Vietnam Travel Scams (Updated 2024)
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Vietnam is an incredible country with warm-hearted locals and breathtaking landscapes. But it is important to be aware of common Vietnam tourist scams that can put a damper on your adventure. During my 2 weeks in Vietnam, I did fall prey to a couple of these. In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the 10 most common scams in Vietnam and share some practical tips on how to avoid them.
Here is a list of commonly known scams in Vietnam that every traveller should know before beginning the trip- because better safe than sorry!
What are the common scams in Vietnam?
1. Motorbike Rental Scam in Vietnam
Motorbike scams in Vietnam are perhaps the most common Vietnam travel scams. If you have rented a motorbike chances are it may stop working after a few kilometres. Or you park it and only to find the bike is gone! To avoid this, it’s crucial to take your time and thoroughly inspect the motorbike before renting it. Look for any existing damage, scratches, or mechanical issues. Take clear pictures from different angles as evidence and keep a copy of your rental agreement.
Always choose reputable motorbike rental shops, ideally, those recommended by other travellers or your accommodation. Don’t rush into renting from the first place you see. Ask for recommendations, read reviews, and compare prices. Reputable shops will provide you with a proper contract, helmet, and sometimes even insurance. Remember, a little caution, in the beginning, can save you from unnecessary headaches later.
2. Taxi Overcharging in Vietnam
We’ve all heard those stories of tourists being overcharged by taxi drivers, and trust me, it’s not a pleasant experience. To avoid falling victim to taxi scams in Vietnam, be proactive. Politely ask the driver to use the meter right from the start or agree on a fixed price before getting into the taxi. If the driver refuses to use the meter or quotes an exorbitant fixed price, it’s best to look for another taxi.
Before hopping into a taxi, it’s a good idea to have a general idea of the distance and fare to your destination. The official taxis are – Mai Linh and Vinasun- they are green in colour with their respective names written on them. Both these taxis charge by meter and you can pay them in Vietnamese dong or by your credit card. For airports try the online taxi service. You can use reliable taxi fare estimation apps or ask your hotel for an approximate cost. If you notice the driver taking a longer route or deviating from the usual route, politely point it out. Trust your instincts and don’t hesitate to speak up if something feels off.
3. Street vendors Scammers
The streets of Vietnam are filled with vendors selling everything from tropical fruits to cigarettes. In most cases, cigarettes, chewing gums, electronics, books etc would be a cheap replica. What is worse is a number of vendors pose as handicapped. Or make their children sell these products. They try to converse with a foreigner in order to gain sympathy thereby extracting a couple of dollars.
There is another case where the vendor will come to you and hand over one of the products they are selling which you will take to examine. Before you know they are asking you to pay for it even though you never plan to buy it. The best way to avoid this is to politely deny the offer and say ‘Cam On’ (Thank you in Vietnamese) and walk away if they haggle too much.
4. Fake Bus and Train Bookings
When in Vietnam always check prices with a number of operators when booking a bus\train or any tour. Also, book with only the reputed operators (check with hotel staff for better information for respective cities). While booking a bus ticket, always check what facilities are they providing. Journeys in Vietnam are generally very long and without stoppages, an in-house toilet can be a great relief in such cases. Some buses offer WiFi at an extra 50,000 VND. You can avoid paying that if you can do without internet during the journey.
Remember to always buy tickets from a trusted bus company Hoang Long, Mai Linh and Phuong Trang are some of them. Reading a train ticket may not come easy in a foreign land. Another major problem is that the class is not specified on the ticket and you may find out a little too late that you paid for an upper-class ticket but were given a lower class instead. Booking from a reputed place is a wise choice.
5. Fake Tickets and Tour Packages in Vietnam
One would naturally book some tour packages when planning a Vietnam itinerary but unfortunately, there are scammers out there selling counterfeit tickets or tour packages at unbelievably low prices. To protect yourself from this Vietnam tourist scam, it’s crucial to book your tickets and tours through reputable travel agencies or directly from official ticket offices.
