Pho 24 is a chain restaurant that looks good from far but is, in reality, far from good. We visited the one by Hoan Kiem Lake, thinking it looked decent enough for a quick bowl of pho. Unfortunately, we discovered that we had to share our lunch with cockroaches and other bugs, which were crawling all over the table scavenging for food. We thought we were just unlucky, but the table across from us informed us that they had found a cockroach in the pot of sauce on their table. A quick check online afterwards confirmed that cockroaches were a frequent sighting. To make matters the worse, the staff showed no concern whatsoever even when it became clear that we were struggling with bugs on our table. The bowl of pho was very disappointing as well. Broth was bland as cardboard and the entire meal was easily the worst I'd ever had - both in terms of hygiene and taste - on my entire Vietnam trip. Don't be fooled by the smart-looking branding and marketing material. Just AVOID!
For those tourists who are unaware, there are two very different Duty Free Shops at Noi Bai Airport which sell alcohol and both of these work by different principles.
One Duty Free Shop is owned by Noi Bai Airport Services Joint Stock Company (in Vietnamese: Cong ty co phan dich vu hang Khong san bay noi bai) and from my personal dealings with them, they appear to be run by honest and honorable people. I say this because they offered to reimburse me for the Duty Free Alcohol that I purchased after it was destroyed by Singapore Airport Security at Transit. This Duty Free Shop admits that all their staff should be aware of the rule regarding sale of Duty Free Alcohol to passengers transiting in Singapore to Australia, so sale of Duty Free Alcohol to these passengers is forbidden after passengers have completed Check-in. Should a staff member fail to make these passengers aware of the rule and consequently sell them alcohol which is destroyed in Singapore, the Duty Free Shop takes full responsibility and is willing to reimburse the passengers for that alcohol.
The other Duty Free Shop named Cum Cang Mien Bac Duty Free Shop and is owned by Northern Airports Authority (in Vietnamese: Cum can hang Khong Mien Bac) and unfortunately it is this Duty Free Shop from which we purchased our Duty Free Alcohol after Check-in and prior to boarding our flight to Singapore.
The staff member who sold us the alcohol sighted our Boarding Passes for both flights, so though she was aware that we were transiting in Singapore and that Check-in had been completed, she still sold us three bottles of Duty Free Alcohol which was consequently destroyed in Singapore, prior to boarding our next flight for Perth.
Cum Cang Mien Bac Duty Free Shop takes no responsibility for their staff member's actions and operates under a regulation which states that "Passengers on exit or in transit.....shall take responsibility for carrying out the procedures for importing these goods into the country of arrival....", hence my request for reimbursement was refused.
This particular Duty Free Shop is situated near Gate 7 of Noi Bai Airport within the Departures Lounge.
Unique Suggestions: If you are a tourist who is has a direct flight from Hanoi to Australia, buying Duty Free Alcohol at the Noi Bai Airport would not be an issue. However, from my personal experience with both Duty Free Shops, I would suggest that you purchase your Duty Free from the shop with scruples ie. that run by the Noi Bai Airport Services Joint Stock Company.
It was so disappointing believing that I had purchased my Duty Free Alcohol from an honest, honorable and scrupulous merchant, only to find that I had been conversing with the wrong merchant. The blase' reaction of the merchant who owns Cum Cang Mien Bac Duty Free Shop to my predicament, concerning goods bought from their store, was the only thing that marred an otherwise wonderful holiday in Hanoi.
Fun Alternatives: On the whole Duty Free Alcohol is cheaper in Hanoi than Duty Free Alcohol in Australia. However I was told that you could buy the same alcohol (with Duty) cheaper at stores in Hanoi. If this is truly the case, then I would suggest buying your alcohol at the stores and packing it in your cargo luggage. Don't forget to retain the receipts (just in case) and make sure that you are within the allowed quantitative limits.
This is the only way that passengers transiting via Singapore to Australia, are able to carry alcohol purchased in Hanoi. I reiterate that it must be packed in cargo luggage carefully !
Explorer Tours is a travel agency that is located in Hanoi, 85 Hang Bo Street. The company has a professional looking homepage, www.halongbay-vietnam.com, that offers daytrips from Hanoi and cruises in Halong Bay. We booked a 3day/ 2 nights cruise on the Dragon's Pearl 2 with them through the internet and paid the fare upfront. We reconfirmed our cruise the night before, however, the bus that collected us from the hotel took us to a completely different boat. We were able to check out the boat online before embarking and found out that the fare was $70 less per person than we had paid. Although Explorer tours admitted to their "mistake" and offered to reimburse the difference, the only gave us a partial refund after our third trip to their office. We later found out at our hotel that we were not the first to be scammed by this company, the same sceme apparently also works for hotels.
