Scam & Dirty Trick Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City)
Based on our trip (30Nov-6Dec2013);
1. TAXI OVERPRICE : Usually the taxi driver ( Ho Chi Minh (HCM) Airport - HCM City ) wants 400000 VD. BUT the actual taxi fares only between 150000-180000 VD.
2. Trishaw FRAUD : They will approach with HCM City Tour to 1-7 places including War Remnant Museum , Saigon Square , Independence Palace , Saigon Central Post Office and etc. BEWARE : The fare is 1.5 ( not 15000@150000 but 1500000VD=70USD) with hidden clause of 1 Hour Tour and they only bring you to 1@2 places before stopped at isolated place asking you pay 1500000VD claiming the 1Hour tour is over.
3. TAXI SCAM : Even if you're using VinaSun Taxi (taximeter), remember/take note of the taxi plate no and taxi driver's name because in the half way to your destination , they can/will insist you to ride another taxi waiting at roadside . Although this 2nd taxi also a taximeter BUT the meter had been adjusted which can cause you almost 1000000VD=48USD for journey less than 2-3km. If you dont want to pay the fare according to his ridiculous taximeter, he will no open the locked door (the car windows are black tinted ) nobody will see what going on inside the taxi although you're in crowded roadside. A risk situation if you/re traveling with all your money/children.
4.Hotel RENT : Even though you already asked and agree with the rent before check-in , look at the receipt very carefully. The actual rent maybe less than the rent you're agreed for. (Eg: The agreed rent is 30USD but written 20USD in the receipt).
Unique Suggestions: 1. Although you're aware with the currency rate (Eg.1US=20000VD), don't get confused with the notes .( Eg: the 5000 VD note is smaller than 50.000VD and 500.000 VD note )
2. Avoid using trishaw service if you can walk / know the direction to your destination.
3. Carefully look the taximeter for absurd differences while it running.( dont get distracted by buildings and roads around you).
4. Never trust Vietnamese even if they are being nice/friendly to you. People in your country maybe honest , but not Vietnam people. Just be careful cause their accent/act will fool you.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Women's Travel
WARNING! Ben Thanh Market theft and phone calls
I have just returned from HCMC and whilst in Ben Thanh Market a young man pushed into me and sped off without apologising or even bothering to look round. Alarm bell immediately started ringing so I grabbed my pockets to find that my mobile phone, which was in a zipped pocket, had disappeared. By this time, the man had unsurprisingly vanished within the bustling crowd.
If you have never been to Ben Thanh Market, it can be extremely overwhelming. As my friend and I entered, we made the mistake of picking up a t-shirt from one of the stalls. Immediately, we were surrounded by many stallholders. They even trapped my friend inside the shop and he had a difficult job persuading the sellers to step aside without buying anything. Combine this with the heat, humidity, hustle and bustle, exciting things to see, it's not surprising that this is a great place for pickpockets.
Although initially I was very unhappy, I am now looking at this event positively as, at the time:
1. I had $300.00, plus around one million dong and a credit card concealed in two separate money belts - both were still intact.
2. I had just purchased a Vietnamese SIM card (unfortunately loaded with around $20 credit) and so my UK SIM card, which I left at the hotel, was still safe.
I told my hotel's receptionist who volunteered to call the number but suspected that if anyone answered they may ask for a heavy ransom. However, there was no reply.
Before my phone parted company, I made a call to my home and sent a couple of texts to my girlfriend in the UK. Around 12 days on, my girlfriend started getting calls from an unknown number which she did not answer. My home phone also had the same. By a scary coincidence, whilst talking to my girlfriend on Skype from Vietnam, a call came through on my home phone which I asked her to answer. A foreign-sounding lady insisted on talking to me. When my girlfriend asked who's calling, she hung up. Although this may not be connected, it seems quite a coincidence.
I am presently sitting at home in the UK waiting to see if another call comes through, not really knowing what to do if it does!
Unique Suggestions: Conceal everything in money-belts.
Fun Alternatives: This place is definitely worth seeing but be on your guard. You have been warned!
Make sure your taxi driver knows where you want to
I was in HCMC during the weekend Aug/15, 2009 for a wedding ceremony. During the day, I took a taxi to the chapel. Although the driver overshot on the way, we managed to arrive on time.
However, for the evening dinner, I had the scariset experience in my life. Actually I always tell the hotel people where I want to go and ask them to tell the taxi driver. I will repeat my destination and show them the map or name card of the proposed place I want to visit.
When I boarded the taxi in the evening after the doorman told the driver where to go, I showed him a map and pointed the name of the hotel I am heading. When I asked if it was ok, he nodded. So I thought he understood. He started by driving in the opposite direstion of where we should be heading. As it was a one-way street I thought he would turn off somewhere and continue to town. Instead, he was driving towards the direction of the chapel. I was really worried and even comtemplated on getting out of the taxi. Sure enough, he stopped in front of the chapel!
