Ask anyone about their holiday in Vietnam and chances are you’ll hear heaps and heaps of praise about this friendly, generous and giving country. Everyone welcomes you with open arms, they share their history and cultural experiences willingly, their food is divine and the major cities of this country are upcoming social hotspots. If you decide to holiday in Vietnam, you’ll be able to take advantage of all these perks and more. For all that a vast majority of the people you meet and interact with will be friendly, there are a number of scams that have become popular, and as you may expect, tourists are often the targets of these schemes. Get to know the five most common scams in Vietnam so you can be ahead of the curve before your plane even touches down.
Renting a motorbike can be a tricky endeavour all on its own without a ton of people hounding you every time you leave your hotel to try to sell you their motorbikes for the day, but expect that to happen. If you are staying in Nha Trang or Mui Ne, be particularly aware of the packs of somewhat shady folks who will offer their personal motorbikes for rent. Do not do this. Renting from individual people on the street will leave you vulnerable to any number of scams. Some will follow you to your destination to rob you or steal the motorbike back with an extra key. Others will rent motorbikes with existing problems and then claim that you must make repairs when you return with a “newly broken” bike.
If you will be renting a motorbike while in Vietnam, first read your travel insurance PDS carefully to ensure you meet all the guidelines to be covered under your policy, and then rent through your accommodation. Be aware that on top of all requirements for your travel insurance policy, you will also need a Vietnamese driving permit to use a motorbike during your time in country. If you are stopped by police and do not have a permit, your bike will be impounded for up to a month—with you responsible for all charges while it is impounded—in addition to a steep fine. Rent right, rent smart and rent safe when you choose a motorbike for transportation in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, their official currency is the Vietnamese dong. When you travel through the country, you will still see prices for food, hotels, services and transportation quoted in U.S. dollars. To avoid paying far more than needed, be sure to confirm the currency of a given price.
One common sticking point is when a vendor tells you an item is “five”—that can mean 5,000 dong (or about $0.25) or $5USD. Always ask for clarification before pulling out your money, and if you choose to pay in Vietnamese dong, always double check the exchange rate to be sure you’re converting the prices properly. Carrying a small calculator, or using the one on your smartphone, is the easiest way to get quick help, especially if the vendor speaks little-to-no English.
As is the case with many Asian countries, Taxi and cyclo drivers can be less than reputable about the fares they charge and how they come to those prices. If you choose to take a taxi, always confirm that the driver will use the meter before getting into the car. When you agree on a clear price before you get into the car, you are more likely to come out with your wallet intact. If you don’t, you lose all your bargaining powers once the journey begins. In addition to asking the price, be sure to ask the driver if it applies to one person or the whole car. If the price is too high, they are often negotiable.
Train travel in Vietnam is a popular way to get from one city to the next, and because of the language barriers and currency differential, it is a favourite spot for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists. If you are approached around the entrance of a train or bus station, your best bet is to keep moving—most are there to target tourists. Some may even tell you that your train has been delayed to get you to buy (fake) tickets from them.
It’s worth it to be aware of ticket prices even when you are dealing with a travel agent. They may charge you for a sleeper berth, but then give you a ticket for a less-comfortable berth and pocket the difference for themselves. If you can, buy your ticket at the station from the station manager to avoid getting gypped.
Perhaps the least harmful of the scams, this is more a cautionary warning than something you need to be consciously aware of. When you are wandering the streets of Vietnam, remember that many of the goods you see for sale by street vendors are actually cheap reproductions of the real thing—hence the majorly dropped prices. Everything from DVDs to books to electronics are more often than not reproductions of the real deal. You won’t want to spend any real amount of money on these goods, and regardless of how convincingly they are packaged, you’d be better off saving your money.
Now that you know the insider secrets about common scams in Vietnam, you can push those ideas aside and focus on planning your perfect Vietnamese holiday. For an added layer of protection, consider adding a travel insurance policy to your holiday to protect your belongings, health, and more. Cover-More has a number of policies that can be tailored to your specific needs so no matter where you go, you will have the support you need.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Fabulousfabs