Many first time travelers to Colombo find themselves falling victim to scams and touts, however, seasoned travelers to Sri Lanka are rarely scammed and it is very simple to avoid being a victim of scammers as long as you take precautions such as:
- Being on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice. Take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, especially if they tell you the place you want to go to is closed, dangerous, non-existent etc. If you are unsure, check a map.
- Not engaging in business with people who have to actively approach you for business such as Tuk Tuk drivers, street vendors etc. If people have to approach or make overtures to you for business without you seeking them on your own volition, then they shouldn’t be considered for business dealings. Because, you will likely be overcharged, as you have been denied the option of shopping around for the best price.
- If you have been told your hotel is closed or full, give them a call. If you are a first time visitor to Sri Lanka, don’t admit it as it will make you a target for the scam artists.
Once you are past the scammers, Colombo is a far more welcoming destination than other South Asian cities. Certainly single women, although not advised to explore every nook and cranny of the city on their own late at night, will not find the pestering attentions of leering men. Sri Lankan women are also very “western” in their dress sense, so it is very normal to wear skirts, tank tops, etc. You may get a few whistles and hellos from bored school boys, but they are more friendly and not meant to be threatening, so just ignore it and they will leave you alone.