31 Most Common Scams in Vietnam

Safety at Ha Giang, Haiphong, Dalat, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Da Nang, Hue, Dong Hoi, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Vinh, Can Tho, Ha Long Bay, My Son
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Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa, Vietnam

 

Vietnam is a place of breathtaking natural beauty and unique heritage in Asia.

Visitors here can marvel at the picturesque Halong Bay, explore spectacular cave systems in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, see grand colonial mansions from the French era and many more!

Vietnamese street food is another great draw, with its incredible subtleties and outstanding diversity.

However, Vietnam was the place where the contributors of this site encountered their first travel scam, and is the country that has inspired the creation of this site! 🙂

Home to many shrewd scammers, most tourists here have encountered or fell for one.

So read on to learn how to protect yourself!

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. Cyclos

A cyclo in Hoi An

A cyclo in Hoi An

 

How it works:

Those three wheel bicycles / trishaws you see lining the streets at tourist attractions? Avoid unless you wish to be scammed (like with the tuk tuks in Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka).

They will approach you and offer a ride where you can pay as much as you want, or not at all! Now, alarm bells should have begun ringing.

But right on cue, to sooth your fears, they will take out a notebook and show you all the positive reviews in it (social proof sales technique).

You will find extremely detailed reviews praising the driver and the trip in different languages and in different handwriting.

The cyclo operator is also an extremely glib speaker. He is able to build rapport and address any of your fears and questions.

Once you get on, the driver will then attempt to build trust with you bit by bit.

End of the day however, he will bring you to a dark, secluded corner and demand payment.

A price list of inflated prices based on number of hours on the cyclo is stuffed in your face.

 

What to do:

However, it must be said that a cyclo experience can be an interesting one.

To protect yourself, agree on a clear price before the ride and make sure that you stop at a place you know.

Also make sure that you have GPS so that you would not be held hostage.

Further, we recommend concealing your valuables with a money belt / hidden pouch, and to use a cheap, spare wallet with little cash inside to act as a decoy.

This is to show the driver that there is little point in exploiting you should he demand an inflated payment.

 

2. Trading on popular names

Sinh Cafe copycats

Sinh Cafe copycats. Source: flocutus.de

 

How it works:

When any company in the travel industry becomes popular / famous in Vietnam, there will be new companies popping up with similar sounding names and many have been scammed in the process.

For instance, good companies that have been a victim of their success include (the real sites have been hyperlinked) ODC Travel, Handspan, Kangaroo Café.

The most notorious of the lot would be the dozens of Sinh Cafes around the country – the real one is now called the Sinh Tourist (http://www.thesinhtourist.vn/)!

Besides tour operators, this can happen to hotels and restaurants as well.

 

What to do:

For tours and accommodation, only use legitimate booking platforms and look through the reviews.

For licensed, reputable tour operators you can find online, see these platforms:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, etc can be found here – e.g. most popular tour:
  • Klook: best day tours platform in Asia – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport – e.g. most popular tours include:

Klook.com

  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

As for operators found offline, ask these questions to determine their legitimacy:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

As for accommodation, find them via:

  • Hotel and apartments: Agoda – leader in Asia with the best selection and rates here generally.
  • Staying with a local host: Homestay – if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Vietnam by staying with a local host!

 

3. Overcharging and confusing currency

Vietnamese Dong

Vietnamese Dong. Source: hochiminhcityhighlights.com

 

How it works:

This scam is common around the world, but is much more easily executed here due to the large note denomination.

Overcharging can occur in many different ways:

  • Over conversion of currency
  • Giving less change by rounding up / down
  • Not giving any change by insisting on a tip
  • Changing the fare once the service is completed!

Many places also quote in USD to make overcharging easier for them. This is done by rounding up to USD (higher than the value in Vietnamese Dong) or by demanding payment in Dong while using an unacceptable exchange rate.

Also beware when a vendor tells you 10, it could mean 10 USD, 10,000 Dong or something else!

Besides this, always ensure that the fee is for the whole group and not for each individual.

For popular tourist markets such as Ben Thanh Market or the Hoi An Night Market, prices are also marked up by a few multiples, more if you are a Caucasian.

The culture here is that they do not see “overcharging” as a scam, but something acceptable since you can afford to pay more.

 

What to do:

Always clarify the price to be paid, in what currency and if it’s for the whole group. Also, always check your change.

