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Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos - scam report

Posted by trimetrov on 11/11/2010 at 05:04

Been back from a 5-week trip through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos awhile now, but felt I had to report on the various scams and travel operators my girlfriend and I used.

First off - Vietnam was scam central. We quickly learned that the more English they spoke, the easier it was for them to scam you. No English = no scam potential.

After 22 hours of flying, and arriving in Hanoi at 11pm, you will be witless and vulnerable. You are ready for a shower and sleep. And you will do stupid things.

We were expecting a hotel pickup which never arrived. So we're immediately scrambling for a new driver. Found a taxi, and negotiated the price ahead of time, patting ourselves on the back for being so smart.

There is a toll gate not far from the airport. At this point, the driver pulls over and demands we pay the toll. Ok, I say, how much? 800,000 dong. Yeah. Right. I said absolutely not, that was nuts, and we had already negotiated the price. He told me he'd cover it and we could pay when we reached the hotel. This sounded good, at the time, so we drove on...until we got into Hanoi proper, which is about a 40 minute drive, and he stopped at an ATM and said "you pay now."

There was yelling, threats of police from both sides, but I didn't budge. So rather than lose a mark, he turned around and drove us back to the airport. It felt very stupid to try finding another taxi after that, but by this point it was after midnight, and we did find one who got us where we needed to go for about $14 American.

Saigon: another taxi scam I hadn't heard of before. We walked everywhere until our last day there and just wanted a ride. Grabbed one of the "marked" metered taxis and decided to just go with the metered amount.

Near the Reunification Palace, our driver pulled over and told us he had been stopped by police on the street corner. We looked and saw no police. When we asked why, he pointed to us and said "No seat belts!" Of course, there were no seatbelts in the taxi...and this in a country where it is common to drive scooters with 4 people at a time including infants on the handlebars.

He graciously offered to talk to the policeman for us, who for some strange reason was a block away and around a corner. We quickly grabbed our things and jumped out; the driver saw us, came back yelling "No, no, no, you pay fine, $10, $10 (each of us was "$10"). Looking around one more time for this imaginary police officer...nope, we'll walk. Not a peep from this guy. He tried to block us up against the van, but with no contact, as soon as I touched him he pretty much ran away.

Also beware of the pedi-cab guys hanging around the Palace who offer "pay what you want" rates; you'll make them a offer similar to what other pedi-cab guys get only to have them whip out a card displaying an opposite rate at the end of your ride - you think you're paying by time, but they are charging you an exorbitant rate for mileage, or vice versa. Say "police" and they will go away.

The Good:

Handspan. Booked Halong Bay and a biking trip with them inadvance. Awesome trips, great service, helped us rearrange some travellast minute for no money. Awesome awesome awesome company as far asour experiences went.

All of Cambodia. Super friendly. Hired a driver and licensed guide through our hotel for about $60/day; definitely definitely worth it if you can afford it. Those guys were one of the highlights of our trip - funny, engaging and knowledgeable. Pushed some tourist restaurant buffet/show combos at the end of the day on us but it was never annoying and accepted "no" the first time.

All of Laos. Also super friendly. Our guesthouse owners had family visiting them, and invited us to sit in on the baasi ceremony the night before they left...and also the feast afterward.

Tiger Trails in Luang Prabang - did a bike ride/elephant trek/village homestay combo which could not have gone better. Our guide ended up contacting us after our trek was over, and invited us to a Hmong New Year celebration with his wife.

If anyone would like the names of guesthouses/guides I believe I have all of them still, I would recommend any of them.

#1 trimetrov has been a member since 28/5/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by busylizzy on 11/11/2010 at 05:36

I know taxi's in Bangkok expect you to pay the tolls. Not sure about Vietnam (Hanoi) though. If that is the case, then they should at least make you aware of this at the time you get into the taxi. Regardless, there is no way the toll would be 800,000 dong (= USD$41 or so)!!

It's a pity that this sort of thing continues in Vietnam. They do a lot of damage to the potential for tourism. There has been an interesting in-dept discussion about it here:

#2 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by sessachief on 14/11/2010 at 17:51

Taxi scams & scams in general are a problem. Sadly you have to go in with your eyes open.. Negotiate price and hold your ground, not always easy I realise ..
They will put people off, but hey ho ! Money is money and they need it .

#3 sessachief has been a member since 28/12/2009. Posts: 3
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