As some of the comments and responses have indicated you get good an bad experiences in many countries depending who you travel with, how you react to things, and just the circumstances you end up in. If you do go, this is one place I found it was really good to splurge on accommodation if you wanted a break from backpacking…. As for the post itself, good that you speak your mind, but I hope others only treat it as one experience, which may be wildly different from the experience they have. My comments are from a trip inlate I think age, race, and appearance can definitely factor into how we are treated abroad.
And you make a good point that they may not have fond feelings for the West. While I really enjoyed the architecture and history of Istanbul, I hated just being there. It was all in attempts to get me into their establishment. Yelling at me that their restaurant was better than the one down the street, and pulling me into the cafe so I could look at the menu.
When we were lost, a nice older man came by and offered to help us find our way. Some of the people in the markets definitely tried ripping me off, and some of the men were straight-up harassing us—one guy working at a restaurant got very physically affectionate with me and it was not OK. Some of them were harmless and friendly, probably just really hurting for money.
But after a few days there I was dying to just walk down a street and not feel bombarded by people trying to get my money. Sorry this was so long…. Clearly it appears to be a glass case of emotions with all the responses, but Ill be sure to watch out for women who try pull sell me water bags without the lemon and sugar, international heads will roll. You have a bad experience and it clouds your perception of a place. A friend of mine complained about her time in Paris because everyone was rude.
And we all have our loves and hates in travel, but you seem to be painting Vietnam with a pretty broad brush. But if you went back, would you be able to go without any negative perceptions? Not sure if I ever will travel to Vietnam, though I would love to, but I imagine I would go gladly willing to spend all the money I could to a nation so ravaged in the past.
I imagine I would like feeling as if I am balancing out the world a bit. Then again, you may be just exactly right. Interesting post. If they treat me like dirt and try to rip me off, why should they be entitled to anything at ALL? The Vietnamese have every right to hate Americans. Who are you in your comfortable world to tell them how to behave now.
It is for sure Vietnamese, from youngsters to old veterans; do not have hard feeling to Westerners. The war ended 37 years ago. My father was Northern soldier and got wounded in the war. He sometimes also told us his post-war thought; there is no hateness to American.
I lived there 2 months, even fractured my forehead in a random bike accident. Everyone there was nothing but super nice. Most backpackers get used to Thailand and assume everyone is going to want to be there friend. I hope you give the country another shot with an open mind. Oh man, you described my experience to a T. Seriously, I have no idea why the people were so rude there.
They constantly tried to rip me off, laughed at me while doing it and some bastard even tried jumping my cab meter. Not to mention, the constant beeping and honking of a million motobikes drove me nearly insane. Needless to say, when I landed in Laos, it was like I was reborn. They say Vietnam is a country that you either hate or love. Like you, I definitely leaned towards the former.
We went to a restaurant and my two friends got a menu in English. My menu was in Vietnamese and the prices were markedly lower. We ordered our drinks from the Vietnamese menu and made sure the waiter knew about it. When we had finished our drinks, the tab came and of course it was with the English menu prices. We called the manager and a 15 minute argument ensued. In the end, we refused to pay the inflated prices, gave him the money and left the place pissed off.
Ruined what would have otherwise been a great afternoon. My first time in Vietnam was for a total of two months backpacking as part of greater Asia-Africa trip, traveling south to north, in ; amazing. No issues apart from constant demands from street beggars like India. Now, in , I revisited on an overland trip from Bangkok into central China, via Laos and the Bien Dien Phu route, and I still loved traveling Vietnam even thou I knew there were a few inflated prices …but no rudeness, quite the opposite.
But I have had negative experiences in Russia — drugged, robbed; Iraq — arrested as a spy; mugged in Brazil; YET these things never soured my outlook or experience of these countries. I love everywhere …. I totally disagree on the fact that Westerners, and Americans in particular, owe something to Vietnam. I tend to think that people enhance or ruin my experience while travelling around a country. I guess that at some point I just learnt to ignore them which is a shame I know but I felt that I had no option.
Just a perception. I might agree with you or not but I totally understand that what you write is based on subjective info. So… Thanks! My wife and I spent 3 weeks in northern and sother vietnam and had a great time. Loved the vibrant 24 hour street culture, bia hoi beers on the street, and amazing kayaking ih hailong bay. I first went to Saigon in — just after it opened — before there was free travel within the country which is why I never got permits to leave HCM and when there was no Lonely Planet! In I went back. We stayed in local hotels — often with locals, caught local buses generally — we got the normal bargaining of course — but nothing worse than anywhere else in SEA.
We did once get a backpackers bus from HCM to Mui Nee — we had booked a hotel which we knew was in to the south of the town. To my amazement out of 40 odd backpackers on the bus only us and one other couple got off. The tout tried to tell us there were no taxis in town — I just laughed at him it was the middle of the day — I could see traffic.
I thought we would start a charge off the bus — but all the others just sat there waiting to be taken to a no doubt over-priced hotel! The so-called independent travellers were more passive than your average bus tour! There does seem to be quite a disparity- I met people who loved it and people who hated it.
I was not such a big fan of Vietnam. It was too touristed on the main routes and met more than my share of rude people along the way. I had a local rip up money and throw it at me on the train which was probably the most insulting. I also had a lady in a grocery store give me candy instead of change. I absolutely loved Sapa and the smaller towns like Dalat. I found for the most part that the people working in hotels were really friendly and gave great service. I do sympathise with everything you said, and could see how it would all get a person down.
But despite it all, Vietnam is my favourite place in the world, and I go back again and again. A word on the candy instead of change: incredibly annoying and presumptuous as it is, it happens to everyone, not just foreign tourists — traders especially those that belong to companies and chains are trying all on their own to phase out using notes under 5, dong.
But it drives Vietnamese people crazy too. Sellers are pushy, walking around is not a pleasant experience with the trafic and constant motobike offers. Shopping is IMO very boring, the few malls are dull, the markets I went to were disgusting. IMO Thailand and Malaysia have much more to offer, with less hassle.
My number one personal complain about Vietnam is really how dull it is. I have just returned from one and a half months in Vietnam and had the same experience as Matt but worse, despite meeting, mixing and dining with some of the local people. When I was with a Vietnamese I was treated as a curiosity and never ripped off. However when I was on my own it was a nightmare, I was stalked, stolen from, laughed at by rude police, and hotel staff.
I felt terribly unsafe.
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The experience has nothing to do with whether you are nice or not. Vietnamese generally, are rude and aggressive, even the expats who love the place admit this dire quality of the people. And they do not believe in any kind of decent service in return to be paid. And those from the US, I met many Vietnamese from the South who had fond memories of Americans soldiers who often fed them and took the children on boat rides and attempted to protect them from the Communists, they were grateful. It is a complex country with a complex history. I attempted to understand the culture, but the people made my journey unenjoyable.
I met 45 travelers including myself who were stolen from and mugged. Crime is increasing there and I would appreciate knowing where people can complain, travelers seem to simply walk away after being treated so badly but I think travelers need to demand more in this case. My journey was the trip from hell and it was the people who made it so. Of course it happens elsewhere but not to the extent I witnessed in Vietnam. The Balinese were advised to improve their attitude and they did. I feel the same way about Bolivia as you do Vietnam. I also had a string of bad circumstances happen in Bolivia that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Everyone has their country they hate… right now mine is Bolivia, yours is Vietnam. To each their own.
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I spent three weeks backpacking in Vietnam this summer and had an amazing time. Although I was scammed a couple of times and experienced occasional hostility, most people were incredibly welcoming and hospitable. And in my opinion the sites, culture and beauty of Vietnam made up for any rare unkindness. To be honest I found some of the other tourists to be more unpleasant.
I guess sometimes you get lucky. We can totally relate! Vietnam was the most frustrating place we visited during our trip around the world. Fortunately I guess we met a fun group of travelers to spend our month in Vietnam with which made it fun and easier to watch out for one another. An odd discrepancy I noticed was that the people who have no stake in you are friendly and eager to help you out this happened all the time when my motorbike broke down in the countryside whereas the people who deal regularly with tourists tour operators, guesthouse owners, vendors etc.
