With a rich history, national parks, majestic mountains, beautiful romantic beaches, charming cities, and rich culinary techniques, Vietnam has become an attractive destination for tourists. However, before going on an exciting journey, we need to know in advance some obstacles to avoid. Besides the hustle and bustle of traffic, scams must be mentioned. We’ve been scammed some times along our journey, so we would like to share the experiences with you. It’s always a good thing to be prepared and to know how to deal with the situation.
Here’s the list of 32 most common scams in Vietnam:
1. Airport Fake Taxi
If you’ve ever traveled by plane, then you know the struggle and chaos once you put your foot outside the airport. A flock of taxi drivers who want to ‘help’ you with your transportation will suddenly hit you like a lightning strike. Sadly, most of the transportation scams are going to happen around the airports.
People are usually very tired and slow to think clearly, so they accept any rates and don’t think about the creativity of scammers around.
For instance, if you have a pre-arranged driver from the airport to your accommodation, there will be drivers holding the names of passengers in front of terminals.
Scammers usually walk around and copy the names of people/hotels and some people notice their name on the sign and without asking they get into the car.
The driver will drive them in the right direction and in the middle of the drive, they will call a random person and share with you the sad news that the hotel you have a booking in is suddenly full. After that, the driver will drop you off to the hotel they get a commission from and also, charge you a lot for the extra drive.
Always get the number of taxi driver/hotel manager in front so that you can call them to confirm the information about your booking and a driver. You can use Grab or public transport.
2. Luggage Bus Fees
Luggage is usually free while using public transportation in Vietnam. Many times, the bus drivers will try to get more money from travelers because of their ignorance. This one is one of the most common scams when it comes to public transportation.
When you buy a ticket, the luggage fee is included and you shouldn’t pay anything extra except if you’re putting a motorbike or any bigger things as luggage. Some bus drivers will require you to pay extra for your bags as they will claim you have too much luggage.
Always ask and confirm the quantity and size of the luggage that’s included in the bus ticket price. The luggage policies differ from company to company.
3. Buses Drop You Off in the Middle of Nowhere
Taking a bus drive to travel around the country is a very convenient and cheap way of exploring stunning Vietnam. The buses in Vietnam are fairly comfortable because the majority of them are sleeper buses. You can lie down while traveling, and even sleep through the night which saves you some extra money on the accommodation.
The buses are usually very cheap as it costs you to go from Hanoi to Da Nang around 400k VND which is a bit less than 20$!
The only problem is that sometimes, the buses will just drop you off in the middle of nowhere. The interesting thing is that there are countless taxi drivers in the middle of nowhere so that they will offer you crazy fares for the rides because they know you don’t have the option or energy to think or do anything else.
Always book the ticket at the bus station and talk with the people where the bus is stopping in the destination.
Sometimes, they will tell you one piece of information, but the bus will still drop you off on the other place. Just check out for Grab drivers or simply walk away from taxi drivers.
They know they are overcharging, but if they see you just walking away, they won’t miss the chance and they will settle for a usually half of the asked price.
4. Fake Taxi Drivers
Fake taxi companies are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. Once one company gets big, there are many fake companies with similar names offering sketchy and overpriced services to people who think they are using the official services.
For instance, the most reputable taxi companies in Vietnam are Vinasun and Mai Linh, but fake taxi drivers are very smart, so they copy the design of their cars to look almost identical as the cars from the real companies. The only difference is in small details.
The name of the company is slightly different so it’s not unusual to see Vinnasun or Vinasum driving around. It’s so hard to notice that, especially after a long flight.
When fake taxi drivers see foreigners they are usually the first ones to appear in front of you to take your luggage and sit you in their car.
if you are in a fake taxi, you will probably be asked to pay an inflated price in the middle of nowhere while all the doors are locked.
Always call the official taxi numbers when booking a taxi ride in front. If you’re taking a taxi ride on the street, be sure that you checked the signs at the car and the name. The easiest way to notice a fake taxi is by checking the name of the company written on the car. Check out the taximeter and also if the driver has an official suit with his and company name visible.
5. False Train and Bus Tickets
The market for train and bus tickets is huge and booming since more tourists decide to explore the beauty of the country by taking public transportation.