Finally, at markets such as Ben Thanh Market, be ready to haggle, starting with 1/4 of the list price.

You can find out what is a fair price by checking out different stalls or by checking with your hotel / hostel staff.

If you do not wish to bargain, alternative options are:

  • Formal shopping malls or government owned shops (e.g. souvenir shops on Tran Phu in Nha Trang) with fixed prices
  • Shopping tour through day tours platform like Klook (best in Asia) e.g. one such tour:

Klook.com

 

4. Pickpockets

 

How it works:

Crowded streets, train stations, public transportation, markets, shopping malls, tourist attractions, hotels, nightspots or anywhere tourists hang out at are pickpockets’ favourite spots.

You can find them in the major cities such as Ho Chi MinhHanoi and Nha Trang.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep wallets in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) to cover loss of valuables.

 

5. Hanoi shoe repair

Hanoi shoe shiner

Hanoi shoe shiner. Source: juliasuh.com

 

How it works:

This is a less common scam, though watch out if you are wearing worn out shoes!

For this scam, some guy approaches you out of nowhere and applies glue to your shoes.

Next, he would take out a thread and tell you that your shoes are about to fall apart, which he can repair for $1.

If you didn’t realise, that glue is actually a solvent that dissolves stitches! Should you say yes, he would then proceed.

However, the trouble does not end when the job is completed, as he will be demanding $10 or more!

 

What to do:

Be alert and not let anyone apply anything to your shoes!

 

6. Street vendors of all kinds

Fruit lady of Hanoi

Fruit lady of Hanoi

 

How it works:

There are vendors who sell books in boxes at cheap prices. But alas, those books are photocopies! You would not know as these “books” are wrapped up. Some are also of low quality – e.g. errors in pages, etc.

There are also vendors who will invite you to take a photo with them. Once taken, they will demand a fee or that you purchase their products.

For instance, we have the fruit ladies of Hanoi who may offer to lend you a fruit basket and to take a photo of you.

Also, you may come across fake beggars, such as fake cripples, hungry babies who are actually asleep due to alcohol and people who fake sickness and weakness.

Moving on to Sapa, we have the textile women who will try to guilt trip you. They accompany you on trips and will share their sob stories. At the end, they will ask that you buy handicrafts from them while crying.

Finally, avoid pesky photographers who offer to take photos of you. Firstly, they will take multiple photos and demand a much higher payment. Secondly, they will not deliver the photos to you as promised.

 

What to do:

Avoid donating to street beggars and avoid engaging the fruit ladies of Hanoi, textile women of Sapa and fake “photographers”.

Do be careful as some of them may work in groups, hound you, distract you and then steal from you.

To protect yourself conceal your valuables securely either in an anti-theft bag or a money belt / hidden pouch.

 

7. Unscrupulous tour companies

Cat Ba Island in Hai Phong

Cat Ba Island in Hai Phong

 

How it works:

There are many such black sheep in the industry (but it happens all over the world, e.g. in Australia, Morocco).

For instance, some of them claim to provide snorkelling, island trips etc which they do, but only allow for a meagre amount of time.

There are also many grey areas they capitalize on such as allowing trips to be overbooked.

For boat trips, it is also important to buy return tickets rather than one way ones, as you might be exploited when you find no other means of return.

 

What to do:

Engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, etc can be found here – e.g. most popular tour:
  • Klook: best day tours platform in Asia – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport – e.g. most popular tours include:

Klook.com

  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

For operators you find offline, to determine if they are legitimate, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

When paying:

  • Avoid paying in full upfront unless through a reputable platform / operator.
  • If using an online platform, do not make payment off the platform.

 

8. Restaurants with tourist menus

Vietnam cuisine

Vietnam cuisine. Source: sbs.com.au

 

How it works:

Be careful of restaurants that list prices in USD.

When it is time for payment, they might demand payment in Vietnamese Dong and use an unreasonably expensive exchange rate.

 

What to do:

Avoid, but if you must try, do ask about the prices before ordering. If all you get are vague replies, that’s the sign to leave.

Do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on recommended places to dine at.

 

9. Overcharging by restaurants in other ways

Outdoor barbeque

Outdoor barbeque

 

How it works:

Those nuts or fruits they serve you before the start of the meal? Reject them, as they cost an exorbitant amount.

For those who tend to stay long at restaurants, try to keep whatever you’ve ordered at your table be it empty plates or bottles.

