Lifestyle

Common Vietnam Scams and How to Avoid Them

Currency Scam

Whenever buying something here in Vietnam, always be aware of what currency the seller is listing the price as.

Under Vietnamese law, vendors are not allowed to sell things in USD despite it being widely accepted.

The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong. However, vendors prefer to accept US dollars due to its stability when compared to the Vietnamese dong.

Some places list USD prices, however only give you back change in Vietnamese dong. They usually pocket a significant chunk of the difference in exchange rates for themselves.

Tourists not knowing what the real exchange rate will then get ripped off.

In addition, some places just give you a number such as “5” for prices but don’t mention if its 5 USD, 5000 vnd, 0r 500,000 vnd.

Later on, tourists are quite taken aback when they realized the seller meant 500k vnd rather than 5 vnd.

Currency Vietnam scam

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Ask the seller clearly much how they are asking for and in what currency.

Try to pay for everything using the local currency. If your using USD to pay for things, you’ll most likely get ripped off when the seller gives you back change in Vietnamese dong.

Try to exchange your USD at reputable places such as banks or gold jewelry shops that have been vetted.

Gold jewelry shops usually offer a much better exchange rate then banks, however there is some risk involved if you pick the wrong shop.

Getting Ripped off and Overcharged

When visiting a foreign country, its not uncommon for locals to try and overcharge tourists and foreigners.

Vietnam is no different.

Something that would normally cost a local 20k vnd now suddenly costs 40 or 60k for a foreigner.

I had the unfortunate experience of a local hair salon attempt to rip me off with a haircut.

My previous barbershop had just closed down and I was looking for a new place to get a haircut. There’s 2 barbershops near my place so I thought I would stop by one of those places and get a haircut.

I had already gotten haircuts from several places already so I had a good idea of how much a typical haircut from a local no frills barbershop would cost.

Typically they shouldn’t cost more than 70-80k for a haircut. My previous barber charged 50k and another barbershop in that same area also charged around 50k.

I showed up at the barbershop where I saw a young guy, girl, and some old man that was seated.

I looked at them and told them that I wanted to get a haircut, so the young guy gets up off his seat and prepares to get ready.

But before they can proceed with giving me a haircut, I ask them out of instinct, how much it would cost.

The old guy and young girl pause for a moment, seemingly hesitant and thinking for a few seconds before the girl and old guy say 110-120k for a haircut.

I then ask them how much it would cost me to get my hair washed as well.

The girl thinks for a few seconds and then says around 180k.

The old man on the other hand shouts out 200k, basically rounding up and intending me to tip extra.

This price can be charged at a more modern high end barbershop outside on the main streets.

However, this was some rundown old barbershop hidden inside of a alleyway. No way in hell was it worth that much money at a place like this.

The fact that both the girl and old man hesitated and had to think about how much to charge me was a huge red flag in my book.

An honest barber would have answered me automatically.

I paid 1/4 the price of this at my previous barber which included washing my hair too.

I knew it was a scam. They could tell that I was from abroad and thought I was some sucker they could cheat.

Well…the only person they cheated was themselves that day as they lost business from me.

I walked out and never returned back to the place.

For the price they were charging, I could have gone out to the many hair salons in the city that employ young cute Vietnamese girls and gotten a haircut, hair wash, facial, and massage for around the same price or slightly more.

That’s just how ridiculous the price I was quoted was and the old geezer there was clearly out of his mind!

I was able to locate another barber soon afterwards that only charges me 30k vnd.

My friend living in district 7 also encountered a similar situation with being overcharged on things.

A local lady selling banh mi sandwiches was charging him double the price of a sandwich yet locals were only paying half of what he was quoted.

To confirm his suspicion, he had a local Vietnamese girl that he was dating buy a banh mi sandwich from the street vendor and as expected, she was only charged half of what he paid.

overcharging Vietnam scams

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Always do your research ahead of time before buying anything or going in for any service.

Make sure to ask for the price before hand if it isn’t displayed. In fact, ask for the price anyways even if its displayed.

Some malevolent locals will pry on your ignorance and try to overcharge you if they can get away with it.

If you don’t know what the normal rates are then ask a friend or a local. They will be more than happy to help out.

If you have a local friend or relative, you can get them to go ask the price either before or after you’ve asked the person to see if the price is consistent.

Extra Drinks on Tab

If you frequent certain bars that cater to foreigners, especially in the backpacker area, sometimes the waiters and bartenders like to add in extra charges to the tab.

The typically like to target foreigners that appear drunk or tipsy, but anyone is fair game.

You may notice an extra drink here or there, or some bogus charge added to your bill.

