Scammed in Sri Lanka: The Thieving Tuk-Tuk Driver


sri lanka train

I felt safe in Sri Lanka until I travelled alone.

With Dave, I would gush non-stop about the friendly locals who were so delighted to see us in their country. I lost count of the number of times we were approached and asked why were in Sri Lanka, where we were heading, and what we loved most about the country. A highlight: when Dave mentioned to our tuktuk driver that he’d always wanted to drive one, he excitedly showed him how it worked, and then pulled over and offered to let Dave drive him and I around Mirissa!

When wandered alone, though, the mood changed. It wasn’t that anyone did anything — nobody touched me or said more than hello — but it felt like every local man I passed stared at me in an unsettling way. It made me so uncomfortable that I resigned myself to exploring solely with Dave. I felt nervous without him.

My first view of Sri Lanka

On my final day in the country, there was no escaping solo travel: Dave had plans to explore Central Sri Lanka for the next two weeks and I was flying back to the UK to surprise my mum for her birthday. I had 24 hours to get from Galle to Negombo, and then on to the airport the following morning.

The journey was more complicated than it should have been, especially as I was trying to maximise my Dave Time and didn’t want to leave Galle until later. Buses were complicated, and so crowded that I didn’t want to battle with them with my bags. Trains would be fine — catch one to Colombo, one to Negombo, and taxi to my guesthouse — but I’d been to Negombo train station before and it had been deserted. I really didn’t want to be wandering around at 10 p.m. trying to find a taxi. (Note! Dave just told me the train station I was thinking of wasn’t actually Negombo train station, which is actually quite busy so, uh, I guess I’m stupid.)

It didn’t help that I read over and over about how women shouldn’t venture out alone at night in Colombo — or even hang out at bus/train stations — I rolled my eyes at their fear mongering, and decided to train it anyway. It’d be fine, I told myself.

I said goodbye to Dave, switched off all technology so I couldn’t be traceable — the last thing I wanted was for someone to see some kind of social media update tagging me in London before I got to surprise my mum. As always, my tears dried ten minutes afterwards and I remembered how much I love solo travel. And how much I love the trains in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan train ride

It was at the first stop when I watched in bewilderment as a crowd of local teenagers began to gather on the platform beside me. I stared at my feet for a minute and looked up, only to see a dozen guys staring at me with intense, chocolate-coloured eyes. I felt like I was in a zoo.

I wasn’t sure what to do so I squatted down in front of my seat until we started moving again. Because that didn’t make me look crazy…

It kept happening: the guy sat across the aisle watched me for much of the journey; men would pile onto the train and then stop in their tracks when they spotted me, the lone foreigner in the carriage; and even the guy sat in front kept turning around and peering through the gap in the seats at me.

It was creeping me out, especially because of all the silly articles I’d read that morning. Maybe there was some truth to them after all? I shook my head and reminded myself that nobody was doing anything to me. I was just being overly paranoid.

Darkness fell and we arrived in Colombo.

Lighthouse in Galle
I don’t have a photo of Colombo, so here’s one of Galle: my favourite place in Sri Lanka

I had two options: wait alone in stare-ridden Colombo Fort train station for an hour, hope I could hunt down a taxi, and get to my guesthouse, or leave Colombo Fort and grab a taxi now.

I threw up my hands and walked outside. I couldn’t put a price on my safety. It was dark, I was nervous, and I just wanted to get to Negombo.

“Tuktuk?” A guy jumped into my path from the shadows.

“Maybe,” I said. I pulled out my phone and held it out to him. On the screen was the address of my guesthouse. “How much to go here?”

“4000,” he said.

A quick calculation told me that was $30. I shook my head. “2000.”

“3000.”

“2000.”

“3000.”

I groaned, and walked away. He didn’t call me back so I knew he wasn’t going to budge on price. What should I do?

I turned on my heel and trudged back to him. “Okay, 3000,” I said, hanging my head in shame. 3000 rupees was $22. I’d paid 65 rupees (50 cents) for my three-hour train ride. I’m such a pushover, I berated myself. I’m the worst traveller in the world.

sri lankan rupees
Sri Lankan Rupees: I loved that they were so colourful. And vertical! I’d never seen that before

“I am going to my house,” the tuktuk driver shouted at me, ten minutes later.

“What?” I shouted back, and the wind whipped a gust of hair into my mouth.

“I want to take you in a taxi. I will take you to my house and we can get my car, and then I will take you.”

Alarm bells rang in my head. I’d spooked myself out from all the staring and now this guy was going to drive me to his house? I was certain it was innocent but that was how I’d ended up scammed and assaulted in the past. I couldn’t take the risk.

“No,” I told him. “Tuktuk or I’m getting out.”

“Is too far for tuktuk.”

“Then why did you agree to take me?”

“I take you to my house.”

“No. I am not going to your house.”

I coughed into my scarf as I inhaled a cloud of dust. We swerved onto a pot-holed highway that was clogged with traffic and began to career from side to side so violently that I was convinced we were going to topple over.

We stopped by the side of the road and I watched the driver walk into a store. He came out with a packet of cigarettes.

“Yes?” he asked, holding one out.

I shook my head.

He lit up, climbed back inside, and began to drive with one hand.

I was terrified.

sausage dog mirissa
Here’s an unrelated photo of a sausage dog at our guesthouse in Mirissa

After an hour of white-knuckle riding, we stopped again.

“Negombo,” the driver said, turning around and holding out his hand to me.

I peered into the darkness. “This is my hotel?” I asked.

“No. This negombo. Hotel extra. To hotel 4000.”

Few things ever make me lose my temper but being taken advantage of really makes me see red.

“Are you kidding me?” I snapped. “No way. I showed you the address of my hotel. You knew where I wanted to go. You looked at the address and said yes.”

“No, negombo.”

“I’m not getting out,” I said, leaning back and crossing my arms. “Take me to my hotel like we agreed.”

“4000.”

“I’m not paying it,” I spat, baring my teeth in what I hoped was an intimidating way.

“4000,” he insisted.

“Come on, man,” I snapped. “You know that me paying 3000 is a massive rip-off anyway. I’m not paying.” I waved the guesthouse address in his face. “Take me to my hotel.”

He shook his head and turned down a dark and empty road.

Damn it. I was about to be murdered.

galle shipwreck

“Where is hotel?” he shouted half an hour later.

“What?”

“Hotel? Negombo?”

I pulled out my phone again. “Yeah, Negombo,” I said, leaning forward and showing him the screen.

He pulled over, and began calling to a group of men. He tried to pull my phone from my hand. I shook my head. “No way.” I kept it clenched in my sweaty fist and held it out to them.

We took off again, hurtling down the main strip of Negombo. I heaved a sigh of relief to see signs of life after a tense half an hour spent hurtling down dark roads. He couldn’t attack me in front of all these people.

“Too far,” he shouted at me. “I need money.”

“No,” I yelled back. “You’re getting 3000.”

“Money.”

“You agreed to this! I showed you the address.”

He muttered something under his breath and swerved down a narrow alleyway to the right. There was nothing that I could see. No lights, no cars — only darkened buildings. Now I was going to be murdered.

He braked and turned off the engine and I let the silence hang between us.

“Hotel,” he said, pointing to the left.

I looked out. “Oh yes,” I said, waves of relief washing over me.

I climed out of the tuktuk and dragged my bags behind me. “3000,” I reminded him.

“3000,” he repeated begrudgingly.

I took out a 5000 rupee note from my purse and held it out. He quickly pocketed it and my eyes met his for a few tantalising seconds. I stood and watched, slack-jawed, as he started the engine and roared off down the road, 5000 rupees in his pocket.

$40 down the drain. Not only that, but it was my last 5000 rupees, and I had a taxi ride to the airport to pay for in the morning. It was 10 p.m., I was exhausted, and I really didn’t want to go and find an ATM.

Motherfucker!” I muttered beneath my breath.

