Vietnam is an extremely stunning country with so many diversity in culture, traditions, and landscape. Once you start your exploration around Vietnam, changing the places and constantly moving to other places will present you so many differences.
You can dip down in culture and tradition by visiting Hanoi, or wander around stunning Halong Bay, or explore breathtaking ancient capital of Hue, or simply chill on the long sandy coast. The options are countless!
In recent years, Vietnam became very attractive to international tourists and many places are going through rapid development. The economy started to adjust to tourism and investors reap the benefits, while locals get the tiny pieces from the pie.
During our travels, we talked with a dozen travelers around the world and we could say it’s really not unusual to hear about scams and traps around Vietnam. Scamming is everywhere in the world, but in countries like Vietnam, scammers need to be extra smart and creative.
Some people became so proficient so they can scam you on hundred ways and sometimes you don’t even notice you’re in the process of getting ripped off.
We’ve got scammed a few times along our journey and talked with many people who’ve experienced different scams around the country, so we thought of sharing the experiences with you! It’s always a good thing to be prepared and know how to deal with the situation.
Please have in mind that we're not only talking about the scams! There are some situations where people just take the advantage over foreigners because of ignorance.
We included all of these situations in the article since it can help you to have the best experience while exploring beautiful Vietnam. Save your time and money and educate yourself about the country and the culture.
That way you can avoid many scams and uncomfortable situations.
So here you go! Here’s the list of 36 most common scams in Vietnam:
Be careful when renting a motorbike from a local person who doesn't own a rental service shop. If you know the person for a while, and you built trust, then it's a different story. There were many scams when people meet a local who became their instant friend. Be careful!
Travelers who want to avoid the hustle of buying and selling their motorbike can rent a bike for an affordable price. The rental companies are very flexible in terms of timing and place of renting/dropping off the bike.
The very common scam, especially in smaller touristic places, is when you meet a local person, share some stories with them, you became an instant best friends and they offer you to rent their motorbike for a crazy cheap price. We know, many people think “Oh, this guy is so friendly and kind, so why not help him?”!
Don’t matter how much friendliness is around the person, this one is a very common scam in Vietnam. People will rent you their bike and you will most likely experience a breakdown after which they will ask you for a huge amount of money to repair the bike.
Also, we talked with a traveler in Mui Ne who has got scammed by local guy renting his bike.
The story went like this...
The guy rented a bike from a local person, parked the bike in front of the pub and when he came back from the pub he couldn't find a bike. The local demanded around 10 million VND to settle the bill.
What happened with the bike? Probably the local had two set of keys, followed the traveler and just drove with his bike while claiming the money for the ‘stolen’ bike.
Pretty creative, huh?
When renting a motorbike, always check the company name on the internet. If the rental company is reliable, they will usually have a Facebook page with many stories, pictures, and reviews.
Read the reviews from travelers and connect with them so you can talk about their experience with the bike and the rental service.
Never rent a bike from a local person or the company without the presence. That way, you will avoid many headaches and you can really focus on experiencing all the beauty Vietnam has to offer.
#2 Photographers Around Touristic Places
Local photographers usually walk around the touristic places and offer the tourist a photo session. It's less of the scam, but more the naivety or ignorance of tourists that the photo session would be free. Do you get a free photo session in your country?
This one is very common everywhere in Vietnam where the tourism is existent. There will be the woman carrying fruits on their shoulders or wearing traditional clothes offering you to take it for the purpose of taking the photo.
You get the clothes and fruits, take a photo that will give you many likes on social media, but soon after, they will ask you for the compensation!
Also, on the beaches around Vietnam, there are usually few people with the cameras asking people to take the photos in different poses. After a photo session, they will follow you and ask you for the money.
This one is very crazy as they won’t let you alone for some time and they are literally killing the vibe. Just don’t fall on this one!
When someone is offering you their stuff just to take a photo or offering you a photo session as a friend, you should just say a friendly no.
People will usually understand and they will move away from you in order to find another ‘customer’.
#3 Switching the Bills
Always pay attention to banknotes since some are very similar, especially 20 and 500 thousand Vietnam Dong.
Switching the bills is an easily avoidable scam, but you must be very cautious, especially in busy tourist places.
For instance, every Vietnamese banknote has Ho Chi Minh’s face on one side while some even have the same color which makes it easy to mistake the note. The biggest bill of 500k and 20k are both blue color (a bit different gradient) and it can be easy for people to pull the scam.
If something costs 20k and you don’t have a smaller bill, so you pay with 500k, people can just take the money and try to act like they didn’t notice the bill. Sometimes it works in very busy places and people are losing the money on that.
Always break your money in smaller banknotes so you can pay the exact price without worrying about the change.
#4 Shoe Repairs
Always be attentive, especially in big cities around touristic attractions. Don't let anyone apply anything on your shoes. Just say a friendly no and walk away from shoe repair guys.
This one is common in big cities, especially around the Old District in Hanoi. There are many shoe repair guys sitting on the street and following foreigners in order to pull the scam.
When you walk around Old District, it’s a chaotic place with many things happening at once, so it’s very hard to be focused on everything. That’s when these shoe repair guys get in, jump on your shoes and apply the glue.
Afterward, the guy will take a thread from your shoes and try to sell you the story that you need a repair. The guy usually offers the repair for a $1 and that’s when many people agree!
The thing is that the guy doesn’t apply the glue, but the liquid that dissolves stitches on your shoes. The liquid instantly makes the condition of your shoes worse and many people think why not.