I then tried to explain that we were going to the hotel in town. He took my map and studied it for a long while. Obviously he does not know his way. My hotel was actually 5 minutes' drive to the hotel where the dinner was being held.
The driver then drove on in an unsure manner. I looked very closely at the road signs and compared them on my map everytime he made a turn. Finally, after more then half an hour, we were in town. Still, he does not know the location of the Park Hyatt Saigon. Fortunately, I saw it across the road and shouted to him to drive in that direction.
I was hopelessly late and missed the tea ceremony. There was a lot of explanation for me to do, as everybody thought I was being irresponsible by arriving so fashionaly late. All the while I was extremely worried, because he was mumbling to himself in Vietnamese, which I could not comprehend at all.
Unique Suggestions: I really do not know what is the best way to avoid this problem. I thought by having the hotel staff telling the driver, it would not create any problems. The only consolation is that I can see the driver was genuinely sorry. Somebody told me perhaps he was not familiar with the roads.
Fun Alternatives: Maybe the Saigon Tourism Board should suggest that all taxi drivers can only operate if they knew the city roads thoroughly well. Can anyone suggest something better? I sure hope it does not happen should I visit HCMC the next time.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Food and Dining
- Road Trip
Bad experience with Sinh Cafe tour guide
I had the misfortune of being informed that Sinh Cafe is one of the best tour agencies in HCMC. On August 12 my companion and I joined the Mekong delta tour with this agency. In the morning we had a guide who is not very knowledgeable but was doing an ok job. In the afternoon we had to change buses because the rest of the tourists were continuing their journey for their overnight stay.
This particular guide was not proficient in English. He has little information on the sights and was not professional in his duties. Most of the time, he does not say where we were going and just wander off, expecting us to follow him. We were dropped off at a local market and were told to be back after 20 minutes. Before the time was up, the guide went looking for us and said everybody was already waiting on the bus. He was in a hurry to go back to HCMC because of the traffic jam. Although he mentioned stopping on the way for us to take a photo of the suspension bridge, the bus sped off without stopping.
On Wednesday, we joined another Sin Cafe tour for a full-day city tour. We had a wonderful guide in the morning who was knowledgeable and performed his duties well. The same guide who guided us the previous day took over in the afternoon. He started with a joke which when flat, because nobody understood what he was saying. Most of the time, when information was given(which hardly happened), it was obviously learnt by heart and repeated to us in a mecahnical way. Out of the four places on the itinerary, the guide only went along with us to the Reunification Palace. He would just drop us at a spot and collect the group after a stipulated time period. He collected D30,000 from each of us for entrance fees to the War Remnant Museum and the Palace.
After visiting two floors on the Palace, some of the ladies in the group spotted a toilet and wanted to use it. My companion told him she was going to the toilet. When I came out I could see my group in a distance. My friend was still inside. We tried to follow quickly as soon as she was out of the toilet. Unfortunately we lost our group after a while. All the while, this guide does not take care that everybody was there before moving onto another spot. As some of the staff on that floor started to close up, we thought it was closing time. We therefore made our way downstairs to the main entrance to wait for our group.
When they finally appeared, the guide questioned where were we. I told him he should have waited for us, as he knew my friend went to the toilet. She could not walk fast as she was in her 70s. He retorted that there were so many of us, how can he possibly keep track? I proceeded to board the bus with my companion following behind. When the guide went up the bus, he told everybody on the bus that it was our fault that we were lost, as we were supposed to follow closely!
We decided then and there that we should not take any more tours with Sinh Cafe. I found out later that the guides in this company were not very good because they were not paid very well. Hence, the unprofessional and uncaring attitudes.
Unique Suggestions: Do check with reliable sources on the better (and posssibly more expensive) tour agencies. It was a sheer waste of time and money to go with this kind of agency. Although some locals recommended it, I think it pays to spend more for quality service and better enjoyment.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
- Museum Visits
Shine your shoes?
Especially true in tourist areas of HCMC, you'll find lots of young boys totting shoebrush and a little box offering to shine your shoes. They will offer even if you are wearing rubber shoes or slippers.
One day while walking towards Benh Tanh, he took pity on a little boy who tailed him begging to shine his rubber shoes. He obliged and allowed him to "shine" the leather logo part of his right shoe with the intent of just giving a token fee. He gave VND5000 even before the boy finished and the boy insisted on the total payment painted on his box. My husband said he will call police and the boy immediately ran away.
Unique Suggestions: Have your pair of leather shoes buffed appropriately.
