I will be traveling to Hanoi on a 5D6N trip with 2 friends in mid November. Our itinerary centers around 3 tours from Sinh Cafe arranged back to back. I've obtained these information from www.sinhcafevn.com
Halong Bay- Cat Ba Tour
Sapa Trekking by train (Opt 1)
Hanoi City Tour
This will be our first trip to Vietnam. Having heard of the many bad experiences, particularly scams and ripoffs, faced by others on this forum and elsewhere, we are quite wary and are erring on the side of thorough planning and research. As the information provided on Sinh Cafe's website was general and ambiguous at parts, I decided to email the their Hanoi office (firstname.lastname@example.org) with some queries that I had.
I received their reply today, from a Mr. Chau using this email address email@example.com Generally he did not answer a single question but pasted information on the tours from their website in his reply. However, what struck me as suspicious was that one of the hyperlinks from the pasted information on Halong Bay leads to http://www.khanhsinhtour.com/Book.asp?IDBk=1&IDTs=201 I'm thinking this might be a warning sign that I'm dealing with a fake.
I have uploaded a pdf of the email here- http://www.box.net/shared/e9aty5fo02
Any advice from experienced travelers here? Is there anyone who has dealt with Sinh Cafe's Hanoi office or been to any of the 3 tours? Your general comments or suggestions are much welcome.
#1 bluejay has been a member since 3/10/2009. Posts: 3
sinhcafevn.com and thesinhtourist.vn are the same organisation -- the former changed it's name some time ago (I have no idea why) -- by they are both associated with the real Sinh Cafe.
The link to the third operator is curious and I'd assume they will be the actual operator running the tour and Sinh is just putting you onto them. There could be any number of reasons for this -- he may consider the tour to be a better fit for what you want, or it has better availability, or perhaps, as you suspect, perhaps something a bit more shonky is going on.
I'd suggest emailing Mr Chau and running the question by him as he'll be the only one that will be answer you definitively.
Hi Somtam2000 and chrispyrolls,
Thanks for you replies. You're quite right. I think it's best to ask him upfront about the link. Will do that.
I'm told that to book the tours, I'm required to pay the full cost by Western Union remittance. I'm a little uneasy about that- I'll rather pay a partial down-payment if a deposit is the custom.
When I enquired about their general expectation of the vacancy should I decide to book 1 day prior to the tours with their Hanoi office, they refused to comment.
"Sorry, we are not able to tell you about availability of tours once it is not paid."
What do you think? Is the demand for full payment for booking normal? Or this an example of the commonly cited practice of Vietnamese sellers trying to snag the best extortionate terms that they can?
#4 bluejay has been a member since 3/10/2009. Posts: 3
I have not used Sinh Cafe before, but have used both Handpsan and Buffalo for a number of tours. Both of these asked for payment in full before the tours, this was done using credit card.
I'm sure someone will have used Sinh Cafe here who can advise you.
I would imagine you can book when you arrive in Hanoi - everyone you meet will be able to book tours for you! - I guess it's a bit of a risk tho...
Hope you have a great trip
Seems they could certainly do a bit of work on the customer service angle!
It is not unusual for Vn agents to ask for the money upfront -- any "normal" tour company expects money paid upfront.
Personally I'd wait till you heard back re the odd link thing before moving ahead on it.
To Bluejay and all,
Real Sinhcafe (now it is TheSinhTourist) run daily open bus and tour.
Its sure that you can get all the tickets one day before.
The price is very competitive.
Take a look at what I posted on " Real Sinhcafe"
Sinhcafe has changed its name to TheSinhTourist because of a lot of faked Sinhcafe in Ha Noi.
The new website is www.thesinhtourist.vn
To Noggins:www.sinhcafevn.com was the real one. Its funny that the real Sinhcafe got the name sinhcafevn.com. "vn" stands for VietNam. But the faked ones got the name sinhcafe.com or sinhcafe.vn. The reason is: Real Sinhcafe didnt pay its attention to website. When the faked ones occupied the above names, Real sinhsafe had to get the name sinhcafevn.com...... Just remember now there is no Sinhcafe... Only TheSinhTourist.
TheSinhTourist (Or Real Sinhcafe) focuses on the backpacker market so the price is very competitive.
It runs daily open bus and open tour in Viet Nam and Cambodia.
You can get ticket one day before departure.
Here are its offices in Viet Nam:
1/ Head offices:
* 246 De Tham Street, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city.
