Have you ever seen a walking ATM? Just go take a look in the mirror! We are in Sri Lanka and as one gentleman aptly put it, tourists are seen as walking ATM’s by most of the locals trying to survive in this cash strapped country.
Although there is a lot of natural beauty here, there is also a lot of human struggle. And although the people know how to work hard, many have also figured out how to milk the angles out of every situation. And we tourists are milking time, plain and simple!
Colombo, the starting point of our trip, is the worst place for rip off artists and smiling scammers.
Most Tuk Tuk drivers will bleed us dry if we aren’t prepared to negotiate price, or walk away, every time we go out into the street. It pays to know exactly where we are going and how many kilometers it is to the destination (thank goodness for Google Maps!), then we negotiate price on a ‘rupees/per kilometer rate (anywhere from 40-60 rupees is a good rate). Once the drivers have us in the back seat they begin a constant speil on tours they can take us on and deals they can organise.
Hubster was working his way into a right angry mood with one guy who picked us up and, instead of taking us directly to a beach, did a detour, complete with constant jabbering about all the good shopping he could show us, to a souvenir shop.
When on arrival at said shop Mr Tuk Tuk saw the mean look in Hubsters eye and heard the angry tone in his voice (and when someone is trying to rip him off for at least the third time that morning Hubster can get riled up real fast) he stopped talking about ‘shopping and exhibitions’ and even reduced his rate en route to inteded beach destination.
Anyone who approaches with a smiling ‘hello, would you like some help’ attitude is a scam artist. If we are tired of being nice (and there are so many fake people in Colombo we can get very tired of being nice quite quickly), we end up being very attitudinal (ie, not very nice).
With all the approaches by smiling con artists it’s easy to think there isn’t an honest Sri Lankan in the Colombo region and that everyone is on the take. Everyone.
Which is sad for a lot of reasons, but from a tourist point of view, an industry the government is working hard to build up, it’s bloody tiresome and can really put a real damper on the holiday. (Unless, of course, you love the whole ‘negotiation’ type of thing).
The thing is, we don’t mind tipping a bit extra for good service. But we don’t like being ripped off, we don’t like being taken for lengthy rides we didn’t ask for and we intensely dislike being scammed.
I could really like Sri Lanka.
A week into our trip I’m not sure if I do because we aren’t angry, walking ATM’s – there is more to us than that, and I’m hoping there is more to the Sri Lankan people than we’ve seen so far!