150 Comments

  1. Ahh this post gave me SUCH anxiety. I’m sure you were so nervous! That realllyyy sucks about getting scammed out of your money, but at least that’s the worst that happened!

    • March 20, 2015
      Reply

      I was terrified! I always worry about the worst possible scenario and I was convinced he was going to try to murder me somewhere!

  2. Wish what an asshole! Dude I’d be so mad of I were you, but karma will get him for that. I get that a lot with tuktuk drivers in India trying to change course or change rate and at the next stop I just get out and tell them to eff off, No explanation needed bc they know and I know they r trying to rip me off. … never had someone keep the change tho! So shady

    • March 20, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, same! I’m used to tuktuk drivers being super shady, but I’d never heard of one driving away with the change. Ugh!

    • Tina
      September 12, 2016
      Reply

      Karma might not get to him, unless hopefully some drunken badass russian tourist will just beat him senseless and burn down his tuktuk. AMEN

      • September 19, 2016
        Reply

      • Martin
        March 21, 2018
        Reply

        Wow… there is an ill informed, nasty bitch.
        Let’s beat a man senseless and take away his livelihood – for scamming $8 of and scaring a turist. A turist, that was not making sound travel decisions. Even by her own admission. Sensible response, very sensible.

        Sure, being scared for your life, in a far away land, is no fun.
        Loosing 2000 rupee ($13) to a local – basicly because you had all your remaining funds in one huge denomination. In a country where hageling for tuk tuk prices is the norm – Little bit your own fault.

        I’m not condoning the drivers behaviour.
        But a little bit of actual planning AND some more common sense. Would have gone a long way to avoid this whole mess in the first place.

        Plan and prep for the trips you embark on.
        And all is well in the world – And safe too 99.999% of the time.

        Happy travels everyone :-D

        • March 21, 2018
          Reply

          Definitely sounds like you’re blaming me for being robbed.

          • Natalia
            April 26, 2018
            Reply

            Martin is an asshole, this was in no way your fault.

        • Just a Geek!
          November 14, 2018
          Reply

          Hi Lauren,

          It was really embarrassing to hear such a story from a tourist visiting our country.

          But, to be honest with all tourists, tuk-tuks are a complete clutter in Sri Lanka. Tuk-tuk drivers are careless drunk drivers and very well known for over-charging tourists.

          Due to the safety, I personally use Uber most of the time, except during the daytime where I just hop into a tuk-tuk if I do need it!

          Btw, I would suggest that tourists, especially women do not travel in tuk-tuks alone in the night.

          You could get a Prius from Colombo to Negambo for 2850 rupees.

          Hope you could get some good Uber tuk-tuk’s the next time you come – Good Luck!

      • Hasith
        July 31, 2018
        Reply

        I wouldn’t try that if I’m a Russian. And Even locals here don’t try that. That usually does not end well. Well Like 5 years ago a Israel or Russian guy did. Sadly it didn’t end well and poor bugger went home in coffin.

        Whatever the country you go trying bully a local won’t end well. Even a scummy bugger. It should be the rule No 01 in Travel 101. Don’t mess with a local unless you know the local language or know locals.

        You count on most tuk tuk drivers try to scam you. But they would never dare to touch. if claims something like that locals would beat the guy up and hand over to police and then police beat him up and put him on court. BUT if they see a local guy get beat up by a tourist male things can do sides ways very fast.

      • July 26, 2019
        Reply

        Why does it have to be Russian? Gurl calm down plus karma will get to him in another way and Russians are nice? they won’t burn down his tok tuk #shadycomment

  3. March 20, 2015
    Reply

    Ugh, that gave me anxiety just reading it. Happened to me the exact same way with a taxi driver in Moscow. Thankfully he underestimated my ability to curse and throw a fit in Russian – I jumped in front of the car until someone nearby came over. I definitely would have run far away, though, if I hadn’t had some home-turf advantage!

  4. Dumidu
    March 20, 2015
    Reply

    I am a Sri Lankan, I don’t know how I ended up here reading your blog :D but I feel really sorry for what happened to you. First of all, who would take a TukTuk from Colombo to Negambo?? That was a stupid idea. Even a Sri Lankan would be scared to do that. You know taxis are more cheaper than tuktuks when it comes to long rides. And they are safe, proper drives with uniforms and all. If you had gone to the Colombo bus stop, you would have find a luxury bus to negambo which only cost around 300-400rs. All I can say is if you travel to Sri Lanka again, just take TukTuks for fun, but don’t use them for long rides. They’re the worst.

    • March 20, 2015
      Reply

      It was totally a stupid idea! :-) At the time, I wasn’t really sure of how far away Negombo was and the tuk-tuk driver seemed to think it was okay so I went with it. I’ll know for next time :-)

    • Rikk
      February 2, 2016
      Reply

      I also faced same instance and not once but many times. After my visit to Sri Lanka, my perception is they people are dishonest and doesn’t know about hospitality. I would never ever go again and also will not recommend anybody.

      Tuk Tuk drivers are so bastard that one of them kept my 1000 SLR note although he was suppose to return 400 SLR. But he didn’t and said place is far very far. I said but you are local and you agree on 600 SLR so you have to return 400 SLR else I’ll call police. He replied – you are most welcome and went without returning money.

      • February 3, 2016
        Reply

        Please don’t judge an entire country’s population by the dodgy tuk-tuk drivers! The vast majority of Sri Lankans I met were warm, friendly, and welcoming.

        • November 20, 2016
          Reply

          Exactly Lauren, I’m a Sri Lankan and agree to what Dumidu has said above, So ashamed by these tuk tuk losers who bring dishonor to all the decent locals out there. These things happen not only for foreigners but for us as well. I always use metered taxis and never use them for longer rides. There’s UBER and other well established taxi services like Pickme at disposal. but these are restricted to urban areas. Hope you had enjoyed the culture , hisotry and food while you were in sri lanka in spite of this predicament. Happy Travel.

  5. GAH, FUCKER! God, you must have been so anxious sitting in the back of that tuk tuk. Glad it ended kinda ok though – your safety is definitely worth more than $40 :) x

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, I think the fact it happened at night made it so much worse. The dark roads felt so much more sinister when I had no idea where we were going! And yep, I’ve been scammed quite a few times and I’m least angry by this one — it’s not much money and I was just glad to be safe — but still, couldn’t believe it when he just raced off like that!

  6. Charlie
    March 21, 2015
    Reply

    What a horrible experience! Was nerve-wracking just reading your post. I’ve yet to travel in India or Sri Lanka yet but I’ve heard from girls who have that say the staring can be quite oppressive. I know most is harmless but it’s only human to feel uncomfortable being intensely stared at. That tuk tuk driver’s got some bad karma coming his way, that’s for sure.

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, I really didn’t think it would bother me until I experienced it for myself. I know as well that it’s harmless but it does make me pretty uncomfortable.

  7. March 21, 2015
    Reply

    I’ve been in this situation sooo many times! I accept that it’s not always possible to have the right money for a fare but when I don’t I sit there for the whole journey wondering whether the driver is going to claim to have no change at the end of it. But to just drive off like that! I’m seething just reading your article…people shouldn’t be able to get away with behaviour like that, but they do time and time again and it makes me so mad. I love travelling solo but I hate being the ‘solo female traveller’ sometimes…

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, I’m used to tuktuk drivers changing the price at the end of the journey but I really wasn’t expecting him to just drive off like that! And I agree, sometimes solo travel can suck.

  8. March 21, 2015
    Reply

    Something similar happened with a taxi driver to me. We called for a taxi in dubai, to have us taken to the airport for our flight to Rome. We came across some peak hour traffic along the way and the taxi driver pulled up on the side of the highway and said for us to get out, saying he has another important client to attend to and that the taxi driver will hail another taxi for us. We took our luggage out and then the taxi driver sped off without assisting us to get another taxi – luckily i guess we didn’t have to pay the driver for that ride. After hailing taxi’s in the 40c arabian heat for 7 minutes, we managed to find an epic taxi driver who used backroads to get us to the flight with 10 minutes checkin time to spare. Lesson – When catching a taxi in dubai, it might be worth taking down the license plate and driver ID, so they can be accountable if they pull a shifty – like they did on us. Lesson learnt :)

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Wow, that’s awful and sounds like it would have been incredibly stressful! I can’t believe he just offloaded you on the side of the road.

