In Hanoi we got in a taxi with a corrupt taxidriver, his meter was running twice as we were really driving and when we wanted to stop, the driver threatened us with a stick. He wanted the money for the distance he had already driven (20.000 dong for 500 meter).
There were 3 hotels with the same name in a row in Hanoi. We had booked one and the one we walked in said we had to wait until 8 am before we could get the room with window for 15 dollar (which they also said in a reservation e-mail). We could wait in a small other room without window (which they did not say in their e-mail; it said we had to wait in the lobby and could use the internet there). So when I asked about this internet at 8 am, they took me to the hotel with the same name next door. There I asked about the room and got the room for the price they e-mailed me. When I wanted to pick up my luggage, the first hotel charged me 15 dollar for the room! For just 3 hours without any using of the toilet or shower. And the room with window costs 15 dollar, so the room without should be less right? No, also 15 dollar. Great.
In Sapa my friend got hit by a car. He was protecting his head by raising his arm (cars were racing by on the road really close). His hand touched a outside mirror of a passing car and the mirror folded inward (like you sometimes do when you park your car on a busy road). The driver got mad and wanted 4 million dong (300 dollar) for his broken window (which wasn't broken at all). He grabbed a stone and wanted to throw it at my friend when he refused to pay. Thank god there were more people there to help him, because this would have escalated badly otherwise. An English guy and his Vietnamese wife passed by and talked to us and them. She said that the driver said that we were just rich Westerners and that we could well pay a 100 dollars. The English guy guy told us this happens everyday over there. So this is how some North Vietnamese make a living.
This is our experience and I am sure there are much more nice Vietnamese than bad ones, but take this as a warning. Be careful not to get hit by a car, because you have to pay for it.
#1 Pernette has been a member since 20/10/2008. Posts: 7
I'm sure when you look back on the experiences they will be just that. experiences.
Your hotel room worked out at $5.00 per hour. and I'm sure they had to change the bedding etc so I wouldn't worry too much.
The taxi? Well I havent met an too many honest ones anywhere. And 20,000 VND is not even $2.00 so don't worry about it.
We're about to do our 4th Asian trip in 4 years. ... We're getting wiser and don't get caught as much now.
As a tourist, you have to stand up for your rights. I believe the problem with both of the incidents you mention was that you were intimidated by these corrupt hotelkeepers and cab driver. A similar situation happened to me recently in Hanoi in a cab. I got in a cab that I hailed outside a suburban bus station showing the driver a business card of the hotel I wanted to go to with a map on the reverse side. When the driver could not find the hotel (even with the assistance of a map), I became mad, demanded the driver let me out of the cab, and when he demanded 92,000VND, I only gave him 50,000VND. He locked the doors and would not let me out of the car. I simply yelled "police, police, POLICE" and magically the doors opened and I walked to my hotel.
#3 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,111
I have just came back from a trip to sapa vietnam. I have very unhappy experience too with the tour agency. I would advise not to go to the agency by the name inviet travel co.Ltd or (cong ty tnhh kham pha mien dat moi sapa-sapa newland discovery tourism co).
Firstly when i book the trip i told tham i wanted to go to the bac ha market , they said i have to pay an additional 10 USD per person for the trip so i did and when I went to sapa, I was not brought there and it took us quite sometime to get our money back.
Secondly their tour guide do not speak very good english. What happened was on the 1st day the tour guide told us that we prepare our luggage and it will be send to home stay for me however when we reach homestay the tour guide told us we ave to pay to get the luggage to and fro from sapa town to homestay area. Pls take note that most of the tour agency will charge for bring the luggage to and fro at about 40 000 VND 1 way. if not pack a small bag and carry your way to homestay. Keep your luggage small as they are quite a distance to walk during the trekking.