Before making any bookings, spend some time reading reviews, checking the official website of the attraction or activity, and comparing prices. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Reputable agencies will provide you with proper documentation and clear terms and conditions. Trustworthy tour operators will have legitimate licenses and knowledgeable guides. Some of the most trusted operators’ are- Handspan, Sinh Tourist (formerly Sinh café) Kangaroo café and Oxalis.
You may find a number of operators claiming to be one of the above but with a little bit of research and care you can find the right operator. Sinh tourist changed their name from Sinh café because other operators started operating under their name. These fake operators will offer you cheaper tours but remember the services provided will not be up to the mark.
6. Pickpocketing and Bag Snatching in Vietnam
Now, let’s address an unfortunate reality of travelling in crowded tourist areas: pickpocketing and bag snatching. It’s essential to be extra vigilant and take precautions to protect your belongings. Invest in a sturdy, anti-theft backpack or bag with hidden compartments and slash-proof material. Keep your valuables close to your body and never leave them unattended. This in fact is the most common scam in Vietnam. And I’ve been a victim of this on the very first day I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City!
Avoid flaunting expensive gadgets or jewellery in public, as it may attract unwanted attention. Keep a photocopy of your passport, visa, and other essential documents separately, and consider using a money belt or a secure travel pouch. If you’re dining at a restaurant or enjoying a coffee, ensure your bag is securely placed and within your line of sight. Stay alert in crowded places, and trust your instincts if someone seems suspicious.
7. Fake Monks and Begging Scams
Vietnam’s temples and pagodas offer a serene escape from the bustling streets but beware of fake monks and begging scams. Scammers dressed as monks or nuns may approach you, offering bracelets or trinkets while requesting a donation. It’s important to note that legitimate monks do not ask for money or sell items to visitors.
If you encounter someone claiming to be a monk or nun and asking for money, politely decline and walk away. If you wish to make a genuine donation, do so at a reputable temple or through recognized charitable organizations. It’s always better to support the local community in a responsible and informed manner.
8. SIM card and Wi-Fi Scams
Staying connected while travelling is essential, but be cautious when purchasing SIM cards or using public Wi-Fi in Vietnam. Scammers may sell sim cards with limited or no data, rendering them useless after a short period. To avoid this, purchase SIM cards from official stores. I highly recommend purchasing a SIM card online.
When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, exercise caution and avoid accessing sensitive information or making online transactions. Hackers may set up fake Wi-Fi networks to steal personal data. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) for added security.
9. Fake Police and Tourist Helper Scams
Scammers posing as police officers or friendly tourists may approach you, offering assistance or asking to check your passport or belongings. It’s essential to remain sceptical in such situations. Legitimate police officers will always carry proper identification and will not demand to see your belongings on the street.
If someone claiming to be a police officer approaches you, politely ask for identification and offer to accompany them to the nearest police station. If you feel uneasy or suspect foul play, trust your instincts and seek help from a nearby shop, hotel, or official tourist information centre.
10. Restaurant and Bar Scams
Food is an integral part of experiencing Vietnam’s rich culture, but watch out for restaurant and bar scams that may leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Some establishments, particularly in touristy areas, may try to overcharge you or add unexplained items to your bill.
Before dining at a restaurant or ordering drinks at a bar, take a quick look around. Is the place crowded with locals? Do they have a menu with clearly displayed prices? These are good indicators of a reliable establishment. If you’re unsure, ask locals or your accommodation for recommendations. When you receive the bill, carefully review the items and prices to ensure accuracy.
11. Counterfeit Money and Currency Scams in Vietnam
Lastly, counterfeit money and currency exchange scams are unfortunately prevalent in Vietnam. To protect yourself, be cautious when exchanging money. Avoid exchanging money with strangers or unlicensed currency exchange booths. Stick to banks, authorized exchange offices, or reliable hotel counters. Always count your money before leaving the counter and check for counterfeit notes.
Like the title said, better safe than sorry! I hope my learnings help you be careful on your trip & you stray away from tourist scams in Vietnam. For further reading check out my vegan food guide to Vietnam.