  9. E Way
    March 21, 2015
    Reply

    im a frequent traveler to sri lanka. a toyota hybrid taxi ride from colombo will only cost 2500rs to airport and around 3000rs to colombo with great safety, aircond and no rip off. sri lanka tuktuk will always use no change as a reason not to give you back the money and they will ride away immediately.

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for the tip! :-)

    • Leif Ohlson
      March 23, 2015
      Reply

      Yes – use the Kangaroo Cabs or take the Budget Taxi – Nano

      can pree book –

      Sorry to say is that you will get same kind of ripp off but even worse money wise in Stockholm Airport if you step in the wrong cab.

      • March 23, 2015
        Reply

        Yes, fortunately it didn’t happen in an expensive country! :-)

    • Georgina
      May 12, 2015
      Reply

      HI, I’m traveling to Kandy in Sri Lanka this weekend, we have to get there from the airport Bandaranaike by taxi. I was wondering if the taxis are metered or should we agree on a price before hand. Also do you have any tips safety wise? Thanks! Id really appreciate your advice.

  10. March 21, 2015
    Reply

    Well…. sorry to say, but it could end up much worse, Lauren. Glad you had made to the hotel.
    I am a man, and had a similar scamming story in India. So it’s not only happens to solo-girl travelers.

  11. Upeka
    March 21, 2015
    Reply

    I’m from Sri Lanka… I’m sorry about what happened to you…..
    But before travelling you should have read about transport in Sri Lanka, just like many other under developed countries such as India and vietnam, there’s no pricing for tuktuk, unless you use a meter tuktuk(still you can’t trust it) .we never recommend a foreigner to travel in tuktuk… Ride from Colombo to Negombo in a tuktuk is never done by anyone… Asking 4000 for that is imaginable…. Travel in public transport in that time of the night , out of the heart of Colombo is also not advisable…taxi is the safest… Thank god u ended up safe..even from me , being a Sri Lankan they will drive away with the balance :)
    However I’m sorry about your troubles….. But I believe Sri Lanka is a wonderful country with full of hospitality , except these matters in public transports

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      I believe that, too, and I won’t be making the same mistake again :-)

  12. I’m so glad you are safe! I can’t even imagine writing this post…I would have had anxiety just thinking about it. That’s the kind of thing that makes me nervous in traveling. But I guess it doesn’t happen all the time. The problem is being tired. I just can’t function and think clearly.

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      I agree. I would have been a little more functional had it not been something like 10 o’clock at night! Fortunately, I’ve had very few experiences where I genuinely feared for my safety.

  13. Great story! I’d be so mad seeing him drive off, I hate getting really ripped off.
    It can be so hard to tell when you should put your foot down and not take any shit, or when you may actually be taken down a dark alley and killed! :)

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Exactly, part of me wanted to really shout at him and the other part wanted to give him all my money so he wouldn’t kill me!

  14. Rick (in Michigan)
    March 21, 2015
    Reply

    Scary story and I’m happy it ended without harm to you. This is has happened to me several times including just recently in Miami where a local taxi (specified for these type of trips) from the airport to an airport hotel should have cost $10 (it was printed on a flyer attached to his window) yet he charged $20. In Cairo it happened every time we took a taxi – one price when we got in an another when we arrived. I wish there was someone in these places you call and they would do something about it. But there isn’t. It does royally piss me off though.

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Taxi drivers are a bit of a dodgy bunch all over the world!

  15. March 21, 2015
    Reply

    We had the exact same thing in Istanbul! Our taxi driver declared that as there was more traffic than he expected it would cost a third more than quoted! We didn’t have the right change either, but I think if I’m even in this situation again I’ll hold on to the note until they hand over the change!

    But hey, while you might have lost $40, at least you never got murdered! :)

    • March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Absolutely! I probably should have gone into the guesthouse to get change, or held on to my money until I saw he had change. Lesson learned!

  16. March 21, 2015
    Reply

    Ahhh that sux! I may be travelling there by myself but probably more likely with my friend – wonder how it will go with two western girls travelling together?

    • March 23, 2015
      Reply

      Well, aside from scams, I haven’t really heard of any women being in danger in Sri Lanka, so I think as long as you prepare yourselves for intense stares you should be fine! :-)

  17. March 21, 2015
    Reply

    I can remember that feeling of being in a zoo when my partner and I stopped in Colombo airport for 1 hour. The men all sat and stared, not budging, I ended up telling my partner we had to move as I was feeling extremely uncomfortable.
    Sucks about the tuk tuk driver ripping you off! My second time in Cambodia I made sure to take lots of small notes for this exact reason, and was very cautious not to pull out large notes while haggling or paying.

    • March 23, 2015
      Reply

      Yep, it’s always a good idea to have the right amount of change — it’s why I always try and take an odd amount out of ATMs — $310 instead of $300, for example — so I don’t end up with huge notes.

  18. Jose
    March 22, 2015
    Reply

    Being scammed is always a risk every traveller has to deal with specially in third world countries. It is much better not to be confrontational with these people when you are in a binding situation. Late at night, tired, alone and fearing for your security.
    As you’ve said, “it’s not much money and I was just glad to be safe”, is all that probably matters.
    I think you handled it quite well..
    Be safe and keep the fire of adventure in you.. :-)

    • March 24, 2015
      Reply

      Agree! It’s tough not to be confrontational when you know someone’s trying to rip you off but it can often get you into far worse situations than losing a few dollars.

  19. Atanas
    March 22, 2015
    Reply

    I`m pretty sure, he would not dare to do the same, if you were with Dave. But, as you`ve been a girl alone, he just knew you couldn`t do anything to him. That`s why he just vanished with all the money. I hate those type of bastards!

    • March 22, 2015
      Reply

      I’m not sure I agree. I think the driver may have been less aggressive had Dave been there but we’ve also dealt with plenty of tuktuk scammers when we’ve been travelling together. I think they’re all just pretty scammy, regardless of who you are.

  20. March 22, 2015
    Reply

    OMG please be careful next time. I hate scammers forever.

    • March 22, 2015
      Reply

      Me too! They always seem to come after me ;-)

  21. March 22, 2015
    Reply

    wow. I’ve been reading your posts and some of the mishaps are hilarious the way you wrote them but also scary and frustrating. I’ve never been but I would have been pissed as hell. Maybe you should have gave him a right hook like the girl who tea scammed you.

    • March 22, 2015
      Reply

      Well, he drove off before I realised what was happening! But either way, I won’t react to anything with violence again — it was such a stupid (and dangerous!) thing to do and my biggest regret.

  22. Jennifer
    March 23, 2015
    Reply

    Nerves of steel, girlfriend. And excellent placement of m*****f*****.

  23. March 23, 2015
    Reply

    The Sri Lankan Rupees are nice! Never seen that before too! The only time we felt less comfortable was during our holiday in Morocco and on the 1st place of worst places is ‘Tegucigalpa’ in Honduras.

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, I struggled in Morocco, too. Such a beautiful country, but there’s so much hassle!

  24. suhail vs
    March 25, 2015
    Reply

    are you still alive? do you watched the film ( into the wild http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758758/ ). in that film he is dead at Alaska. your journeys seems too much adventurous. you are true: won’t react to anything with violence, that is better. I wish to i will able to travel like you one day.

    anyway God bless you…. :)

    • March 25, 2015
      Reply

      Hahaha, I’m not sure I’m anywhere near as adventurous as that :-)

  25. Rentalic
    March 27, 2015
    Reply

    I think you had some adventurous experience over there in srilanka.

    • March 27, 2015
      Reply

      I’ve had more adventurous ;-)

  26. March 27, 2015
    Reply

    Wow! Amazing, but scary, story. I never been to Sri Lanka, but I’ve had some of these experiences in India. Must be even worse being a girl in these cases though, I reckon!?