Fun Alternatives: Don't take pity on them because some are just scammers.Related to:
- Road Trip
We were almost scammed even before booking into our hotel! Arriving in Pham Ngu Lao, we exited the vehicle to the excited welcome of what we thought of as our hotel manager… There he was, across the road, a big smile on his face as he beckoned us over to the hotel. He even nodded enthusiastically when I asked if his name was Chanh, which I knew was the manager of our accommodation!
Impressed by this friendly and personalised service we thought it the perfect start to our holiday! However, just as he began ushering us towards his hotel, a non-ceasing stream of Vietnamese covering any questions we may have had, the driver who had collected us from the airport sternly rebuffed the “manager” and steered us down a side alley to our REAL accommodation.
Chanh, the fantastic manager at the Bich Duyen, later explained it is an old trick to “hijack” tourists and book them into their own hotels feigning ignorance of any questions. As most signs are in Vietnamese, it is not always easy to identify “fake” accommodation. When it is time to pay the bill, it may result in a sticky situation!
Fun Alternatives: A good way to avoid this trap is to pre-arrange transport with your accommodation. Also, write down the exact address of the hotel and even get the manager’s name and contact telephone number. Hopefully this insurance will get you where you’re supposed to be!Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Military Museum - Cripple beggar
On arrival i got cornered by a man who had stepped on a mine and had no arms and one leg. At the start i thought he was with the Museum, but no... he was selling books.
One caught my interest (Cu Chi Tunnels) so i asked how much and was told $15.00 so i dully paid up. (Was only in the country 1 day...)
I gave him a $10 and a $5, but he asked if we had smaller notes and gave back a different $10 (this one with marks over the note, making it useless as no one will accept it) I also did not get my $1 change back.
After opening the plastic wrapping i saw the book was a poor photocopy with pages missing and some upside down!
He uses his disabilties to get away with this scam, but we marched back and demanded our $10 back and another book. It was really sickening the way he tried to rip us off.
If you visit here and see him, tell him you know about his scams and that his books are poor fakes.
Unique Suggestions: Dont buy any books with out opening them up to check first
Fun Alternatives: Ignore anyone that trys to sell you books on the street, they are all cheap fakes
Sinh Cafe - NOT WORTH IT!!
Wanted to take a boat trip to the Mekong Delta, spend the night, then take a boat into Cambodia. Decided to go with a Sinh Cafe tour, after seeing lotsa good press about them, despite them being $5 more than the competition. Well, it was NOT worth it. The first day's "boat ride" was actually just an hour on the boat, and EIGHT HOURS on a bus! The free lunch was very lame (cold meat with a few veggies), free fruit was just 1 slice of pineapple, and the hotel they gave us was HORRIBLE! Dirty, old, and we had a large hole in our bathroom ceiling! The next day started nice with a personal boat ride, but then due to a Sinh Cafe mixup we were joined with another tour group and had to share 2 larger boats, 1 nice and the other not; this lead to arguing and shouting. After that was settled, we had a 3 hour boat ride, then 1.5 hours at the border, then another 3 hour boat ride (made longer to to a leak in the boat!), then ended with a 2 hour bus ride to Phnom Penh. There we needed to make a call to our hotel for free pickup, but no one would lend us a phone ("Just pay for the ride yourself!"); very rude guides. Eventually we made it to our place...2.5 hours later than planned.
Unique Suggestions: Prepare for LONG bus rides, and unfriendly staff. DON'T expect the best.
Fun Alternatives: There are at least 20 tour companies in the backpacker area, all close to each other. Just shop around for the best plan and price, and don't rely like we did on "popular equals better".Related to:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Airport taxis - don't pay in dollars!
We took a taxi from the backpacker area to the airport. Made sure the meter was on, but the guy seemed to be taking the long way. Got to the airport, and the meter showed 96000 dong (a bit under $6). Only had US dollars, so asked to pay in that, and the guy wanted $10! After some arguing he went down to $8, but this was still too much. Eventually I went into the airport with $6, exchanged it into dong, then went back out and gave him his exact amount in dong. I don't think either of us were happy.
Unique Suggestions: ALWAYS pay for your taxi in dong. Make sure you save some money for that last ride!Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Prostitutes on bikes
While walking from Dong Khoi towards Pham Ngu Lao I was twice approached by young ladies offering their services for US$20 (including the hotel room). One "lady" driver, who looked suspiciously like a male, pointed to a marble teen behind her/him. All I had to do was jump on the bike and be whisked away to an erotic encounter... While I am not in a position to confirm the truth of this (as I declined the offers), I would not be surprised if the promise of a cheap thrill was nothing more than a lure to rob unsuspecting johns.
Methinks you'd be very foolish to trust yourself onto one of those bikes!
Unique Suggestions: Politely but persistently refuse the offers. And keep moving, don’t stop to negotiate! Eventually they move away.Related to:
Picking you up...