When the guy finishes the job he will ask for 10 - 20x more than agreed and he will follow you all around until you settle for the price. It’s a huge headache and you don’t want to fall on this one.
Simply say no when you notice shoe repair guys and never let anyone do anything with your shoes or any other fabric on you.
#5 Massage Seduction
Don't get the massage from the 'street'. Always look for a reputable massage shop with professional staff.
After many kilometers on the road, your body will feel very sore, so why not to take a good and cheap massage to recover your body?
It seems like there shouldn’t be a question about taking the massage, especially when you see a hot woman in front of the massage shop offering the massage.
Who would say no?
This one is a very prevalent scam not only in Vietnam but around SEAN countries. So, what is the scam?
Basically, the beautiful woman will stay in front of the shop and seducing tourists to get inside the massage room. Many people think they will get the massage by the woman they are talking in front, so they started to fantasize about different possible endings.
Believe us, none of these endings will happen!
The next thing that will happen is that the beautiful lady will lead you to massage room, show you the entrance and tell you to wait. In a minute, you will be in the room with a totally different person who isn’t that hot and also, not a professional masseur.
Expect to pay a big price for the massage you get.
Always read the reviews of massage places before going and check out the prices. If the massage place is reputable and has good reviews, even if it costs a bit more, just go for it since traveling around the country can exhaust your body!
#6 Motorbike Taxi Drivers
Skip motorbike taxi drivers from the street and book a Grab driver instead.
This scam is very common in big cities as there are many tourists and even more motorbikes in the traffic. There are many official apps for taking a motorbike taxi, but sometimes, the person just approaches you and you think why not to take a ride with this friendly guy.
Be careful with motorbike taxis around small places since it's probably one of the only ways to do the transportation around. We traveled to Phan Rang to do some amazing kitesurfing and it's very prevalent to use motorbike taxi there!
These fake motorbike taxi drivers will drive you and drop you off in the middle of nowhere asking for the crazy amount of money. If you disagree pay they will extort money from you with the help of the friends.
Always use official taxi carrier or Grab. That way, you get the price in front, so you know how much you’re supposed to pay for the service.
Sometimes, if there is no another option, you can take the motorbike taxi, but always agree on the price in front and don't forget to have a GPS on!
#7 Let’s Drive Around the City
Always be aware of the route and a distance to your destination when taking a taxi since many taxi drivers will do a detour to your destination in order to earn more money.
People usually experience scams when it comes to taxi drivers. There are few popular scams taxi drivers pull on travelers, and one of the most common is just driving the longest distance to the destination.
It works like this...
You get in the taxi, confirm the destination and the neverending ride starts. The next thing you notice that your ride is longer than expected, even if your destination is just around the corner. The driver will give you the excuses including construction works or traffic jams around. Once the drive is over, the driver will ask for a few times higher price than agreed on the beginning.
Always check the fastest route to your destination and have it on your phone running when driving by taxi. Never agree to sit down in a taxi without taximeter on.
If you notice that driver is taking another route, show him your map and demand the route on your map. If the driver doesn’t agree, just tell him to stop the car and pay an amount on a taximeter.
Use Grab in the cities. It’s so much cheaper, flexible and you can check the price in the application.
#8 Luggage Bus Fees
Luggage is usually free while using public transportation in Vietnam, but be sure to confirm the fares while buying the ticket since the policies differ from company to company.
Many times, the bus drivers will try to get more money from travelers because of their ignorance. This one is one of the most common scams when it comes to public transportation.
When you buy a ticket, the luggage fee is included and you shouldn’t pay anything extra except if you’re putting a motorbike or any bigger things as luggage. Some bus drivers will require you to pay extra for your bags as they will claim you have too much luggage.
The scam is total nonsense and they are trying to get the money from travelers because they are not familiar with the rules. Once you pay for the ticket you can put your luggage in the bus free of additional costs.
Always ask and confirm the quantity and size of the luggage that's included in the bus ticket price. The luggage policies differ from company to company.
#9 Cyclo Rides in Hoi An
Cyclo ride can be an amazing way to explore the city or a town, but before jumping into one, be sure to agree on the price.
Cyclos are three wheel bicycles that you can see around Vietnam, but the most common destination for cyclos is definitely the ancient town Hoi An. Once you put your foot in the ancient city, you will see many cyclo drivers driving tourists and asking people to jump in for the memorable drive around Hoi An.
If you make an eye-contact with the driver, they will offer you a drive around the town. Usually, drivers claim the ride is free or you decide how much you'd like to pay after a ride.
It’s the biggest red flag in SEA!
Drivers will show you their book of recommendations and reviews from the travelers, but it’s often written by themselves in many different languages. Many travelers fall on that, so they just jump in the ride.
Sometimes, the ride can take the whole day while drivers are building trust with the customers. At the end of the trip, they will drop you off in a secluded area and demand a crazy amount of money for the ride.
It’s a very uncomfortable experience that can have many unpleasant endings, so it’s better to know how to deal with it.
If you really want to experience a cyclo ride around stunning places, the best way is to agree on the price in front. Also, don’t forget to agree on the drop off place that is familiar to you since you don’t want to end up in a dark alley with a driver.
Always have a GPS opened, so you can be aware where are you at every moment.
A good practice in touristic places is to always have your valuables stored in a money belt or hidden bag. The good practice is also having a spare wallet where you have a smaller amount of money.
That way, you can claim it is all you have so there is no point in trying to get more than you have. Drivers will usually accept that!