At the end of the trip ,I was given a feed back form to fill in and I didn't want to return to the tourguide and he shouted and threatened us to have it return to him. He became louder and slammed the table and took anything on the table and slammed it down ,dirtying me and friends who were around. This is such a terrible experience with the travel agency. Other than that the trip was very nice(but i think other agency does the same tour with better tourguides)
#4 naeropagnis has been a member since 23/3/2009. Posts: 2
I don't think I can emphasis this enough, you *do not have to book ahead in south east asia* most tourist destinations have more rooms than they know what to do with. Your *always* going to get a better room if you arrive and take a walk around, usually half an hour finds me a decent room for a good price, alot quicker more often than not. The only time to ever not do this is if there's a national holiday on, then it might be worth booking ahead, but other than that, no. Sure if your arriving in a new city, have a particular hotel as a destination, but you've always got the option of going somewhere else if it's no good. And here's a dirty little secret for you, if you book ahead the hotel can give you the worst room in the building and most people will just accept it and be dissapointed, if you walk in for yourself your more likely to get shown a better room because they want the walk in traffic, if you booked ahead they don't have to worry about you.
And yes northern vietnam although vietnam in general to be fair has the worst taxi drivers I've ever been with, practically every trip they tried some scam. General way of dealing with it, is if the meter is running fast, get out pay the man and walk off, just keep a close eye on the meter and make the decision to get out early if it's running fast. Never take a taxi from a train or bus station parking lot they more often than not have paid off the guards to be let them in there so they can get first pick at tired tourists. More often than not all you have to do is walk out onto the main road and hail a cab. Is your taxi driver being deliberately stupid and can't find the destination, the moment he seems not to know, get out and find another one.
In fairness though being aware of the scams in vietnam is a help, they are very good at extracting cash from foreigners, I fell for the 100,000 dong note is a 10,000 paying for a meal scam, it happens to all of us unfortunately.
#5 dageshi has been a member since 1/3/2008. Posts: 56
We don't worry about the money we had to pay the corrupt taxidriver and the guy who hit my friend with his car, the thing that has upset us is the physical threatening with a stick and a rock. We were scared and it hasn't been out of our minds for a couple of days. That is the thing we were worried about.
In Sapa we said we called the police to the guy with the rock, but it didn't help at all :(
you are right with booking ahead of hotels, most of the time it isn't necessary. But if you really want to stay in one particular hotel or looking for a hotel means a lot of walking with your backpack (the hotels in the Old quarter in Hanoi are spread out), it isn't a bad idea to book ahead, I think. Oh and in Luang Prabang, everything was full and it wasn't a national holiday... But that was the only time we had difficulties finding a vacant room.
#6 Pernette has been a member since 20/10/2008. Posts: 7
Do not use taxi in the street for long transfer like airport or day trip, the meter machine is controlled and speed up every time they make a horn. Use local travel agents for those booking, they treated you much better.
#7 DanPastor has been a member since 27/3/2009. Posts: 4
These very sad stories only serve to reinforce the view that preparation for a journey is so important.
On both Travelfish and Thorntree, there are so many stories of people just going for a holiday without preparing themselves and recounting stories of how bad something turned out to be.
My experience in Vietnam for taxi's is that one either speaks to a driver (in a public place) and negotiates a fare BEFORE entering the cab. In doing this, one ought have a reasonable idea of the going rate per kilometre and the distance one is to go. The other way is to get your hotel to advise you how much the fare will be, and ask that they secure a taxi for you (if you think the price is OK).
As far as hotels are concerned, both Travel fish and Lonely Planet make recommendations. While there are times when it's advisable to book, its not always the case.
As a 'plug' for Travelfish, if you book through the Travelfish email 'advice', and something goes wrong, Travelfish are in a very good position to persuade the accommodation owner to fix the situation.
As for Police in Vietnam, since French occupation, the Police have been quaintly referred to as White Mice. At one stage the white reflected the colour of the uniform (but not today), but always, the term White Mice signifies the capacity of a policeman to achieve an outcome.
I suppose because I'm older, when people carry on about 'reward' for something or other, if I don't agree, I walk away. If, when your friend had the incident, ask yourself "what could have happened if we walked away". Would he have really thrown a rock, etc? In that situation, you could have walked away, one looking forward, one looking back to ensure no retribution occurred.
Anyway, put it all down to the 'learning curve', smile and move on.
The way you describe it, sounds so easy, but in reality it is just not. It's easy to say that because you're older (older than who?) or prepare yourself better (than who?) such things don't happen to you. Sometimes people prepare themselves and have lots of life and/or travel experience and find themselves in such situations. Sometimes people are unlucky.