This is to collect evidence and prevent restaurants from overcharging you by asking you to pay for something that you did not order.

 

What to do:

Check your restaurant bill carefully.

Should you point out something that has been charged but not ordered and a new bill is given, check it again.

Sometimes, they might not have changed the variable taxes.

Do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on recommended places locals go to eat at.

Otherwise, you can also consider joining a food tour for an authentic, local food experience!

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, etc can be found here – e.g. most popular food tour:
  • Klook: best day tours platform in Asia – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport – e.g. popular food tours include:

Klook.com

  • Your hotel / hostel affiliate tour operator: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

 

10. Shopping scams

 

How it works:

Always inspect your goods after purchase, especially those that are wrapped, as they might have been swapped (same scam in Hong Kong) with a different, lower value item.

The same goes for your change or if you were to change money at a money changer.

Also, note that a common scam in Vietnam is that vendors will claim that something is free.

Once you have used it (service, food, etc) however, payment will be demanded.

Besides street vendors who peddle fake ware, there are many shops which sell fake stuff as well, such as silk and even war relics!

 

What to do:

Check your change and items after purchase.

To avoid buying fakes, you can do some online research or ask your hotel / hostel staff for reputable places to buy from.

Alternatively, you can also shopping tours such as this on Klook (best day tours platform in Asia):

Klook.com

 

11. The place is closed

Buu Long pagoda

Buu Long pagoda

 

How it works:

A popular scam in Asia (e.g. Thailand, India), someone might approach you and inform you that the nearby tourist attraction or bus station is closed.

They will then offer to bring you somewhere else where they can get a cut.

 

What to do:

Never trust an overly friendly stranger who approaches you on the street, especially one who can speak good English.

 

12. Karaoke / prostitution

 

How it works:

This is a simple scam, yet one inexperienced male tourists may fall for.

At the karaoke, a male tourist might be approached by a hooker. Money is given to book a room but the hooker disappears.

Next, the bill comes and the tourist is charged an obscene amount. If you refuse to pay, you will simply be beaten up by the mafia there.

As shared by a reader in the comments section below, even the hookers are a scam in themselves.

Pretty girls are advertised on flyers, but when push comes to shove, they do not turn out to be as advertised.

 

What to do:

Avoid such activities.

Else, we recommend using a cheap spare wallet with some cash inside to give up when threatened by any armed person, while you hide other valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.

 

13. Hanoi massage scam

Hanoi at night

Hanoi at night

 

How it works:

As shared by a reader, some massage places in Hanoi are a big scam.

They advertise a low price for their services, but when the bill comes, you will find that you are charged for a ton of ancillary products such as water!

 

What to do:

Only check out reputable places by researching online or asking your hotel / hostel staff for a recommendation.

Make sure to clarify what charges are involved before proceeding with your massage.

 

14. Robberies and snatch thefts

 

How it works:

Thieves will usually strike while you are unaware and then run, while others will use distract and grab techniques.

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.

 

What to do:

When seated / not moving:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Avoid carrying valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.

Other measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) to cover loss of valuables.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Unofficial airport drivers

 

How it works:

For those who arrange transport from the airport to your hotel, be it at the Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh or the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, do be very careful.

There are operators who learn the details of these arranged pick ups and pose as the assigned driver from the hotel.

For instance, one easy way is for a scammer to go around looking at the names on the placards which pre-assigned drivers hold up.

They copy a name and a hotel on a piece of paper to act as a placard, and try to intercept you before the pre-assigned driver.

When they pick you up, they will pretend to call their accomplice and then claim that the hotel is fully booked.

They will then bring you to another hotel where they get a commission from.

 

What to do:

Get the number of your pre-assigned driver so that you can contact him via a call to verify.

 

2. Fake taxis

Signs of a fake taxi in Vietnam

Signs of a fake taxi in Vietnam. Source: innoviet.com

 

How it works:

These unofficial taxi drivers camp outside airports, train stations, tourist spots, etc and will grab you / your luggage to load onto their cars once they see you.

Their cars have been disguised to look like one from the reputable companies (VinasunMai Linh):

  • Similar but different phone number on the side of the car (real Vinasun: 38 27 27 27; real Mai Linh: 38 38 38 38)
  • Identical but different car decal of the company logo (e.g. Vinasum, Vinnasun).
  • Some will have fake name cards of Vinasun or Mai Linh.
  • Having a tiny, dodgy looking meter.

