Why Most Tourists Never Return To Vietnam

Many people love Vietnam. Many others, particularly long-term travelers, don’t care for it and feel that one trip was more than enough. After all no matter how much or how little you travel, there is always that one place you like the least. Some countries just rub you the wrong way, for whatever arcane reason. That country for myself and many others is Vietnam. There are a lot of reasons why so many people say they will never return to Vietnam. Here’s why.

Here’s a quick gift for all you Pinners 馃槈

Why most tourists never return to Vietnam and how to make your trip better #vietnam #traveltips #travelguide #southeastasia #backpacker #budgettravel #asia #holidaze #visitvietnam

Don’t get me wrong, the culture is great, the scenery is impressive, and the food is delicious. However our real complaint is with the locals’ attitude. As a professional traveler I am regretfully used to dealing with tourist prices and persistent touts who will not take no for an answer. But in Vietnam it’s different. Far too many locals will blatantly rip you off while laughing about it. They will take you for every Dong you have (keep your thoughts clean, that’s the local currency) then follow you to the ATM and wait while you take out more, or will screw you over / scam you every chance they get.

You come one time and leave, I’m still here.”

was how one local explained it to me.

What You Can Expect In Vietnam…

And Travel Tips On How To Handle It

The price will increase anytime you pull out more money than the amount asked for.

Vietnamese dong. People in Vietnam will take you for every last dong.
Vietnamese dong. People in Vietnam will take you for every last dong. You won’t be a millionaire for long.

My motorcycle broke down and I was informed by a group of nearby locals that it was 1km to the nearest mechanic and rather quickly quoted 50,000 VND ($2.50 USD) for a motorcycle tow. I pulled 46,000 VND out of my pocket in loose bills and was repeatedly told “not enough.” Only then did I reluctantly open my wallet to reveal another 150,000 VND.

The locals saw this and suddenly the price jumped to 100,000 VND. I tried giving the main guy a crisp new 50,000 VND bill and next even upped my offer to 70,000 but he kept insisting the new rate was 100,000. In the end, I walked my bike to the shop rather than be extorted. The locals were happier not making any money off me rather than accepting the price they first quoted me — which was already a wildly inflated tourist rate. Crazy. Normally locals are fighting each other to take your money.

Keep tons of small denomination bills separate in one pocket and large bills elsewhere. However it is worth noting that I do this in every country visited yet found limited success with this tactic in Vietnam as locals would either pat my other pockets to feel for a wallet or more bills and even in a few cases tried to stick their hands in my pockets!

Vietnamese Pho in Hanoi
Good pho. Bad price.

Locals will joke with other nearby locals as they rip you off.

I’ve eaten at countless “restaurants” that are really just locals’ houses, many of which have the price clearly posted on the wall. However despite this fact when going to pay it often became a scene. First off the lady in charge will start speaking Vietnamese — not to me but rather to the others in the restaurant — essentially saying “I gave this white guy a half portion yet I’m going to charge him twice as much” or some equivalent. You’ll notice this because there will be a mixture of laughter and random responses in Vietnamese from the other patrons. Only a fraction of the times did pointing at the sign and complaining get me a better price.

Learn numbers in Vietnamese before you even arrive and don’t hesitate to say kh么ng!   Pronounced like “kong” with a long ‘o’ this is a very strong way of saying no. Don’t yell it but do say it firmly.

Dog for sale in Hanoi, Vietnam
The lady literally made me empty my pockets of all bills (55,000 VND, nearly $3 USD) before she would give me a couple sticks of dog satay. Meanwhile this local guy paid only half of what I did and he got the entire back half of a dog chopped and mixed with diced veggies.

Mechanics are everywhere in Vietnam…just don’t expect them to be honest.

Don’t get me wrong, they are good at what they do — just not when a white guy is the one in need of assistance. During my three months in Vietnam I spent 2/3 of it on two wheels and my bike broke down several times. Most mechanics replace parts one after another until the bike starts working and then charge (a foreigner price) for everything. Only one mechanic that I encountered started systematically removing replacement parts after the bike was running again until he found the culprit and then billed me only for that part.

Bring a few tools and spare parts (spark plugs, oil filter, etc) with you and fix whatever you can by yourself. Even one or two spare two tubes is advisable. You will get flats, and they are not always patchable.

Standard practice is to always throw out 100,000 VND — or some multiple thereof, such as 200/300,000 — as the price. This is a clear indicator you are not being given a fair price.

Motorcycle taxis are common, especially in the bigger and more touristy cities. A fair tourist price is 10,000VND per kilometre. While looking for a ride one day in Hanoi to a place 1.1km away I was repeatedly quoted 100,000 by over a half dozen different drivers. After telling them that I know the real prices and am not paying 100,000 for a 3-min ride, none would come lower than 50,000. One guy even tried to argue with Google maps saying “no, it’s not 1.1km — it’s 6-7km.” Are you f’n kidding me?! Once again the locals were happy to make nothing rather than give me a fair price.

You can try saying no and walking away but again I found this has limited success in Vietnam. The locals will rarely chase after you offering a more fair price, as in other countries, and instead just let you wander on alone. But don’t give in to them! If more people do this then they will start to realize that foreigners cannot be blatantly extorted at will.

Night mechanic in Vietnam
After walking my motorcycle 1km and arriving at the mechanic just before midnight, I was charged an exorbitant amount for a few minutes of work. Afterwards my motorcycle ran fine, but only for about 100km before it broke again. This mechanic had replaced the broken part in question with an old part of his own, instead of a brand new one.

Unfortunately all of these experiences are but a brief example of the encounters I had on a daily basis. This isn’t to say that during my three months here I didn’t meet some wonderful, goodhearted people — just that the cold and unscrupulous ones outnumbered them 9:1. Of the “good” people I met here, most were only nice to me because I was traveling with my Vietnamese friend or they wanted me to write something favorable about their business on my blog and/or TripAdvisor.

One of the reasons I will never return to Vietnam is that friendly interactions with locals were few and far between.

Kumquat delivery man in Hanoi, Vietnam, a few days before Tet
Kumquat delivery in the days before Tet. Apparently its a tradition to give kumquat bushes as gifts for the new year.

I celebrated the Tet holiday (Vietnamese lunar new year) with a local family in Nam Dinh.

Every office and business in the country closes down for a week while people leave the big cities to go and join their family in the countryside. This holiday is full of lots of friends, family, fireworks, food, and of course alcohol. I had planned to write about Tet but Amanda of A Dangerous Business beat me to it so I decided not to.

Tet holiday in Vietnam
Lots of food and lots of alcohol are the basic requirements of any Tet holiday gathering

I was welcomed into a stranger’s house and offered a bed for the night.

Ordinarily this happens on a weekly basis when motorcycling a foreign country (at least for me) but during my 90 days in Vietnam it only happened once. It was midnight and had been raining for hours when I realized that I could not safely proceed any further. Luckily after befriending one of the guys with beer he was nice enough to let me sleep at his place.

Making local friends in Vietnam over beer
Making friends over beer. Nothing brings people together (or drives them apart) like alcohol 馃槈

But in the end a couple of simple, decent gestures just couldn’t make up for months of daily mistreatment.

Why Does This Problem Exist?

Unlike in nearby Thailand where the citizens have for decades maintained the perfect balance between treating foreign guests well, giving them a great experience and profiting immensely while also leaving them with the urge to return, Vietnam has only succeeded in taking advantage of foreign tourists and sending them home with a bad taste in their mouth of this otherwise beautiful and admirable nation. That is why Vietnam sees a pitiful 5% tourism return rate and Thailand a whooping 50%.

Vietnam Tourism Statistics

Part of this is due to the fact that tourism in Vietnam is still in its infancy stage. Ten has ago few outsiders were visiting this elongated nation and ten years before that international tourism was nonexistent. Look at the numbers. Although overall tourism is increasing, the bulk of it is from neighboring countries like China. Tourism from western nations is actually declining slightly, or at best stagnant. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that word is spreading.

If Vietnam wants to continue seeing tourists from the west (and enjoying the money they bring) then the locals need to change their mindset.

Kids and a water buffalo in Sapa, Vietnam
Kids and a water buffalo in Sapa, Vietnam

Other Tips To Have A Good Experience In Vietnam

BRING FOREIGN COINS   There are no coins in Vietnamese currency so these are a strange sight to locals. [Correction: Vietnam does technically have dong coins….but they are not in distribution.] Be willing to give them away as souvenirs. Just be prepared because the first thing everyone will ask is “how much is this in Dong?”

BUY A MOTORCYCLE AND GET OFF THE TOURIST ROUTE   Motorcycles in a Vietnam are cheap — only $250-350 USD. While people in smaller cities will still try to overcharge you, they are more open to haggling. (Speaking of motorcycles, mine is still in Dong Hoi. If anyone wants to grab it and use it around town or to travel the country, just let me know.)

Pristine Vietnamese countryside along the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Pristine Vietnamese countryside along the Ho Chi Minh Trail

And Finally…The North-South Divide

Vietnam has quite a past. Over the centuries they have fought off everyone from the Chinese to the French and even persevered through a two decade long war that tore the country in half. They are a very strong, resilient, and proud people, and rightfully so. Ten minutes in the country and you will realize why outsiders cannot break their spirit. However, for Westerns traveling in the north, particularly Americans, know that you may be treated differently by the elders.

The remains of war-torn Tam Toa Church in Dong Hoi, Vietnam
War evidence of Tam Toa Church. 鈥淭he church was constructed in 1895 and demolished by the bombing of American Aggressor air planes on Feb 11th, 1965. At present there only remains steeple and foundation. This is evidence of war crimes in the sabotage air attack operations of American Aggressors in the North (from 1965-1972).

The youth of Vietnam are much less-likely to prejudge foreigners than their parents. However anyone 50 years of age or older remembers the Vietnam War and, if they are from the north, almost assuredly lost some family members to south. Or in other words, because of America. I have several elders blatantly express — most often via hand gestures because they couldn’t speak English — their dislike of America. I was not ill-treated because of it, these gentlemen continued to sit with me. They kept pouring me tea and passing the tobacco pipe my way. However it was clear that they still harbored a grudge against America’s involvement in their personal affairs. And honestly, had I been in their shoes, I probably would have too.

In the south I didn’t encounter this resentment because America fought with them, not against.

In Conclusion…

I am not saying do not visit Vietnam. I just want to warn you of the type of treatment you can expect. Many people still enjoy that country. I have some wonderful friends in Vietnam who are very disappointed that I had such negative experiences during my three months there. But it isn’t just me. Many other bloggers have written similar things about Vietnam as well.

Have You Been To Vietnam? How Was Your Experience?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." 聽 Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

437 thoughts on “Why Most Tourists Never Return To Vietnam”

    • Here’ re some insights into why many backpackers were treated badly by some locals: 1/ locals tend to associate backpackers with drugs and other unhealthy activities. They rent very cheap hotels in a messy neighborhood in Saigon. They are thought to be the lowest social class in their countries and thus have to live long term in other countries where costs of living are low. 2/backpackers deal with the “lowest class” Vietnamese all the time. These locals are concentrated in tourist areas, waiting for opportunities to extort. Most of them ‘re rude to backpackers cause they don t respect them, not anything about the war or time to pay back. Backpackers who look sharp and confident are rarely victims, so are “fine people” living in 4, 5 star hotels.

      • I’ll agree with you there, although I feel point #1 is almost trying to rationalize local prejudice/racism. Most backpackers don’t indulge in drugs, just want to have a long, meaningful trip that takes them completely out of their element. If they were really that “low class” they would never have been able to afford plane tickets, etc. However you are spot on with #2. When living in Tay Ho in Hanoi I found prices to be cheaper at streetside vendors and small local shops there than in the old quarter.

        Of course when motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh trail it was a bit difficult to “look sharp” every day, as 8+ hours on two wheels is going to leave anyone covered in dirt and exhaust from the road. Only a fool would wear their nice clothes for this, meaning those who spend weeks or months traveling Vietnam on motorcycle have countless interactions with locals while they are dirty and dust-covered. This unfortunate scenario brings us back around to point #1 — local misconceptions about and prejudices against backpackers and foreign travelers in general needs to change. Nowadays there are plenty of rich backpackers and digital nomads like me who have been living on the road for years. We’re not asking for special treatment, merely not to be treated like scum.

        • Exactly I agree. I have experienced appalling treatment in the Palestinian territories. Nablus locals pointing at westerners and saying ajnabieh which means foreigner.
          In addition , i have had to put up with a bank clerk reading my passport , laughing at the Eu languages, giggling all the time and asking what’s this and what’s this. A grown woman of 30 or so, behaving as in if she was a kid in a candy shop! To laugh at anyone’s flag or passport is insulting and rude.
          Also our passports and ticketswere collected on a pilgrimage by the travel agent and we found the following morning that our scottish group leader had them and not the hotel and the leader demanded tips of 拢35.
          I also found that on an individual basis when I handed my passport in for safekeeping it walked to the group leader.
          This is unacceptable behaviour and as the previous post says we don’t want or expect special treatment just respect and courtesy.

          • Yeah, I know what you mean. Some countries just don’t know how to be respectful to foreigners. My passport has a really old photo of me with long, curly Farrah Fawcett-esque hair that frequently causes immigration officials to look back and forth between me and my passport, laugh, and then call over a nearby buddy so that they can chuckle at it too.

        • They are ignorant people and judge others based on how they look; that includes Thailand and all of Asia. So if you don’t want to be treated like scum, then … I always dress sharp in Asia, but that just breeds jealousy along with admiration, but that’s fine with me. No one treats me like scum and I been living all over Asia for a decade.

      • The travelers that whine the most about Vietnam are usually white anglos who think the’yre entitled to ‘respect’ regardless of how they look or behave — especially in countries less affluent than their own. Theyre also usually the ones trying shortchange locals and waste their time haggling over trivial amounts believing a scam is taking place in every transaction.

        If you had learned a little history about Vietnam before arriving, you might have had a little better understanding and deeper respect for the people of this worn-torn country. They have endured famine, constant wars for independence and are still suffering the effects of chemical warfare waged by the US after years of carpet bombing with Agent Orange.

        Despite all this, the Vietnamese by and large are incredibly hard-working, family oriented and good-natured. It’s incredible the amount of economic progress that has taken place during the last `10-15yrs despite their hardships.

        Lose your the ‘cheap charlie’ entitlement mentality so common among white, anglo back packers and your experience in Vietnam will improve drastically.

        • Most of us believe in ideas like innocence until proof of guilt and giving the benefit of the doubt now. These ideas make people grant politeness and respect to others by default, and we’ve grown accustomed to that. In addition, there are deep, ancient cultural (and religious) ideas about the sacredness of guests in the west that may not be shared by all cultures. To even witness a guest being abused could be painful for a western person, and to be the victim of it over and over might breed cynicism in their heart that was not there before.

        • Just because they have suffered does not mean they are exempt from showing respect. Some nations around the world like Palestinians think it’s okay to be rude or worse to foreigners because they suffer and continue to suffer. What sort of world would it be if we all felt we could do what we liked to people because of previous ill-treatment? Besides the Vietnam war was over 50 years ago. Get over it. Besides Westerners have their own problems too. Did it not occur to a Vietnamese that some might have been victims of the Bosnian War or suffer in Northern Ireland? As for the cheap Charlie whine of entitlement, asking to be treated respectfully and politely is not much to ask. Not exactly a request for citizenship or housing.

        • Your an idiot, everything this guy says is 100% true. Ive lived here seven years, and I still get random Vietnamese screaming at me for no reason. Today for example, I park at my regular coffee shop where I normally park it, some guy Ive never seen yelling at me to move, I refuse, he gives me the local version of fuck you…. Never seen him before, he has nothing to do with the coffee shop, but decided he wanted to yell at a foreigner. Turns out a Mercedes Benz came and picked him up.. so he wasnt your usual low class fisherman or farmer…

          Ive lost count of the amount of women Ive seen bashed in the street by their boyfriends of husbands… I never saw that in any other country in the world except here. I dont know anyone who has lived here who hastn been attacked by a gang of Vietnamese.. even alleged friends will turn on you. I know a few people who had their dogs poisoned by Vietnamese neighbors..

          The Vietnamese take pleasure in humiliating foreigners…. because they themselves are bashed by their parents as kids.. I hear this 4 year old girl screaming a couple of times a day near where I live as her mother bashes her for … well being a kid.

          I can assure you, 99% of Vietnamese hate foreigners, with a vengeance. They are raised with anti American and anti Chinese sentiment.. and treat you like you are an animal.. 3 years ago they went on a rampage across the country and killed close to 100 people who they thought were Chinese, they killed plenty of Koreans , Taiwanese and even accidentally killed a few Vietnamese who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The scale of the rampage was suppressed by the government.

          If I didnt have a child here I never would have stayed here so long. You are obviously one of those people who spent 6 weeks here every day eating pho on those little plastic stools feeling like you fit it.. while all the time they were charging you double what they charged everyone else and laughing at how smelly you are 馃槈 .

          To the Vietnamese, it doesn’t matter how low class, rude or dirty another Vietnamese is… that filthy piece of garbage is still of higher status than ANY foreigners.

          • A wrong done by white people 50 years ago has its repercussion. Americans kill a lot of different races for no good reasons, 1. American indians 2. Koreans (korean wars) 3. Vietnam wars 4. Arabs -Iraq 5. Afghanistan 6. South Americans Bay of pigs. 7.
            The vietnamese were poor and yet they were bombed relentlessly. It’s the most ugly thing done by Americans.
            Now, they want to get the Japanese, Vietnamese , philippinos to fight the chinese over an island- what shit right they have over the island.
            If I were an American I would be mentally prepared to be abused by the vietnamese when I arrived in vietnam and sorry for others who have white skins they get drag into this mess as well.

          • Oh don’t even get me started on atrocities committed by Americans — not just the military either. American businessmen do some backhanded shady shit that fucks entire countries up just so they can add a few extra million to their slush funds. Personally, I’ve always looked at it this way: you cannot change where you are born but you can change where you are headed in life. So why are people so concerned with *where* they came from when there are bigger things to focus on, like where you are going.

            Either way, at least the Vietnamese youth do not display as much hostility, so there’s hope for the future.

      • Well. I’ve been here around 6 months as expat working for a respectable foreign company. One of the “fine people” as you explained (though I do not agree). If you are right, then Vietnamese are very discriminative. Am I better that a backpacker? No. They treated me even worse: landlords would promise (for a rent of approx USD 1,000 a month) to fix this and that in the apartment, bring some furniture and so… once I signed the contract they did not do anything, yet they were very aggressive to get “penalty deposit” once I decided to leave 6 months later (breaching one year contract). Another guy also made promises to clean up the flat before moving in and signing the contract. And he let me down only 10 days before moving in, leaving in a situation to find another place in only 10 days… The third landlord broke his word in yet another way. Most of the foreigners share similar experiences. So, I guess everybody gets cheated one way or another.

    • Hi. I wish I had read this before I came here. I am in Nha Trang with my 3 kids (15,13 and 5) and can’t believe how nasty the locals are. I have been ripped off and laughed at and now we walk round and just ignore everyone. I am surprised when we come across a local who doesn’t rip me off as I think 80% or more are dishonest and shifty. We went to Thailand for the first time last year so I had really high hopes for Vietnam but will never return. I have never felt so tense on holiday before wondering who is going to try and rob me next, and I am far from being a mug. what a complete shame as it could be so good here but I haven’t met anyone I could trust in any way. Sorry but my experience has so far been that Vietnamese people are a rude, disrespectful nasty nation and I will not waste another holiday here. Nha Trang is a toilet. Don’t come.

      • Awwwwww Matty, I’m sorry to hear all of this. Its one thing to have to deal with that sort of petty crap when traveling solo or as a couple, but its entirely different when kids are involved. That does not make for a friendly family vacation at all.

        I took a lot of heat when first publishing this article from fellow travel bloggers that love Vietnam. But as time has gone on, person after person has expressed the same problems. Clearly Vietnam has some issues to work on if they want to continue attracting Western tourists. Damn shame that y’all had to find out the hard way. If you need any better suggestions for your next family vacation, feel free to give me a shout anytime 馃檪

        • I don’t think Vietnamese care about attracting foreigners in the many months I spent there. They don’t even bother to give you an easy visa free entr茅e, so … I heard a lot of excuses from Vietnamese for their horrible behavior, and I understand the history, war, etc. But to me, they just appeared to be nationalistic, arrogant, xenophobic homicidal maniacs, and they find it difficult to like you or befriend you when at any time they might have to go to war with you. So, this general disregard for foreigners in the name of national security seems to drive them instead of chasing the tourist dollar. It may change in the future, but not in the near future.

      • Well, if you had to deal with hoards of grim looking, belligerent, heavy drinking Russians on a daily basis how welcoming would you be?

        • They were exactly the same 7 years ago when there were no Russians here at all. Stop talking about things of which you obviously know nothing.

      • Pretty effing disappointed that whoever started this damn blog not only made an entire post about how shitty Vietnam is, but that people like you compare a city like Nha Trang to an entire country. If you didn’t notice, Nha Trang isn’t exactly authentic Vietnam. I mean there are more Russians there than Vietnamese it feels like! It’s like the Cancun for Americans. “rude, disrespectful, nasty nation.” Do you hear what you’re saying? What a fucking snob.

        • Maybe….but have you seen how many thousands of articles there are out there about “not returning to Vietnam” — clearly the country has a problem. AND tourism numbers back this up, as I covered in the article. So don’t blame me for attempting to explain this problem, or my readers for sharing their problems.

          • Thousands of article…your article is hyperbole and this comments cements it. First off, your very first experience is about you trying to shortchange the locals with 46000 dongs for a tow…the same thing you accused them of. This article is pretty much rubbish.

          • There wouldn’t be 12,800,000 critical articles written about Vietnam (according to Google) if there wasn’t some truth to it. The only country that beats it is India with a staggering 60 million.

            Vietnam and India are two countries that I will never return to

          • 12,800,000 hits but only a percentage of it is about why people never return to Vietnam.

            Derek4Real is clearly bias.

            I’ve been to Nha Trang. It’s one of the better beaches in Vietnam catering to Westerners.

            Always ask for the price up front. Bargain. If you think the price is too high, don’t buy. Otherwise, you will get rip off.

            Vietnam is a very nice country to visit, but it does have a different mentality than the West.

            Know before you go and you’ll be fine.

          • I will agree with you on one point: know before you go. Which is why I explained my experiences and offered what little tidbits I’d learned during my time there, as well as statistics to corroborate it all, rather than just ranting about the negatives.

            However Vietnam does not “have a different mentality from the West” it has a different mentality from its Asian neighbors. You say bias, I say honest….tomayto tomahto. Don’t get me wrong, on one level I admire how strong-willed the Vietnamese are. Look back on history and anytime the country was invaded by Mongols or taken possession of by China or even more recently when it was part of French Indochina…..always the local people made it hell for the outsiders. And eventually they always got their freedom back. Cheers for that. But that same mentality DOES NOT work in the modern tourism industry.

            BTW “Dan” your email address is a Vietnamese name………since you feel the need to call me bias, I felt the need to share that with anyone reading this.

      • Hey, I am a Vietnamese person and it’s sadly to say that all you told about Nha Trang are right. You know, it is not only you, but also other vietnamese people who come from other cities have been ripped off and cheated by local people. So, my apology to you.
        Some tips for you: if you want to go to the beach, let’s go to Danang city where has one of the most beautiful beach in the world. If you need a help, don’t ask people in tourism area (the driver as well as the shop seller), let’s ask teenagers or adolescents (people in the age 20-30) because they are so friendly and they can speak a little english.

        • Thanks for the tips Nu. That’s what I want to hear from readers — tips and suggestions, not stuff that only makes the situation worse. And yes, definitely agree with you about Da Nang — and that the foreigners will have the most positive interactions with teenagers and adolescents 馃槈

          • Hey man, I’m Minh,a Vietnamese. I’m feel quite sad and very ashamed about what you used to see and experience when you travel to Vietnam. you’re right. because, i and some my friends, my teachers also think like you.that’s true. i have some things want to share with you and everyone: when you have need information about something, you can ask the students, the teenagers, they can help you, maybe they don’t have enough confident, but they can speak a little english. about the street sellers, you’re right, should know speak “khong” before visit Vietnam. It’s mean you don’t want to purchase, exchange, some thing like that, or simple you don’t want to bothered. moreover, you don’t speak anything, and keep going. whatever don’t sell in the store, something street sellers try to persuade you buy, etc.. i think you shouldn’t buy. and try to find the store where have people may speaking enlish, for exe: in Hanoi city, around Hoan Kiem lake, around West lake, or in the big center… . keep careful with your assets, your money, your phone,.. only use or hold it when you really need it. you know, no country is perfect. after all, i hope you and everyone might visit my country one day with amazing experience, not bad experience.
            Wish you lucky when travel the others country, of course Vietnam,too, Thank you so much because used to visit my country. dear.