Incidentally, I wrote about all this on my blog, which was eventually discovered by an expat in Hanoi who blew his top off and rounded up all his Twitter buddies for an online attack. It was hilarious. Expats are so touchy. Anyway, their neighbours the Cambodians are much friendlier and frankly Cambodia is more interesting anyway. Never made it to laos, but I hear good things. I went to Nam back in 04 for the first time since I was 2 yrs old back in As we shopped in Saigon, the vendors did their best to grab my attention and pull me away from my family.
The street beggars stalked me constantly and accosted me when I was alone. At Vung Tau Beach, street vendors ruined our picnic by pleading with me to buy their stuff the entire time we were there. Despite these incidents, I had a great time because my mom haggled for me when I wanted to buy something. She made sure I got the correct change although I tipped big everytime. She showed me where to go and where not to go to ensure I had a great time all the time. Hope you have a better experience next time…..
Peace bro. Ive been to Vietnam and loved it…what did you expect? There are prices for locals and prices for tourists.. Otherwise none of us would bother travelling…. I expect and have no problem paying the tourist price. What bothered me was the attitude and overall unpleasant experience. I went to China directly after Vietnam and found the average Chinese person to be way, way friendlier than the average Vietnamese person.
The current gvt. They might be laughing about your big nose, height, bald spot, etc. Generally speaking, Southerners are more friendlier than Northerners. The south has more animosity towards the north because of what happened after the unification and how people were treated, not because of American abandonment. Get over your selves. Business people are generally rude and the locals know this. There are currently a lot of scams that are NOT run by Vnamese but by people from other countries, on tourists.
Most of these criminals are from the Philipines, China, Nigeria, etc,. The Vietnamese scams are more low level street peddler stuff and rigged taxi meters. Here, you have to be a complete idiot to not get on friendly terms with your neighbors. And I will go out of my way and say that this is generally what happens all over the world.
Give it another chance. How many tourists actually meet real Vietnamese citizens — damn few. Most travelers are only in contact with hotel and travel people when they tour the country. I have made several very good friends in the north of the country mostly Hanoi , and I go back to see these friends and to make new friends there. Vietnam is the real thing, but too many travelers want Disneyland! What a joke! Yes, everyone should speak English for your convenience Einstein. Then to hear people bitch and moan about trivial things like getting your 2 cents returned in candies is utterly asinine.
So for this author to believe what a backpacker has to say about how Vietnamese people teach their children is borderline insane. I was just going on what an expat who had lived their for 10 years told me. In fact, my beef with Vietnam has nothing to do with colonialism. It was about the poor attitude I saw while there.
Would you? It if difficult to be treated fair for foreigners in Vietnam, especially white people. However, It may happen the same for Vietnamese. Some Vietnamese people don't have a good awareness about the way they treat tourist. Obviously, the lost their long-term customer. I agree that while the risks, like those mentioned in this article, are greater, I think the rewards are as well. Yes, I was ripped off, too. Literally, a xe om driver took the money from my hands. I was overcharged. I met some hostile children.
I was laughed at by strangers and I laughed with them. But a stranger on a bus also bought tea for me and a woman on a train gave me food. I met a guy at a cafe. After we talked for two hours, he paid for my coffee and gave me a ride across town for nothing, even after I offered. And I could go on about all the Vietnamese I met and who I will remember for nothing more than their curiosity and kindness. I think it helped that the sentiments were often mutual. I have visited many countries in Asia and I have to say that Vietnam was my favorite!
I found the locals to be extremely friendly and helpful. I will say that I too was ripped off by street vendors and such, but I guess that is something that I was used to as I had previously lived in Thailand for almost three years. I out of all the countries I visited in SEA! Cambodia stood out the most! I can spend a whole month there and not get bored! But I ventured mostly off the beaten path. I think most idyllic places that get overrun by tourism tend to be more of a pain to travel to, and require more vigilance, especially in the tourist areas.
I also believe that you reap what you sow. For years I have been dismayed to see travelers go through countries in SE Asia and totally disrespect the culture. Anyone who has been there knows what I mean. We have, for better or worse, changed these cultures by our very presence. I only wonder how much longer that is going to last. Interesting article.
As a former backpacker and now running a tour operator I have also noticed the odd difference in experinces between the budget and more upmarket travellers. As Matt says those travelling in a more organised manner definitely seem to have a better time. However bear mind that backpackers are regarded wth much suspicion throughout the region. Perhaps Vietnamese are just more overtly rude to those they consider cheap.
Bad move as in the long run many of our clients are grown up backpackers looking to return inn more stlye. I spent three weeks in Vietnam in and enjoyed myself, though on every bus I took I had to fight to pay something akin to what the locals were paying. I was warned about this before going, and so watched what others were paying, and then handed over the same. It always worked. I actually traveled to Vietnam for the first time last June and spent a month there. I experienced many of the negatives you mentioned, whether I was thought to be a local or acknowledged to be a foreigner usually happened as soon as opened my mouth and uttered my broken Vietnamese.
The mentality of many of the locals seem to be that the world is a dog-eat-dog kind of world. Locals from different regions of Vietnam are known for different temperaments. The northerners are described as mean, hardworking, and smart. The southerners are described as more laid-back, lazy, and go with the flow. Although I had my share of run-ins with rude, pushy, scamming, etc. Glad I chanced upon your site!
This is my exact same sentiment as well. I had a few nasty experiences in Vietnam and it so tainted my view of the country that I vowed never to go back there again. I was harassed by a tutu driver who, despite my repeated refusals, kept following me around. Finally I pitied him and gave in. I refused and he got aggressive and threatened to wait at the lobby of my apartment. High-end or backpackers will face the same issue … the only difference is that the high-end travellers wont quibble about being overcharged.
Like any path one takes, YYMV on any travelling experience. I spent a month there in and loved everything about it: the people, the food, the vibe… so much that I would live in Hanoi tomorrow. And I did NOT travel in luxury!! Just one more point: being ripped off is part of travel. India, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. And hoping that all the bad things never happened to me…. I had an awesome time in Vietnam, but I think maybe it was because I knew ahead of time they were going to try and overcharged. He wouldnt give me my change back. After 5 minutes of constant voice raising he finally gave in.
Only bad experience of the trip. Sucks you had a bad time in Vietnam! See Thailand is one of my favorite places. In my travels, I have met so many Americans who hate most Americans. Why is that? Look on the bright side of life! I too had a bad experience as Nomadic Matt had in Vietnam… I just got back from Vietnam less then a week ago. I a Korean-American had traveled there with my wife Taiwanese and her friends a group of 12 Taiwanese. I am not a stuck up person either and I have also traveled else where in Asia but this type of experience is a first.
Just the look in peoples eyes just seem scheming like they are out to rob you. Even the service at the Intercontinental in Hanoi Westlake was mediocre. I was staying on the first floor and the cleaning people decide to leave my balcony door unlocked and shades open for all to see my luggage and belongings. At the airport departing, the ticket counter lady would not let one of our tour group members to fly back to Taiwan, even though he carries a Taiwanese passport and 4 days prior flew in from Taiwan. Only after 2 hours of arguing they allowed him to get his ticket.
Everything is so corrupt there… I was so turned off to this country. I have traveled to Shenzhen, China many times for business and when that gig was up I vowed never to go back to there, but after Vietnam and dealing with the people… Shenzhen and the people there seem to be more civilized and warm. Hallo, your comment is an absolute truth that so many people here in Vietnam cannot speak out of a polite courtesy. It should be repeated over and over and over again until this bad reputation spreads and influences tourism in this country.
I have been working here for over a year and even some of my students would suddenly bring out a obsessive underlying idea : that we should give them everything!!! Vietnamese culture has become a poor leftover of what it could have been. Take a motorbike for speeding and not caring about traffic rules, icecream and superficial window shopping and consuming. Moral values have thinned from its original Confucian core.
