Vietnam is generally a safe country to travel to, but as in any tourist destination, scams can be present, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. It is important to be aware of these scams in Vietnam and take steps to avoid them.
The idea that some older generations in Vietnam believe that foreigners should be taken advantage of due to the war is a complex and unfortunate one. However, it is important to note that this mentality is not shared by all Vietnamese people, and many of the younger generations do not hold this belief.
It is also true that people tend to focus on the positive aspects of travel, and may be reluctant to talk about negative experiences such as falling for a scam. However, it is important to share these experiences so that others can learn from them and take precautions to avoid similar situations.
Overall, while scams may be present in Vietnam, they should not deter travelers from visiting this beautiful and culturally rich country. With awareness and caution, it is possible to have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Scam 1: Adding a zero.
My phone service was nonexistent when I landed and it was late, so airport SIM card sellers were closed. I took out cash and got a cab. I couldn’t look up the exchange rate, but I knew there were a LOT of zeros on the currency. At the end of the ride, I saw the number on the meter (with no zeros) and paid what I thought was the right amount, but the driver insisted there was an additional zero. With no way to check, I forked over more cash. Turns out I paid about $35 for a $5 ride.
Scam 2: Drivers stealing your rideshare business.
I ordered a Grab car (Uber of SE Asia) via wifi, then walked to the pickup location. A man on a motorbike decked out in Grab gear pulled up and insisted he was my driver. I thought maybe Grab accounts are expensive – one person owns the account, then dispatches drivers? He canceled my car and I got on his bike. Turns out this would happen to me almost every time I used Grab. A driver sees you on the app & asks to make sure they are your driver, then quickly cancels the car that was on the way! Staring down a new wait time, they expect you to just go with them.
Scam 3: Claiming to not have change.
This happened to me 3x: They say have change for your bill. Once the service is provided, they show their empty wallet. It’s your choice to fight with them over $1 USD or begrudgingly let them keep it.
Scam 4: SIM cards.
I bought a 30-day unlimited SIM from my cheap hotel. 4 days later it stopped working. Reminder: only buy from the big carriers in the country!
Scam 5: Motorbike Rental Scams In Vietnam.
This is a common scam throughout Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. You may find your passport is being held hostage while the owners demand money for damages not caused by you.
Though, this next motorbike rental scam in Vietnam is even worse. It has become an infamous situation for the motorbike hire staff to come and ‘steal’ their motorbikes from those who have hired them. Obviously, the person renting the motorbike doesn’t realize it was actually the company that has stolen the bike. This leaves the person responsible for the motorbike in an extremely awkward and difficult situation. Now when they go turn up at the motorbike rental store without the bike, they will be forced to pay exorbitant amounts. Though, unbeknownst to them the bike is in the owner’s possession.
Scam 6: Shoe Shining Scams In Vietnam.
Unfortunately, the infamous shoe shinning scam is quite common in Vietnam, especially in Hanoi. This is one scam I have seen play out in front of me multiple times.
Usually, you will be completely minding your own business then suddenly someone will come up to you taking great interest in your shoes. No matter what you say or do they won’t stop. I have seen these shoe shinners pull off people’s shoes to start shining them, knowing they won’t walk away barefoot. Once the shine is complete they will demand a price that is about 10 times what you’d be expecting.
Scam 7: Cyclo Driver Scam
Now all around Vietnam you will see cyclos and think wow that looks like a lot of fun. I mean who wouldn’t want to be nicely driven around a city? I mean it is a lot more relaxing than being on a crazy motorbike.
These cyclo drivers are everywhere and you will no doubt encounter them in your travels. They will offer to take you wherever you wish to go, and once you negotiate a price you jump on. Unfortunately, a few bad things commonly happen from here. The first is that the driver will take you far from your desired destination, and ask you for a crazy price to take you back. Perhaps you have organized a sightseeing tour around the city to a few of the highlights, well unbeknownst to you the driver has a so-called “waiting fee”, typically starting at 500,000 VND / $25.00 an hour. You will be hounded for this amount.
Scam 8: Restaurant & Bar Scams In Vietnam
Since restaurants are a place travelers visit so often, and let’s be honest the food in Vietnam is incredible, it is no surprise there are a few different scams floating around.