Bars and clubs around the Bui Vien area are notorious for doing this.

Sometimes, girls will come and flirt with you and then order drinks on your tab without you noticing. They are often employed by the bar to scam foreign guys. Be careful!

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Ask about prices prior to ordering.

If your going to order more than 2-3 drinks, don’t keep a tab and just pay right away or better yet just pay when you get the drink even if your gonna order 1 drink.

This lets you avoid having chicks try that maneuver on you.

Be wary of any girls that seem extra flirtatious towards you. They most likely have some ulterior motive.

Only go to reputable bars and clubs!

Bar Vietnam scams

Extra Item Charges on Tab

This one goes hand in hand with the previous scam.

At some bars and clubs, the employees like to bring you extra items that you did not order such as peanuts, wet wipes, or bottles of water and soda.

The peanuts often times cost way more then the actual drinks themselves.

You will soon find out that if you use any of this stuff it will show up as a charge on your bill. With the exception of the peanuts, most of the time the items don’t cost too much. However, you should still be aware of these added charges prior to using the items.

This in fact is a very common practice at a lot of restaurants that bring you wet wipes or even extra drinks if you have a large party.

This one isn’t necessary a scam with the exception of the overpriced peanuts, as its an unwritten rule that nearly all locals know about.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

If you notice the waiter or waitress bringing you extra items that you did not order, you should immediately inquire about it.

Ask them if the item is free or not.

If it isn’t, inquire how much it costs.

If you don’t want it, ask them kindly to take it away or just leave the item alone.

Cyclo Scam

At famous tourist hotspots in Vietnam, you will typically encounter guys riding cyclos that will try to solicit business from you.

Once you’ve told them where you would like to go and agreed on a price, you will go on your merry way, oblivious to the fact that your about to get scammed. The scam works like this:

Scenario #1:

The driver takes you to a very far place out in the middle of nowhere. Once you arrive, the driver will demand that you pay him a ridiculous amount of money to get back. Them asking upwards of 1 million vnd is not uncommon depending on long he was driving you.

If you refuse to pay the amount, the driver gets aggressive and will either try to take the money from you physically or will leave you there to fend for yourself while he rides off looking for another victim.

Scenario #2:

You and the driver agree on a number of sights and attractions that he will take you to go see. The both of you will agree on a price beforehand, however he doesn’t mention the fact that he is charging you money to wait for you outside.

A 50k vnd per hour ride now suddenly jumps up to 500k vnd per hour.

To further solidify his scam, he will carry around a booklet that shows the price rather then the agreed upon price that you both spoke about earlier. He will then accuse you of not understanding him and demand payment.

If you refuse, he will follow you around like a child pestering his parents to buy them the latest toy. Prepare to be hounded and harassed until he gets what he wants.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Just don’t accept rides from guys on cyclos that try to solicit business from you.

In fact, anyone that tries to sell you any service off the streets, you should be very wary of.

Instead, if you’d like to go on a tour, either book with a reputable tour company or just take the taxi. Most taxi rides around the famous tourist attractions, shouldn’t cost you more than 100k vnd per a ride. It its within 10 minutes of each other, your looking at spending around 40-50k vnd at most.

In addition, you can hire drivers that will drive you around the city for several hours for a pretty reasonable price as well.

If you find yourself in the process of getting scammed, do not take out your wallet or purse when the driver is near you. He will quickly snag the wallet or purse right out of your hands and take your money.

Make sure to keep a good distance away from him when taking your money out.

Cyclo vietnam scams

Bait and Switch Scam

Hotels

This one is very common in the hotel industry unfortunately.

Often times, you would book a nice looking room for a great price only to discover when you arrive at the hotel that all their rooms are full. The scam then proceeds as follows:

You are then told to pay a little extra to upgrade to a better room. This room in fact was what you should have received to begin with.

In another scenario, you may be asked to cancel your online reservation first and then pay the hotel directly. The hotel will usually come up with some bs excuse to get you to cancel claiming your credit card is not working, or that the names aren’t the same on the reservation and credit card.

Anything basically to weasel their way out of giving you the room at the price you had paid.

You are then given an inferior quality room for the same price that you had paid online.

A famous Vietnamese youtuber by the name Khoa Pug was recently a victim of this bait and switch scam when he went to Mui ne to stay at a 5 star resort. The hotel asked him to cancel his online reservation and then tried to book him directly at the hotel but gave him an inferior room then the one he had paid.

Tours

In addition to hotels, this also occurs with tours.

Typically some tour operator will try to sell you a tour package for quite cheap yet promise you a tonne of amenities such as snorkeling, boat roads on a yacht, etc.

