Like anywhere on this planet, scams are common when you travel. Offroad Vietnam lists some of the most common scams when you are on holiday in this part of the world. To be honest, travel scams are more popular in a developing country like Vietnam. The following were either collected on the Internet or sent by our customers to help avoid travel scams in Vietnam.
This is usually the first scam you have in any country. Most of the drivers are honest with their metre (if they wear a uniform and come from a trusted companies like Mai Linh, Taxi Group, Airport Taxi etc.). However, some are very dishonest and dodgy. This is also true with some motorcycle taxi (xe om) drivers. The colour of money here is also very confusing. One way to avoid this scam is knowing the exchange rates before you come and distance that you are going to travel. A small taxi usually costs around 50 cents/km. More tips are provided below
One option is to only use the large and honest taxi companies. Mai Linh is always recommended, but Taxi Group and ABC are also solid – though Taxi Group is pricier.
Another is to get your hotel/the bar or restaurant you’re at to call you a taxi. Most will be happy to do so. There’s no guarantee it will be one of the recommended companies, but as long as you’re at a reputable place it shouldn’t be a problem. Ask them how much it should cost too, just to get an idea.
Agreeing a fixed rate is only advisable if you know how much you should be paying. Prepare a pen and paper and put your agreement down and in VND, not USD. Their first bid is likely to be high, especially late at night. Make sure you have enough change on you. It’s a common trick for drivers to claim they don’t have any change. If they do this, pay less rather than more (if you have it) – no change, their problem, not yours. Hope you know how to avoid travel scams from these drivers.
This is one of the most common scams once you are in Hanoi or big cities in Vietnam. Foreign tourists were ripped off, if not cheated, by vendors of pineapples and bananas on the street. Vendors who usually carry a pole with two baskets at the pole’s ends often put the pole on tourists’ shoulders and a hat on their head without asking and then invite them to pose for photographs. Soon after the tourists take the photos, usually thinking that the Vietnamese people are just acting friendly, the vendors take the props back, give the tourists a couple of pineapple pieces in a plastic bag, and ask them to pay like 200,000 VND to 500,000 VND and even worse 1 million VND for four pieces of pineapple.
In some recent reports, if you open your wallet, they might pick up your money just before you could realize which notes are taken. This scam is popular in Hanoi despite the fact that local authorities have banned street vendors on 62 streets since 2008. The only way to avoid travel scams from these vendors is to say “NO” and walk away.
Local Mechanics & Repair Shops
When your bikes break down, you need to find repair shops. Luckily, they are as popular as food and accommodation. In fact, most offer good services and do a good job. On the other hand, some try to find a way to cheat you.
They may disable some connections, disconnect dynamo or control module or in some cases even use false spark plugs to make your trouble look very serious. Then they will change Chinese parts and charge you money for genuine parts and keep your parts. In case you hire our bikes, please call us before they do anything so we could talk to them. Keep an eye on what they are doing and bring all parts that they said “broken” with you back. You may get advice from hotels for a reliable motorcycle repair shop to have your bike checked, chain oiled or tensioned. These services are very cheap and sometimes free (like just oiling the chain).
Honda is the most favoured brand in Vietnam. This brand accounts for at least 70% of motorbikes in the country. Many used motorbike dealer shops have Chinese or Taiwanese copy cats and advertise as Hondas. In reality, imported or real Honda bikes are expensive due to import tax and quality. If they just cheat you with the name then guess what they are going to do next?
Things like Honda Win 110cc, Honda Bonus 125cc, Honda Minsk 125cc etc. are all fake. Google it out or search on the manufacturer’s websites for more details before you buy or hire one. For example, Honda Win only comes with 100cc and has only kick-start, discontinued in early 2000’s. Bonus is a Taiwanese SYM product and Minsk is a Belorussian bike. A good way to know if it’s a real Honda or check bike registration paper, Honda should be the brand. You really get what you pay for, fakes or low-quality bikes cost you a lot more than the cost of purchase or renting and you may have your whole trip interrupted or cancelled. For more details, click here.
Hotels in Vietnam have been known to double rates upon checkout by claiming that the price quoted was per person rather than per night. If your room has a refrigerator, confirm what drinks are present when you check in to avoid being charged for something a previous guest enjoyed. Telephone calls from hotels are also very expensive while mobile SIM cards in Vietnam is very cheap. Therefore, bring your phone (unlocked version please) and buy a sim for around 5 USD and you should have around 6 USD credit in it.
When a hotel becomes popular, others actually spring up with the exact (or nearly) the same name in hopes of stealing business. Confirm the address of your hotel rather than just giving the taxi driver a name.
Luckily, you now can book online with the right hotels. In addition, ask them to include pickup transfers avoid travel scams with drivers.
Karaoke, one of the most popular entertainment forms in Vietnam, also hides some threats to careless people. This scam is usually applied to men, especially single ones. Unlike Thailand, prostitution in Vietnam is still illegal (even many people raised their voice and said this should be recognised but put under the strict control of the authorities); thus far many male tourists are in need of a “call girl”, but they cannot find one openly.
However, prostitution is real existence in Vietnam like anywhere else. Taking advantages of this, some karaoke restaurants hire motorcycle-taxi drivers, cyclo-drivers or even taxi drivers to lead male tourists to restaurants with an attractive invitation: “To go to chat with some beautiful girls, if you want, you can go and have fun with them; if you do not want, you just pay for your drinks and leave”. Inexperienced tourists often fall for this and follow the drivers to those restaurants. Hookers will appear, seducing tourists to go overnight with them. If tourists agree, they will ask for some money to book a room, and then disappear.
After that, the restaurant gives them bills, and it is usually three to ten times more for some drinks and fruits, along with made-up fees, like foods, beers, safety fees for the police. Tourists are unable to deny paying because of bodyguards – or more like mafia gang – are ready to threaten them and can not call the police since prostitution is illegal. The only thing they can do is to leave their money and go. Call girls usually go online to find customers as the Internet is very popular in Vietnam.
Don’t ever think about it. Drug possession can actually carry the death penalty in Vietnam. Individuals on the street try to sell marijuana to travellers, then phone a friendly police officer to come shake the buyers down for a large bribe. You will get big trouble anyway. Avoid travel scams with drugs saves you in the long run.