Guides in Sri Lanka

The article explains how to get rid of scams and frauds of unofficial guides and tour touts in Sri Lanka. Read this article to know how to find the best tour guides to enjoy the most out of your stay in Sri Lanka.
Tour guides and touts in Sri Lanka l Travel Guides | Tour touts
How to choose Sri Lankan travel guides?

A “ guide” is a person who is assisting tourists to explore Sri Lanka. A guide by profession is someone who has a good knowledge of places, their archeological importance and of the history related to those places. When tourists come to Sri Lanka, guides are there to help the tourists visit places in Sri Lanka and gather knowledge about those places.

Why do you need tour guides to tour Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is a country with a 2500-year-old history. Sometimes even more. There are quite a lot of historically important places to visit all around Sri Lanka. For instance, Sigiriya is considered the world’s 8th wonder. It is situated in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is also a country rich in scenic beauty. By being in Colombo (capital) tourists won’t be able to experience nature. There are many places to visit all around Sri Lanka. From the warm sand beaches through thick rain forests to the cold mountain tips, there are hundreds of places to visit in this small emerald isle. Therefore arguably, tour guiding plays a key role to satisfy tourists’ needs and wants which in turn can have a huge impact on the whole tourism industry.  

Most of the tourists come from India, Germany, USA, China, France, etc. Languages people use are different. It sometimes acts as a barrier for tourists to experience most out of their stay in Sri Lanka. Although some of the Sri Lankans use English as a common language, most of the native people in Sri Lanka use their native language, Sinhala. Therefore, it might be difficult sometimes for tourists, even to buy something from a shop in Sri Lanka. In this case, tour guides become very useful to connect with native Sri Lankan people and share knowledge and ideas. It might come in handy for whoever wants to have an authentic Sri Lankan experience.

How much do the tourist guides charge?

The service charge for guides can vary from USD 10 per day to USD 60 per day. This amount depends on the size of the group of tourists, the demand, experience, knowledge and many other factors. Along with the service charge, there is something called the “driver bata” that sometimes tourists have to provide. Driver bata is basically a small provision for the driver to cover his expenses for his meals, tea or a drink and some snacks. Usually, the driver’s bata is around USD 4-5. That is around Rs.700 to Rs.900 per day in LKR. For long-distance travel, sometimes the driver might have to stay overnight. In this case, you can agree on paying an extra $10 for the transfer. But if you are registered to an all-inclusive tourist package, then you might not want to consider all these expenses for guides.

How to book an official tourist guide?

You can book a tourist guide through the government website for tourists who are touring Sri Lanka.

On the website, you will find close to 2000 tourist guides registered under the Sri Lankan tourism board. The website provides all the information including name, email, address, telephone number, and the registration number as well.

Licensed site-guides

There is another way that you can get a guide if you want information regarding a specific place. For instance, say you are visiting Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. You want a guide to assist you on the trip to Sigirya. Tourists can find quite a lot of guides near Sigiriya who are waiting to offer their services. At the entrance, you can talk with one of such guides, ask for the price and then book one of the guides to guide you along. Likewise, there are guides near most of the places where you can simply book one there. You can find such tourist guides near the following tourist attractions.

  • Sigiriya
  • Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa ruins
  • Dambulla temple
  • Safaris
  • Peradeniya botanical gardens
  • Horton plains
  • Knuckles mountains
  • National parks etc.

These types of guides are called licensed site guides.

Licensed tour-guide

There is another type of guide called a licensed tour guide. There are two categories under licensed tour guides.


  • Handle small tourist groups (1 – 7 people)
  • Has his own vehicle
  • Driven by himself

National Guide Lecturer

  • They are allowed to take any number of people to any place in the country
  • Has large coach buses
  • Usually has a dedicated driver and a helper
  • Usually, handle larger groups

SCAMS!! and FRAUDS!! Beware of unofficial guides and tour touts!

Although I have told you loads of details and facts on Sri Lankan guides, the real reason I am writing this blog post is to communicate some key facts that every tourist needs to know before booking guides in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, tourism is an exponentially developing industry. Even though there are many laws to protect the tourists who travel to Sri Lanka, there are one or two culprits who might try to scam the tourists and loot their money. All the tourists who are traveling in Sri Lanka need to know how to get rid of these frauds and scams. Hence, I have listed below, some of the ways that tourists might experience fraud when they search for a guide to lead their way.

