21 Most Common Tourist Scams in Sri Lanka

Safety at Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Galle, Ratnapura, Kalpitiya, Sigiriya, Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Weligama
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Sri Lanka is known for its gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is a great place to visit in South Asia for anyone looking for a relaxing vacation spot.

This country also has a reputation for being one of the friendliest places and you can travel to cool hill stations as well as explore gorgeous golden beaches here.

Some other highlights include the pretty tea plantations in Ella and delightful coastal villages such as Mirissa.

However, Sri Lanka has a high petty crime rate and there a number of tourist targeted scams you need to be aware of.

So read on to learn how to protect yourself here!




1. Cigarette scam

Galle Face Road

Source image: panoramio.com


How it works:

This is a common scam that you may face around Galle Face Road.

A scammer will approach and engage you in conversation. He claims to works in some official capacity and would love to tell you stories about Sri Lanka and take you to places that visitors rarely see.

However, he can’t take you to his office as it is too far away. Instead, he invites you for tea at an upscale restaurant.

During the meeting, he will order a packet of cigarettes along with a drink. The implication is that the visitor will pay the bill in return for local knowledge about Sri Lanka.

However, when the bill comes, it is extremely expensive as a result of the packet of cigarettes that has been added.

The establishment is part of the scam and deliberately inflates the price of the cigarettes and drinks. The scammer earns a commission for bringing you there.


What to do:

If you are approached in the street by someone who claims to be an official and wants to tell you more about Sri Lanka, walk away.


2. Tea shipping

Sri Lanka tea plantation

Source image: thebakersjourney.com


How it works:

Sri Lanka is famous for its tea which also brings with it this tea scam.

In this situation, the scam takes place at a tea plantation or another venue where you get to sample some delicious tea.

Once you have tried the tea, a local will tell you that they can ship the tea to your home country in large quantities.

They will offer a very low price to make it sound like a bargain, claiming that you only need to pay export tax.

Once you pay the tax and give the scammer your address, the tea never arrive as promised.


What to do:

If you want to buy tea or any other goods in Sri Lanka, it is best to do so in person while you are in the country.

Should you rely on someone to ship goods to your country after you have left, there is a good chance that you will never receive them.


3. Fake gemstones and certificates


How it works:

This is a common scam (also in Thailand, Myanmar) around the southern coastal tourist belt of Sri Lanka.

A scammer will approach you and offer you the chance to buy some local gemstones at a heavily discounted price.

These however are not real, natural gemstones. They are most likely worthless pieces of colored glass passing off as a sapphire, or heat treated semi-precious stones that is worth 1/10 of the price.

These fakes will also come with forged “authenticity certificates” to make them look more authentic.


What to do:

Buy only from a reputable and licensed jewelry store which you find from your hotel / hostel staff or online travel forums.

However, most importantly, the jeweler must be willing to accompany you to the Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Authority (SLGJA) in Colombo or Ratnapura to verify the gems sold.

This is a free service provided by the government to foreigners.

Also beware of any business selling gemstones at a discounted fee (usually the small shops), or gemstones that look too flawless.

This is because all natural gemstones have at least one or some form of impurity.


4. Unofficial tour guides

Source image: sundayobserver.lk


How it works:

There are many of these touts around, who will strike you up in a conversation and then offer to bring you around.

They claim that as a local, they can help you get “local” prices be it for transport, food or what have you.

Take up their offer, and you will most likely get ripped off by the tuk tuk driver whom they work in cahoots with, by being sent to a bunch of gemstone shops and places where they get a commission from.


What to do:



5. Spice garden scam


How it works:

This is similar to the traditional Chinese medicine scam in China, where they bring in a phony doctor during the free tour to bring you around.

They are shrewd salesmen and understand the principle of reciprocity. So they first try to make you feel as good as possible and give you something free here and there.

It could be a free tour, free tea and / or a free massage. It is human nature to want to return the favour.

With trust built up, the doctor will now claim that you suffer from some ailments unknown to you.

They then claim that they are accredited by the government, and have been cultivating medicinal herbs for 1,000s of years.

To help you, they recommend some remedies and products which are essentially crap at inflated prices.

Should you believe their spiel and buy a product, do watch out for the credit card scam.

There have been reports of these scammers entering a different amount in the credit card machine and charging a lot more without you realizing.


What to do:

It is best to avoid spice gardens, or simply go for the free tour but not buy anything there.

If you really want to get some spices, check out reputable shops which you can find through online research or from your hotel / hostel.


6. Visa scam

Source image: psimonmyway.com


How it works:

There have been reports of extortion and inconsistent visa fees charged at Colombo International Airport when applying for a visa.