They may tell you a low fee to entice you at the start, but once you you take the ride:

  • An inflated fare is demanded during the middle of the trip on a highway / secluded place.
  • All doors will be locked and you have to pay an inflated fare to get out.
  • Driving you to an armed gang.

 

What to do:

Only take cabs from Mai Linh (green taxi), Vinasun (white taxi). At the Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh, you can find them at:

  • Desk inside: taxi attendants in uniform will direct you.
  • Taxi stand: on the left when coming out of the International Arrivals Terminal.

To spot a real taxi, check these out (credits to swog.sg):

 

 

Coming from the airport, you can also arrange vehicle transfer via your hotel / hostel staff or through day tour platforms like Klook (over 25 options).

A cheaper alternative (~10,000 Dong vs ~160,000 Dong) is to turn right when exiting the airport and take bus 152 to Ben Thanh Market (last bus at 6pm).

If you still need a taxi after arriving at Ben Thanh Market, do not take one there as there are tons of rogue drivers.

 

3. Overcharging taxis

 

How it works:

A couple of ways taxis can overcharge:

  • Rigged meter: jumping too fast or too much.
  • Extra fees: additional fake surcharges such as a bag fee.
  • Taking a longer route: pretending not to know your destination or claiming to avoid a traffic jam.

 

What to do:

Taxi meters are based on distances, not time. So if you see one jumping wildly even when you are stationary, you know it is a scam!

To prevent yourself from falling prey to those, only take cabs from Mai Linh (green taxi), Vinasun (white taxi).

The reputable taxi companies in Vietnam

The reputable taxi companies in Vietnam. Source: tuoitrenews.vn

 

Also, never agree to a fixed fee, unless you have done your research and know the market rate.

You can estimate the fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like Grab.

Take a photo of the car license plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

Else, you can also consider arranging vehicle transfer via your hotel / hostel staff or through day tour platforms like Klook (best in Asia) – 25+ options.

 

4. Saigong Tourist Taxi

Saigong tourist taxi

Saigong tourist taxi. Source: Wikimedia – EurovisionNim

 

How it works:

You will find these taxis at the airport, or around 5 star hotels, which are their turf.

Do not take them, unless you wish to be driven by thugs. They have been witnessed to beat up other cabbies who have driven into their turf.

Also, they are not afraid to use all the overcharging methods as mentioned earlier to scam you, and threaten you with force if you do not comply.

 

What to do:

Avoid, it is not worth the trouble. Also, if your hotel engages them, do not use them. Head somewhere else to hail a cab or use apps like Grab.

 

5. Motorbike rental

Motorbiking in Vietnam

Motorbiking in Vietnam. Source: north-vietnam.com

 

How it works:

Motorbike rentals can get pretty tricky in Vietnam (especially in Nha Trang and Mui Ne).

There is the standard scam, where the owner follows you, “steals” your bike back with a masterkey and then demand compensation from you for “losing” his bike.

Another common scam would be mechanical problems or even imaginary problems with the bike which the owner will demand a repair fee for.

Also, note there are many fake Honda motorbikes around.

 

What to do:

Rent your bike from a reputable place – check with your hotel / hostel staff.

Consider investing in your own lock so it can’t be “stolen” by the owner.

Also test the bike before signing any contract to identify any problems and sound out immediately.

It would be ideal to know your bike or to research the specs on the web before renting so that you are able to tell a fake Honda bike from a real one.

Do also note that a Vietnamese driving permit is needed to drive here.

If you are caught without one, your motorbike can be impounded for a month AND you would have to continue paying for the bike.

 

6. Motorbike taxi

 

How it works:

Some motorbike “taxis” might approach you with an offer, which they claim is cheaper than normal taxis.

Or they might say don’t worry about the fee, just go first and if you’re happy, you pay how much you want.

They might even say that there is no bus to the place that you want to go! That is usually nonsense.

Some others use the same trick as the cyclos, where they claim to bring you around for free but in actual fact, will bring you to a secluded spot and demand a huge sum of money.

Do note that these drivers have no training or certification. This means that not only is your wallet at risk, your life may be at risk as well.

 

What to do:

Avoid using, unless for short trips and with a fare agreed before the ride.

 

7. Purchase of train tickets from private travel agents

How to read a train ticket in Vietnam

How to read a train ticket in Vietnam. Source: seat61.com

 

How it works:

You might find touts approach you and claim that the mode of transport you are taking is delayed.

