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Independent Traveller's Inn safari hassle

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Negombo, Sri Lanka
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Independent Traveller's Inn safari hassle

I have been travelling for over 7 months in Asia and this is the first time I feel the need to warn other travellers for some lies en hassles I have experienced.

It happened in Tissamaharama where, of course, I was heading because of Yala. I came from the bus from Arugam Bay. Knowing that there were touts who would board the bus, I was prepared for saying "no".

When I got of the bus there was a guy (his name is Nilanga I found out) who said he was the owner of a cheap guesthouse in town. I didn't wanted to go to this guesthouse because I had already a guesthouse in mind that I wanted to check out. He said he would bring me there with his jeep for 50 rupees.

I agreed and he brought me to the guesthouse which was way to expensive. So i decided to check another one (and Nilanga brought me there) but this was also to expensive for me. Meanwhile Nilanga was chatting my ears of about how important it is to be honest to tourist and that he was only interested in selling me a safari (that sounded honest).

So after 2 guesthouses I decided to go with him to his guesthouse. He said he was in the Lonely Planet guide and the guesthouse name was Travellers Home. The room was okay for 800 ruppees so I checked in.

But I found all he did was lying.

First: the guesthouse name was Independent Traveller's Inn and NOT Travellers Home (he was just hanging a new sign he said....)

Second: The safari was way to expensive. But you will get approached by "other" touts who will have suddenly even higher prices. Of course Nilanga said that he didn't know the other touts, but all my moves were followed in the town by cooperating guys so that I didn't book a safari somewhere else.

To make the story even better: every time (3 times) is came near the REAL Travellers Home, some guys of my guesthouse "suddenly" showed up, asking me where I was going...

I found out he was lying and confronted Nilanga with this. As a response he lied even more about that Traveller's Home had the same name blablabla

Guys, stay away from this lying Nilanga and his fake guesthouse "Independent Traveller's Inn". It's okay to make a lot of money from tourist but guys who keep on lying don't deserve our money.

See this webpage for the same kind of story:

babakoto.eu/Columns/Sri_Lanka/Safari-maffia/…

So when you go to Tissa check if the guesthouse is the one it says and DON'T go to Independent Traveller's Inn

(adress of this fake is: No 71 Helambagaswala, Tissamaharama)

Edinburgh, United...
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1. Re: Independent Traveller's Inn safari hassle

We had a similarly bad experience a couple of weeks ago (mid January 2013), also instigated by this guy Nilanga who approached us on a bus. I've posted elsewhere on Trip Advisor regarding our experience so the below is a cut and paste.

Our bad experience with Independent Travellers Inn (aka Independent Jeep Services) is described below as a warning for others. If you've paid ITIJS already and are no longer happy to use them, you'll need to get your guesthouse owner to come with you when asking for money back or threatening to go to the police or its likely you'll not get the full amount.

We got the bus from Matara to Tissamaharama and about 10 minutes before Tissa a guy called Nilanga got on the bus and started talking to us about safaris and how much it would cost etc. Nilanga said he was from Independent Travellers Inn aka Independent Jeep Services aka Independent Yala Safari and had a business card. We hadn't booked anything in advance for safari and hadn't read of anything like this happening around Tissa (and despite 3 months in China, Nepal, India of hawkers, Sri Lanka was so nice that we'd let our guard down) so were all ears. So this guy Nilanga offered us a full day safari with lunch and breakfast for 7000Rp and openly told us it would be so cheap because he could see we couldn't afford to pay any more than that (big backpacks, sidebags and a tired look!). He openly told us he had charged some "rich" tourists 19,000Rp for the exact same trip and that they covered our shortfall on cost of food etc (we had seen on the internet the price for a full day should be much more than 7000Rp). He said we should go with him to their offices (50metres from the bus station) and check things over, but he needed a 4000Rp deposit, which seemed fair so we paid it. Their "office" is a guesthouse style building, but has no signage. His business card looked legit, he talked the talk and they had banners up all around the area near the bus station too, making us feel more comfortable. They even offered us a room for 1200Rp and gave us a lift to our resort. When we got to our resort the owners asked if we had booked a safari and when we mentioned Independent Travellers Inn aka Independent Jeep Safari they looked a bit disappointed that we had. When we looked ITIJS up on the internet later using Nilangas business card details we found some bad stories about them (eg search for Independent Travellers Inn or Tissamaharama Safari Mafia) and the owners said many of the local guesthouses and hotels had trouble with them boarding busses into the town, telling tourists they were the guesthouse / hotel they were looking for (since they have no signage), offering cheap safaris etc. There is even a contact at the local police station for the guesthouses and hotels regarding this issue (we were not the first to want our deposit money back). When I returned to Nilanga to ask for my deposit back, I was met by about 8 or 9 guys, including Nilanga, who were much less friendly than before. They encircled me, obviously trying to intimidate me, and said they'd give me nothing back cos they'd spent the money already on entrance fees, fuel, food etc. This was less than a couple of hours later and clearly not true since the park entrance fees are paid on the day, never mind that the fuel hadn't even been used yet and food would keep etc. When I mentioned that I would go to the police, I was patronisingly lectured about the Sri Lankan legal system and offered half my deposit back. Then when I started walking out they offered a bit more. Then when they saw that our resort owner was waiting outside for me (knowing that I would certainly be going to the police) they phoned the driver of the tuk-tuk I was in and said they would give me the full 4000Rp back. They clearly don't want an involvement with the police. The same 8 or 9 guys were waiting outside their unsignposted den again when I returned, but I did get our deposit back in full. Some will say business is business and go for the cheap offer, however from what we found on them we weren't comfortable using them. An altogether unpleasant experience and one I wouldn't wish other travellers to have.

2. Re: Independent Traveller's Inn safari hassle

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Grasse, France
1 post
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3. Re: Independent Traveller's Inn safari hassle

Well , I am quiet disappointed, because I went there and had a quiet good experience . The family was very friendly. We did a safary for 5000 rpis each (we were 6/ Yala park) and got to see elephants and leopard twiced .. Good food for 250 rps...

We had a good experience with the owner, but he was a bit anxious about his son, trying to fool tourists...Awkward .. . I am a bit sad to hear all this, as it was one of the best price /quality guest house we had

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
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4. Re: Independent Traveller's Inn safari hassle

Well at least you got cheated in the safari fee, don't know whether the Inn had a role in it! Fair price for 6 people is

* Jeep hire, Rs 4500-5000

* 6 Entrance tickets, 6 x 3000 = 18000; entrance fee includes a park tracker

Totals 23000 at most and not the 6 x 5000 = 30000 that you were made to pay!

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

Madrid
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15 posts
68 reviews
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5. Re: Independent Traveller's Inn safari hassle

Thank you very much for the advice. I´ve read about the mafia of Independent Traveller Inn here: babakoto.eu/Columns/Sri_Lanka/Safari-maffia/…

6. Re: Independent Traveller's Inn safari hassle

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Removed on: 12:16 am, August 26, 2014