What to do:

Do your research of the process and fees, or simply apply online. Check the official site for the correct fees to pay.


7. Safari tour scam

Sri Lanka safari

Source image: talallahouse.com


How it works:

Not technically a scam, but more a tourist trap.

Do not book safari tours through a tuk tuk driver or a taxi driver.

These drivers will demand a cut from the tour operator they send you to and so the price you pay for will be higher than market rate.

If it’s a cheap tour, then it’s highly likely that the tour operator have skimped on many safety aspects of the tour.


What to do:

  • Offline operators: ask – is the operator licensed? Is there a website, office and working phone number? Are there real online reviews? What does the price cover – is it too cheap?
  • Online platforms: GetYourGuide (leading day tour platform globally) – popular tours include:



  • Paying: avoid paying in full upfront (unless reputable operator) or off the (online) platform.


8. Pickpocketing


How it works:

Pickpocketing is a problem in Sri Lanka particularly in crowded areas close to tourist attractions such as markets (e.g. Pettah Market in Colombo), as well as at busy transportation hubs and on buses and trains.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.


What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Further, make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep your wallet in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


9. Beggar with fake disabilities


How it works:

Scammers often operate this scam in touristy areas and particularly target religious sites like temples.

As you walk around the temple complex you will be approached by a scammer with a donation sheet. They will explain that they are collecting money for someone who has a disability.

Next, they tell you a long story about how much the person has suffered and will often produce photographs as evidence.

They will then ask for a donation for medical treatment for the disabled person. Reference to religious reasons why you should help, such as how you will get ‘good karma’ will also be made.

This however is a scam. The scammer doesn’t even know the person in the photographs and the money will not be used to help the disabled.


What to do:

Decline and walk away.

If you do want to donate then only donate to a registered charity.


10. Teacher beggar


How it works:

A less in your face beggar, the teacher beggar comes across as a respectable looking local, who approaches you on the street and introduces oneself as a teacher.

He will say he is not after money, but would like to strike up a conversation to improve his English.

During the conversation, he will mention that the school he is working at is poor and in dire need for funds for books and equipment.

He will then ask if you wouldn’t mind donating just a small amount.


What to do:

Firmly reject.


11. The place is closed

Elephant bath tour

Elephant bath tour


How it works:

A common scam all over the world (e.g. India, Vietnam, Morocco), this scam is usually carried out by taxi drivers or tour guides.

It starts when you ask to be taken to a tourist attraction / hotel / specific business / cafe and the driver or guide tells you that it is closed.

They then offer to take you to another place that they claim to know well, but are actually places where they get a commission from.


What to do:

There is no way of knowing whether the venue you wish to visit is closed unless you go there in person.

So insist that your driver take you there for you to see for yourself.

Another way to make it clear that you are not interested in a different venue is to say that you have already made a booking and paid full upfront

For accommodation especially, only book through legitimate platforms such as:

  • Agoda: leader in Asia with the best selection and rates here generally.
  • HomeStay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Sri Lanka by staying with a local host!



1. “Government” tuk tuk scam


How it works:

You might find yourself befriended by a random stranger on the street, who mentions that there is some big ceremony happening not too far away.

After a short conversation, a tuk tuk pulls up, and your newly made friend tells you that it is an official, government tuk tuk.

They explain by pointing to a coin taped beside the number plate as proof.

Should you take up the tuk tuk’s offer to bring you to the ceremony, you will be brought to somewhere secluded and robbed. Or probably some shops along the way first where the driver gets a commission.


What to do:

There is no official government tuk tuk. Stay away.


2. Rogue tuk tuks

Source image: zafigo.com


How it works:

Before taking a tuk tuk, first haggle the price way down, as their first offer is likely to be inflated.

Even then, the rogue ones can simply demand another price halfway through (while stopping at a secluded spot for more leverage).

Also, there are cases of rogue tuk tuk drivers who do not return your change after payment and simply drive away.


What to do:

Always haggle first, do not pay until the trip is complete, and keep small change which you can pay with.

If you do take one, make sure you have GPS to help you get away if abandoned at a secluded place.

Again, we recommend concealing your valuables securely in a money belt or hidden pouch and carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet.

This is so if you were to get robbed, you can simply give up the cheap wallet or the little cash in it.


3. Non-metered taxis

Sri Lanka taxis

Source image: blog.srilanka-villa.com


How it works:

This is one of the most common scams in Sri Lanka and is also widely used across Asia (e.g. Thailand, Indonesia).

When you get into a taxi the driver will tell you that the meter is broken and that it will be cheaper for you to pay a flat rate.