    $40 down the drain…annoying! However, it could have been way worse than lost money! So, I’m glad to hear it ended well!

    • March 28, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, I definitely feel more vulnerable when I’m travelling alone — especially because I’m so small, as well! I’m not very intimidating :-)

  27. Ananda B Herath
    March 29, 2015
    Reply

    I was saddened reading your post on your terrible expperience in my country. Sri Lanka has been and will continue to be a wonderful place for travellers but a misinformed decision like taking a tuk-tuk from Colombo to Negombo at night, as a lone female, was bound to end up in a disaster (as it would in many countries) and I am glad that it was only your money that you lost. An air-conditioned radio-cab with a uniformed driver and monitored by a control centre to boot would have cost you less and saved all that anxiety.
    However, as a Sri Lankan, I apologize to you, a wonderful person who chose to visit my country but had such a bad experience as the highlight of the trip.
    I wish you pleasant trips around the world and hope you would come back to Sri Lanka for a much better and safe experience.

  28. April 3, 2015
    Reply

    OMG i would have been sooooo scared! you’re brave!

    • November 22, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Kyriam. I was terrified!

  29. April 5, 2015
    Reply

    A friend of mine almost had something bad happen to him in a Sri Lankan tuktuk as well … you have to be wary of those guys!

    • April 8, 2015
      Reply

      I haven’t come across many honest tuktuk drivers!

  30. April 6, 2015
    Reply

    Gah! This makes me so mad, but I can fully believe it from Sri Lankan rickshaw drivers – I found them to be by far worse than any I have encountered here in India (with the exception of Goa, where they don’t quite scam you, but massively overcharge). In Mumbai they work by the metre and in a year I have not been overcharged or scammed even once.

    In Sri Lanka every time was a hassle. We had to constantly follow the journey on the GPS and correct them at every turn so that they didn’t take the long way around. They did not like this at all! There was always a quarrel over the bill at the end and sometimes they just dropped us off nowhere near where we wanted to go. In Kandy one stopped and refused to go further until we agreed to take a tour with him the next day, which we did in order to get him to move again (it was late at night and dark). We didn’t answer his call the next morning and went out for the whole day so that he wouldn’t find us at our hostel, but he kept calling all day! I’ve been meaning to write a post about it all, but have not gotten around to it yet.

    In the end we downloaded the Kangaroo Cabs app and used that instead. We had no more problems and it was cheaper than using the rickshaws.

  31. Vivek
    April 21, 2015
    Reply

    Hello Lauren,

    That sure was one hell of ride, and an experience worth sharing with the world.
    The way you have put the matter, built so much of anxioty and far and nervousness, as if I was one being driven in tuk-tuk, inplace of you.

    I really sympathies with you , and hope this doesn’t happen to you ( but we can’t be sure about this as you keep getting into “unhappy ” experiences :D :D )

    I was just curios about, whether you were writing this post while in tuk-tuk … :D :D .Each expression has been detailed profoundly here. Lauren, after how many days since this incident did you pen down this Post ? .. the curiosity bug making me squirm :))

    Take care, Have fun..

    • April 21, 2015
      Reply

      I wrote it seven months later! :-)

  32. Libs
    April 27, 2015
    Reply

    Thanks for your story, all good reminders for all travellers! Just thought I would leave a positive tuk tuk driver experience from Galle, we were meant to pay 200 rupees, he dropped us off at our hotel and we walked away after paying, my partner (who is colourblind!) gave him a 1000 and a 100 note….he ran after me and said you gave me too much, he returned the 1000 note and we gave him another 100….good karma for that nice man! :0)

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, that’s amazing! With the exception of the tuk-tuk driver, I found Sri Lankans to be so warm and welcoming :-)

  33. anastasiavictoria
    May 7, 2015
    Reply

    Oh damn ! I have had many a similar situation ! Its really scary isnt it !

    I just found you through Chelsie Buckingham, an old school friend shared you on facebook. Im so excited to find your blog because we are very similar and your doing what I want to do.

    Expect many comments from me :) Im gonna be reading everything now. xxx

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Oh, how cool! :-) Hope you enjoy the blog, and feel free to email me if you need anything at all!

  34. May 13, 2015
    Reply

    Uhhh so well-written it made me get just as angry as if I were you! Tuktuk drivers always try to do the shadiest things, it’s crazy! Taxi drivers always try to pull tricks like this in Istanbul, pretending like you handed them a five instead of a fifty, and they think they can get away with it until I speak Turkish with them, then they feel bad and decide to give me back my money! Sucks that people doing things like this exist :/

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Ava! What a compliment! :-) And yeah, there’s something about tuk-tuk drivers… they’re always trying to rip you off!

  35. May 16, 2015
    Reply

    Even I felt sigh of relief when he said “Hotel” :)

    It reminded me of those college days in Quetta (Paksitan), where on our way to college on a train, our most interesting hobby was to make the terrified tourists feel comfortable by getting involved in a conversion with them in the middle of an starring crowed. Your experience reminded me that how fulfilling it was making those aliens feel comfortable, telling them that these starring people are harmless as far as they knew some of the very basic norms.

    I think being previously myself an alien, was the primary reason why I was so excited about doing this. Secondarily I and my friend were among very few who were able to speak English to some extent.

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, thanks, Ahmed! And that’s such a great story — and so kind of you to do that! I know that before I left to travel, I’d ignore all of the tourists in London, whereas now, I think I’d go up and help if they looked lost or confused. Once you’ve been in that situation yourself it really makes you feel differently :-)

  36. Dave
    May 22, 2015
    Reply

    I had a similar experience with the tuktuk driver in Sri Lanka. After a few days, we decided to just hire our own private driver to take us everywhere. The Tuk Tuks are notorious and you have to tell them to run the meter every time.
    Apart from Tuk Tuks and taxi drivers, Sri Lanka is a pretty cool country :)

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      I loved Sri Lanka! It was such a shame to leave it on a low note. Next time, I’ll know to ignore the tuk-tuks :-)

  37. Nuwan
    May 23, 2015
    Reply

    I read the story,..Do u have his Vehicle number or Mobile number(of the driver).
    those things must stopped

    Next time, pls try to use Metered Taxi. They can find anyplace from Colombo within 15mins call, they come to ur place
    you can call Budget-Taxi(0117-299299) or Sonit-Cabs (0112-816816)

    Thank you
    Nuwan

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Nuwan — I’m definitely going to do that next time! No, I don’t have the license plate or mobile number — I didn’t think to take down either!

  38. May 24, 2015
    Reply

    i like local travel but if i can i would use a rental just because i don’t want to end up in any funny situation because i am a tourist … great post !

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks! I was too scared to try driving in Sri Lanka!

  39. Jacques Indekeu
    June 16, 2015
    Reply

    I live in Negombo, Sri Lanka.
    You met a bad guy indeed.
    Though one thing on his side was correct : the price for a drive from Colombo to Negombo is indeed 3000 rupees.
    For people who want to have a trusted Tuk Tuk drive in Negombo (much nearer to airport than Colombo), I can recommend Vinoj, 0760 705 141 is his phone, Tuk Tuk Lanka on Facebook.