It’s important to note that these tickets aren’t fake, but these are probably not suitable for the seat you’d like to book.
For instance, there are people who buy the cheapest train or bus tickets claiming that these tickets are exactly the ones you need.
You are able to get on the bus or train, but be ready to pay a juicy fine since the tickets are probably not valid for the seat you’re taking.
Don’t buy public transport tickets from resellers. Just go to the station or official website while buying a ticket and you can be sure that you have the right seat.
6. Renting a Motorbike From a Local
Be careful when renting a motorbike from a local person who doesn’t own a rental service shop. If you know the person for a while, and you built trust, then it’s a different story. There were many scams when people meet a local who became their instant friend. Be careful!
Don’t matter how much friendliness is around the person, this one is a very common scam in Vietnam. People will rent you their bike and you will most likely experience a breakdown after which they will ask you for a huge amount of money to repair the bike.
A traveler in Mui Ne told me a scamming story. The story takes place like this…
The guy rented a bike from a local person, parked the bike in front of the pub. He came to a nearby shop to some sundries and when he came back to the pub, he couldn’t find a bike. The local demanded around 10 million VND to settle the bill.
What happened with the bike? Probably the local had two sets of keys, one for the renter, another for the owner. He himself unlocked his bike, then told that the bike was stolen. Travelers who want to avoid scams should rent a bike at rental companies.
When renting a motorbike, always check the company name on the internet. If the rental company is reliable, they will usually have a Facebook page with many stories, pictures, and reviews.
Read the reviews from travelers and connect with them so you can talk about their experience with the bike and the rental service.
Never rent a bike from a local person or the company without the presence. That way, you will avoid many headaches and you can really focus on experiencing all the beauty Vietnam has to offer.
7. Motorbike Taxi Drivers
When you want to go around small places, a motorbike taxi is the best means. However, sometimes the motorbike taxi driver will drive you and drop you off in the middle of nowhere, asking for the crazy amount of money. If you disagree pay they will extort money from you with the help of the friends.
Skip motorbike taxi drivers from the street and book a Grab driver instead. That way, you get the price in front, so you know how much you’re supposed to pay for the service. If there is no other option, you can take the motorbike taxi, but always agree on the price in front and don’t forget to have a GPS on!
8. Motorbike Thefts
The rate of motorbike thefts is constantly growing, especially in bigger cities. There is a huge market for stolen bikes, but they are not worth anything without the matching blue card.
Thieves usually have a deal with mechanics or stores so that they sell the bikes for the parts or make the fake blue card. It’s a huge business around here, so be extra careful with your motorbike.
There are many parking spots around the cities where the security guards will constantly take a look at your motorbike. The price for the whole day of secured parking won’t be more than 10k VND. Also, almost all hostels and hotels offer you free and secure parking during the night, so you can sleep well not thinking about the safety of your bike.
9. Good Guy Motorbike Seller
There are thousands of motorbike sellers around Vietnam, especially in Hanoi and Saigon. Travelers usually start their journey from one of these two cities, and the options are endless when it comes to buying a motorbike.
The scam is most common among resellers – the people who’re buying motorbikes from desperate backpackers who’re leaving the country for pennies – who’re then doing some minor repairs and selling bikes for a higher price. Everyone will tell you their motorbike is the most reliable without any breakdowns.
Basically, you will meet a guy who will tell you all the best about his motorbikes and who will act like your friend. Once the transaction is done, the guy disappears and if you’re lucky, you will drive some distance before experiencing weird sounds and behavior of the bike. Usually, your trip will end up in the garage of a local mechanic to diagnose and repair the engine.
Educate yourself about basics when it comes to mechanics or simply ask your local friend to help you while choosing the best suiting motorbike for your trip.
10. Expensive Hitchhiking
Hitchhiking culture isn’t a huge thing in Vietnam, but still, it’s possible because people are very friendly and willing to help. Be careful because some people will expect huge compensation. Always figure that out at the beginning of your ride.
While we were hitchhiking around Ninh Binh, we were probably waiting for few minutes with our sign and a friendly lady stopped offering us a ride. We were so amazed and happy, so we just hopped in the car.