This price will almost always be higher than if the taxi driver had used the meter.


What to do:

This scam is easily avoided as long as you make it clear you will only board if the meter is switched on.

If the taxi driver refuses, simply find another taxi. Or do your research to estimate a fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like PickMe.

Take a photo of the car plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

Else, you can also consider arranging private transport through your hotel / hostel or day tour platforms like GetYourGuide – 8 transport options:




4. Non-direct routes

Sri Lanka traffic

Sri Lanka traffic


How it works:

Many taxi drivers in Sri Lanka will look for ways to inflate the fare so that you pay more for your taxi ride.

Common ways to do this include driving you on a longer route around the city. Or they could deliberately drive through a crowded area.


What to do:

You can estimate a fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like PickMe.

In the cab, be very clear when communicating the destination you are heading to. More prominent landmarks around your destination can be mentioned.

During the ride, check your phone’s GPS to make sure you are headed in the correct direction.

Sometimes, drivers do take detours to avoid traffic jams, but that should not detract from the correct general direction.


5. Fake travel tickets

Train in Sri Lanka

Train in Sri Lanka


How it works:

This scam often takes place in transportation venues such as bus or train stations.

When you arrive at the station to buy a ticket, you will be approached by a scammer who claims to be an official who works at the bus or train station.

They will ask you where you want to go and tell you that you need to buy a ticket from them.

There are only two possible results. You either buy a fake, or pay an inflated price for the ticket.


What to do:

Do not buy from streets touts or unofficial sellers.

Only buy a ticket through these sources:

  • Direct from company / official counters.
  • Licensed retailers.
  • Your hotel / hostel if such a service is provided.


6. Corrupt traffic police


How it works:

Many tourists in Sri Lanka rent a motorbike to get around and this is exploited by corrupted officials.

Traffic police will often flag down foreigners and make up an excuse about some traffic violation. A fine paid on the spot will then be demanded.


What to do:

If you drive, follow all laws and make sure to bring your driving license along.

Hide your cash and valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

This will allow you to negotiate the bribe down when you show that you have not much cash on you.



1. Snatch theft


How it works:

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.


What to do:

When seated / not moving:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Avoid carrying valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.

Other measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


2. ATM fraud


How it works:

Generally, ATMs can be rigged in two ways.

First, the card skimmer and pinhole camera / keypad overlay set up:

  • A card skimmer is installed over the card slot to capture your card details.
  • The pinhole camera / keypad overlay is used to capture your PIN.

Second, the card trap:

  • The card slot can be rigged with cheap tools to trap your card.
  • When your card is stuck, someone will come over and tell you that if you retype your PIN, your card will be unblocked.
  • Obviously, your card will still be stuck, but the scammer will now have seen your PIN.
  • Should you head into the bank / somewhere to seek help, the scammer will unblock your card and escape.


What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only at controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area for suspicious looking characters, look out for red flags of a rigged ATM and cover your PIN when typing it in.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet.

That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.


3. Credit card scam


How it works:

As mentioned earlier in the spice garden scam, victims of the scam have found themselves either double charged or overcharged.

It could be as much as 10x just by adding a zero a figure.

However, this can happen anywhere, not just at the spice gardens.


What to do:

Use cash if possible.

If you must, never let your card go out of sight to ensure that it is not copied, as it can be copied by simply swiping through a hand held device.

Watch like a hawk how the charges are keyed in and inspect your receipt carefully.


4. Familiar face scam

Resort in Sri Lanka

Resort in Sri Lanka


How it works:

You might be approached by an overly friendly local. He looks at you like he has just saw an old friend, and claims that he has helped you in your hotel (e.g. preparing your room, etc).

At this point, you will probably have a puzzled look which will upset him.

To help you feel better, he will ask if you can loan him some money.

This is because he claims that the hotel has delayed staff payment for the month and he needs it urgently to buy food for his family. Or it could be any sob story reason.

He also claims that the hotel will reimburse you for it.


What to do:

Ask him which hotel you stay at, and watch the scammer go away.



This is not a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:


1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Image source: smartraveller.gov.au


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: occur mostly within local community, though cases against foreigners have been increasing.
  • Hazards: unexploded landmines in northern, eastern, and north central provinces (e.g. Ampara, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Polonnoruwa, Trincomalee and Vavuniya).
  • Hotspots: military maintains a strong presence in north and east including Jaffna peninsula.
  • Terrorism: safe now as military conflict with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009.
  • Civil unrest: inter-communal and religious tensions exist. Demonstrations can occur.


What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, stick to the main paths and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any threats. Avoid the danger zones and demonstrations.


