Beware of this man, he is a scammer.
I bumped into this guy in the Mission to Seaman aka the Flying Angel down by the port which is frequented ,as the name suggests, by visiting mariners and the odd traveller like myself although I only have the managers word for that as I reckon everyone else I saw in there was a seafarer. The chap in the image approached me and asked, in perfect English, if he could join me. Sure, no problem, I know Sri Lankans are very hospitable and love a chat as do I. He started to telling me that he was the Harbour Master which I found a little odd. Why would the Harbour Master be drinking in the Seafarers Club, it seemed a little implausible although his English was excellent even to the point of having a fairly cultured accent. After the usual chitchat he was telling me that he could send me 2 kilogrammes of tea to my home address in London free as he had access to so much of it in the warehouses. Alarm bells really started to ring now.
I should add that during the course of this whole conversation we had been joined by a lovely Australian guy, a long-term expat who happened to be deaf although he was not mute. By the very clever expedient of typing a draft document on his 'phone and showing me it he warned me not to give my "new best friend" any money that he was a scammer. What happened next was a bit surreal and just another example of the strange sort of things that seem to happen to me on the road. We had already established that the Aussie guy could lip read me OK which was an interesting hting to learn. Those people reading this that know me know that I have a fairly thick Belfast accent that is fairly impenetrable at the best of times but it appears that it does not translate to my lips. I had never even thought about a thing like that until that point and it was just another little thing I learned. Obviously, I was "speaking" slowly and trying to form all my sounds very clearly even exaggerating my mouth positions slightly. The reason I have put the word "speaking" in inverted commas is that I wasn't actually making a sound. If we were talking about general things he would answer me vocally but on the couple of occasions he wanted to refer to the scammer he would say something like, "Oh, here is a photo from when I was in Indonesia" or some such. The way we were positioned at table meant that the scammer could not see the draft text he was actually showing me. It really was quite amusing one way and another.
I was still conducting my conversation in the normal manner with the "Harbour Master" and, frankly, leading him on a bit, pretending to be really interested, telling him how much I loved tea, regaling him with a (true) story of drinking tea on a plantation in Darjeeling in India and so on. He must have thought he had found a right mark and I should confess that I was laying it on a bit thick.Eventually, he hit me with the sting. The tea would be free obviously, as he had promised but the post and packing was going to cost 400Rs. To put this in context, that is just less than £2 Sterling or about $3US so it is hardly on a par with a Nigerian scam. The thick accent I mentioned earlier got ramped up about 15% as did the speed of delivery, and I merely said to him whilst still smiling, "Do you think I came down the Lagan in a bloody bubble, you muppet."? For those of you not aware, this is a Belfast expression used to say to someone, "Do you think I'm stupid / niaive / green or whatever." I doubt even my English friends could have deciphered it and it was pretty priceless. When it was obvious he was not getting any money and had been rumbled he made his excuses and left as the expression is.
Anyway, you have the image of him now so beware. I don't know where else he might frequent but just look out for him. I don't know if the 400Rs. scam might have led onto another bigger one if I had been gullible enough to bite. Who knows? I am not suggesting you play games with him as I did although it might amuse you if you are sure of yourself but I suspect a polite refusal of his company at the outset would suffice.
Just dip a toe in but be careful.
I saw the sign that forms the main mage for this tip on Galle Face Green in central Colombo and, to be honest, it is a fairly necessary warning anywhere on the island form what I have read and been told. Whilst Sri Lanka boasts some truly stunning beaches, indeed that is a major attraction, there are all sorts of unpredicable rips and the like which can catch out even the strongest swimmer. I saw a few people paddling but nobody was actually swimming although presumably people do as there was a Sri Lankan Coastguard Life Saving Station there. I have seen them elsewhere as well.
Personally, I would not have considered even paddling here as you are right in the middle of a major city which perhaps does not have the most advanced sewage treatment system in the world and a swim would not have been to my taste. I am not trying to put a damper on anyone's fun, this is just a gentle reminder to always seek local advice about where and when you swim and obviously obey all signs and / or Coastguard instructions. They do these things for a reason.
- Budget Travel
rip off tailors
This is more about tailors than anyone else, although I could say similar about taxi drivers. Always agree on a price before you place an order for alterations or getting some articles of clothing made, and get this in writing. I've paid three times the price for something as simple as changing a lining in a suit jacket. Lankan workmanship can be good, but tailors cheat like anyone else in the country, so you could be asked to pay more than agreed on. Apothecary Tailors, down by Galle Face Hotel did me in....
Beware of some online travel agents
I recently booked a bungalow in Dehiwala from best of lanka online travel agent.i paid nearly 360$ for 3days.in the website they shows a beautiful bungalow with kitchen,garden,bathroom with 2 bedrooms,but when i reached there i found that there was only 1 room which was seperatd by a half wall and a bathroom,and it was just a small part of the main house.and has 3 doors to main house in that area.windows are not seald.its not worth to the amount i paid,even the landlord agreed that its not worthy to the amount i paid.he said the real amount is 1/3 the amount i paid for 3days.a lady works in best of lanka fonling tourist.and take money unnesserely.then i didnt stay there and found a new place.but that lady refused to pay my money back.thats awful.i never exepect something like this from lovely srilanka
Last minute change of flight by Sri Lankan Airline
I booked Karachi-Singapore from Sri Lankan Airlines with a brief layover of 2 hours at Colombo. After booking the flight, I was informed by my travel agent that the flight has been cancelled and that my booking is rescheduled. Now, it would be Karachi-Singapore via Kuala Lumpur and with a night stay at Colombo. My travel agent assured me that the airline will provide us with the night stay in a transit hotel without extra charges.
