Sri Lanka is a spectacular country with a lot to offer to any kind of tourist. Unfortunately, like in all the tourist paradises there are some tourist traps and scams you should avoid to have a perfect experience. We have to say that personally we had an excellent long vacation in Sri Lanka and spent a lovely time in the country with no trouble at all. Nevertheless, we have been told about, we have seen some tries and they even tried with us some of the tricks and scams we will mention in this article. We will propose a solution to avoid being cheated and guarantee the best of the holidays for you. 

We have to mention and the tourists must notice that Sri Lanka has suffered an economic and political crisis recently. Therefore there could be still some shortages of food and fuel, blackouts due to the lack of petrol in the country and terrible inflation which influences very much on the prices.

Tuk-tuk Overcharging

This is the classic of the classic scam in Sri Lanka. Some tuk-tuk drivers may try to overcharge unsuspecting tourists for short rides. They might not use any kind of meter and tell after high prices. We personally rented for a month a tuk-tuk we drove ourselves but we listened to many stories about this very common trick with tourists. 

Solution: Always insist on negotiating a price beforehand. It’s a good idea to ask your accommodation for estimated tuk-tuk fares as a reference.

Tourists traps and scams in Sri Lanka

Gem Scams

The same method as in India is one of the most frequent scams in Sri Lanka. Tourists might be lured into gem shops offering seemingly great deals on precious stones, only to discover they’ve purchased low-quality or fake gems. They know that you are not an expert, probably they are neither, but you may lose anyway. 

Solution: Be cautious when buying gems and always go to reputable, government-authorized shops or those ones you could have references in advance. Get a certificate of authenticity, and do some research on gem quality beforehand.

“Closed” Attractions

Random people, so-called guides, and drivers might tell you that popular attractions are closed, attempting to divert you to other, often more expensive places.

Solution: Confirm the status of attractions with official sources or your accommodation to avoid one of the most annoying scams in Sri Lanka. Don’t rely solely on recommendations from strangers.

Pickpocketing and bag snatching

Petty theft, such as pickpocketing or bag snatching, can occur in crowded areas and on public transport.

Solution: Stay vigilant, keep your belongings secure, and consider using anti-theft bags or money belts when in crowded places.

Misleading Tour Packages

Some tour operators may exaggerate the quality of tours and accommodations, leaving tourists disappointed with their experience.

Solution: Research tour operators and read reviews before booking. Ask for detailed itineraries and check if there are hidden costs. A reputable operator will provide transparent information.

Non-existent event scam

This is an unfortunate Asian classic. You go on the street and someone approaches nicely to offer an exclusive pass, a ticket or even a contact for a secret, private or exclusive ceremony or event. In Sri Lanka, it is quite common among scammers to tell first that the president or someone very important comes and therefore they organize an exceptional event you obviously cannot find on the Internet. The tourist for being the luckiest gets the exclusive chance of assisting thanks to the contact or sudden friendship you never asked before from someone you never met five minutes ago. 

Solution: Never accept random offers you never asked for upfront. Stick to your plan. Be well-informed in advance and know what you would like to do at the place.      

Cheating when giving change

An international mini scam. you pay and you don’t receive the correct change. 

Solution: Always count your change carefully before leaving the counter or the person you’re transacting with. Don’t be in a rush to move on. Be familiar with the local currency and its denominations. Scammers may try to confuse you with similar-looking bills. Whenever possible, use the exact amount to minimize the need for change and while your transaction is being processed, keep an eye on the cashier or the person handling your payment. Ensure they don’t switch bills or engage in sleight of hand.

Overcharging for food or drinks

One more of the sadly worldwide spread scams. In Sri Lanka food is cheap but nobody will look at you in a bad way if you ask for the prices in advance. Since you are a tourist they may think you are rich and try to overcharge for your food or drinks. In some places, they have written menus but it is common not to have them. 

Tourists traps and scams in Sri Lanka

Solution: Order after checking the prices in advance and let them know by looking at the menu you take prices in consideration. If they don’t have written prices just ask for them or pay in advance. 

You have missed the last bus

Yes, you will miss the last bus and there will be no alternative transport at all besides using the taxi services of the persons who gently inform you about this unfortunate circumstance. 

Solution: Be always informed about transport solutions and their schedules. Don’t trust anybody who communicates without asking that you don’t have any other solution besides spending money on them. 

Ticketless bus

You get on a bus and the driver or whoever has the duty of charging refuses to give you a ticket. Every bus in the country should give a printed paper to the client. If they don’t just know that they can be cheating on you with the price. It is a good idea to have small notes and enough change to pay the exact amount. If you pay with a big note they can write the amount they should give you on the ticket and you may need to wait till the assistant driver has collected enough cash to give your balance to you.  

Solution: Just buy the tickets online or at the counters of trustworthy companies to avoid the ticket payment on board. 

At the wine store

To buy alcohol, including beers you may need to go to a wine store. In Sri Lanka, they sell booze in restaurants, hotels, or in that kind of stores. There, the service is not the most professional in the country and they may take advantage of you if you don’t know the prices or you don’t control the currency. It is not a good idea to go there drunk. If you ask for help or call someone to buy alcohol on your behalf it will almost always be an extra cost.  

Tourists traps and scams in Sri Lanka

Solution: Know the prices upfront and order only what you want before getting in the store. You should always keep in mind that a tourist is a tourist and some locals could take advantage of you. People from Sri Lanka are normally very friendly, helpful, and honest, don’t get them wrong. But like in every country there is a minority who could play you. 

The broken surfboard scam

In Sri Lanka, surfing is a very common activity among tourists. In fact, this is one of the best countries to do that. You can find in the country dozens of surfing courses and plenty of shops where you can rent a surfboard if you didn’t bring one. Some of the shops collect the boards in worse condition and they try to rent them first. If they rent a half broken board and you finish the job of breaking it by accident they would ask you to pay the price of a new one. 

Solution: Check twice the board before leaving the shop and don’t trust anyone who tries to rent something in bad condition. if there is any crack at your board ask gently to change it for another one.  

Some of the cool pictures you can see on the internet are not as natural and spontaneous as you may imagine. If you want an Instagram pic please ask in advance what can cost to you.

Best Beaches in Sri Lanka

They target you for innovative scams

As we said before, Sri Lanka is a country of honest people but the few bad ones there will be looking for you to try something. It is more likely that they do if they think you are suitable for a scam. Don’t let anybody know you can afford paying more than needed or you are easy-going enough to tolerate that.  

Solution: When you pay, try to do it discreetly, especially if you’re handling large sums of money to avoid scams in Sri Lanka. Drawing attention to your cash can make you a target for scams. Don’t show luxury objects or any kind of information about your finances or money. 

Enjoy our discounts in Sri Lanka

Useful information about Sri Lanka

Are there any specific areas in Sri Lanka known for tourist traps?

Popular tourist areas like Colombo and Kandy may have more scams. Stay cautious, but remember that scams can occur anywhere, so vigilance is key

What should I do if I suspect I’ve encountered a scam in Sri Lanka?

If you suspect a scam, trust your instincts and politely decline. It’s also advisable to report the incident to local authorities or your embassy.

How can I ensure a safe shopping experience in Sri Lanka without falling for inflated prices?

Research the fair prices of goods, haggle when necessary, and buy from reputable stores. Seek recommendations from fellow travelers or locals to find trustworthy vendors.

Are there any specific tips for solo travelers to avoid tourist traps and scams in Sri Lanka?

Solo travelers should stay extra vigilant, avoid secluded areas at night, and be cautious when accepting unsolicited offers of assistance or guidance.

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