Just to share my experience. I have been travelling by myself for quite a while to different countries, but never felt as unsafe as I did in Northern Vietnam ( Hanoi , Lao Cai , Halong City, Cat Ba).
A few suggestions to other women travelling in Northern Vietnam:
1. do not wear clothes that are very different from the locals in style or/and colors, you will become a target even faster than in 'normal' clothes (happened to me in Hanoi).
2. do not ever take a sit in transport until you agree on price of a ticket or services provided (you will be heavily overcharged on your way (happened to me on my way from Lao Cai to Bac Ha).
3. do not take a sit in transport (even if there one-two other people have been sitting there already) if you do not see a driver, but someone else tries to convince you to sit there and pay right away for the service coming. It might happen you paid someone who will disappear in a few minutes and you and those people sitting in the transport will become victims of scam (happened in Lao Cai).
4. Even if you go by government busses, you might be told "this is your stop" and dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Other very friendly guys will be waiting for you there to give you a ride to a place you need (but actually to another scam) for additional cost.
This happened to me on my way from Hanoi to Halong Bay. I was only person from all passengers who was told it was my stop and had to get out from the bus on the road before Halong Bay. Then, when I found myself alone, I did not have a choice and agreed on a ride (50.000 dong). The driver took me not to the place where I could take a boat ticket to Cat Ba as I asked, but to a hotel where supposedly I could buy a combined ticket to Cat Ba city (boat-bus). The girl in the hotel tried to convince me to buy a ticket from her 'only' for $20 US and for a boat that is 'only one for a day, and leaving in 20 minutes' (the ticket should be 80.000 for a boat + 50.000 for a bus = 130.000 which is $ 6,5 US).
5. When you buy services (trips) make sure all services they promise have been written down in receipt and written in English. Otherwise you might be charged for the same service twice as you 'did not pay for it' because it is not written in receipt (happened to me in Halong Bay).
Good luck travelling in Northern Vietnam! (as to me...never again)
#1 HanoiMargarita has been a member since 2/5/2012. Posts: 10
They certainly are the worst, cleverest, quickest scammers in the whole of S.E.Asia. Without a doubt. I think this is proven by the tourist return rates compared to other countries in the region.Unless the government over there get a grip on it it will strangle their tourist industry.Though I've been told they actively encourage it!
Yes, I have to agree with the last poster. The Vietnamese are equal opportunity instant-profiteers. I have been here for about 3 months and have been in countless situations with both genders, including local Vietnamese, my Vietnamese-American husband, and myself, a blonde-haired woman.
If I was traveling alone through here and did not have someone with me who could understand the language (my husband), I could ascertain whatever I wanted about the clothing thing. The bottom line is that the Vietnamese cover up all of their skin in face of the sun that they see so much. Whenever I have worn shorts or a tank top or forgotten my sun hat at home, they are more concerned that my skin is going to burn or that the sun is going to damage my fair face.
This is not a place to come to be anonymous, as everyone is in everyone's business and they love living close together and are curious about the foreigners they see. Most of them are very happy to have us traveling to their homeland, and since most of them cannot travel outside of the country themselves, they really don't know any other way than this. They are really wonderful people who are often blinded by the fact that if they gave us a fair price once, we would come back more. They just care about making a little more money this one time- and that is an incredibly over-generalizing statement, as with time here you find the vendors at the market who will give a fair enough price, etc. Many of them don't know what it is like to have enough money to travel to a land other than theirs, so in their eyes, we are rich. They just don't know what it is like for us in our own homelands and that most of the time, that is not so. I really don't blame them.
So, as someone who does get exhausted bargaining for everything everyday, I understand. However, if you do a little research on what the prices should be, you can ask politely over and over again, and often get the prices talked down, and win a little respect from them in the meantime (it is true). Knowing numbers in the language is incredibly helpful and they will honor that you have taken the energy to speak the language at all.
Those bus scams are common all over Viet Nam, no matter which gender you are- as long as you look foreign, which we really cannot help. Yes, the key is asking the price first for everything- whether agreeing to a meter in a cab or xe om, how much your hotel costs, everything.
I am sorry you had such a bad experience- it is really a wonderful country with many many truly kind people and beautiful sights.
#4 MinVN has been a member since 4/5/2012. Posts: 1
"MADMAC: What makes you think said scams are reserved for women? I'm pretty sure that the vietnamese are equal opportunity scammers."
And where did I say it was reserved for women? I think you missed the point.
I am a woman travelling alone and having my own experience which I felt I had to share with those who are in a similar situation. I cannot say for men, couples, or families travelling in Vietnam, but I know what happened to me. From my communication with others I’ve learned that people who travel by couples and by groups did not have the experience I had. I also may assume that pushing around and ripping off a single woman is probably easier than pushing around a man or a group of people.
#5 HanoiMargarita has been a member since 2/5/2012. Posts: 10