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Common travel scams in Vietnam and how to avoid them

Typical Vietnam Street Scene.
Typical Vietnam Street Scene.

Vietnam is a country that is relatively safe for any traveler. Most tourists love the fantastic experience during their trips in Vietnam. However, it is not always a perfect place. Like any tourist destinations, scams are reported in different places in Vietnam from time to time.

Though people still enjoy their holidays in Vietnam, it can be a really frustrating experience that leave tourists disappointed. When people are made aware of what scams there are before travelling to Vietnam, it will increase the chance of a safe and trouble-free customized Vietnam tour. Now, let’s take a look to the common travel scams in Vietnam and our suggestions to avoid them.

Street Vendor Scams

One of the typical images of Vietnam’s cities is the local street vendors. They are mostly women selling all kind of products, from fruits to flowers or postcards. The vendors will try to approach tourists with friendly smiles and offer to have photos taken of them with their bamboo carrying pole and baskets.

After that, they may ask or even force tourists to buy something at exorbitant prices or give them some travelling tips. Sometimes the street vendors may cause so much trouble and annoyance for travelers while they are walking around the city.

How to avoid: A firm but polite “No, thank you” will help to push the vendors away. In some cases, you can pretend that you didn’t hear them and walk away. If you would like to buy something from the vendors, check the price carefully and prepare small bills, do not give them big bills as they will try to ignore your request to return the change.

Taxi scams

Just like many places in the world, you may encounter a tricky taxi driver looking to overcharge you during your Vietnam customized tour. The common trick they use is using a modified meter that can run faster than normal ones or sometimes they pretend to forget to turn on the meter to rip off tourists. They may drive a longer route, circle around to maximize the fare and pretend that they do not have enough change to return to you.

How to avoid: The best way to avoid taxi scams is by using reputable taxi companies such as Mai Linh, Taxi Group or Vinasun. Remember to ask the driver to turn on the meter. You can ask the hotel staff to help arrange a taxi for you. Now, smartphone apps like Uber or Grab are also great solutions to avoid taxi scams because the price is indicated clearly with the driver’s numbers and car plate numbers.

Cyclo scams

Cyclo ride is one of the best experiences in any Vietnam custom tour, it is very popular in major tourist destinations like Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City. However, it is possible to meet a tricky cyclo drivers, especially when you try to manage the ride on your own. They might overcharge tourists, shorten the agreed tour or cycle slowly through less streets of the tour in order to ask for more money if the tourist wants to complete the whole ride.

How to avoid: Remember to bargain the price before taking a cyclo ride, the reasonable price for 1 hour is around VND100,000 or USD$3.50. Travelers should have agreed on the price, traveling time and perhaps destinations with the driver. If not, go away and find other drivers. There are many cylco drivers around the city. Another suggestion is to book the cyclo ride through your hotel or tour operator who can help you to negotiate everything before the ride.

Restaurant scams

Vietnamese food is so well-known and every traveler wants to try the local dishes when traveling on a Vietnam classic tour. Besides many good restaurants that can satisfy even the most demanding customers, Vietnam still has bad restaurants that care about nothing but profit. They usually do not list the price on the menu. They will try to avoid disclosing the price when  asked or just answer vaguely.

It’s after the meal, when the bill is issued where tourists will find themselves at the end of a raw deal. The price will be much more expensive than other restaurants and the actual quality of food. The problem is that guests have already eaten the food and cannot argue so they have to pay the bill to leave the restaurant. Although those tourists will never come back to that place, the restaurants do not care as they will have new victims every day.

How to avoid: Look for good recommendations from the hotel, travel agents or your private tour guide when traveling. Moreover, there may be a blacklist of bad restaurants on some travel forum which can be helpful to have a look before going.

Hotel scams

Many tourists just know a little about the country before going for their holidays in Vietnam. Some people might have done some research and booked a hotel based on the good reviews. However, there are many bad hotels that use attractive names or copy names of reputable hotels and create fake positive reviews on the internet to easily trap unwary tourists.

Sometimes, they can give really good rates but when guests check-in, they will say that rate is applied for just standard rooms and they are full already. Then, travelers must pay the extra fee for the deluxe rooms.

In some worse cases, the hotels may put travelers in a room with broken equipment and when checking out, they will add another fee on the bill for the “damage” that the travelers did not cause. When it comes to that kind of scenario, no one can help the poor travelers as there is no proof.

How to avoid: Book the hotels in advance through a trusted local tour operator as a part of a Vietnam tour package. The local tour companies know exactly about the hotels in Vietnam and can identify the bad ones easily. It may be a smart choice to spend some money at first rather than waste it reluctantly later. It is also a good idea to check the room condition upon checking in and inform the receptionist of any damage immediately.

Online tour scams

There are illegal travel agents in Vietnam who are not authorized to operate Vietnam Tours or do not have the license for being international tour operators. Though they are inexperienced, they still offer interesting Vietnam travel packages at relatively cheap prices. Be careful as there are possibly many hidden costs which will happen when you are already on tour. So, cheap but not cheap at all.

How to avoid: Check the license of the tour operator that you are about to book your trips in Vietnam with. Are they allowed to organize travel services in Vietnam? Or are they highly recommended on sites like Trip Advisor? If not, your valuable Vietnam custom holidays may be operated by a third party and it can be a risky journey. Look for the price, inclusions and exclusions carefully to make sure there are no hidden costs. Book your Vietnam private tour with a reliable local tour company is advised when you are traveling on honeymoon, as a couple or with family. During the Vietnam tour, the private tour guide will escort the group, you will have no worry, just enjoy the trip.

What to do if you were scammed?

If such scams happen to you or you are concerned about a scam, you can make a report to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) at  80 Quan Su st, Hoan Kiem dist, Hanoi, Vietnam. Tel: 84-243 942 2760.

Scams are likely to happen to independent travelers. If you are traveling with Nadova Tours, you will be escorted most of the time by a private tour guide and driver and they also give good tips for avoiding such scams when you have your free time. However, you can always contact to the tour guide or travel consultants in case you encounter a scam. –

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