Add an extremely bad social infrastructure and non-transparent government. Instead of sharpening their critical thinking about their own country, Vietnamese evade thinking by cheating non-Viets and racing through the traffic. It is a very sad state of affairs. The place that you seem to like most. I was totally ripped off. Cab drivers will charge me an outrages fee, not at all going by the cab meters. One cab driver even wanted after more after we had negotiated a price! But you know what, it is a poor country, so I let things slide. But I suppose no one likes to be looked upon on as a walking ATM and definitely no one likes to be ripped off no matter where they are.
Communism causes the people to do those type of things. I went to Vietnam last year, and you would think that they would treat me better because of an ethnicity similarity, but absolutely not. Jealousy and distrust are the key traits. What a corrupt system! I may be too young to understand everything, but I do know about the war in that caused my mother country to be this way.
Just got a bad experience again and still trying to recover from it. Boy I miss Thailand and Laos badly. Of course tourists get ripped of in those places as well, but at least they do it with a smile! I just spent 6 weeks in India and had a very similar experience. Sure, I had a few good interactions, which I appreciated immensely, but sadly these were quite rare. The people always make or break a place and shape our interactions. Matt, Bummer about your experience. I ate inexpensively and got help when needed.
He walked off without asking for a thing. I did get the hang of crossing by the next morning. Asian countries , I plan to return to Vietnam. John R. Man, so you got ripped off dollars. I think the people that travel Vietnam need to stay longer. Once, you live there longer, you know their rules.
You start to hustle. For instance, if you showed up to a restaurant and they charge you more, so be it. The next few times, go back and bargain with them. Say you charged that person less and you charged me more. Are you kidding me??!!! Also, reality check for people. After traveling to other countries, you will surely find out you got it made in America or England. My wife and I just got back from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and we agree that Vietnam was our least favourite country to visit.
Compared to Thailand and Cambodia, people in Vietnam just tended to be less friendly and in some cases downright rude. The vendors, taxis and tuk tuk drivers were in many cases demanding or expecting tips, or obviously trying to rip us off — which is very off-putting. We did encounter some wonderful people too, but it was very hit and miss — whereas in Thailand in Cambodia it was almost entirely positive. So your point about catering to affluent travelers rings true as well.
I had a terrible experience in Vietnam, but I have wanted to return in order to try and rectify the experience. Now I am questioning whether it is worth it. I was in Ho Chi Minh volunteering with orphaned disabled children — many disabilities that are a direct result of the war. That experience was completely wonderful! I do not regret that time for a second and those children really touched my life. But, during our day tour of the city, my expensive DSLR and brand new lens was ripped right from my hands by 2 men on a motorbike.
They created a distraction by pretending to run into me. You never think that could happen to you, but it did and it was quite traumatizing… not the material aspect, but the fact that someone could look you in the eyes and violate you. It was hard to get over and during my time in India, I hardly wanted to pull my camera out. I found many Vietnamese people to be sweet and friendly. It was just this one experience, which really could happen anywhere, that tainted my view entirely. I recently travel to New York and was robbed at gunpoint in a public restroom while 20 cops were walking outside central station.
In Chicago, I got lost in a bad neighborhood and again was robbed at gun point. So lighten up and do not paint the whole country in a single brush! Just wow. I never knew thinking people in location X are rude makes you a racist. Are the people who say that racist too? We will get a good laugh out of it. Thank you for exactly putting into words what I am experiencing here…was talking about it last night even. I can see why Vietnamese people dislike Westerners. You are obviously too young to remember the Vietnam War, which the Vietnamese people call the American War, but hey, it was a totally disgusting war, which, in the end, the West did not win.
Villages were bombed and totally destroyed. Children died, screaming in terror. Give your head a shake! And maybe you are right that that horrible history makes them behave like that to tourists and give tourists a feeling of unwelcomeness. I am not arguing if they are right or wrong to behave like this, but I do think you agree that I personally have nothing to do with that history. There are lots of good people in Vietnam. Probably you need to get away from the tourist areas to see it. I have to say that for somebody that has travelled so much, you are very ignorant.
Having travelled extesnively and lived within SE Asia, I think your comments are representative of many backpackers who think that they deserve better than the locals. When you were in Vietnam, did you not notice the conditions that many locals live in? And overcharging is not limited to Vietnam… the only difference is that people in Thailand do exactly the same thing but with a smile on their face. I guess that makes you feel a lot better. An additional point is that Vietnam has not long been open to the western world.
As a result, the level of English is extremely low in most places in Vietnam. So quite often the language barrier makes it difficult to embrace the people and their ways of life. I hope that you will realise how ignorant you are in the future. Vietnam is an inspirational country where people have suffered so much in the past, and yet they just get on with life without complaining. I for one hope that other travellers ignore your advice and go see Vietnam for themselves!!
I will never return to this boring country ever again! I find Cambodia and Laos much more friendlier and interesting than Vietnam! The beaches and Islands in Cambodia are way more superior than Vietnam beaches! We are 31 hours until we leave Vietnam after having spent 2 weeks here and it cant come soon enough….
Dont get me wrong, there have been some lovely and helpful people we have met along the way mostly the guesthouse owners , but nowhere else in SE Asia have we been so consistently the target of racism and money grabbing. I cannot shake the feeling that all they see when we walk down the street are a pair of dollar signs.
Every time we see a newly arrived tourist falling for one of the very common scams we sigh because it just means that the locals are more and more likely to continue to scam and the few honest ones struggle to get along. Now dont get me started on the constant hassle from touts…. I mean compare Vietnam to like say Thailand, Malaysia, or even Cambodia it just pales in comparison! I know people who spent a month in Vietnam. But for me days is enough! Saigon and Hanoi are a shithole! Nothing to do! Wow, sounds like some of you really had a bad time in Vietnam.
But keeping an open mind is part of the main point of travel. I know I will still go back to China because the positive things to see, do, and eat outweigh the bad which is a matter of opinion. What I find most interesting is the sheer number of people who were positive about Vietnam. I have been living in the north for about 1 year. I can assure you all that the people who either sell stuff or business owners are rotten human beings. Example; you eat a cheapo lunch for 50, vnd and you give your server a 20, vnd tip they must give it to the owner or they will be fired.
The average working citizens are great people with 3rd world country ignorances. Such as; not allowing you off the elevator only to push their way in in.. Cutting in front of everyone in line, speaking much to loudly, public urination, public nose picking and my favorite is never be honest about anything. Other than those things, these people rock!!!! Interesting post indeed. I was getting good tips from ur blog to prepare my grand travel when I come across the post that totally discourages the travel to my own country hahah.
This post actually made me laugh so much since it answered some questions I used to have. I always wondered if the tourists knew and felt annoyed when they were ripped off or followed by curious locals because most of them seemed pretty calmed or rather had fun with it. Well, I see now you and many other were aware of it, somehow annoyed but accepted the bad side of travelling to another country. It got me laughed again when at some point you said you were looked down on and not treated as a person. Well, you are treated as a rich foreigner who will be willing to pay, or a walking wallet as someone call it.
Now I wonder if I would feel better if they ever think of me as a walking wallet. Or you would feel better if they just make you invisible :. We had a history with French and American, and we learn in school about the wars and such. With all that said, I am so sorry to hear about your bad experience and hope you would give my country a second thought.
Next time if ever find a Vietnamese friend with a clever mouth to get you through the hassle, you may find it a totally different experience! I found the people to be some of the most friendly I have encountered in the world. Smiles, kindness, helpful, honest, wonderful people. This is codified when I fell terrible ill in Nha Trang and was unable to leave my room for three days. The night security guard was the only employee of the hotel that spoke English. He came in early, fetched me food, water, and medicine.
Checked on me every hours for three days! People are just trying to get the highest value for their goods or services. If you felt ripped off, be mad at yourself, not anyone else. I also find it true that people are seldom objective. I have had both positive and negative experiences on every trip I have taken. I just chose to focus on the good parts. This is a bit worrying, as I was planning to go backpacking in Vietnam for my honeymoon in January.
We found Cambodia and Laos wonderful and the people to be so friendly. We have been backpackers in many places around the world over the last 10 years and Vietnam is the one and only place we would not return to for love nor money. We spent much of our time completely off the beaten track in Vietnam too.
