15 Tourist Scams in Vietnam – Things to Know to Avoid Them

Just because the country is popular for its natural beauty, it doesn’t mean that you won’t find any tourist scams in Vietnam.

Sure, the land has stunningly beautiful landscape and most of the people are wonderful – well, except for the scammers. It’s too bad that there are always mischievous people trying to take advantage of the situation.

There are plenty con artists and scammers lurking around – you just need to know their tricks so you can avoid them. So, what are the possible scams that may happen in this country?

Motorbike Rent

When you want to rent a motorbike for the sake of convenient travel and transportation, it’s better to consult only the reputable one. Make use of your internet connection to do your research.

There are several schemes involved in this scam. The first one may include you being able to rent the bike in very low price, but then you may encounter problems that make the bike unable to move or operate. And the owner wants to you pay for the repair, which can be exorbitant.

The second one may involve motorbike theft. You rent a bike from the owner. You then go to a place and when you are out of it, the bike is gone. And the owner demands that you replace the bike, asking you millions of Vietnamese dollars.

In the first scheme, it is highly likely that the owner has purposely damaged the bike and then rent it to you. You are being clueless about the bike and end up paying the repair cost – or you think that the owner would repair it.

In the second scheme, it is likely that the owner is working together with someone else (probably a friend of him). They have the second key to the motorbike. This other person then ‘steals’ the motorbike, making you look guilty for it.

Then the owner will get the money from you, and he may share a portion with his accomplice or friend.

The best way to avoid such a thing is to avoid renting a motorbike from an unknown company. Don’t trust anyone – including the ones you meet on the way and look all friendly.

No matter how friendly they are, you’d never know whether they have a hidden intention or not. It is best to go to a reputable rental service. Make sure that you have checked the condition of the bike before signing anything.

Also check the number and everything. Record it for your documentation. You want to make sure that you rent a bike in a good condition and return it in the same condition.

Money Switch

You need to be observant of the money you have because some of them may have similar look, but with different value.

For instance, the 500.000VND is looking almost the same as 20.000VND because both of them are blue. If you aren’t careful, people may take advantage of you, especially the motorbike taxi drivers. This is one of the most popular tourist scams in Vietnam.

They will likely switch bigger value of money with the smaller one, and then putting on a dramatic show that you are giving them the smaller value. It is always a good idea to have smaller change and pay them with the smaller bills.

You can break the bigger bills at reputable businesses, restaurants, or convenience stores.

Fake Taxis

Have you ever been riding on a taxi with a suspiciously fast meter? Well, if you are in Vietnam, you need to be careful when you are about to ride on a taxi.

In Vietnam, there are two best taxi companies: Mai Linh (their taxis are green) and Vinasun (they have white taxis). Most of their drivers are honest although you should be on a lookout for the shady ones.

However, some companies use matching colors and similar names to copy the legit ones. They will often point to the meter, and the unsuspecting tourists will climb into the taxi.

However, be aware if you see that the meter runs so fast – even too fast. And as if it weren’t enough, they may try to perform the money switch scam.

Be extra careful. Use only the Mai Linh or Vinasun. If it is possible, use the online app like Uber or Grab.

The Groin Grab

Amorous men looking for some ‘love’ should be extra careful for this scam. The scheme is like this: a pretty lady may approach you and start flirting with you.

And while doing so, she may start to ‘entertain’ you by playing with your groin. When you are distracted and enjoy whatever she is doing, then, the lady would expertly empty your pockets. And they are often working in teams to pull this scam out.

And how should you avoid it? Be careful when a lady approaches you out of nowhere. It’s time for you to politely say goodbye and get the hell out of there!

Fake Clothing Brand

If you want to do some shopping, make sure that you do buy a legit stuff. When you buy clothes on the souvenir shops, they are likely fake although the sellers may claim that they are branded.

You see, Vietnam and China are pretty close to one another so it isn’t surprising if many of the souvenir items may come from the country.

It is basically not a problem as long as you don’t pay a high amount of money to these items. Many tourists who understand this scam are able to find pretty good not-so-original products at a great bargain.

The items aren’t branded but they are pretty in good in quality and they still hold up pretty well.

Shoe Shine

This is one of the tourist scams in Vietnam. You may be the target for this scam if you are wearing fancy dress shoes.

They are pretty aggressive and they don’t mind hound you around. Often time, the tourists accept the offer so the shoe shiners would leave them alone.

You may negotiate the price, but don’t be surprised if it doubles after they return your shoes to you – claiming that the price only applies to one shoe. If you refuse to pay, the local gangsters may suddenly appear to demand the payment.

The best way to avoid the scam is not to accept it at all. Forget using a pair of dress shoes – go with flip flops instead. If you decide to go with the offer, make sure that the price already covers both pairs.

And make sure to record everything so you can avoid getting everything risky and jumbled.

Fake Travel Services

The principle is similar to the fake taxi scam. When a travel company or agent becomes popular, it is surely followed by fake businesses that would open shops with the same names.

Make sure to do your research carefully online. And then make sure that you have checked the spelling too.

The schemes may likely involve offering tickets to popular destinations but they are all fake. By the time you have transferred the money, they will disappear and go away. 

Don’t easily trust everyone, especially if you are in a foreign country.

Restaurant Scams

This is definitely one of the oldest and also most common tourist scams in Vietnam. The most common one is to include some items that you don’t order to your bills.

That’s why it is advisable that you know the details of your order as well as checking the bill when you are about to pay.