A few minutes and kilometers later, she dropped us off and asked for 50k VND. It’s not a lot of money, but still, in Vietnam, that can get your belly filled for a day!
Just be careful when hitchhiking. You can ask for the money in front of you just get out of the car when they stop. If you’re not sure about the amount of money you have to pay and it feels like the driver isn’t sure too, just thank them for a ride and get out.
11. Let’s Drive Around the City
You get in the taxi, confirm the destination, and the ride starts. The next thing you notice that your ride is longer than expected, even if your destination is just around the corner. The driver will give you excuses including construction works or traffic jams around. Once the drive is over, the driver will ask for a few times a higher price than agreed on the beginning.
Always check the fastest route to your destination and have it on your phone running when driving by taxi. Never agree to sit down in a taxi without taximeter on.
If you notice that the driver is taking another route, show him your map and demand the route on your map. If the driver doesn’t agree, just tell him to stop the car and pay an amount on a taximeter.
Use Grab in the cities. It’s so much cheaper, flexible and you can check the price in the application.
12. Cyclo Rides in Hoi An
Cyclos are three-wheel bicycles that you can see around Vietnam, but the most common destination for cyclos is definitely the ancient town Hoi An. Once you put your foot in the ancient city, you will see many cyclo drivers driving tourists and asking people to jump in for the memorable drive around Hoi An. Usually, drivers claim the ride is free or you decide how much you’d like to pay after a ride.
Drivers will show you their book of recommendations and reviews from travelers, but it’s often written by themselves in many different languages. Many travelers fall on that, so they just jump in the ride.
At the end of the trip, they will drop you off in a secluded area and demand a crazy amount of money for the ride.
It’s a very uncomfortable experience that can have many unpleasant endings, so it’s better to know how to deal with it.
If you really want to experience a cyclo ride around stunning places, the best way is to agree on the price in front. Also, don’t forget to agree on the drop off place that is familiar to you since you don’t want to end up in a dark alley with a driver. Always have a GPS opened, so you can be aware where are you at every moment.
13. Fake Travel Agents and Companies
Vietnam is becoming a booming tourist market since the whole country offers such a diverse culture combined with breathtaking landscapes.
The country became a dream destination for many travelers, and there are many tour companies that are getting recognized around the country for their extraordinary services. Once tourists recognize the company’s services, many copycats with similar names start popping up like mushrooms.
Usually, fake travel companies are using the same names with minor changes, so if you’re not careful, you can end up scammed thinking you’re organizing a trip with a reputable company.
The scam isn’t only around tour companies but can be found around hotel and restaurant businesses as well. Be aware when booking anything in Vietnam related to tourism and always use reliable and recognized booking platforms.
If you want to look to book an organized tour around Vietnam, we suggest you check legitimate websites that offer the listing of only reputable companies offering organized tours. The most popular website for tours in Asia is Klook, so check it out!
14. Fake Hotel Pictures and Reviews
The available accommodation options are growing each day, even in the countryside. When you’re checking the big booking platforms, you will see a crazy amount of available hostels, homestays, hotels, etc.
There are many scams when it comes to accommodation and one of the most noticeable is definitely false marketing. On the platforms, hosts usually put many pictures and videos showing their offer of the rooms.
The big problem is that some of them just put the pictures of the best rooms or even the rooms from the other place to promote their place. Once you get there, you may be very surprised by the room!
When booking accommodation or tours, never forget to read reviews from the other travelers who already used the service.
Many hosts don’t require pre-payment, so it’s best if you could come to the accommodation and check the room by yourself. If you don’t like it, just be friendly and explain to the host.
15. Double Fee for a Stay
scams are getting more and more popular when Vietnam is becoming a major destination for international tourists who are visiting the SEA. There are many options when tourists come to booking accommodation in Vietnam including hostels, hotels, homestays, guest houses, etc. You can find these places on big platforms like Booking, Airbnb, and Agoda.
When you book your room, you have all the details with prices for the selected accommodation. The problem arises when you’re traveling in a group and you book the room for more people. Some people will ask you double or triple price than one stated on the platform claiming it’s the price for a person.
