Vietnam is stunning. It has an amazing depth of culture, combined with a beautiful variety of landscapes. However, it is not a perfect country. You definitely have heard of stories about aggressive touts, being ripped-off, being scammed or being pick-pocketed while travelling in Vietnam. After my own experience, I realize that travelers, who are normally “new” to the place, are easily to be the targets of scams, overcharge or rip off. It is true not only in developing countries like Vietnam, but also with developed countries like Italy, France and England. To protect yourself and your wallet, you’d better learn about the country prior to your trip to know how things are supposed to be. Taking extra precautions and having the following things in mind will help you to avoid the nuisance tourist traps in Vietnam.
Get a taxi of trustworthy brands
In Vietnam, illegal taxi drivers have many tricks to scam travelers who are unfamiliar with the place. They can either use a modified meter, which runs faster than normal ones, resulting in unbelievable expensive fare; or take longer paths to maximize the fare. While unlikely to cost you a fortune, it still makes you feel annoyed. Thus, you should exercise caution by only using official taxis such as Mai Linh, Vinasun or Taxi Group. Ask your hotel to know an estimate of how much the meter should be, or better, ask receptionists to call the taxi for you.
Be in control of your possessions in the street
There are so many stories of people getting their purses or bags taken. Make it a habit to keep a hand on your purse whenever you are on the street or in the middle of a crowd to make it impossible for being pick-pocketed. Do not show off your expensive phone or luxury jewelries on streets; keep camera straps around your neck or wrist while taking pictures. If your possessions look difficult to grab, it is likely the thief will just pass you by. If you make it easy for them, you could be a target.
Lookout for extras
This is actually not a scam, just something to watch out. Restaurants put wet tissue, prawn cracker, peanuts, bottle of water on the side does not means that they are complementary or free. These stuffs might cost double or triple the normal price if you use them. Remember to ask before using any service in hotels/ restaurants. Then send them away if you do not want them, so that restaurant cannot add these to your bill.
Be firm with street vendors and beggars
Tourists, especially western people, are quite interested in things that do not have in their home country. Taking advantage of this psychology, many street vendors encourage tourists to take a photograph with their bamboo hangers, colonial hats and then force tourists to buy their goods with ridiculous high price or demand a money-for-photo exchange. Vendor children also have their own tricks. They disturb tourists by trying to sell chewing gums for tourist when they have meals. These children even do some massages on your back and neck until you give them some money. If you do not want to buy anything, do not show interest or even look at them and just walk away. In certain circumstances, a firm but polite “No” will do their jobs. But if not, just ask restaurant staffs or nearest police for help. These people normally do not want to have trouble with restaurants and police.
Always agree a price
Before you accept any form of services, make sure you have confirmation of exactly what you are getting for your money. If it is a tour, do not assume what is included. When you are unsure, just ask them plenty of question until you are clear. Some tourists have complained that the actual price they have to pay is much higher than what was quoted on their itinerary. There are many “hidden costs” that they were not informed prior to the trip, such as entry ticket for attraction, tips for tour guide…Check the reputation of the tour company online. Companies which seem to have good reviews online include, Eviva Tour, Footsprint, Buffalo tours, Sinh Cafe…
It seems like a lot to be worried about, but these will just ensure you enjoy the country to the fullest. In case you do get tricked, remember that the monetary value of the overcharge when you convert it back to your home currency is usually very small. So just let your hair down and think of it as a story to tell your friends when you go back home.
Author: Binh Minh