          • Hi Ng么 Vi岷縯 Minh, I certainly hope my article does not make it sound like everyone in Vietnam is bad. While teaching English and motorcycling the HCMT, I did make friends with several amazing Vietnamese buddies, people I still talk to to this day. They were all a little saddened/hurt/ashamed when I expressed to them the experiences I had not just in one city or in one week, but week after week, month after month, regardless of where I was visiting. And you are right, I definitely had better interactions as a whole with teenagers and young 20-somethings. They seem more open to foreigners and to learning about the world outside of Vietnam, as opposed to the elders.

            In the end, as you said, no country is perfect. But the one thing I have learned from the dozens of countries I’ve visited during my last seven years as a nomad is this: every country has something to learn from every other country, if only people would just leave race, religion and politics out of the discussion. This unfortunately seems harder for the elder generation to do, but I have faith in the younger Vietnamese generation — especially when I hear from people like you. So cheers to the future 馃檪

          • Hi Ng么
            It was interesting to hear your opinion. I have found most Vietnamese people very friendly and especially young people. You are right no country is perfect.
            I hope that the general view of Vietnam expressed by travelers changes soon. Travel helps the Vietnamese economy and sharing cultural experiences has proven to build relationships rather than mistrust. Best wishes Ng么 from an Australian.

      • You are spot on, Matty. It’s well-known in-country, but the web is awash in shilling – lies penned by travel agents. Sorry to hear of your plight. Nha Trang in particular is vile – full of wannabe mafia dirtbags.

      • Hi Matty,
        I am a Vietnamese and I am so sorry and ashamed of the problems you encountered. As a local citizen, I am also sometimes ripped off when I travel to places, especially to the North. I had terrible experience there. But I had amazing time in Nha Trang.
        I do agree that our tourisim is not good and the goverment have not taken enough action to solve the problems. But I do believe that most Vietnamese people are not that rude and nasty. I am truly sorry you met that minority group of people.
        I am currently living in Dong Ha, Quang Tri, a small town in the Central VietNam. And it’s my great pleasure to be your tour guide free of charge if you decide to give VietNam another chance.

        • See Yen, you are proof right there that there are friendly, amazing, concerned people in Vietnam. It just appears like most tourists don’t have enough encounters with people like you, unfortunately. Thanks for your offer to Matty. BTW, I spent two amazing weeks in Central Vietnam using Dong Hoi just north of you as a base and that was one of my favorite parts of the country. Between the beaches, the food, the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and of course the beautiful mountains and places like Phong Nha-Ke Bang, that was one area I wish I’d had more time to stick around 馃檪

        • I think Vietnam is class, people try to rip me off, steal from me in the UK, and , I’m getting ripped off in VN, for what?, a dollar?, or two, three max, great food, excellent friends I’ve made there, can’t do enough for me, bit embarrassing at times in fact, I have learned that, no eye contact with a street seller is a great deterrent, but by and large , no problems, I’ll be in ” Pho Tay” again , in October

          • My problem is not the 1-2 dollar part it’s the ripping off part. Why should you *have* to be ripped off? There are plenty of other countries where people hand you back money when you overpay, rather than pocketing it and saying that is not enough, the price has changed now.

    • I loved Vietnam when I went there long ago on a business trip. The food, environment, everything was just wonderful. And although I never felt anyone tried to “rip me off”, at one point I was surrounded by a group of locals speaking harsh tones about “that violent American”. I was a 29 year old woman at the time, scared for my life for the hostility I felt. But I was also clueless of what they were referring to, still steeped in my supremacist mindset.

      Now, 25 years later, I’ve came to realize I could not blame them for what they were saying. How horrific it was when be bombed their land long ago, what atrocity an act it was to their people, let alone our own. I’ve since done a lot of international travel around the world, and everywhere I go, I hear how horrific American foreign policy is. I agree.

      Nobody there is ripping off anyone. It just may be they feel you’re people ripped them off long ago. With their lives, their home, their families. War has never been for good cause. If we want to be well received in foreign lands, we need to treat those lands with humanity.

      • Agree with your point about American foreign policy, but that is a-whole-nother conversation there, one that I’m not going to get into just now. Like you, I’ve also been around the world, however in Vietnam things were different, very different. And given that there is no shortage of articles scattered across the web written by people citing all the same criticisms I have on Vietnam, not to mention the comments here, I think its safe to say that Vietnam could use some…polishing.

    • Long story that says “Yes everything you’ve about Vietnam is absolutely true, it’s an awful hell-hole. But don’t rule it out just yet! You can get pick pocketed, get ripped off by everybody for every single thing you buy, be laughed at and called stupid behind your back, (which you must be- you came to their country willingly didn’t you?) Local charms include cute lizards in your hotel room, along with scorpions, giant centipedes, the occasional cobra, and worst of all, street merchants. If you DO come, have a nice trip ,if you survive!”
      Where do i buy my tickets for this wonderful country? Fact is i would not go there if you paid me a million dong (about $4 in real money).

    • I found this to be a very truthful, honest and well written article about why tourist do not return. Everything you wrote cannot be faulted. I have lived in Vietnam for 2 years and agree with your comments. It is quite exhausting to constantly be on guard against being ripped off. I only recently discovered that taking an actual car taxi is cheaper than the taxi motor bikes (xe om) which charge almost double!

      • Thanks. Several other professional travel bloggers took great offense to this article and thought I was wrong, rude and racist. But two years later, this article has withstood the test of time and people all around the world — even Vietnamese people — are conceding that yes, in fact, the things mentioned above are true. Wish they weren’t but alas….

        • After two and a half months in Vietnam, I have to agree with constant rip-offs. One tip concerning the taxis: use the app Grabtaxi/Grabbike. You choose pickup and drop-off place and the app automatically calculates the price (3000 Dong/km with a xe om!) and you don’t have to bargain any more. I was quite surprised to see the actual price in the appwhen our Vietnamese colleagues told us about the nontourist price. Even after two minutes of bargaining I had always paid double the price! If your pickup place is on a main street, using the app is no problem, if you are in one of the small side streets, they might call you to find you.

          The experience that other locals laugh at you while you are being ripped off was quite disappointing (I held one finger up to show the guy at the gas station to put 10000 Dong of fuel in my tank which usually work, instead he just filled it up completely). Young students are still really different, one of them took me on his bike from My Dinh station outside of Hanoi to my hostel cause he wanted to make friends with a foreigner.

          • You’re not the first to mention those apps Daniel. Not sure if they were around two years ago when I was teaching English in Hanoi but they are DEFINITELY something I recommend for all travelers headed to Vietnam. 10,000 Dong/km was the best tourist price I could ever get, even after many months of learning how to handle those guys (not to mention several years of travel experience prior to Vietnam).

            But you are so right, the youth of Vietnam are totally different! They don’t have the same prejudice or predatory habits as some of the older locals. That gives me hope that in a decade or two, many of these complaints that tourists have will no longer be a problem.

    • Hi TCN,
      I totally agree with your explanation and suggestion. That is the main reason for the bad attitude of Vietnamese people today! “Like father, like son”. If a country which is controlled by a group of uneducated mafia who only know how to cheat, how to rob their own people even to their last means of their life, their own house. What else they can do? Rip off the other to survive, it is very bad but they have no choice!
      Derek, Unfortunately you come to our country at the wrong time, I mean if you holiday in Vietnam before 1975, you will be very happy as you come to Japan now. Before the communist invades the South Vietnam, it is the best country in SEA and that is why Vietnamese called “The PEARL OF ASIA” as Ando mentioned before.
      At that time, VN economy is better than Philippine, Thailand, Korea, etc…
      About education, the children are taught how to behave and respect their parent and elderly they are taught to thanks to people who help you, the children are also taught about the beautiful, the value of religion and what are the end results if you hurt anyone. And you know what happen to the children in VN now?
      They teach them that the Westerners are our enemy, they occupy our country and punish our people! They do not teach the children about the religious (no religious under communist), they do not teach about moral!
      They teach the children to inform the “government” if your parents is going to criticise the wrong doing, the mistake of “government”! They have to cheat each other to survive! That are all why you hardly find good people in VN particularly in the North where they are under communist for nearly half of a century.
      I am now 60 years old, who witness two political systems that is why I have a clear understand of the people attitude and totally agree with you about the bad things that you are experienced while holiday in VN.
      I go to visit my mum “90 years old” every year and totally agree with you on everything. I will not holiday in VN if my mum is not there!
      It is very sad, but ” it is the truth”!
      Thank you

    • I agree with you! My family emigrated to the US 1975, so I too am not treated as kindly there. Locals are just down right rude and to address me as a Viet Kieu under their breathe is utterly disrespectful to say the least! I will not be returning to visit a country and spending my hard earned money on a country that just isn’t nice to anyone but their own kind! After this trip… I am happy disassociate myself from the country that my mother gave birth to me and have now taken on a new meaning to being a proud American.

    • I agree. I have just returned to Vietnam. It is absolutely the awesomest country I have ever been to (and yes I’ve been to Thailand too which is much overrated compared to Vietnam which is in my opinion underrated)

      Now, I spent around a month in Saigon and Phu Quoc Island.

      Not, only did most of the people behaved great BUT also went beyond the call of duty like for example:

      1. We were going to sit down at a restaurant and eat when I noticed I forgot to bring my wallet. The host insisted we sit down and eat and bring the money later when we have time :))

      Not only did the host did this but actually she offered us 200 000VND to get home in case we needed to buy gas for the motorbike. We were absolutely shocked came the next day, paid and also left a big tip. I swear to god we had to beg for the host to actually accept a tip of 100k

      2. We were trying to get our boarding passes printed but it was Sunday and whatever print-shops we encountered were closed. So I tried a random phone dealership cuz maybe I thought they had a printer. They did not print stuff for money but the guy offered to print for free.

      3. Our bike broke down, we took it to the repair shop. Guy worked half an hour —> cost 20.000VND which is like….almost 1$

      I cannot say that some people did not try to scam (and by this I mean two people in a month of interacting every day with locals) This involved the famous “shoeshine scam” and the “hold this thing and let’s take a picture scam.

      But hey, here’s the thing. I was prepared. So many of these “scams” are so easily avoidable by just saying NO. NO, I do not my shoes shined, NO I do not want a picture with you, NO I don’t eat in a restaurant with no pricetags, NO I do not buy anything before asking the price (even if it is listed I make sure BEFORE I ORDER that that is what I want and that is how much it costs.

      • Hey Niculae, glad to hear you had a great trip. Wow, only 20,000 dong to fix your bike……that is phenomenal. Congratulations on finding one of the honest ones! During my three months and two dozen mechanics, only a couple times did I pay less than 150,000. (C’mon now, I purposely bought a shit Honda Win and named it “Rusty”, clearly we stopped at a lot of repair shops.) ????

        And you’re right, just like you, I don’t need shoes shined or sandals repaired, don’t want photos, don’t want to donate to your “charity” and don’t need a motorcycle taxi. Although sometimes bothersome depending upon the destination, they are normal and easy to ignore for experienced or long-term travelers. However, I enjoy street food and especially love those small family restaurants open on the first floor of their home, cooking with family recipes that have been passed down for generations. The closest thing to a menu any of those places have is photos or a price crudely written on the wall. Hopefully that counts as the “pricetag” you referred to in your comment.

        My primary issues are not with these routine and predictable tourists scams — I have been nomadic since 2008 and seen it all — but rather with:
        – Written/sticker prices doubling solely because I am a foreigner or they suddenly have “no change”   No price is fine, that just means it is negotiation time, but if the price is posted there is no negotiating.
        – Locals blatantly lying to me, whether about how far various places were or which motorcycle parts needed replacing or other things that I know are lies   Not traditional tourist touts but ordinary citizens, from teenagers to mom and dad to dear little old grandma who looked so sweet until she opened her harsh mouth. Vietnam is still the only country where a driver argued with Google Maps “not 1km its 7km, map wrong” except I had been to this place several times and knew it really was only 1.1km away.
        – Being insulted or made fun of by locals in Vietnamese to my face. Repeatedly. In different place and different cities.   Mostly in the north, but still…..never seen such blanket rudeness in any other country.
        – The utter lack of disrespect towards people considered inferior, not just foreigners but even locals as well.   Witnessed a young Vietnamese lady with a large load on her bike fall over while taking turn on the slippery streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. She was small and got pinned down by the scooter yet none of the locals watching came to her rescue. So I did. (Wrote about it in one of my first ever Facebook posts)

        To quote what another expert traveler wrote on the above Facebook post, “Most people I know who’ve visited Vietnam say that it’d be their favourite country – if it wasn’t for the Vietnamese people, famous for being shrewd, rude and uncaring underneath the occasional fake smile.” Fairly certain my American accent didn’t help either (especially in the north) given the whole “American War” as it is called in Vietnam. Unfortunately even Vietnamese born people who have left the country for a few decades and then return for a vacation face similar discrimination, especially if they have a foreign spouse.

        Ohhhhhh I haven’t even written about the wildest one yet, when locals put locks on my motorcycle wheels and attempted to extort 2 MILLION DONG from me. Having just gone to the ATM my wallet was flush with 10 million dong so there was no way I was pulling it out of my pocket — I had already learned by this point that prices change when someone sees you have more money. Long story short, I had been in this town for a week using the same restaurant wifi to work every day, so the Vietnamese manager knew me, knew I had laptop and camera gear in my bag also, and came to my rescue. (That post is a half-finished draft collecting dust, along with an entertaining post about the “casual communism” of Vietnam.)

        Anyway, I apologize for rambling on. Seriously glad that you had a great time. Some people really do, and I encourage them to return. Just want you to know that I am not just some spoiled tourist but rather a professional nomad who makes a living producing travel videos for clients around the world. And I tried my best in the article to cover everything, even cite statistics and numbers…….which could probably be updated. Thanks for the reminder Niculae.

        P.S. In regards to Thailand, oh yes there is no shortage of scams and touts in the popular destinations, however when comparing Thai people to Vietnamese people……well, there is no comparison. Thai people are friendly to strangers whereas Vietnamese people treat strangers as prey. Not all, but a far far larger percentage of the general population than I have ever seen anywhere else in the world.

    • Just returned from a wonderful month travelling around central and northern Vietnam with my wife and three kids aged 21, 17 and 11. One of the best budget family holidays we have ever had – will definitely return.

      Of course, we had our ‘moments’ but the overall holiday was wonderful and basically pretty easy – no issues and nothing to complain about.

      Would definitely recommend the place to other Australians as a place to visit. Our children especially liked the country and soaked up its history, culture and richness.

      Our next trip will be the south and more of the centre of Vietnam – and perhaps Cambodia.

      Can’t wait.

    • hi Derek., hi all

      accidentally stumbled across you sight today, read everything you wrote and as much as i hate to say it, I can’t agree more.

      I am a Vietnam born Australian myself currently living and working in Vietnam and despite the fact that i talk and walk just like the locals, had been in Vietnam for 10 yrs ,I myself however still have to deal with everything that you had encountered here in Vietnam on a daily basis, and i mean that from all social levels, i can’t be too obvious but i am sure you guys will catch my drifts.

      what i am trying to say is, it’s not just foreigners who are facing these kind of problems but even for people of Vietnamese origin like me are not exempted. I don’t know how these rapacious mentality came about much less do i think it’s justifiable, but i know for sure though that it’s gonna kill Vietnam’s already fragile tourism industry.. i am glad you pointed it out… it is time for tourists themselves to take the stance and say NO (khong) to such nuisance, give Vietnam what it very much need a WAKE UP CALL.. the scams, the lies, the tricks and the cheats have got to stop, it sadden me to see that a country (my birthplace) once renowned for it’s fine hospitality, the PEARL OF ASIA has somehow turned into what it is today, what a total disgrace.

      please understand people. the pathological lies, rapacious modern & current culture don’t represent Vietnam for she herself also is a systematic victim of circumstnances.

      • It saddens me to hear that even you, as a person of Vienamese descent, encounters the same issues that I did. It really does. But I couldn’t agree with you more. I hope this helps to serve as a wake up call to Vietnam. It is an amazingly beautiful country with a rich history and a proud people…but they have to learn how to better interact with not just foreigners, but also people of their own nationality who have spent time abroad. I’m not saying it is wrong to have pride in your county and all you have overcome, but don’t treat everyone as the enemy. It’s time to move forward and embrace tourism, rather than leave visitors with a foul taste in their mouth. Thanks Ando for your comment and best wishes 馃檪

        • Hi Derek

          Thank you for your reply and yes it is rather sad, trust me they don鈥檛 treat foreigner as Enemy, most of them who are out there ripping off foreigners + overseas Vietnamese like me all have similar if not the same mentality, they all thinking that we are all stupid and easy targets, putting it simply my friend, they are cashing in on our generosity & our basic civilized social obligation, what really disgusted me is that some even brag about it as if they should be recognized and credited for their despicable efforts.

          Here is a fine trading Proverb that almost every Vender, Seller in Vietnam knows it by heart which they wouldn鈥檛 hesitate to recite it to you should they find your business not interesting, I know this one well because they have insulted me with this one over and over again.

          鈥 100 NGUOI BAN, VAN NGUOI MUA鈥

          鈥 100 SELLER , TEN THOUSAND BUYERS 鈥

          which means they have done their maths with the Ratio well, so what ? if they missed 01 prey, they still have 99 other preys at their disposals

          This shall give you an insight into their mindsets, there is just no gratitude to the very people that help putting food on their tables and clothes on their backs

          I really hate to have said what I just did because they would brand me a Traitor, but you know what, I rather be a Traitor than myself and others becoming victims.

          You are most welcome Derek 鈥 let鈥檚 hope that things will change soon.


          • I’m a Vietnamese American who was born in Vietnam and i speak the language fluently and I’ve been travelling back to Vietnam once to twice a year for the past 14 years so I’ve seen quite a bit. I haven’t quite experienced the level of being ripped off that you have, but I take it all in stride. A few tips for travellers to Vietnam:

            1. No eye contact and no speaking to street vendors that you don’t want to do business with. We in the west want to be polite and graciously decline offers without appearing to be rude. In my mind, the street vendors are being rude to me if they keep on hasseling me, so i just completely ignore them as if they are not there unless i want to buy something.

            2. When bargaining always mention that their competitor the next stall away is selling the same thing. Hold a price in your head that is fair – inexpensive for you and giving the vendor a chance to make some money as well because they have to feed their families. Ask for the price and if they don’t budge, use a hand motion that their competitor is selling “same same everywhere”. Say it with a smile and joke around with them. This is for a few dollars, not a multibillion dollar deal! 90% of the time I will get my price. But what I also get back is “you so handsome, why you so cheap?” I also walk away if they don’t give me my price. Someone else will.

            3. In big cities like Saigon or Hanoi, I never take a motorbike taxi. The regular metered taxis are so cheap. Always use Mai Linh or Vinasun. They are reputable. In Hanoi they may have a different brand. Using google maps is always handy to show the driver where you want to go if you don’t speak Vietnamese.

            4. As far as street food vendors, I’ve found them very honest now. There may have been two different prices 15 years ago, but not now. But because they can tell I’m a Viet Kieu (foreign Vietnamese) thay will often ask if I want extra – like extra meat which means more money that they will charge me. But I eat my street food well away from the backpacker areas.

            Remember, smile and they will smile back. It pays to be nice, but also firm and fair.

        • This statement is a shame but it’s not original.
          In so called western countries the saying is applied discreetly via bills sent through the Net, Tax, sales, etc..
          鈥 100 NGUOI BAN, VAN NGUOI MUA鈥
          鈥 100 SELLER , TEN THOUSAND BUYERS 鈥
          I don’t care what they say. An in joke is on those who enjoy it. There is also a saying: I will be leaving to fly home soon and the second mouse gets the cheese. I can cope with the minor crooks. It’s the major ones that have me concerned. Best wishes. I like Vietnam.

      • @ Ando,

        When was Viet Nam ever the PEARL OF ASIA? What time period? And how would you know, you never lived in that period? Viet Nam was many thing but never the PERAL OF ASIA my friend. Stop making up garbage, I should know, I’m Vietnamese too.

  1. everything i love there. exept traffic and price for foreigners sometime. And once were serious talking with taxi, that made some circle to that place because we ask to turn on meter. we even wanted do not pay him at all, ahah.
    actually, in such countries is better to hang out with locals.

  2. everything i love there. exept traffic and price for foreigners sometime. And once were serious talking with taxi, that made some circle to that place because we ask to turn on meter. we even wanted do not pay him at all, ahah.
    actually, in such countries is better to hang out with locals.

  3. When I was in the region, I skipped Vietnam because I had heard so many bad things about the country, and I didn’t have time to go everywhere. While the country has some beautiful places, I still don’t regret not going.

  4. When I was in the region, I skipped Vietnam because I had heard so many bad things about the country, and I didn’t have time to go everywhere. While the country has some beautiful places, I still don’t regret not going.

  5. Agreed Mariia, in such countries its always better to hang out with the locals. That is where my few really good experiences in Vietnam were, while with local friends. Since I still have friends there I’m sure I’ll give the country a second go sometime soon and see if I have a better experience 馃檪

  6. Agreed Mariia, in such countries its always better to hang out with the locals. That is where my few really good experiences in Vietnam were, while with local friends. Since I still have friends there I’m sure I’ll give the country a second go sometime soon and see if I have a better experience 馃檪

  7. Vietnam was a fascinating place to visit for its history, food, and natural beauty. I had an incredible time traveling there, but of the Southeast Asian countries I traveled to, it was probably my least favorite. Feeling like you’re getting scammed all the time really wears on you after a while.

  8. That’s exactly why I have always skipped Vietnam until now Jim…because of what I have heard. However I figured with a really good friend there my experiences would be different but they really weren’t :/

  9. That’s exactly why I have always skipped Vietnam until now Jim…because of what I have heard. However I figured with a really good friend there my experiences would be different but they really weren’t :/

  10. We’ve heard similar stories but mostly had a different experience ourselves (2 month-stay, 10 years ago). We concluded that this probably had to do with traveling with our own vehicle, rough camping and such. Not sure if that’s the reason, just our theory because that’s the only than that really set us apart from people having lots of problems in Vietnam.

    We didn’t need their public transportation, their hostels, their guided tours to get anywhere. We camped, cooked, had people come over to see what we were doing and tasting our food. For me Vietnam is the country in Southeast Asia where I laughed the most; jokes with people even though we didn’t share a language.

    The one time we had a rip-off problem was when entering the country and my partner first had to take a bus to a city to arrange local car papers. He needed that bus, and they knew that; he paid – big time. During that same trip other locals took him in, paid his hostel, took him to dinner and karaoke, and organized the bus trip back so the overall feeling was good.

    One tip about going out for dinner: we would have similar issues when eating in Northwest China (Kashgar), where afterwards they asked more than agreed on beforehand. In Vietnam we simply solved it by paying beforehand, and I have to say we never felt we did not get enough to eat or less than locals.

    Hope that helps in your analysis?

  11. We’ve heard similar stories but mostly had a different experience ourselves (2 month-stay, 10 years ago). We concluded that this probably had to do with traveling with our own vehicle, rough camping and such. Not sure if that’s the reason, just our theory because that’s the only than that really set us apart from people having lots of problems in Vietnam.

    We didn’t need their public transportation, their hostels, their guided tours to get anywhere. We camped, cooked, had people come over to see what we were doing and tasting our food. For me Vietnam is the country in Southeast Asia where I laughed the most; jokes with people even though we didn’t share a language.

    The one time we had a rip-off problem was when entering the country and my partner first had to take a bus to a city to arrange local car papers. He needed that bus, and they knew that; he paid – big time. During that same trip other locals took him in, paid his hostel, took him to dinner and karaoke, and organized the bus trip back so the overall feeling was good.

    One tip about going out for dinner: we would have similar issues when eating in Northwest China (Kashgar), where afterwards they asked more than agreed on beforehand. In Vietnam we simply solved it by paying beforehand, and I have to say we never felt we did not get enough to eat or less than locals.

    Hope that helps in your analysis?

  12. I enjoyed Vietnam, but I also found it incredibly frustrating at times. I remember sitting on a beach in Nha Trang and a wave of peddlers came by with the same useless stuff that I finally got up and left. I also did not enjoy being haggled while eating. This is something I have never experienced in any other country. Most people around the world know to leave one in peace while enjoying a meal. I had some great experiences though and would return in a second.

    • Nothing worse than when the peddlers are so bad you cannot even relax at the beach.

      Yeah, traveling Vietnam is a definite rollercoaster ride of ups and downs…one day will be perfect and then the next absolutely horrible. After a while it really wears you down. Even so I will most likely still return for a second trip sometime. Am curious to see if the nation can redeem itself in my eyes and provide a better experience now that I know what to expect.

    • You obviously have never been to Bali or Malaysia. Bali was back in 75/76 and the hassling was constant until newer tourists arrived. Malaysia was in KL Jalan Alor where we experienced the constant pestering with useless items, laser lights in particular.