The Liar Guide

As I have explained before, guides help tourists understand the historical significance of historic sites all over Sri Lanka. And also guides give facts and details about different places in Sri Lanka and explain why a particular place or a thing is significant. There are trained professional guides for this purpose registered under the tourism board of Sri Lanka.

But sometimes you might note that there are many people near historic sites claiming that they are guides. Some of them are frauds. They will demand you a price and take you through several ancient ruins and spill out lies as much as they can to make you believe what they say. Sometimes they might not even speak proper English. This is a common trap that a lot of tourists fall into.

The Over Charger

I have given you the standard rates that all the guides go for. But there is a fraudulent set of guides who demand a really high amount compared to the standard rates. This is another trap tourists fall into. Tourists fall into this trap because of not having the knowledge about the rates for guides in Sri Lanka.

Guide’s Network

Some of the guides have their own network of acquaintances where he gets the tourists into contact with.

For instance, spice gardens in Sri Lanka are one such node in the network where most of the guides have good contacts. Therefore, the guide will give a flamboyant picture of the spice garden pitching it sky-high and suggests the tourists experience the products. Say tourists buy some products from the spice garden. A Percentage of those sales are given back to the guide from the spice garden as commission.

There might not be an issue in this if the products are of high quality and of a fair price. But in “some” of the spice gardens in Sri Lanka, the products are labeled with skyrocketing prices for a moderate quality product. In that case, it is basically looting the tourists trying to sell something to them. There is a separate blog post about spice gardens in Sri Lanka and how to find out genuine places where the tourists can gain quite a lot of knowledge regarding spices in Sri Lanka and their uses.

Not only spice gardens, but it can also be restaurants, shopping malls, historic places, etc.

The RR (Review Requester)

Having reviews help guides to gain more attention from the tourists coming to Sri Lanka. In that way, they can market themselves since they are endorsed by tourists who have visited early. This method is good if it is done genuinely.

But, in some cases, the guide demands good reviews from tourists. In this manner, they try to show themselves as better guides which are a false reality. Some of the tourists face this issue.

Tourists should always consider whether they were really satisfied with the guidance of the person before giving him a review.

How to get rid of these scams?

Registered guides

Book only registered tour guides under the Sri Lanka Tourism Board. You can click the link below to get a list of registered tour guides.

If you go to the website, you will find out details about the guides. Know their language skills and check their experience before you check-in.


There are many apps and websites regarding the information about the guides and places they have traveled to. Tourists who traveled to Sri Lanka has reviewed many guides whom they traveled with. You can consider them as true reviews to a certain extent. I have given several links to websites you can search for reviews.

Trip advisor reviews

Finalize guide fees

Before booking a guide, clearly finalize all the payments that you might have to incur.

As explained before, check the license of the guide and see to which category he falls in. Chauffeur or national guide?

Is there a helper?

What is the cost of a guide per day?

Drivers bata (allowance)?

Finalize the route of the tour before the tour

There are many areas in Sri Lanka that tourists could visit. Tourists can go down south, Jaffna, central hills, knuckles, etc. Get a list of places where the guide is taking you. Then google each and every destination and check the reviews for those places. There are some exquisite places that are rich in natural and scenic beauty. Search for those places and request the guide to take you to those places.

Read a little about Sri Lankan history

There are ancient relics and ruins in all areas of Sri Lanka. When you go to an ancient ruin, in most of the places, information is available regarding the ruins in English. If you search Google using the same name, you will get loads of information about the place and its history. Knowing the history of the ruins might blow your mind in a place like Sigiriya. There are many other places like Sigiriya all over Sri Lanka.

 If you follow the steps given above one by one, you will be able to explore Sri Lanka as much as you can within your period of stay. In this way, you can make the most out of what you pay for. What I believe is that you should not travel having tight schedules. I think you should loosen up the schedules a little bit, give yourself time to feel the authentic Sri Lankan culture, the people, nature, and its great history. Take a deep breath, relax and let nature take control of you in your stay, 2 weeks is enough to heal you totally, that is Sri Lanka. 🙂