Lately in South East Asia Scams against tourists get more often. There are many ways they try to scam the foreign visitors. Here two tricks they did to us in Vietnam. And how to avoid them.
Site note: Please don’t let this or other posts and stories about scams in South East Asia stop you from actually going there. We met so many kind and helpful people on our way. Those two examples are just exceptions of the usual. Be careful there but not paranoid. Not everyone tries to scam you.
What to find out in this post
Taxi from the airport
Already when we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City one of the taxi drivers saw his chance to get some extra money with us. Eduardo remembered from his last stay in Ho Chi Minh that the bus is the cheapest option to get to the city center from the airport. Only drawback that is was quite late already when we arrived in Vietnam and we weren’t exactly sure whether the busses would still go. Thus, beforehand we checked prices that would be fine to pay with a taxi to the city center. (We didn’t want to be scamed, you know)
Just two seconds after arriving at the bus station the first taxi driver approached to us. Telling us that the busses wouldn’t be going anymore. Of course we didn’t take for granted he was telling the truth. But it sounded reasonable. And the thought of going to have a cold shower and going to sleep after such a long flight as soon as possible was just too tempting.
We negotiated with the taxi driver a little about the price until he was convinced and agreed to take us for that price, which was recommended on the internet. Perfect. And now just go to our room to sleep… Or maybe not…?
And here comes the scam
It started to get weird when he asked us to pay in advance. But he justified that by telling us he had to pay his parking tickets and he would give us the change as soon as he’d paid them. Usually I wouldn’t do that. But you know, the thought of a cold shower and a comfy bed were all that fit in my mind after such a long flight. He paid his parking tickets and off we went.
When we asked for the change he reacted quite weird though and just gave us half of the money he actually owed us. And it turned out that he actually expected us to pay his parking tickets. (not only one but two of them for any reason) Since he has never said anything about any parking tickets before we entered his taxi, we got quite upset about it obviously.
He tried to start a conversation asking where we were from to distract us from the trick he was just trying to play with us. By now we came back to reality from our dreams of cold showers and comfy beds. And the ammount of money wasn’t just some Cents but actually around 5 Euro that we were supposed to pay more now. Might not seem much but when traveling on a small budget it already can make a difference.
(If you are wondering how much it cost to travel in Vietnam, Tasha Amy’s Post about Vietnam Travel Cost might be helpful for you)
Thus, we demanded the money for the parking tickets back. If we would have taken a taxi on the street 5 meter further we wouldn’t have to pay any parking tickets either.
The taxi driver started to get annoyed and tried to convince us to just let go of that money. As we kept insisting he offered to go back to the airport and giving us our money back. We agreed. Looking back now it was probably meant to be a thread. But in this moment it seemed to be the only way not to spend a price that was way over our budget.
And he really did go back to the airport. And surprisingly we indeed got our money back. I actually didn’t trust his word until I had my money back in my hands.
And even more surprisingly in this very moment a bus drove around the corner. And we could finally make our way into the city center for just around one Dollar.
How to avoid this scam?
- Make sure your taxidriver understands that you are just willing to pay the price you both agreed on
- Don’t pay in advance
- If the taxidriver demands more money mention that you might call the police for help. Vietnamese Taxidrivers are usually not really keen on getting involved with the police
Alleged helper in need
In the next example our greenness again got taken adventage of. Sometimes you just like to believe in coincidences.
On our second day in Vietnam we decided to take a small walk through Ho Chi Minh City after working all morning. Typical for the raining season the weather changed quite fast and it began to rain extremely from one second to another. Since it was sunny when we left and the walk was just supposed to be small of course we didn’t bring our rain coats or anything. The only thing we brought was the camera and our phones. We hid in the next entrance that we could find waiting for the rain to stop.
The rain got stronger and stronger though. A man driving a motorcycle joined us in the entrance and started a long conversation on his phone.
Usually we are not making such a drama about rain but as I said we had our camera with us and it was raining cats and dogs, we just didn’t want to risk anything. Thus, we’ve been waiting there for around half an hour but the rain just didn’t seem to get better anytime soon. As time went by the ground we were standing on already got floated by the rainwater. And the strong wind didn’t actually help us trying to stay more or less dry. Not that kind of relaxing walk we’ve been hoping for to be honest.
The man that has arrived shortly after us now finished his conversation and looked as desperate about the pouring rain as we did. We moved nearer to the exit trying to take a glimpse at the sky looking for some blue sky on the way to us. Nada! Just black and grey clouds.
The man that still stayed there with us started asking where we wanted to go. We explained that basically we just wanted to take a walk but we were considering going to the museum nearby just to do something besides standing in this entrance. He informed us that actually the museum was about to close in around 45 minutes but we could still make it if we’d take a taxi. Considering what bad experience we have made with the taxi driver from the airport we rather decided to visit the museum another day instead and keep waiting for the rain to stop.
But the weather just stayed like that for another 20 minutes. By now the man told us that his friend was a taxi driver and he just called him to pick him up as the weather would stay like that all day.
This being said he fished up a rain coat out of his motorcycle but just hang it near the entrance without actually wearing it. Just seconds later a taxi stoped in front of the entrance.
Eduardo suddenly started considering sharing the taxi with this man. Maybe it was our only chance to get away from here more or less dry in case it really didn’t stop raining.
And since we actually didn’t really have much time to think about it I agreed spontaneously.
Aaand welcome to the scam
Some moments later we found ourselves in the back of the taxi. But what does the taxi driver do? From the window we could see him putting on the rain coat, getting on the motorcycle and drive away with it. What happened?
The man that waited with us before on the other hand sat down on the driver space and started the motor. So he was our taxi driver now? We were super confused and didn’t really understand what was going on.
He told us a price with which we were totally fine. (We were still used to Japanese prices. I guess we would have agreed to any price)
However, the drama started when we arrived. He didn’t have any change. And we just had large bills with us that we just got from the ATM. So what do we do?
While I was still looking through my bills whether there was any small money left that I might have overseen before, the taxi driver reacted much faster. Within one second he had taken all the money I had out of my hands looking through it now by hisself. I had a weird feeling about it trying to follow every move he did. It was obvious he was much more familiar with this currency than me as he was looking through it super fast. After realizing that indeed I didn’t have enough small money he took two small bills and showed them to me telling us that he would give us a discount. After we left the taxi still happy about bringing the camera home more or less dry just by paying 77 Cents, the taxidriver drove away with one Million Dong (about 40 Euro) that he must have taken away super fast while looking through my money.
And to be honest it took us one day to realize how much money actually was missing. (At this time I maybe had 50 Euro in Dong with me, from which he has taken 40) And still I just realized when buying some water the next day realizing I was running out of money after paying our breakfast and lunch. How could that be? What did we buy for 40 Euro? And then it hit me like a brick.
We looked through our whole room and counted all the money we have spent so far. But no. This 1 Million Dong were definitely missing. And the taxi driver was the only one having had access to it. I never felt so stupid before.
How to avoid this scam?
- Don’t let anyone touch your purse or money
- Just carry small amounts of money with you
- Check your change everytime you get it back
- Be careful as the Vietnamese money contains a lot of large bills
- If you get overwhelmed by the Dongs just change your money into US Dollars as they get accepted almost everywhere around
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