Hanoi, overall, is quite a safe destination for travelers but, just as in any other touristy cities, scams and petty crimes are present. It can be challenging for foreigners who don’t know what they are facing. Here are our local tips to avoid scams in Hanoi.
One of the best ways to get around in Hanoi is by taxis. However, your experience with the ride may not be the best since some drivers will try to get into your pocket. They do that by asking for a much higher fare than usual, setting the meters at a radical rate, or taking you on a longer route.
To avoid being scammed by taxi drivers, use Mai Linh (green cabs) or Vinasun (white cabs), or book a ride on your phone. If you’re at a hotel, ask the receptionists to help you translate and settle the fare.
Always look at the meters
We strongly advise against taking motorbike taxis or cyclos in Hanoi, unless you’re with a local or a tour guide. These drivers often try to overcharge you, and since most of them don’t speak English, arguing is pointless.
At the station, you may find some locals who try to sell you tickets for trains or buses. Ignore them - they are touts offering false tickets that will only cost you money but won’t get you a seat. Check the ticket-selling websites too, and only buy from trustworthy companies.
Book a cyclo tour from tour companies for safety
Get your bus/private transfer tickets online to avoid scams:
The official Vietnamese currency is Vietnam Dong. Since most of the payments require cash, exchanging your money to Vietnam Dong is a must. If you do that at credible spots like banks, then there’s no problem. However, hotels or jewelry store owners may try to take advantage of you and apply a lower exchange rate. So, always double-check the rate beforehand. And if you’ve booked accommodation, pay in the quoted currency.
Be careful with the denomination
There are various ways hotel owners can trick you for your money. Roque hotels and guesthouses with the same name as the real ones are springing up in the city. Taxi drivers may take you to these or their acquaintances’ hotels.
Also, there are known cases when travelers made the reservation but ended up getting something different. Therefore, always check carefully before booking your accommodation in Hanoi and give the drivers the exact address instead of just the hotel name.
Hotel scams will mess up your travel
Find quality hotels in Hanoi here:
These sneaky locals are street vendors, small shop owners, and shoe shiners, mostly in the Old Quarter of Hanoi city center. If they ask you to take free stuff such as donuts, pens, conical hats, or to take pictures with their baskets of goods, steer clear from them. They will charge you an undeserving amount. The same thing applies to shoe shiners, just deny them immediately.
Be careful with the shoe shiners
Hanoi tourism is a booming business and many companies try to get a slice of this cake by imitating famous tour agencies. This a real problem in Vietnam, imitators will try to use similar names, color schemes, and designs… to trick you into thinking that they’re the real ones.
You can avoid such trickery by investing more time into your research, reading the review on travel websites or blogs. Once you’ve chosen a suitable agency, use Google Map to locate their exact address.
Find quality companies for an authentic experience
In big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, beggars are common. As pitiful as they may look, do not give them money. They may be dishonest people, pretending to have severe injuries or to be disabled. Beggars in Hanoi are controlled by organized scammers, who seduce them to abandon their hometown to come and beg in big cities. If you want to support the local community, many organizations can use your help, such as the Vietnam Red Cross Society or Vietnam Women's Union.
1. Do your homework: Always research destinations, tour companies, hotels, stores... in Hanoi beforehand. This gives you an exact idea of what to expect and may save you from unwanted problems.
2. Double-check: It’s never a bad thing to be careful, especially when it comes to your well-being and belongings. Check all the information and the products provided to you twice, focus more on the exchange rate, prices, tour services, and the addresses.
3. Confirm your payment: Ask the seller/receptionist for the price and the currency in which it is quoted. Pay in that currency only.
4. Stay away from conflicts: If you try to argue or refuse to pay to some street vendors, underground violence maybe just a stone throw’s away. The foremost priority is your well-being, so avoid any standoffs.
5. Go for the obvious choice: Famous brands and companies are more trustworthy and they provide better services. Always opt for Mai Linh and Vinasun taxi cabs. Check out the lists of our recommended hotels and stores for souvenirs in Hanoi.
6. Go with a local: It’s advisory to travel in Hanoi with a local who knows all the ins and outs of the city. They will be a good companion as well as an instructor who will guide you through the culture of Vietnam Capital City.
Locate credible stores for your souvenirs
Don’t let your experience with Hanoi be contaminated by some scams and trickeries. They can all be avoided with extra carefulness and well-invested research. To be more secured, choose companies with a high reputation and look for a local tour guide. If you find our list of tips to avoid scams in Hanoi useful, please share it with your friends for their future travel to Hanoi.
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© Written by Dung Tran for itourvn.com
Watch out for the "cake ladies" on the street. They sell some kind of fried though and can get super aggressive if you don't buy from them