      Still I most wholeheartedly agree with going back in a second. Sixth trip is beginning 31 May.

      • And you obviously have only read this one article on my six year travel blog. I’ve spent a year traveling Indonesia and half that traveling Malaysia. And yes, I do hate Bali with a passion. Touts are an unfortunate staple of heavily visited areas. But I have never had 1) locals argue with me saying my Google Map was wrong, that it’s 6km instead of the 1.1km shown on map; 2) locals change the agreed upon price after pulling out a few small bills from my pocket; 3) locals laugh at me while saying the local language they are overcharging me for a half portion; 4) locals … Ehhh, you either get the point or you don’t. I’m not here to argue with you, merely report my findings.

        • Mate I’ve lived in Vietnam 10 years and I can tell you the things that have happened to you as a traveller also happen as a resident, just in a different way. While I love this country and it’s people it’s my experience that they are by nature opportunists, with each other and anyone else. If you allow yourself to get played out then they’ll do it every day of the week. They respect intelligence and respect resilience. You show both they don’t mess with you.

  13. I didn’t have any of these problems in Vietnam… And I’m not being a dumb tourist, we’re extreme budgeters, so we’d know if we weren’t paying a fair price for things. I don’t know if it’s a different experience if you’re a British tourist, as opposed to an American (which would be a sad state of affairs if so)…

    Whilst we were in Vietnam we were really wary because of reading a lot of post similar to this and Nomadic Matt’s, but something bad just never happened! Admittedly, there were waaay more people following you around trying to sell you things you don’t want, but it wasn’t as bad as China. Mostly, locals were nice, some even helped us when we were lost in the street and afterwards we felt terrible for having been suspicious of their intentions. We also never had people laughing at us in restaurants etc – not sure if that’s because we mainly only ate in specifically vegetarian restaurants (just because we are veggies and there were plenty around) or what.

    • Glad to hear that you had a great (and budget-friendly) time in Vietnam…all too often I hear the opposite and it’s good to know that some people are still having an extraordinary experience there. I personally had all these years never read Nomadic Matt’s post about Vietnam because I didn’t want it to taint my initial experiences. Only after having such a rough time there did I finally read his post and think “hey, that all sounds familiar.” I had the same thought again after reading the Scammed In Vietnam article. So yeah, definitely cool to hear that y’all had a better experience. Maybe I need to try eating at more vegetarian restaurants 馃槈

  14. Hey..it’s not surprised me, I heard about this from Western travelers I met on the road and when we had random conversation about Vietnam, some of them told me never want to go back to Vietnam because they rip them off (esp in Halong Bay).

    I think being an Asian tourist in Vietnam is more ‘acceptable’ than white tourist. CMIIW. Have you visited War Remnant Museum in Saigon?? When I explored the museum, I agree with your points above… maybe there are some connections with their bitter history why they’re becoming more ‘cold’ than SE Asian in general. When I visited that museum, in heart I wondered any American has the gut to visit this museum or HCMC and admit it they are American. The involvement of US military in Vietnam War are not really something to be proud of (it might be different if you watch documentary in History Channel which is from your side). The victims of Agent Orange’s pictures made me speechless & really had no words to say but life is very unfair. Honestly, my eyes got watery to see the fact that on some other part of the world life could be very so cruel or people just born in vain. The Agent Orange is still affecting their generation up to now. Sad but true.

    Then prior to that, I visited Chu Chi tunnel and listened to the history of it, I assumed the cold character or seems to be suspicious to foriegner (especially to Western) are from their last war history, if we put ourselves in their shoes, after French gone then American came intefered their civil war and gave them more sufferings, they might see white people as an enemy, distrustful, or rip you off because you guys deserved it (though it’s not you and them who deal with the past.. It’s like a hidden revenge 馃槢 ) , then they have a long contact with Chinese in history, it might be another factor, too. I’m interested in their political system, communism (no, no.. I’m not commie), it’s probably living under communist system made them not really expressive or welcome. What do you think??

    I took a road trip from Thailand, Cambodia then Vietnam, meanwhile both Cambodian & Thai are very welcome to tourist, it’s totally different character when I made conversation with random Vietnamese on the road.

    But, unlike you, I still like Vietnam. Really want to travel back to Vietnam, take a road trip from north to south and one thing I really love from Vietnam is their coffee. Owch, thanks to French who brought this coffee culture to Vietnam.. I’m a coffee person, I found out Vietnamese coffee is strong and unique 馃槈

    • Yeah, Halong Bay is one giant scam. Especially sucks if you spend all that money and the weather ends up being crappy. I heard lots of complaints from a variety of tourists along my trip, which is one of the reasons why I wrote this. It seems to be the Westerners, whether American, Italian, German or whatever, who have the worst experiences in Vietnam. Other Asian travelers do not report near the same level of aggravation or scams.

      As far as American involvement in the war, even back then most people were against it — especially the youth. That’s what the hippies and the “peace-loving” generation were all about. Actually the current war in the Middle East has sparked similar outcries of peace as those heard back in the 1960s and 70s, albeit much less far-reaching. Not less active, just much less heard. That’s because a few rich billionaires control the mainstream media and therefore the “news” nowadays. Hooray.

      I like coffee but I’m more of a tea person than a coffee person. Had Vietnamese coffee a few times but never tried any of the really good stuff, just street coffee while hanging out with my friends who own this motorcycle shop in Hanoi. Hmmmm well if I make it back there to retrieve my motorcycle then I’ll be sure to try some real Vietnamese coffee. Thanks for the tip! 馃槈

  15. The first time i was there, i loved it but then i started hating it as time passes by. As i find it intrusive that sellers keep bugging you and rude girls that flirts with your bf in front of you and getting ripped of all the time bec you cant speak the language, but most of all when ex bf started flirting back with girls in front of you thats when i said enough. Yet, few years later fate brought me back for unintended reason, going to Cambodia that time from Manila has to go theough HCMC. i was nervous bec of the last visit, i swore i wouldn’t go nack there again. There I was meeting awesome people and ooportunities that regained my trust and appreciate Vietnam more. Who knows? Maybe you will rediscover a better Vietnam than your last visit like I did.

  16. The first time I was there, I loved it but then I started hating it as time passes by. As I find it intrusive that sellers keep bugging you and rude girls that flirts with your bf in front of you and getting ripped of all the time bec you cant speak the language, but most of all when ex bf started flirting back with girls in front of you that’s when I said enough. Yet, few years later fate brought me back for unintended reason, going to Cambodia that time from Manila has to go through HCMC. I was nervous bec of the last visit, I swore I wouldn’t go back there again. There I was meeting awesome people and opportunities that regained my trust and appreciate Vietnam more. Who knows? Maybe you will rediscover a better Vietnam than your last visit like I did.

  17. Thanks for sharing Karin-Marijke, appreciate the thorough input 馃檪 I suspect that you are right; traveling as y’all did somewhat removed you from the bulk of circumstances that would have resulted in interactions with unscrupulous locals preying on foreigners. Sounds like you had a really enjoyable experience as a result, only seeing the best of the citizens instead of the worst. I will say however that the local friends I made in Vietnam loved to laugh and were always fun to hang out with.

  18. Thanks for sharing Karin-Marijke, appreciate the thorough input 馃檪 I suspect that you are right; traveling as y’all did somewhat removed you from the bulk of circumstances that would have resulted in interactions with unscrupulous locals preying on foreigners. Sounds like you had a really enjoyable experience as a result, only seeing the best of the citizens instead of the worst. I will say however that the local friends I made in Vietnam loved to laugh and were always fun to hang out with.

  19. I personally wouldn’t go as far as to say I would never return, but I certainly see your point about the sheer scale and intrusiveness of the touts, scams and attitude. It does get extremely tiresome over time and wears even the most patient of saints nerves down. You do get exactly the same anywhere else of course (taxi drivers in KL, touts in BKK etc) but it is definitely more widespread and harder to escape in Vietnam. Probably because it isn’t always just confined to the touristy spots. Like anywhere it is all about trying to see a place for what it really is, warts and all, and then still trying to find that thing that makes you fall in love with it. 馃檪

  20. I personally wouldn’t go as far as to say I would never return, but I certainly see your point about the sheer scale and intrusiveness of the touts, scams and attitude. It does get extremely tiresome over time and wears even the most patient of saints nerves down. You do get exactly the same anywhere else of course (taxi drivers in KL, touts in BKK etc) but it is definitely more widespread and harder to escape in Vietnam. Probably because it isn’t always just confined to the touristy spots. Like anywhere it is all about trying to see a place for what it really is, warts and all, and then still trying to find that thing that makes you fall in love with it. 馃檪

  21. Very true L.a. Cabildo sometimes when you give a country a second chance you get rewarded with a better experience. I still have several good friends there and I do plan on returning again soon, so time will tell. Glad to hear that you had a much better time in Vietnam your second trip. Very encouraging to hear 馃檪

  22. Very true L.a. Cabildo sometimes when you give a country a second chance you get rewarded with a better experience. I still have several good friends there and I do plan on returning again soon, so time will tell. Glad to hear that you had a much better time in Vietnam your second trip. Very encouraging to hear 馃檪

  23. You’ve made my mind up for me thanks, why go somewhere where you will probably get a lot of hassle and no respect just to cross another destination off the list. There’s plenty of places with lots of friendly people where you have to be a lot more unlucky to have a bad experience. Go to Iran if you want to know what a friendly, hassle free country is. I’ve been to some of the poorest, most fucked up places in Africa, where plenty of people have got a very good reason to wangle some extra cash out of tourists but have been treated with decency. Try Guinea in west Africa for a start, they could do with the money.
    I don’t agree that having a tourist industry in its infancy is any excuse, in my and many other travelers experience it’s the more established destinations that are worse, if Vietnam has started out bad it will probably just get worse. In Guinea they didn’t even seem to understand the concept of a foreign tourist wanting to come to their country. Tajikistan is another good example of a tourist industry in its infancy but with hugely welcoming people. There’s great things to see and do all over the place and it would seem better to do them amongst nice people rather than money grabbing bastards. Taxi drivers are of course excluded from any analysis as they are bastards everywhere.

    • I completely agree with that logic Graham. With so many amazing and interesting places to visit in this world, why should anyone waste their time somewhere that they are not wanted, or even worse blatantly taken advantage of due to the locals’ lack of respect? It’s not worth the time or aggravation and certainly not worth the money. Unfortunately I fear that you are right about Vietnam and the current situation not being a result of tourism being in its infancy stage. However I didn’t want to write a purely critical article that offered no insight or advice into the situation (as NM did all those years ago); I wanted to include a small glimmer of hope, a modest attempt at journalistic neutrality. In reality I don’t see things in Vietnam changing anytime soon.

      Although I have yet to visit anywhere in Africa I am very intrigued by that continent, particularly as it is one that so many other travelers bypass completely. Tajikistan however is high up on my list, as are all the -stans (I’m hoping to knock out all seven by next year) and one that I am very much looking forward too. I still own a motorcycle in Vietnam but when there are so many other great places beckoning me, is it really worth going back somewhere I didn’t enjoy just to retrieve and sell a motorcycle? I think not… It already served it’s function getting me around the country and more than paid for itself thanks to all the bastard taxi drivers I was able to avoid because I had my own transportation — even if I had no idea where I was going. But then again that’s the best way to travel in my opinion…with no idea where you are going.

      • Well done on maintaining your journalistic integrity, I cant criticise that. Sure you will love the Stans, though they are not a party destination but thanks to russian influence you wont have much trouble finding people to share a drink with. I really recommend learning some Russian and the cyrillic alphabet as you wont find lots of english speakers. As the local turkic languages are very similar you can use a lot of the words or at least something very similar in the other countries – even for the Uighur in XInjiang – you often get a really great response for making the effort of being able to say hello, thank you etc Whilst on the subject of nice places and languages I am off to your beloved Indonesia soon and wanted to do a couple of weeks course in Bahasa when I get there, have you got any ideas of anywhere not too expensive for lessons pls

        • Thanks very much for the tips, appreciate it. By any chance do you know Stephen Lioy and his blog, Monk Bought Lunch? He is a another cool cat and self-described Silk Road expert. Lives in Kyrgyzstan now and has been doing a great job documenting the region, albeit in a somewhat less entertaining writing style than you.

          As far as Bahasa goes, I learned it by living with locals and from the onscreen work I did there, never took any classes. They are commonplace and I’d be happy to put you in touch with some amazing friends in Indonesia for recommendations. However the main reason I never took any classes is that you have to stay in one city for the duration of the course, booked in monthly blocks that most often involve a 2hr class 4-5 days a week that (if I remember correctly). Price is about $200/month. Of course I’m sure there are other, shorter crash-course options available, it just depends on the city.

          Beyond that, how much do you know about Bahasa Indonesia? It’s an admittedly simple yet surprisingly tricky language. The lack of conjugations, tenses, tones and gender make the base words easy. However where it gets difficult is with the formal, the informal and the slang, the latter of which varies from city to city. I’m much better at speaking/writing informally and with lots of slang than I am formally.

          The schools will teach you formal and to a lesser degree informal, but none of the locals that most travelers interact with actually speak like that. Following textbook Bahasa is basically like saying “I’m a foreigner who just arrived and doesn’t know anything about Indonesia yet.” Case in point: One of my good friends and fellow travel bloggers just got a one year sponsorship to study Bahasa in Indonesia. She is from the States and all she knows Bahasa-wise is what the basic textbook taught her. As a result often I’m…hmmm how do I say this…not correcting her so much but telling her a more authentic way to say it, if that makes sense.

          Although Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of the country, there are hundreds of regional languages spoken as well, from Javanese to Balinese to Acehnese, and locals often mix them mid-sentence. Despite the close proximity these different dialects have little if anything in common.

          As one final note (I’ve rambled on too much already, as I always do) the slang is so tricky and is constantly changing so much that I’ve had to tell native Indonesians the definition of slang words I use because they have never heard them before.

          Hope this information doesn’t scare you away from your plans, I most definitely encourage you to learn Bahasa Indonesia…that way I’ll have someone else to practice with 馃槈 But on a more serious note, just know it’s not as easy to become fluent as some might lead people to believe.

          • I really appreciate you taking the time to pass on the advice re Bahasa – sure you have plenty of things to keep you busy. I didnt have too grand a vision of what I could learn in a short time but your dose of reality will just have to inspire me to work a bit harder at it when I get there. What central asia has really reminded me of is that tourist basics in a language rarely offer real insights into a culture but going to the next level up, albeit with the limitations you refer to, open up more possibilities. Its everyday life which interests me and often foreign language speakers in a country are not particularly representative of the bulk of the population in many repsects, so if I am able to interact with a few people to get a little better understanding of the culture then I will be happy. I dont mind commiting myself to staying put for a while to do lessons. If you do know anyone who wouldnt mind sparing me a bit of time I would be grateful for the contact.
            Somehow missed stephen’s blog, will check it out thanks

    • I read with interest on the mostly negative comments re Vietnam. I m Vietnamese Aussie. Last visited VN 5 years ago. Brief business trip. My parents go back every year. I talk go my Dad about the issues re VN and generally it s all negative. You have to understand that the culture has changed because the people running the country has allowed it to change. When incompetency starts at the top it pretty much filters all the way down. It is difficult to be generous and hospitable when you have been brainwashed into submission your whole life with the teachings of Marx/Lenin and then left stranded to fend for yourself when the truth comes home to roost. A whole generation of confused and neglected population left grasping at the left overs after the Party members have taken their shares.
      Agree that the locals take advantage of westerners with regards to scams etc. To some extent it is understandable. More so in Central and Northern parts of VN where the war took the most toll.
      If you choose to visit the Southern part I m sure you will experience better treatments. Southern Vietnamese are traditionally more hospitable mainly because they ve historically been more fortunate and affluent. The abundance of fertile land and therefore rice ensures most don’t have to concern themselves with having to resort to survival instincts. In this region you will meet the people representative of all that is traditional and good about VN.
      I m saddened by the negative comments that I read, however I m hopeful that my motherland will, in the not too distant future, rise once more to reveal her true self – that her peoples are generous, respectful, hospitable, considerate to their own as well as to the visitors of their home land.

      • Thanks for the comment TCN and all the interesting information contained within. And yes, I did experience much better treatment in the south — now I know why. However I too hold out hope that over the upcoming years the situation does improve, as more and more foreigners travel to Vietnam and express the kindness and compassion that they show to strangers, even if they are of a different nationality or faith.

        Unfortunately what you said about when “incompetency starts at the top it pretty much filters all the way down” is true in many nations, although this incompetency does take many different forms depending upon the country.

  24. Your storytelling is always entertaining. To entertain is to hold someone’s attention. That’s no small feat by any means in today’s world. I believe that the person who dies with the most stories, wins! You will certainly be a winner.

    • Hey now that was mighty eloquent (and kind) of you, thanks so much 馃檪 Been juggling so many things these last few months that most of my writings have just been shelved as drafts or filed away for later use in an eBook. Well, now that I’m too busy with this and that to do any fresh writing, might as well clean out my old drafts while organizing the blog and try to kill two birds with one stone. Thanks for always reading with such enthusiasm, honored to be considered an entertaining storyteller. Speaking of my greatest scam story in Vietnam didn’t even make that post…I need to update it now. Wild stuff!

    • Omg, there鈥檚 so much truth and wisdom in that one line, 鈥渢he person who dies with the most stories wins鈥! It鈥檚 similar to 鈥渓ife is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!鈥 Thank you for such a simple, yet eye-opening philosophy on how to live one鈥檚 life to the fullest.

  25. I can understand the frustration and certainly saw it happen at my time in Vietnam. Being an Asian looking traveller (I’m Australian), I didn’t experience anywhere near as bad to be honest and I’m not surprised you did. However, there was one point that I think is worth pointing out – on being offered a place to sleep. I’m hoping your intention was referring to merely an observation as opposed to an expectation of being offered free accommodation, as I don’t think anyone is obligated to offer anyone, let alone a tourist/foreigner, a place to sleep. Just because it occurred less frequently in Vietnam, it should not be conjectured to deeming Vietnamese people less hospitable. There are a large range of factors that may have eventuated towards this and given their historical and cultural circumstances (which you’ve acknowledged), it may have an influence on why a place to sleep was not offered more frequently. Just my two cents.

    • My apologies, I didn’t mean free accommodation just for the sake of being free. I meant as in “hey I’m in the middle of nowhere literally 100+km from the nearest hotel but am so exhausted I’m going to sleep on the side of the ride because I cannot drive any further.” “Hey no worries my new buddy, sleep under my roof instead where your bike and possessions will be safe.”

      I never set out to find “free” accommodations, I just wanted to have some interactions with locals in a natural environment (in other words, not with guides on tours).

      However I completely agree with what you said, I’m sure there are more factors to it. I was just expressing a few of the things that I noticed during my travels there. For all I know, I could have just been meeting all the wrong people.

      • Absolutely! I could read your intentions but just wanted to clarify. Appreciate the acknowledgement and hopefully your second time around will improve! Perhaps contact Jodi from Legal Nomads about how she handles it after she spent months on end there?

        • Yeah, we connected via Twitter earlier. Saw her at TBEX last year but had forgotten about her love of Vietnam. She didn’t agree with this post. But as I said in the first paragraph, even if you love everywhere there’s always one place you like the least. I was really hoping more people with positive experiences would have chimed in with their comments :/

          • I suppose you can agree to disagree, each to their own. Her passions lay in food where yours may be something different. Sometimes you overcome the negative aspects because the positives are that much greater and I guess that may have something to do with her love of Vietnam!

  26. I actually really enjoyed my time in Vietnam and would definitely go back. But my experience was different – I was traveling in a small group with a Vietnamese guide, so I’m positive that influenced my overall experience.

    • Yeah, no doubt you are right. During my three months there I traveled with Vietnamese friends, by myself, and with other foreigners, and it was a vastly different experience when traveling with locals — as one would expect. But if I was by myself or with other foreigners, everything was scam-scam-scam.

  27. Yup Benjamin that is actually why I included the north-south bit in the piece, because once I crossed the old DMZ I noticed a difference. BTW, still upset I got sick and wasn’t able to come say hi in real life. Such a shame….so close but so far!

  28. Yup Benjamin that is actually why I included the north-south bit in the piece, because once I crossed the old DMZ I noticed a difference. BTW, still upset I got sick and wasn’t able to come say hi in real life. Such a shame….so close but so far!

  29. Oh I will be eventually return to give the country a chance to redeem itself Mike. This post has been in draft form since April 23, the day I left Vietnam, and since then I’ve had a good bit of time to think it over. At first I never wanted to return but now I’m more open to the idea. We’ll see how it all goes tho…

  30. Oh I will be eventually return to give the country a chance to redeem itself Mike. This post has been in draft form since April 23, the day I left Vietnam, and since then I’ve had a good bit of time to think it over. At first I never wanted to return but now I’m more open to the idea. We’ll see how it all goes tho…

    • Glad to hear you had a pleasant trip 馃檪 I was hoping that more people who had positive experiences would chime in here, instead of primarily the people who did not.

  31. Wow. I don’t know where to start. I rarely read a travel article I disagree much with, but Derek… Maybe it’s mostly your mechanical issues! I don’t know. I can’t say that my experiences in Vietnam tally with your at all. I did thing there was a bit to much dodgy shit going on in Nha Trang, but generally and genuinely I thought the vietnamese the most honest, open and friendly people in general I’ve met in SE Asia. I just can’t relate what you’ve said there and I would and I am sure at some point will return to Vietnam because I thought it was brilliant. I know two people can do the same trip and have completely different experiences. But it seems like you went to a different country than the Vietnam I went to.

    • Thank you Andrew! Seriously, I’m glad you disagree. I was honestly hoping that more people who disagreed would leave a comment.

      This post has been in draft form for the last six months as I’ve gradually talked with other travelers…bloggers, honeymooners, gap-year youngsters, expats and other explorers/vacationers of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. One thing I noticed is people either love Vietnam or hate it, there is no middle ground (kind of like with durian lol)

      Another reason I waited so long to publish it is because I wanted to formulate a somewhat well-rounded post that not only covered this issues encountered but also provide advice on how to avoid/resolve any negative encounters, should they occur. I didn’t want to just say “yeah Vietnam wasn’t my favorite place” and leave it at that. While the examples I listed might not happen to everyone, I found myself dealing with them on a daily basis regardless of city. I would have just sucked it up and let bygones be bygones until I started hearing from others who suffered through similar ordeals.

      I’m not saying I went everywhere or am a Vietnam expert, but I didn’t just spend one week in the country and bitch about it. I spent 90 days traveling up, down and all around Nam on two wheels. I traveled with Vietnamese friends, by myself, and with other foreigners, and each was a different experience with different reactions from locals.

      While I am so happy to hear of others who have had amazing time in Vietnam, I also have heard the opposite just as much. It seems as if your closing remark is dead on: it would appear some people see completely different sides of Vietnam. Why this is I have no idea, I just hope that next time I return I can glimpse this other side that people have so fondly spoken of. Thanks again for your input and best wishes for the upcoming weekend 馃檪

  32. I was kinda thinking about that. I would definitely recommend going there to see things like Halong Bay, Mekong, Sapa (I’d definitely return for Sapa) and I feel like I got insanely, incredible value on things like one-three day budget tours to make my navigation of those sites easier and quicker. But otherwise, I can’t say I was crazy about it. There are places I’ve never been that I’m mildly curious about, but I’d still return to Thailand or India before giving it another whirl.

    • Hey, look who finally commented on my blog 馃槈

      Yeah, I’ve taken a bit of heat for this post. Some people have complained that it’s just another “Vietnam-bashing” article based on one person’s experiences and nothing more. (To which I reply if that’s the case and Vietnam isn’t like this, then why have so many others written similar stories….and why don’t we see “Why I’ll Never Return To Thailand” articles also?)

      In fact this article has been in various forms of revision for six months now as I’ve talked with other travelers, both professional and anything but. I only now have finally (and reluctantly) published it because I am trying to clear out my drafts. I had hoped that providing tips and stats would help corroborate my stance but seems some people just skipped over those parts…

      The simple fact of the matter is everywhere is different to everyone. What makes the food/sights/culture/history/people good to you and good to me could be completely opposite. While I’m so happy to hear of others positive experiences in Vietnam, I just want to point out that many others have much less enjoyable experiences. Glad you aren’t one of them 馃檪

      • I’ve commented on your blog before! =)

        Yeah, I knew you’d get heat for posting this. But that’s the plain truth of how you feel. Take it or leave it. It’s like when Agness posted her etramping article on not digging Philippino (I always misspell this country) food (I can’t blame her). Some idiot reader opened up a hate page for their blog based on that. Or when I wrote about Angkor Wat being hype. After visiting temples in Southeast Asia, it really wasn’t all *that* for me.