Just argue a bit and tell them you will call the police and they will immediately give you the passport and take the real amount of money for the accommodation.
Be sure that you book the accommodation for the right number of people before coming to the place. Once you have the price on the platform, it means the price is for the exact number of people you’ve booked for.
Also, reading reviews from previous travelers can help a lot.
16. Western Restaurants
Almost every town or city has a part which is totally targeted to tourists and foreigners. Be aware of these places as many scams are going on there, especially around the restaurants.
The prices are usually a few times higher compared to the local restaurants and street food. If you pay in a foreign currency, the restaurant staff will give you a really bad exchange rate, so they won’t only rip you off on the food prices, but also on the exchange rate.
Eat at around local restaurants. Always ask for the price before ordering because staff will usually charge you more than locals. Always have VND with you in Vietnam because it’s an official currency and you won’t get charged by unofficial exchange rates.
17. Massage Seduction
There is usually a pretty girl staying in front of the shop and seducing tourists to get inside the massage room. Many people think they will get the massage by the girl they are talking in front, so they started to fantasize about different possible endings.
The next thing that will happen is that the beautiful girl will lead you to the massage room, show you the entrance and tell you to wait. In a minute, you will be in the room with a totally different person who isn’t that hot and also, not a professional masseur.
Always read the reviews of massage places. If the massage place has good reviews, even if it costs a bit more, just go for it because traveling around the country can exhaust your body!
18. Beautiful Hostess with Menus
The vibrant and lively nightlife finds its home around the busy backpacker’s roads become vibrant and lively at night. In Hanoi, there is Old District while in Saigon there is Bui Vien Street. These areas are popular for drinking and partying till the morning hours.
When you walk around these areas you will stumble upon many beautiful women holding menus with ‘discounts’ on drinks and trying to get you in the bar. Many people fall on this one since they are already drunk when the hostess approaches them, so it’s an easy task for them.
They will present you the menu with expensive prices but will claim that you will get a discounted price if you mention their name when ordering drinks. There is one interesting thing about this one.
The menu they are presenting is a fake one and a real price in the bar. Sometimes, the beautiful hostess will join your table with drinks and you will get surprised when you get the bill. The reason? The bill will be filled with the drinks a hostess drank too!
Simply say no to people offering you discounts and showing you the menus on the road. It will be always more expensive than usual and there is a huge possibility you’ll get scammed in one way or another.
19. Peanuts and Beer Goes Well Together
Fresh beer culture is huge around Vietnam, especially in Hanoi and northern provinces. Be careful because people will usually put a handful of food on your table and charge you a lot for it without saying anything. Nothing is for free! The dozens of peanuts usually cost more than a can of a beer. We mainly experience this scam around bigger tourist attractions and cities, even in the most remote areas around the country, this one never gets old!
Ask for the price in front of everything you get on the table. If you don’t need something or you think the price isn’t fair, simply say a friendly no and they will leave you alone!
20. Scams around Cannabis
There are many scams around cannabis and most of them are done by motorbike drivers who’re offering cannabis to tourists.
For instance, we had crazy experiences in Hue! We’ve got approached at least 10 times by motorbike drivers offering us cannabis in less than one hour of walking around the city. It was very crazy and sometimes even the same driver approached us a few times.
These drivers will sell you some cannabis, but you’ll get very poor quality buds with an inflated price! Also, many people experienced getting busted by the dirty police once they’ve got the pack from the motorbike driver.
These drivers usually work with the police for the commission. They sell you cannabis and contact a dirty cop. They will follow you and bust you instantly, so they will most likely find the cannabis on you. After that, you will be asked to pay a crazy bribe.
In Mui Ne, many people are selling weed on the street. The biggest problem is the quality, quantity and sometimes they just sell you a tea or herb that looks like cannabis.
Don’t consume illegal herbs and substances in Vietnam. If you really can’t go without smoking cannabis, then it’s advisable to connect with the local or expat community and get some cannabis from these circles.
Avoid people on the street offering you weed by simply saying no. They will try a few times, but after a few friendly noes, they will give up.