The second one is to not include the price in the menu. This will make you clueless and you may just order this and that. If you get a menu without a price, ask the waiter. And if they don’t give you a menu with price, then leave.

Another preventive method is to record everything. Take pictures of the menu and record when you are ordering. This will prevent them from messing with you.

Always ask when a dish is delivered to your table – making sure that it is truly your order. If there is a dish that is delivered to your table, don’t take it. Reject it right away. They may try to overcharge you with the dishes you don’t order. If you accept them, then you are obliged to pay.

The best way to avoid such a thing is to go to the reputable places only. You can check the online reviews and make sure to perform thorough research. If you go to a restaurant, make sure what the price includes.

If the restaurants don’t want to go straightforward and be open from the beginning, then you should leave right away. And make sure to pay with smaller bills.

If you hand them bigger bills, they may not give you any change – or pretend that they still owe you the change.

The Tea Bag

There is a reason why you shouldn’t do any drugs anywhere, including in Vietnam. Drugs are illegal in the country but most foreigners would be quite open to do it.

The problem is that motorbike taxi drivers are usually selling this kind of drugs, lurking around the bars and hostels. When they negotiate, they would use a real bag of marijuana so you can smell it.

But after you have paid, they will give you bag of tea instead and simply disappear. The worst part is that you can’t report to anyone, including the police. It’s like you are having a double loss.

The Coconut Shoot

This is one of the most common tourist scams in Vietnam, especially in the street of Hanoi. Street vendors carrying baskets filled with coconuts will offer you their bamboo baskets for the photo shoot.

But little that you know that while you are taking pictures, they would open the coconuts and then claim you to ask them to do so. Even if you didn’t ask them, they would demand payment by creating dramatic scene.

They would shout and attract mostly local people – who would naturally take their side.

Massage Service

You need to be extra careful about the massage parlors too. They may have a pretty lady on the street trying to convince men to come inside to get a massage. She will laugh and flirt a lot.

When you have paid, she would disappear and a not-so-attractive woman will come in, doing the massage on you with her gorilla hands. This is one of the most common and also oldest tourist scams in Vietnam.

Another method may involve them charging tourists with ridiculous rate for things that are supposed to be free, like music, towels, or water. If you refuse to pay, then they will involve the local gangsters.

If you do want to get a massage, the best way is to do online research. Never follow any pretty lady into the dark alley.

Motorbike Taxi

In Vietnamese, they are known as xe ôm. They are notorious. Not only they would trick the tourists by selling fake drugs, but they may also trick you with the traveling price. 

When you want to go on a trip and use their service, they may agree at first. But when you have arrived at the destination, they will ask for more. They don’t mind making a scene.

If you want to avoid the scam, just don’t use their service at all. But if you want to challenge yourself, you can negotiate and record everything along the way. With the recorded proof, you can go to the police. It’s also a good idea to record their plate or take their pictures for documentation.

If they know you are doing this, they will think twice to mess with you. If you happen to meet a good and kind motorbike taxi, it doesn’t hurt to give him a tip. A small generous gesture may help you later.

Fake Hotel

Be aware of overly low rate for the hotel. The common scam usually applies when you are about to check into your hotel only to find out that the rate you get is only applied for the standard room.

And suspiciously, they have been fully booked, even if you claim that you have reserved a spot. Then they have a higher rate room that requires you to pay more. This is one of the most seen tourist scams in Vietnam.

Always be aware of fake hotels. They may use popular names and offer you low rates. But after you transfer the money, they suddenly go away. Another scheme involves fake reviews.

You may see a local hotel with very good view, beautiful surrounding, cozy room, and amazingly low rate. The reviews are all wonderful. You decide to book a room, but when you arrive at the premise, it’s a total junk.

You want to get a refund but they turn out have a refund policy in the contract – which you miss to spot.

The best way to avoid this scam is to go to only reputable establishments. Don’t make any transfer or whatsoever. Don’t be tempted by overly low rate, for sure!

The Wandering Taxi and Its Fare

Never let your guards down, even when you are using a reputable taxi service. You can never tell whether their drivers are honest or not.

The wandering taxi drivers would make use of the fact that tourists don’t know the best routes so they take the long, circuitous, and wandering route. They are hoping to get extra dollars from it.

If you want to avoid it, you can install a map app on your phone and use it while driving. But the best method to prevent all this from happening is to take the Grab or Uber since they always use the map app.

Baggage Fee

In case you are traveling with a bus, be aware of the so-called baggage fee. It’s when the person from the company says that you need to pay a small fee to load your baggage (usually within the compartment under the bus).

Although most big bus companies don’t perform such a scam, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. These mischievous staffs understand two things: most foreigners think that they may have to pay a small amount of money for the baggage.

And they don’t mind spending the money. Not to mention that not all tourists understand Vietnamese. That’s why some shady staff will try on this trick.

Just so you know, there is no such a thing as baggage fee. If you are asked to pay, simply say no and go to your seat. Don’t let anyone move you, especially to the area close to the bathroom on the back. If the staff insists, report to the company or even better – record it and go to the police.

In the end, scams are happening all over the world, especially in touristy spots and popular tourist destinations. As long as you are extra careful and you don’t let your guards down, you should be okay.

Make sure to perform thorough research and don’t rush things. You should enjoy your travel but make sure that it goes carefully as planned.

If you already know the schemes of the tourist scams in Vietnam, you can avoid yourself from being a target.

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