        We can’t love every country, food or sight we’ve been to, or else our love for a specific place holds no weight. And as individuals we have to be true to our sincere feelings. So good on you for expressing your truth! I feel these days, even the travel blog community can start curbing their opinions based on the fact we know we’ll get shit for expressing our truth or not being positive enough. And why should we? It’s our personal taste and people read to know our sincere feelings about a place and personal recommendations! Vietnam wasn’t a honeymoon for you and it wasn’t that for me either. Everyone else who loved Vietnam– buy your next flight ticket there and put your money where your comment is! I dare you.

        • I thought you had too but WP said this was the first comment from this email addy so I guess maybe you used a different one last time. No worries either way, just couldn’t resist teasing you. (I still have the comment notifier active on a few of your blog posts waiting to see your response to my rambles lol)

          And yes, I remember seeing that post from Agness — and agreeing with it because when it comes to Asian food, Filipino cuisine is the most unexciting of them all. Didn’t see yours on AW though…

          Personally, I grow tired reading blogs where ever hotel is recommended and every excursion is a must. I want to read about some bad times as well. I want to learn what not to do. I am curious where not to go. But if bloggers are to scared of readers’ reactions to be honest then please tell me, why are you even blogging in the first place?!

        • Hi Christine,
          I am 100 percent behind you and everyone who express their sincere feelings about particular aspects of a country they have visited. However, the characterisation of overcharging tourists in Vietnam as rip-offs and scams is wrong and not justified. Please read my reply to Derek posted on 26th September 2014 and you will see that it is the ignorance of tourists of the all-too-common business practice of differential pricing in their own home country which led them to wrongly accuse the Vietnamese and to have a negative view of their time in Vietnam.
          I hope I will be able to post another comment on this forum in the next 2 to 4 weeks which will focus on the Vietnamese people themselves so that readers of this forum can judge for themselves whether all the negative comments about the Vietnamese on the internet are justified.
          Christine, I hope to have your feedback on my reply to Derek. I took a lot of time to prepare my comment in the hope of clearing up this erroneous perception of the Vietnamese vendors due to the overcharging of tourists and it would be nice to receive some feedback. If anyone is still not satisfied by my explanation for the overcharging of tourists in Vietnam, perhaps I can then address any specific issue they would like to raise.

    • You are most welcome, happy to help. I didn’t want to write a criticizing piece without offering any advice on how to circumvent the issues I encountered on a daily basis. Have a great weekend!

  33. I know exactly what you mean- I had similar experiences in Vietnam. However, considering the country’s history, I never felt I could blame local people for treating me with a bit of contempt. If all people know of the Western World is a fuck-off massive war followed by tourists waving money about for hand-tailored suits and boat-trips to Ha Long Bay, I can see why there’s some resentment. Twenty years from now it will be a different story, but will there still be incredible untouched beauty left to see?

    • Ya, the Cambodians were bombed far more heavily than the Vietnamese. Their history is also one of conquest by foreign powers. Yet, they treat foreigners incredibly kindly compared to the Vietnamese. Nah, it won’t be different in 10 years. That’s the way the Vietnamese are!

  34. Thank you for posting!

    I think Vietnam is a very polarising country, and one which if you say you don’t like it, someone will loudly call you out on it and say how much they loved it. They can love it all they want, doesn’t mean everyone else has to. I appreciate that you stood up and said you didn’t like it, even if that does make you unpopular with some as it did Matt.

  35. Hi Derek,
    Since you intend to revisit Vietnam again to see if Vietnam can redeem itself in your eyes, I want to make this comment which will make you feel a whole lot better about your last visit to Vietnam and will make you look forward to returning to Vietnam because your perception of your experiences with Vietnamese vendors is wrong. Here is why:

    The overcharging of foreign tourists by the Vietnamese is not cheating, ripping off, or scamming. This overcharging is known as differential pricing or discriminatory pricing. Price differentiation is the business practice of selling the same products to different people at different prices and it is a very common business practice in all countries. Below are the links to support my above assertion:
    Not only Asians and Africans engage in price differentiation, but Caucasians also practise it but with a lot more gusto than the Vietnamese. Here are the links to support my assertion:
    http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/emiratis-complain-of-chronic-overcharging-in-shops: This article reports a certain Mr Al Sayed had to pay 250 Dirham for the same item which his Western expat friend paid only 70 Dirham. At the current exchange rate of 1UAE Dirham = 0.27 USD, the 180 extra Dirham that Mr Al Sayed had to pay for overcharging means he paid nearly 49 USD extra for just 1 item. I dare say that when it comes to overcharging tourists, the Vietnamese are such timid pussies.
    If any one reading this comment would like to find out more about differential pricing, I encourage them to go to the nearest university library in their home city, look 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, or differential pricing and you will be satisfied that what the Vietnamese vendors do is not different from what many Western companies do.
    I hope my comment will make those who feel upset and aggrieved by the overcharging in Vietnam to feel a whole lot better, and if it is possible for them to update or modify their original criticism of the Vietnamese, I hope they would do so because it is not fair or justified to accuse the Vietnamese of rip-offs or cheating.

    I wish to provide 2 examples to reassure those thinking of visiting Vietnam that for all the overcharging you may encounter on your trip to Vietnam, you will not end up homeless and destitute:
    1) A Vietnamese sandwich, called Banh Mi in Vietnamese, costs about 15,000 Vietnamese dong or about 75 Australian cents. If the vendor charges you double that, you will pay about 1.50 Australian dollars. In Melbourne where I live, the same sandwich would cost about 4.50 Australian dollars.
    2) A bowl of pho costs between 20,000 to 60,000 Vietnamese dong, or between 1 to 3 Australian dollars. In Melbourne, that same bowl of pho would cost 10 Australian dollars.
    Thus, even if you pay more than the locals, you would still pay a hell of a lot less than you would in your home country, and you get to experience a different culture and see different landscapes and sceneries. Is that not a win-win situation in your eyes?

    • No, it is not a win-win in my eyes. I am quite used to being over-charged because I am a foreigner. However no other country which I have EVER visited have the locals been so blatantly in your face about it or proceeded to make fun of me in the native language *while* I am standing right there in front of them, to the point where others in the restaurant begin laughing with them. This happened REPEATEDLY regardless of the city and grew rather infuriating over the three months I was traveling there.

      I don’t care if the same dish back in my birth country would cost more and taste less authentic. I do care when I get served less, charged more, and made fun of while all that is happening. That is the trifecta of evil. Do one or maybe even two but never all three! I hate the fact that the price in Vietnam changes anytime you pull out money. I hate the fact locals would tell any lie they could just to pry a few extra dong from my cold dead fingers, from distances to availability to whatever.

      It would be one thing if I was the only one who experienced it but as you’ve already taken the liberty of doing your Google research perhaps you should do the same for phrases like “never return to Vietnam.” There are thousands of similar stories told by other travelers to Vietnam, a couple of which I even included in this article to make my point clearer. That is also why I included tourism statistics — irrefutable proof that for whatever reason Western tourism in Vietnam is stagnant despite increasing in neighboring countries. I propose that this is due to the negative image Vietnam is getting in many travelers eyes. And that was my only point in writing this article.

  36. I’m curious to know… where did you get your statistics on 5% returning. This was the case in 2011, and I want to know what the 2013-2014 % is. If you can provide that, it would be wonderful!

    • I thought it was either Wikipedia or Wikitravel but I just checked both those sites and could not find it…which means the link is from an article on tourism in SEA that a friend sent me when I was first discussing the subject of my disappointment with Vietnam. Will see if I can find it and send it to you via email. However I do know with complex stats like that, it often takes 2-3 years before all the data has been compiled and made public.

  37. Try getting your motobike taken to a mechanic in the West for $2.50! What a nonsense generalized article of white skinned priveledge.

    • First off $2.50 was not the cost of fixing it (which was significantly more) but rather what a local quoted me on a tow to the mechanic. I had a bunch of loose small bills in my pocket but was a few Dong short of the 50,000 he had asked for. However when I opened my wallet and he saw a 100,000 Dong note in there the price suddenly changed. This happened time and time again in the country, regardless of whether it was a big city or small village. Places where the price was written on the wall would charge me twice that. When my Vietnamese friend followed me into one resto but pretended not to know me she translated for me later. The locals were laughing and joking about overcharging me. This happened time and time again over the three months I was there. I’ve been to dozens of other countries and never have the people been so blatantly rude to me simply because I was a guest in there country. Heck I’m on my third trip to Malaysia now, just finished dinner at a street stall and when I went to pay the 6 Ringgit bill I accidentally gave the gentleman 7. He grabbed my arm before I walked away and gave me the extra one back. That would NEVER happen in Vietnam.

      Besides, it’s not just me who feels this way or has had this experience. So before you bring the color of my skin into this discussion maybe you should do a few Google searches. There are literally hundreds of other articles just like mine of travelers being taken advantage of in Vietnam — more so than in any other SEA country.

      • You really do have a grudge as far as Vietnam is concerned. I don’t believe some of your anecdotes about ripoffs when you say you were travelling with a Vietnamese friend. Are you really saying that you had a Vietnamese native with you but you insisted on negotiating with virtually no Vietnamese?

        Plus what restaurants did you go to? Do you make a habit of going into eateries and ordering food and drink not knowing what it will cost? Look you obviously took offence at some behaviour in Vietnam but I love the place.

        Also your story about a Malay versus a Viet is easily countered. I dropped my wallet in Danang airport and a Vietnamese chased me to to return it yet my hotel front office staff organised an airport transfer that was a ripoff. Didn’t stop me going back to Malaysia; been there plenty of times, love the place.

        Finally did you actually take the one ringgit back from the Malay hawker? Less than 30 cents so I guess we know why you have had a hard time in Vietnam.

        • How else would I learn what other foreigners experience if I let a local walk me through every transaction, every single day like I was some sort of first time traveler? I’ve been a nomad for six nearly seven years now. And frankly, I’ve probably forgotten more about travel and the world than you’ve ever known.

          In terms of food, nearly every place has the price written on the wall — but as I mentioned in the article (which you apparently only skimmed and didn’t actually read) despite me pointing to the f’n price written on the wall, they would still yell and demand more, sometimes double. It gets old and fast. Very fast.

          And no, I really don’t give a damn about one lousy ringgit — you should see the way I throw money around — it was the principle of it that makes for a good example. Besides, if you are a globetrotting nomad and you let people nickle and dime you to death like that every single day, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year….well that adds up. It really does. Ask any other nomad and they will tell you that 9 times out of 10 they don’t put up with shit like that.

  38. Nothing in your article suggests you made an any sort of effort to learn or understand Vietnamese culture. And from what I see in the photographs you just showed up looking like a typical douchebag backpacker, yet you expected to be treated like a favorite local. Culturally, SE Asians believe that rich people are rich because they are divinely deserving. And to the vast majority of them, if you can travel there you are rich. Dress & act respectfully and you get respected. Learn & employ a bit about how they like to interact with each other and get even better treatment. Add dressing nicely & conducting yourself in a very dignified (or regal, if you can pull it off) manner and you get the best treatment of all. That was my experience there, and it was all good. Except from the statuary sales people at Marble Mountains; they are cheating assholes to all who come.

    • I’ll overlook you calling me a douchebag Gary and instead keep my response a bit more cordial. For starters, I never once asked or even expected to be treated like a favorite among locals. But I do attempt to experience the local lifestyle wherever I go — from helping locals with their work or daily chores to cooking dinner and doing laundry for the family. I’ve lived with locals for both short and long periods in nearly all the Southeast Asian countries and I was doing this for years (yes, years) before I became a travel blogger. As such I tend to avoid luxury hotels or fancy resorts except when working on a project that requires them.

      That having been said, my time spent traveling with Vietnamese friends and experiencing the local life were FAR different than the months I spent motorcycling Vietnam on my own with a minimal knowledge of Vietnamese. (This is something I do in damn near every country I visit, travel it both with local friends and by myself, so that I can see it from both perspectives — and nowhere is the rift greater than in Vietnam.)

      As far as the way I dress and act, guess what? I taught English in Hanoi and if you know anything about Vietnamese culture then you undoubtedly know how I had to present myself to get the job. Presentation and performance are everything in Vietnam. I’m sorry if the photographs don’t show this side of me but when you are about to spend 8 hours on a motorcycle with dirt and exhaust flying in your face, wearing your best clothes is something that absolutely no one does.

      Besides, when you pull into a small fishing village wearing a $400 watch and dressed to the nines in Burberry or D&G, do you honestly expect to get preferential treatment? Because that is what you just said in your comment. If anything these are the types of self-righteous people who deserve to get taken for every last dong by locals — because they can spare it.

  39. I am Vietnamese and I agree with most of the facts you wrote. Yes the food, the scenery, and the people are amazing but many people will try to rip you off.

    It is not just white people but Vietnamese encounter the same problems too. Many friends of mine had bad impress with restaurants in the North. Prices will be much higher if they hear the southern Vietnamese accent. That is why I have never made a trip to the north.

    In the eyes of many many many people westerners are all rich and they have to pay more than the locals. I pay lower price if I am alone, but if I am with my husband then I have to pay more. Their excuse? “The white guy pays, not you.”

    • Interesting and a bit surprising to hear the points you made Irene. I received some criticism as a result of this post, especially from my Vietnamese friends and other travelers who had more positive experiences in Vietnam (primarily luxury travelers who had minimal interactions with locals). And you are right, there is definitely a huge difference between the north and south. More than I ever expected. I had far fewer negative experiences while in the south and found the people there to be less likely to ruthlessly gouge me.

      Don’t get me wrong, as a white guy who left America in 2009 and has since spent more time traveling Asia than any other corner of the world, I’m quite used to paying “white guy” prices. It happens. And yes, I’m perfectly fine with this. But as I mentioned in the article, when prices are written on the wall or the verbal price agreed upon changes as soon as I open my wallet — not just once but time after time on a daily basis — well that gets old fast. Very fast. Not all foreigners are rich. Just look at the sheer number of backpackers and nomads who pass through Southeast Asia. Sure, part of why they do it is the amazing food, beautiful scenery, and impressive cultures — but arguably the biggest reason of all is the price. There’s a reason I haven’t traveled to Europe yet. I’m a blogger and guess what, we don’t make much money. Certainly nothing like I used to in my previous cubicle life.

      Anyway, if you don’t mind, I have two questions for you: 1) Do you still live in Vietnam; and 2) Is your husband also from southern Vietnam?

    • Irene, I agree with you not just because I’m Vietnamese too, but, the north and the south might be mean but not the middle in Da Nang, in there it’s nice. I come from that city and it’s the nicest one city I know in Vietnam.

  40. Just come back from a month in Vietnam and really did not enjoy it. The people were greedy, rude and aggressive. As you mentioned the open mocking and laughter at foreigners is commonplace, just because I don’t speak Vietnamese doesn’t mean I can’t understand what you’re saying!
    It’s not even that the country is attractive – all I saw was an over-exploited landscape, pollution, litter-choked streams and rivers. Laos is a lot more friendly and unspoiled.
    The Vietnamese should bear in mind the market research that showed someone who had a good experience tells 3 people while those who had a bad experience tells 10!
    I make it a point to tell everyone what a s**t time I had in Vietnam.

    • I completely agree Gary. Absolutely love all of SEA (southeast Asia) except for Vietnam. The food is the one partially redeeming aspect of the country, which although is nowhere near as delicious as Thai or as varied as Chinese, is still incredibly delicious. It just sucks being openly laughed at the same time the cook has their hand out asking for money.

      Good point about the market research. Word is slowly spreading. I tried to do my research, provide some links, and back up my points with numbers, like how Vietnam’s tourism increase is coming from Asian neighboring countries, not western countries. But even so several notable travel bloggers have taken offense to this article on the sole basis that they have “never heard of this or heard my readers mention anything like this.” Clearly if there are this many people saying it, something is up.

      • Sorry for hijacking this Derek, to be honest.. I like Vietnam. It’s just because you’re white and American they treated you that way.. They have bitter history with the West especially in Northern part. Oh please, as an Indonesian, I wish good tourism for them, they have potential for that.. and they have a nice coffee and local food too.

        As an Asian, It’s great to know this, when in Bali, locals really worship bule above of all than domestic tourist like me, I remember, I ordered my ice cream first but Balinese waitress served bule who stood behind me because he’s bule. In Vietnam they don’t really give a damn with your skin color, ..so.. no White privileged in Vietnam hahaha.. I’m happy with this!! You don’t like it and prefer Indonesia or Malaysia who treat bule as if they are Hollywood celebrity, ‘Mister.. can we take picture with you.. :P’

        For me, as a foreigner who come to their country.. I don’t expect local will treat me in a nice way, like a king. I’m just a visitor, me who supposed to understand them, not hoping being served like a king or special. But different, in Central Asia culture.. like Pakistan and Afghanistan, or Indonesia because we got the influence of them how to treat the guest through Islamic values they brought in it. It’s just different.. In Indonesia, we treat our guest like a king, offer them snack, food.. or stay for few days..

        Well, in most of SEA countries, locals still see you like an ATM with dollar, and they will rip you off, similar to how the package tour prices are different between me, Indonesian vs Western, they will charge you more than local price ..

        If there’s no Currencies Gap, no First world and Third World shit anymore, .. this world will be a better place for traveler. I sense this as a gap between us, from wealthy to poor nation.

        • Oh really, Ra? Hospitality is a thing we Indonesians learnt from Central Asians? I suppose the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Animist and Atheist Indonesians are not as hospitable as their Muslim counterparts, then? That’s news from me. I always thought hospitality is in our culture and has little to do with religions. Silly me.

          I do feel sorry for you, Derek. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Vietnam and would love to go back. I found the people there to be friendly (despite not being Muslims as I’m sure our friend Ra here would agree). To be fair, my only experience was with Ho Chi Minh City.

          • I definitely found people in general to be more friendly in HCMC than elsewhere. The south in general was warmer. And don’t get me wrong, there were a few pockets of nice people and families scattered here and there, as I mentioned in the article. But as a whole I grew so tired of interacting with the locals that when I would find a nice place along the HCMC, like for example this hotel owned by an amazing Vietnamese family in Dong Hoi, I tended to stay put for a week or more and just do short day-trips from that location.

            Still, always great to hear from people that have had positive experiences in Vietnam as well. Thanks for sharing! 馃檪

          • My statement; “But different, in Central Asia culture.. like Pakistan and Afghanistan, or Indonesia because we got the influence of them how to treat the guest through Islamic values they brought in it.”

            Don’t be too sensitive and make your own assumption, I don’t say as you said >>”the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Animist and Atheist Indonesians are not as hospitable as their Muslim counterparts,” , I have evidences to support my opinions above.

            Have you read Agustinus Wibowo’s books?? an Indonesian travel writer who writes about Central Asia and Afghanistan ?? He mentions a lot how hospitable people in these countries to their own guest even though they are poorer than their guest both in his books and blog.

            I grew up in Western part of Sumatra, his statements about how this Afghan/Pakistani treat their guest is not something new for me. That’s part of Islamic teaching I learned from my daily life in Sumatra, the prophet, Mohammad PBHU ;
            賲賻賳賿 賰賻丕賳賻 賷購丐賿賲賽賳購 亘賽丕賱賱賴賽 賵賻丕賿賱賷賻賵賿賲賽 丕賿賱兀禺賽乇賽 賮賻賱賿賷購賰賿乇賽賲賿 囟賻賷賿賮賻賴購
            鈥淏arang siapa yang beriman pada Allah dan hari akhir maka hendaklah dia memuliakan tamunya.鈥 (HR. Bukhari)

            It means; there’s a compulsory for Muslim to honor their guest as a righteous deed. Or maybe too long if I elaborate them here, you can google with this keyword; honoring the guest in Islam.

            Indonesian is just too heterogeneous to determine in general, I said; ‘we got the influence’ of them, because I’m from West Sumatra. People in this part of Sumatra embrace Islam longgg centuries before other part of Indonesia, since the people from Arab, India, Persia and Central Asia stopped and did trading here and dropped their religion and trading’s skill. Also culture and cuisine. Our relationship to Buddhist, Hindu and Animistic are not as strong as other parts of Indonesia anymore, let’s say Java where a lot people still practice Islam Kejawen, with Animistic and Hindu Influence.

            I think being collectivism and Individual has thing to do with religion. I have a Dutch friend when he did a visit in Indonesia, and Indonesian family he visited really treated him like a king, even though they just knew each other for hours, offered him snacks, food and asked for staying with them… For us, it’s just a normal ‘basa-basi’, Indonesian politeness to their guest, especially if you meet people in the village, not a big city where they don’t really have this collectivism anymore, least.

            He told me, in the Netherlands, when you visit a friend’s house, you have to make an appointment first, come and show, then go. No snack serving like he found in Indonesia. Even when their parents would like to visit them, their parent must make a call first, they really concern on privacy, meanwhile, if we do that way in Indonesia, it’s considered very impolite, vice versa for them, So, just go figure…

            Rejecting a guest is considered very rude in my culture that we got from our upbringings as I said above, since Derek will be traveling to these Stan Countries, let’s hear and follow his journey then……

  41. The rudeness and unusualness in behavior of the Vietnamese are described everywhere on the internet. It is your fault for not doing research before traveling to the country. In my experience the Vietnamese are the rudest people in Southeast Asia. It’s not that I didn’t encounter rude people in other countries in Southeast Asia but it is the percentage of them. Vietnam has the highest percentage of rude and greedy people in comparison to its neighboring countries.
    I’m convinced that there’s something wrong with their culture and lifestyle. Pulling out the history to justify for their behavior is simplistic.

    • Agreed. But to be fair I’ve been traveling through SEA since 2008 and Vietnam was one of the last countries I visited — specifically because I had heard these exact stories. Shame to say all I heard was true. History might not justify it but either way, I had to at least bring it up because of the vast differences between people in the north and south.

  42. So sad!
    The Vietnamese, have stood up against all odds, beat the Chinese, the French, the Americans, but looks like tourism will be their downfall.
    With all the development on the east coast, new hotels on a grand scale, who is going to fill them?…..only 5% of tourists come back?……..they have only their selves to blame,……glad I am not an investor!

  43. I’m guessing that a lot of posters here must be fairly paranoid or rude. I’ve travelled in every SEA country and Vietnam is no worse than others for greed and in my opinion, far better for courteous, respectful behaviour.

    If pestered to buy, a simple Khong (no) pronounced com, will see the peddler move on. I agree that many Vietnamese are untruthful but many are very poor and falling victim to a scam in Vietnam usually involves a matter of cents or maybe a couple of dollars.

    For all those wondering about Vietnamese rudeness I’m guessing you need to think about your own behaviour.

    • And what about the Vietnamese people who have commented here saying that everything above is correct? What about the hundreds of thousands of seach results that show up for “never return to Vietnam” — even a search of traveling to Somalia or North Korea or the Congo yields more positive results. Does that mean nothing to you?! Just because you had a great trip there (or several) does not mean others are. Did you completely overlook the official tourism numbers I posted to back up my claim?

  44. Thanks for your article. I agree with you. I have had my share of good and bad experiences over there. There are so many beautiful places that I probably would not return either although I did not see the North at all yet. It is sad that people are so ignorant.

  45. Local Vietnamese can smell tourists a mile away whether you’re white, black, or even Vietnamese. One thing to remember is everything is negotiable in Vietnam. Unless you’re shopping at big department stores such as Big C, Metro, Coop-Mart, etc.. where prices are marked. If you’re shopping or doing business with local dealers, the price is what they say it is.

    Most locals will charge you a higher price if you don’t know how much something is worth. Make sure you ask the price before buying.

    My first time in Vietnam, I paid 500,000 VND (about $24.00) for a pair of “name brand” glasses which I thought was not a bad price. I later found out that it actually only cost 280,000 VND (about $14.00)

    My Vietnamese fiancee laughed when she found out. She said if you’re stupid, you’re gonna get screwed. This is their mentality. They don’t see it as a bad thing.

    Negotiate. If you don’t like the price, walk away.

  46. I enjoyed my stay in Vietnam, did they try to scam me? Yes but a Dong is very little compared to a dollar, the scams are mostly $5 or sometimes $10 its not enough to ruin anyone’s holiday. I enjoyed the food and the waters were amazing, I will defintely go back scam or no scam.

  47. My experience in Vietnam has made me feeling sick of some of the crazy things happening over there. And I’m sorry there are other beautiful places with nicer people and less scams. There is also so much rubbish everywhere that even the nicest places just look sad sometimes. Even Phu Quoc island which I used to thought as the best place and the friendliest place is just full of crooks and con artists. I have not only experienced and heard of relationships scams but also scams of selling land, getting your stuff snatched at the beach and full on rip offs trying to get every dong out of the tourists pockets. I even hear people steal flip flops, how f*d up is that! And they all think that by laughing at you they are the winners. But as long as we Westerners have power in this world we talk and the word goes around many will think twice of having holidays over there. I probably wont return, Since there are many other places to visit and I dont have to watch out for my money every time I deal with the locals.