21. Abandoned Waterpark in Hue
Abandoned park in Hue is an amazing place to visit. Just be patient with the security guy and eventually he will let you in for some compensation.
when you arrive at the entrance of an abandoned waterpark, there will be a security officer in his small house blocking the way. At first, he will be tough and won’t let you in. Then a younger guy will appear out of nowhere who will tell you that he can bring you to the park for the price. The guy asked for 100k VND per person and we refused, but many travelers followed him.
After a while, the security guy let us in for 30k VND per person. Later we saw the young guy and the security guy in the security house sharing the money.
If you want to get to the park, you will probably need to pay some money to the security guard in front of the park. Also, it’s advisable to meet some locals in Hue because there is an entrance through the forest where you don’t need to pay anything.
22. Fake Clothing Brand
A fake clothing market is enormous around Vietnam. The prices are very low for the goods. When you’re buying the clothes or any other goods on the local market, it’s close to 100% chance these goods are imported from China and are fake. Many travelers fall on this scam while buying souvenirs in Vietnam, especially silk or traditional dresses like Ao Dai.
Depending on the place, you can get very good quality and cheap goods from street vendors! For instance, we bought a few ‘North Pole’ backpacks from the street vendors in Hanoi. The price was around 200k VND for a 65L backpack. We used the backpacks for our trip around Vietnam through different weather conditions and these backpacks were serving and still serving us on our adventures.
Always check the quality of the clothes in local markets. You don’t need to buy an original brand because you can stumble across very high-quality fake goods. If you’re looking for real brands, then just go to a certified store that sells real goods with standardized quality.
23. Be Careful with SIM Cards
In Vietnam, so many places selling SIM cards. There are many cases where tourists bought SIM cards from a reseller claiming the card comes with X days of unlimited 4G internet. Later, the buyer found out the card stopped to work after just a few days of usage.
Buy from the licensed retailers/official phone shops
Place where you’re staying if they offer the service
Organized tour agencies will often provide you with a SIM card depending on the country you’re going.
24. Don’t Share Sensitive Data in Internet Cafes
It’s amazing that you can find internet cafes on each corner in Vietnam, even in the most remote areas.
The computers there usually have viruses, keyloggers, malware that can exploit your personal and valuable data.
Also, Vietnam has a stunning internet coverage, so you can connect on every step. Even if the network has a password, there is a huge possibility it is set to usual 1 – 8. So be careful with a sensitive data and use 4G network instead.
Don’t use sensitive data on public internet or internet cafes. If you need access to valuable data, the best way is to use a private network or 4G that is very cheap in Vietnam.
25. Always Ask the Price in Front
The majority of street vendors usually charge tourists a bit more. For instance, we were eating chicken rice in Saigon and saw locals paying 30k VND for a bowl. We blindly believed we will be charged the same, but after some bargaining, we paid 60k VND.
This one is the easiest to avoid – just ask the price in front. Once you have a price deal in Vietnam, people usually respect that and you can expect to pay that price.
26. Child Street Vendors
Street kids is a term used for kids working and often living on the street apart from their families. There are many heartbreaking stories of street kids
Corrupted adults see this socio-economic ‘trend’ as a business opportunity and sometimes the term ‘street kids’ is closely related to organized business.
If you’ve ever walked around Kiem lake in Hanoi or Benh Thanh Market in Saigon, there is a huge possibility you stumble upon a small kid trying to sell you a thing or a service. It’s very heartbreaking to see a small kid on the street working all day to earn pennies. It’s very hard to resist not paying or giving away some money to the kid.
The majority of the money will never get to the kids’ pockets or bellies. Kids on the street usually work for an adult and maybe get pennies if anything from your money. Giving away your money to street kids just furtherly supports these kids being on the street far away from their family and schools.
Probably the best thing you could do when encounter a street kid is to bring the kid to a restaurant and share a delicious meal together. If it’s not filling their pockets, it’s filling their bellies and hearts at least.
27. Money Snatching From Your Wallet
Money Snatching From Your Wallet usually happens in busy areas of touristy parts of the city. When travelers want to pay for the products or services, the seller grabs the money from the wallet to ‘help’ them separate the new currency. In that process, they usually pickpocket some money or even change notes. Just check out 500k and 20k bills, they are easily getting confused and many people are taking the advantage of it.
