Over-pricing, Ho Chi Minh City
people in the markets have a 200% mark up in their merchandise moreso at the Benh Thanh market. you MUST HAGGLE and remember the exchange rate of a Vietnamese Dong into a US Dollar so that you can gauge the amount being overcharged!, start at 150% of the price and if they don't agree then LEAVE since 90% will ask yes to your price. Remember, just walk away if you don't like the price and chances are they will agree to your asking price. again the mark up is usually 200 % at the Benh Thanh Market hence it will be cheaper to buy items at mini stalls at Nguyen Hue Boulevard and other areas of Le Loi Street!
Unique Suggestions: knock off at least 100% from their asking price for the merchandise.
Fun Alternatives: buy at department stores even if they have fixed prices since you can be assured of the quality!
Saigon is not the only place I've been where tourists are asked to buy items, but the sheer persistence of the Vietnamese can make it quite uncomfortable, you could be walking down De Tham street and be asked 5 times by men standing next to each other for the same thing, usually "motorbike you?". I tried to perfect my blank expressionless face every time I was asked but it can be very tedious.
Unique Suggestions: Also if you do want to buy something find someone who will negotiate, otherwise walk away, as the initial price can be ridiculous.
Fun Alternatives: ignore ignore ignore, there are plenty of other tourists they can take advantage of.
Be VERY careful of the cyclos. Negotiate the price before hand but be aware that when you get off, they may demand more money from you. Whilst in HCMC friends got bailed up against a wall and more money was demanded from them.
Fun Alternatives: Cyclos are a great way to experience the city but the safer way would be by taxis. They are cheap but just make sure they turn on the meter.
This place stands out because of the location right on the corner and for the neon sign on the top of the smoking buffalo. Now be warned this and the Go Too bar across the street are the most expensive ones in this area. Now don't get me wrong for a foreigner it's still cheap, but when you get charged 52,00 dongs for a beer about $2.50 US for a beer and just down the street they charge 10,000 dongs about .50 US cents then you'll realize that this place is overpriced. The touts that stand outside also are annoying, they surround you and try to get you into there area's !!! Also be alert when you pay that you get the right amount back !!!!
While waiting for the Reunification Palace ticket booth to open from their lunch time break, this sweet and friendly old lady approached us and put ice cream in our hands. When we asked if it was free she said "yes". We asked again. "No need to pay?" Yes. "Free taste?" Yes. "We have no money!" It's ok. So 7 of us had some because we didn't want to be rude and hurt her feelings. Some of us didn't actually want some (I'm not a big street ice cream fan for obvious health reasons) but it's hard to resist anything free and I didn't want to hurt her feelings.
The ice cream turned out to be Durian flavor -- a fruit that tastes like... I'm really sorry. Crap. According to Wikipedia "Other comparisons have been made with the civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray and used surgical swabs." We also have this fruit in the Philippines and I've tasted it before and to say I'm not a fan is an UNDERSTATEMENT.
To cut the long story short and I'm sure you know where this is heading...
THE ICE CREAM WAS NOT FREE.
It was around VD 10,000 a cup. That would be around $0.48 dollars. Given my tight budget I could've used the money for extra rice for dinner.Plus I got hoodwinked. So that was VD 10,000 I couldn't spare for something I didn't even want.
Well we paid for the ice cream anyway. She was old and angry, and while what she did was wrong, we just thought she looked like she really needed the money.
Fun Alternatives: This should be your mindset: NOTHING IS FREE IN SAIGON. If an offer sounds too good to be true, ask again. And again. And again. Or ask a friendly local if it's the real deal. If you REALLY want ice cream, go buy some at the Coop-Mart.
From the airport to hotel, the meter is not functioning correct, and end up 400,000 VND.
After bargaining, I still paid 165000 VND, the normal price is around 110,000 to 120,000 from airport to Pham Nghu Lao St Area. Including 5000 Airport Entrace fee.
Unique Suggestions: Bargain with them, suggest that you are not a first timer.
Fun Alternatives: Alway take Taxi from Mah Linh, they are the best regulated company in Vietnam, both South and North. The call number for South and North are different.
As it was only a short trip to Pham Ngu Lao, I agreed to a price of 15,000 dong. As we travelled the cycle driver was very friendly and we had a brief conversation. When we arrived at the destination, the cyclo driver insisted on 150,000 dong! His manner and expression changed and he was quite threatening.
Unique Suggestions: There is not much you can do to avoid this unpleasantness as there can be no forewarning. Just pay the cyclo driver what you initially agreed.
Looks like even the reputable Vinasun taxi has gone down in reputation. My friend and I followed a local friend's advice faithfully and only took Vinasun or Mailinh cabs while at HCM. But 95% of those we took tried to get more payment from us!
The cab from the airport wanted USD 8 for a ride to our hotel in Cong Guynh street. I paid him USD 10 upon getting down and he did not even bother to look for change and was about to walk away! He only grudgingly looked into his wallet after we asked him where our change was. And he gave me 20,000 dong, which was worth only USD 1++! Other drivers adopted this attitude as well, refusing to give us our change.
The scariest experience was with a lady driver! Upon stopping at the street in front of our hotel, she turned and looked at us with this devilish look and demanded 20,000 dong (the meter read 16,200 dong). When we asked why, she kept repeating herself in Vietnamese. When we gave her 16,200 dong exact, she threw the 200 dong to the floor of the cab in a gesture that was eerily graceful, in a witch-like manner. She also kept trying to reach out to our wallets. We saw a security guard nearby and wanted to ask for help. She then looked somewhat frightened, but still demanded some money. I gave her 2000 dong more and we left. Before we left, we memorized the license plate number. Upon reaching our hotel, we related our predicament to our receptionist, who helped us lodge a complaint with the Vinasun company.