When you want to email a hotel, you have to do this many days in advance, otherwise you won't get the reply in time. Or the hotel just doesn't email back. You have to be very lucky to get someone on the phone who does speak English or to get a line that is good. We have tried both many times.
We always make sure the cab driver rides with the meter on. Asking if he has an altered meter will always result in the answer no of course. The only option would have been to negotiate a price, but our travelexperience tells us that it's cheaper to ride on the meter.
And the rock throwing man in Sapa had about 20 Vietnamese friends/collegues around him. He grabbed at my friend several times, so we thought the chance he would actually throw the rock or hit him with it was quite high. We tried to walk away in the beginning, but he just kept coming after us and grabbing my friend. There was no way of escaping this situation. The thing you shouldn't do in Sapa is getting hit by a car. We had planned not doing that anywhere...
I told a friend yesterday (we are back home unfortunately) that the thing I see in my mind when thinking of Sapa are the rice paddies and the beautiful mountains. The rock threatening guy has already moved to the background. It is just those postings that keeps reminding me. So I'm not going to check the box for reply notifications ;-)
#9 Pernette has been a member since 20/10/2008. Posts: 7
I arrived in Hanoi yesterday and am having a similarly awful experience. It's a shame that most responses seem to suggest that it's your fault if you get scammed or there's some kind of reason people treat you badly... Because it's just not that simple. I've been travelling in South East Asia for the last few weeks and had got pretty used to locals asking for different prices, or staring at us because we were foreign but the vibe was different. It was friendly. I never felt threatened and I enjoyed the experiences. I was aware of the scams and prepared for them as much as anyone could be. But when you've not had any sleep and just landed in Hanoi Airport and spent hours queueing for visas its pretty difficult to work out whether the taxi you step into is going to try and rip you off or not. Long story short. My sister and I got locked in a taxi and driven round and round while an angry, threatening man demanded the equivalent of £80. After a lot of convincing on our part, we managed to get the taxi to pull over and our backpack out of the back. I said I would pay 500K in Dong or give him the money in dollars but he tried to hit me and started pulling my sister's backpack of her bag. We were in front of what I think was the presidential palace on a sidewalk we were not allowed to be on, with armed guards staring in disbelief at us. We got chased down the street by this man and I actually lost my temper and shouted at him. Something I never want to have to do again. It was horrific and terrifying and not something anyone should have to go through no matter how 'naive' or 'touristy' they are. We were helped by some teachers from the Philippines and we finally got to the hostel which was lovely with amazing staff. Wondering around Hanoi though, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. Everybody stares at us and not in a friendly way and none of them smile. We're both generally mild mannered and polite people (honest) and were both dressed and tried to act respectfully. I don't know what we're doing wrong. I know other people have had amazing experiences. I'm really shocked and disappointed. I expected some of this but not to such an extent. I am trying to be open-minded and we have met nice people. There was a man who helped us find our way even though we couldn't understand each other's language at all. But the nice people are few and far between. I realise I'm generalising and I hate myself for it but I'm honestly devastated by the scale of how unwelcome I've felt. I'm on my way to a month long hospital attachment next week and I'm hoping that my time in Saigon fares better. I don't think I can stand 4 weeks in a place where I am so clearly not wanted.
#10 scudlily has been a member since 25/7/2011. Posts: 2
I agree Hanoi is scam city. The south is nicer but you still have to watch out. I had no problems at all that but I did physically intimidate a few jerks. One of my travel partners was angry at me for that but she didn't realize the level of scams being naive. I look forward to returning to Vietnam. But I ignore people who try to chat me up about nothing. But in almost 10 years of SE Asia travel I have never been in fear of another human nor ripped off. At least if I was ripped off it wasn't enough to notice.
I have met so many people who go to a poor country NOT expecting to be taken advantage of. I always expect people to try so I guess that is why I have been lucky.
It is sad to here of these incidents. I loved Vietnam when I was there in January. Having said that, we went to the central & south & didn't venture north. However, we will be going North this coming January. I am not worried about being ripped off, because generally the amount of money is trivial, as Thomas said not enough to notice. The threats of violence though are worrying. In the whole time we were there we never felt unsafe. Mind you, my husband & son are both over six feet tall, so I don't think anyone would be game!
