Scams

Before you go, check for the current conversion rate. Banks use US$1 = 21200 Dong.  Always ask for the price up front, particularly on checkin at hotels where they usually quote the room in USD. In taxis, watch the meter and ensure it is switched on.  The Green Taxi from "Mai Linh" and the white from "Vinasun" are good to use.  There are many illegal taxis that do not follow regulations on metering.  Vietnam is not a sophisticated country. Everything there is cheap (less so in tourist areas). They are poor people, so don't be so cheap if you can afford to give people tips for their services.
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Street sellers and taxi drivers in particular might try to overcharge you by:

  • returning the wrong amount of change. e.g. 5 x 200VND = 10,000VND when that should be 5 x 2,000VND
  • agreeing a fare in one currency, and then converting it incorrectly to the payment currency. e.g converting $10 to 300,000VND when the official conversion rate puts $10 at around 210,000VND, ALWAYS pay taxi in dong.
  • simply changing their mind about the agreed fare once you've reached your destination
  • look at the note denomination carefully ( or the number) since some new note look very similar in color
  • short changed for a purchase or taxi' fare
  • ask for a tip => no change at all

You may also find that when a hotel becomes popular, other hotels will start trading on its name.  Check the address of the hotel you have been taken to matches the one in your guide book or brochure.  The copycat hotels are unlikely to be to the same standard as the real deal.

When booking tours, confirm exactly what is included.  Some tourists travelling with disreputable tour companies have reported that their trips only included a small fraction of what was quoted on their itinerary.  eg a trip to Halong Bay that includes snorkelling and swimming may only include ten minutes of such activities, or a trip to Sapa which includes trekking through tha bamboo forest may involve mainly walking along roads and no visit to said forest.  Argument later is generally futile.

Check the reputation of the tour company online, and as with the hotels, ensure that you aren't booking with a company which has borrowed its name from a more reputable company.   Companies which seem to have good-to-mixed reviews online include, ODC Travel, Handspan  and Kangaroo Cafe.

Be cautious when using a travel agent to purchase train tickets There is nothing printed on Vietnam Railways tickets indicating the class you are booked in. This results in a common scam with private travel agents where you will pay them to book a soft-sleeper ticket, they then book you a cheaper hard-sleeper ticket, and you don't know you've been ripped off until you board the train and your berths are in the lower class. By then with the train on the verge of departing it is too late to go back to the scamming agent to demand compensation.

Beware of people walking around selling books from a box - they are photocopies, and sometimes poorly OCR'd so that the text wll include spelling errors, missing text, illegible maps, poor photo reproductions etc.

Finally, try not to become too cynical or feel that everyone is trying to scam you. If you do get tricked, remember that the monetary value of the overcharge when you convert it back to your home currency is usually very small.