Ho Chi Minh City
, or Saigon as the older folks are more likely to say, is a common gateway for many travelers looking to trek through Vietnam. As Vietnam’s largest city, Saigon has a lot on display no matter your interests. From catholic cathedrals to war memorials, frenzied market places to lethargic river cruises, Saigon has everything needed to start your Vietnam Journey off in all the right ways.
Unfortunately, as is the case with most any destination, there exists pitfalls which even the most seasoned traveler can stumble into. There are several common scams in Saigon which have stripped countless tourists of the extra cash padding their pockets. To avoid an embarrassing and financially deprecating situation, you’ll want to read on ahead to learn about the most common strategies used to hustle unsuspecting visitors.
Choose Your Taxi’s Carefully
So, either your plane has just landed or your bus is finally screeching to a halt after a six hour drive from Pnomh Penh. You’re exhausted and feeling impatient so you jump in a taxi with the first smiling face who offers you a ride. About two minutes in, you notice that his meter has jumped from 5000 VND(0.25 cents USD) to 600,000 VND(30 USD). While you are debating tucking and rolling out of his taxi the meter jumps up another 100,000 VND(5 USD).
No this is not hyperbole. Some taxi drivers will use a remote-controlled device to manually increase the prices on the meter. Another scam involves a driver only accepting exact change. When the customer brings out their wallet to pay, the driver will manually create a distraction so as to sneak a few extra dollars from the unsuspecting person’s wallet.
Does this all mean that all taxi drivers are devious tricksters forcing you to walk everywhere in fear of their services? Short answer, no. However, taxi scams aren’t rare by any means so you should always keep your wits about you. The general consensus is that Vinasun and Malinh are the only taxi companies you should trust. Even then, you need to understand that some taxi con artists will disguise their taxis as Vinasun or Malinh.
Don’t Rent From Just Anybody
Cruising through Vietnam on a motorbike is a popular method of perusing the countryside. If you want a motorbike for prolonged use, it’s generally recommended to simply buy one for a few hundred USD and then sell it to other travelers when you travel elsewhere. Otherwise, if you only plan to rent a motorbike for a day or two, then make sure to rent from your place of accommodation.
Walking through District 1 of Saigon, you’ll occasionally receive offers from random people hanging around the block to rent a motorbike. You accept these offers at the risk of falling victim to age old tricks. For example, when you rent the motorbike, someone may be sent to tail you. When you park your bike to catch happy hour, said pursuer will take your bike with their spare key. Another tactic involves renting out a bike with faulty parts and then being blamed for them and forced to pay for the subsequent malfunction.
Hiked-Up Prices And Other Tales Of Caution
It is common practice for those involved in the tourism industry to redirect tourists to various venues including restaurants, tours, and hotels. If you follow their advice, there’s a definite chance that the rates will be increased The person who sent you there will collect commission from the extra costs imposed on you. Taxi drivers and touts are the most likely to practice this. It’s best to avoid going off of the enthusiastic recommendations of others if you haven’t yet built a foundation of trust with them.
Other cases of inflated prices involve coconut sellers and shoe shiners. You may be quoted a low price for a coconut but have a much higher price demanded of you once the coconut is cut open and in your hands. Oftentimes small children will be present as a tool garner your sympathies and pay up. As for the shoe shiners who approach you and vigorously insist that your shoes are in dire need of repair… Adamantly refuse their service unless you’re okay with paying 400,000 VND($20) for a dab of glue on a slightly torn section of your soles.
If you’re out partying around the backpacker area in District 1, make sure to stay vigilant and sober enough to count your drinks. Stumble about too haphazardly and the bartender may just whip up some extra drinks to charge you for. As for purchasing drugs from vocal sellers on the street corner, just don’t. Oftentimes, the conman will sell you the drugs, call the police, and then collect some of the bribe money you frantically scramble out of your pockets to avoid harsher penalties. Drug laws are harsh in SE Asia, just don’t do them.
Tread Lightly But Have Fun
Hopefully this knowledge hasn’t instilled in you a sense of dread for your upcoming flight or bus ride to Saigon. The truth is, nearly every city in the world has its own dangers and quirks to navigate. Learning about common scams in Saigon will do nothing but enhance your visit there. After all, Saigon is a bustling, colorful city with an exciting history and enchanting culture. Skip out on the scams and leave Saigon with memories unfettered by tragedy.
Article written by Conner Hagerty – http://www.straydogpkblog.com/