A note about taxis - we always used Vinasun or Mai Linh. Just make sure you know the logo in detail as there are fake ones driving around!
#12 Tessie has been a member since 13/7/2011. Posts: 8
This does explain why, for all its physical beauty, Vietnam gets so few repeat visitors though.
#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I love Do Sao Mai - who lives in Hanoi!
#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I love Hanoi too (feels like home by now), but the fact is that travelers to Vietnam have to prepare for this country much more than other destinations. Do your homework so you know what to expect when it happens. It's a crying shame that a few bad apples spoil the pie in this great country!
#16 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,111
Does that mean we should be in the gym training to whoop some ass just in case?
#17 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Fore warned is fore armed. At least you go in aware that these things can happen. Most Vietnamese people are fantastic, so don't let a the few ruin your opinion of all of them.
#18 Tessie has been a member since 13/7/2011. Posts: 8
If it helps by our last day in Hanoi , I'd come to like the feel of the city and had met some friendly locals and had some great experiences. The first few days were pretty miserable though. The incident with the taxi driver was not very pleasant but we were (somehow!) able to brush it off. I had been prepared for something like that to happen. It was walking down the streets in Hanoi that I found the most difficult because everybody would stare at us and not generally in a friendly way. I'd been expecting that too but not quite prepared for just how unwelcome I would feel. After a couple of days, it became easier to take and I felt oddly like people were becoming friendlier. A nice waiter pointed out that 'He could tell we were English because we were nice. We could walk anywhere.' Oh dear. I think he meant as opposed to if we were American. I'm in Saigon now and it's completely different. I still feel like I'm causing a scene every time I walk down the street but it's more curiosity than hostility. I'd definitely recommend going to Hanoi though but not by yourself. It has a really old world feel to it that is missing in Ho Chi Minh city. The water puppets and the food are amazing. When people are friendly they are beyond courteous. Having said that, you can be as prepared as you like, it won't necessarily stop bad things from happening. On a side note, I found that in Hanoi the amount of money people would try and scam you for wasn't small change. The 'taxi fare' that he was asking for was £80 (about $100 I think) and people tried to sell us things for prices that would be expensive in the UK. It's not too bad if you're only staying for a week but when you're trying to survive for 8 weeks it really matters!
#19 scudlily has been a member since 25/7/2011. Posts: 2
I'm glad you ended up enjoying the rest of your time in Hanoi. I'm headed there in January & I'm sure I will come across a scammer or two. I once experienced a similar frightening experience with a Tuk Tuk driver in Bangkok & I know it's not easy to brush off. But somehow you do, otherwise you'd never leave home.
I have heard that Saigon is much friendlier & I would have to say my experiences there were very pleasant. You still get the scams, but there doesn't seem to be the threat of violence. And I think you're right, as bad as it sounds I think not being American has it's advantages.
I hope you continue to enjoy your time in Vietnam.
#20 Tessie has been a member since 13/7/2011. Posts: 8
This is really disappointing to read. I will only be in Hanoi for 2-3 days, so hopefully I won't get scammed too much. I don't know if knowing Vietnamese will make any difference, they will take one look at my caucasian partner and know that I am a foreigner. *sigh*
#21 Rubixx has been a member since 27/6/2011. Posts: 11
I met a vietnamese who lives in South Korea in Lao Cai and locals tried to overcharged him for the ride to Sapa. Some people try to overcharged you and it doesn't matter if you a foreigner or vietnamese. And if someone starts shouting, then shout back, thats their way.
#24 lunar has been a member since 3/8/2011. Posts: 10
I wonder if they have the kind of murder rate Thailand has?
#25 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Well I checked. Vietnam has a remarkably low murder rate... So I guess yelling at them works fine.
#26 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I love Hanoi and have never felt uncomfortable there. I'm so sorry to hear about people's bad experiences. Definitely negotiating beforehand is a useful tip. Also, Hanoi has an excellent aircon bus service which I would totally recommend for getting around the city. There's a fixed price for the ticket, too!
When we arrive anywhere, bus station or airport, we go and grab a coffee first and get our bearings. This usually allows the taxi/tuk tuk scrum to die down, and means we can get some information on buses, directions etc.