This is just one of the many stories that reminds me why I would never, ever visit again. I have several friends who have visited Vietnam and enjoyed it, but they knew people there, so it would have been a completely different experience for them. I enjoyed reading this and getting a different perspective.
These are mostly merchants in the city, hustling to win their daily bread, and in the process of all that, they become almost vile, heartless. It really comes down to how well one can deal with that kind of stress and either be able to ignore it, and go on, or leave and not have to feel the anger again. I guess Vietnam seems to be polarizing the travellers. Many love it and a few hate it. I had been living in Vietnam and I never had problems. Too me the people were utmost friendly, funny and honest.
I rode my little motorbike all across the country and I was always welcome, received great support and felt that people appreciated that I tried to explore their country. Prices are occasionally subject to change depending on whether the vendor likes you or not. But that happens to Vietnamese folks as well. Matt, I had the same experiences like what you wrote about. North Vietnam was not good to me. I felt better in S. Vietnam but then again, I contracted the swine flu in Mekong Delta. This year I found my father and went to Saigon for 2 months just returned a few days ago to meet my relatives.
I was always with an English speaking relative when I went out, and so was not ripped off. I almost forgot about the terrible experience back in Despite this and my relatives requests for me to live and work in Vietnam, I knew Vietnam is not for me. The last 10 days I went out by myself and suddenly felt very…. The staring, the laughing, talking behind ones back. By this point I knew the correct price and could speak and understand back in which at that time was ziltch.
For those that tell Matt to get an open mind…seriously?? I prefer to read a blog or talk to someone who is real—sharing the good, bad, and ugly. Thanks Matt. Do you ever volunteer while traveling? You can check out the vid hopefully next month. I think, that many westerners forgot how to be tough! That is not necessary often, but sometimes, to keep my self respect up, I do it.
Also if I would see, that the lady is not mixing the drink properly I would tell her to do it right or just walk away. And I never pay before I got what I have. Sometimes I also just help myself, if someone pretends to be stupid. Plus, everywhere in Asia, use the power of the smile. If you smile to someone while buying or doing whatever else that reduces the probability of getting cheated somehow … But most of the time everything just goes fine. Cheers from Claudio. I moved to Vietnam 2 months ago and will probably stay out my year contract but NEVER have I been faced with such incredible rudeness in Asia and I have been living in Asia for nineteen years.
Just today I went to a shop to but some simple things and the woman barked the price at me. I have been studying Vietnamese for about an hour a day but it will take time…anyway, I smiled and mimed that she write the price on paper—she rolled her eyes then spat on the floor. Needless to say I walked out. Was laughed at and shouted at on the street and then robbed by my hotel employees. I should say hi first, right? Well,that s why the teenagers like us have to learn and rebuilt it someday…. I promise to be your guide whenever you go and wherever i know nice day, my sweetiest blesses.
9 All-Too Convincing Reasons to Teach English in Vietnam ASAP
I was just having a bad day—everyone was being rude to me. Anyway, good luck. If anyone is going to take Vietnam safely and smoothly into the twenty first century it will be people like you. You have my admiration and good wishes. Any ways,thanks 4 your support nice day!.. Look, these are poor countries and of course the westerners have more money than they do. Consequently many people will try to overcharge you in all these countries except for Singapore which is modern, affluent and super expensive. But without a doubt the Vietnamese are just plain rude and nasty people.
They go out of their way to lie, cheat and steal. It really has nothing to offer compared to the countries so why bother? I lived in Vietnam for 4 long years and had a job making good money but the hassle was not worth it. It is corrupt from top to bottom. They are dirty, rude and vicious people.
The men will target women and steal from them and assault them. I have seen a big VN man punch and kick a tiny girl about 80 pounds. I have been ripped off twice for my rental deposits. I have seen numerous VN people make rude, racist comments to VN girls with foreign men. They hate people with dark skin and will make loud remarks about it.
They would rather lie, cheat and steal than work. I am just giving you the tip if the iceberg here. The overcharging is the least of the problems here. An elderly couple from Australia told me that a taxi driver grabbed their wallet and threw them out of the care and drove off. A female friend who is lawyer was punched in the face by a taxi driver.
The people here are cowards. They only pick on single women, the elderly or the weak. It is a police state in Vietnam and the police are corrupt. Everyone must register with the police. I do not drink, do drugs nor was their a prostitute or anyone else for that matter in my room. I was alone and trying to get a good nights sleep because i had to work in the morning. It was a shakedown procedure which is common here. I will stop now because there is just too much to write and it only gets my blood boiling to think of that evil place!
I agree. Though Vietnam is a beautiful place, we were ripped off too. They ask more money. They increased their prices for us. We are Filipino backpackers but still they ripped us off. Street vendors, souvenir sellers, and motorcycle drivers. I has so many similar experiences in Vietnam! Overall I found it exhausting to deal with the hassling, cheating etc. I am not talking about having to bargain a price down before buying. What I have found to be a pattern is those who went to Cambodia first were less impressed with Vietnam, and vice versa.
Not sure if I would return, maybe. The coffee was outstanding and I met a lot of wonderful Vietnamese people who ran cafes and the like. I feel the same about Taiwan, never again. I have found that talking to people the consensus on Vietnam is always very back and white. Kind of makes me not want to go… adly enough to say. Vietnam may be not good, but there r good people too.
Vietnam just beautiful the way it is and if you just want to see without discovering,only see what your eyes can show you,then dont come to Vietnam anymore. If come and be back with such an unhappy feeling,then you should stay home,try to see the beauty around you,or else,anything is just a waste im a Vietnamese.
This post is for mr been there done that, know it all, Jason T. Secondly, seem to me that you spent a lot of time there in Vietnam, a place you furiously dislike so much. Reading your comments, i can see why you feel the way you feel. Having an outlook like yours and still wandering around will land you in the hospital someday.
Atleast that is what i would have done if someone lookdown on me. And as for your bad mouthing, there is no cure, what a waist. Matt, you obviouly have interacted with lots of Vietnamese; you have Vietnamese friends back home. What you experienced in Vietnam, unfortunately, is fairly common; may not be to the extreme as you described. In a way, it is how things are done overthere. I can assure you that you are not being singled out. Be open minded and take it with a grain of salt, you will have blast. Keep in mind, Vietnam is far from being a developed and civilized country like the US; She is changing rappidly everyday as the economy getting stronger and quality of life improves.
Vietnamese are born fighters and fast learners, they will do what it takes to better the country. So Matt when you do decide to revisit, you will have a more enjoyable time. Went to South East Asia with a tour and Vietnam was also my least favorite. It is an interesting country though but I kept asking myself what I was doing there. Cambodia, Laos and Thailand were a blast though!! OMG, your article on Vietnam are so true. I am fluent both in reading and writing Vietnamese. I had an especially terrible time in Hue — cheating, lying, scamming, etc….
I vouch to never come back to Vietnam too as I was having such a terrible time. I have lived in Nha Trang, Vietnam for awhile now. My best advice for not getting ripped off is by getting out of the toursit areas. If you mix with the locals in local places away from tourist districts you will be treated kindly and probably never get ripped off.
The people here are lovely to me, they are kind and funny. If you want the best food at ridicously low prices go to the local places. That can be scary for many people to step out their comfort zone like that and go into places that probably has never had a white person eaten there. The locals love it, you are still a thing of curiosity in most places in Vietnam.
They have the best food in the world, hands down amazing. Vietnam is also extremely safe, I would walk anywhere anytime of the day or night. Watch out in the toursit areas because they will steal your phone or purse in a heartbeat. Anything in this country that is not nailed down is as good as gone. My dad was hit by a car when visiting Vietnam just by himself last week and his state is very critical. We have for days tried to get him transferred to Bangkok for a better hospital, but the greedy, inhumane hospital is ripping my mum off and are refusing to let SOS International transfer dad to Bangkok.
