Going through forums, listening to travellers or reading articles you cannot help yourself but thinking that Vietnam must be the scam capital of SEA. I must admit, this reputation affected my decision to visit Vietnam. But I am glad I decided to experience it myself. So is it true, are there scams in Vietnam? Yes, no doubt about it. Will tourist experience some kind of hassle when travelling through Vietnam? Yes, in the touristic places. Is it as bad as I thought? That is a big no.
If you are prepared, knowing about the most common scams, and keep your common sense than you will be fine. If you travel unprepared and not use your brain, you will be taken advantage of at every single corner. It is that simple.
I have listed the most popular scams you might encounter in Vietnam. Most of them involves the various kind of transportation, so you have to specifically careful when organising a taxi etc.
Taxis are a popular mode of transportation, but unfortunately also a common theme when you hear about tourists being scammed. The biggest issue is that metres are rigged, so the fare per km goes up much faster than they should. There were reports that tourists were charged more than 500.000 Dong for a short taxi ride. To make things worse, the drivers might lock the doors and only let the passengers out after they paid. In some instances the drivers even got not just aggressive but turned violent. And finally, some will take any opportunities to get to your wallet without you realising it. Unfortunately these are not stories, but the reality in the tourist hotspots (where even the locals get scammed).
So how to avoid such experience? The best advise is to take only Mailinh or Vinsasun taxis. Both companies have a very good reputation. Mailinh is operating throughout Vietnam, while Vinasum is mainly based in HCMC. Another option is to let your accommodation order the taxi. Most hotels are too worried about bad reviews, and try their best to ensure that the customers have a pleasant stay. And if something goes wrong, the hotel knows who the driver was (or will know after a quick call).
Another important advise is never to take any taxis waiting in front of popular tourist sites, or in front of hotels. They usual look for easy prey for scams, aka tourist. Even walking around the corner to get a taxi will be better (again, try to get a Mailinh or Vinasun taxi).
One other problem area in Vietnam are the international airports, namely Hanoi and HCMC. Here you find most dodgy taxi drivers. In these airports it might be slightly more difficult to get a Mailinh or Vinasun taxi, and if you see one, other drivers tell you that you have to take the first taxi in the queue. Do not listen to them, try to get to that taxi. If required let other customers go first. If you arrive in Vietnam for the very first time, it might be a good idea either to arrange a pick up from your hotel. It might cost you $2 more, but at least you have not to worry about getting charged double or triple of the normal fare.
Also, never get a driver too close to your wallet. Only hold out notes towards the driver, and be suspicious if he uses a newspaper and ask to put the money on it, this might be a distraction to get to your wallet. Try to have smaller notes with you, as sometimes drivers pretend not to have any change. This could be a problem if you only have 500.000 Dongs note.
Obviously, do not take any risk if confronting the driver after a scam, if you feel threaten consider paying rather risking to be injured.