  48. I come from Vietnam, I know it’s a terrible place but not all “states” are bad, if you want to visit Vietnam the city with the nicest people is Da Nang, believe me I live there! Aso I hope to whoever is visiting Vietnam have a nice time and ignore the people who are trying to sell you random things.
    Some TIPS:
    – Ignore all the people who sell you things
    – Go to Vietnam with a few friends it’ll help you
    – Walk to places but, if your destination is far use taxis, they have the less chance of ripping you off
    – Bring a something to cover your nose, it’s kinda dusty there
    – Don’t eat the food on the street they don’t have a menu with prices so it’s likely that they’ll rip you off
    Lastly… HAVE FUN!

    • Great tips Nikki…except for the last one. Street food is the best! 馃槈 I don’t even mind paying a few extra dong for my pho. I just getting tired of everything involving money to be an argument. Not bargaining, not even a negotiation, just a verbal fight that nobody wins.

      I know that you’ve been disappointed in me ever since I first expressed my conflicting feelings on Vietnam over FB. I hope that you can and have forgiven me for that. And I also hope that now you realize I am not making stuff up and it is not just me having these experiences. There are quite a few foreign visitors having rotten experiences in an otherwise beautiful, delicious and amazing country.

      Hope to see you again soon…cheers from Nepal 馃檪

  49. Agree with Derek that the scamming is more much more widespread than anywhere else in SE Asia … even in non-tourist places. Though I think scammers are still in the minority. To illustrate (and this is less than a week – just a portion of my experience) – I went for a very long bike ride down the delta from BuiVien in Saigon to Can Gio at the bottom, stay a few nights and caught a ferry to Vung Tau. On that ferry the prices were signed and i paid a bit extra for my bike. Once on the ferry the ticket lady then asked for some more. I asked another English-speaking local i’d just met, “Why? Is it because I’m a foreigner”. He replied, “Probably”. I decided to ignore her request and she let it go. Afterwards, the locals below decks encouraged me to get into a hammock, another local lady, there with her family, offered me some snack and the bad taste began to evaporate. A few days before, while riding down thru the delta, I had to catch a couple of ferrys. On one, I got some softdrink-in-a-bag. Paid very little, but another English-speaking local came over to me and asked how much I paid. He told me it was too much. In both cases, the amounts were small. But it’s the attitude and the fact that the other locals are happily complicit. And these are basically fixed price items wherever you go in Thailand and Phillipines. And I was in places you don’t see other Western tourists either. On the plus side – young locals that speak English well seem to be genuinely helpful. Oh yeah… couple more things… when i was looking for the ferry port to Vung Tau, not sure of the direction, I enquired of an older guy who was riding along – who could speak English happily. He rode with me for a bit – chatting, told me he was VC, but was vague about directions. instead of helping me find the port, he offered me a private charter across for $50. I got his number just in case, we parted company, but I kept looking. Not too long later I found the port – cost of ferry was just $1.50. Afterwards, my moldy old riding gloves were stolen from my basket while parked on the street in Vung Tau (anything may be stolen in VN – contrast my experience living in Guangzhou where I often left my bike parked with lights on, pouch with small chnage, and everything left in the basket – nothing stolen). And lastly, something I read in “Off the Rails in Phnom Pen”. In it was an account of a loudspeaker announcement the author heard while in a public park, in Hanoi, during Tet: Vendors were asked to not overcharge people, but to feel free to gouge the foreignor!

    • Yeah, the Vietnamese youth who speak English (at least a bit) and want nothing more than to practice their skills are awesome. I taught English in Hanoi for a bit and loved my time with the kids there. Interesting comment about Tet. During all my time in Vietnam I always heard random messages on the loudspeakers but never got any translations. That’s a wild one though! But not surprising at all, unfortunately :/

  50. Maybe they rip you off because you are western. That means that you have more money. These people are just trying to make money to survive. Out of the seven times I have been to Vietnam I have never ever had these problems. I went on a bike tour with my family and stayed in local houses for the three weeks we went for. When we were cycling through the towns people would wave at us and children would be calling out “Hello hello hello” I’m just saying, maybe you weren’t very welcoming to them and that’s what caused them to act like this to you.

    • And maybe you missed the comment above from a Vietnamese lady who says that she suffers many of the same discrimination and disrespect and price-gouging that myself and thousands of other foreigners have there.

      Of course as I mentioned in the article, I encountered lots of good people as well. But the bad far outweighed the good — just like as the comments here citing similar experiences as mine far outweigh the pro-Vietnam comments. It’s not just this one article either. Do a Google search for “never return to Vietnam” and you can read through countless hellacious stories. I at least tried to back mine up with reasons, statistics (the tourism numbers cited in the article) and tips to avoid these issues rather than just bitching and offering no solution or advice.

      As far as local kids, they are always happy, and not just in Vietnam. I was in Nepal during the quake and village kids who’ve lost everything in the quake are still smiling. So the kids have nothing to do with this conversation.

  51. What you have written is entirely and all true! Everything stated is CORRECT! The type of mentality that country along with the people that live there is one mentality of living for the short term of tomorrow and the worry about weeks,months, and years another time. I HATE going to Vietnam, here is the kicker- am Vietnamese born but raised in the U.S. From age 6. Soon I will be going back to Vietnam in September and the thought of going to Vietnam scare me! The last time I was back in 2013 I got food poisoning of some sort and break out in halves, going to a local doctor is total BS because they would prescribe you 10 pills to take, not knowing what is entirely wrong with you! So I had to close to $100 dollar for a visit a hospital ran but doctors that gotten their degrees over in the U.S. Most of the food there are injected with chemicals to make them last longer or riped over night for fruits. Everything is based off on if you have the $ or not, if you don’t have money they don’t give a crap about you! Want to hear something stupid, I went to a bakery and picked out a bread and went to pay the lady, she wouldn’t accept my money because it was old/ wrinkly looking and not crisp bill!
    That country is beyond corrupt with the type of money hungry government! The people that either work in retail always try to rip anyone off! Not just the “white guy”
    You would think that it’s 2015 it would get better but it has gotten worse! Finger cross that I won’t get sick like the last time and also my baby in my belly will be okay as well since am pregnant…..
    Good luck to everyone but my advice I wouldn’t be going to Vietnam if it wasn’t family related trip (my brother getting marry). Yes it is a lovely country to admire from afar, and if you really want good Vietnamese food just visit California!

    • Hey Lien, you’re not the first Vietnamese person to confirm my reports. Such a shame that even Vietnamese raised abroad run into issues when visiting their mother country. And yes, you’re right about visiting the doctors — they give you several sheets of various pills: “take one a day of this and this and two a day of this and that.” Its the same as visiting the mechanics where they just start slapping new parts on your motorcycle until the thing springs back to life.

      I didn’t encounter anyone that refused to take my dong because the bills were soggy, but I did have people refuse to exchange my dollars because they were old. (Of course to be fair, that happens in other countries as well.)

      I’ve got my fingers crossed for you and your impending little one that this trip is better than your previous ones. If you notice that things have improved, even slightly, please do let me know. The last that I was there was for three months back in spring of 2014, so its been a little over a year.

  52. The Vietnamese aren’t like this because of the war. They were like this before the war. Cambodia and Laos have an even more gruesome history than Vietnam. Laos was more heavily bombed by Americans than Vietnam was. Yet go to Laos or Cambodia and they are generally very kind and welcoming to tourists. Ironically, the majority of Lao people and Cambodians will describe Vietnamese the same way as many on this forum do.

    Here’s the real truth……a great many Vietnamese believe themselves to be superior to all white people and all foreigners, and the fact that their currency and underdeveloped status allows foreigners to come and enjoy the country very cheaply drives them bat shit crazy.

    Another thing for tourists who come to Vietnam and think it’s a completely different and changed place than it was in 1965…..Saigon in 2015 is not that different from Saigon in 1970. Watch a video of Saigon street life in 1970 and it looks exactly like today albeit older cars and a military presence. The kids are selling the same products on the street. Old ladies in the market haggle the same way they did in 1970, and scam the same way. The prostitutes, the corruption, the poverty, the western influence was all there in 1970 just as it is today.

  53. i am thai and want to visit Vietnam by myself for 4 days. and i thought Vietnam is same like Thailand.
    but since i walked out from the airport I’ve met a taxi driver whom offer me to ride his taxi for 400000 dong (actually it’s about 140000 dong local price). he said it’s a discount. then i go back inside airport and thinking to take local bus to my hotel. that was the first day
    second and third day i found that saigon i felt sad that i choice coming here alone lol
    so annoy the service offer on the street.(especially motocycle taxi.)

    and i can say i HATE vietnam

    at last day i just want to walk to the market nearby my hotel (i forgot name, it’s the famous one)
    i look my phone for the map in the park then i found motocicle taxi say hi to me with smile and try to talk to me.
    he said that market is for the tourist everything is expencive and bad quality
    he will take me to china town 200000 dong
    i ask him if i wanna go around the town and see the church and post office is 200000 too? he say “yes!”
    then i said ” i trust you, let’s go” he wasso nice he took me to the place that sell coffee bean for 400000dong / 500grams (that ive found later there’s a lot cheaper coffee beans in the market)

    and he take me to local restaurant to have some lunch. i told him i have 50000 dong for lunch he said it ok ok ok. what the ok he didnt ask me what i want to order. he order me a frog and eels. i don’t want to eat them but if it 50000 dong it’s fine.
    buttt when check the bill it’s 250000 dong.

    and he said 200000 per hour so now is 3 hours 600000 dong

    i want to cry for my stupid that i trust him. i am too naive for Vietnam!
    i never stress to travel alone like this.
    i better eat some frog and eels in my country. it’s more delicious.

    • Damn Peto, sorry to hear about your experiences. During my three months in Vietnam I thought it was only Western foreigners that experienced this kind of discrimination. However since publishing this article I’ve found that people around the world are encountering the same problems, regardless of ethnicity. Even Vietnamese people who have moved abroad face this same discrimination when visiting to their native country. Its appalling and frustrating and even a bit sad as well, that one whole country can have such a blanket, undeserved hatred for the rest of humanity as a whole.

      As more and more travelers from around the world speak up and share their negative experiences in Vietnam, countless other travelers are doing their research and deciding maybe Vietnam is a country we should skip. Locals there might not realize the impact yet — or the fact that it directly stems from them — but one day they will. And by then it will be too late.

  54. After living in the central region of Vietnam in a Town called Hoi An for 13 months I need to echo the author of this article and agree with most of the statements. Renting a house here is chaotic, a real paper mill and which needs the involvement of the police, and numerous government officials officials..and in most cases,,a bribe.
    Local market vendors will in the beginning always rip you off..only after getting to know the viet-prices did I get charged the real cost.
    The more frustrating thing is the almost total lack of English or French for that matter. Only a few tourist related persons speak some English Rest have no clue..except Hi..its a uni lingual country ..period. Over this year of living here I have seen numerous situations where foreign tourists have been ripped off, including myself, travel is a real hassle, bus to Da Nang a 30-40 minute ride cost me 30,000 dong..locals pay 20,000. Arguing the fact..gets you nowhere..

    Should mentioned that I have lived in Asia over 25 years, including China, Thailand and Philippines….Will I ever return to Vietnam…? not in this life.

    • Ahhh yes I know Hoi An. Surprised you were able to make it that long. I tried teaching English in Hanoi but found it to “hannoying,” as the expats there all say.

      Even knowing the right price and some basic words in Vietnamese doesn’t always guarantee you get a fair price. Knowing only ensures that you will have arguments and altercations in daily life, and that is no way to live. I’m not saying everyone has to love foreigners, but they should at least receive a minimal amount of respect.

  55. Well said… I didn’t just visit Vietnam. I’ve been here one and a half years and the problems you mentioned extends to renting an apartment and every aspect of life. Vietnamese landlords are notorious for keeping deposits for various reasons or no reason at all. If you have a complaint with most land lords expect for them to turn the tables and find a way to actually accuse you of wrong doing, while taking the heat off of themselves. My apartment had several pipes break and flood the floor and wood cabinets, which turned to mold and made it almost unlivable. After complaining to owner, from Hanoi, though I am in HCMC, she lost control and things turned nasty when I reminded her that I paid $1500 to move in. Her reply is typical Vietnamese; “I don’t care.” Her solution; I can leave and of course she will keep my $750 deposit, perhaps I smell another scam here…. Even in business, I’ve found that I have to be very patient here, follow up phone calls and emails regularly are a necessity, and often receive a scant reply. Customs is another killer: I ordered $100 worth of vitamins from California and customs charged me a 50% duties fee, $50. I learned the language, slightly (it has six tones, some double tones, Mandarin has just four tones) but was met with laughter and sneers when I tried to speak it, other bloggers ive read had the same experience. However, once I turned the tables and laughed when some locals spoke very bad English and of course they were offended. In short, this country has made progress from the ashes of a prolonged war in the 60s and 70s and has in some aspects lifted it self up. On the other, the govt here is so oppressive and the locals are so ill-equipped with modern niceties of how to treat others, that I would not advise visiting here, nor living here. Ive been in Asia ten years working as a business analyst and this is the fourth country I’ve lived in so far in Asia, so I have others that I can use as a comparison. Let the traveler and the expat (especially Caucasian Westerners) beware in Vietnam.

    • Very well said Tim. I have one expat buddy who stuck it out in Hanoi for three long years before finally throwing in the towel. He warned me before I ever arrived that the city is “Hannoying” and the country irritating, but I figured he was just jaded. Three months later I left feeling the same way. I tried explaining the annoyance of repeated, daily experiences such as what you described to my Vietnamese friend from many years back but she couldn’t understand and didn’t believe it was as bad as I said, and ended up taking it personally — which of course made me feel even worse.

      But since writing this article so many others have shared the same experience. And sure some travelers claim not to have any experiences like this in Vietnam, but I suspect they either did tours or luxury resorts — because they certainly were not interacting with any of the locals!

    • Add to all that….cellphones. The people may have actually gotten further along in the hospitality department if these disastrous distractions hand’t fallen into their hands. Now we have an obsession here with smartphones- even the garbage collectors are toting iPhone 6’s. We all complain about the social dissolution that these devices bring to developed countries like the United States, and many people think that we are worse people than ever with these things in our hands.

      All this is to say that I don’t think the people’s attitudes will improve, now that they can easily get the latest stolen technology with which to distract themselves at work, on the road, or when around other people.

  56. Lived in mui-ne for 5 years on a resort $70 a month, aircon wifi hot water never got ripped off well a few dong here and there
    but its not that bad
    Vietnamese are hard headed and they do ware you down but its the cheapest in Seasia $1 for large tiger beer, buy but tickets from the bus company’s HCMC to Mui-ne 100.000 vnd , People do get scammed but many tourists are stupid .the reason I left was the Russian tourists the destroyed mui-ne in 2 years

    • Glad to hear that not everyone has a bad experience in Vietnam. Although I would argue that from the overwhelming percentage of people who have commented here with their bad experiences, certainly not all of them are “stupid tourists.” Some, sure, but certainly nowhere near all.

      • I respect your original bold and frank statement, Derek. There’s much too little candor around. I find many of the posts made by commenters here excessively nuanced – and extremely naive.

        I speak as someone who has had the misfortune to be based in Vietnam for four years, for soft-hearted humanitarian reasons. Yes, I have made some lovely friends. But I find that many Vietnamese are money-grabbing, cold and selfish – to an extent that is almost unbelievable.

        Good luck if you return.

        • I do agree with you Matilda, some comments are a little over the top. There were others that were even worse, which I chose not to publish. However you summed up my exact feelings in your last few sentences quite well. The food, culture and natural beauty are all top notch, but the people wear me down little by little. I will be back — still have friends there, both Vietnamese and a couple expats — but certainly not for anywhere near as long as my last trip.

  57. Derek4Real i wasn’t talking about the people on this blog, and i didn’t say all were stupid many i came across were
    i was staying in a cheap room in HCMC a french guy checked into his room left the room door open, put his camera and money belt on the table went to the toilet and when he came out it had been stolen
    and an english girl that got scammed by the filipino mafia in a card game, got a gun put to her head and marched to an atm machine
    she lost 8000 euro, this happens daily in HCMC . the filipino mafia pay money to the police and they don’t get touched
    and thailand in the late eighty’s was the same speak no english and rip everybody off, cambodia too indonesia and the Philippines
    its just seasia but i love it makes it more exciting

  58. Thank you very much about very detailed information about Vietnam. I am experienced traveler, never have visited Vietnam but always want to. The stories in this blog remind me about of number of similar situations were foreign tourists were ripped off in former Soviet Union and this was done by all kinds of people including government officials. The most common rip off was when foreign tourists tried to exchange dollars to rubles. This could only be done in a banks with exchange rate established by government. Many people literally spend days in front of the hotels were tourists stayed in attempt to exchange foreign currency and they were offering exchange rates that were anywhere from 2 to 10 times better than in the banks. It was officially illegal for an individual to participate in foreign currency exchange and even to own but people did it because it was very profitable. Situation went out of control and in late 1960s Soviet government passed the law that allowed to punish most serious offenders with death penalty and the death penalty was actually applied to several citizens for getting involved in foreign currency exchange .

    • Interesting….the former Soviet Union will be occupying the bulk of my 2016 travels. Very curious to go there.

      And yes, like you I’m an experienced traveler who wanted to visit Nam for many years hut always hesitates because of the stories I head from other travelers. At least you have an idea what to watch out for when you visit. Best of luck there Dmitriy 馃檪

      • Which part of former Soviet Union do you plan to travel to in 2016? Do you plan to go to Kazakhstan? Please let me know if you will be visiting Kazakhstan. I was born in that country, have lived there for the first 15 years of my life and periodically go back to visit my friends and relatives.

        • Yes indeed, will definitely be passing through Kazakhstan. If I remember correctly, I can only get a 30-day visa, which means there is a lot of ground to cover in a short time. Would be curious for any tips you could offer or recommendations of places to visit. Feel free to respond directly to this email whenever you have time, no rush. Thanks, I appreciate it! 馃檪

  59. Hello. Actually im going to vietnam and planning to find a work there in Ho chi minh. I searched what could be the worst thing in vietnam, and i found out that the attitude of people there and now that i have read some blogs and they’re giving negative comments when staying vietnam. Now i have idea already on how to deal with the people there and i hope that what you have experienced there wont happen to me.

  60. I wonder if the bike in the picture was actually yours,I have been traveling to vietnam every year for the past 6 years and have not seen a wreck like that. I have also traveled to other SE Asian countries in the region,i still find vietnam safer and more stable in every way.

    • Hey now don’t talk bad about my girl “Rusty” she got me through the entire Ho Children Minh Trail with only a cpl minor tweaks. And sure, the country might be safer but it was also ruder, colder (people, not weather) and more aggravating than any other country I’ve ever visited. And I’ve been a nomad for nearly 7 full years now…

      If you like it, hooray, keep on going. But as you’ve no doubt noticed from the comments, many other travelers have a far less pleasant experience than you.

    • Sadi, with all due respect, you’re a moron. You’ve traveled Vietnam, so you think you know what motorbikes people use here? STFU. I’ve lived here for six years, and I see bikes like that daily on my commutes. “not seen a wreck like that” just shut up you silly tourist.

  61. I’ve lived here for years now, and I have to say, Vietnam is a cesspool. Seriously – the locals are the rudest, most racist people I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. Locals treat each other like garbage on the road – they’re myopic in whatever task is on their brains, and they create danger for everyone on the road. Parents treat their children like trash and constantly call them fat, stupid, ugly, etc. All of my black friends get racially profiled at the airport and in the city. The pollution here is out of control – filthy air, disgusting water, unbearable amounts of noise. Locals have no respect for their country and toss their garbage everywhere. Good luck finding logical or rational decision making here, too.

    If you’re a tourist to here, you’re treated like a dog whose single purpose is to look like a dollar sign. No one, and I mean NO ONE, should come to Vietnam for any reason. Just let them crumble under the weight of their idiocy. Avoid this dump. I can’t wait for my contract to end to get free from this hell hole.

    • You are right Jesse. I’ve stayed here for only 1 year, but have enough crazy experience. Every single day frustration, stress, anxiety because of unreasonable mistreatment. Now I don’t even know why I ended up being here. The only reason that keeps me stay here is the Vietnamese landlord keeping my money as deposit until the end of my contract. Arriving here one seems to have only 3 choices:

      1. The moment one recognizes that this is an abnormal, evil society, book bus or flight ticket and leave as soon as possible.
      2. Becoming mentally abnormal like the locals and treat each other like rubbish. But once get used to this behavior, one will get problem after leaving the country and return to a normal, civilized society.
      3. Staying in the country while keeping up our normal mentality. This only leads to daily frustration. You will have no idea why EVERY SINGLE DAY you get mistreated unexplainably by these monsters. There’s no way to live in this dirty country. I can’t understand why these people can live in an environment like this. Those who get used to this kind of environment SHOULD NOT be allowed to get out of this hellhole and travel. They will become troublemakers and potential dangers to other civilized societies wherever they go.

  62. I’m half Vietnamese and just visited Vietnam for the very first time for a charity in Ha Giang. I just am dumbfounded by the fact that people who live in the mountainous area are much nicer to the tourist than the city folks. They were making an announcement and giving poor kids blankets and jackets, there is this old hag who was sitting next to me started laughing his ass about God knows what to his friend and omg, I just wanted to punch him in the face. The people were talking sincerely about these homeless kids and this fat ass just……..it makes me cry. Then that goes on to me going back to Hanoi, where my dad was born, the amount of people who pointed and stared at my mom and I was just ridiculous. They even had the nerve to talk behind my back, thinking that I don’t understand Vietnamese, that I was adopted. I’m done with this place

  63. 2 weeks of vacation that all I have. So, the less hectic, the better beach, the better service, the cleaner environment all are the key. Go somewhere else. Excaped from Vcong. No more interest in Vcong. enough with bs bribing and waste of my time and money for long expensive flight distance. The is a Whole Great Wide World to be seen.

  64. Yes, the traditional Vietnamese food taste that most people miss and the quality of the hotel (in comparing to $ value), but hey: we got to move on with life… go to other place on earth to relax but not just food (all inclusive airplane, beds, foods, drinks, and shallow nice beach), and the cost less than the airplane ticket going to Vcong. No more Vcong for me.

  65. Beside, there is ALWAYS HECTIC AT THE BEACH. You HAVE TO watch out for your stuffs at the beach (including wallet and sandle, shoes). My Dr. Martin leather shoes was taken by someone, and ended up I walked to the taxi stop bared feet.
    Imagine calling that a vacation ?. No thanks. I work hard for money in freedom country. I want peace of mind and relax, not to be worried during the 2 weeks vacation. Rediculous. My next stop will be white shallow sand beach, included flight, hotel nights, unlimited of food and high end drinks of course. Move on with life and spin around with the Earth.

  66. I can only agree that the Honda Win way of traveling Vietnam still remains the most authentic and adventurous way of seeing the country. I still remember our road adventures in Ha Giang, Dong Van and other places in the north as if it were yesterday… My absolute favorite region in Mainland South East Asia so far.

    But we cannot ignore the problems you’ve just mentioned here – I guess pretty much every foreign visitor can’t escape from being overcharged at some point in Vietnam.

    It must be especially a bad experience for beaten path backpackers who recently come from uber-hospitable Thailand to the overcharging war that’s going on in Vietnam.

    What helps best is as you said learning Vietnamese numbers and some negotiation phrases, and to agree on a price in advance. After a few weeks you get the local prices and what reasonable prices look like.

    Nonetheless I loved my 3 months stay there and I guess I pretty much belong to the minority of travelers who gladly would go back.

    • Agreed, knowing a few basic numbers and phrases in Vietnamese really goes a long way. And you are most definitely correct, quite a difference from some of the other countries on the southeast Asia backpackers route. Of course luxury travel in Vietnam is a much difference experience than backpacking it and interacting with random locals on the street on a daily basis.

  67. Thanks for your insightful sincerity! I agree mostly on what you have reflected. I have had similar reflections and have told myself some of the things you have written. To my surprise after 30 years of departing from my native land, I also find myself being treated like you, a native Vietnamese raised in the American society, almost one of them. I agree that Vietnam has a beautiful treasure and a lot of potential. I can only point to the direction of how the fall of Vietnam in 1975 into the hands of the Communists has changed the country and the way people relate and socialize. I continue to pray that Vietnam will rise up beyond the social weakness and will be among the most welcoming country to future tourists or future retournees. I am saddened that the fall of Saigon has done a lot of damage. I am hopeful that as the years come closer, Vietnam will have a wonderful face lift in many aspects. This is my prayer, our prayer, the world’s prayer. Pax et Bonum!