So sorry Helen. The hospitals in Vietnam are not good. You are right to get him to Bangkok asap. Try calling your consulate in HCMC. As for Laos…. Being Vietnamese-Canadian, and having visited the country 15 times prior, I can tell you I completely understand where you are coming from. Being born there did not prevent me from being scammed and I speak the language! Are the people hardened due to past atrocities? Good job on your article. You walked a delicate line and managed to get across! Hi Jade, thanks for commenting! Your insight as a Vietnamese-Canadian is fascinating.
Paying for motorbike parking is standard practice in Vietnam. Without them your motorbike could be gone by the time you get back. The attendant tried to charge us. In the second case, we were at a cable car and the parking attendant wrote on the ticket and tried to double the stated fare. In the third case, a child tried to extort us for parking on a public street. And perhaps that sign is only applicable to actual customers of the aquarium? Perhaps you needed to get parking validated at the ticket office? Who knows?
Can I ask you a serious question? I accept that sometimes people mistakenly believe they are being scammed. Can you accept that sometimes they legitimately are scammed? In the first case, we were customers of the aquarium! The sign was extremely clear that there was a charge for cars, but motorcycles were free. In the second case, I made sure when we went in to buy our tickets for the cable car to ask the employee how much the parking should be. She named the price printed on the tickets, not the one penciled in by the attendant.
This is not one of them. Ergo, these are scams, even if they are small ones. I help when I can and when I want to. Not when someone cheats me. What I experienced there struck a chord with me. I should know a thing or two. Now regarding parking ticket, parking at coffee shops, restaurants and a very few other locations are free.
Yes, most of them are scams. People bribe the local police to set up shops, parking lots, etc in public places, and you can either find an unclaimed spot and risk your bike or just pay what? And parking lot signs are more of a… lax guidelines. Some are there because people are to lazy to change them or take them down. These things happen. To everyone. A lot of those people that you deal with on the street are poor, beaten down by the corrupt system, and ill-educated. People try to scam me a lot. Cutthroat pricing, counterfeit goods and everything. Not trying to defend Vietnam or discredit your point of view.
For example : I was eating out at a food stall on the side walk only just a couple of months ago ordering the same dish as the guy at the next table, when the bill came it was almost twice the price for me simply because they can work out from my accent that I am an overseas Vietnamese. Moved into a new place in HCM city went shopping with my Aunty a local just 2 wks ago, bought some laundry baskets, my Aunty managed to haggle to half the original price, I was so shock haggling was never an issue in Australia.
I mean I am completely shocked. Being here for 5 yrs I must admit this is only a very minor issue amongst the many thousand of issues I had to deal with on a daily basis. I constantly complain to my local friends and relos and was told that it has long become a culture soon after the war ended, life was too tough and people would do anything to make sure that they will make ends meet. Even if it means that they will have to rip others off. Becoming a culture? For those of you who think that somebody GOV should do something to better lift the reputation and the image of the tourism industry in Vietnam.
Rest assured that it is only a very flimsy wish. I am sadden but not supprized of such low return rate cause I myself despite my connection and how proud I am being of Vietnamese origin. If I must choose then surely Vietnam will not be on my much preferred list. I feel really sad having came across so many blogs which has more negative things to say about Vietnam.
Thanks for your interesting perspective. I was quite surprised that in Vietnam our feeble attempts to bargain the way we would in other Southeast Asian countries was totally rebuffed. I assumed it was because they thought we deserved the ridiculously inflated prices they were quoting! I completely understand how you feel as I myself despite being of Vietnamese origin, I constantly have to deal with such nonsense on a daily basis, ridiculously inflated prices, 1 meter of fabric turns out to be 0. What i find rather annoying is the lack of respect for others being locals or foreigners.
My advice to you guys is to always half the going price when you haggle especially when you shop at the markets and sidewalk stalls, otherwise please shop at the supermakets where prices are marked and there is no need for haggling. Surely you will get to see the positive sides of the country. You have such a nice shot at Vietnam. Unfortunately for now, the government is still promoting it that way, leaving travellers to believe that they are more than welcome!
Beautiful country to visit but based on what you have said I do not think that I would like to go there for a vacation. So… my advice is to try and stick to highly reputable bus companies. I recommend patronizing branded chain stores, eating at the malls, etc. I like your pictures, but I was curious bout the mode of transport that you were using as you relaxed with your laptop. Hi Jenny, good question. I felt comfortable showing my laptop as I was on a relatively short bus ride about five hours! If I was planning on sleeping or was traveling alone I would never flash something so valuable!
All I can say is that we as Americans need to open our eyes to the beauty that we have in this country. If you take a small pole you will find that the majority of Americans do not know or have not visited many of the beautiful sites in their homeland. Its time we begin to appreciate what we have.
I love the theme of your website and the play with the Alex Alice in Wonderland. I am not into Vietnam even though the photos are very good. Great post. I too have read a lot of bloggers disappointed travel account of their time in Vietnam. Do you ever couchsurf? Vicky I would never tell anyone not to go to Vietnam. Beautiful country but in my experience there is some serious hard work involved. So now for the bad news: Vietnam is not the best place to Couchsurf. The country is still communist and legally locals cannot host foreigners in a private residence without permission and permits from the government.
Cambodia and Thailand are much better bets for Couchsurfing! Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Chiang Mai have particularly active communities. Thanks for the quick reply. It will definitely give you great insight to travel that way! Mark, my ex, was very involved in the couchsurfing community so I learned a lot about it through him.
I try my best to avoid them. Unfortunately, as travelers, these things have to happen sometimes. I always get a mixed view of Vietnam. Ideally, I would hope to embrace the challenges and find good in the land. Interesting post. Vietnam is a tough place. I will try anew to have a better one the next time around!
What I would like to know is where in Vietnam did you visit to have witnessed the shocking everyday violence, the knife-wielding maniac and those women routinely being kicked, hit and beaten? Chased by a knife-wielding manic. What did you do? Seemed to have left out quite a bit of information because I highly doubt that all this happened to you and your boyfriend because you were simply foreigners.
Potential travelers to Vietnam listen: Will you be ripped off during your visit? Count on it. Will you experience rudeness? Be stared at? Your personal space violated? But please if you do decide to go there, have an open mind. To anywhere. You travel to experience the different. Hi Ryan, thanks for chiming in with your experience!
Vietnam brings out a lot of emotions in people. I struggled with sharing my negative experiences because I would never want to discourage anyone from checking it out for themselves. Glad you had a positive experience, I hope to have one when I return! Mine was completely the opposite. And I found the people reserved but extremely friendly, especially outside the main tourist areas.
To be fair, I might get a bit grumpy too if I constantly had foreign tourists gawking at me while I was going about my daily routine! I wrote a review on TA about Vietnam not long after I returned home in Rather than repeat it all here, I would encourage people to click through on the following link, just for another perspective. Hi Jasmine, thanks for sharing your perspective! You know, like I said in the title of this post… Vietnam is a place you either love or hate. From talking to hundreds of backpackers while working on Koh Tao I determined Vietnam is one of the most divisive destinations in the world!
Of course I had encounters with absolutely lovely people, but they were overshadowed by negative ones. However, I would never say that my experience was overall negative. I saw beautiful places and had wonderful adventures, and I would recommend everyone to go themselves… and I would even return myself someday.
That is the measure of a true traveller… I had a similar experience with Cambodia. But, also like you, I would go back in a heartbeat. Thailand was by far the easiest of the three as a tourist and exceedingly beautiful and friendly. It was so different from anywhere else and it was such a challenge, that it really grabbed me.
Still, if we all liked the same things, what a boring lot we would be. Really enjoy it! Anyway im a Vietnamese born in the Netherlands. Thanks Pham! I hope to return again someday because you are right… its a stunning country. I am a Vietnamese-American, and I have to admit your post is very interesting and you definitely have some good points in it. I have been away from Vietnam for almost 20 years, and have been back only once more than 10 years ago due to many reasons, but mainly budget constraint. I still keep in touch with my friends, and keep up with how things are back there.