2. Medical care

Image source: lankahospitals.com


How it works:

Medical care is adequate in Colombo, but limited elsewhere.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: zika, dengue, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, filariasis.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis, leptospirosis.
  • Animal borne diseases: avian influenza, rabies.
  • Human borne diseases: tuberculosis, HIV.


What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: Hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis (if visiting rural farming areas), rabies (if outdoor activities in remote areas).

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.


  • Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds).


3. Natural disasters


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Rainy season: December to March (northeast), May to October (southwest), could cause flash floods and landslides.
  • Tsunami: very occasional.


What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reports, weather forecasts and sources such as:

Reacting to one:

  • Tsunamis: signs include abnormal ocean activity and load roars. Get to a high ground as far inland as possible.


4. Transport safety


How it works:

Traffic conditions can be hazardous here, some factors to watch out for:

  • Roads within cities are fine, but are in a state of disrepair outside cities.
  • Poorly maintained vehicles.
  • Both drivers and pedestrians not adhering to traffic rules.
  • Congested traffic with a variety of conveyances – animals, ox carts, 4 x 4 vehicles, bicycles, etc.
  • Overloaded trucks, aggressive buses.
  • Narrow two lane highways.

Other transport concerns:

  • Buses are poorly maintained, overcrowded, aggressively driven and thefts are common.


What to do:


  • Check latest media reports and weather forecast.
  • Stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up.

Other transportation:

  • To move around, hire a driver or use a taxi (apps such as Uber, Pickme Sri lankan Taxi service).



1. Emergency numbers to call

Sri Lanka police

Source image: sundaytimes.lk


  • Police emergency hotline: 118 / 119
  • Ambulance / fire service: 110
  • Tourist police: 011 2421052
  • Police emergency: 011 2433333

Join the community!

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  1. Supun

    Thank you for preparing this list.its all about using your common sense in such situations .Having pre -planned or pre-booked travel services can help such unpleasant moments ,having a official travel guide or driver guide throughout your travel can help .sleays look for reputed travel agents in Sri Lanka

  2. Grayden

    Common sense advice that is usefull except for…. Usung a hotel safe. Have a look on utube and you may be surprised at how easily a hotel safe may be overcome. Of course, nothing is really safe if somebody really wants it so its all degrees of opportunity.

  3. M

    Well, this actually discourages me to travel to sri lanka.

    • Dave

      I wish I had read this before going to Sri Lanka as I ended up buying some questionable skin care remedies in a spice garden. However, the country is amazing and I will definitely go there again. My experience advice, if approached by a Tuk Tuk driver offering to take you somewhere then refuse. Always agree the price up front. If they divert to a gem stone mine, spice garden, River cruise just tell them you have already been there.

  4. Yoosuf

    Relating to the tuk tuk scams, I’m a Sri Lankan myself and I never use tuk tuks parked by the side of the roads because they charge more than the regular tuk tuks which I could book via the mobile app. I always use Pickme which is not only cheaper but for tourists its also safer because of its GPS tracking, SOS alerts and in case of issues you can always report the driver to the headoffice where necessary action could be taken. Another option would be to use Uber which is also considerably cheap and especially cheaper than the road side tuks!

    • Richa

      thank you really helpful info

  5. Rassan

    I went through your blog articles it means a lot about Sri Lanka and i like all the interesting posts.
    Did you know we also had a similar site related to Sri Lanka but we covers travel tips related to Sri Lanka and about Sri lankan languages.

  6. Aruni

    Relating to the tuk tuk scams :- you can use uber in srilanka. Now they have introduced uber tuk. So if you wanna tuk you can hire a tuk for a reasonable prices.

  7. Konstantin Ridaya

    Thanks a lot for making this list. Unfortunately Sri Lanka has become a mekka for hustlers and scam artists of all sorts with the growing tourism after the Civil War ended, to such a degree, that I can hardly recognize “my Sri Lanka” anymore, and I have basically been victim of attempts to do them all and then some by now.

    I can add the marriage of relative or friend scam. In Sigiriya one young guy befriended me and soon he began talking about a friend of his girlfriend, who had been through a horrible marriage with a local boy on drugs and who now would like to marry a westerner. It all sounded so good, but it basically turned out, that I just had to invest in some business of which I could not hold papers as a foreigner or build a room to my “friends” sister’s house, where my coming wife and I could live for free. I did try their “for free”, I stayed at his sisters house for a little week and every single day were without comparison the most expensive days I ever had in Sri Lanka and I basically were stuck in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t go anywhere on my own. My “friend” of course choose were I ate, which always were on the expensive tourist places, where I simply would never go on my own. The last day at his house I ended up buying him a new set of clothes, because his all were wet, by the way the most expensive set of clothes I have ever bought in my time in Sri Lanka, and give the guy 7000 rupees, so he could meet the girls parents in Kandy in an restaurant, of course, and talk them into accepting the marriage. What a joke! While he were away, I packed my gear and called a taxi and went of. Same evening I send a message to the girl and explained my concerns and called of the wedding plans. Her entire reply were “okay”. She definitely had never had any intention marrying me and for all I know she might not even be single or live in Kandy, as she said she did.