In Vietnam, perhaps more than other parts of SE Asia, there is a 'foreigner price'. There's even a different price for returning/visiting Vietnamese. However, in general the prices are still reasonable. It helps if you stop thinking that there is one price for all and if you are charged 50 cents extra, you're being 'ripped off'. I meet some travellers who are so obsessed with avoiding paying extra that they will argue over very, very small amounts of money, or nearly kill themselves with heat exhaustion rather than get in a tuk tuk.
Having said that, I did have an experience in very northern Vietnam (close to the Chinese border) where I was charged the equivalent of $10 for two bowls of pho. We were polite but firm and eventually agreed on a more acceptable price. Vietnam is different from Laos/Thailand/Cambodia etc in that people do shout there - so, shout back if it comes to it. In general, however, I'm not sure calling in the police is going to help.
I think learning some of the language is polite anywhere, but it is particularly helpful in Vietnam. It shows that you're not just off the aeroplane/boat. Many of the problems people have seem to come from booking tours etc - as has been said before, you can do it yourself for almost everything. There's really no need to book a tour to Sapa, for example. Just get a train ticket and arrive!
When it comes to finding hotels, our trick (which we learnt from a lovely couple in India) is for one person to sit at a coffee shop with the bags while your companion goes around to look at guesthouses. That way, you're not dragging bags around, you won't appear to be so desperate and you can check out a few places before you commit. We take it in turns, and it gets a bit competitive about who found the best places to stay, and who OK'd the room without a window and a karaoke bar next door!
I have a favourite proverb about a traveller walking along a dusty road. He sees an old man seated by the side and asks him what the people are like in the next village. "How did you find the people in the place you've just come from?" asks the old man. "Quite unpleasant and unfriendly," says the traveller. "I'm afraid you'll find the next village the same." A few hours later, another traveller stops to ask the old man about the next village. "How did you find the people in the village you've just come from?" asks the old man. "Very friendly and helpful," says the traveller. "I think you'll find the next village to be the same," says the old man.
Eventually I will go because I want to dance again with Do Sao Mai - who's just excellent. I danced with her in Bangkok. Since she's in Hanoi, that's where I will have to go... vid of her here for those interested dancing with Jorge Elizondo:
#29 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I am planning to visit Vietnam for about 12 days. I am negotiating with Asia Top Travels , Vietnam Impressive Travel & Events BnB Corporation and ASEAN tours. The rates quoted are so varied that I am confused and apprehensive about the genuineness of the companies. How to find the honest, economical and sincere agents?
#30 avipatkar has been a member since 15/6/2011. Posts: 10
I am in Hanoi at the moment with my boyfriend, we've been travelling through SE Asia for the last 3 months, and have another month and a half to go. At first I was really apprehensive about Hanoi - reading through forums like this don't really do much to foster confidence - but I am glad we came here. It certainly has a different feel from HCMC, and I especially like the roads dedicated to certain shops - the haberdashery road was one of my favourites As for scammy situations, we haven't been involved in any yet, apart from maybe our hotel. When we were in Hoi An, we were approached by a guy plugging a hotel in Hanoi and offering a free transfer. Of course this rings alarm bells, but our experiences had taught us that the worst that could happen was that we'd be asked to pay for the taxi (about $4), which we would have had to pay for anyway. We ended up staying at the hotel (Wing Hotel, not reccommended), but the cheap $10 wasn't available that night, surprise surprise. However, we decided to stay one night and find somewhere else if they couldn't deliver on the $10 room, which they begrudgingly found for us the next day.
I think the most scammy aspect of Hanoi is the tour booking process, especially for Halong Bay. We've organised to go tomorrow with Kangaroo Cafe, but we're keeping our expectations low to try and minimise disappointment! Sadly it seems that where tours and hotels are concerned, no-one thinks twice about exploiting tourists for their money. It's such a shame in such a beautiful country that has benefitted from tourism and could continue to do so if people actually wanted to come back. It doesn't really surprise me to hear that Vietnam has a low return visiter rate, I don't know if I'd come back straight away, whereas I have vowed to return to Laos one day, and likewise Thailand. Anyway, there's a Halong Bay question thing that I'm going to post my experiences with Kangaroo on, here's hoping me and my boyfriend don't get taken for a proverbial ride rather than a real one
#32 podus has been a member since 23/8/2011. Posts: 4