However, once you show up for the tour, you will quickly realize that you’ve been had and that the tour is of much lower quality then what you were promised.

They may even ask you for additional fees and claim whatever activity that they said was included is in fact, not included in the price.

Also be aware that there are lots of copycat tour companies that like to re-brand themselves to copy a reputable tour company.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Only book tours with reputable companies.

If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Always remember the saying “You get what you pay for”.

Make sure to always ask exactly what your getting with the tour package and all the fees that are included and not included. It’s even better if you can get it in writing as well.

Remember to always do your research first before booking with any particular tour company.

Free Attractions Admission Fee Scam

This scam usually involves a con artist waiting outside of a free tourist attraction such as the central post office in saigon, or one of the many temples scattered throughout Vietnam.

When an unsuspecting tourist tries to enter the attraction, these con artists demand that they pay an admission fee to enter.

Most tourist don’t realize that a lot of these tourist attractions are free, and instead when confronted by a person asking them for money to enter the attraction, they fold right over.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Do your research first before visiting any tourist attractions.

Find out if their is a fee and how much is it.

Also make sure when paying for admission, you pay for it at an official booth like the one found at the independent palace and the war remnants museum here in Ho Chi Minh City.

They should give you an official ticket when you pay for the admission.

If you don’t receive a ticket, then its most likely a scam.

Saigon central post office
Saigon Central Post Office

Card Game Scam

This scam works like this:

Some stranger off the street that has already screened you as a lone tourist will approach you and try to befriend you.

While trying to build rapport with you, he will ask you a lot of questions to further find out more information about you to use against you.

At some point during the conversation, he will drop the ball and mention that he has a younger sister/ or daughter that he would like to introduce to you.

He will mention that they would like to study abroad in your country and if you wouldn’t mind coming to their house to let their sister/daughter ask you some questions.

Once you arrive however, the sister/daughter is nowhere to be found.

Instead, you will see a bunch of people gambling and playing poker or blackjack.

You will be invited to join the game. Initially they will let you win to lure you in.

But once you’ve become hooked, that’s when they strike.

The game is pretty much rigged against you and victims have reportly lost 20k USD getting scammed in this game.

gambling Vietnam scams

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

As the saying goes “never talk to strangers“, especially some shady looking guy off the street from another country that speaks immaculate English.

Don’t go to a stranger’s house no matter how friendly they appear.

They could scam you, rob you, sell you off, or even butcher you.

Once your at their home, your in their domain and at their mercy.

Fake Beggars Scam

This scam usually involves a middle aged Vietnamese woman carrying around a baby looking to seek sympathy from onlookers.

They usually like to linger around in busy tourist destinations.

What most people don’t realize is that the baby in most cases isn’t even hers and is usually drugged up to sleep all day.

The women may even be a drug addict herself, using the money she makes from begging to fund her drug addiction.

In some cases, she may work for a drug ring.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

It’s best to just ignore her cries and pleas for money.

Instead of offering her money, give her food and clothing. She will typically not accept these items, but you never know, she could be legit.

Not!

The best way to help her out is to inform the authorities who will give her the proper help that she needs at a drug rehab clinic.

The child will also be put in a good foster home and not be exploited.

Bonus: Beg Packer Scam

begpacker Vietnam scams

Foreigners go around Vietnam, especially the popular cities and try to beg on the streets. They usually hold up cardboard signs written in both English and Vietnamese claiming either that they don’t have money to continue their travels or that their belongings and cash has been stolen by someone.

When you offer to take them to the embassy to get help and support, they outright refuse your offer and insist that you give them money instead.

Often times, you will see the same beg packer beg for months and even years yet still claiming the same sob story.

The money isn’t even used to buy a plane ticket home, but rather to splurge or support their lifestyle.

Luckily, countries are starting to become more strict in its dealings with beg packers and a few have already been arrested and deported.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Just don’t give them a cent!

If they are being persistent, kindly request to take them to their country’s embassy and see how fast they will scatter away.

If you see police officers near by, call them over and have them escort the begpacker to the nearest jail cell.

Conclusion

In this article we covered an extensive list of common Vietnam scams that plague the country.

No country’s perfect when it comes to crime and scams, so Vietnam would be no exception.

But if you do your research before hand and possess some level of basic street smarts, this should prevent you from encountering most of these situations.

Despite these minor setbacks, Vietnam is still a wonderful country full of life and beauty.

One should not deprive themselves of this opportunity of seeing and experiencing this beautiful country for fear of getting scammed.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever been scammed before here in Vietnam.

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