Do not get on just about any motor-cyclist that comes along and offers you a ride (ie illegal motor-cycle taxis), esp when you're walking along a street. They often charge a bomb unless a price is negotiated. I'll stick to those (also illegal) that regularly hang around the hotels (esp in Pham Ngu Lau).
I haven't taken any "xe-om" (that's what they are called) since the helmet rule came into effect on 15 Dec 07. God knows how many hundred pax have worn that passenger helmet, and you get a special prize if you guess correctly what's growing inside. You take your chances.
If you really have to take one (out of desperation or curiosity - the latter eventually kills the cat!!!), choose an elderly driver. They are less prone to take you to your Maker.
And then again, there are those mama-sans on motor-bikes with their whores, er, I mean "wares" behind. I'm advised never to take them on, no matter how attractive the "ware". Common sense will tell you that - but then again, it's not so common nowadays. You take your chances too if you go with them.
Fun Alternatives: What's the alternative to a "xe-om"? The taxi, of course, and you are just as apt to get ripped off. Please read my section on taxis.
What's the alternative to buying "wares"? I leave that to your imagination!!!Related to:
- Budget Travel
Vietnamese Traditional Massage Institute
Run by the Ho Chi Minh Association for the Blind, this is a place to go for no-nonsense, no-hanky panky massage.
Situated at the Pham Ngu Lao area, there are separate wings for ladies and guys. Rates go for 35000dongs an hour and an extra 25000dongs if you throw in a sauna. The sauna seems to be very popular with the locals, as I keep bumping into guys in towels in the washroom, waiting for their turn in the sauna. The rooms looked like a 3rd world hospital, although they are air-conned and clean.
I had a blind lady massaged me and despite the hoopla that everybody is telling me.."it's good"...my experience was anything but that. She was more intent on scratching my back instead, with hardly any strength and she was almost just concentrating on one spot on my back. She could not speak English so it was difficult for me to instruct her.
At the end of it all, I felt that it was just money wasted.
Unique Suggestions: Other folks seemed to have better experiences, especially the ladies. Maybe the service at the ladies' wing was better or I am just unlucky. Try your luck!Related to:
- Budget Travel
International drivers' licenses are not valid in Vietnam. If you have one and would like to drive legally,the document must be translated into Vietnamese and registered with the government in order to be offically recognized.
1) Taxis from Airport
When you first leave the airport, there are loads of people trying to get you to get onto their taxi. For us, we stayed at Hai Ba Trung, District 1, so the taxi cost us less than 70,000 dong (USD4.50). Be persistant and say METER TAXI. If drivers suggest USD5, take it...it doesn't make much difference
2) Money Changing
You can change it at the airport (i.e. USD to VND), but they will charge you a commission of 3% and round down to the nearest thousands. We made the mistake there. Advise, change about USD10-20 or sufficient for your taxi ride. There is a couple of money changers around but I can't remember where EXCEPT for at DE THAM. Sin Cafe rates is slightly lower. There is one money changer that is diagnoally across Sin Cafe, the rates is slightly better. No COMMISSION charge too! And they DO NOT round down figures!
Those going from Singapore, please do not change Sin to VND in Singapore. Change to USD, then USD to VND in Vietnam. It's slightly better. Even Sin to VND in Vietnam is far better than changing in Singapore!
Always take meter cab. There are different cab company. In our 4D3N trip, we sat on 3 different types where meter starts from 12000 VND, 14000 VND and 15000 VND. We didn't take note which was the one that starts from 12000 VND. But the one of the cabs that starts from 15000 VND is DELUXE CAB. That's the most expensive
Loads around. Don't have to worry about being hungry.
The night market at Benh Thanh Market is slightly cheaper. I.e. meaning those that open at night ONLY. But limited to T-shirts, shorts, etc.Related to:
- Road Trip
My wife ordered 4 gowns and paid a 50% downpayment of US $70 with a nearby tailor 5 minutes' walk from New World Hotel. To her horror, despite going through no less than 3 rounds of requests to amend the clothes, none of it came to fruition. In fact from day 1 they were not able to deliver their promise to make the first gown on the 2nd night.
Later we were to discover that another 5 minutes walk away she could easily have bought the clothes off the shelf instead of going through all the hassle. Finally she took just 2 of the gowns as the other ones were not fitting. We couldn't help but feel that we have been taken advantage of because we are unlikely to lodge a complaint nor come back to do repeat business.
Unique Suggestions: If you insist on having your clothes tailored, try it with just 1 set first and if you are happy with the quality you can commit further. Also please ensure that you have at least 3 days stay to enable your tailor to have the time to do the adjustments. Otherwise save the bother and buy them off the shelf.
Fun Alternatives: HCMC has plenty of shops selling top quality clothes and it is worth your while to try them out before getting a tailor made one.
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