Scamming Encounters in Sri LankaPosted on Jun 06 in Sri Lankaby ShelynPrint
Walking on Sri Lanka streets isn’t a pleasure activity. 9 out of 10 times you will be approached or pestered by random touts. Not only at the streets, even some places of interest like Sigiriya Rock and Independence Memorial Hall are full with touts. They appeared in different roles and approached us in different ways with just one purpose, to make money out of us. We encountered old men who claimed themselves as passionate teachers that would like to offer us a short guide of the history of the place, young men who told us they were bartenders working nearby and would like to take us around the town, and many more that tried to cheat us by offering us services without telling us their intention upfront. In fact Sri Lanka is the only country that I felt unsafe to walk on the streets and felt disturbed when visiting the attractions, there were like uncountable pair of eagle eyes staring at us as if they wanna bleed us dry. I can assure you it was a horrible experience, they would pester you until you give them some money. And they come one after another and it never stop!
The moment we walked out from Hilton hotel, a local young dude approached us and chatted with us. As a first time traveler in Sri Lanka, we thought the guy was just being friendly so we responded politely. He then followed us for 10 minutes and this was when our alertness arose. Out of nowhere a tuk-tuk stopped next to us abruptly and the guy who had been following us suggested us to get on to the tuk-tuk so he could bring us to a place to shop for some gems or what, I couldn’t recall now. It was very disturbing that we ignored him and picked up our pace. After getting rid of the guy, another guy came and approached us exactly the same way as if they studied the same ‘Touting skills for dummy’ guides and copied the same pick up lines!
I don’t know, it might be due to high inflation rate in Sri Lanka. I did a research and found that their inflation rate went as high as 22.6% in 2009! However, it has been dropped to 5.6% in 2011 but it is still a scary number. Read more about the inflation rate here.
Nonetheless, Sri Lanka is still a beautiful country with exotic beaches and luxuriant floras.
Tuk-tuks are common in Colombo but remember to haggle a reasonable price before taking a ride. Tourist price isn’t cheap at all in Sri Lanka. I remember I watched Amazing Race Asia that took scene in Sri Lanka where the participants traveled around by tuk-tuk since they were given limited amount of money for each trip. One of the ladies groups literally cursed the driver for squeezing their money. There were also other groups that couldn’t agree on the price and argued with the drivers.
To save all the troubles, we hired a driver to drive us around for our 5 days trip in Sri Lanka. It wasn’t cheap though, we paid USD340 to a travel agent that offered us the driver/guide service in Colombo airport.
It’s not common to see tourists on the streets. You can only see them in the tourism places like Kandy, Galle or beaches. Perhaps the tourists still don’t feel safe walking in town as the civil war had only ended in May 2009 and there were soldiers guarding outside Hilton hotel which may increase tourists’ alertness.
Nonetheless, we still spent half a day strolled around Colombo city, we didn’t want to have any regret to have not seen enough of the city.
Random Photo: See the piling trash?
Avoid becoming a victim of scammers by taking precautions:
- Do not believe anyone who claims to be a professional (e.g. airline pilot, teacher), or in charge of a location (like a bus terminal) without proof. We visited Independence Memorial Hall and a friendly looking chap claimed that he was a teacher and he was very passionate about spreading the history of Sri Lanka. So he offered to be our tour guide to narrate the history of Independence Memorial Hall. After the ‘service’, he asked for tips which annoyed us very much as he didn’t state his intention upfront. He sounded as if he was a volunteer narrator!
- Scams involving gemstones are common. We were brought to several gemstones outlets by our driver but we didn’t buy anything. After being pestered by so many touts, we didn’t know what to believe anymore.
- If you have been told your hotel is closed or full, give them a call. If you are a first time visitor to Sri Lanka, don’t admit it as it will make you a target for the scam artists. After several encounters of scam, Don became very rude to anyone that tried to approach us by sending them the message of “I’m a frequent visitor in Sri Lanka, I know all your tricks, fuck off!”. Believe me, you’ll eventually lose your patience.