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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.
Your alertness should be from the moment you touch down at the airport, which is a crowded place where 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 keeping 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 them around your wrist or neck.
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 haggling.
These street hawkers are always seen carrying coconuts around on foot and targeting tourists by offering them a chance for a photoshoot while balancing the coconut baskets on their shoulders. If you get tempted by 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.
Refer to our blog on "3 tips on how to avoid taxi 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 other technology motorbike taxi services, and you can easily download the apps and order a motorcycle taxi.
You can also book train/bus/plane tickets online to avoid scams:
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.
Check out our private motorbike tours with professional local guides
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.
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.
See How to Bargain at Vietnamese Markets
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 our travelers.
Find a travel insurance plan to protect yourself on the go
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Transportation in Vietnam
© Written by Linh Nguyen for itourvn.com
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We were aware of the coconut scam before going to Vietnam, but we entertained it anyway when one of the vendors engaged with us. He charged 150,000 VND for two coconuts, which is cheaper than what others charge.
$3.50 AUD is not a big deal and not worth getting upset about.
Joining a private tour is a smart idea if you're not familiar with the city
Wow, thanks for the useful tips
Bought a sim card from the airport when I landed in Da Nang. Claimed to have unlimited data and 25 minutes of calling for 20 days; it said this on the sign and also they said it too. I used for a couple of hours and then get a text in vietnamese while I'm out saying I had used all the credit on sim and 98mb of data !! Costed 9US dollars. So don't buy a sim card from the airport people!! I don't know how they are able to.do that in the actual terminal? So the government is part of the scam? I sorted my simcard in Thailand at the airport, so I thought that this would be the same and help me to avoid any taxi scams but nope I got the simcard scam instead! Now I'm going to be super careful about everyone here!
Great article, thanks for the tips! A place of breathtaking natural beauty and unique heritage, Vietnam is a fascinating place to visit. However, there is also quite a number of crooks who target tourists in the country.
Do be wary of the cyclo scam, overcharging merchants, street vendors, unscrupulous tour companies, rogue restaurants, place is closed, karaoke scam, massage scam, motorbike rental scam, rogue taxi drivers, trading on popular names, fake hotels and many more!
Simcard scams. Paid for 2.5 GB of data but it ran out after 197MB.
Sorry that it happened to you but thanks for warning our other readers.