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Jacques! Appreciate it :-)

  40. Andres
    June 20, 2015
    Reply

    I am sorry about what happened to you and i am glad you are ok. I was scammed too in Colombo and it was in the middle of the day and I am a 37 year old man from South America.
    I am usually aware of scams and I do not trust people at all. I come from a rough country so no one has gotten me in any of my trips, and trust me, they have tried. Until today.
    As I was walking a busy road in Colombo a nice older man told me to be careful on that road, that it was unsafe. He then told me that he was a cook in a hotel nearby and that he had just left work. I kinda ignored him as I usually do but I must admit he was handsome. Then he asked me if I had visited the biggest Buddhist temple in Colombo and I said “no”. I felt in his trap without knowing it. He told me the temple was nearby and that he was going that way, I told him I wanted to walk around first and then I would go to the temple but he just stood beside me. I kinda got suspicious but he told me not to worry that he was not looking for money. So we headed for the temple. Then all of a sudden he told me that there was a special prayer in 5 minutes and that it was going to close so he hailed a tuck tuck and got on and told me come on. I was hesitant but for some stupid reason I got on. The ride was not as short as I thought but we did get to a nice temple which calmed me down. Actually it was a great temple and he showed me around in detail. That was when I suspected he was some guide in disguise and I said, well, poor man, he just wants to make a living as an informal guide so I followed along. I was thinking on giving him about 500 rupees which is like 4 dollars and which is a good tip here. When we left the temple I said good bye but the Tuck tuck arrived right away and all of a sudden we were going to the independence square. So I said, this guy really wants a day tour, fine. I guess this is cheaper than another tour.
    On the way there I figured it all out! My Colombianess came out and I thought, this is a bigger scam than just playing tour guide. The scam is not the tour guide but the TUCK TUCK DRIVER!. So I said, wait, who’s paying for this driver and how much? Ask him the price. The driver said: 5000 rupees. I immediately jumped off that thing on a busy road with many people around, the men surrounded me and then the driver said, sorry sorry bad English, it is less. I knew this was bad and I was glad I stopped there because otherwise they would have taken me to some alley and taken everything from me. Fortunately I only left the hotel with 800 rupees (6 dollars). I should have made a bigger deal and scream or something but I was also afraid. So I said, I have 800 and leave me alone. I threw the 800 rupees (6 dollars) and left. They were not happy but I just started heading towards some security guards at some consulate. I knew I was being semi-kidnapped and that I was lucky it did not go all the way.

    I got to the hotel and googled the scams in Colombo and it seems to be a very common one. Fortunately I just got half way and jumped out of the tuck tuck before they took me to some deserted place which is what most people say in the blogs.

    Today I was approached eight times, fortunately I ignored them all. Do not even talk to them! They are driving around in pairs in tuck tucks and one of them jumps out when they see a possible prey. It is quite scary. I think the police should do something about it because these are very active criminals driving around the city.

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Oh my god, thanks for sharing your story, Andres! That sounds terrifying. I don’t know what I’d do in that situation, especially, as you say, they were half-kidnapping you! Glad you managed to get away safely :-)

  41. July 9, 2015
    Reply

    i am as a Sri Lankan, I apologize to you what happan in my country ,and not all tuk tuk drivers are bad beacuse its happn to you only few this is all over the world

    • November 22, 2015
      Reply

      It’s okay — I know that tuktuk drivers are all pretty shady all over the world! :-)

  42. Jaak Indekeu
    September 4, 2015
    Reply

    Sad to hear. Taxi and tuk tuk are the same all over the world. Even with a meter they will try to rip you by making more kilometers …
    In Sri Lanka a reasonable price per kilometer is 40 rupees (Sept 2015).
    A trip from Colombo to Negombo will cost between 2800 and 3500, though indeed depending on where you start in Colombo and where you go to in Negombo.
    I found a very reliable no tricking in Negombo. Tuk Tuk Lanka is the name, Vinoj the guy.

    • September 7, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for the tip! Yep, it’s true, taxi drivers are the worst!

  43. Peter
    September 20, 2015
    Reply

    I am in Colombo and think I have just been taken for tge same scam as Andrew. Had left hotel same as Andres when approached by well dressed guy claiming to be a restaurant manager from my hotel and we got chatting. He mentioned tge Buddhist Temple round tge corner so we stared walking there when he stopped a tuk tuk. Temple was lovely. He had asked tuk tuk to wait so we jumped in again to go to Galle Green but stopped off at a gem shop on tge way. I now started to think this was a scam. I did buy some jewellery after some bartering and did feel as though the price wad ok(probably too expensive for here)

    In the tuk tuk again and off to Galle Green. Price 6400 rupees which I refused to pay
    My so called hotel restaurant manager said it was reasonable. I asked to see the meter which of course wasn’t working. He dropped to 5000 which I still refused. Finally 4000.I still thought this was expensive for 90 minutes of time here but was reasonable from where I come from. The guy with me walked a while with me but I thanked him for his hospitality and said I wanted to stroll alone. He said OK as his daughter was asking where he was and had to go.

    The next action is when I truly realised it was probably an engineered scam. I was walking off when he asked was I pleased with what I had seen whereupon I said yes apart from being ripped off by tge tuk tuk. He then asked if I could give him something to show appreciation.

    Now a Restaurant Manager from a hotel you were staying at would not risk his job in case you complained. I will be going back to the hotel later and will ask who is the restaurant manager for that restaurants

    • November 14, 2015
      Reply

      Argh, so sorry to hear that, Peter! It does sound like a scam to me.

  44. OCee
    October 5, 2015
    Reply

    Ha! ha! really funny Story you have ! Lauren next time you have to take
    metered “tuk tuk”. not only you, we also face that problem when we have emergency situation. but it’s not the face of sri lanka. ok good luck.

    • October 22, 2015
      Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the story! I definitely learned my lesson about tuktuks :-)

  45. Nimal
    November 9, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Lauren.

    I’m a Sri Lankan – and sorry to hear about your experience here.

    Tuk Tuk (three-wheeler) drivers are a menace in my country, and consists of the “underbelly” of society here. These vehicles are largely unregulated as a taxi service and there is an oversupply – resulting in most Tuk Tuk drivers resorting to drug dealing, pimping and theft for survival. The only reason they are allowed to continue like this is because they consist of a large number of people when it comes to votes from politicians’ point of view. So they (politicians) do things to pacify these guys… and life goes on.

    You will note that most bad experiences of travelers in Sri Lanka are related to travel in a Tuk Tuk. My advice to any traveler in Sri Lanka – DON”T USE TUK TUKS.

    There are several good taxi companies which run clean air-conditioned cars; and when you book a car, the company will even text you the registration number of the car and name of the driver, with the expected time that the taxi will be at your door. All that for around Rs 42 per km. Compare that to the “official” Rs 38 per km of a Tuk Tuk.

    Most Middle Class Sri Lankans will never use a Tuk Tuk – especially women traveling alone in the night – but would opt for a Call-Up car (taxi).

    • November 10, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for the tips, Nimal. I definitely learned my lesson with taking tuk-tuks :-)

  46. January 21, 2016
    Reply

    It is sad. I rarely had problems with tuktuks in Sri Lanka, as a Sri Lankan. But then it happened – I came back to Sri Lanka with my fiancée (who is a foreigner), and then this happened. Tuktuk drivers asked for more. Taking in weird roads to lengthen the trip to increase the meter value (that was when we sorted to use only the metered tuktuks, so we would not have to bargain or negotiate the price).

    I had an even worse experience in New Delhi with tuktuks. They NEVER respect their meter. Meters are there like some decoration for them (based on my experience in 2012).

    • February 4, 2016
      Reply

      Tuk-tuk drivers really are the worst all over the world!

  47. Bobbi Jo
    February 16, 2016
    Reply

    I live in Mumbai, India and we have metered taxis and the drivers are pretty good about following it – sometimes they will ask for more, but usually as you get it BUT I always keep small bills – I would never give more money than the ride actually cost because they will always drive away with it. I’m about to go to Sri Lanka and I will make sure I do the same there that I do in India.

    • February 17, 2016
      Reply

      Good luck — I’m sure you’ll be fine! :-)

  48. February 20, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Lauren, I’m in SE Asia for the first time right now (Thailand). I’m an American living in Paris and so I am really not used to using taxis or tuk tuks. I either walk in Paris or take the bus or metro. So…I don’t get how things are supposed to work. I know you’re supposed to negotiate prices, but I’ve had such bad experiences here even with the taxi drivers. On the way back to the airport we agreed on a price and then when he let us out (I was traveling with my mother) he said he wanted us to pay another bunch of baht because there was a toll road, even though we agreed to a different price. Some taxi drivers never turned on the meter either, and I know this sounds dumb, but what is the best practice for using taxis, tuk tuks etc in SE Asia. I know I will be charged more than the locals, but there is also something about feeling ripped off that sucks. Thanks!