    • To be honest, I too thought about his a lot during my stay there and especially one question kept floating in my head: What would have happened if South Vietnam nowadays still would be an independent and western-oriented state? How different would people really be if Saigon never had fallen in 1975? In the meantime I鈥檝e read a lot of books, memoirs and novels about the time before the 鈥渞eunification鈥 and I think three things are pretty clear to me: 1) The South Vietnamese in general would indeed have an overall better life nowadays if they the North never had 鈥渞eunified鈥 the country, at least as seen from a long-term perspective . It鈥檚 interesting though that the Vietnam of today is rather developing even further away from the original ideas of Ho Chi Minh and other traditional communist/socialist ideals. While the corrupt one-party system with all its disadvantages of course remains, the economic system gradually takes capitalist forms. Take a look at the planned 鈥淪aigon Silicon City鈥 for instance 鈥 whole special economic zones and industrial parks are being built out of nowhere and a huge amount of the footwear on the world-wide market is already being manufactured in Vietnam. Despite the original socialist ideals, the nowadays Vietnamese John Doe is running after every dollar he can make! My insight no. 2) would be that even before 1975 foreign visitors were already having troubles with the locals, as Johnno wrote quite accurately above in his comment from 12th August 2015. You simply have to read some memoirs and novels of French or American soldiers who dealt with the locals in South Vietnam 鈥 and many of these accounts which include scams, rudeness and overcharging may look surprisingly familiar to you. In most parts of Vietnamese culture and common behavior, personally I don鈥檛 think that too many things have changed since the fall of Saigon 1975. Of course, especially the darker years after the 鈥渞eunification鈥 had a considerable effect on the locals, in a time in which Vietnam was plagued by even more wars, economic sanctions, regime terror and even hunger. These were indeed desperate times that changed the locals life to the worse. But personally I think that rather the cultural, historical and even philosophical proximity to China might be a much bigger influence than the dark past. As much as the Vietnamese seem to dislike the Chinese and seem to deny any cultural ties with them or whatsoever, it鈥檚 pretty clear that both countries and people are perhaps the two most similar to each other. I mean, you even notice it when you cross the border from another South East Asian country to Vietnam that things are pretty different and how the locals approach you. Similar customs to China, moral values and even similar traditional architecture. My third thought about this topic is that from a realistic perspective an independent state like South Vietnam neighboring a communist country never could have endured until today, even though many people compare the situation back then with North and South Korea. In the case of South Vietnam the corruption in the government and army was too extreme, too committed was the North Vietnamese campaign of invading the country, too good-sounding were the communist ideals to the simple locals and too tired was everyone of this never-ending war鈥 The never-ending flow on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the withdrawal of the Americans unfortunately gave the country the finishing stroke. It’s simply my opinion without offense to anyone, but I think that South Vietnam was a doomed project from the very beginning… After all I hope too that things will improve for the current locals, and I especially have high hopes in the younger generation. Even in Northern Vietnam I鈥檝e experienced almost only positive intentions and reactions from students or adolescents 鈥 many of them are even really excited to have foreigners visiting them. I remember this one time in Hanoi when I accidentally stumbled into a newly opened caf茅 in a remote quarter to take a quick Ca Phe Sua Da. The young hosts and owners of the caf茅, who may have as well been university students some weeks ago, were SO happy to have a foreigner coming in and promptly invited me for private dinner. It was a happy night under young friends with lots of questions and laughter. This was definitely one of the most memorable social experiences I鈥檝e had in Vietnam. 馃檪

  68. Wow, MUST READ. I am a Vietnamese citizen and currently study oversea for over 6 years, I apologize and be ashamed for the Vietnamese in their behalf. Vietnam is a third world country, I would ask for your sympathy with the poor and continue to visit Vietnam. I love how the internet put people together and giving us the information we need and the thoughts that we want to share. I am inspired that one day I would have a travel agency where the backpackers are connected and local “helpers” that backpackers can call and get help when they need. I am so happy that I found this blog.

    • Thanks Toan, great to hear your thoughts. I’ve spoken with several other Vietnamese people who have grown up (or lived/studied) abroad and then returned to Vietnam, only to be shocked/ashamed/depressed at what they find. Sometimes it took being away and then returning to see it in a different light. Other times these former locals have been outright treated differently, like for example if they speak Vietnamese with a foreign accent now, or have a foreign husband.

      Connecting backpackers with genuine locals who are interested in travel, rather than interested in conniving a few extra Dong out of them, is an amazing idea. That’s how myself and many others prefer to travel — by interacting with the locals, even staying at their homes when possible. It is a much more intimate, engaging, and rewarding way of traveling than just hanging with out foreigners. Best of luck with your plans, hope all goes well 馃檪

  69. You left out a few big ones

    1) Vietnam is filthy. Garbage strewn everywhere. People will drop styrofoam on the ground even if in arm’s reach of a trash bin

    2) about 40% of motorbike riders appear to be suicidal and they want to get you involved. “Reckless” doesn’t begin to describe it.

    3) pity the lottery ticket sellers, many are crippled, but having a handful of tickets shoved between your face and your food four times in one meal is a bit much

    4) they are untrustworthy and unreliable. They can’t even remember to close a door and they don’t understand organization. Gym barbells are all over the room, files shoved randomly into racks, tools left laying around

    5) they steal

    6) they yell, even talking to someone right next to them

    7) they smoke, anywhere, even in elevators

    But I don’t get ripped off because I speak the language,

    • Yeah, I tried not to delve too deep in this article. No country is perfect, and the poorer they are the rougher they tend to be. Of course what you are describing sounds exactly like the country I am currently traveling/shooting in — if you replace lottery ticket sellers with limbless beggars.

  70. Your absolute right and i share your opinion totaly as being a SE Asia traveller for the last 10 yrs.

    I came first in 2009, second 2012, third last month november 2015. Hoping for the best and positive changes but got dissapointed this time again. I love the food and country and people who regulary work with tourists they know about it all . But getting ripped off directly while you just land on the airport in hcm @ an official exhange booth. My mind just went” here we go again” welcome to vietnam. ” Why did i decided to go back this time” ???

    Well we (me and my partner took my dad this trip with us) wanted to show him vietnam and take the oppertunity that i could meet up in vietnam with people i really like again. That ended up in doing the HCM – NhaTrang -Dalat thing again.

    I wont regret it but i think vietnam is for us up to one more visit, that will be Sapa and Hanoi in the future. Never been& never seen till now. Thats my only reason.

    My cons about vietnam till know.

    Overall safety . You can get robbed in Thailand/Laos/Cambodia to. But Vietnam they dont hardly do anything about it although they want tourists. Its a totall lack by the government.
    Ripp off culture . Everybody whant to make a buck, but vietnam goes verry far in that. ( its in the culture unfortually)

    I go for a holliday and i dont whant to be on the tip of my toes all the time , about my safety, belongings and money.

    So for me i love it done it 3 times know and up for a 4th somwhere in future but its not for the culture . Vietnamese dont like foreigners . The word about Thailand about seeing you as a walking ATM is sometimes treu . But Vietnamese see you as a money tree where they can just pick some off if they like to.

    Happy travels

    Next trip it will be Thailand/Laos for me.

    • Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Vietnam is beautiful, their culture and history amazing, and their food delicious. I also have several great Vietnamese friend who were very disappointed to hear some many foreigners have issues traveling their country. There are good people there, don’t get me wrong…but the bad outweigh the good, and as you said, its not much fun when you have to always be on guard or are hesitate to interact with locals.

      Anyway, cheers from Thailand, and best wishes for your next trip 馃檪

  71. Wow….. I’m so glad it wasn’t me.
    Vietnam is the first country i have actually no urge to ever step foot in again.
    I lived and worked there for a year and felt constantly fustrated at how we were treated/scammed by work, locals and tourists. I ended up counting down the days until my contact was over.
    This was not my first expat experience as i lived and worked in Thailand for a year and south Korea for a year…. both places I loved and have find memories of as well as close friends I still keep in touch with.

    Vietnam was always a struggle. The school would try push the contact and make new rules/not pay us correctly. The tourist industry will wilter add they do not look after their natural wonders and scam every tourist they can.

    On one break to Ha Long we ended up paying about $50 less than another couple on the trip (needless to say they weren’t happy)
    Then they told us to jump off and go swimming only to empty the Toilet water at the same time! ! Ha long would be beautful however it is full of rubbish and the water is filthy.

    I made some lovely Vietnamese friends while i was there however I will never return.

    • It most definitely is not just you, no worries there. Vietnam is a struggle for nearly all who do not do all-inclusive luxury travel. I’d been a nomad for five years when I first visited Vietnam and yes, same as you, it was the first country I said I would never return to. Now, two more years later, I have found a second one — and have another interesting article ready to publish about it….as soon as I safely make my flight out of the country, that is. Stay tuned 馃槈

  72. I’m Vietnamese, and I dislike most Vietnamese people. Most of my friends are of other nationalities. Vietnamese who has been in American for a long time (or those who are Westernized Vietnamese) are good, but those who are still in Vietnam or those who just came to America (or other western countries) are bad people. I don’t like them. They’re scammers. They’re rude. They’re dumb as well. They’re extremely materialistic, and they think too highly of themselves when they’re nobody. Again, it’s most Viet people, not all. That’s my opinion. Sorry for my rant.

    • Rant away brother! If you haven’t noticed yet, the HoliDaze is all about the “rants and ramblings of a permanent nomad” so I love hearing rants back from my readers. You also are not the first Vietnamese person to say this exact same thing, so clearly there is some truth to it all. Such a shame…

  73. I’ve just returned from VN and didn’t have quite the same experience.
    I had only one night in Hanoi, during which I was ripped off by a civilian on a motobike offering rides (and also prostitutes and marijuana, which I had to decline several times). I was had for 50K for about a 1km ride. I wanted to take a moto taxi once, and I was happy to leave it at once. Overall, the legitimate taxi drivers have done well to stick to the metered price.

    In Saigon, I stayed outside of the main city/tourist area, in Thu Duc District, and was very, VERY happy with this decision. I wasn’t surrounded by souvenir shops, almost never encountered another (obvious) tourist, and the locals were very kind and friendly to me. My prices charged would match the menu, and I likewise saw reasonable numbers when I had to open my wallet to let them pick out the price that I couldn’t understand. Many people would say hi to me on the streets without having anything to sell me. In fact, while strolling the streets on the way to a cafe, a local approached me for nothing more than conversation which continued through the next few hours over drinks – I bought him a cup of tea and he refused anything more. Other highlights included a girl pulling out her phone translator to assist me when I looked lost, a woman running a shop who handed me a puppy to hold when she saw me gushing over them, and a taxi driver who didn’t ask for a bit more after I made him wait, then wait again after 3 more unexpected stops.

    I was warned by locals about having an eye out for getting ripped off – namely, always check your bills to compare them to the menu and what was actually consumed. My personal advice is to avoid the touristy areas – they’ve already made a business out of folks like yourself. As mentioned, the 20 & 30-somethings are not the product of a war-torn era, but are the product of an era of impressive educational growth. Do anything you can to try to have one accompany you as a tour guide, even briefly. Personally, I’d rather spend twice as much buying them dinner than I would spend by being a sap to local opportunists – not to mention getting the purest experience of local opinion. As is the case of probably every nation on the planet, there are a select few scumbags, shysters and swindlers whom are the de facto ambassadors, and whom betray a wonderful population of individuals that need to be discovered and found as such. Frankly, you can find the same dynamics at play in any large retail store – talk to the salesmen and they will do anything to get their commission, talk to the stockers, taggers and maintenance folks and they’ll behave like human beings.

    My trip can be summed up as a wonderful experience being in the country, but disastrous experience with air travel to, from and within it. I’m not sure which countries are on the good list, but UK citizens don’t require the expensive visa and associated long wait (added another 90 minutes to the airport arrival time), although as an American, I did, feeling quite unwelcome from the start. Then queuing up for departures shows the Vietnamese behaving the same on foot as in traffic – there is no order in line, it’s a mad mob and finding a gap and jumping ahead of 20 people to fill it is the standard MO. I flew domestic with VietJet, who was disastrously late/cancelled and seems to use this as a business model, as my experience matched exactly what a local warned me would happen. Going from the gate to the plane and back has you shoved uncomfortably close to your fellow passengers on a standing shuttle bus across the tarmac, which can also see its own delays – wasn’t a fun place to be trapped for ~30 minutes. After arriving 1.5 hours late for my int’l flight, I was charged a $125 penalty fee to have to rebook for the next day. Near as I can tell, I was essentially being penalized for flying with VietJet, as I’ve heard Vietnam Airlines is more reliable. I couldn’t get my advance meal request as they wouldn’t allow me to book until check-in time the next day, and upon check-in, they required me to produce my exit ticket from the Philippines in order to allow me to fly there (which I’ve never been asked of before), ignoring my passport showing that I’ve left PH 3 times in the past 4 months (I work there, see below). I’m generally much more patient than most with air travel, but I also understand that as a tourist, airports act as the first and last impressions, and my experience in SGN overshadowed the elation that Ha Long Bay had provided just a day earlier. I originally planned to come back later this year to cover all of the things I knew I wouldn’t have time for on this trip, but it’s going to be hard to get past how unwelcoming Vietnam’s travel hubs have been towards me.

    Similar rant about the Philippines:
    Regarding the “permanent nomad experience,” I’m working and living just south of Manila, where the foreigner ripoff is much, much, much worse than anything I’ve encountered or even read about in Vietnam or elsewhere. As soon as you’ve stepped off the plane, you’re hounded by people literally shouting at you to try to make a sale of absolutely anything (“Sir! Sir! Sir! Sir!” – No, I don’t need a shoeshine for my $10 sneakers, No a man traveling alone doesn’t need a cheap children’s toy, No I haven’t changed my mind about either of these things in the past 10 seconds and you shouldn’t bother to ask in another 10 seconds…). At arrivals pickup, several people were in line to sell me one of their somehow special taxis for over $50 for my ~30 minute ride, more than one would spend in New York. Being wise to the actual standard cost (around $15), I headed toward the line for metered taxis. The same man (and now another woman) followed me towards the line, repeatedly shouting “metered taxi is two hours!” (actual: ~10 minutes) and also gradually offering down to less than half price – travelers beware, when someone is quickly willing to come down in price on a regular service or item, it means they were ready to laugh at you only seconds ago – they haven’t suddenly become honest people, you’re still getting a dishonest price, and getting screwed gently is still getting screwed.

    In the end, I remembered that I had GrabCar, snagging a cleaner, more comfortable and still cheaper ride in only 2 minutes of waiting – quite mercifully, because as a foreigner at the airport, any time spent outside of a taxi is endured with constant and directed shouts of “Taxi!” at you, even while you’re in line for a different taxi service! GrabCar and Uber both have presence in VN, though I didn’t take advantage of them there as I never had problems with the standard. To anyone traveling to the Philippines, these apps are nearly as useful as oxygen. There’s an egregious foreigner tax on standard cabs, including attempts to overcharge in advance for tolls, and creative reasons for why the metered rate doesn’t apply to you. I’ll often get local friends to hail the cab and negotiate a price, then have me sneak in to get this fare that my skin tone typically precludes. You’ll get a similar experience upon departure as soon as you step out of your taxi, immediately being offered an expensive “express” entrance into the airport to save less than 5 minutes avoiding the “45 minute line that will make you miss your flight”, and there are others looking to charge you their own dreamed up prices to push your luggage around or rent a cart – as you may have guessed, both of these services will also be shouted directly and relentlessly at you. Just as in Vietnam, the airport serves to sully the beginnings and ends of journeys to a country that has wonderful people and destinations once you’re out of the tourist traps.
    [Sorry if that was off-topic…]

  74. I found this post today and now I’m a bit worried about our upcoming trip to Ho Chi Minh at the end of February. Got a free flight (from a credit card company), and was deciding between HCM or Bangkok. I asked about it in a “mommy group” I was in, and many recommended HCM over Bangkok. I hope I don’t regret this decision. I’m from the Philippines and I’ve only been to Singapore, Malaysia, Hongkong and Japan in Asia, and the US outside of Asia. Pretty great experiences in all those places (especially Japan), so hoping that our Vietnam trip would be good, too.

    • From a mommy or family sense, Vietnam is more friendly there — at least in appearance. You won’t find those couple of infamous red light districts in Saigon like you can in Bangkok. Not to say they don’t exist, just that they aren’t as obvious. You also won’t see the 80 year old white guy with 20-something local girlfriend/wife in Vietnam. (However as a Pinay, I’m sure this is a sight you are already used to.) Plus, being from the Philippines, you could have a less traumatic experience interacting with locals. However given the fact so many Vietnamese people have commenting on this article and corroborated the points I’ve made, not certain. I wish you the best though. What it boils down to is how you travel. Will you be speaking/interacting with locals every day? Or just staying inside your hotel/resort and booking all-inclusive tours through them?

      Regardless, you will find Vietnam different than anywhere you have been. The food in Vietnam is amazing and the scenery beautiful. It’s casual communism over there — a phrase you won’t understand until you see it in reality 馃槈 Like yourself, Japan is one place I love (used to call Tokyo home) and I spent two years traveling back and forth to the Phils to be with my ex, so I’m familiar with your country as well. Unfortunately it’s the people of Vietnam that can bring you down — at least the random ones on the street and in the shops. All my Vietnamese friends are amazing, as is anyone else that they have introduced me too. Vietnamese people are crazy friendly. But they have this tough exterior that is impossible to crack without an “in” — primarily another Vietnamese to vouch for you. Make sense? Sorry, I haven’t had much sleep these last few days and worried I may be rambling.

      I would definitely like to hear your thoughts after your trip, so please do send me a follow-up message. And if I can be of any help while you are there, please do not hesitate to give me a shout. Best of luck! 馃榾

      • We won’t be bringing the kids, so we’re planning a more backpacker’s experience with DIY tours and good, cheap eats. Good to know that the food is amazing, since this is one of the things we’re excited about. We’re planning to stay in District 1 HCM, any highly recommended places to eat there? I hope we encounter friendly Vietnamese, although we don’t know anyone from Vietnam. We’ll only be there for 5 days.

        • Oh you won’t need any recommendations Helene — everything there is amazing! Street food is always my favorite: delicious, cheap, fast and authentic. There were plenty of small family restaurants that I randomly stopped in as well, every single one of them great. Seriously, never a bad meal. Plus the people down south are generally friendly, and not as many would try to overcharge as in the north.

          Knowing the name of your dish (even if you cannot pronounce it correctly) and its rough price will also help prevent you from being overcharged, as opposed to the tourist who sits down and points at a random dish like an ignorant foreigner. Check out Wikipedia for a list of all Vietnamese dishes broken down by type and region. Just avoid any foreign chain restaurants — as you only have 5 days, best to gorge yourself on nothing but Vietnamese food to make the most of the trip 馃槈 Maybe have one nice dinner at a fancy restaurant if you want, but opt primarily for street food and family joints and you’ll be heading back home with a very satisfied stomach. Have fun!

  75. I love vietnam been there like 3 times. But im a viet kieu,( vietnamese born outside of vietnam) so not white so they dont try to rip me. SO cant look at it from a white mans view as they might get treated differently

    • Glad to hear that you haven’t had any issues Phong, but there have been other Vietnamese people commenting here who have had similar issues. Still, I don’t want all negative comments here. I want to hear from people who have had spectacular times in Vietnam. I want to hear it from as many different people and different nationalities as possible. So thanks for sharing 馃檪

  76. What can I say about this? Hmm I’m a Vietnamese myself but if I go out of town, travel somewhere they still can go overpriced with me ???? Vietnamese tourism is just that bad… Not because of the foods, the places,… But for the locals which was embarrassed me ???? and for me the best way for not being scam is trying to make friend with a Vietnamese before you come here, and honestly my friends did that (they made friend with me) so when they came here no one could scammed them because I always lead them and tell them which price is reasonable which is not.

  77. @ Derek,

    For the record I’m Vietnamese, living in Canada, so let get that out of the way.

    I too have been in Vietnam, and got ripoff the first day in Ho Chi Minh City buying stuffs at District 1, and I speak the bloody language. Who’s fault is it? MINE OF COURSE. I paid for something that was probably 80,000 D, but instead I paid 250,000 D for it. The shopper owner never forced my to buy it of course, I did it willingly, and she probably guessed I was Vi峄噒 Ki峄乽” (Overseas Vietnamese) so hey easy money.

    Most small gifts shop in Vietnam don’t have prices on any items, so naturally prices will be vary from person to person. If you’re a foreigners, one that doesn’t not speak the local language, one luck or just walk away. I found your experiences a bit one sided, tourists getting ripoff isn’t exclusively to Vietnam, it’s happened to you, me and many others, but that also happened to me Thailand, China, and USA. Yes, I got ripoff in American, and obviously I speak English.

    Cheating and Ripoff Someone is a very universal thing, so I found your experiences very bias toward the Vietnamese people. No question you should share your thoughts, but that hardly encompassed an entire country of 91 millions people. Can you honestly say that you have never met a westerner that actually never felt in love with Vietnam and had an absolute positive experiences traveling? Cause’ I met plenty when I was there for 6 weeks. Based on your 9:1 ratio, 81 millions people are cold and unscrupulous. LOL. Seriously?

    One of the reason for your distasteful experiences was simply you don’t UNDERSTAND THE VIETNAMESE CULTURE AND LANGUAGE. This goes to all foreigners, of course the best way to understand a foreigner culture is to visit their country and experience it yourself. It’s not the Vietnamese people fault that you don’t speak their language, this is something westerners tourists always like to point out that they don’t speak English, whenever they visit any foreigner country, not that every westerners speak English to begin with. I’m not saying you should go out and learn Vietnamese and somehow master it in 4 weeks. But when visiting a foreign country one should always expect the unexpected, like getting ripoff or get treated poorly. The idea that ever foreigners that visit Vietnam should be treated with respects and the local should be honest are delusional, that’s the general idea but it’s not going to happen, not in Vietnam or anywhere else in this world. Anyone remembered the terrorist bombing in Bangkok last summer in the tourist area?

    You ever got ripoff or treated poorly in your own country?

    As for racism against westerners tourist? racism doesn’t exist in your own country? Anyone heard of Donald Trump, he might be the next President of America. Nuff said. The point is everyone should expect some form of racism when visiting a foreign land. Hell, I experienced racism in China, and I’m Asian. It’s absolutely ridiculous to complaint about racism when you don’t ever speak the local language. There’s also something else I like to point out, westerner people don’t like to be called that “white guy or that white girl”. That saying that to them in Japan and see how they react.


    Vietnam isn’t the Pearl Of Asia or anything, never was and probably never will be. It wasn’t under French colonial rule, it wasn’t during the war with America, and it sure as hell wasn’t the time when South Vietnamese dictators were burning Buddhists monks alive. Why would anyone made up that nonsense is beyond me, unless they’re making up lost time and trying to shame and blame the communist party. As you said Vietnamese tourist industry is still in its infancy, There’s plenty of time to change, it’s doubtful it will happen in this decade. Close to 8 millions people visited Vietnam in 2015, if you compared that to 1995 when only 1.3 millions visitors that’s a huge improvement in 20 years. Your opinions about tourism in Vietnam are hardly accurate, and it shouldn’t be used as a bible. By 2020 Vietnam will easily get over 10 million visitors, mostly from Asian countries, Japan will probably be the next 1 million visitors.

    When I visited Vietnam I booked a few tours, so everything was taken care of for me. I didn’t nearly had the adventure that you had, traveling the country on a motorbike for 3 months in a foreign land, that’s just incredible and courageous, but did you honestly didn’t expect any problems?

    • I’ve been travelling for a while now, different countries, different continents, and I can safely say that I don’t live in any special bubble that makes me think that everything needs to be polished and perfect, and that people need to act in a correct fashion or be super polite. With that out of the way, I’ve had crap times everywhere in the world mate, from Iceland to California, but you guys in Vietnam sure know how to make a guy feel like shit, trust me.

  78. I often read these articles just to reconfirm my impression and make sure that I’m not crazy. I’ve been living in Hanoi for 3 years and am married into a Vietnamese family. The culture can definitely be rough. But what strikes me (especially having witnessed the dynamics of the Vietnamese family) is that Vietnamese people aren’t much nicer to each other than they are to foreigners. They excel at tolerance, but not really at hospitality. I think that a lot of the anger foreigners feel would be quickly dissipated if they realized that Vietnamese people often treat their fellow Vietnamese in just the same way. It’s not personal, it’s not even xenophohic; it’s just Vietnam. I’m not even convinced that it’s a bad thing. The kind of indifference towards others that many Vietnamese people exhibit (unless you’re finding a way to benefit from them) is a sort of noble thing — it leads to a degree of nonchalance and non-interference that I think we’ll soon miss in the west. After all, no one ever put a gun to my head and made me overpay for a persimmon.

    At least, thinking like that calms me down when I start to miss my more polite (but ultimately less tolerant) native land.

    • I know exactly what you mean Justin. One wet day after the rain stopped I watched a Vietnamese girl with a lot stuff tied to the back of her bike go down while taking a corner in the Old Quarter. It pinned down her leg and she was struggling to get back up. Despite there easily being a hundred or two people around watching what was happening, no one went over to offer any support. So I did. Helped her up and then her bike. But she was so embarrassed she just got back on her bike and took off again without so much as a thank you.

