Scams and unfortunate events happen all over the world. When you travel, as long as you exercise caution and common sense, you will be able to enjoy your trip without feeling paranoid all of the time. Below are some of the common scams and annoyances in Vietnam and how to avoid them.
1. Pickpockets and Snatch Theft
Your alertness should be from the moment you touchdown at the airport, which is a crowded place and pickpockets are around waiting for the right opportunity to make a few bucks. If you lost an item, you could be able to replace it but losing your passport would create many following problems and delay your travel plans. So it is important to be mindful of your personal belongings at all times.
If you walk around the city, don’t use purses or easy-to-snatch bags. You should consider using a backpack or keep your valuables away from plain sight.
Tourists often walk around with their expensive DSLR cameras busy snapping photos and this makes them an easy target. Use your camera straps and secure it around your wrist or neck.
2. Rickshaw/Cyclo Scam
Wherever you walk around, you are likely to encounter a cyclo driver approaching you and offer a ride. This cyclo driver will offer to take you anywhere, and you can negotiate the price. Once you agree on a price, you hop on and go to your wanted destination. What happens next is two most common scenarios:
1. The cyclo driver takes you far away from the place you wanted to go to an unknown location and asks you to pay an exorbitant price, or he will not take you back.
2. The cyclo driver takes you around the city to different attractions and offers to wait while you sightsee. When you come out to meet him, you find that you need to pay for his “waiting time” and this fee is at least 500,000 VND/hour (about USD 25). When you refuse to pay, he takes out his “service fees” booklet that clearly states “500,000 VND/hour for waiting time”. You will then be hounded to pay before he leaves you alone.
If you wish to sightsee in the city on a rickshaw, it is better that you book a tour through a reputable tour company and save yourself from the haggling.
3. The Coconut Scam
These street hawkers are always seen carrying coconuts around on foot and targeting tourists by offering them a chance for a photo shoot while balancing the coconut baskets on their shoulder. If you get tempted for a photo opportunity, you take the bait. While your friend is busily taking snaps of pictures of you and you are too busy trying to balance the baskets on your shoulder, the hawker takes a knife and pops open the coconut(s) and charges you 150,000 VND ($ 7) for one. The more time he has to chop the coconuts before you stop him, the more you will be guilty of paying. He is usually able to cut 4 coconuts before you realize you are “forced” to buy them because he has already opened them.
4. Taxi Scam
Refer to our blog on "3 tips on how to avoid taxi scam"
5. Motorbike Scam
For a solo traveler, this might be the cheaper option to get to places compared to a taxi. You always agree on a minimum price before hopping on a motorbike, such as 50,000 VND. Once you have arrived, you are shocked to learn that the original price agreed upon was 500,000 VND and that you were the one who heard it wrong.
Don’t trust and hop on any motorbike taxi on the streets. Vietnam now has GrabBike and Uber-Moto services, and you can easily download the apps and order a motorcycle taxi.
6. Restaurants that do not display prices
Always ask for prices first and never assume anything, chances are you will be scammed.
If you want to buy something from a street vendor, ask for the price first or better yet, go with a local.
7. Paying exorbitantly when buying through agents
Be cautious when purchasing train tickets. There are no clear indications on the cards which show which class you book in the cabins. You might be paying for a sleeping bunker but get a sitting seat. And once you realize this as the train is about to depart, it is too late to go back to the agency and ask for a refund.
Other similar scams include SIM cards and bus tickets.
8. Shopping Scam
Beware of fakes and always inspect your goods during and after purchase as they might swap the items. Once you walk out of the door, the purchase is done.
Finally, try not to feel that everyone is trying to scam you. The purpose of your trip is to travel, learn, have fun and enjoy. Becoming too cynical might ruin your trip. Safe travels!
If there are other scams, please let us know in the comments so that we can update to travelers.