    • February 28, 2016
      Reply

      Definitely agree on a price before you get in, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you think it’s too high — that’s actually a good way to figure out if the price you’re asking is unreasonable or not. If it’s realistic, they’ll call you back and offer you the ride, it’s all good. If not, you’ll know to increase your prices for the next guy you come across.

      It’s good to carry around change with you, as well, so that you can have the exact amount of money in your hand when you arrive and won’t have to ask for change. If they then try and charge you more, you can show them your coins and tell them it’s literally all you have.

  49. johan
    February 29, 2016
    Reply

    Predators smell fear. You handled this very bad. Also, giving him 5000 AFTER you got out the three-wheeler. dumb dumb. You know you should of had smaller bills. Agree with the 4000 on the way while keeping calm. Then pay 3000 and flip him off when you arrive. I’m sure you’ll never make this mistake again. Agreeing with 3000 in the first place made you look like a stupid tourist who could be easily taken advantage of. And what was this driver right about that! Never flash your phone either, write it down. What were you thinking? It are stupid people like you that make my travel almost unbearable. They see my blues eyes and think i might be a just as stupid cunt like you are. I thank you for that!!

    • February 29, 2016
      Reply

      lol, I see travel has made you such an open-minded person. Jesus. Judgemental, angry, ill-informed tourists like you make my travels almost unbearable.

      It’s should have, by the way, not should of. Dumb dumb.

  50. Angela
    March 3, 2016
    Reply

    It’s sad that most expatriates play a deaf ear to precautionary measures they should take when travelling. Specially ladies need to be more careful to be informed.Being a Sri Lankan woman ,I am careful when talking to male strangers. I sense who the ok guys are just to ask simple directions.Nevertheless, I never get into long conversation with people I meet on the road.I never mingle with them.It’s for
    precautionary measures. On the other hand there is no good opinion of travelling with an unknown tuk tuck drivers.However,the majority of the decent crowd is ready to help .

    • March 15, 2016
      Reply

      I think it’s sad that you don’t get into long conversations with people you meet on the road — I’ve discovered that the vast, vast majority of people you’ll meet while travelling are good people, and one of the joys of travel is getting to meet new people are learning about their way of life.

  51. Mariana
    July 14, 2016
    Reply

    I was in Sri Lanka for 2 weeks last June with my boyfriend and we were always together, so I never felt especially observed or noticed. We did, however, felt like that as a whole, as anywhere we went the tuktuks were always stopping asking where we were going, people on the streets would stare at us, children would smile and wave, people asked where we came from, etc. But both of us got that attention, it was not directed just to me.

    Anyway, we did all our itinerary with public transportation and used a lot of trains, buses and tuktuks. With tuktuks, we always explained them very detailed where we wanted to go or what we wanted to see (as sometimes we were with a driver the whole morning, hopping from place to place). In our Rough Guide it always had an estimate of how much these trips should cost, so we had a starting point to negotiate. We would try to haggle and always agreed on a price before entering the tuktuk, repeating it and the destination many times to make it clear we wouldn’t pay more. Also, I would always give the higher bills (those 5.000 ones) in hotels to get some change so that I would never have to pay them too much. We always woke up early in the morning and returned to our accommodation as the dark as settling in, so we wouldn’t be outside during the night. It all went fine! But in most times we had to be quite strict and tough when talking to them, to make sure we wouldn’t be ripped off, even though we know we always ended up paying much more than a local. Apart from that, people were quite lovely and smiley to us and always tried to help, even when they realized we weren’t the “typical” tourists who would be willing to take an AC van and pay thousands of rupees to do a short tour. When they saw we were backpackers who wanted to do things by ourselves and take public transportation, they would always help us and say to wait in that place because bus #X was arriving in 5min and then would say to the driver where we were headed.

    When we were visiting the Horton Plains National Park, our tuktuk driver, who was waiting for us outside while we walked the 9km path, ate our breakfast that we had left in a bag in the backseat. When we arrived and saw it, we confronted him and he said “yes, breakfast!” and started the engine and drove us to the station without further explanations. Lol there were many situations we had to take lighthearted, but in the end it all went fine and we cannot complain that much for being harmed as tourists :)

  52. Raja Mahendran
    August 27, 2016
    Reply

    Lauren I am so sorry to read about your terrifying and terrible experience with a tuk tuk driver.
    Nothing can be done to undo your horrible experience. For the benefit of others travelling to Sri Lanka and perhaps like you did from Colombo to Negombo I like to point out there are better options than taking tuk tuks that are safer.

    For example there are budget taxi cars in Colombo small in size and their fares are sometimes less than tuk tuks for long distance like from Colombo to Negombo. I have paid maximum Rs2500 on the meter. You can call them from the train and book a time to meet you. Of course for that you need a local SiM and its a good idea to get one on arrival at the airport. In fact ask the Immigratuon Officer who stamps your passport at the Colombo Airport they at times have free welcome packs with a free Sim that you need to top up. The telephone numbet for Budget Taxis in Colombo is (011) 259 2592 and they are a better option than tuk tuks for long journeys. Tuk Tuks are better for very short runs and in downtown situations.

    Anyway if you are taking a Tuk Tuk it maybe an idea to note their number in case you have bad experience like the one Lauren had so you can report them to the Police.

  53. Kalyan
    September 14, 2016
    Reply

    Glad you are safe…

  54. Imasha
    October 19, 2016
    Reply

    not all tuk tuk drivers the same, but some they believe that if foreigners get in that is the only chance for them to earn a huge amount of money,like a bonus. So I prefer you to use UBER or Kangaroo cab service, it will only take 3000 from gall to airport then. Its comfortable and safe. Most of foreigners choose tuk tuk that they believe its the cheapest way. But it will ended like your story above.

    • October 19, 2016
      Reply

      Yep, I definitely learned my lesson and wouldn’t be using tuktuks often in Sri Lanka when I next head back.

  55. Ashok
    October 20, 2016
    Reply

    Oh this sounds really bad Lauren !
    As a Sri Lankan, I’m really glad that you went back to your hotel safely, and I’m really sorry for this incident happened in my country. I heard in the news that Sri Lankan government is now planning to introduce regulations for tuk tuks, because of this sort of incidents – specially involving tourists [1] [2]. As everyone has suggested, never take a tuk tuk alone, in the night time. Most (Not all) of the Sri Lankan tuk tuk drivers have started their career just after leaving school, as they do not have other qualifications or attitude to find a different job. I hope with the new regulation schemes, the standards will be increased in the tuk tuk industry and these sort of unfortunate incidents won’t happen anymore. Next time when you visit our beautiful country (Hope you will), just make sure you don’t travel long distances – at night – alone – in tuk tuks.

    [1] – http://roar.lk/reports/tuk-tuks-soon-regulated-need-know/
    [2] – http://roar.lk/features/tuk-tuk-scams-yet-another-reason-industry-needs-regulation/ – Your blog post is referred here

    • October 20, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks so much for your comment, Ashok! I’m definitely planning on returning to Sri Lanka :-)

  56. April 10, 2017
    Reply

    I’m sorry to read this.

    On my most recent visit, I tried Pickme. It’s like Uber and has cars, but also has tuk tuks. They have various filters before they allow drivers onto the platform.

    I found the drivers really polite and the journeys (which are calculated by the Pickme platform) really well priced. They are just in Colombo and Kandy for now.

    • April 12, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation, Dee!

  57. Abhay
    May 6, 2017
    Reply

    I ended up paying 3000LKR for tuk tuk from Katunayaka to Nigambo beach to and fro for 20 min halt at beach. He initially said 2000LKR and then once we got in he said 3000LKR. He was frustrating and irritating and so instead of arguing, I decided to give him 3000LKR and end trip ASAP from his unnecessary talks!

