Worried about Vietnam?
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Jul 26, 2013 8:12 PM Last Post By: clawtalk
Jul 23, 2013 5:38 AM
Worried about Vietnam?I am Canadian who is planning to spend about 25 days in Vietnam & 10 days in Cambodia with my boyfriend. However, recently I have read a lot about the scams and bad experiences people have in Vietnam. This will be my first time outside North America. I am worried that since this will be my first time backpacking, I will get frustrated by the scammers and not enjoy my experience.
I am planning to start in Hanoi and travel south to HCMC. Then go to the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia.
Is Vietnam a good idea for first-time backpackers? If not, is Thailand a better option?
Jul 23, 2013 5:59 AM
1Yes, there are scams out there, but not as many as you'd think from reading Thorn Tree and similar sites. Remember that the people who never encounter a scam are unlikely to post a report saying so!
If you treat everyone as a potential scammer, you'll miss out on lots of things. Personally, I've always found it helpful to assume that I will get ripped off at some stage of a trip, so there's no point worrying about it too much (it doesn't always happen). That frees me up to say 'yes' to things that I'm not 100% sure about doing that end up being highlights of the trip - like the students I met in Hanoi who took me to their favourite local icecream place.
Do be on your guard against anything that seems too good to be true - it often (although not always) is. Lots of the scam stories you hear are from people trying too hard to save a few dollars - they're an easy target for false promises.
And even if you do fall foul of a scammer, in most cases it will only be for a few dollars, so it helps to keep it in perspective - especially given that as a North American who can afford to travel overseas you are by definition wealthier than most Vietnamese and Cambodians. It's not worth ruining your holiday over!
Jul 23, 2013 6:03 AM
2Worrying does not do any good. The thing with scams is to find out about them then you won't be caught out. The only problem we had in Vietnam was on some buses they tried to charge 2x the fare after a bit of arguing they backed down. In restaurants check the price when ordering if they don't have prices displayed. A lot of scams are not worth worrying about as the amounts of money involved are so small. Yes Im sure if you buy stuff you will pay more than the locals but so what. Is Thailand any better, not sure but its more expensive and IMHO not so interesting.
I would do some more reading and research.
Jul 23, 2013 6:05 AM
3A suggestion to help you settle in when you first get there: think about booking a tour with Hanoi Kids for a day. They're locals who offer free tours of their home town Hanoi, in return for the chance to practice their English with you. You pay for taxis and lunch, but there's no charge for their time. A great way to start to get a feel for the place: http://hanoikids.org/category/tour/
Jul 23, 2013 6:30 AM
4Thank you for your responses. I am using my savings for this trip and I am most worried that I will regret it - I want to have a new, cultural experience. I don't mind paying a few extra dollars more than locals, however I don't think I would like interacting with rude or deceitful people. If I am aware of scams, are they easy to avoid/get out of? Even if I do not speak vietnamese?
hanoikids looks like an excellent idea, I will take a look at it.
PS: Is it common to use a passport as collateral in Vietnam? I am really not comfortable with this. If yes, is there a way to avoid it?
Jul 23, 2013 9:21 AM
5very good posts above.
in my experience, scams in vietnam are usually not very "complicated" and so easy to "avoid / get out of". what i mean is - it is annoying if you are asked to pay 10 times the normal price for a bottle of water, but its obvious and easy to avoid.
both vietnam and thailand are beautiful countries that offer a lot - nature, beaches, culture, history, great food, lovely people, beautiful sceneries. you should choose to visit the country you are more attracted to.
Jul 23, 2013 9:32 AM
6No one will expect you to speak a word of Vietnamese. English (and lately Mandarin) is the language of tourism throughout most of SE Asia, but of course it doesn't hurt to learn a few common words and show respect. In order to enjoy yourself it's necessary to lighten up not worry too much while keeping your guard up a little. Also don't be too tight-fisted. Many complaints seem to arise after someone has sought out the cheapest rock-bottom price tour and then been disappointed with the result. Pictures of sleek white new buses and boats are often false advertising, but not considered in any way "illegal" in this neck of the woods. Sometimes it's worth paying a little more to get something decent. If something feels scammy feel free to back out, but once you've paid there's usually no such thing as a refund. Ask other travelers along the way their experiences and always shop around a bit to make sure you're getting a square deal. In other words use common sense, more so than at home even ;-)
Thailand is many ways a softer landing but hey there are scams here too, especially in Bangkok and the top-spot tourist beaches like Phuket. Up north is IMO much gentler, easier and cheaper. Reasons why I live here now. ;-) Happy travels.