I would have no reservation to volunteer being your witness if you have to testify your stories in court. However, please allow me to offer a little view from the angle of a native Vietnamese with some limited understanding of American culture. The war ended in , then come the isolation of the country by its government itself together with the sanction by the US. Sounded like a long time since the war ended, but really, it has been only a little more than 15 years since it had the opportunity to interact with the world.
Yes, there are large number of people are still dirt poor, and willing to do anything, I mean anything, just to get enough food to eat. For my next point, I want to ask if you had any Vietnamese translator with you I mean human translator, not google translate even though i adore google translate during those bad experiences? Did you and do you now really understand what was really going on? Very likely you were the first lucky person the seller interacted for that day.
Finally, I heard some sad stories related to some backpack tourists in slum area on Pham Ngu Lao street. Some of them are un-employed in their native countries and stay there as permanent residents with little or no money. They often demand more for less, and very aggressive if not mean. Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment and your many insights.
Perhaps that is why she reacted to me that way, or perhaps she was just an unfriendly person like there are in every country in the world , but I guess the point it to keep in mind we can never fully know another persons intentions especially when there are cultural differences. Hi Alex, Thank you for taking my comment positively. I guess when you travel as a pack back tourist, you interact mostly with the low level labor people with very little education, just trying to get food for the family.
Smile to them, and you probably will get a smile back. Was I upset after I paid that 3 ridiculous dollars? I certainly was, for 30 minutes. We have to accept the fact that the sellers are there to get your money, nicely or not so nicely. Try to talk to some college students, or college professors. They may not be all that nice, but you sure will have a different feeling. If you visit Nha Trang again, try to stop by the college of education truong Cao Dang Su Pham, address: 1 Nguyen Chanh, Nha Trang, right next to the beach and kindly introduce yourself, and your desire to learn about the Vietnamese culture, you will be surprised of how you are received.
Students there, especially students studying English, would be more than thrilled to have the opportunity to practice English with a native English speaker. Just try to be a little open minded. The earth is not all that flat. Anyway, I like your blog very much. I went for the first time at the start of this year for a few months, and I absolutely loved it. I think it depends so much on the people locals you meet there and the way they treat you, I was travelling alone but was fortunate enough to meet SO many people who helped me out in any way they could.
THis includes one night I was invited on to a fishing boat where some old monks were playing The Beatles songs on their mandolin and cooking some fish they caught that day. I hope I have the same when I eventually make it back someday. I like how people advise the author to keep an open mind, as if she was scammed and treated rudely by people because she was narrowminded! Take it for what it really is. I understand that cheating is immoral at least in my worldview , etc.
Not when a taxi driver goes the wrong way and costs me an extra quarter. Personally, I find the biggest scams in the most expensive places. Besides the rip-off rates some nice international hotels charge for stuff sometimes as much for wifi as an entire nights stay at a local hotel , the people at the airport seemed like the highest potential for problems.
I just had to ask. Thanks for the thorough commentary, though. Hey Andrew, thanks for sharing your positive experience! Maybe I need to work on that. But oh. Pfew, glad you wrote this Andrew. Well, hope my experiences will be simular to yours! Definitely go with an open mind Kimber, and I wish you all the best! Thanks Alex! I think you have a point there. Keep up the good work :. Thanks for an interesting article. In my opinion, although having some bad things, Vietnam is very alluring with natural beauties, tranquil villages, ancient pagodas and beautiful lakes which we should visit once in my life.
First off, a very informative read. I think you were fair in your comments, and truthful in your relaying of experiences. Having traveled throughout Vietnam earlier in March this year for 3 weeks like yourself, I have to say that I had a similar experience to you. Like you, I traveled to Vietnam with an open mind. I spent the next few weeks traveling down to the south. One positive thing I loved about Vietnam was the open bus ticket concept. Great value! And the food was amazing.
What I would do for a nice bowl of pho right now…. However, unfortunately, I cannot say that I enjoyed all of my time there. The culture and the food and the history and scenery is certainly amazing. But I did not feel hardly any warmth or genuine respect from the people for the most part.
Plus I had my fair share of scams. One that comes to mind is when my girlfriend and I did an overnight tour to Halong Bay. Not usually a fan of tours I thought what the hell this time. To cut a long story short, we were sold on a tour that would include a night on a traditional junk. When we got to Halong Bay we were told this was not possible, and we would be sleeping on the mainland.
This was not a BIG deal for me, but it was annoying. Of course, stuff like this happens everywhere in SE Asia, but it seems as if it happens disproportionately more in Vietnam than in other countries. Again, this is not to say that I had no positive experiences in Vietnam. Of course I did! The country is beautiful and we definitely met some nice, warm, and genuine locals along the way.
But one has to be fair in their appraisal of Vietnam in considering both the positive and the negative. One can still be open minded and yet cast a negative vote on their experience in a country. Having an open mind certainly does not mean that you cannot make a judgement on something. That is ridiculous! Whenever I would comment to other travelers in the North that the people seemed unfriendly, a frequent response was just to go down South. Apparently people were friendlier the further you traveled South. Again, unfortunately I did not find this to be the case.
Will I go back? To be honest, I initially planned on spending 4 weeks in Vietnam. So far, Vietnam is the only country I traveled to in my whole life where I actually wanted to leave before I had to for visa reasons. Yet, I have to say that I will still go back. Call me a masochist?
But perhaps I will just go for a week or so, and then leave. Anyway, thanks Alex for the great blog you have here — which I stumbled upon.
English teaching in Vietnam: Teacher ‘re-education’
You now have a new subscriber! Hey Sean, it sounds like many of our experiences really echoed each other. I agree with you on basically all points, including that I would return. However my experiences were exclusively in the South, so when I return it will be to see the North! I like your post. Veeeery paaaatient. Thanks for reading Alex in Wanderland!
Thanks for the words of wisdom Andy! I think it is too bad that Couchsurfing is technically banned in Vietnam because I agree that getting the perspectives of locals and expats can be invaluable. Uh oh. Wishing you the best of luck with that, Becky! Wishing you the happiest trip! Thanks for maintaining such a lively dialogue on your site Alex xo. In Vietnam I ate at delicious local food stalls where they charged me the equivalent of 50 cents, for an amazing bowl of soup. We could have easily avoided that situation. I took a couple of bus rides that were comfortable and safe. We took pictures of people on the street and some of them would ask for money but always with a smile on their face in a half joking manner.
I am sure I have a different experience than these bloggers because I am Asian. Mark gets harassed way more than I do in general but he still loved Vietnam. We hired a tour guide for a few days in Mekong Delta and she was so professional and intelligent and made our stay there wonderful. Our Ha Long Bay trip was well organized and we had our own lovely cabin and met nice people on the boat that all seemed to be having a fantastic time. We made sure we made our Ha Long and Mekong bookings through reputable companies and maybe that is where some people go wrong, trying to save some money.
Thanks for the additional info, Becky! I agree with what your girlfriend said and I agree with her comments about spending. A lot of people that I know who had a hard time were on tight budgets, whereas those who had a more pleasant experience were more mid-range travelers. Interesting perspective and again, thanks for sharing! Never felt ripped off. I would return in a heartbeat, to live even! I hope I have an equally positive experience when I inevitably return! This again illustrates the highs and the lows of travel and how much can be coloured by ones owns perspective.
It is a place so full of life, where working, eating, sleeping and much general living just happens in the streets. The fact that a bowl of Pho can remain delicious, yet taste so different in the North than it does in the South. To me, Thailand felt more western, less authentic and far more tourist driven Thailand was my first international destination, so i have very fond memories.
Hey Chris! I too plan to someday be in that small percentage who returns. I love Vietnam due to exotic dishes served, beaches and the hospitality of the people there. I went there is the festive month of Jan — Feb, the culture they follow would be a new turn for a research person. Viets in general are very kind, welcoming and look out for the average foreigner. Sure you will get scam artists, but this is pretty prevalent all over Southeast Asia. Coaches not a good idea in Vietnam nor thailand nor Cambodia for that matter.