They then offer to help you get a new ticket. However, they will buy a cheaper ticket than the one you requested / need.

As most people do not know Vietnamese, they are unlikely to spot the difference. If you are caught by an inspector, be prepared to pay a fine.

There are also some who might offer to carry your luggage as the distance to the platform is rather far and then ask for a tip.

 

What to do:

Reject the help of these touts no matter how official they look.

Only buy a ticket through these sources:

  • Direct from company / official counters.
  • Licensed retailers.
  • Your hotel / hostel if such a service is provided.

 

8. Purchase of train tickets online

 

How it works:

Would you believe it, there are even fake train websites in Vietnam!

A good resource for train planning is Seat 61 (http://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm).

 

What to do:

Only buy a ticket through these sources:

  • Direct from company / official counters.
  • Licensed retailers.
  • Your hotel / hostel if such a service is provided.

 

9. Long haul buses

 

How it works:

This is a common transport option for backpackers wishing to travel from the North to the South or vice versa.

However, there are also many scams associated and it is important to only buy from reputable companies!

Besides booking a lower quality bus than you had paid for, some buses might even stop unexpectedly at night and force you to stay elsewhere.

Lo and behold, there is only one hotel in the vicinity and the owner is more than ready to accept you.

Another version is that they stop at a petrol station and force you off.

Coincidentally, someone at the petrol station will extort you to pay an amount to take a cab to somewhere to transfer to another bus.

 

What to do:

Only buy a ticket through these sources:

  • Direct from company / official counters.
  • Licensed retailers.
  • Your hotel / hostel if such a service is provided.

 

10. Luggage fee

 

How it works:

Sometimes, you might be asked to pay more because you have a larger or heavier bag by bus or train staff.

It is pure nonsense, there is no such rule.

 

What to do:

Do not pay.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. The cash grab / sleight of hand

Taking Vietnamese Dong out

Taking Vietnamese Dong out. Source: christinas.vn

 

How it works:

When opening your wallet to pay for something, be extremely careful not to expose your cash / notes too much.

Some vendors / service providers will simply grab your cash on the pretext of helping you sort out a currency that they assume you are unfamiliar with.

In the confusion, they will quickly pocket some of your cash through sleight of hand before returning the remaining cash to you.

 

What to do:

Only store small cash in a cheap spare wallet, and keep your other valuables / cash hidden in an anti-theft bag or a money belt / hidden pouch.

Or you could get a RFID blocking wallet that organizes notes without exposing them too much.

 

2. Invitation to a card game

 

How it works:

This is a pretty common scam around the world, such as in Malaysia and Morocco.

Firstly, a friendly local approaches, asks where you’re from and remarks that his relative will be going there to work or study!

He will then invite you over to his house for lunch where he hope you can share helpful advice over a meal.

However, upon reaching the house, the man’s sister / daughter is not there!

Instead, you find the man’s brother / uncle who will get you to play some card game such as blackjack or poker.

You might also be taught some tricks so as to work together to cheat other visitors who will be coming soon.

Regardless of the situation, you will lose. Here’s a fascinating recount of an experience with this scam.

 

What to do:

Avoid engaging an overly friendly local on the street, especially if he has a good command of English.

 

3. SIM card scam

SIM card rates in Vietnam

SIM card rates in Vietnam. Source: globetravelholic.com

 

How it works:

As shared by one of our readers, Frank, he paid 290k VND for a SIM card through an agent at the airport.

It was supposed to provide 30 days unlimited 3G access, but “died” after 5 days.

When he went down to the official store, that was when he realized that the plan he had purchased was a 90k VND plan.

 

What to do:

Only buy a SIM card through these sources:

  • Direct from company / official counters.
  • Licensed retailers.
  • Your hotel / hostel if such a service is provided.
  • Day tour platforms like Klook (best in Asia) – over 50 options for 3G / 4G / wifi SIM cards depending where you are going.

 

4. Fake hotel scam

Sofa

Sofa

 

How it works:

In today’s online world, it is easy for unscrupulous hotels to create fake reviews. Some hotels also advertise low room fees online.

However, when you arrive, they will claim that the low fees were for the standard rooms which have been fully booked.

To book the higher end rooms, you have to pay a lot more.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, there are also many copycats hotels which trade on popular names.

 

What to do:

Only book via legitimate platforms such as

  • Agoda: leader in Asia with the best selection and rates here generally.
  • Homestay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Vietnam by staying with a local host.

