How To Be Street Smart & Avoid Vacation-Ruining Scams In Sri Lanka

Let’s be street smart and protect ourselves from unwanted fuss.

Kandalama Lake was created by the dam used for irrigation purposes in the region.
Kandalama Lake was created by the dam used for irrigation purposes in the region. PHOTO Wendy Hung

Before heading to Sri Lanka, you may have heard about various types of scams travelers have encountered. Despite its beautiful landscapes that continue to attract tourists like you and I, unfortunately travel shams in Sri Lanka remain to be an issue.

This article is not meant to deter travelers from visiting Sri Lanka, but rather, let’s be street smart and protect ourselves from unwanted troubles on the road. Here’s a breakdown of different types of scam(mers) you may come across. Our goal is to help other travelers, to prevent them from experiencing similar rip-offs.

1. e-Visas.

You’ll find many websites giving Sri Lanka e-visa services at outrageous prices. THIS is the only website you should apply at.

2. Fake tickets.

After exiting a cultural site that required a purchased ticket, make sure you keep the stub instead of giving it to your guide or driver. Often, your used tickets will be resold to other tourists later.

3. Taxi or tuk tuk.

Two rules I always stick to regarding taxis or tuk tuks in any country are: 1) ALWAYS settle on a price before getting into the vehicle. 2) ALWAYS carry small bills because drivers will not have change as a way to make more money off of tourists.

4. Jewelry boutiques.

It’s not uncommon to visit a jewelry shop while traveling since many countries specialize in unique gems. But if you’re taken to a shop by a taxi or tuk tuk driver, then you’ve been scammed. Most likely, the drivers have been paid by shop owners to take you there and earn a certain percentage of commission from your sale. If you don’t fall in love with anything, or you’re not an expert in the particular gem, then don’t feel guilty – don’t buy!

5. Spice gardens.

Spices and ayurvedic oils are famous in Sri Lanka, if you’re unknowingly taken to a spice garden by a driver or your guide, then you’ve been scammed. These shops will sell spices and oils at exaggerated prices.

6. Massages.

If you want a good massage, ask your hotel concierge for a local recommendation. Otherwise, if your recommendations come from drivers, you’ll be taken to unqualified spas with untrained staff in a sloppy setting.

7. Credit cards.

My rule of thumb while traveling is to pay by cash rather than with credit cards, or at least try to avoid it. While withdrawing cash is safe, credit cards are prone to scams and potential card swipes.

8. Con men.

Anyone who says that he/she works at your hotel, or he’s dressed as police officers, definitely needs second guessing on your part. They’re most likely trying to sell you a higher priced tour, some sort of service or accommodation. Sometimes, these con men will use children to trigger your sympathy. Just keep walking and ignore them.

Wendy Hung


As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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