So beware! Not even Vinasun is safe now, if you do not look or speak Vietnamese.
Unique Suggestions: Be firm. Most drivers will be frightened if you stand up to your rights and refuse to pay more than you are entitled to. Try to look for outsiders such as security guards for help. And do memorize the license plate number and get your Vietnamese friend/ hotel staff to lodge a complaint to the taxi company.
Don't be fooled by the prices they tell you, especially in markets. My tourguide told me to ask for 30-40% discounts. It's a good thing i asked for more since they double or triple their prices, just like in China.
On one occasion at the famous Ben Thanh market, my friend and i were interested in buying a man utd replica jersey. To our shock, we were quoted $68!!! Luckily for us we did not fall for the trap and bought it for $10 instead. This experience just makes me wonder how many ppl have been duped to pay such extravagant prices.
All the tips on taxis overcharging so far are based on tourist experience. You need to know that there are licensed and "private" cabs. Licensed cabs have company names printed prominently and the last 6 numbers (company tel no) are always in a pattern. Eg (08) 8 383838. Even these licensed cabbies bring you for a long ride at times. The biggest culprits are "private" unlicensed cabs - they have small stickers (some camouflage themselves so well that they look like the licensed cabs), no patterns in their tel no, and meters that have been tweaked to go at double the rate.
Unique Suggestions: The AIRPORT : The new HCMC airport opened in Aug 2007. It's much nicer and less intimidating than the old one. No longer will you be able to move out to hail the cheaper taxis. Instead, the various taxi companies post their own "guides" who will try to get you on to their cabs at the highest price. So you have to bargain around and see which will give you the best price. Determine the price before you board so that you are not brought on a long ride.
GENERALLY : I always take Taxi Vinasun because they maintain a very professional standard and I have never been ripped off by a Taxi Vinasun. And there are many white-&-green Taxi Vinasun cabs around. Next is the yellow Vinataxi - also quite reliable. The blue Savico-Comfort ripped me off twice in a row and Saigon Tourist once.
Please refer to the following site for more details on taxis in HCMC and on how to distinguish between the real and imitation cabs!!!
Fun Alternatives: You can always hire a car with driver (from one of the travel companies in Pham Ngu Lao) for about 800,000-1 mil VND to bring you around for a whole day (8 hrs). I did that when I had a big group of 7-8. Convenient and value for money.
The adventurous will rent a motorbike but I've yet to try - not that adventurous.
You can get on the local illegal motor bikes alias "xe om" or "Honda om" (about 10,000-15,000VND for short distances within town) - well, it depends on your bargaining skills but always determine price first. And you ride at your own risk! But with the new compulsory helmut law coming in Dec 07, I doubt if I'll be taking any more of these xe oms - God knows how many hundred people would have used the helmuts these xe oms provide.
Staying at Omni Saigon, we knew that a cab ride from District 1 only costs 48,000 dongs (eq. USD 3). We were trying to go to the War Remnant Museum from Ben Thanh Market (Dist. 1), which is a much much much shorter distance that cannot be more than how much we pay to go back to hotel. The driver insisted that, according to the meter, I should pay 100,000 dongs or 8 USD as he quoted. He pointed to the few un-used digits space on the meter where numbers weren't even shown and insisted that those should be counted. I refused to pay what he asked for and told my friend to get off the car first. The driver tried to grab me from his seat. I yelled at him immediately and ran off after throwing in a few notes that added up to approximately 10,000 dongs which was what shown as I saw from meter. Polices were around but not helpful.
Unique Suggestions: We were totally freaked out and forgot to write down the company name. All I remember it was a small Toyota that looks a bit old, the company logo on the door is relatively small to be even "eye-catching". Suggested fellow tourists to ride the newer taxi van which usually have their logo stickers big enough to cover half of the taxi door. Also, remember the taxi id which is usually a 3-digit number printed inside the taxi. Taxi companies suggested by hotel are Vina Taxi or Mai Linh Taxi.
Fun Alternatives: Ride the hotel shuttle if available
The cabby picked me and my mum up in front of ben thanh market, heading back for our apartment in district 1, which was not very far away. Normally the whole trip would cost us only about 20,000 dong. However, shortly after we got onto the cab, the meter jumped to 23,000 dong. The cabby took a route that was unfamiliar to the both of us, so we did not know where he was supposed to be heading, until when he drove to a park, where the apartment was just down the road. However, instead of just heading straight for the apartment, he made a left turn and drove further and further away. My mum asked him if he knew where the place was, which he insisted he did, and mumbled some things in vietnamese which we did not understand. In the end, we told him to stop the cab when the meter read 54,500 dong, which is obviously a ripoff since the trip from the airport to the apartment only cost about 60,000 dong. We paid him 50,000 dong and then took another cab back to the apartment for about 17,000 dong. The license plate number of the cheating cab was 0533.
Beware of paying too much at the markets especially if you're a first timer to Vietnam...I paid $12 US for an item last year and this year was offered the same thing for $3!!!!! Incidentally, I thought $12 was a fair price!!
Fun Alternatives: Don't buy at the first stall no matter how tempting. Walk away and the price will all of a sudden be reduced.
We wanted to buy a handbag on Friday/Saturday at Ben Thanh Market and we were quoted US10 after much haggling (the inital price was US$15). We decided not to buy. Then when we went on Sunday afternoon - we were pleasantly surprise that the vendor agreed to sell the same handbag for US$7. That was a marked difference.
Unique Suggestions: I cannot assume that this is widespread at Ben Thanh Market but looks like the vendors would not budge on the prces if it is Friday/Saturday as there will be so many tourist who would be willing to pay the price quoted as they would be leaving by Sunday.
So be wise and shop on Weekdays.... when there is slim pickings for the vendors
Fun Alternatives: Visit Andong Market