Health & safety
Back in the bad old days, Hanoi used to be the hardest place to travel in Vietnam, then in the late 1990s things improved massively. More recently it has become the capital of hotel and tour scams in Vietnam, so be sure to keep your antennae up. We have heard several substantiated reports of verbal aggression and physical violence towards tourists when deciding against a hotel room or tour. Stay calm and back away slowly or things could quickly flare up. Some Western women have been hassled by young men around town who follow them home, so it pays to hit the town in larger numbers. Walking alone in well-lit areas of the Old Quarter is usually safe, but stay alert in the darker streets, particularly in the early hours of the morning. When getting from one part of town to the other at night, particularly from late-night spots, it is more sensible for solo women, and even men, to take a metered taxi or xe om.
The biggest scams in town are inextricably linked. The taxi and minibus mafia at the airport shuttle unwitting tourists to the wrong hotel. Invariably, the hotel has appropriated the name of another popular property and will then attempt to appropriate as much of your money as possible.
Gay men should be aware of a scam going on around the Hoan Kiem Lake. It starts with a friendly stranger approaching a foreigner and suggesting a night out. This leads to a karaoke bar and a private room for a few drinks and some songs. The bill arrives and it’s miraculously US$100 or more. The situation deteriorates from here and ends in extortion. Be careful and follow your instincts. Subtle variations on this theme involving Western men and local women have been going on for years, and few ‘victims’ think of it as a scam.
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