It seems to me that Vietnam is the worst place in SE Asia for 2 tier pricing. I believe the practice was started by the government and indeed I still see "special" pricing on things such as trains with foreigner prices MUCH higher then for local Vietnamese.
I suggest you not buy anything, even a baguette until you find out the correct price, that is the price a local VN person pays. I am now in Da Lat where even a bowl of soup is a target for higher pricing with vendors typically overcharging by quite a bit. Last night a vendor asked 20,000Dong for a bowl of soup and when I pointed out that was not the correct price, the vendor immediately went down to 15,000 dong. Insist on the correct price or do not buy from that vendor.
I know some people just can't be bothered, but it makes things more difficult for the next tourist. I also realize some of us relent on this issue and indeed the locals also say "but you are so rich". Imagine if Western countries took the same attitude and started 2 tier pricing based on race, ethnic origin or color.
#1 allen_moretsky has been a member since 14/2/2008. Posts: 13
You didn't get "ripped off" when you knowingly paid more than the going rate, you paid what the market (you) was willing to pay.
As for Duong Sat (Road of Steel)/VietNam Railways, they were one of the first government owned entities to introduce flat pricing, i.e. no differential based on citizenship. VietNam Airlines also introduced flat pricing.
HOWEVER, I suspect you bought your rail ticket(s) through a hotel or travel agent and therefore were charged a 'service charge' - whether it was identified as such or just added to the price.
The 5 Star Express pays agents commissions, and therefore all their prices should appear the same.
Obviously you should ASK THE PRICE before ordering whatever, then you won't, as you say, 'get ripped off'.
The government does have price controls on certain things that, as a tourist, won't affect you and these include land / property purchase, apartment rental (easily circumvented).
The practice was introduced as some items were subsidized by the government and as the support has been removed, so the mandated higher prices for foreigners have been removed.
You might also be interested in learning that inflation in VN was about 12% last year and that many products, such as gasoline/petrol, are world priced. Electricity for an average 10-room guest house/hotel runs to about USD$500-600 monthly.
Electricity prices are, at this time, being held down as the government has ordered EVN not to apply charges for the heavy investment that has been made in recent years.
Salaries, in the private sector, increase by 13% in January (mandated) whilst the public sector salaries remained untouched (increasing the need for bribes).
As a foreign resident of VN of 16 years, IMHO your terminology harsh and unwarranted. No prices in VietNam are based on 'race, ethnic origin or color' - you are in a free market.
Don't like the price ... pass on by and give your business to someone else.
#2 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349
The issue, as I see it, is that in the touristed areas the tourist who does not speak Vietnamese and who is new to Vietnam and therefore does not know the "correct" price is at risk. The street vendors, in particular, take advantage of the tourist's ignorance and tack on outrageous price increases. This can be seen in simple street soup prices or baguette prices not to mention going into a shop and buying something.
I am now staying near Mien Dong bus station at a hotel for $7.50. The merchants and shops here are not so used to tourists and so I don't run into the same ripoffs. Much better to be in a non-touristed area to avoid being taken advantage of.
#3 allen_moretsky has been a member since 14/2/2008. Posts: 13
I agree that in Vietnamese areas that you more likely to get the 'local' price.
One way for Foreigners to get the same prices is to watch locals buying a product and then offer the same.
Often the best price is obtained by walking away.
You again use the term 'rip off'. You are not getting 'ripped off' in the usual accepted meaning of the term, you can always walk away. It is YOU that determine if you get overcharged, or not, be it in VietNam or your home country.
You can determine the 'correct' price by shopping around, again what smart people do in their own countries.
#4 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349
there are some special trains to go to some touristplaces like Sapa or Nha Trang, or event some special cabinet, and the price is much higher. Local people don't often take this offer but some 1.class tourist like it. Why don't you check this website http://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm before you make decision? I am sure you will get what you pay for.
Actually I like what CatBa wrote about smart people, Adidas shoes is made in Vietnam from cheap local worker and be sell for more than 100 euro in Europe.
About the higer price, if you don't know it, you usually have to pay more, it happens to all people from other province if they don't know the price or don't care about that, and you are not an exception. for some people that's terrible, but for some other, that is only a question of collecting experience. so pls. when in rome do it like romans do. Just imagine, if everything in vietnam is regular like europe, only smart people...
#5 chicken has been a member since 23/3/2008. Posts: 3
Having lived in Viet Nam for a while, and several countries in Asia, here is a comment on the topic:
VN railways does indeed recognize you for being non-Vietnamese: At the train station itself, the ticket you buy might note in bold letters,'Foreigner'.