Next, some due diligence you can done for individual listings:

  • Search online reviews and Google the names of the owner.
  • Call the phone number provided on the listing.
  • Grill the “landlord” by asking specific questions, such as room dimensions or something unique as seen in the photos.
  • You can even pretend something exists in the online photos and test if the “landlord” can call your bluff.
  • Search if the property has another online presence or contact number and engage that to see if they are consistent.
  • Test the owner by requesting for a visit from a local friend before booking – it doesn’t have to happen, you just want to test the owner’s receptiveness.

Finally, avoid paying in full upfront or making payment off the platform.

 

5. Hotel fee scam

 

How it works:

Some hotels demand that you pay more (e.g. double) as the fee advertised was for one person and not for one room (usually double rooms).

If your passport is held at the reception, your bargaining power is further reduced.

Besides this, some hotels might advertise certain facilities online, such as a fireplace or air conditioning.

However, to use them in your room, they will demand additional fees!

 

What to do:

Remember to ask for your passports once the hotel staff has inspected them upon check in.

Also clarify the fee to be paid, and if possible, do not pay everything upfront.

 

6. Drugs in Hue

Tam Giam Lagoon in Hue

Tam Giam Lagoon in Hue

 

How it works:

If you are offered drugs, do NOT take them.

You will be reported to the police and the “reporters” will be rewarded for tipping the police off.

 

What to do:

Firmly reject.

 

7. Internet cafes

 

How it works:

Keyboard loggers, viruses, spywares and what have you are common in Internet cafes.

 

What to do:

Do not do anything in there that can potentially expose your personal or financial data.

 

D. KEY SAFETY ISSUES

This is not a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:

                                                     

1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Vietnam

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Vietnam. Source: smartraveller.gov.au

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: rare, but the rate of petty crime and scams is high.
  • Hazards: unexploded mines in former battlefields of central Vietnam and along Laos border.
  • Hotspots: see above.
  • Terrorism: little history of this, but safety should not be taken for granted.
  • Civil unrest: stable. There may be small scale protests but large scale demonstrations are rare.

 

What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, don’t stray too far off the main path and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

 

2. Medical care

Franco-Vietnamese Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City

Franco-Vietnamese Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Source: christinas.vn

 

How it works:

Medical care in Vietnam does not match up to international standards. If anything serious happens, you might be evacuated to Thailand or Singapore.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: zika, dengue, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis, cholera.
  • Animal borne diseases: avian influenza, rabies.
  • Human borne diseases: Hand, foot and mouth disease, tuberculosis, HIV, conjunctivitis.
  • Others: air pollution, methanol poisoning from unlabelled rice wine, psychotic episodes from use of synthetic marijuana.

 

What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: Hepatitis A, typhoid
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis (if visiting rural areas), rabies (outdoor activities, activities involving animals), malaria

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.

Activities:

  • Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds).

 

3. Natural disasters

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: major earthquakes can also trigger tsunamis.
  • Rainy season: June to September in north and south Vietnam, October to December in central Vietnam:
    • May see flooding and landslides, especially around Hanoi, along the Red River and Mekong River Delta regions.
    • Typhoons may also affect central and north Vietnam.

 

What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reportsweather forecasts and sources such as:

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture); expect aftershocks.
  • Typhoons: stay indoors away from windows, do not use electrical appliances / equipment, do not head out and touch debris (more injuries / deaths happen after than during).

 

4. Transport safety

 

How it works:

Traffic here is chaotic and potentially dangerous, some factors:

  • Poor road conditions.
  • Overloaded buses and trucks that drive at high speeds.
  • Traffic rules ignored and not enforced.
  • Motorbike fatalities is one of the leading causes of death and injury for foreigners.
  • Flooding and landslides can cause roads to be inaccessible.

Other transport concerns:

  • The bus system is extensive within cities but can be overcrowded and recklessly driven.
  • Motorcycle taxis are also unsafe.
  • There have also been a number of coach and boat accidents.

 

What to do:

Driving: check latest media reports, weather forecast, stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up.

Other transportation:

  • Using official taxis or taxi booking apps such as Grab.
  • For long distance bus trips, consider travelling via train but beware of theft.
  • For coach and boat trips, only use reputable operators.

 

E. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Police in Vietnam. Source: citypassguide.com

 

  • Police: 113
  • Fire: 114
  • Ambulance: 115

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