    Lesson is in Sri Lanka is do not take tuk tuk. Instead prefer taxi with feedback/reviews from people. They are cheaper and better!

    • June 10, 2017
      Reply

      Yes, absolutely! I learned that lesson too.

  58. Tuanku
    November 5, 2017
    Reply

    Why don’t you upload the Tuk Tuk app or Taxi App it’s easy for everyone…..Pickme, Uber etc…

    • November 5, 2017
      Reply

      Maybe because Uber didn’t exist when this happened?

  59. Marlene
    November 6, 2017
    Reply

    I totally can rely to that bad tuktuk-story. So glad you got out of it without any harm. Much better you payed these 5ks instead of having a much worser experience… it was worth it!!

    I had a lot of similar experiences when being in Sri Lanka myself as a female journalist travelling alone for like 2 months. There was one Tuktuk-driver in Colombo, he was telling me immediatly after driving off: “I do love white women!” And one could see that: his tuktuk was decorated with photos of white beauties… He continued harrassing me for like 10 minutes or more, of course there was a huge traffic congestion and he had plenty of time. He continued to praise my white skin, then also asked me like „do you love sex?“

    I felt absolutely threatened and was thinking how to stand my ground. So I decided to be very determined. I shouted at him to behave and to immediately shut up with that incredible crazy boldness. Luckily that plan worked out really well. But I was scared to drive to my destination with him, a secluded house. Although I was planning to be back before night was falling it was already dark due to the traffic jam. I knew nobody from my host family was at the house when arriving. So I told this driver to drive me to a small restaurant at main street which I found by desperately googling at phone. Told him several times to leave, but he followed me to the restaurant and after that he was waiting for like 20 minutes! I tried to get an Uber- or Pickme-taxi by app, but it took ages until this really worked. After that bad experience with this tuktuk-driver I was still scared to drive with the taxi to that lonely house. It was terrible!

    Sri Lankans do praise their own hospitality, but as I learnt this must be only a fairytale from old times… Everybody I met was smiling, but I learnt that this is about dollar signs they can see when a tourist is showing up.

    I also experienced a lot of sexual harrassment although I used to wear especially decent clothes, means long gowns, jeans with a long shirt, blouses with long sleeves. By the way, I’m also 46 years old. But all the men used to starr at me all the time, when walking in the streets, the waiters at the restaurants or coffee shops, the hotel staff. (Generally it’s hard to meet any srilankan women as most of them don’t use to go out without men, they are ought to be at home. Also at hotels, restaurants and shops most workers are men.)

    The absolute highlights: when I was sitting at my balcony at an Ayurveda resort a man arrived at a motorbike. He immediately started masturbating while watching me. When I shouted at him he drove off. Although I remembered his number plate the hotel could not do anything. They let me discreetly know like this was not the first time this happened… it seemed to be kind of normal to them also it was a luxury resort. The same event happened to me again when walking at a beach, but there the guy was hidding in the beach bushes following me… I was so scared to cross this small forest to get back to the hotel. So I called reception to please pick me up at the beach.

    Normal tourists never understand what is happening behind the scenes. As soon as tourists are showing up they are scanned by the welcome-team of the hotels. It’s also an open secret that the receptionists use to inform everybody including the beachboys, taxi- and tuktuk-drivers about tourists, especially about white woman travelling alone – just after their arrival. Luckily I read about that before landing at this so called „Pearl in the Indian Ocean“… Although I never would have expected it to be as worse as it was in reality. I travelled in more than 30 countries and I never was anywhere so much scamed and harrassed as I was in Sri Lanka.

    Also the bribery theme is huge: the receptionist gets money from the taxi- or tuktuk-drivers he is calling, maybe even from the beachboys when telling them all the important details about the tourists. The drivers get money from restaurants, shops and guides at tourist sites… bribery here and there, everywhere, all the time… they smile and smile, and tourists like their pretty smiles, not being aware that they are looked at like aliens and money machines…

    I do believe that Sri Lanka is generally not a country tourists should visit. They use to have water- and electricity-outages, petrol is not available here and then, they have a huge garbage-problem and last but not least they really do greatly mistreat and abuse animals. Actually a lot of Srilankans are ready to use violence. They like to fight, with or without knifes, iron bars, cricket bats, guns… And if tourists are involved in an incident then they only can pray for higher help. Because Srilankan police normally can’t speak any English, even so called special tourist police can not! They also never will move out of their office if a tourist in need is calling, forget about that! And if the going gets rough Srilankans always hold together against the „colonial power“… I know what I’m talking about…

    My simple advice is: avoid Sri Lanka – there are other nice Asian destinations which are much more peaceful and where is not such a lot of rubbish…

    • January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Marlene, and I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences in Sri Lanka.

  60. Touseef
    February 22, 2018
    Reply

    To be Honest if you are planning to visit India, Expect the same thing can happen. So I am just giving you a warning. This doesn’t happen everytime but there are few people who are not honest at all.
    TIp from is to travel with a guy in India if possible. You gonna stop by lot of scammers specially in New Delhi.

    Thanks
    Touseef

    • February 22, 2018
      Reply

      Sure! I don’t mind scammers.

  61. Touseef
    March 13, 2018
    Reply

    Also Are you planning to visit India? And if yes will your blog readers get a chance to meet you ?

  62. Thilaani
    April 9, 2018
    Reply

    hi,
    I am a Sri Lankan and first off I would like to apologize on behalf of the other Sri Lankan .
    To avoid this from happening , currently there is a service available in Colombo and Kandy areas known as ‘pickme’ where you would be able to hire all types of vehicles at standard prices . the advantage is :
    1. you can download this app for free onto any smartphone
    2. the rates/charges are the same regardless of whether you are a local or foreigner.
    3. you can prebook the vehicle(except for tuk tuks)so your vehicle would be present before you arrive (no charges applied )
    4. someone can keep track of your travel as well for you.
    5 all the drivers are usually done a background check as well so it is pretty secure.
    I hope this would help anyone who visits sl again in the future . ?

  63. June 29, 2018
    Reply

    As a sri lankan that has moved back from london after 49 years, it is absolutely disgusting the way the locals behave.
    85 % are uneducated alcoholics. the one’s that are educated are even worse.
    I even lost my newly built home in in the south coast due to fraud.
    Bunch of arseholes.
    Hey, but I wont leave this beautiful island.
    I will enjoy it until i die. Alone. Alone Alone!
    Hope you got back home ok, Lauren.

  64. Hasith
    July 31, 2018
    Reply

    I’m from Sri Lanka too. Its been years since this but as an Sri Lankan Sorry about what happened. When it comes to tuk tuk what happened to you could have happened to any local too male or female. Tuk Tuks are not for long distance. Plus if you dealing with a guy like here always give them exact amount nothing more. These days everything is about money. Anyway today there are better ways to do this. There companies which offer vehicles from tuk tuks to vans. Good example is Pick Me. You install the app and you get estimate of amount u have to pay so there are nothing to argue. Their prices are standard and pretty good. Even locals mostly use these services now. You get a pic of driver before you go and if something goes wrong you can complain because u get a reference no for your ride.

    Even we locals do this silly mistake, trying to make a cheap deal and then end up paying more than it should have been. lol

    As about above comment someone who move to UK 49 years ago. I guess you have been here so you know if it’s true or not. From the same I can guess where that person is from.. But you did right skipping one that.

  65. Phil
    August 4, 2018
    Reply

    A cautionary story that is relevant to all travellers, hopefully to be read before venturing out. Hope your mum got a lovely surprise from a gutsy daughter.
    We travel to gain experiences in foreign places but this kind of terrifying encounter we can do without.
    Cheers, Phil (Tas)

  66. Hari
    October 16, 2018
    Reply

    Hi Lauren!
    I can imagine your frustration. These guys will get what they deserved. I have faced many similar situations during my travel to over 49 countries. Let me share some of them with you. I was ripped by taxis or vendors in Dubai, Sharjah, Paris, Seoul, Bangkok, Shanghai, New York, Sapporo, yes Japan for that matter. Biggest was for USD 5000/- in Shanghai. My advice is when you’re in an unknown place, you either call the police or just let it go (Calling Police of course may depend on which city you’re in).
    Your life is definitely worth more!