Fly Fly Fly!!!!! Or take a private car service — comfy, will get there safe, and no issue with loos. Massages — I am assuming you went to the salon shop with young beautiful ladies all dressed similarly? Well they basically work for just tips hence the aggressive manor. Guilt for what? Why would you feel guilty for a mutual war that ended nearly 40yrs ago? You do realize the North Viets were not exactly angels themselves?
Most in Vietnam have forgotten and funny enough know little about the history of said conflict nor care. All about living and trying to improve their daily lives. Hey Ian, I appreciate your insights but I have to disagree on some points. First of all, the buses in Thailand are great! I mean, the trains are better, but at least they have working bathrooms when advertised.
Always catch a Cab with properly displayed signage like.. Tipping is of course expected but not compulsory. Wow suddenly, a business idea came to mind. Dishonest folk are in all corners of the earth, but they are by no means more prevalent here than anywhere else in the world. I am a little confused at what statement of mine was interpreted as such, however must reiterate that it was not my intent. My only fear was that the negative reviews of what I perceive to be a wonderful travel destination, would discourage people from visiting and forming their own opinions.
The situation you have detailed on your own family sounds very sad indeed, and I can not begin to imagine the pain this must have caused. No offense taken so there is no need to apologize. I would love to see Vietnam doing well for it is where i was born after all. I thought you were overreacting and I kept remembering this post through the good times I was having but things got bad and then awful in no time.
I would recommend people to simply skip this country. I hope if you go you get one of the great experiences! Many of the smaller places are more welcoming but I do wish Vietnamese would change their attitude about foreigners. Hi babs, well, if you think the Vietnamese language sounds ugly and annoying, I guess they can think you sound ugly and annoying too, and definitely like a snob. I got very tired of all the attempted scams! Thanks Maddy! In Hanoi right now and was scammed 4 times yesterday upon arrival! The immigration officer gave me incorrect change for my visa payment. As we were walking through the parking lot, he pointed one way, and then bolted running the other direction.
Ends up there was a cop behind us, he was running an illegal taxi service. When I arrived, he demanded , dong, saying that because I was willing to pay an illegal taxi and that I should pay a higher price due to tolls. I had hotels. They want me to stay here 2 nights out of my booked 4. Hey David, sorry to hear about your negative experiences. It is my experience as well that you really have to be on alert to avoid minor scams in Vietnam — and even other parts of Southeast Asia that are very dear to me. I always just try to remember hard as it can be in the moment!
I lived in Vietnam for several years. First off, scams are quite common and people will demand ridiculous amounts of money for things. People will yell at their neighbors, their kids, their reflection in the mirror — anything. Especially if you are a woman. The Vietnamese you are having problems with will look like a fool in front of his peers and the last thing any Vietnamese wants is to look foolish, much less have to deal with the police.
And just one last thing. They also formed and trained the Khmer Rouge and we know what a bang-up job they did in Cambodia. The Vietnamese communists are guilty for crimes against the Vietnamese, no one else. Thanks for sharing your experiences RJ. Thank you for the tip about the police. It always saddens me when I read about scammers. There is never an excuse for rudeness and illegal opportunistic behaviour but likewise there is no need for stinginess…You reap what you sow …in either scenario there are lessons …I have read all the comments on this post and found yours the most practical….
Myself I found that many of these situations are about the people that control these horrid scammers…pimps and mafioso types…. I saw that many times in Turkey now that is a spooky place for woman traveling alone anyway I digress Really just wanted to thank you and of course Alex for whats turned into a bit of a forum.
I do not believe the characterisation of overcharging tourists in Vietnam as rip-offs or scams is fair and justified.
enter Here is why: Price differentiation or price discrimination is a common business practice in all countries. Price differentiation is the practice of selling the same product to different people at different prices. Many tourists complaining about the overcharging in Vietnam appears to be unaware of the existence of price differentiation in their own countries. I strongly encourage readers of this blog to go to the nearest university library, search for books with titles such as Introduction to Marketing, go to the back of such books and search through the index for price differentiation or price discrimination.
Then you will see that what the Vietnamese vendors do is no different from what many Western companies do. I would like to ask all those tourists who complain about overcharging in Vietnam to ask themselves just exactly how much extra in USD or AUD did they pay for the overcharging during the 4 to 8 weeks they visited Vietnam.
Regarding the statistics of return rates of visitors to Thailand and Vietnam, I can only suggest to Alex to look at the male Western tourists in go-go bars in Thailand and she will understand why the return rate of visitors to Thailand is much higher than that of Vietnam. As a native New Yorker, Alex should know that sex always sells.
Before ending this comment, I wish to provide 2 examples to reassure those thinking of visiting Vietnam that for all the overcharging you may encounter in your trip to Vietnam, you will not end up homeless and destitute: 1 A Vietnamese sandwich called Banh Mi in Vietnamese costs about 15, Vietnamese dong or about 75 Australian cents.
If the vendor charges you double that, you will pay about 1. In Melbourne where I live, the same sandwich would cost about 4. In Melbourne, that same bowl of pho would cost 10 Australian dollars.
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Thus, even if you pay more than the locals, you would still pay a hell of a lot less than you would in your respective home country, and you get to see and experience a different culture and different sceneries. If that is not a win-win situation in your eyes, then I strongly encourage you to apply for jobs as a bankster in an investment bank. Such a bank is always on the look out for people with killer instincts. Alice said that she grew up on the Southeast coast of Florida which is world-renowned for its beaches and she found Con Dao very impressive, even more impressive than the spectacular photos she had seen of Con Dao.
However, one that I strongly disagree with is the insinuation that Thailand has more return visitors than Vietnam solely due to its sex industry which Vietnam has in spades as well! Frankly, that just rings ridiculous to me. Thanks for this honest account Alex. Wishing you the very best trip, Sarah! I agree that Vietnamese people are not as friendly as Thai people.
But for me, most were friendly enough. I was in Phu Quoc to start my trip, an island in the south, 1 hour flight from Saigon. It was like paradise and still mostly untouched, beautiful tropical beaches and the locals were very quiet, shy and kind, gentle people. Amazingly beautiful scenery… The people were friendly enough in those places too. But yeah I followed the info that I got regarding all the places I went to, and it was actually very peaceful for me, I loved being there.
Glad you had such a good experience in Vietnam! Sounds like you did quite a bit of research ahead of time, which is key. I always recommend looking into the standard scams anywhere new you go — can save a lot of headache and heartache. Thanks for sharing your experience in Vietnam in a thoughtful way. And if I end up paying 75 cents more for a meal than the local in front of me, no sweat. As far the the returning visitors stats, I wonder how much of the high percentage of return visitors to Thailand is the creepy old men going for the sex trade?
I am disapointed for that. If you can manage to stay away from your greedy and match up your expectations with your own budget and do not let the little things to spoil your trip, you would have a wonderful experience. It does not matter which country you travel to. The percentage of returning people to Vietnam, you quoted, it would not surprise me because it is an agriculture country moving into manufacturing phase. To move up to the service sector such as tourism, it requires a new generation of people with higher education and a modern infrastructure to support.
If you want unspoiled scenery, history, culture, food experience, colonial building architecture, then once is enough. Scam is human nature to get advantage of other people. Not acceptable but manageable. Vietnam has much of the same attraction categories as its neighboring countries unspoiled scenery, history, culture, food experience, colonial building architecture, as you mentioned , so why are people going back to them much more often?
Every time I came across articles that criticise my country like this, I felt really depressed, sad about our service to tourists and also felt sad toward all the unfortunate things that had happened to you during your trip. We are still developing day by day and to those people you saw in the street as street vendors sellers or drivers,..
Im very sorry to heard your bad experiences in Vietnam. I had great experience in Vietnam as well, Trang! I certainly plan on returning some day with an open mind and heart. I had a blast while I was there. We were scammed twice. Once on a bus READ: van that tried to charge us double because we had packs. The second time we took a cab that tried to charge us double what it cost for a ride that was twice the distance before. My yelling in English and refusal to pay, along with alerting our hotel staff seemed to fix that. Had an encounter or two with people pushing me in line that annoyed me.
