
What are the Service Fees and Guides/Drivers BATA (food and accommodation for drivers) in Sri Lanka?
Usually, for an English-speaking Guide, there will be few dollars more or no additional fees at all. However, if another foreign language guide (chauffeur or National) is chosen, each guide may have an additional language fee cost. This applies only to Certified Guides from Tourist Board. These Guide Rates will range from USD 10 per day extra to USD 60 per group, depending on the Guides demand, experience, Group size and various other factors. We advise when booking a particular preferred guide you confirm the Guide fee or drivers bata.
Driver Bata | Drivers Bata is an expense given to the drivers when they are taking clients on a transfer or a tour, this is typically about Rs. 500 to 700 a day, about USD 4 to 5, this helps drivers to have a meal, tea and drink, or a small snack. It is important that you get this checked when confirming your transport movements. If any coaches are involved there will be a driver and helper too and may cost some additional fee depending on the number. For a Car it will only be a driver. Prices are from USD 05 to 10 per day per group.
If a long-distance day movement such as long-distance evening transfer occurs, then the driver may require an overnight stay, in this instant, you agree to pay an extra USD 10 for such transfers, this doesn’t apply for any tours where overnight stays are included, as hotels in Sri Lanka Offer Driver accommodation whilst some don’t, and you agree to pay for those places Rs.1500 per day while on tour with drivers or guides.
If Tourist Drivers or drivers are used, then on the following sites an additional Site Guide may need to be paid, and this again will vary depending on various factors: it is best you or let the driver who takes you there negotiate a good deal on the site and before booking ask all information from us or our drivers and Guides.
Site guides in the Cultural Triangle and Kandy city and temples: please pay direct at each sites or you can pay the drivers in advance and they can pay.
THESE ARE SOME OF THE PLACES IN SRI LANKA WHERE YOU CAN FIND AND HIRE SITE GUIDES:
- Anuradhapura ruins
- Polonnaruwa ruins
- Dambulla Cave temples
- Kandy Temple of the tooth
- Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
- Heeloya Trekking
- Knuckles trekking
- Horton Plains (world End) trekker
- Other National Parks Trekkers and Guides
- Safaris or Additional Jeep costs for wildlife viewing
TIPPING TOURIST DRIVERS AND CHAUFFEUR TOUR GUIDES IN SRI LANKA
If you hire a car and a Tourist Driver or a Tour Guide please also consider tipping for their good services.
It is very important to note that we are all from different cultures and tipping is understood and practiced very differently throughout the world. Some cultures tip very generously, while others feel rather awkward and uncomfortable deciding on how much to tip and would prefer a service to be all-inclusive.
In Sri Lanka Chauffeurs-Guides, Drivers and Tour Guides expect to be tipped for a good service. However, we can assure you that many professional Tourism Service providers understand the cultural differences and they will accept whatever tip you choose to give them with gratitude.
This is a general guideline and prices may change due to inflation etc. Just keep it as a reference and feel free to tip whatever you wish based on their services!
- For a Tourist Driver (Not a Chauffeur Guide): USD 5 or 10 per day per group /
- For a Chauffeur Guide or National Guide: USD 15 to 40 per day per group, depending on how you have enjoyed the services of the Driver/Guide and the size of the group. For a couple, approximately 10 to 15 USD per day.