In 2016, myself and two close friends backpacked across Vietnam and Thailand for a month. I wrote posts ordered place by place at the time, which you can read here, however there are some stories which I never told.
Vietnam is a beautiful country, filled with friendly people, gorgeous landscape and amazing food. However, it is also the country where I have experienced and witnessed the most scams and thefts and therefore is a country where in my opinion, and from my experiences, requires extra diligence.
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, I hope you have an amazing time and that these tales help you to spot potential situations.
Our first experience of scams in Vietnam happened on our very first day. We arrived in Hanoi, the capital of the North. It's loud, busy and a complete culture shock to anything I had ever experienced before. We decided to go for a walk to check out the lay of the land and found ourselves in a busy main square. As we walked through it, my friend and I were approached by a lady selling an unknown sweet pastry. She pushed the pastry in our faces and was quite forceful that we try it. Being allergic to nuts and quite diligent about it whilst we were Asia I managed to refuse. I never accepted things off the street as you never knew if the item had nuts in without good communication. This meant that the lady set her efforts further on my friend. With the ladies strong insistence, she took the pastry offered and tried it. After confirming that it was good to the lady, she was next handed a bag of the sweets with the assumption that she would now pay for a bag. The price? 250, 000 dong. We had just stepped into Vietnam that morning and had yet to get to grips with the money, especially when it was such large numbers. In a bid to get the lady to leave us alone, my friend paid the price. Immediately of course, other sellers seeing their fellow vendor's success attempted to sell us Vietnamese hats, fans and other items. We managed to get out of there, a bag of fairly tasteless pastries in hand and 250,000 dong down. It was later that we realised that 250,000 is around 8 British pounds and that this particular lady had just got away with the deal of the day. £8 doesn't seem like much much in Vietnam this can go a long way and pay for dinner and lunch as well! This is a common scam, overcharging tourists for items and putting pressure on them to buy. In a foreign country and somewhere so different to home, tourists are easy targets for this. Be aware when you engage with sellers that the price offered is exceedingly over the price you should pay and always barter them down. Additionally, if approached by sellers on the street with an item you're not interested in, be decisive when turning them away. Showing indecisiveness, even when not interested will make the seller put extra pressure on you and make the sell harder to get out of.
Our next encounter with scams and theft was on the night bus from Hanoi to Hoi An. I really enjoyed my personal experience on a night bus. The seats were comfortable and many stops were made for the toilet or to stretch legs and get some food. This is where things went wrong for us however. Whilst parked up, anyone can get back on the bus meaning many opportunists come on board searching for items to steal. I've heard of two items that went missing this way from friends and heard from other travellers that this is a common occurrence on this type of transport. So always keep your items safe with you! A girl on our bus also got her phone taken when she left the bus at Hue, our halfway spot to Hoi An. As we got off the bus there were a number of people around us offering services and transport. All this is happening whilst we were trying to collect our luggage and keep in eyesight of each other so it can be overwhelming. It was in this that she had her phone taken. This is a simple rule whenever and wherever you travel, but always keep an eye on your belongings and never assume they will be safe. A night bus can lead you into a false sense of security so always be sure to be vigilant.
Our final experience with scams in Vietnam was in Hoi An, on the way to the airport. We had paid the hostel to order us a taxi and had paid the driver with the hostel in advance. As we got into the taxi, I had a bad feeling about the driver. He was quiet as we drove and as I was in the front seat I felt a tension from him was we got closer to the airport. I knew he was going to try something so I had my guard up. As we got out of the car I braced myself for him to say something. He opened the boot of the car, got my luggage and my friends out and when he went to reach for the other, shut the car boot door. He then told us that we had only paid for two people to ride and therefore needed to pay a third. I think we were all ready for this to happen and immediately were defensive. He was adamant that he was right but luckily our friend found the receipt from the hostel with the confirmation of our payment for three people to the airport. We gave this to him, opened the car boot, got our luggage and walked away. So I guess the moral of that story is to keep the receipts! By this point, we had experienced a lot in Vietnam and were ready for any scam to come our way. Thankfully the rest of our trip was uneventful in terms of theft or scams and we had a great end to our trip in this beautiful country!
My biggest tip to avoid what we experienced is to always be aware of your belongings and be aware if the situation doesn't seem normal. Even though it sounds awful, we were ready for a situation to occur so you can deal with it quickly when it does. If we hadn't kept the receipt and weren't feeling bad vibes from the driver maybe we would have had to give him more money to release our bag. Vietnam and South-East Asia is a beautiful part of the world but as long as you're smart and aware you'll have an amazing time with nothing to worry about!!!