Unique Suggestions: If you have already booked a trip with this company and paid by credit card, ask your credit card company to stop the payment and cancel the trip.
Fun Alternatives: I have travelled in South and Central Vietnam before coming to Hanoi and had no problems with scams, Hanoi seems to be different, though. I would advise to book Hanoi trips through a travel agency in your home country, even if that should be a little dearer. Otherwise, do better research on Tripadvisor about Hanoi travel agencies and book trough them.
In Hanoi Hana and the girls were approached by two local ladies in conical hats carrying baskets of fruit across their shoulders. With a flash of a smile my wife and eldest daughter quickly had the hats placed on their heads and the baskets balanced on their shoulders. Photos were duly taken before the demands for money commenced...not a lot by our standards but certainly over the top. We paid them a fair amount and walked away...they weren't happy. We later watched them target unsuspecting victims as we enjoyed coffee from a balcony above. So much funnier when it happens to someone else.
Unique Suggestions: When you see them coming, be ready to stop them offloading their goods on you before you have a chance to agree on a price. Not the worst thing that can happen to you though.
We stayed in the Hanoi Kangaroo Hotel and were kicked out after the "friendly" lady at the hotel found out that we didn`t book the Halong Bay tour with her.
We stayed there for 2 nights and were kicked out with a good 2step trick in the evening of day three... First she asked us to help her: she needed a room with a double bed (our room) and we should move to another room! We were not happy about changing rooms at 6pm but she offered us a better price and so we said ok! the weird thing was that the room we were suppposed to move into was still occupied... she told us that they would move out around 7pm to catch a train and that we could move in then. After letting us wait for an hour she told us that the people in our room changed their mind and that they would stay, but she knows another hotel that might have a room for us!!!!! SHE JUST KICKED US OUT TO HAVE EMPTY ROOMS FOR THE NEW ARRIVALS FROM THE VIENTIANE-HANOI BUS!!!!!!!!
We found this hotel, because the "friendly" lady boards the Vientiane-Hanoi bus as soon as it arrives and offers people a cheap ride to the center!
Our Tip: Take the 1dollar ride (you won`t get it cheaper), but make clear that you don`t have to take a room at her hotel! This shouldn`t be a problem and when you arrive just ask her where you are on the map and walk away!!!!!
Don`t stay there!!!!!
HANOI KANGAROO HOTEL
71 Hang Luoc Str.
On this evening they kicked out 4!!!!!! other people too!!!!!!
This is mainly street sellers that do this the most.
You buy something from them, and they charge in US $'s...................
You hand over US $'s....................
AND........They give you change in DONG.
This is quite alright if you are given the correct change, but many times, if you know your "dong" you will find that they have short changed you by quite a bit!
If you don't know how much your change should be in Dong, well, you have probably over paid.
Caught once, but not again, as when I was short changed, I told them so, and asked for the correct amount, which they handed over!
Its a good idea to memorise something basic so that you can quickly work out in your head, approx how much your change should be in Dong.
I couldn't get a group tour to Cuc Phuong National park, so had to go privately at a cost of $60.
This I didn't mind, but, the driver guide, couldn't speak hardly any English.
It was a very long day, and I didn't know anything about what I saw!
You would think the tour company would have sent somebody who could speak English.
Will not be doing this again, and if you do, MAKE SURE THE DRIVER CAN SPEAK REASONABLE ENGLISH before you book the tour and pay!
I caught a local bus to Hai Phong.
On arriving at the Bus station, I was taken to the Bus and put straight on it.
I asked the price of the ticket, they would not tell me. When we had gone a long way, they came and asked for 100,000dong, I thought this was a big amount, but paid, as I didn't know what else I could do.
When I arrived there, I went for a short walk then decided to catch a bus back.
I went to the window and bought a ticket, and got on the Bus, a different company to the one I arrived on.
This company seemed to be more professional, as they had their price written on their window, 40000dong for the same trip. The Driver was dressed in nice Uniform, altogether, more professional and honest.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure that you know the price before you get on the bus.
Do not let them pressure you to get on the bus with out knowing the price.
The bus company that ripped me off was JAC. Do not use this company, there are others to choose from, that are cheaper and better.