      So you are completely right, it isn’t just white people.

      • LOL. Now you’re a white knight?

        I would believe you if you have a video to proof what you’re saying. That’s no difference than me saying i was there that day and you didn’t do that, it was I that came over to help her. It seems to me like your article is more than making up reasons why tourists may never return to Vietnam. Perhaps you have your agenda as well, regardless what your intention are the first 2 months of 2016 Vietnam have well over 1.6 million visitors. In February of 2016 Vietnam had over 800 thousands visitors, an 120% increase compared to the same period of 2015. Vietnam could get close to 10 million visitors in 2016.

        So good luck to your agenda.

        • Yes because we all know that every good samaritan makes sure the camera is recording before they do any good deeds. And obviously as a professional travel blogger I make my living making up stories. Plus let’s not forget that 90% of these people commenting here (whether white, black, Vietnamese or whatever) are agreeing with most if not all the points in this article.

          But you did get one thing kind of right — the number of tourists to Vietnam is still increasing bit by bit each year. Of course only among travelers from other nearby Asian nations. Western tourism is going down because countless people like myself have bad experiences. Not just once but day after day, city after city.

          Type “never return to” in a Google search and it automatically predicts “Vietnam” as the next word. I’m sure that’s just because of my “agenda” and not because of the 34 million search results it produces.

          • Months pass, and I once again find myself on this page just to vent. I’m starting a business here, and thanks to the many connections I have, I’m doing it legitimately. I am (or will shortly be) an honest to God tax-paying employer in Vietnam. But holy shit, the bureaucracy that you have to navigate here is unreal. It’s absolutely breath-taking. You actually have to jump through hurdles just to issue…get this…receipts. That’s right, in this lovely country, you can’t even issue a receipt without government “oversight” — which is basically involves needless meddling and rent seeking. I am also hassled for the privilege of paying taxes. All I want to do is pay taxes and be a legit business, is that so much to ask?

            What a world we could make for ourselves and our neighbors if we were unshackled from this! What things we could do if we were not saddled by such small mindedness! It’s embarassing. I’d say the country deserves better…but really, it doesn’t. It’s a level of bureaucratic stupidity and insanity brought on by the Vietnamese and tolerated by the Vietnamese. Thankfully margins are high…

            But it really does give perspective to why some places are poor and stay poor. If I think about my experiences and the experiences of others that I know (including native Vietnamese interacting with their own government) it’s not surprising that the country is stuck in a middle income trap. You have an army of leeches siphoning off valuable time and resources from people who are actually producing value. I’m at the point where I almost can’t go to certain meetings because I just can’t hold back my contempt or my tongue and will jeopardize official cooperation where I need it most. All the political issues here would disappear in a generation if the non-political apparatus could be fixed – the country would produce so much value that it would modernize completely and effortlessly. I never thought I’d miss the cooperation of the DMV.

          • Yes. Western tourism has collapsed. It’s not surprising – Vietnamese people are just the rudest, stupidest people you will ever meet – many of the men seem barely sentient.

            Either way the national attitude is ‘me me me me me’ every minute of every damn day. I wonder how long it will be till the Chinese stop going, too.

  79. Derek

    Though you don’t post my reply to the Vietnamese man above. But I want to warn you and all genuine readers of this page that there are a lot of Vietnamese pretending to be tourists have made comments. They make positive comments to fool readers. I’m sure that you recognize this.

    • I dunno, I’ve had further email conversations with many of these Vietnamese commentators that were private and they were either some crazy dedicated and super knowledgeable fakers, or more likely they were actually genuinely Vietnamese. You should see the racist / bullshit comments I have to delete!

  80. Hello Derek,

    I am a Vietnamese who is studying in Switzerland for hospitality university. I found your topic blog is interesting and similar to my dissertation that is about service quality and service discrimination at local services in Ho Chi Minh city. Due to my limited access to foreign tourist, I would like to ask if it is possible that you can help me to send out the link of my survey to your viewers. Or, can you suggest me to display my survey on other forums since you are an expert in this field.

    Thank you !

        • Just completed the survey. It’s all about food rather than other more encompassing issues, like taxi service and other daily interactions that tourists will have with locals. I also recommend adding in a couple text boxes so people can explain their answers. For example, while the service I received in HCMC were not the best, they were still way better than in Hanoi.

          To other readers who have been to HCMC, you should take the survey above if you want your thoughts to be heard.

          • Hello tourists and local residents in Ho Chi Minh City
            Xin ch脿o c谩c b岷!

            May I please ask for your time to HELP ME to do this survey about LOCAL SERVICES/STREET VENDOR in HCM City?
            The survey ONLY applies for residents living in HCM City, and local and foreign tourists who had visited HCM City/Saigon and if you want your thoughts to be heard.

            Xin c谩c b岷 c贸 th峄 vui l貌ng l脿m gi煤p m矛nh b岷 kh岷 s谩t v峄 nh峄痭g qu谩n 膬n 膽峄媋 ph瓢啤ng c峄 d芒n 膽峄媋 ph瓢啤ng t岷 TP HCM kh么ng?
            B岷 kh岷 s谩t n脿y d脿nh cho nh峄痭g ng瓢峄漣 d芒n 膽ang sinh s峄憂g t岷 TP HCM, kh谩ch du l峄媍h n峄檌 膽峄媋 v脿 kh谩ch du l峄媍h qu峄慶 t岷 膽茫 t峄玭g du l峄媍h ho岷穋 膽岷縩 S脿i G貌n v脿 nh峄痭g 媒 ki岷縩 c峄 c谩c b岷 s岷 膽瓢峄 ghi nh岷璶.

            Please click the link, xin h茫y nh岷 v脿o link:
            鈥 English- ti岷縩g Anh https://kwiksurveys.com/s/Xx6IWZT1
            鈥 Vietnamese – Ti岷縩g Vi峄噒 https://kwiksurveys.com/s/Tjwe26YU

            It is for my graduated dissertation and so the privilege to have your answers is rather important than anything else.
            Nh峄痭g c芒u tr岷 l峄漣 c峄 c谩c b岷 s岷 gi煤p m矛nh ho脿n th脿nh b脿i lu岷璶 谩n t峄憈 nghi峄噋.

            Thank you with my deep gratitude!
            R岷 ch芒n th脿nh c谩m 啤n c谩c b岷!
            Diamond Lam Le

  81. Wait a minute. Did you just spend hours on this blog post complaining how a few cents (literally prices under $1usd) are inflated tourist prices? And also complaining how you had to pay a few extra cents for certain services and items? There’s always 2 sides to the story but yet people always complain of prices.
    I’m a young vietnamese man, a doctor, and am baffled at how someone can afford to travel yet complain over a few dollars. Big deal. Get a real job so that even if your accusations were true, the effect is negligible.

    The services I provide are fixed prices and competitive among anywhere in my city, yet people will always complain how this and that is always over priced and unfair. Well, again there’s alway 2 sides to the story. Especially regarding why some medical bills are so high.

    I visit European countries all the time, pay unfair prices for items and service and never complain because I don’t fully understand the language.

    I really hope I read this blog post wrong and that 2.5USD is $250. If this article is indeed you complaining of a few dollars lost, you have more worries than traveling.

    • It’s not the price per se it’s the attitude of the local people that got me. Do you think I care about being charged 20,000 Dong instead of 10,000 for my razor? Or 60,000 Dong for my Pho instead of 30,000? NOPE. Not about the money at least. I care BECAUSE the price changes solely because I don’t have correct change. Not just one time but EVERY time, every city, every village. I care because I get a half portion of food yet pay twice the price WHILE locals talk and laugh about it in Vietnamese to my face. I care because locals laugh when I mispronounce things in Vietnamese rather than be pleased that I am attempting to learn the basics of their language.

      It’s not the money that made me dislike living/traveling in Vietnam, it’s the people. Sorry. (Don’t get me wrong, I felt like family when with Vietnamese friends, especially during Tet. But encounters with strangers around town or while motorcycling the HCMT were always aggravating.)

  82. I just can’t get over the fact you were eating DOG and grizzling about the local guy getting the “whole back part of the dog” for cheaper… jesus dude, couldn’t you have eaten some chicken or fish or something? Why make a point of eating dog? That’s f*cked up.

    • aagreed with almost but, at the point that the old man got more ‘dog meat’ than u Derek , dont u ever think of he might be friend with that lady ?????? cause sometime I got more food than other whenever i shopped in the local market as I’m their friend !!!! ”just my opinion’ :))))))

      • True, VERY good point actually — I honestly never thought of that. Even as a nomad, when I hang around one place long enough to find a good restaurant that remembers me after a couple visits, I start getting that “friend” treatment you spoke of. My soup will have more meat and veggies in it than the local’s soup next to me. I’ve been offered free rides home (and by “home” I mean to my hotel) by locals who work the streets enough to recognize me. Even as I type this I’ve been in Thailand almost all of 2016 so far and have never paid for laundry once — purely because the first place I stopped at way back when, well, I ended up becoming friends with the lady running it and her family. Tried to pay but they have never let me. Plus every once in a while they’ll invite me to a delicious and authentic home-cooked dinner 馃榾

        Thank you again for pointing out that I may have made an incorrect assumption based on how frustrated I was at the time I wrote that a couple years ago. Cheers 馃檪

  83. Hi Derek, I googled around and found your article. It caught my attention because traveling in Vietnam did leave me with a bad experience as well in January 2014. I have the same feeling as yours, traveling to VN once and no more.
    I was born in Saigon, Vietnam and have been living in Canada for more than 25 years. I like traveling and have been traveling to many countries like Europe, China, Korea, and USA, and so I decided to travel to Vietnam for the first time in 2014 because I’ve heard that it has opened up a lot now.
    My strip started from Hanoi. I stayed in Hanoi overnight. The hotel’s host and the people were quite nice. Maybe I didn’t stay in the city long enough to have a bad experience.
    Then I traveled to Ho Chi Min city to meet a friend. From there I, by myself, joined the local tour to Danang, Hoi An, and Hue. All the people in this tour were oversea Vietnamese coming back to see the country and relatives. When our flight arrived at Danang, we were assigned a female local tour guide. Good God, this local tour guide was cunning, sly. In the tour, there were 3 young single Vietnamese gentlemen from America, a Vietnamese-Canadian couple, and I building rapport quickly. We found ourselves talking, sharing our experience, and laughing easily among us and siting and eating at the same table at every meal. I don’t know what was going and since when. This female local tour guide started to notice (I had a sense that she got jealous) and separated me from the group, and she started to join them at the table at every meal time and trying to hit on them. Many time the group and I complained about why she separated me. She didn’t give a reason. Even she did, the reason was unreasonable. By the end of the trip, our group was not happy and argued with her but it was pointless by then.

    I am honestly warning anyone traveling to VN. If anyone want to join a tour, remember don’t ever use the company “SAIGONTOURIST” The price is expensive and not very good. This is just one of the bad situations that I have experienced in VN. We thought that because we could understand Vietnamese and the culture, it would be better for us. Even Vietnamese ourselves, knowing the culture and language, still get ripped off and treated unfairly by Vietnamese in Vietnam. Imagine for a non-Vietnamese tourist, you will be their easy prey.
    I traveled alone to China for 3 weeks in 2007 without speaking Mandarin (I spoke very minimal). I was treated much better than in VN and had not had any bad experience. I will definitely return to China again, and definitely will NOT return to Vietnam. I’m just sad to realize that the Vietnamese culture and attitude towards foreign tourists, regardless western or oversea Vietnamese, are that bad. They have a very very long way to catch up with China, let alone Korea and Japan, if they want to compare themselves to China.

  84. Hi Derek,

    Me and my friend wanted to make a blog about saving Vietnam from all the trash that lies around the breathtakingly beautiful country. Before starting that, I was doing my research and came across your article. To tell you the truth, Vietnam is my most favorite country in the world, and I have traveled a lot and lived in five countries for long duration. I found Vietnam great due to the hospitality we got while we were traveling. There were times when we asked the locals sitting by the road/path, eating their food some question, and they would invite us to eat with them. Every time I got lost, people offered to help. We were given free food for our travel by our host lady just moments before we were to leave, so we won’t be able to pay her. We were treated with free drinks everywhere we went, even the hostel owner took me out for a beer before I left, because we just hit it off. I preferred their nonchalance when it came to me shopping there because I dislike the feel of the Istanbul and Morocco bazaars, where they follow you, sometimes with insults and curses (that really happened).
    I might have two comments about your experiences. Before me and my ex went to Sicily, we heard all these stories about the Taxi drivers ripping you off, and we became so cautious (read: suspicious) that every time anyone would quote any price we would feel being ripped off. We even had a bad encounter with a taxi driver with police involved due to that. In the end we realized it was basically our suspicion that made things appear much worse than they really were. What I want to say is, may be you had all these negative inputs already that affected your judgement more strongly than how it may be was in reality (isn’t it a possibility?)
    Second thing is, of course on tourist routes you get more mugs than deep in the country. In case of Vietnam, there are so many beautiful places you can see off the beaten track, and just a few experiences in big cities should not define the attitude of the whole country. Of course there is always something that may prick, like in my case, the trash in Vietnam, but overall I loved the laughing people. Yes, they love laughing, making fun, of each other and others too. It’s nothing personal, it’s just how the culture is. And we can’t go to a country expecting their rude/polite attitudes would be similar to ours, this is what my travels have taught me too 馃檪 May be you should go again to Vietnam, listening to all the positive input you got from the comments and expecting all of that to come true 馃檪 I hope you do, I would love to go back too.

    All the best for your future travels … all the positivity during your travels your way

    • Hey Samira, appreciate your comment and glad that you had better experiences there than me. You made a good point about preconceptions affecting your judgement of a country. I warn people of the same thing; not to do too much research on a country or you’ll end up thinking you know it before you even arrive. In reality you should arrive with no expectations. That was how I arrived in Vietnam. I had a Vietnamese friend from my younger days living there and she invited me. I knew almost nothing of the modern day Vietnam when I arrived, only various parts of their history.

      The first month was fine. I was living with my friend, traveling with her, getting real authentic Vietnamese family experiences. Starting the second month I began teaching English and spending more and more time out exploring on my own. Eventually I bought a motorcycle and decided to motorcycle the HCMT from top to bottom. It was during these later months that my feelings towards Vietnam started to go south. As I mentioned in the article, it wasn’t only the big cities. It wasn’t only the north. It was everywhere I stopped to rest my head. And eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. Even now, two years and another ten countries later, I still have never felt such animosity anywhere else. Never had people laugh at me because I was mispronouncing their language. Never had people argue with the Google map on my phone. Never had people argue so much over prices or refuse to haggle what was obviously a horribly inflated tourist price. The list goes on and on. Other than when I had an “in” from my Vietnamese friend, nothing was ever free, not even directions. But thankfully not everyone has had the same experience I did.

      I may return to Vietnam one day, but for now I’m continuing on towards Eastern Europe and loving every minute of it 馃檪

  85. Currently in Vietnam hell. By far the worst experience I’ve had after traveling for 5 months. I’d leave, but someone stole my money and credit cards!

    • Well look at it this way: soon as you get the cards replaced, you’ll be on your way to somewhere better. Cambodia is quite nice and just a land crossing or short flight away 馃槈

  86. I dont know. I like it here. Already a month now. If only it wasnt so damn hot! But it’s true, they aren’t as friendly as I am used to in Asia. But I don’t care really. Friendly enough for me.

  87. I’m going to VN in June. Last time I was there was 2002. I read most of the comments and most of them were true no matter which way you look at it. you always bargain because they don’t ever tell you true price. I don’t even think there is a set price except in the restaurants. And lesson learned, only give them money after you get your thing and satisfy with it. Once i was in a phone store getting a sim card. I gave the guy in the store my phone, asked him if it’ll work. He looked at it and said yes. I gave him the money. he put the sim card in my phone and it didn’t work. i wanted my money back and he didn’t give it to me. He said the sim card is opened. it’s no longer original. I said it wasn’t my fault. I was so frustrated I threatened to call the police on him for stealing my money. In the end I got half of my money back. another thing no one mentioned is how stinky the public toilets are, and you have to pay to use it. It’s also hot and humid, and trash is every where. In my opinion there are lots of other places in the world to go spend your money, why VN? I go there cause my dad still lives there otherwise I wouldn’t.

    • Yeah, having someone to visit makes it a bit different. I have several friends there that I miss dearly, including a Vietnamese girl I grew up with back in Austin. (She was actually the one who originally convinced me to come there and got a job teaching English.) While I will say that Vietnam pays a higher starting salary for English teachers (even completely inexperienced and without certification) than any other Asian nation I’ve found ($20+/hr) it was not worth it. Unfortunately several other Southeast Asia nations also have trash problems too though. That’s one other thing I wish there was more progress on in that corner of the world…

  88. I’m currently ending my month long stay in Vietnam and I’m sad to say everything you wrote here was 100% true, and it was actually quite refreshing to read, I’m travelling with my girlfriend and we were beginning to think that maybe we were the most unlucky tourists in Vietnam. The country has the most amazing scenery and food, from the mountains of Sa pa to the Mekong, but some of the locals, yes SOME of them, basically ruined it for us. Everyday we were getting ripped off and laughed at, even today, a couple of hours ago we were driving along the Mekong and it started to pour rain, we sought shelter under a small store between Can Tho and Vinh Long, we saw some waterproof ponchos and decided to make a purchase, I called the young lady at the counter and pointed to the ponchos, she signalled with her hands a 4 and a 2, that would be 40 for both, or 20 each, a good price I thought, as I was reaching for the money an older gentleman appears and says “40 each”, ok so it’s 80 or am I being ripped off? My alarm bells started ringing but I paid just the same because it was pouring rain and it was almost nightfall. When we got to Can Tho I wanted to check if my rip off meter was on point so I walked up to this store that sold the same poncho in the middle of town and I got my confirmation, it was indeed 20 dong per poncho not 40, and immediately my mind went back and hour before and I remembered that smirk on the store owners face as we were putting on our ponchos, that delicious “I just screwed you clean” smirk you get so accustomed to in Vietnam. I know that 40 dong isn’t a lot of money but that’s not the point, this has been happening to us for one whole month every single day, sometimes I haggle and argue, sometimes I just let it slide because I don’t want to get confrontational, but it’s been consistently happening every single day. Yes we have met some amazing people, nicest, kind hearted, salt of the earth people, but they are losing by a landslide. And it’s not just in the touristy areas, we have been on and off the beaten track and this is the only constant, touts and scams and getting screwed in every single purchase, we’ve been travelling SE Asia for a while now and this is by far the worst country. Is it us? Because we’re on a budget and we’re young backpackers? We’re not rude at all! We’re very clean and soft spoken and not for once do we try and take advantage of a country or its people, but this month has been exhausting. I know that you get scams and rip offs everywhere, (I have travelled Europe and seen it first hand) but it’s the way they do it here, to your face, and sometimes laughing, (I was relieved when I read that you got the mocking laughter too), I thought it was something we were doing wrong, it’s one of the worst feelings you can have as a tourist, being ripped off and made fun at. And the worst thing is the damage it does to your trust, it gets really hard to engage with the locals with an open mind again, you start getting super paranoid of everyone. This being said, I have heaps of faith in the new generation, it was with them we had our greatest experiences here, kind and sincere teens, I think we’ll see a very different Vietnam in 10 years from now, maybe then I’ll return.

    • Very well said Rui. I genuinely feel your pain. Like you said, it’s everywhere and sure it might not be much, but it is so aggravating….and eventually it does start to add up because it is every single day, a never-ending battle. At least take comfort in the fact that it isn’t just you two. There are lots of people who suffer similar situations, unfortunately. But I did find the youth to be much more friendly and open….so yes, I also have faith in the new generation.

  89. Wow, I just noticed how old this article is, yet you still reply to it! I think that should mean something in terms of how much you care about this issue! Honestly, the city locals I think, will rip you off at any chance. I’m Vietnamese (I am from Canada though) and even with my family that is from Saigon, we still get ripped off in other areas! It’s not even just the prices, it’s the items that they sell, we encountered things like sand packed crabs, half portion food (They gave us the full samples and when we bought the nem sticks and open them,,,oooo half sticks ouch), fake tea… My parents agree that the locals need to learn a thing or two about hospitality. Generally, I think in villages they will treat you better, they are usually not as caught up in money as city folk.

    About them talking behind your back about ripping you off, I think that is the way that some Vietnamese people are, they love to talk about anything and everything. I say this because I’ve been to Vietnamese Nail Salons and restaurants aha. I don’t mean to talk badly about Vietnamese people because it’s only a numbered few who do things like this, but it’s enough to make foreign travellers leave with a bad impression.

    • Hey Catherine, thanks for the insightful comment. You are certainly not the first to mention many of those episodes you spoke of. Never really thought about the gossiping factor as well. In most countries it is very rude to speak badly right in front of someone, even if they cannot understand the language. Guess that makes it seem slightly less bad…with less foul intentions I suppose. Cultural differences. Live and learn.

  90. I just came back from Hanoi, my plan was to spend a whole month in Vietnam, but I ended up spending an aagonising 48 hrs lol.I did not like anything about Vietnam, the food was bad, the locals where thief’s and the whole country is a joke. The money is a joke, the visa is a joke and the entertainment is a joke. Every on to his own, but will never go back to Vietnam and i mean never. I am back in Thailand now, and viva Thailand.

  91. They do have coins, they just don’t like using them, because they’re heavy.. At least it was still like that 7 years ago when I went there the last time. I also think coins are stupid though

    • Yes Duc Anh you are right, I actually just saw my first Vietnamese coin ever last week….in Cambodia. Was shocked. Had to look it up on Wikipedia. They exist, just are not used. Either way, I was happy to lighten my load and make some kids happy in the process. Win-win.

  92. Been to Vietnam 6 times since 2004 and the place is magic! Best food in the world and the people are fantastic. Been ripped off three times. Twice xyclo and once black taxi result $23 AUD. Not good but not upset.

    I would live in Vietnam if I could and I am investigating possibility as I write. Softcocks get some spine, Vietnam is great.

    • Hahaha I couldn’t help but laugh at your softcocks comment 馃榾 Even if we might disagree somewhat about the people there, I definitely agree with your comment on the amazing food. Still have some great friends there too, just seems like the majority of people I encountered on the streets while teaching English or motorcycling the HCMT were not as fantastic as you find them to be.

  93. Funny how people’s experiences can be so different. I live in China and am currently traveling in Vietnam. I’ve this place, sure I’ve been ripped off a few times. I’ve also been ripped off in China, Korea and even in America. Besides can drivers in hanoi, I’ve only been knowingly ripped off once. I add up the price of everything in my head before I purchase and if it’s not priced I ask. I’ve never once had them just not give me change, I’ve gotten my change every time. I almost don’t even believe that. A lot of countries have tourist priced as well. Thailand is famous for this. Actually up until this I’d read endless articles about tourist scams in Thailand and very little about vietnam. The people have been very hospitable to me. On more than one occasion people have randomly bought snacks for me and shop owners have given me free stuff. One banh mi joint in da nang the ladies son went to the cafe next door and got a coffee for me, and no they didn’t Jack the price of the sandwich up. It was only 15,000. About being laughed at for not speaking the language, I get laughed at daily in China for not speaking the language well. I smile or laugh with them and try again. They respect if you can have a laugh at yourself. I’m finding the same to be true here. Oh and once when I got ripped of by the taxi driver in hanoi a girl I met the other night came and picked me up with her scooter and took me to her favorite restaurant. One thing I do see (especially in nha trang) is a lot of foreigners disregarding the locals or treating them like trash. I go out of my way to be polite and respectful, as I should I’ve brought myself into their country. I should act with humility. By the way, I’m not saying you’re one of the foreigners treating them like shit. It really sounds like you have bad luck or something about you just rubs them the wrong way. I have a friend with this problem in China. No matter what she does the Chinese just treat her like garbage, but are nice to me and out other foreign friends.

    • Hey Joel, you made some good points. First off, like you said, scams happen to foreigners in every country, at least to some degree. And yes, many countries have tourist prices. I’ve even had some of my Asian friends say that they were charged tourist prices in the USA, which is mind-blowing to me because everything, everywhere has a price tag on it and the country is full of people of all races, so unless you are walking around with a camera taking photos of everything and unable to speak English, I don’t understand how anyone would know you are a foreigner, let alone charge you more because of it. But I don’t doubt them. As you said, people have different experiences everywhere.

