Common tourist scams in Vietnam to avoid

Vietnam is a stunningly beautiful country and most of the people are warm and welcoming towards you. But that doesn’t mean that everyone has a good intention. Some people are trying their best to scam tourists in order to get some extra money. Keep a lookout for the following tricks while traveling in Vietnam and you should be just fine.

1. Money Switch

One of the most common version of switching money is by switching a 500,000 VND note for a 20,000 VND or a 200,000 VND note for a 10,000 VND. It’s easy to fall for since they’re both nearly same colors. The motorbike taxi drivers are usually the ones that will try this trick, so always make sure to keep an eye on the bill you gave them and make sure they give you the right amount back. Try to always pay with smaller bills if you can and break your larger bills in restaurants, convenience stores, or other reputable businesses.

2. The Groin Grab

Yepp… That’s a thing! Although it’s not very common that this happens, it’s still important to be alert. Attractive local girls usually preys on men in the touristic areas. They start chatting with you, being flirtatious, telling you how handsome you are, asking if you wish to get a massage while playing with your groin, and bam, your pockets are being emptied as you’re being distracted. It might sound a bit bizarre, but it’s actually a problem. So either you keep your money somewhere else or just don’t fall for that trick.

3. The coconut photoshoot

You’ve most likely seen street vendors with baskets of coconuts walking around, asking if you want to snap a photo using their bamboo baskets. Although it might seem tempting to get an “authentic Vietnamese photo”, it might prove to be a scam. While your best mate is taking photos of you with the bamboo baskets, the vendors are already chopping open coconuts that will cost an obscene amount. Even if you didn’t ask for them, it’s too late, they already cut it open for you. Oh, you don’t want to pay? They’ll be sure to make a big scene and shout at you in front of a big crowd of people who will think that you cheated on the locals. Instead of walking away, you’ll probably end up paying money to the vendor so you can just run away from the embarrassing scene.

4. Motorbike Taxi Scams

Motorbike taxis, also called ‘xe om’ in Vietnam, are one of the most skilled con artists. They’ll tell you that their price is the lowest, they’ll even agree on a price that sounds quite fair, and then when you arrive to your destination, they’ll ask for a whole lot more. They’ll come with excuses such as you probably heard the wrong price, they would never agree on such a low price, and then things will escalate quickly. They also know that they can take advantage of foreigners because it’s just a couple of dollars extra, right? So how can you be sure to not get tricked? Well, not everyone’s like this, but if you really want to feel safe, download the apps Uber or Grab and get a motorbike taxi there instead, where you’ll get a fixed price and see reviews about the drivers.

5. Baggage Fees

The larger bus companies will not try to pull some shady moves on you since they depend on good reviews and returning clients, but some local buses might try to scam foreigners by telling them they need to pay an extra fee to put their big backpack in the luggage store. They know that most foreigners won’t argue with that – in one way, it does make sense to pay for your luggage – but there’s no such thing as a baggage fee in Vietnam. Try to ignore them when they try to get extra money from you, simply say no, go to your seat and they’ll most likely stop bugging you.

6. Shoe Shining

Prepare to be hounded by shoe-shiners if you’re staying in a touristy area. Some will give you a decent price, take your shoes with them and shine them, then come back and ask for double the price. But what, they just said one price and now they changed it to another? Well, it’s because the price they asked for was just for one shoe. And instead of making a scene, you’ll just accept it, leave with your shiny shoes and a slightly lighter wallet.

7. Marijuana or a Bag of Tea?

Although Marijuana is strictly illegal in Vietnam, many foreigners still smoke it openly. The laws are a bit loose when it comes to marijuana so locals will try to sell it to you openly. You might even get asked from your motorbike taxi driver if you want to buy some weed. You’ll ask to smell it first (and it’s always the real deal when you get to smell it), you’ll negotiate the price, and then they give you a bag and leave quickly. You open the bag and you realize you’re left with… tea. But what are you going to do about it? Report it to the police? Tell them you tried to buy weed and he gave you tea? Good luck with that report.

Although these things can make it very stressful and frustrating when you travel in Vietnam, it’s not so common to get scammed these days. Most locals want foreigners to have the best experience in their country so that people returns and Vietnam is left with a good reputation. So before you get scared of traveling there, don’t be! Scams will happen no matter where you go, you just have to make smarter choices.

Before leaving to Vietnam, make sure that you apply for a visa in order to enter the country. There are three visa options to apply for: Visa on Arrival, E-Visa or go to the nearest Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate and get a visa with them. The most preferred options amongst travelers is getting the online visa ‘Visa on Arrival’. The E-Visa is also acquired online, but is only available for certain nationalities. It’s a 30-day, single entry visa, so if you want to stay longer in the country, getting a Visa on Arrival is by far the best choice.

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