A common scam in Sri Lanka is so well orchestrated that you won’t even be suspicious that it is a scam until it has already been pulled on you. A local will walk up to you on the street and tell you that you are very lucky to be in Sri Lanka that day, as it is a very special festival day at the temple. He will not just talk about the festival, but will also ask where you are from and you will start to trust him as he seems genuinely interested in you. When you decide you would like to visit the festival after all, he will tell you that he will make sure you get a government tuk-tuk that is metered, so that you won’t get cheated. (Note: there are no government tuk-tuks).
All of a sudden, a tuk-tuk will pull up, and he will tell you that it is a government one. You will ask where the meter is and he will tell you, “Up there.” You will think you just can see it. The guy you were talking to will ask if he can ride with you and tell you that he was going that way anyway. They will take you to a deserted street and then tell you that you owe the equivalent of anywhere between $20-$80 for what would amount to a $2 ride. When you refuse, they will close in on you and look very threatening. I experienced this personally, and to avoid paying the unfair price, I just started screaming my head off, threw the driver $2 and jumped out of the tuk-tuk.
Make sure that you always get a metered tuk-tuk, that you can actually see the meter, and that the driver turns the meter on when you start moving. Also, if people seem too friendly or come up and start walking with you on the street, just say very firmly that you would prefer to walk alone. I wish I had done this in the beginning. I have found that this is a common scam in Sri Lanka, especially in the Colombo area. You can read more about my personal story at Scammed in Sri Lanka on the This Way To Paradise website. A similar story happened to someone else as well which you can read about on TripAdvisor. The best thing to do is just be cautious and remember you don’t have to be friendly to everyone.