Never give anyone permission to touch your wallet. In addition, when you’re walking around busy touristic areas, it’s advisable to store your valuables in anti-theft bags and put your money in a money belt because there are many scams and pickpockets around these areas.
28. Shoe Repairs
When you walk around the Ancient Town, it’s a chaotic place with many things happening at once, so it’s very hard to be focused on everything. That’s when these shoe repair guys get in, jump on your shoes, and apply the liquid that dissolves stitches on your shoes. The liquid instantly makes the condition of your shoes bad.
Afterward, the guy tells you your shoes need repairing and he receives only $1. When the guy finishes the job he will ask for 10 – 20x more than agreed and he will follow you all around until you settle for the price. It’s a huge headache and you don’t want to fall on this one.
Never let anyone do anything with your shoes or any other fabric on you.
29. Petty Robberies
Basically, this kind of robbery is very common in tourist areas around big cities. Always be on your guard when walking around busy touristy streets. If you ever get robbed, then you’ll probably experience it around these places. The most usual ways of robbing are grabbing and running or distracting and stealing.
Be careful walking with your phone or checking the phone on the street since there are thefts on the bikes who are sitting at the back of the bike while grabbing valuable things from people. There is simply no way to get your stuff back once it’s in their hands.
Many people leave their valuables on the beach while swimming and it’s a perfect chance for thieves to get your valuables.
In the restaurants, always take care of your bags, wallet, phones and other valuables. It’s common that people will get inside the restaurant, walk by and just grab unattended stuff around.
Stealing valuables in buses or trains are very common as well as thieves around ATMs. Be careful and extra aware when withdrawing the money and don’t do it alone in the middle of the night because there is a possibility they will take advantage of you.
These scams are not likely to happen, but taking caution is always advisable. You really can’t do much except using your common sense.
Use a hidden belt or pouch where you put your money and valuables, so it’s out of anyone’s reach. Lock your bags on the non-movable objects when in restaurants.
Anti-theft backpacks can help a lot especially when you’re walking around busy streets. The streets are chaotic with many things happening at once and it’s really hard to notice if someone is opening your backpack from behind. The advice is to carry your backpack in front of you or invest into a backpack lock or anti-theft bag.
Whenever on the road, take the insurance that covers the loss of your valuables. One of the best and affordable insurances that cover your valuable is called World Nomads.
30. Photographers Around Touristic Places
Local photographers usually walk around the touristy places and offer the tourist a photo session. Some tourists think that it is free, but it is not, you will have to pay after that.
This one is very common everywhere in Vietnam where tourism is existent. There will be the woman carrying fruits on their shoulders or wearing traditional clothes offering you to take it for the purpose of taking the photo.
You get the clothes and fruits, take a photo that will give you many likes on social media, but soon after, they will ask you for the rent.
When someone is offering you their stuff just to take a photo or offering you a photo session as a friend, you should just say a friendly no.
People will usually understand and they will move away from you in order to find another ‘customer’.
31. Switching the Bills
Need to pay attention to banknotes because some are very similar, especially 20 and 500 thousand Vietnam Dong. For instance, every Vietnamese banknote has Ho Chi Minh’s face on one side while some even have the same color which makes it easy to mistake the note. The biggest bill of 500k and 20k are both blue color (a bit different gradient) and it can be easy for people to pull the scam.
Switching the bills is an easily avoidable scam, but you must be very cautious, especially in busy tourist places.
Change your money in smaller banknotes so you can pay exactly without worrying about the change.
32. Demanding a Juicy Tip Instead of Change
There is no tipping culture in Vietnam, so there are rare cases that someone will ever ask you for a tip. Anyway, some restaurants figure out how to play the scam on naive or ignorant travelers.
After you get the bill and want to pay with larger notes, people won’t give you the whole change. Many people won’t even count, so it’s effortless to pull this scam.
If you count your money and notice there is a mistake in the change, the staff will usually tell you it’s for the tip. It’s not acceptable as the tip is something the customer should leave to the staff for the good service.
Tips aren’t official in Vietnam and it’s up to you if you’re going to leave a tip. Never agree with a waiter who doesn’t give you a change back claiming it as a tip.