My wife and I wanted to take a trip to Vietnam and found the www.vietnamtripadvisor.com website amongst the many on the internet. The site looked reasonable so we went ahead and booked our tour for 5 days in Vietnam which covered Hanoi, Hallong Bay and Sappa Valley. While booking the tour I had several calls with the owner of the company (Mr. Tony Ha). He assured me that the tour was an individual tour (not a bus tour) and also the food would be at least $6 usd / person / meal (this buys a lot in Vietnam). So we went ahead and booked the 5 day tour only to get dissapointed at every turn.
When we arrived in Hanoi we were greeted by a tour guide. He didn't speak very much just took us to a Pho restaurant where he bought us each a 2 dollar noodle set and we had to pay for our own drinks which costed $2 each. Shortly after we arrived in our Hotel and left to ourselves. This hotel was in a very dirty part of old quarter and more a youth hostel than a 3 star hotel.
Day 2 we met our tour guide. At first we thought the tour guide would be our personal guide for the day, instead it was a bus tour around hanoi city. The guide spoke little to no english and literally just dropped the passengers off at the sites picking them up 2 hrs later. Lunch was a disaster...food was probably $1.00 / person and we had to ofcourse pay for our own drinks ($2 / drink)... We were seeing a pattern in this... basically VietnamTripAdvisor takes us to restaurants with a set menu which costs them nothing and the restaurants make the money by the drinks. The cost of this day tour if we had to do it ourselves in taxi would be no more than $5 / person.
Day 3 and 4 were spent in Sappa valley where we basically had all our meals in the same hotel that we were staying. It was the same set menu for all meals and again drinks from our own pocket (we stuck with water).
Nights 3 & 4 were spent overnight in a train. Sharing a room between 4 random people.. I looked up the prices on this train and it costs $35/person. Again we felt ripped off... When signing up for the tour we were told that the trains were the expensive parts...
Our last day in Vietnam was completely wasted as well. We met the same tour guide that picked us up the first day. He took us on a 3 hour drive to Halong bay. Again no history no background or conversation in the car. We arrived in Halong and took a boat tour around the islands for an hour while our tour guide took a nap in the captains cabin. The islands were a sight but not worth driving 3 hours for. Lunch was terrible as usual. In our opinion this day didn't need to happen at all. It would have been much better if we went on a real fishing boat and ate at one of the fishing villages in Halong Bay. Of-course this would have been more expensive for the tour company (they wouldn't make such big profit).
Vietnam is a great place to travel... but our impression is that the tour companies there are very very dishonest... or at least our experience with VietnamTripAdvisor & Mr. Tony Ha was very poor.
Our tour cost around 380/person (no plane tickets) but if we were to book everything ourselves even with a very generous margin the cost would be around $200 / person. So the tour companies pocket a big profit for putting up a website and making a few calls. The local tour guides often get a measly $10 / day hence their service and lack of enthusiasm is evident.
If we were to do it again. We would try to find a local tour guide (who actually does the tours) and book the hotels ourselves online. We would have had a lot more fun plus saved a lot of money.
Unique Suggestions: Don't book through VietnamTripAdvisor.com or any online vietnam tour company for that matter.
Fun Alternatives: Arrange hotel accomodations on your own. Get in the city and find a local tour guides. Never pick package tours b/c the meals will always be bad and the accomodations substandard.
This tour operator tends to give you all the promises that they cannot keep. So once you're in the tour, you will find extra costs here and there.
I joined a 3-day Halong Bay Cat Ba Island in Hanoi; and a day trip to CuChi Tunnel and Tay Ninh in Saigon. First they sent you a pretty fruitful itinerary and ask you to pay deposit, when you arrived they would give you another one which contains less activities and less sight-seeing. When you really joined the tour, you're already in the trap and could only go whatever extra costs they gonna charge you (like drinks, bike even cup of tea, etc.)
I complained about my 3-day trip to Halong Bay Cat Ba Island and tried to make their next trip to CuChi Tunnel better, but they kept changing the operators. Turned out that no pick up (you have to walk to the meeting point), everything like lunch, entrance fee were not included..
I was pissed off with their unprofessional service. Paying more is not a problem because it's relatively less compared to my home country, but you felt like your day was ruined by them. And they made you nervous and confused when they kept changing the operators.
If you going to Vietnam (they operates tour not just in Hanoi, but Saikong, Sapa and rest of the country), NEVER EVER book tours from them. They just know to earn fat commissions. Let your friends know this too.