Tel: (848) 38389597
* 24 - 26 Pho Duc Chinh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city (near Ben Thanh market: for cargo services through Viet Nam
Tel: (848) 38217421
2/ DA LAT city
4A Bui Thi Xuan street, Da Lat city
3/ Mui Ne
144 Nguyen Dinh Chieu street, Ham Tien, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet
Tel: (848) 623847542
4/ Nha Trang
10 Biet Thu street, Nha Trang city
Tel: (848) 583521981
5/ Hoi An
587 Hai Ba Trung street, Hoi An town
6/ Da Nang
145 Bach Dang street, Da Nang city
Tel: (848) 51133843259
Kios 04, 12 Hung Vuong street, Hue city
Tel: (848) 543826867
8/ Ha Noi
Please inform that there are about 100 faked Sinhcafe in Hanoi. Make sure that you come to real Sinhcafe offices.
The REAL ONE now is TheSinhTourist. It no longer uses Sinhcafe name
* 40 Luong Ngoc Quyen street, Ha nOI CITY
Tel: (848) 439261568
* 64 Tran Nhat Duat street, Ha Ni city
Tel: (848) 439290394
* Phnom Penh
TheSinhTourist hotel in Phnom Penh
No 106 - 108, Street 230, S/K Phsar Deum Kor, Khan Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh
Tel: (855) 23993461
* Siem Reap
TheSinhTourist hotel in Siem Reap
Road Charles de Gaulle (opposite National museum)
Tel: (855) 63963461
Thanks for your reading.
Reseach and developmet officer
#7 thesinhtourist has been a member since 20/3/2010. Posts: 6
Re: Ha Long bay
"I received their reply today, from a Mr. Chau using this email address firstname.lastname@example.org Generally he did not answer a single question but pasted information on the tours from their website in his reply. However, what struck me as suspicious was that one of the hyperlinks from the pasted information on Halong Bay leads to http://www.khanhsinhtour.com/Book.asp?IDBk=1&IDTs=201 I'm thinking this might be a warning sign that I'm dealing with a fake."
Mr Chau is the ticket seller.
TheSinhTourist (or real Sinhcafe) cooperates with Khanhsinhtour.com to run the Ha Long bay and Sapa trekking tours.
It runs all the tour in Ho Chi Minh city, Mekong delta, Da Lat, Mui Ne and Nha Trang by only themselves.
#8 thesinhtourist has been a member since 20/3/2010. Posts: 6
I apologize for taking so long to update on my experiences with the Sinh Tourist during my trip to Hanoi back in November 09. I booked two separate tours to Halong Bay and Sapa with Sinh Cafe.
On the whole, I'm quite satisfied. The only hiccup was a communication breakdown over the Halong Bay tour. I didn't book online in advance but called their office on my Vietnam prepaid number the night I touched down to sign up for the tour the next day.
I wanted to book the 2D1N Halong Bay - Cat Ba Tour but instead I found myself on a 2D1N overnight stay on a junk tour in Halong Bay the next day. I was naturally quite irritated not being able to go to Cat Ba island as anticipated. Plus, the tour guide on the junk (wearing a Minh Sinh Travel) uniform didn't help by telling me Minh Sinh was the operator and Sinh Cafe was the tour company. I was unhappy about being "subcontracted out" to another company. The van driver to Halong City was also quite rude and cold. The van was marked "Khan Sinh tours".
But the Sapa tour changed my impression of Sinh Cafe. This time my friends and I booked the tour in person at their office in the old quarter. They were quite helpful, and their exchange rates from USD to Dong seemed reasonable enough. We were able to leave our luggage in their office to go look for dinner. Everything went quite smoothly - the Sinh Cafe man brought us and some other travellers to the Lao Cai train station and helped us with the tickets. The full day trekking to Lao Chai village was fun, and interacting with the Hmong girls was lovely. It's quite unlike the bargaining in the old quarters. It's a kind of happy bantering.
What impressed me most was their honesty. When I got back from Sapa a few days later and returned to their office, one of the guys returned me US 5 dollars and said I had overpaid for the Sapa tour. That was really rare. Plus, we sought their help in booking a cab ride to Bat Trang pottery village and back to the Noi Bai airport for a negotiated price.
I'm going to upload a scanned copy of their name card and photos of the real Sinh Tourist shopfront. Ironically, they're located opposite a fake Sinh Cafe office. They proudly declared this on their window. The sincerest form of flattery is imitation eh? I hope this will help others here who find themselves with the same problem as I did many months ago.
#9 bluejay has been a member since 3/10/2009. Posts: 3
after going to both sinh cafes in hanoi, I thought that the one at Luong Ngoc Quyen street was fake, as they didn't have the new name or new web site, so I went to 64 Tran Nhat Duat street where they were definately sinhtourist, the place seems a bit out of the way on the main road, and nothing touristy on the way, but definately worth the walk to find it.
#10 roynolan has been a member since 29/1/2009. Posts: 48
This is the correct website. http://www.thesinhtourist.vn/ I have used them twice in the last two years with total satisfaction. I paid half by western union and the rest when I arrived.
#11 NYTim has been a member since 11/9/2009. Posts: 106