Staying Vigilant or going in “Eyes wide open”
Recent Vietnam Scams and How to Avoid Them
There has been a lot of recent hype about Vietnam and scams causing people serious concern and often outrage. While I continue to travel to Vietnam many times in a year, I am mindful of these scams. However I certainly don’t give them any more weight than I would do for any other country I visit.
While it’s said a holiday is about chilling out and being super relaxed, that doesn’t mean switching off your normal antennas for trouble or things that don’t sound right, or feel right.
That gut feeling is there for a reason.
I prefer to recommend “staying alert” rather than being “vigilant’ as vigilant sounds so unnecessarily aggressive, and for the most part, I have not found myself caught by any of the scams I am about to tell you about. That isn’t to say they don’t exist. Maybe because I am well versed in the country’s eccentricities, I don’t confuse issues that rise up as being scams. Sometimes they are just miscommunications.
However, I did have a Taxi issue I will explain more about below.
1. Taxi Scams: Reports suggest that some taxi drivers in major cities have been involved in scams where they manipulate meters or take unnecessarily long routes to inflate fares. To avoid this, opt for reputable taxi companies ( VinaSun, Mai Linh) or ride-sharing apps GRAB, BE ; check on Google Maps prior to leaving the approximate time and distance away, and always check there is a meter running. Personally, I prefer to use the GRAB App, as I get to match my name, with the drivers booking, cost of trip and the name of place. I pay in cash and I always tip and give a rating. Trust me, it’s a good thing to do on many levels.
My Taxi scam experience: One thing to watch for is taxis lurking in areas close to markets, kind of alone. In the beginning I thought, “great” I am tired and here is a taxi, so my 2 sisters and I jumped in. I showed him the address of our hotel on my phone and he hardly looked at it. I instantly got a bad feeling. I said ‘meter’, he nodded. But no meter was on. I asked how much in Dong? He said 200k for a 50 K trip. I said no. He immediately locked all the doors. I had a moment of panic. I immediately started taking photos of his face, his license on dashboard, and I said “let us out or I will call the POLICE. I shouted police and started to wind down windows. He was going to start driving when I said to my sisters to bash on windows of car. He stopped, opened doors, and I forcefully ushered my sisters to get out of the car fast. Which we did. He drove off at a fast pace. Good riddance. That was it. A reminder that I’d taken my eyes off my game by not sticking to what I would normally do.
I used my Grab App and we got picked up by a lovely driver in nice car and made our way back to hotel. So, you see it can happen to the best of us.
2. Street Vendor Overcharging: While street food is a highlight of Vietnamese cuisine, there have been instances of street vendors overcharging unsuspecting tourists. To avoid falling victim, establish the price before making a purchase and consider checking with locals for reasonable price ranges. This is always hard to mitigate as each area may endure different cost factors for the same item, so if its 50c extra you pay and think worth haggling over versus OVER the top $10 extra, then I suggest don’t buy it. Look further afield for better value. The same thing happens when buying water in my country. Shops in the same shopping centre, can vary from $2.50 to $5.00. Isn’t that a scam or overcharging? It’s a hard one to measure and find what to measure it by?
3. Fake Tour Operators: The rise of online booking has given scammers the opportunity to pose as legitimate tour operators. This is scary, and I raise a flag here. Be cautious when booking tours online, especially if the prices seem too good to be true. Research reviews and book through reputable platforms or agencies. Facebook is prolific in Vietnam so there is always the option to check the company out by their FB page and communicate directly with operator. Be thoughtful about how you pay for services. Say you will pay cash on completion if you are doubtful or type the tour company name into a Vietnam travel group page like Vietnam for Smart for tourists and Vietnam - The Travellers Experience and see if it gets any hits? Or reach out to yours truly to design you a private tour through my What About Vietnam Trip planning services.
4. Motorbike Rental Scams: Reports indicate scams involving motorbike rentals, where unscrupulous operators claim damages to the vehicle that were already present. Thoroughly inspect the bike before renting, take pictures of any pre-existing damage, and ensure clear communication about terms and conditions. This is a must. Especially for longer trips, I would advise going through a reputable bike company who can back you up if you have a breakdown, or if you need any further assistance during your ride. One very well known company is Easy Riders, and if you are planning a long trip you shouldn't go past Vietnam Coracle for this trips and local bike riding advice
5. Fake Tickets: In popular tourist destinations like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, there have been reports of fake tickets being sold for attractions. Purchase tickets directly from official vendors or the venue to ensure their authenticity. Or if you have a tour Operator, ask your Guide to purchase for you to ensure you get the exact tickets you want. That way nothing gets lost in translation.
Tips to Avoid Scams:
Research and Plan: Familiarize yourself with common scams reported by other travelers. Platforms like travel forums, facebook groups and blogs can provide valuable insights. However, be warned some situations can be over dramatized and toxic. Without sounding like I am blowing my own trumpet, you might like to listen to some travellers in your area of interest on the Podcast, as we don’t pull any punches and if there is a local scam we usually put it out there.
2. Stay Informed: Keep an eye on local news and travel advisories for updates on prevalent scams.
3. Use Reputable Services: Choose well-known taxi companies, established tour operators, and trusted accommodation options.
4. Bargain Wisely: Bargaining is common in Vietnam, especially in markets. However, do it with respect and be aware of the reasonable price range for goods or services. I can’t stress this one enough. I warn people to only bargain if you really are interested in the product. If not say “I just want to know YOUR final price” and if it’s not what you want to pay, then walk away. Special Note: It is becoming increasingly more popular for shops to present fixed price options so if you see a ticketed item, the price is non-negotiable. Unless you buy many and you then you may get a discount.
5.Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, it probably is. Trust your instincts and be cautious in unfamiliar situations.
Vietnam's beauty and warmth are best enjoyed when travellers are informed and they go in with “eyes wide open”.
Not everything is going to go exactly to plan, so plan on that, and you will be fine. By using those god given instincts, and implementing a few simple precautions, visitors can make the most of their time in this captivating country without falling victim to any unscrupulous practices.
Top of Form
Written b y - Kerry Newsome - Founder and Host - What About Vietnam