As to Sapa (Lao Cai), tourists commonly take the cars (pulled by the regular train) owned by Cong Ty Tulinh ('Tulico'). Yes, these are commonly used by Westerners but you will sometimes see Chinese and Viets on this type of car. Even if you wanted to get a seat that a Viet would typically buy on the regular train cars, the train station might easily tell you that there is nothing available forcing you to take a car such as Tulico and pay not just a greater rate, but then a scammed price on top of that is easily possible (it is extremely common in VN when Viets area dealing with foreigners; especially whites).
While the concept of discrimination in the West is generally viewed as a negative, in Asia discrimination is embraced and considered normal.
Even on weekly TV shows or commercials they demonstrate many forms or discrimination: Locals regularly laugh at such displays. That a Viet (or Thai, Chinese, etc.) doesnt routinely try to take your money because you are white is ludicrous. The Viets, while easily some of the most genuine and friendly people in the world, are regularly trying to take or scam your money and trying to do it, not just multiple times per day, but very possibly multiple times per purchase!
Ask the price before you buy? Absolutely wonderful idea, but is it pragmatic?? Think about it, you end up checking prices so many times per day that it is exhaustive. (And then you have to discerningly check your change!) For the Viets (or Thais, Chinese, etc.) that really want to take your money, they have several possible techniques up their sleeve. Many times in VN, even if you have been given a price, a Viet will then not return your change or correct change, or hand you the big bills and palm the smaller bills. To them, they now have your money so it is their's!
Many view Whites as irresponsible with money and fools to be taken advantage of. They take your money and then they want to take your dignity.
No prices in VietNam are based on 'race, ethnic origin or color' - you are in a free market
This is so wrong that it makes me wonder if the poster has anything credible to say.
Charging you 100K Dong a month for water in your apartment because you are white (while your VN neighbor next door is paying 50K) doesnt have anything to do with a free market and everything to do with discrimination.
A friend, who has lived in Asia for years, comments on the scams, but just accepts them. He is tired of the headaches of trying to deal with the locals and the local price; and pays the White price just to save his sanity.
Two months ago while sitting on a sidewalk drinking beer the lady tried to charge $7 (the four beers were $2). I had to toe-the-line with her and finally, after trying to be polite, made it into a VN affair with shouting involved. In the end I gave her 32K dong ($2) and told her she wasnt getting anymore. (the reality is that she probably had respect for me at standing up for myself when most foreigners easily just pay ridiculous 'free market' rates.
I can go to a market and pay 18K for a kilo of apples. The next day I buy another kilo and the change that I get back is wrong: the merchant now has my money and rationalizes that I am white and she has an opportunity to take my money and so keeps the change and states that today's price (for yesterday's apples) is different. Free Market?
In Thailand near my house a lady sells fruit. Her adult son was regularly around and engaging as I would would often pass down the street. One day he asked why I never bought any produce from his mother. I politely told him that his mother use to charge me a white sur-charge of X amount so I stopped shopping at her stall. He immediately corrected me and stated that the price of 'X' was wrong and not the 'correct' price. I politely told him that I already knew that, but that his mother still thinks that I have to pay a white sur-charge, so I dont do business with her.
Yes, outside of D1 in Sai Gon one will see much less in the way of foreign pricing and money scams, but a Viet anywhere can still view a Foreigner or White as someone to take money from; even in a remote village.
While the truly best thing about Viet Nam is the people, many are regularly, readily out to scam your money: A Singaporean friend who travels Asia 9 months a year, every year, stated, "Viets are easily the friendliest people in Asia, but VN is also the worst for having your money stolen.
Finally, as to Asia in general and VN in specific, I love this discriminating behaviour in Asia: It has forced me to adapt and hold on to my money tighter and tighter and tighter; In the end, their negative behaviour in Asia has kept much more of my money out of their hands and working for me in my portfolio. In the big picture, for me it is a good thing.
#7 taz has been a member since 24/3/2008. Posts: 3
Taz raises several points that require a response.
The difference in Duong Sat/VietNam Railways prices for Vietnamese citizens and visitors is $0. My wife holds Vietnamese citizenship and on the odd occasion we travel be rail our prices are identical.
The pricing differential between the 5 or so different classes is based upon service and not the racial origin of the passenger. Vietnamese citizens pay exactly the same as a foreigner for a given class.
The Ha Noi rail station doesn't give a damn what class a person wants, although they might recommend an upgrade from the lowest class of service as you might not like riding with the chickens or on hard seats. Besides most of these classes travel during the day time rather than overnight.
When you claim a certain class is full, how do you know? Passengers boarding the train at Yen Bai have seat reservations - and these are held from Ha Noi except if there are passengers wanting to alight at Yen Bai.
Additionally, certain agents hold and pay for seats on the popular routes knowing that they can get a premium price for them when things get tight. VN Rail still only collects its published fare.
It pays to have knowledge of prices in any country, and if you are asked to pay over the odds and you accept the price you are not being 'scammed', to quote you, but you are accepting the price asked.