#10 Fake Travel Agents and Companies
When booking a tour, always use official platforms like Klook and read many reviews from other customers.
Vietnam is becoming a booming tourist market since the whole country offers such a diverse culture combined with breathtaking landscape and a long coast with stunning sandy beaches.
The country became a dream destination to many travelers, and there are many tour companies that are getting recognized around the country for their extraordinary services. Once tourists recognize the company's services, many copycats with similar names start popping up like mushrooms.
Usually, fake travel companies are using the same names with minor changes, so if you’re not careful, you can end up scammed thinking you’re organizing a trip with a reputable company.
For instance, the most known scam comes into mind when we talk about Sinh Cafes. The real company is called Sinh Tourist and they offer an amazing tourist service for an affordable price.
There are many copycats called Sinh Cafe Travel, Sinh Cafe Tours, etc. Literally, there are thousand different, but similar names that can easily misguide people. Be aware when booking tours in Vietnam and always do your research before!
The scam isn’t only around tour companies but can be found around hotel and restaurant businesses as well. Be aware when booking anything in Vietnam related to tourism and always use reliable and recognized booking platforms.
Looking to book an organized tour around Vietnam?
We suggest you check legitimate websites that offer the listing of only reputable companies offering organized tours. The most popular website for tours in Asia is Klook, so check it out!
For the accommodation, always use the platforms like Agoda, BookingorAirbnb. These platforms have the criteria for accepting the hosts which give you a certain sense of security.
Always read reviews of other travelers and check the pictures to get a clear idea of the place you’re going to stay in.
#11 Fruit Sellers
Fruit sellers will usually sell you the fresh fruits at the inflated price. You should always know the price of the goods you're buying so you can bargain. Expect to pay a bit more than on a market, but keep in mind that it helps these local people and that's the way they put the food on the table.
We didn’t encounter this scam around the countryside and smaller towns, but in the cities, it’s a common scam, especially around touristic places. For instance, around Kiem lake in Hanoi, you will experience the scam almost every minute, so it’s wise to know how to deal with it.
Fruit sellers are usually older woman carrying some fruits on their shoulders and targeting tourists. They will follow you and ask you to buy the fruits at a crazy price.
A woman around Kiem lake offered us half of the pineapple for 50k VND. For example, at that time, the whole pineapple at the market didn’t cost more than 15k VND. We knew the reasonable price and we told the lady 20k VND and she acted offended, so we just walked away and at the end, she settled for 20k VND.
Note: Don't get an impression we're spoiled tourists who don't support local communities. Far from that! We always try to give back, eat and buy at local stores and markets. We're not ignorant and we always do the research before traveling in any country. These sellers get the fruits at a much cheaper price at the market than tourists, so selling the same for 5 - 10x higher price isn't acceptable for us.
Sellers will follow you, but one NO is enough as they will realize they are wasting their time since there are thousands of tourists around.
Also, if you really want to buy the fruits from them, it’s advisable to know the prices of the fruits before since you can bargain.
Walking away works like a charm too.
#12 Western Restaurants
Restaurants without a single local person can instantly tell you the prices are higher and the quality of the food is probably lower. For the best experience, we advise you to eat around local restaurants.
Almost every town or city has a part which is totally targeted to tourists and expats. Be aware of these places as many scams are going on there, especially around the restaurants.
How to say the restaurant is for westerners?
Well, you won’t see a single Vietnamese person inside and also, the prices aren’t only in VND, but also in foreign currencies.
The prices are usually a few times higher compared to the local restaurants and street food, but it’s up to you to choose where you’re going to eat, right?
Thinking of paying in a foreign currency? Think twice!
The restaurant staff will give you a really bad exchange rate, so they won’t only rip you off on the food prices, but also on the exchange rate.
For the best food experience, just find a local spot where the locals eat. These places are filled with delicious food at a reasonable price. Always ask for the price before ordering as staff will usually charge you more than locals.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t ask for the price to see locals are paying one price, and you’re paying totally another.
Don't get offended by it since it won't make a huge difference to your wallet, but it can make a difference to locals and their families.
Always have VND with you in Vietnam since it’s an official currency and you won’t get charged by unofficial exchange rates.
#13 Peanuts and Beer Goes Well Together
Fresh beer culture is huge around Vietnam, especially in Hanoi and northern provinces. Be careful since people will usually put a handful of food on your table and charge you a lot for it without saying anything. Don't be ignorant and ask for the price or simply reject anything that you didn't order.
We mainly experience scams around bigger touristy attractions and cities, but this one never gets old, even in the most remote areas around the country!
There is a huge culture of Nhau, which is basically eating delicious food, having fun with friends and drinking lots of beer. When you come to the restaurant and order beers, in some places, they will bring a bowl of peanuts, even if you didn’t order it.
It’s easy to think it’s included in the price, but don’t be fooled! Nothing is for free! The dozens of peanuts usually cost more than a can of a beer.
Ask for the price in front for everything you get on the table. Use Google Translate if needed as the language barrier is real, especially in the remote areas.
If you don’t need something or you think the price isn’t fair, simply say a friendly no and they will leave you alone! More money to spend on beers!
#14 Fake Clothing Brands
A fake clothing market is enormous around Vietnam. The prices are very low for the goods and believe or not, some goods have a high-quality. We bought Nort Face backpacks for about 200k VND and we're still using them.
Vietnam has borders with China and also Vietnamese culture is hugely influenced by Chinese culture. It’s not a strange thing that the fake clothing market is booming!
When you’re buying the clothes or any other goods on the local market, it's close to 100% chance these goods are imported from China and are fake. Depending on the place, you can get very good quality and cheap goods from street vendors! Many travelers fall on this scam while buying souvenirs in Vietnam, especially silk or traditional dresses like Ao Dai.
Always inspect the quality of the goods and don’t accept the first price. Learn how to bargain in Vietnam as it will save you a lot of money!
Always check the quality of the clothes in local markets. You don’t need to buy an original brand, as you can stumble across very high-quality fake goods for a funny amount of money that will serve you well.
For instance, we bought a few ‘North Pole’ backpacks from the street vendors in Hanoi. The price was around 200k VND for a 65L backpack. We used the backpacks for our trip around Vietnam through different weather conditions and these backpacks were serving and still serving us on our adventures.
If you’re looking for real brands, then just go to a certified store that sells real goods with standardized quality.
#15 Abandoned Waterpark in Hue
Abandoned park in Hue is an amazing place to visit. Just be patient with the security guy and eventually he will let you in for some compensation.
It's hard to understand the logic behind securing abandoned places. After visiting this park around Hue, you will get a whole different idea on creativity when it comes to scams.
So, when you arrive at the entrance of abandoned waterpark, there will be a security officer in his small house blocking the way. At first, he will be tough and won’t let you in. Then a younger guy will appear out of nowhere who will tell you that he can bring you to the park for the price. The guy asked for 100k VND per person and we refused, but many travelers followed him.
After a while, the security guy let us in for 30k VND per person. Later we saw the young guy and the security guy in the security house sharing the money.
If you want to get to the park, you will probably need to pay some money to the security guard in front of the park. Also, it’s advisable to meet some locals in Hue since there is an entrance through the forest where you don’t need to pay anything.
We tried to find it but ended up lost in the forest while doing crazy offroad with our bikes. It was a great experience!
#16 Motorbike Thefts
The rate of motorbike thefts is constantly growing, especially in bigger cities. There is a huge market for stolen bikes, but they are not worth anything without the proper and matching blue card.
Thieves usually have a deal with mechanics or stores, so they sell the bikes for the parts or make the fake blue card. It’s a huge business around here, so be extra careful with your bike.
The most important thing is to have a strong lock, preferably U-Lock and park your bike in a secure place.
There are many parking spots around the cities where the security guards will constantly take a look at your bike. The price for the whole day of secured parking won’t be more than 10k VND.
Also, almost all hostels and hotels offer you a free and secured parking during the night, so you can sleep well not thinking about the safety of your bike.
#17 Petty Robberies
Petty robberies aren't common in Vietnam, but you never know what can happen in all of that chaos. Always be careful with your valuables and use your common sense.
Petty robberies are not so common in Vietnam, but there are some travelers who experienced their valuables being stolen in the middle of the day.
Basically, these kind of robberies are very common in tourist areas around big cities. Always be on your guard when walking around busy touristy streets. If you ever get robbed, then you'll probably experience it around these places.
The most usual ways of robbing are grab and run or distract and steal.
Be careful walking with your phone or checking the phone on the street since there are thefts on the bikes who are sitting at the back of the bike while grabbing valuable things from people. There is simply no way to get your stuff back once it’s in their hands.
Many people leave their valuables on the beach while swimming and it’s a perfect chance for thieves to get your valuables.
In the restaurants, always take care of your bags, wallet, phones and other valuables. It’s common that people will get inside the restaurant, walk by and just grab unattended stuff around.
Stealing valuables in buses or trains are very common as well as thieves around ATMs. In the small places like Mui Ne, there are always few motorbike drivers around ATM selling cannabis.
Be careful and extra aware when withdrawing the money and don’t do it alone in the middle of the night as there is a possibility they will take advantage of you.
These scams are not likely to happen, but taking caution is always advisable. You really can’t do much except using your common sense.
Use a hidden belt or pouch where you put your money and valuables, so it’s out of anyone’s reach. Lock your bags on the non-movable objects when in restaurants.
Anti-theft backpacks can help a lot especially when you’re walking around busy streets. The streets are chaotic with many things happening at once and it’s really hard to notice if someone is opening your backpack from behind. The advice is to carry your backpack in front of you or invest into a backpack lock or anti-theft bag.
Whenever on the road, take the insurance that covers the loss of your valuables. One of the best and affordable insurances that cover your valuable is called World Nomads.
#18 Airport Fake Taxi
Be extra careful when it comes to transportation from the airport to the city. We advise you to use Grab or public transport since there are many scams around airports, especially when it comes to transportation.
If you’ve ever traveled by plane, then you know the struggle and chaos once you put your foot outside the airport. A flock of taxi drivers who want to ‘help’ you with your transportation will suddenly hit you like a lightning strike. Sadly, most of the transportation scams are going to happen around the airports.
People are usually very tired and jet-lagged to think clearly, so they accept any rates and don’t think about the creativity of scammers around.
For instance, if you have a pre-arranged driver from the airport to your accommodation, there will be drivers holding the names of passengers in front of terminals.
Scammers usually walk around and copy the names of people/hotels and some people notice their name on the sign and without asking they get into the car.
The driver will drive them to in the right direction and in the middle of the drive they will call a random person and share with you a sad new that the hotel you have a booking in is suddenly full. After that, the driver will drop you off to the hotel they get a commission from and also, charge you a lot for the extra drive.
Always get the number of driver/hotel manager in front, so you can call them to confirm the information about your booking and a driver.
#19 Buses Drop You Off in the Middle of Nowhere
When traveling to remote places, bus drivers tend to drop you off in the middle of nowhere where the flock of taxi drivers magically appears. Do the research and ask the driver where is the station at the destination so you can plan your transportation to your accommodation during the ride.
Taking a bus drive to travel around the country is a very convenient and cheap way of exploring stunning Vietnam. The buses in Vietnam are fairly comfortable since the majority of them are sleeper buses. You can lie down while traveling, and even sleep through the night which saves you some extra money on the accommodation.
The buses are usually very cheap as it costs you to go from Hanoi to Da Nang around 400k VND which is a bit less than 20$!
The only problem is that sometimes, the buses will just drop you off in the middle of nowhere. The interesting thing is that there are countless taxi drivers in the middle of nowhere, so they will offer you crazy fares for the rides as they know you don’t have the option or energy to think or do anything else.
Always book the ticket at the bus station and talk with the people where the bus is stopping in the destination.
Sometimes, they will tell you one piece of information, but the bus will still drop you off on the other place. Just check out for Grab drivers or simply walk away from taxi drivers.
They know they are overcharging, but if they see you just walking away, they won’t miss the chance and they will settle for a usually half of asked price.
#20 Fake Taxi Drivers
Fake taxi companies are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. Once one company gets big, there are many fake companies with similar names offering sketchy and overpriced services to people who think they are using the official services.
Fake taxi drivers can be mainly found around airports, train stations and big tourist attractions. When they see foreigners they are usually the first ones to appear in front of you to take your luggage and sit you in their car.
The most reputable taxi companies in Vietnam are Vinasun and Mai Linh, but fake taxi drivers are very smart, so they copy the design of their cars to look almost identical as the cars from the real companies. The only difference is in small details.
For instance, the name of the company is slightly different so it’s not unusual to see Vinnasun or Vinasum driving around. It’s so hard to notice that, especially after a long flight.
Also, they have different phone numbers or even fake taxi driver cards on them.
How to recognize a fake taxi company?
Different phone number that is almost identical as the real company
Different company logo and name
Fake driver cards
Old school taxi meters that looks like the meters from the 80s
After all being said, if you find yourself in a fake taxi, you will probably be asked to pay an inflated price in the middle of nowhere while all the doors are locked.
Be careful and look at every detail.
To be sure, always have the real numbers in your phone.
Vinasun: 38 27 27 27 (it may differ in some cities and provinces!)
Mai Linh: 38 38 38 38 (it may differ in some cities and provinces!)
How to Avoid the Scam:
Always call the official taxi numbers when booking a taxi ride in front.
If you're taking a taxi ride on the street, be sure that you checked the signs at the car and the name. The easiest way to notice a fake taxi is by checking the name of the company written on the car.
Check out the taximeter and also if the driver has an official suit with his and company name visible.
#21 Be Careful with SIM Cards
Always buy the SIM card from the official store or reseller. Literally, everyone is selling SIM cards, but it's a risk since you never know for sure what you're going to get. Topping up the card with the credit bought in the stores is OK since no one can use it.
Buying a working SIM card in Vietnam is literally effortless. There are countless places that offer a valid SIM card with a number and super-fast internet data. You don’t even need to provide any personal information when you’re buying a new SIM card.
It raises a question - how legit it is and what about scammers?
Like we already said, there are countless places to buy a SIM card which means there are many resellers who’re not official.
The store buys many SIM cards for a cheap price and sells it to people for a higher price. The only problem is that once the store buys it from an official store, the package plan already started which means days of usage are counting.
There are many cases where tourists bought SIM cards from a reseller claiming the card comes with X days of unlimited 4G internet. Later, the buyer found out the card stopped to work after just a few days of usage.
Never buy a SIM card in small street stores. Instead, buy it from an official seller or a communication company.
There are few options when it comes to buying a card and avoiding the scam:
Buy from the official stores
Buy from the licensed retailers/official phone shops
Place where you’re staying if they offer the service
Organized tours agencies will often provide you with a SIM card depending on the country you’re going
#22 Fake Hotel Pictures and Reviews
When booking accommodation or tours, never forget to read reviews from the other travelers who already used the service.
The available accommodation options are growing with each day, even in the countryside. When you’re checking the big booking platforms, you will see a crazy amount of available hostels, homestays, hotels, etc.
There are many scams when it comes to accommodation and one of the most noticeable is definitely false marketing. On the platforms, hosts usually put many pictures and videos showing their offer of the rooms.
The big problem is that some of them just put the pictures of the best rooms or even the rooms from the other place to promote their place.
Once you get there, you may be very surprised by the room!
Many hosts don’t require pre-payment, so it’s the best if you could come to the accommodation and check the room by yourself. If you don’t like it, just be friendly and explain to the host.
Also, don’t forget to read reviews and get every piece of information on a given accommodation. That way, you might be able to figure out if other travelers had some similar experiences.
We advise you to skip the accommodation that requires pre-payment and has low ratings on the platforms. Many scams can happen there!
#23 Double Fee for a Stay
Be sure that you book the accommodation for the right number of people before coming to the place. Once you have the price on the platform, it means the price is for the exact number of people you've booked for.
This scam is getting more and more popular as Vietnam is becoming a major destination for international tourists who are visiting SEA. There are many options when it comes to booking accommodation in Vietnam including hostels, hotels, homestays, guest houses, etc. You can find these places on big platforms like Booking, Airbnb and Agoda.
When you book your room, you have all the details with prices for the selected accommodation. The problem arises when you’re traveling in a group and you book the room for more people.
Some people will ask you double or triple price than one stated on the platform claiming it’s the price for a person.
Just argue a bit and tell them you will call the police and they will immediately give you the passport and take the real amount of money for the accommodation.
Also, reading reviews from the previous travelers can help a lot. If you see the staff is very friendly and welcoming, there is a small possibility they will try to do the scam on you since they know the importance of a good review.
#24 Cannabis Scams
Cannabis is very prevalent around Vietnam, especially touristic places. It's very easy to get your hands on some buds, but be careful who're you dealing with. The best and safest way to do anything related to cannabis is to go around expat areas and connect with people who've been living in the place for a while.
Cannabis in Vietnam is strictly illegal and you can end up in real trouble if the police catch you. Luckily, the police isn’t much interested in cannabis, especially when it comes to tourists or expats, so it’s not uncommon to smell cannabis on each step around some areas.
Just use your common sense when it comes to cannabis and you’ll be more than fine!
There are many scams around cannabis and most of them are done by motorbike drivers who’re offering cannabis to tourists.
For instance, we had crazy experiences in Hue! We’ve got approached at least 10 times by motorbike drivers offering us cannabis in less than one hour of walking around the city. It was very crazy and sometimes even the same driver approached us a few times.
These drivers will sell you some cannabis if you’re lucky, but you’ll get very poor quality buds with an inflated price! Also, many people experienced getting busted by the dirty police once they’ve got the pack from the motorbike driver.
These drivers usually work with the police for the commission. They sell you cannabis and contact a dirty cop. They will follow you and bust you instantly, so they will most likely find the cannabis on you. After that, you will be asked to pay a crazy bribe.
In Mui Ne, many people are selling weed on the street. The biggest problem is the quality, quantity and sometimes they just sell you a tea or herb that looks like cannabis.
Don’t consume illegal herbs and substances in Vietnam. If you really can’t go without smoking cannabis, then it’s advisable to connect with local or expat community and get some cannabis from these circles.
Avoid people on the street offering you weed by simply saying no. They will try a few times, but after a few friendly noes, they will give up.
#25 Don’t Share Sensitive Data in Internet Cafes
Internet or game cafes are literally on every step around Vietnam. We advise you to not share any valuable data there. Use these cafes for relaxation or playing games, but not for a business. Internet in Vietnam is everywhere and buying a 4G data plan is very easy and affordable, so always have a data plan as a backup with you!
It's amazing that you can find internet cafes on each corner in Vietnam, even in the most remote areas.
The computers there usually have viruses, keyloggers, malware that can exploit your personal and valuable data.
Also, Vietnam has a stunning internet coverage, so you can connect on every step. Even if the network has a password, there is a huge possibility it is set to usual 1 - 8. So be careful with a sensitive data and use 4G network instead.
Don’t use sensitive data on public internet or internet cafes. If you need access to valuable data, the best way is to use a private network or 4G that is very cheap in Vietnam.
#26 Always Ask the Price in Front
Not much of a scam, but it's good to have it on the list. Always ask for the price before buying anything without a price tag. People will usually ask for a higher price, but if you don't ask for the price, then you could get really ripped off. It's a good thing to know the prices of the goods before so you can bargain.
This one is not so much of a scam as the ignorance and not knowing the situation in Vietnam. Majority of street vendors will see the opportunity to charge tourists a bit more. It sucks when they do it in front of you, but we can understand it.
For instance, we were eating chicken rice in Saigon and saw locals paying 30k VND for a bowl. We blindly believed we will be charged the same, but after some bargaining, we paid 60k VND.
People know it won’t hurt you so much, but it can help them and their families, especially if you’re a tourist who is just exploring the place for a few days.
This one is the easiest to avoid - just ask the price in front. Once you have a price deal in Vietnam, people usually respect that and you can expect to pay that price.
It doesn’t cost you anything to ask for the price, but it can save you a lot of time and money. It’s a hard habit to do it always, but many places don’t have menu presented, so the only way not to get ripped off is to ask for the price in front.
#27 False Train and Bus Tickets
Don't buy public transport tickets from resellers. Just go to the station or official website while buying a ticket and you can be sure that you have the right seat.
The market for train and bus tickets is huge and booming since more tourists decide to explore the beauty of the country by taking public transportation.
It’s important to note that these tickets aren’t fake, but these are probably not suitable for the seat you’d like to book.
For instance, there are people who buy the cheapest train or bus tickets claiming you that these tickets are exactly the ones you need.
You are able to get on the bus or train, but be ready to pay a juicy fine since the tickets are probably not valid for the seat you’re taking.
Always buy tickets directly from a transportation company or on the main stations. Some hostels/hotels offer the services, so it’s a good thing to check with your accommodation.
Also, don’t hesitate to ask people in your accommodation to help you with booking your ticket for public transport.
If you’re planning to travel by train and want to book online, check out Seat 61.
#28 Child Street Vendors
'Street kids' is the huge topic in Vietnam and you'll encounter many kids selling goods on the street. We advise you to educate on the topic before you decide what to do or how to act when encountering a kid on the street offering you things.
Street kids is a term used for kids working and often living on the street apart from their families. There are many heartbreaking stories of street kids and even more reasons how one kid ends up working on the street.
Corrupted adults see this socio-economic ‘trend’ as a business opportunity and sometimes the term 'street kids' is closely related to organized business.
If you’ve ever walked around Kiem lake in Hanoi or Benh Than Market in Saigon, there is a huge possibility you stumble upon a small kid trying to sell you a thing or a service. It’s very heartbreaking to see a small kid on the street working all day to earn pennies. It’s very hard to resist not paying or giving away some money to the kid.
The majority of the money will never get to the kids' pocket or a belly. Kids on the street usually work for an adult and maybe get pennies if anything from your money. Giving away your money to street kids just furtherly support these kids being on the street far away from their family and schools.
We know that it sounds harsh and maybe not moral, but don’t give away money to the street kids. Instead, support the organizations working with street kids with your money or time.
Probably the best thing you could do when encounter a street kid is to bring the kid to a restaurant and share a delicious meal together. If it’s not filling their pockets, it’s filling their bellies and hearts at least.
#29 Good Guy Motorbike Seller
Educate yourself about basics when it comes to mechanics or simply ask your local friend to help you while choosing a best suiting motorbike for your trip.
This scam isn’t very common among regular tourists, but as soon as you decide to do a motorbike trip around Vietnam, you become vulnerable to the scam. Young Westerners who’re hungry for the adventure in an exotic country with stunning landscape and diverse culture are mainly the ones who decide to drive a motorbike around the country.
If you can recognize yourself in the description above, there is one question for you. How much do you know about mechanical stuff when it comes to motorbikes?
Well, based on our experience (we included), probably close to zero!
There are thousands of motorbike sellers around Vietnam, especially in Hanoi and Saigon. Travelers usually start their journey from one of these two cities, and the options are endless when it comes to buying a motorbike.
Everyone will tell you their motorbike is the most reliable without any breakdowns. Even the backpackers who just did the trip around the country!
The scam is most common among resellers - the people who’re buying motorbikes from desperate backpackers who’re leaving the country for pennies - who’re then doing some minor repairs and selling bikes for a higher price.
This is a very common business in big cities as the demand is growing with more tourists flocking to the country.
Basically, you will meet a guy who will tell you all the best about his motorbikes and who will act like your friend. Once the transaction is done, the guy disappears and if you’re lucky, you will drive some distance before experiencing weird sounds and behavior of the bike. Usually, your trip will end up in the garage of a local mechanic to diagnose and repair the engine.
Always take more time than planned when buying the motorbike in Vietnam as there are literally thousands of bikes available. Never rush and take your time to check as many bikes as possible!
Remember that everyone is trying to sell their bike, so everyone is doing a pitch when it comes to selling. Don’t buy it and simply be sure to be knowledgeable about the motorbikes.
Hitchhiking culture isn't a huge thing in Vietnam, but still, it's possible as people are very friendly and willing to help. Be careful since some people will expect huge compensation. Always figure that out at the beginning of your ride.
Hitchhiking culture in Vietnam isn’t so huge, but still, people will stop their cars or motorbikes to help you.
We didn’t have a chance to hitchhike around the whole country, but only around the few touristic places. Also, we talked with few travelers who traveled around Vietnam using mainly public transportation and hitchhiking, so the experiences are mixed.
While we were hitchhiking around Ninh Binh, we were probably waiting for few minutes with our sign and a friendly lady stopped offering us a ride. We were so amazed and happy, so we just hopped in the car.
Few minutes and kilometers later, she dropped us off and asked for 50k VND. It’s not a lot of money, but still, in Vietnam, that can get your belly filled for a day!
We started to hitchhike again on the road she dropped us off, and we encountered the same lady again who stopped again. This time she offered us to help us and drop us on the right road without taking any money.
Just be careful when hitchhiking. You can ask for the money in front of you just get out of the car when they stop. If you’re not sure about the amount of money you have to pay and it feels like the driver isn’t sure too, just thank them for a ride and get out.
#31 Beautiful Hostess with Menus
Always go to the clubs on your own. Don't get deceived by beautiful hostess handling you the menu. It's usually a known scam and it will cost you much more than going by yourself.
The vibrant and lively nightlife finds its home around the busy backpacker's roads. In Hanoi, there is an Old District area while in Saigon there is a Bui Vien street. These areas are popular for drinking and partying till the morning hours.
When you walk around these areas you will stumble upon many beautiful women holding menus with ‘discounts’ on drinks and trying to get you in the bar. Many people fall on this one since they are already drunk when hostess approach them, so it’s an easy task for them.
They will present you the menu with expensive prices but will claim that you will get a discounted price if you mention their name when ordering drinks. There is one interesting thing about this one.
The menu they are presenting is a fake one and the ‘discounted’ price is actually a real price in the bar.
Sometimes, the beautiful hostess will join your table with drinks and you will get surprised when you get the bill. The reason? The bill will be filled with the drinks a hostess drank too!
This scam is very prevalent in SEA, especially in busy touristic areas. Always be careful with this scam as you can get into real trouble with bouncers. If you start to argue about the price, before you know, you will be surrounded by many bouncers claiming that you have to pay. Believe us, you don’t want to have problems with bouncers in a foreign country!
Simply say no to people offering you discounts and showing you the menus on the road. It will be always more expensive than usual and there is a huge possibility you’ll get scammed on one way or another.
#32 Police Traps
Police don't usually target foreign travelers, especially around the countryside since the language barrier is real. In the city, or some touristic places, the situation is totally different, so be careful about it and avoid these places if possible. There is always a detour route, so do the research before taking a ride.
Police traps are not so common around the country, but there are few places known for traps and corrupt officers trying to get the money from travelers. For instance, one of the traps is in Mui Ne between Red and White sand dunes.