    I have heard some horror stories about these kinds of fake marriage proposals already, so I was on the guard and did not fall for it. For instance did one of my friends meet a countryman from Denmark on a vacation in Thailand, who were both heartbroken and completely devastated. He had for quite a while had a relationship to a local girl on frequent vacations and now they had just got married, a huge wedding and party for all the village, which cost around 10.000 us dollars and bought a house in her name, which cost around 100.000 us dollars (which is a luxury house in both Thailand and Sri Lanka) and as soon as the wedding were over and the papers signed the girls real husband and her children moved into the house. Basically the entire village were complicit in scamming the poor guy and there were nothing he could do, because the house were not in his name.

    By the way, I have been married to a Sri Lanka woman and I therefore have some knowledge of Sinhala, the majority language in Sri Lanka. If they refer to you as “Sudha”, maybe even with a snear on their face or disgust in their voice, I guarantee you, that they are not your friends, no matter what they try to do or say in English to convince you otherwise. “Sudha” is a racist and very negative laden word used against white men in particular and its just as negative as nigger would be about black people in USA or pakhi would be in UK against Muslims, just to take this into context, and the racism against in particular white males are unfortunately rampant down here. It is government policy, that tourists should pay over prices for everything and in popular media you see dayly doses of propaganda against white people, as of course programs constantly referring to white males as drunks. I’m not kidding you, this is true.

  8. Lou

    Thanks so much for this information, it’s such a shame that these things happen when you want so much to have faith in humanity, but the reality is this is life!
    We have just left Colombo on the Mirissa express train and got ‘done’ by a local. We were rushing a bit as we had got delayed so there was a bit of commotion finding our carriage and prep-booked seats, and this seemingly nice looking local jumped out from the train to help us with our bags and took our ticket and showed us to our seats, very helpful. we assumed he worked on the train. Once we were sitting down he came back with a piece of paper with various photos and writing on to explain he was deaf and showed us pictures of himself and information on a charity for the deaf. He then showed us another piece of paper with a list of handwritten contributions from other people. So we paid him a small amount, and put our names down, reciprocating the kindness. He then left, all smiles, thumbs up, and It wasn’t til a few minutes afterwards that I realised he’d left with our ticket, and we’d paid him for the privilege!
    I walked down a few carriages to see if I could see him but he was no where to be seen. Luckily I came across the train guard and explained what had happened and he was nice about it and crossed our seat numbers from his list. If I hadn’t had seen him then I’m sure we would have got thrown off the train later when he came round or asked to pay again. I’m not sure what will happen to the train ticket the man stole, likely will be used to scam some other traveller.
    Anyway this wasn’t a major scam but our first experience of it 2 days in and will be much more wary from now on! Let’s hope it is the last one!

    • Barrett

      Omg we met this guy too! There were actually a few other dead people at the station congregated together. When the train was coming he told us to move forward and then we didn’t see him again until he came on the train once we were seated and showed us a black and white photocopied photo of him at school or something and had the list of names and money amounts signed on the back. I gave him less than what all the other names had given though because it felt a little weird. Next time now I know to just wave these people on. I’m sorry he stole your tickets though!!

  9. Brit tourist

    Walking in Colombo about 200m from our hotel, police with AK47s stopped my girlfriend and I, asked us where we were from and then to see our passports, which we didn’t have on us thankfully. They told us it’s law in srilanka for foreigners to carry passport at all times and were basically trying to intimidate us, but we kept our cool, played innocent and smiled as we insisted no problem we’ll head back to hotel and grab them, walking off before they had a chance to think of a new reason to harass us. If we’d have given them our passports, no doubt they would have held on to them until we paid them. Right next to a McDonald’s too! Absolute joke

  10. Stephen Foy

    25th. February 2019.

    Whilst boarding Matara train in Colombo young man dropped his phone and it broke into pieces. He blocked entry to us getting on the train pretending to gather broken phone. The crowd behind (most likely his accomplices) were creating a fuss trying to get on the train, shouting and pushing. We had passports and cash stolen.


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