Some services supplied by governmental organisations are subsidised and non-Vietnamese citizens are charged the amount of the subsidy. This is only fair as the subsidies are intended for a given group.
If your landlord decides to charge more for water, it becomes a question of market prices and you are free to choose different accommodation. Besides, foreigners tend to consume/waste more utilities than locals. You are likely unaware of the full influence of various government departments, including the police, on the use/pricing of accommodation.
Your beer example demonstrates market forces. You refused to pay a given price and the woman accepted you offer. Or did you 'scam' her? Your example of a Thai woman and her son simply demonstrates market forces in action.
Food prices do change, daily, but as you most likely are sleeping when the wholesale markets are functioning (overnight) you miss the action. In Phan Thiet the fish and vegetables are sold, by the fishermen and farmers, in the main square, to the retailers from thereabouts. Obviously if there is a shortage of a given product the retail price will rise - as it does in other countries.
I suggest you read the local papers for you will many commodity prices quoted and that they change daily.
My company purchases many services in VietNam and we do not experience any unusual price discrimination whatsoever, other than normal business practices.
Your example of TV shows or commercials is fatuous - Western commercials employ similar techniques - and are hardly reliable examples of discrimination.
This is your first post under this name and it is obvious why. Your assuming that Vietnamese in general is discriminatory, and baseless. I feel sorry that you go around assuming that everyone is out to 'scam' you, it must really lower your appreciation of this country.
#8 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349
I've lived in Hoi An for the past 4 years and I'm married to a Vietnamese lady.
In my experience Vietnam doesn't have a 2 tier pricing system - it has a multi-level pricing system! Even among Vietnamese I've seen how poor widows and street kids get better pricing for market items than 'regular' Vietnamese. My wife comes from a poor family and she regularly has to negotiate better prices in the market as they want to charge her more 'as she's married to a foreigner'.
Likewise Vietnamese tourists from Ha Noi or HCM often get charged more for items when they visit Hoi An.
Some government agencies in Vietnam do charge foreigners more - on a Trip to Hue 12 months ago foreigners were charged more than Vietnamese to enter The Citadel. This also happened at My Son temple ruins outside Hoi An approximately 18 months ago when I last visited. I am unsure if this policy has changed - but the signs and the prices were in plain view for all to see.
This policy needs to be corrected as not all foreigners are wealthy and not all Vietnamese are poor. Any Vietnamese person who owns a building in Hoi An town owns an asset worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I find that Vietnamese have a 'hollywood' idea of how wealthy foreigners are- they are often gob-smacked when I tell them that there are 200,000+ homeless people in the USA, and that 1 in 5 Americans couldn't affort medical treatment in an emergency and have no insurance to cover this event.
The problem is that poor/destitute/homeless foreigners don't take holidays in Vietnam! ;)
Many hospitals in Vietnam are awful- but i rarely see homeless Vietnamese and around Hoi An home ownership is relatively easy and commonplace (although many homes are very simple in structure).
On the other hand- there are poor Vietnamese who struggle - and I feel sorry for those people.
I don't work in Vietnam - I rely on my Australian business investments.. so the inflation hurts me too! But the cure to inflation is to increase productivity. Visit a bank in Australia and there are 3 tellers and 30 customers in line- compared with a bank in Vietnam where you often have 5 customers and 12 people serving them!
In any case- most forigners aren't accustomed to bargaining- foreign tourists often pay more for items and it is hard work haggling in Vietnam- but that's part of the culture! In my opinion tourists will never achieve local pricing in the free market- but they need to work harder on the negotiating.
#9 Hoi_An_Aussie has been a member since 24/3/2008. Posts: 1
I began this topic with the intentions to warn other foreign tourists of the higher prices they are paying, oftentimes without knowing it due to ignorance of costs of items in Asia.
I happen to live in the Philippines and so the price of items here is rather in line with those prices more or less. Fruit, vegetables, meals on the street, etc..
I have been educated but the variety of comments here and those comments have helped me to understand the Vietnamese psyche much better.
#10 allen_moretsky has been a member since 14/2/2008. Posts: 13
I agree whole-heartedly with your last comment about negotiating. It makes buying things more fun.
About the over-staffing. Given the low pay, particularly outside Ha Noi and HCMC, it is very cheap to improve service by upping staff counts. In fact the low pay costs are a disincentive to bring in certain types of automation.
#11 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349
Same as Thailand. Even when your living in Thailand and married to a Thai and you go to a wat (temple, CHURCH!) so your wife can pray you get charged to enter. Even tho i have been to the same wat a couple of times before as a tourist and bought the ticket. So in the end i just didn't go to the ticket booth and walked straight in with my wife. After she'd done here prays and stuff we made donations. As we always do at almost every wat we go in.
Nor sure what my point here is really, apart from its not only Vietnam and you just need to know ways to get around the 2 price systems - Experience i guess?