Overall, however, the trip was phenomenal. Trip did conclude with a 2 AM visit to the hospital, which was easily the worst part. Overall, however, I loved my trip there. Ever visited Taiwan? My favorite place in Asia that I have been based simply off of how friendly the people were! I have not been to Taiwan — yet! Love your attitude towards your trip to Vietnam. There were 2 incidents that I will mention. The first of which was when my mom had her bags searched when going through immigration.
The second incident was validating her visa. The entry date was correct but the expiration date was wrong with the previous year. Other family members of mine had to pay a little extra so called taxes for bringing an iPad or other electronics back. Some will called this unfortunate circumstances and being unlucky. Given the custom and wealth disparity in Vietnam, everyone and any one will try to do anything to make ends meet. As a result of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon, the attitudes and persona of the people changed over night. What they had once is no longer there.
I hope this will give you a sense of why Vietnamese are the way they are in Vietnam. From my experiences, Vietnamese people live with a notion that Westerners, particularly Americans have money and are wealthy. People in Vietnam rarely see nor understand the hard work that people do to earn that money in America. I very much in love Vietnam, but I struggle with the mannerism and cultural differences that I see.
I have yet to give up on visiting Vietnam. To see what Alex and others wrote is heart breaking, but I cant disagree. I hope to continue to go back as I want to do other things besides visit family. Vietnam is growing and I believe it will be a better, warmer and inviting place for tourist to come. With given the time, I can only hope that those that had a bad experience will give it another shot.
Vietnam is a resilient and beautiful place with room to grow. Hey Brian, thanks for that insight and for sharing your experiences. I am always interested to read the different input on this post. I do plan to return to Vietnam someday and wonder if my experience will be different with all this new knowledge. I hope your second try will be better Alex. Andy Do and others have made valid points about the social fabric of Vietnam. My mom dreads going back to Vietnam, but because of family she makes the trips. You can just imagine how much of a burden it is when family is involve not to be negative with the custom and culture in Vietnam.
Andy Do paints a clear picture with the story of his uncle. I on the other hand have a different view from my mom. With the age of the internet, most young people have been exposed to the world outside of Vietnam. Their perspective and interests are slowing changing.
If you talk to a 20 something young adult, their views of the Vietnam War is very different from their parents. Also consider the fact that many Vietnamese are now educated over seas bringing back the cultural differences. This gives me hope that over time, we will see a better Vietnam coming of age and joining the modern world. If I may, I not sure how well you can speak Vietnamese, but when you make an attempt to talk in Vietnamese with the locals, they tend to be a little more open towards you. It could be they are intimated as much as you are of them. Asking a question in Vietnamese could open a whole new world.
The guy in the video isnt very good with his Vietnamese, but you can see that the locals are pretty patience and talk to him. Yup, learning a little of the language is always a good idea. If you go back to Vietnam, my suggestion would be throw away the guidebooks and travel to remote areas off tourist trail. Literally buy a decent map and go to places that are hard to get too.
The very far northwest and far north, central highlands has mind blowing scenary. Some remote islands are possible as well in Vietnam again without the tourists. These places are not easy to get too and most people wont speak English but you will see a different country entirely.
It will most likely involve lots of bumpy local bus rides and motorbikes but away from the crowds of tourists Vietnam is a very special place. I will definitely be returning to Vietnam someday, Jim! Though I admit what draws me back is probably the biggest tourist draw of them all — I simply must see Halong Bay before I die! Agree with everything written in this post. I spent a month and a half travelling the entire length of the country by train. As a foreigner I felt more alienated in Vietnam than anywhere else on my travels.
And heard more stories from fellow backpackers about being assaulted or robbed than anywhere else that I can remember. Saying that, I still loved Vietnam, and would definitely return. So much quirkiness to it, and hopefully as tourism develops be that a good or bad thing hopefully local attitudes to tourists will improve. Love your blogs by the way! Thanks Jon! I think you have a good attitude and one similar to mine — I had a trying experience but I too would return. I wish you could come back and give me a chance to make you enjoy, you will change your mind about our Vietnam.
I make sure that you will have a absolutely different experiences. I am looking forward to hearing from you. Hope to see you in near future. Thank you Hannah! I do hope to return to Vietnam someday to visit some of the places that I missed on my first trip, such as Halong Bay.
So I will certainly be giving it another shot, with open arms! Thank you for your kind words. Vietnam is hands down, my favourite country in South East Asia. The culture, food, people, the beauty. I hope to make it to Sapa someday. I really happy if Alex come back to Vietnam. I will invite you have lunch with my family. I live in Ha Noi capital. I work in General Department of Taxation. If you any one intend to travel to Vietnam — Hanoi and need me to be your travel guide in Ha Noi.
Please call me and send email to tkly01 gdt. I have to say I agree with you, I went to Vietnam a year ago. Sorry to hear that Carri. I understand your frustration. This is a Unesco World Heritage Site and a popular travel destination. I have been there in June, I gotta say this is a very beautiful place with many national identity such as caves and wonderful island. I went on a 2 days 1 night tour with a cruise named Scorpion. Scorpion Cruise is quite a good choice with reasonable price and good service.
They are kind of friendly now. Please dont have bad thought about my country. We do have bad ppl, but good ppl are still here. I stumbled upon your website when searching for tommorowland. Well on to the topic, I was raised in Canada and born in Saigon. I hope you give Vietnam a second chance.
All the best. Hey Joseph! I actually did a whole price breakdown for Tomorrowland that you can find here. I will absolutely give Vietnam a second chance someday! Vietnam is spot for traveler who want to discover, not to travel on tour. The tourism of Vietnam just develop after the war. The worst thing about Vietnam is the level of violence against women. In general, behind closed doors after a couple of beers, Vietnamese men are very violent.
I have been told this by long-suffering Vietnamese women, time and time again. Violence against women is heartbreaking in any culture. But after reading it and also comments from people who care about your experience, I come to realize a lot of aspect that need to be change,within myself and other Vietnamese. Believe it or not, us, the younger generations, is changing dramatically about the way of thinking and developing our own characteristic, hoping to stand side by side with other great nation one day. Did you experience anything bad when you travel by tour??
Is it more different, more negative experience when you travel by yourself than by tour??? Hope you can answer some for me!! Your website will be one of my favorite site yet to come! Hey Kira! All my travels in Vietnam were taken on independently. Hope that helps! Hi Alex, I really enjoyed this article, as I am going to go on a school tour through the world challenge organisation this March. It definitely have me very useful tips. I LOVE travelling and i am trying to travel as much as i can.
I am only 16 but have big plans for after school. Just a quick question though.. After our hike and community service in Dalat we get to have relaxation and explore. Are there any really good sites to see in or near Ho Chi Mon city? We are going to the Nha Tang Beach for a day and then back to Ho Chi Mon city on a overnight train for the rest of the tour as its where we depart and cant afford wasting time travelling further North.
I will extremely appreciate your input. Thank you Nicola South Africa. Hey Nicola! Enjoy, sounds like you have a great trip ahead! Hi Alex, Thanks for sharing your personal experiences in Vietnam. When it comes to Vietnam, There are deep level of complexities, that i think most foreigners who learnt of vietnam through what they read, and what they experience in their Vietnam travel, are not aware of. There are clear distinction that need to be made.
The people you see running the country today, are the VC. The way people operate and behave, are widely driven by VC influence and corruption. Remember, the Vietnam war not the American war! The Americans were the allies of the Democratic Vietnamese. Sadly we, The democratic Vietnamese lost our country to the Viet Cong, who now sadly claims the country and turn it into communism. Greater sadness is that, History are written by the winners, and the younger generations in the country have been brainwashed by the propaganda the VietCong display and the history they teach in schools. And the Vietnamese are thankful and appreciative of the Americans.
Hey KP, thanks for sharing your perspective. There are so many different accounts of what went on in that terrible time, and we definitely felt a huge disconnect between what we learned in school, what we read in our guidebooks and what we saw displayed at various historical sites. You are right, though — the victors tend to write the history books. I had a bad VN experience the first time as well, hated it and left early. The two-bit scams, the rude customer service, and the grimy streets are still there, but I just took it for what it is.