Unfortunately, this is something that can happen anywhere in the world but doesn’t sit down at a restaurant unless there are prices on the menu. Without ordering with fixed prices you are leaving the restaurant’s staff the chance to charge you whatever they wish.
Now nothing is free in this world, and the same goes for Vietnam. I know back at home you may be used to getting a free bowl of peanuts when you order a nice cold beer. Though this isn’t always the case in Vietnam. More often than not, in Hanoi and Nha Trang, you will find yourself being charged for these bowls of peanuts that are quickly brought to you.
Scam 9: Shopping Scams In Vietnam
Now if you are coming to Vietnam, of course, you can’t miss out on a spot of shopping. I mean prices here are often too good to pass up! Though there are a few things you should know to prevent you from being scammed while shopping in Vietnam.
One of the most common scams is sellers passing off fake goods as real. Basically, you should always assume the item you are buying is fake or a knock-off, no matter what the seller says. Whether the item is a brand name, or simply the material it’s made from could be fake, such as leather.
Scam 10: ATM Skimming
Unfortunately, something which is popping up all around the world is ATM skimming, and this includes it being one of our scams in Vietnam. Since Vietnam is mainly a cash society you will find yourself visiting the ATM fairly often.
Though unbeknownst to you that shiny, air-conditioning ATM you just visited had a skimmer installed and recorded your card detail.
Scam 11: Luggage Scams In Vietnam
You won’t have these issues with the larger bus companies or those more reputable ones. Though on some bus companies, the staff will tell foreigners that they have to pay a fee when their bags are being loaded underneath the bus. Unfortunately, a lot of the workers there know travelers will happily pay a small amount to avoid confrontation, and then they can just pocket the cash.
Scam 12: Pick Pockets & Snatch Thieves
Unfortunately, petty crime is super common in Vietnam, especially in large cities. You need to constantly be aware of your surroundings and where your valuables are on you from the moment you touch down at the busy airport. Vietnam is an overload on the senses, so it’s not surprising that many let their guard down as they try to bearings.
I have many friends that traveled to Vietnam and were victims of the snatch thieves. More often than not these are people on motorbikes so look for the perfect opportunity, someone standing a little too close to the street with their valuables, and then quickly driving past and snatching it off them. Whether you are looking at your phone for directions, opening up your wallet to pay for a cold drink, or simply walking down the road with your bag over your shoulder.
Scam 13: Taking A Motorbike Taxi
Now if you are traveling solo you may find it easier to simply take a motorbike taxi rather than a regular taxi, especially if you aren’t taking any luggage. Plus they only fit one person, rather than a car, so surely they are cheaper. Well, this is the case, except if your driver decides to take advantage of you.
More often than not you will agree on a fixed price before jumping on. As long as the driver is decent this is your final price. Though if not, they may chuck an extra zero on the end and suddenly your price has increased x10. They will insist that you misheard and it is the price you originally agreed to. Since there is no one else around to stick up for you, it is simply your word against theirs.
Scam 14: Do Not Give In To The Donut
I know, it’s just an innocent donut, how the heck can this be one of the scams in Vietnam? Bad news, it is. Street food is in abundance in Vietnam, and I totally encourage you to try it all, except for those sneaky little donuts. Though before this sounds like I am being judgy, trust me, I nearly fell victim to this scam multiple times. I mean yummy little doughy balls of goodness covered in powdered sugar, it’s hard to say no.
Mainly in Hanoi, you will walk past people balancing baskets of good-looking donuts on their shoulders. The seller will stop and ask if you’d like to try one for free. While you say yes and taste one, the vendor will talk you into buying a small bag of donuts. Though a lot of travelers don’t actually need convincing and just go straight in and buy a bag.
Unfortunately, it is well known that the oil used to fry these donuts is unregulated. The oil could’ve been sitting there for weeks without being changed. The donuts are also known to be stale, and travelers report feeling sick after consuming them.
Scam 15: Duplicate businesses
It is common for well-known tourist agencies or hotels to have imitators with similar names that may not offer the same level of professionalism or quality of service. These imitators may work together with local drivers to attract tourists and take advantage of their lack of knowledge.
To avoid falling for these scams, it is important to verify the address of the genuine establishment and share it with your taxi driver before giving the name of the business. This will ensure that you are taken to the correct location and not a fake one with a similar name. Taking these precautions can help you avoid being taken advantage of and ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip.