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When you travel abroad, it’s always wise to have your wits about you, whether you’re sipping an iced latte at a Californian cafe or lounging on the beach in Bali. However, there are certain destinations where it pays to be aware of the local scams that target unsuspecting visitors.
Vietnam, one of the most exciting destinations in South East Asia, is one of these places, but by taking a few simple precautions, you can experience the very best this wonderful country has to offer without the heartache.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the vibrant Vietnam, and it can a good idea to dive in with a guided tour. However, not all tour agencies are created equal, and some may be out to get more of your money than others. Be wary of people approaching you on the street with various offers – even though the tour itself might be legitimate, the agents on the street may be charging you a hefty price for their commission. It’s always preferable to book activities through the operator themselves to be safe.
While Vietnam’s taxis and ‘Xe Om’ (motorbike taxis) might be a good way to get around town, they can also be a good way to find your pockets substantially emptier than expected. By deciding on a firm price before you ride, you can avoid the awkward encounter when it’s time to get off and your driver insists you agreed upon 50,000 dong instead of 15,000.
Recently, one tourist scam that has been tripping up travellers is to do with shoe shining in Ho Chi Min. While there are respectable shoe shiners in Vietnam, a number of reports have surfaced where tourists start to have their shoes polished only to have the vendor inform them that the price will be around VND 600,000 to 1 million (AU$35-58). If you are approached, don’t be afraid to refuse firmly before moving on – you can even try the Vietnamese word for no, ‘không’, to get your point across.
This incredible spot is not to be missed on a trip to Vietnam, but it is also a prime place for tourist pitfalls. It isn’t uncommon to find that the beautiful boat your booked for your cruise around the bay is completely different to the vessel that awaits you. To minimise the risk of being disappointed upon arrival, do your research beforehand and consult forums such as TripAdvisor for the latest reviews of each company. Here, the more you pay, the better your experience is likely to be, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to do some haggling!