When we arrived at Colombo airport, there was a mess at the transit counter where around 100 passengers were fighting and screaming with the airline staff for the transit stay and the staff had been suggesting them to stay at airport for about 10 hours!
Luckily, I had the hotel voucher with Sri Lankan airlien stamp on it and the staff allocated us to the transit hotel. So, always ask for a transit voucher from your travel agent otherwise be ready to spend the night at the terminal. It is another story that this actually proved bad luck because of the depleted transit hotel :(
The flight via Kuala Lumpur was also too long and tiring which cost us around 10 precious dayligt hours.
Safety in Colombo
Colombo is a safe place to visit. No need to worry since the war is happening in Northern part of the country. I would suggest you to avoid traveling to North and East of Sri Lanka.
I live in central Colombo city. You can come down for here and sit for your exam peacefully and travel back. Good Luck
Said to be 'not safe'
There's a fair bit of hype about the armed police/soldiers on the streets of Colombo and along certain highways. While the presence of check points and armed guards is never that re-assuring, you have to bear in mind that Colombo is the seat of parliament and the place where the President resides. Same as 10 Downing Street, or the US Embassy in London - you get armed guards. I've been to Colombo ten times or more and have never been asked to step out of a vehicle or show ID. As a tourist (in a taxi) you get waved on after a well-rehearsed look.
Give yourself a min. of 1.5hr...
Give yourself a min. of 1.5hr on top of the time required to drive to the airport. Security is tight and EVERY vehicle is checked from top to bottom and under. Even our bags are x-rayed at least twice. Don't forget that the departure tax has just been doubled to 1000 rupees or US$11. No thanks to Sept. 11.
~~~ slums ~~~
As I'm not frightened by anyone ;) I did an an unaccompanied tour through the slums of Colombo (f.e. along the train tracks) for two hours. There wasn't any situation in which I felt unsecure. I was most welcomed
(waiving, say "hello" and/or wanted that I take a pic of them).
Schools for the blind!
Everywhere where there are tourists there are also people looking to separate them from their money. Galle Face Green and Fort are particularly fertile ground for conmen trying to part tourists from their dollars. If anyone approaches you here or near the Hilton hotel then no matter how friendly they seem chances are they want money.
Usual practice is to spark up a conversation through cricket or the colour of your skin ("aah if you stay in Sri Lanka one year you will be brown like me, no?") As you look uneasy they quickly say "I don't want any money, I just want to practice my English/talk to foreigners") Of course after ten minutes perfectly entertaining conversation it all swings back to money in the end.
Most claim to be teachers "on holiday" (funny how it lasts all year!) and raising funds for their school (usually a school for blind children). Then they pull out a list of names to show how many other kind foreigners have contributed. Don't join the list!
Tips for Women
It's probably not a good idea for a woman to travel alone - there will be a lot of hassle. Men will follow you for hours, grab your breasts, masturbate at you (apparently this is more usual towards white women). It is more annoying than dangerous.
I was advised to wear clothes that cover my legs, not to make eye contact with men, even though they will do many things to try to attract attention! Also, NEVER try to get rid of a man by telling him you have a boyfriend. This gives them the impression the you are easy and makes them hassle you more! It's best to pretend that you don't know anything about sex - men are very curious about western women and can be blunt in their questions. If you are not married, do not admit you know anything!
Every one that aproaches you in a touristic area , will have something in mind to get some money from you, I stayd nearly a month and it was this way the very all times. Eventhough, they are kind and you will be the ona that makes the deal, when they give you a price con sider that they are always charging you triple, and they answer is always: "if you are happy with the price then I am happy too". But remember if they are happy with the price this is because it is expensive for the Sri Lankan average. The tuk-tuk or tricycle drivers are specialist charging you more, always arrange the price before get into it,
- Budget Travel
Tuk tuk drivers
Beware the black sheep! After haggling and setting a price with the driver to bring you to your destination, expect them to come up with funny excuses like:
"The distance is further than expected" and "I had to make a detour to avoid heavy traffic".
In the middle of the road, they'll ask you to pay more than agreed on.
We ignored them and firmly gave them what was agreed on at the end of the journey. But definitely not so easy if you were travelling at night or off the beaten track (never know what they might do).
There was once where we got really peeved with the driver and threatened to jump car. A barrage of sarcastic remarks followed.
- Women's Travel
- Budget Travel
If you dare enough to walk alone at night.....
Don't ever walk at night by yourself. Why? Yeap, Curfew may occurs in certain area in Colombo especially where you might notice some policeman roaming around.
And never ever try to entertain any sympathetic man ( which known con-man in Colombo. Give your sympathy and you shall lose you money.
- Budget Travel
Touts at Fort Train Station - Colombo
Be careful when you arrived at Fort Train station in Colombo and there are lots of touts are coming to you and try to give info about cheap hotels and taxies.
Don't trust them and follow your guide books.
if you are looking for some official information about trains at railway station be careful too. because some of people who are working at there can try to cheat you and give wrong information.
if anything happens or you are not satisfied contact police post at railway atation and ask for tourist police station in fort. its located near railway station and next to Hilton.
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