Jul 23, 2013 9:43 AM
7Yes learning a few words is a great idea and the people really do appreciate it and will have fits of giggles at your pronounciation, Vietnamese is a difficult tonal language so they won't expect to speak it. Many can speak some English. Many scams are in the guidebooks, just watch taxi drivers who want to take you to a different Hotel etc. Most people in Vietnam are very friendly away from the tourist racket.
Jul 23, 2013 10:04 AM
Jul 23, 2013 11:34 AM
9Read this 2 months old blog
Jul 23, 2013 9:27 PM
10Vietnam will probably give you more of an adventure than Thailand. But it's tourism industry is a long way behind Thailand. If you accept that you probably will get scammed at some point, but take the attitude that worse things happen at sea, then you'll have a great experience. Whatever happens, you'll have plenty of stories! If you scroll down the Vietnam section, you'll see this was all discussed quite recently.
As regards passport as collateral, can't remember. I presume you are talking about staying n hotels/hostels. In the days before credit cards became the norm this was common practice all around the world. Personally, it doesn't bother me.
I prefer Vietnam, and think you'll have a more adventurous time there. But if you're of a nervous disposition, which some of our questions seem to suggest, then it may be better to g to Thailand.
Jul 26, 2013 1:28 AM
11I am from Canada, and live in Vietnam,
Thailand is way more westernized than Vietnam, westerners have been going there for decades, whereas they been coming here for just over 2 decades
over 95 % of our guests here have had a great holidays, very few have bad experiences...
there are some scam ,as said easily avoidable,
don't do cyclos in the 2 big cities, beware of taxicabs, but in all it is a great country ... or I'd be elsewhere
Stay away from the open bus tx, do each tx each leg at the time, this will give you flexibility to decide as you go ...
Enjoy the food !!
Jul 26, 2013 8:12 PM
12You will have such a wonderful time in Vietnam. Only Take Mailinh or Vinasun taxis (they will always use the meter). There are a million of them so you will never have to worry about finding one. Always ask the price for everything else first and if you don't like it , say no. That's all you have to do, just say no. I always use the internet to find places to stay with good reviews and then ask the staff for suggestions on places to eat, or how long a bus ride is or what prices you should pay for things. Vietnam is very safe and the only thing that will happen to you is that you will pay a few dollars more than the locals (but it will still be way less than you would pay at home). Just keep your valuables away from snatching hands, especially when walking around in crowded areas or where someone can drive by and snatch your phone or something out of your hand. Also keep a tight grip on valuables on buses and trains, especially overnight ones. Lock them up if you can. In Cambodia, just ignore the street children that beg, otherwise they will latch onto you and not let go. It's best not to condone this type of behavior as any money you give them is going to the person that's controlling them, not them. Always know that however long someone says a bus ride will be, it will probably be 30% longer. When you take other types of transportation confirm that the price is either for both of you or just one.
Sure there are scams but you are clearly doing research and that is exactly why people who get scammed have that happen, they just show up without looking anything up!. My boyfriend and I are in our 20's and just backpacked southeast asia for 4 months (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand) and never had a problem. Never had anything stolen or had a scary situation. You will be fine and have a special place in your heart for Vietnam, unquestionably. I much prefer it to Thailand as Thailand is very touristy and not as authentic (unless you get off the beaten path). Plus, Thailand is more expensive and Vietnamese people will be more interested in meeting you, especially those outside of Hanoi.
I stressed a bit before the trip and in the beginning as well but quickly relaxed and realized that it's just like any country in the world, people just living life with most of them having the best intentions. Have a wonderful time!
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