Ever wondered why we, as foreigners, get charged up to 10 times more for admission to major tourist attractions in India and Sri Lanka? This has been a bugbear of mine for a long time, and the discrimination doesn’t show any sign of abating anytime soon.
I first noticed this at major attractions like the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, and at Sigiriya in central Sri Lanka. Both were amazing experiences that I had been planning for a while, and despite the extortionate rip-off entry fees, I still gladly bought my tickets, which for the Taj was 750 Rupees (whereas locals can enter for 20 Rupees). This is 37x more expensive, just because I am a foreigner! So why does this happen?
It must be said that some people on the Sub-Continent are hell-bent on scamming tourists out of their money, but generally people over there are extremely friendly and honest. However, when it comes to ticketing for attractions, it is simply commonplace to charge more to those who are not of Indian (SAARC) origin. The belief is that the average “Johnny Foreigner” has more money to spend compared to the locals, therefore the price must vary accordingly. However, this is not a reasonable pricing structure and it, as you can imagine, draws a lot of criticism. Some backpackers even blindly refuse to travel in Sri Lanka and India on principle.
In Sri Lanka’s cultural quadrangle, one of the main highlights is Polonnaruwa, and I had a great (albeit hot) time there. Yet the $30 entrance fee was somewhat extortionate when considering that Sri Lankan tourists can enter for less than half of that. The authorities at Polonnaruwa claim that most of the entrance fee goes back into restoring the site and helping with the upkeep of the facilities. I am sure this is true, but as with everything that is overpriced, you will get people refuse to pay the full price, and instead use the so-called “black market” is pay for tickets. Tuktuk drivers around Polonnaruwa (and Anuradhapura) offered me the chance to “illegally” enter the complex for $10. Of course, this money goes straight to the tuktuk driver and none to the authorities (the opposite of what should happen), and it’s a shame that tourists’ heads are turned this way.
We are all Human, and we are all interested in seeing the same cultural attractions that help give a specific country its identity, so in my opinion we should all pay the same price to see these places. Yet this will probably never be the case while I am travelling; maybe for future generations, but never for us. It sucks being Johnny Foreigner.