Every tour guide of Hanoi mentions the Museum of Ethnology among the top things to do, but unless you have a real interest in Vietnamese hill tribes or ethnic groups, it isn't worth the time. True, the entrance fee is low (about $US2), but it's just not terribly exciting. Go if you've seen all the other sites, but don't make a special trip and don't feel like you've missed out if you leave Hanoi without seeing it.
Why is it touted so highly? Maybe because compared to all of Hanoi's other Museums it has more description in English or French, and they actually hand out guides (not very releveant) in those languages (though they were out of English the day I went). There are rooms devoted to each of 54 ethnic groups (some with as few as 4000 people), with a few artifacts devoted to each. By far the most interesting theme was the variation in funeral rites. One group swears that death is just a continuation of life with no separation. Another group considers it a great rupture and spends sevcen days sitting in a newly constructed building morning their loss before throwing an exit celebration.
Unique Suggestions: The outdoor portion of the museum is by far the more interesting, as they have examples of the housing architecture for many ethnic groups. There is a typical Viet house, a long house from the Ede people and, most intriguing, a tomb from the Jorai people (see, I told you death is best here!). It is a low slung building surrounded by wood carvings of people accompanying the dead person to the great beyond. unexpectedly, most of the woman are pregnant and most of the guys are excited about ejaculation -- either in a couple with a woman or alone. It seems like the Jorai have quite a good time in their heaven! It sure beats the prayers, clouds and angels I was brought up with!
Fun Alternatives: The Ho Chi Minh Museum or the Museum of the Revolution are more interesting choices in the museum world.
My family stayed 7days in Hanoi. We went to some famous places, they are very beautiful, specially Halong bay. When we arrived hotel, they said "if you have been Vietnam, but you haven't been Halong bay, that mean you haven't been Vietnam". I think that right, Halong very beautiful. You can spend 2 days at Halong bay, 1day for Hanoi city tour, 1day for Hoa Lu Tam Coc, and 1day for Perfume pagoda or traditional village (Bat trang pottery or Van Phuc silk village).
How about your hotel in there? you should book hotel before you arrival Hanoi. I want to recommend for you Hanoicapital Hotel. That hotel is good, they are very professional, their tours are cheap and wonderful.
We booked through this company for one day City tour just to avoid all the hassles of doing it by ourselves and paid $20 for it (with lunch, transport, entrance fee) and tour should last from 8AM - 5PM. What we got instead was a guide going to our hotel with no transportation and telling us that we need to take taxi around city for the tour (eventhough the agency said day before they have van for tour). So we took taxi to the 2nd hotel to pick up another customer then went to another hotel via another taxi to pick up two more guests. At that point there were already 6 of us total and guide wanted to conserve taxi fare by always waiting for taxi van to arrive at our area. It was pointless to join tour if you will just take taxi around as can do that ourselves! What's more, the guide speaks very little English so really hard to understand him and gave very little information about the sites we visited. Funny thing was that it started raining and he had us put the guest comment sheets in my girlfriend's bag as it will just get wet! He even borrowed cellphone of one of the guys who joined tour just to try and call taxi company! What a waste of time! Ended at 1Pm and didn't even follow the itenery anymore so missed a couple of places therein because at that point I would assume guide doesn't want to spend anymore for taxi fares!
Fun Alternatives: get different travel agency or just go by yourselves via taxi.
This may not apply if you're using only USD and/or VND, but when I visited Hanoi, I came from Thailand and have been living there for awhile (making and spending Thai Baht) and so I needed to have a general idea of how much things cost in baht as opposed to dollars ...
The Vietnamese will pound away at their calculators with a dramatic performance of formulas and quote you a price in a different currency (whether it be baht, francs, or whathaveyou) but it's almost always no where near the actual exchange rate! I doubt it's out of malice, but regardless of their motivation ... it's not recommended to take their word for it. I was quoted 80B for a hotel room when the actual price was 460B!
Becareful ... bring your own calculator/currency converter!
Unique Suggestions: Bring your own calculator/currency converter!
This trap is one of those that is so hard to get out of. Works like this : When you hire your sampan the rowers work in pairs and both get on board at the embarcation. No problem says you!! Half way round the scam starts : Buy a table cloth please lady ? Buy a t-shirt please mister ? And there you are, stuck half way up a river, no way of getting off, so what do you do ? The litany then carries on, that is if you have decided, at that point not to buy anything all the way back to the dock. And that means listening to 3/4 of an hour of pleading. I must admit I cracked....So, if you do get on a sampan in Tam Coc, be warned.
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