There is always a police blockade targeting foreigners. If you’re driving through the road between dunes, there is a high possibility you’ll get pulled over. It’s a very ridiculous situation there as they are literally stopping everyone without any reason. They ask for around 2 million VND to let you go or they treat they will confiscate your bike. Many travelers got scared and pay the bribe to continue the journey.
If you have all the required documents for driving legally in Vietnam and you’re totally sure that you didn’t break the laws, then you shouldn’t worry since they won’t be able to write you a ticket.
Simply avoid the known police traps. There are few, but always there is an optional road you can take to avoid the police. Just take the other road and you’re safe!
Also, before driving, it’s not a bad decision to have an IDP and Vietnamese driving license that will enable you to drive legally around the country. If you’ve got pulled over by the police and you have all the documents, they won’t hassle with you and tickets.
Majority of officers simply wants the bribe! Keep that in mind when dealing with the police in Vietnam!
#33 Money Snatching From Your Wallet
Never give anyone permission to touch your wallet.
This one usually happens in busy areas of touristy parts of the city. When travelers want to pay for the products or services, the seller grabs the money from the wallet to ‘help’ them separate the new currency.
In that process, they usually pickpocket some money or even change notes. Just check out 500k and 20k bills, they are easily getting confused and many people are taking the advantage of it.
Never give anyone access to your wallet except you. It’s extremely rude and disrespectful when people reach to your wallet. Believe us, it will happen and it’s up to you how you protect yourself from this scam.
The best thing would be to have a spare wallet where you have enough money for daily expenses. Even if something happens, you won’t lose much money or valuable documents.
Another good thing would be an RFID blocking wallet that hides notes from others.
Also, when you’re walking around busy touristic areas, it’s advisable to store your valuables in anti-theft bags and put your the money in money belt since there are many scams and pickpockets around these areas.
#34 Pricey Parking in Front of Touristic Attractions
We must say that this one is genious! How does this scam work?
As we all know, Vietnam is filled with tourist attractions either natural wonders, stunning landscape or just temples. The main transportation means in Vietnam is by far motorbike, and you can’t access the touristic sites with the motorbike. You need to park your bike somewhere, right?
Well, there is a huge chance for scammers to jump in and get some money from first-time visitors!
There is usually a parking site just in front of tourist attractions with the formal looking people telling you to park your bike there. Whenever you see it, just continue driving until you reach the attraction. You can ask for the parking at the ticket counter and usually, they will offer to park for free once you’re exploring the site.
The one of these scams is in front of Hang Mua Caves in Tam Coc, Ninh Binh. Also, all around this area, everyone will ask you for parking money, even if you drive a bicycle.
Always do the research before visiting any tourist attractions. Check out the parking options and you will definitely stumble upon the scams and how to avoid them in the area you’re visiting. Don’t be ignorant and always seek for the information since these scams are working on people’s ignorance.
Just don’t accept paying for the parking and drive to the ticket counter. People there will give you the right information and options for the parking. Please note that parking is usually free and provided by the place you’re visiting.
#35 Entrance Fee for a Free Attraction
There are literally thousands of attractions in Vietnam which gives scammers the opportunity to make some money.
The most common scam in touristy places is paying for the entrance fee even if the attraction is free. For instance, there will be people in front of the attraction looking formal and asking you to pay for the ticket. In most cases, these are scammers!
No matter which attraction you plan to visit, there should be an official ticket counter where you pay and get an official ticket. From the scammers, you will never get a ticket!
Like the majority of the scams, this one is also working just on the people’s ignorance. To avoid it, simply do short research before visiting the attraction. A few minutes of reading will save you much time and also money from your pocket.
#36 Demanding a Juicy Tip Instead of Change
Tips aren't official in Vietnam and it's up to you if you're going to leave a tip. Never agree with a waiter who doesn't give you a change back claiming it as a tip.
When eating in a restaurant, especially in ones that are targeted for tourist, be aware of this scam.
There is no tipping culture in Vietnam, so there are rare cases that someone will ever ask you for a tip. Anyway, some restaurants figure out how to play the scam on naive or ignorant travelers.
After you get the bill and want to pay with larger notes, people won’t give you the whole change. Many people won’t even count, so it’s effortless to pull this scam.
If you count your money and notice there is a mistake in the change, the staff will usually tell you it’s for the tip.
It’s not acceptable as the tip is something the customer should leave to the staff for the good service.
Always count your money after paying the bills. Demand the whole change if something isn’t right, even if you need to talk with the supervisors.
Also, never pay with big bank notes. Whenever you go out, always break your big notes into smaller ones so it will be easier for you to pay without thinking about the change and possibility of getting scammed.
Now you have much information about the scams and very uncomfortable situations you can put yourself in because of not having the information or not knowing the differences in the culture.
It will definitely make your trip more memorable without many negative experiences!
Please share the scams you've experienced in Vietnam so we can make this list complete!
Antonio is a long-term traveler with a deep passion in exploring off-the-beaten-paths around the world. Currently, he’s living in Da Nang city and when he’s not busy pushing the new content, he enjoys taking his motorbike around Vietnam or Laos. Some of the most remarkable experiences were teaching English in a remote village located in central Laos countryside, Nakai town. Or, living in a rural Nghe An Province while helping a local community with their English. Or, driving with the worst ‘Honda’ Win around the country experiencing daily breakdowns. Or, just read a few stories on our blog to get more information about our journey and adventures.