    • January 8, 2019
      Reply

      $5000?! Wow! That’s quite a scam.

  67. Arshaq Ali
    February 22, 2019
    Reply

    Next time, just download PickMe or uber and use it instead! much more cheaper than usual tuk tuk!

    • February 22, 2019
      Reply

      Neither existed when I was in Sri Lanka.

  68. Melanie
    February 28, 2019
    Reply

    I am in Sri Lanka now, feb 28 2019. I have been ripped off by a Tuk Tuk driver in Colombo that pretty much kidnapped me , forced me to a gem shop, and tried to take me for everything I had, and did. I gave him 10 times more than I should have but he could see that I had no more . He wanted me to go to an atm but I finally lost my cool and said I would just start screaming for the police. I have his taxi number. I went to the police station on gall next to my hotel at the dwell but that was useless. They only care about making sure cars pay their taxes. All in all most Tuk Tuk drivers are good but the red and white bus drivers are crazy.. we have been bicycling across Sri Lanka. Bad idea. And one of the bastards ran one of our group into the ditch with no remorse today.

  69. Ruwan
    March 11, 2019
    Reply

    Most of the Tuk tuk drivers in Colombo area will try to rip off foreigners. Always use UBAR, it’s more secure and most importantly it’s cheep.
    One more thing, most of Sri Lankan bus drivers think there’re driving Lamborghini?. So be careful when you walking or crossing the roads.
    If possible find a local guide with a proper license.

  70. NC
    March 22, 2019
    Reply

    After reading all the stories, I couldn’t resist leaving a review! As a Sri Lankan, I am embarrassed about what happened and it’s really sad to hear what you had to go through :( There are lot of scams all over the world, but I do agree SL has become more popular with them now. Simple advice, Do Not take tuk tuks unless its a short ride, always agree on the price before starting the journey, and avoid taking tuk tuks in the night specially if you are alone. As a woman I have experienced all sort of harassment since school days, and its sad to see its still there even after I left the country (I don’t live in SL anymore). I still don’t feel safe in the night in SL, I never take a tuk tuk alone in the night, if I had to go somewhere I will always a take a taxi. Uber and Pickme (local taxi app) are very popular (and much cheaper) in SL and if you must ride a tuk tuk, these apps will give you the option to use a tuk tuk as well. It’s sad to see the country is getting bad reputation due to bunch of uneducated people who do not respect women and only think about money. However do not let this be a reason not to visit SL, its a beautiful country that has so much to offer! I still love my country though I hate having to experience that some people don’t respect women. Avoid any strangers trying to help you, avoid walking alone in the night (if can), always plan your trips and find all the information you can beforehand. I hope your next trip to Sri Lanka will be much enjoyable!

  71. Kavindu H.
    April 5, 2019
    Reply

    I am a Sri Lankan. I have only 2 bits of advice for foreigners and locals both :

    1) Before getting into a TUK TUK or CAB my best advice is to check if you have changed money to pay the correct amount. Never let drivers take advantage by saying “sorry I have no change”. What if there is no place to change the note you have? You will have no option but to hand him over the note you have and say goodbye.

    2) More than normal tuk-tuks, try to use UBER or PICKME. They are reliable/safe and also we are being charged a fair rate. We don’t have to fight and negotiate the price. It makes life very easier. I have selected the credit card payment option to avoid handling cash. I highly recommend it.

    Cheers!

  72. Maria
    July 17, 2019
    Reply

    I had the same experience during my first visit in Colombo. Almost all tuk tuk drivers are scammers.
    On my second visit I already used Uber tuk tuk for short rides and Uber taxi for a little bit far distance.
    But sometimes I still experience terrible Uber tuk tuk drivers trying to rip off some money, they thought I am new in Sri Lanka.

  73. Ian
    September 25, 2019
    Reply

    We found most tuk tuk drivers to be good, naturally they will want maximise their fare, as long as that happens in the negotiation phase then fair enough, ultimately you can choose if you want to pay a price. Just wanted to share a few stories and some observations from our short time in this wonderful country

    In Colombo. We wanted a lift to our guesthouse, locals said that it would be about 300 rupee but we would end up paying 400. Fine. Flagged down a tuk tuk. Agreed 400, checked he knew where it was. He said no problem, . He had no clue at all. We showed him a map and he asked many passers by whilst driving about for fifteen minutes or so. Fair enough standard for Colombo, the human GPS network and all that.

    Anyway he then turns round and says now it is 1000 rupee. I said no 400. He says 1000. I say just stop the tuk tuk mate this ain’t right . He refuses. I ask again. He refuses. I then have to physically lean over and very aggressively make the point as can now see he is a rogue intent on screwing us and not merely the surly incompetent we had him pegged as. I am seething angry and he very sensibly pulls over. We get out and tell him no fee and also a ” and now FO”
    We then step into another tuk tuk, the lovely man says, yes I know where it is It will be about 150 rupee but on meter. Drove us straight there for 113 rupee and we had to convince him to take a tip .

    We have been overcharged a few times on tuk tuks but that has been down to our lack of willingness to haggle ( tired, time,weather pressured) and also some acceptance that these chaps need to make a living. In reality we try and keep a sense of perspective, if it is costing us a few quid more than it should then that is not really the end of the world. We have met some lovely tuk tuk drivers and I admire their attempts to upsell. Going to the station, I can take you all the way.

    A few simple rules. Agree a price up front and absolutely stick to it, despite the diversions, sob stories and extra bad traffic today malarkey. If you really feel there is some merit in that then give a bigger tip

    Get an idea from the locals about the right sort of price for the journey. We would ask in our guest house or bar and if it seemed fair for the distance then ask them if they could please possibly book it at that. Works well, see above , confirm that price with the driver before getting in.

    Keep a sense of perspective maybe just haggling over small change and everyone needs to make a living.

    If reasonable to do so try and move away from transport hubs before looking for a tuk tuks.The real players congregate there.

    Be ready to walk away from a negotiation with a smile. And if necessary stop and get out of a tuk tuk if your gut tells you it is going to shit.

    Make sure you have lots of smaller notes 50s 100s. No one wants the sorry no change scenario.

    If you dont want a guide, onward journey, excursion, then be firm.

    We found most SL drivers would simply accept a cheery no thank you. If they are following you down the street harassing you to get in then clearly you shouldn’t

    Never assume the price you paid with the same guy for the same journey the day before will be held. We needed to go to the station and agreed 400 rupee, fair price. We asked if he would drop us off again the next day, no problem, didn’t agree a price, naive assumption it will be the same, nope. I demand 800 rupees now. Tried to explain that it was 400. He wouldn’t have it. Very unpleasant all round ended up with me having to say 500 or we walk away and you get nothing for trying to scam us. Very unpleasant.

    Sri Lanka is a beautiful country the people to me seem to be generally honest, kind and fair with good values, that includes most tuk tuk drivers we used too. Be firm friendly and very clear in your dealings and above all enjoy this beautiful country

  74. Mehar
    March 4, 2021
    Reply

    Its weird that reading your story, it doesn’t make it sound like an incident to me. I will explain why.
    I come from a country where we grew up with men who stare. Its not just about the prettier you are, but also just being a female, we attract attention in our country.
    This explains two things:
    1. the difference between the west and east here. Women in West are protected from all of this. Women in East specially the subcontinent Asia, we are toughened up with these experiences that we start going through even from school.
    2. On the safety scale, our countries are not very high on the list. Hence, we are naturally more aware of the surroundings of the environment. We are generally more careful and also plan accordingly. That doesnt mean that we run away from adventure. We do it but just when we are very sure that this is not a scam.
    A girl from Pakistan

    • March 4, 2021
      Reply

      …… the driver literally stole my money and drove off with it. What an adventure lol

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