      I’m back in Thailand right now for the 18th time (actually I’ve lost count but its been a lot) and never been scammed here. A couple times when in groups asking to go to KSR or somewhere, a taxi driver will refuse to put on his meter, so we just get out. And sure that damn tuk-tuk driver is going to try and charge me 3,000 baht for a sack of weed that is only worth 1,000 baht, but if you know what’s fair and what’s not, it is easy to avoid any of those people with outright western pricing. However all this usually happens when I’m with a group of foreigners. When by myself I’ve never had an issue with taxis or touts or anything. Sure, if I’m wandering the fish market they might charge me 100 baht for a kilo of shrimp instead of the 90 baht a local would pay, but that is not a scam. It’s a foreigner tax. Being outright scammed — ripped off on food, screwed over by (motorcycle) taxi drivers, visibly paying MUCH more than the local in front of you for the same thing, being subject to continuous price increases just because you don’t have small change — is a shitty feeling, especially when it happens day after day, month after month, city after city. I am glad that you did not suffer this same immature treatment that I did while living/traveling Vietnam. Maybe you’re right, maybe somehow I just rub them the wrong when. When traveling with my Vietnamese friend the streets were basically paved in gold. But when she was not there and I was alone in Vietnam, it was like being a sheep sent to slaughter. Hell one time I accidentally knocked a teenage girl off her bicycle (yes, bicycle, not motorcycle, a complete accident, and she was fine, just startled) and all the Vietnamese locals on the street rushed over, surrounded me, made a huge scene and wouldn’t let me leave, threatening to call the police unless I pay 2 million dong! (Yes, seriously. It’s actually a-whole-nother article that I have written but haven’t published yet.) Thankfully I was able to call a Vietnamese friend to my rescue, and after 30-45 minutes of heated talks in Vietnamese with the only word I understood being “fuck” (and I know that is not a Vietnamese word) he had talked them down to letting me just apologize the girl in Vietnamese. She meanwhile was seemingly embarrassed by this whole event, and when all was said and done she rode off on her own quite quickly. Apparently all the locals on the street didn’t even know her, they just saw an opportunity to make a quick dong. (This was in the old quarter of Hanoi, FYI.)

      But regardless, it’s always best to be on your best behavior. After all, you are a guest in their country. Don’t be a dick. I’ve been a nomad for more than seven years now and (if I can say so unbiased) I am a polite, respectful tourist that is eager to learn about the country and the culture. I’m not one of those 21-year-old party animals who just came for a week to get drunk every night and sleep with as many local women as possible.
      As far as the laughing thing, I have heard that about China too. But there is a difference between being laughed at and being laughed with.

  94. It’s funny how you start off with how you tried to short the fuckin guy 4000 dong lol then the dude tries to charge you double LOL i kinda feel for you and get it sucks being ripped off over small shit here and there but it IMO i think it has to do with all the BULLSHIT CHEAP ASS back packer’s that think everyone is trying to screw them and gets piss drunk fucks whores and looks like shit. I know not everyone is like that but there are enough of them that go around fucking shit up for everyone that’s not trying to fuck whores and buy drugs. Most of the time if they are overcharging a few thousand dongs let them have it not worth stressing over its a few cents here and there. These days its starting to change because of price tags lol modern malls and uber so you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off. Vietnam is a developing country if you come back in 5 years it will be a different country. I’ve been going back every few years each time i come back it almost feels like a different country the way buildings are going up and how fast everything is modernizing its worth it to give it another shot at least once more in your life time …

    • Yeah I feel ya and sure I’ll go back to visit friends and I’m glad to hear progress is being made. However just for the record I’m not one of those broke ass backpackers trying to get drunk — I’m a digital nomad of 7+yrs working as a videographer and brand consultant. My party days are way past me. In fact I also despise those types of travelers but I realize that for most it’s a phase. They have two weeks to go wild in Asia then back to their boring corporate life. (Almost kind of feel bad for them when looking at it that way lol 馃槈 ) So I tend to stay away from the backpacker part of town — although I don’t mind popping my head in there during the day if there are some obligatory sights/markets. Anyway, cheers to progress in Vietnam

  95. I’ve been coming to Vietnam for 23 years,14 trips and am reasonably fluent with the language.I’m male and not Vietnamese.
    It’s a love hate relationship for me,good days and bad.I don’t travel around all that much preferring to stay at one place in the central region that I am very familiar with.
    There is a fair level of dislike toward foreigners, but your individual experience can differ depending on your gender with I believe women travelers having a better experience.
    I have in all those years spent much time mixing with Vietnamese in my own country and have experienced a lot of negative attitude as well.I asked one VN friend what percentage of people don’t like westerners at home and she said around 70%. I think that is too high an estimate but for me that has been the single most difficult thing about learning the language, why waste your time with so many people resenting you based on your race?
    But I have invested too much time and am not going to turn back now because of such attitudes,there are enough good Vietnamese to still make it worth while.
    It’s the men I have most difficulty with, others have commented on the blank stares they get which continue even after a smile is given.I don’t look into the eyes of the men anymore, you may miss a friendly face but I can’t put up with the blank stares anymore,it helps me stay on an even keel. The majority of my friends are women and it is they who make my trips here enjoyable.
    The reasons for this xenophobia/racism is complicated, with obvious historical reasons, some of it is just down human nature and cultural issues. And as others have noted,some foreigners give good reason to dislike us, I’ve seen enough of that myself.
    The corrupt nature of the communist system plays a big part in the dysfunctional nature of Vietnamese society, if uncle Ho were to come back tomorrow I think he would be unimpressed with what he sees.
    But for me it’s the difficult nature of Vietnamese people that is part of the allure.

    • I can agree with your difficult nature of the Vietnamese being part of the allure. I used to live in Tokyo and even after seven years as a nomad, Japan is still my favorite country in the world. At the same time, many of them, and many places from hotels to restaurants to bars to hot springs are very anti-gaijin (foreigner). But at the same time, I love the country and plan to live there whenever I settle down. But although some of them have this mentality, it comes from their history. For 250 years they killed any foreigners who landed on their islands except for traders from the Dutch East Indies, due to trade agreements. (You may think I’m getting off-topic, but this ramble has a point.)

      The Vietnamese also have an interesting history. They have been fighting off foreign invaders from back in the days of the Mongols. They are resilient, and on one hand that is commendable. But in this modern 21st century they need to be more open to foreign tourists and not see them all as prey.

  96. I suggest a new title: “Why puss-ies never return to Vietnam?”

    Instead of complaining try to learn a little bit from the people, the language and show them respect, and maybe they’re gonna treat you like one of them. “I backpack for three months in Vietnam” that’s shit man. Could be anywhere in the world that they make you pay more than the locals, just try to adapt and behave like the locals if you don’t wanna be a “fucking tourist”. I guess, I’m sorry, I’m not a “professional traveler”. WTF KMN

    • Greetings Thu Nguyen or “Bastard” or whatever you prefer to be called. Just because this article has gone viral, don’t think you know me or my travel style just by skimming the headlines. I’ve been traveling, living and working in different countries (primarily Asia) since 2008. I am not some “fucking tourist” as you said — I taught English in Hanoi. I take pride in spending time with the locals, learning their way of life and helping out where I can. But rather than ramble on about how my well-traveled lifestyle allows me to see things from both sides, let me instead refer you to the Google or the statistics I cited in this article. Numbers do not lie.

  97. Don’t even bother learning the language, you’ll just waste your time and effort. It will make no difference to one’s experience visiting or living in Vietnam either. Unlike most countries, there is almost no appreciation for one’s efforts to learn the language.

    Speaking Vietnamese is as hard, if not harder, than learning other languages that are actually ranked harder. While Mandarin is “harder,” that is because of the written system. Speaking Vietnamese is actually harder because pronunciation is BRUTAL. So listening comprehension is obviously harder as well. There are extreme regional variations, and not just the North-Central-South divide. And learning Vietnamese takes significant time in Vietnam to learn properly. As in years. Guess what the problem with that is? Yup, if you practice it you will get mocked! How much fun is that! Apparently most of their English is awesome (and being polite, we would never criticize a foreigner’s effort to learn a language or skill because learning should always be encouraged, but that’s just us I guess). And this isn’t just strangers, but people that might now you well too!

    What a treat. Spend gobs of money to study speaking, writing, etc. intensively and then when it comes time to practice speaking it, they will actually laugh at you. Not everyone mind you, but enough that it either kills a language learner’s will or just makes them angry enough that they say, “Why the Hell am I learning this language to a high level and spending huge amounts of money to be mocked?” It’s a legitimate question. Of course toss in everything else (e.g., homicidal traffic on sidewalks and streets, angry salespeople that honestly look pissed all the time with foreigners and Viets alike, etc. while learning the language) and you can see why Vietnamese is not really studied widely. And who would you use it with anyway? Someone that glares at you and can’t crack a smile while pissed you are walking on a sidewalk? The return on that investment is actually negative.

    These observations are also not coming from someone that only lived or traveled to one or two or ten countries. So they should carry weight.

    • Completely concur. I’ve been nomadic for more than 7 years now and have visited more than my fair share of countries….but never found a place so unwelcoming to foreigners (unless they are emptying their wallet) as Vietnam. During my time there teaching English I met so many expats working there and the vast majority of them hated it. There sheer number of people writing about this topic alone proves that the Vietnam tourism industry clearly has some issues to address moving forward. The tricky part is its not about advertising or better infrastructure to support travelers — its about changing them mindset of 90 million people. Not easy, quick, or cheap task.

    • @Doesn’t matter, it’s all the same
      Depressing isn’t it? Since coming home from my last 2 month trip I’m not sure I can continue learning Vietnamese anymore.I said in my comment above that I have invested too much time (and money) and am not going to turn back now, but I have to face the reality that I am losing the desire and patience.
      To improve and gain the higher level of fluency I have struggled for requires constant interaction and conversation, use it or lose it, yet after 23 years I only have one Vietnamese friend here in my own country.
      One past friend,a good person would invite me to the family and friends social gatherings and while there were always some friendly engaging people I was always left feeling sad that most of the people made me feel like I shouldn’t be there even though they knew I had gone to the enormous effort of learning their language.
      I’ve had too many similar experiences.
      Over time this wears away ones desire, I can handle and still enjoy the ups and downs of holidaying in Vietnam, it’s the attitude of Vietnamese here at home that is killing it for me.
      To the many friendly and decent Vietnamese who may read this I’m sorry if my words cause any offense, but it’s time for some serious social introspection within your community. To all the others I will not bother you again and leave you to stew in your shallow minded xenophobia and racism.Tam biet.

  98. Daughter has been living in Hanoi for a year. I’d say that Vietnam is “hard” crime-free, but rife with small-time rip-off artists. And – I don’t care how small-time it is – it’s NOT ok EVER. ANYWHERE. Her first experience with renting a shared house was horrible: all four tenants paid different damage deposits and rents. The non-Vietnamese Asian renter paid the least, followed by Hungarian renter, then my daughter (Canadian), the Frenchman paid the most. She would come home and find the landlady’s husband sleeping on the couch. Their washing machine was replaced with a sacrificial altar. The landlady would have something fixed, then show up at a tenant’s place of work, crying, demanding money. It was a gong show. They all got out of the place within a few weeks. One can warn others about these landlords, but apparently they don’t always advertise under the same name. Although she has managed to find a way to live there, it comes at an emotional price: there isn’t a day goes by where she isn’t “on guard” for being scammed, or laughed at or judged. We visited her and can attest that taxi drivers make awful first impressions on tourists. It is an unloveable nation of people who point and laugh at anyone who is overweight, who looks different, or who tries to speak their language.

    • That’s a familiar story C, unfortunately. There is a big difference between being proud of your nationality and rich history/culture, and treating all others as lower class based on some imaginative ranking system revolving around that person’s ethnicity and how their country has affected Vietnamese history or how their wealth is an opportunity for exploitation. While nearly every country on earth appreciates when you try to learn their language, even if you get it wrong, no where but in Vietnam will the people outright laugh and make fun of you. It’s nothing but disrespect all around, and while I love the food and the scenery, there is only so much disrespect that I can take. That we can take. And I firmly believe that this is why Western tourism to Vietnam is slowly decreasing. It’s only the rapidly increasing numbers of Chinese tourists that keep their overall tourism numbers increasing…

  99. “I certainly hope my article does not make it sound like everyone in Vietnam is bad” ..Well , you did Derek ; the way you titled your it and the way you wrote your opinion , it doesn’t sound “recommendations”. Most of all is bull as a statement….Many tourist I know , being living here for 4 years , returns back year after year. You sound personally offended crying -baby who consider himself a “professional tourist”..You should look the reason why this happened in Vietnam, not judging ..I live in Asia for 25 years , I but I’m still not sure I know everything about the continent and those people. Going back to your topic – everyone in Asia try to rape you of including the Thais , who apparently you admired very much. In China is even worse than Vietnam, the government rip you off officially in any tourist places , charging you double and triple for entry tickets, simply because you are foreigner. Chinese also cheat on you ones they see your alien face, not to mention that they have no souls , which can’t be said about the Vietnamese . Anyway , you may not let my post online , but at least you should know that your approach towards Vietnam is a personal bias and not admirable for a”professional tourist”

    • That is exactly why I also included the tourism statistics — cold hard numbers to prove that western tourism is stagnant at best in Vietnam. Everyone has different experiences. If sharing my honest experiences backed up by links to other people who had bad experiences and statistics that reinforce the point I am trying to make is “not admirable” than I do not know what you expect from a blogger. No one can love everywhere and every professional traveler (not tourist) has at least one place they will never return. Of course not all choose to write about it. BTW I only mentioned Thai people in an example because it is one of the most popular Asian tourist destinations and therefore easier for people to relate to. It does not mean admire them any more than Indonesians or Singaporeans or Japanese or anyone. All nations have good and bad people. Some just have more of the latter.

      However to be fair Vietnam is the only Asian nation that does charge the same price for locals and foreigners. Communism at its finest, hooray for that. But paying an inflated tourist price to a UNESCO site is not a big deal because all those locals are also paying taxes that go towards maintaining these tourist sites and local infrastructures. Besides it’s also their history and their culture, so they should pay the bare minimum. This is common practice in more countries than not.

      • Wrong, in Ho Chi Minh City, eg. water theater or other kultural places there are tourist prices and lower prices for the locals. This is spread all over the southern part of the country. Ileas comment is so far from my personal experience that I doubt this person ever was in Vietnam.

        • If you think that I have not been to Vietnam then clearly you didn’t read any of the article or look at any of the photos but rather just trolled the comments. Of course coming from someone who things “cultural” is spelt with a “K” I should have known to lower my expectations.

  100. I’ve been travelling Vietnam for a few weeks with my girlfriend and no problems. Certainly the customer service runs the gamut between disinterested and cold but it’s not something that drags your day down..

    The people are tough to get to know, for sure. But in terms of the ease of travel there’s no issue for us. There’s the potential to get scammed for sure, but we feel it’s simply wrong to get into the mindset that there is a scam round every corner.

    I think a lot of it is just common sense. It’s all opportunistic. If you don’t put yourself in compromising positions it’s fine. Agree / confirm all prices up front. Research prices beforehand. Use Uber where possible, reputable cabs where unavailable. Move and act confidently, do not engage vendors. That is 99% of potential problems eliminated in our view and only the same precautions we take elsewhere in Asia.

  101. Being a Vietnamese, I do feel the urge to go on an anti-US/westerners irate rant about how you’re biased and prejudice…. but then again, you’re not.

    And so are other negative posts. Some maybe exaggerated, but there are truth in there.
    What you haven’t realized is this: It’s not just you, it’s everyone. I’ve lived in Hanoi for most of my life – except for a few years abroad studying – and I have to say you find some of the most greedy, shameless, money-grubbing people here. Petty thieves, scammy businesses, and people who treat others like dirt just because. Locals deal with the same issues too. I don’t eat at random street side places, and when I do, I ask for prices beforehand. I watch mechanics fix my bike – and by watching I mean supervising. Hovering over them. Like a hawk. I try not to get any major fixes done anywhere other than at a trusted mechanic. Heck I even put a chain on my wallet… What I’m trying to get at is that your experience is not only limited to foreigners and travelers. Locals get those too. We just got used to it and learnt to watch out for shady deals and such.

    As for travelers considering Vietnam as a destination, I would advice that you read up on facts and tips about Vietnam, polish your street-smartness or talk to an expat community like Hanoi Massive or Saigon Massive.


  102. Great Post Derek.

    The bad customer service and rude attitude is prevalent here as well in the United States for first generation Vietnamese. The second generation (those born or who grew up here) seem to do much better.

    I came upon your post mostly trying to figure out the root cause of it all. I’m Vietnamese American and couldn’t help but wonder why this short sighted attitude is so common among my people. Especially here in the US where customer service can have a large/larger impact on a business than the product/services itself.

    I think something like this… that is so culturally ingrained, has to be multifaceted in nature.

    I’ve resisted going back to Vietnam for this very reason. However, I’m also fluent in the language and am well equip to handle going back when I am ready to do so (mostly for family reasons). The nuisance you have so much trouble with I can navigate.

    It will take a major effort by the government and cultural institutions to instill a basic code of etiquette to bring it’s people into the 21st century. For their sake, it will be sooner rather than later. Being a cheap source of labor is not going to work in the long term, automation may put millions of garment workers out of work before long.

    Saigon and some of the larger cities give me hope all is not lost. Despite the enormous challenges, I hope one day Vietnam can be a brand I would like to be associated with, and a place I would like to travel to. Only time will tell.



  103. OK, Vietnamese here. I was reading a blog and someone mentioned about 5% rate of tourists returning to Vietnam. Yes, I know Vietnam has plenty of problems, and it’s not a supprise if some people decide NOT to like it. But 5% is a little too low, isn’t it? I tried to dig more to find the source of such claim. And it turns out to be a lie.

    This is how they came off with such number. They picked 5 poluplar places (Hoi An, Hue, HaLong, Nha Trang and something else I forget), and asking English speaking tourist if it’s the first time they visit. The result is: most of tourist visit for the first time, 6% for second time, 3% for third time, and 3% for more than 3 time. So for this case, actually around 12% of tourist choose to return to the place, not 6% as some idiot journalist chose to report.

    Does it mean only 12% of tourist want to visit Vietnam for second time? NOPE. Most of tourist wants to visit place they havent been yet. So maybe this trip they visit the North path, the next one for the South, the next for the Middle of the country. It’s still the first time they visit each place, but not the first time to the country. This poll actually doesn’t tell you much about returning rate of tourist, not to mention they only view a small portion of tourist (English-speaking mean Western and Europe, north American, Australian mostly, while they left out the Chinese, Japanese, Russian ones).

    The only trustable source I managed to find so far is from Tong Cuc Thong Ke (Vietnamest general Statistic Office). With accessing to database of Custom Department, they can provide a trusted and reliable number. And that number is 34% in the year 2013: 20% return for second time and 14% for 3rd time and more. So 34% is still far behind compare to 50% return rate of Thailand (again, where is the source of that number), but at least it makes sense.

    The moral of this story: the internet is dark and full of lie. Always check for source.

  104. I read this article and comments with tears in my eyes. Unfortunately everything negative written here is basically true. I lived in Vietnam after I fell in love with a Vietnamese woman who lived in the west for almost 15 years and wanted to show me her country, we married later in the west and lived a rich life as soulmates until this woman got called by her family and let me and our children down relentlessly. Unbelievable things happeneed, the vietnamese soul must be defective. This ancestor worshipping and strict hierarchy where parents become god like creatures treating even their children like scum and permanently forcing signs of respect. Then I realized how my family was abused and how much money was stolen, like my children were abused to put pressure on me. Until then I thought this was a single experience and certainly family specific, nothing to generalize. Wrong! All at once we got threatened and defamed by almost every Vietnamese I ever knew. These people is highly racist, they completely lack of sense of community and loyalty. We in the west with christian background live in an atmosphere of mutual trust, love and positivity, while the Vietnamese live in an atmosphere of shame and hate, never experienced real love and affection, being a ‘thing’ in the family hierarchy only valued for what they do good for their parents, endlessly materialistic, a complete lack of values living in the ‘cloud’ of the clan, what triggers them even after decades in the west giving up everything for the worthless call of a stupid clan member, where I an my children are not even considered to have own interests. Then they started to blame us as colonialists and that this is the revenge and that they will take back what we stole from them. My country was not even involved and my wife was taken care of by people who contributed a lot to Vietnamese refugees. I consider this people as basically mentally ill, and I say this in the most general meaning possible. And when I started to seek other westerners who had equal experience I knew that my bad experience is the rule not the exception. I tell you this: This Vietnamese family, my beloved wife, even used her kids to make a good deal, she left the kids with me but only I pay her. This is so cruel and so the extreme opposite of the reality I lived in before, I almost went crazy. She sais, you are a ‘sleeping master’, you were so naive to blindly love, that she had easy to play with me. I can not believe it but it is reality. The Vietnamese people is the most hated people amongst asians, educated asians from civilized asian countries tell me now, that this is an open secret. I can’t believe it that such cordial people, that smile, that hard working people living in one of the most beautiful landscapes ever seen has such a shade on its soul that I look at my children and feel the need to protect them for they do not get that hate implanted their mother was driven from and supported by other vietnamese refugees living here.

    • Damn shame to hear all of that brother. That’s exactly why I originally wrote this article — to let people know they are not alone. It is not just you. Still, royally sucks learning lessons the hard way though. Best wishes for the future.

  105. I agree, with adt. My husband and I have been traveling south east Asia for 25 yrs as his university had exchanges there. We traveled for 2 months minimum on non work trips. We always read up before we went on customs, latest scams, cultural differences, etc. I don’t remember an experience that was too bad to not at least be a good story. And we had so many wonderful experiences! We traveled exclusively in Thailand for the first 12 yrs. mostly staying in guesthouses. The land of 1000 smiles began disappearing to “I want mine”….to be expected with so many rich and inhospitable people descending on them whom didn’t know or get the culture. We branched out to Loas, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia, and Vietnam many times. After doing Vietnam north to south 3 times, on our last trip we discovered Nha Trang. From what we read, we had intended to only stay 5 days. We stayed 6 weeks and have been going back for 2 – 3 months for the last 7 yrs. (also one month in a new spot outside of Vietnam)
    Nha trang had become our winter home, escaping American winters. We have made wonderful friends there, including many Vietnamese. They were so kind to us we kept asking ourselves what do they want of us. And you do need to be wary of this, but never have we been played or taken advantage of. Mind you, I certainly believe the stories of bad experiences from people repairing and using local motorcycles. We don’t rent for fear of getting it scratched and getting a $300 bill. They seem to all be trying very hard to get rich. They see so much wealth…foreign, but lots of extremely rich northerners with government connections. Most of the people are extremely kind and incredibly generous and work hard for their money.
    One just needs to stay aware while enjoying an incredibly good time.
    We are on the outlook for a new R&R spot because of the huge, maybe 85%, Russian tourist population that now go there. The Russians don’t like the Vietnamese nor Westerners which makes being there less enjoyable.

    • Yes Fran, so well put — they are all trying *very* hard to get rich. However there are rare pockets of good people still…..just a lot less per capita than you’ll find in all the other countries of Southeast Asia. And unfortunately those perfect, deserted R&R spots are getting harder and harder to find…..
      P.S. My apologies for the super late comment response, it’s inexcusable and not sure how it happened

  106. My girlfriend and I have just finished a whirlwind 2 week visit to Vietnam, starting in the north and travelling down the coast, finishing up in HCMC.
    We found most of the locals we encountered in the north (Hanoi, Sapa etc…) were genuine, friendly and extremely helpful.
    Once we started moving further south, things took a turn for the worst. Ultimately ending in both of us not really enjoying the trip at all thanks to the awful behaviour of the locals in HCMC and surrounding areas.
    Being extensive travellers and lovers of new cultures/experiences, we both had high hopes going into this holiday. But guaranteed will NEVER be travelling back to Vietnam or even recommending it to friends or family.
    We would rather enjoy the hospitality in the nearby countries of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Phillipines.

    • Really, you had more issues in the south than the north? Well Sean you and your girlfriend are one of the exceptions to the rule I guess. Almost everyone I’ve heard from (myself included, obviously) has experienced the opposite. Just goes to show that travel is different for everyone. Of course when there are Vietnamese people chiming in here about how they left their country years ago and then came back only to face these same issues because now they are “outsiders” in the eyes of their fellow Vietnamese who have never left the country, it does tend to lead some credence to the things mentioned in this article and all the comments — even though some people wish/think this was not true.

      However you are definitely right in the fact that all of Vietnam’s neighbors are much more hospitable. They give you back change when you overpay (instead of asking for double the price just because you pulled out a larger bill) and provide directions for free and invite you into their house for tea and love to pose for photos and so many other things that make the traveling experience better. Sure, Vietnam is still a relative newcomer to in international tourism scene, especially when compared to countries like Thailand and Indonesia. But so is Myanmar. And Cambodia. And others. Yet they are all still more hospitable than Vietnam. So being new to the international tourism scene is not an excuse. Vietnam needs to “fix itself” if it wants to continue to be an appealing SEA destination for westerners. (Sure, Chinese tourists will keep coming and keep paying. Hell they are the only reason that Vietnam’s tourism numbers continue to increase, as westerners have already caught on to their scams. But Chinese tourists do all-inclusive group tours and do *nothing* to support local economies. And this is not sustainable in the long run for Vietnam. They just have not realized this yet.)

  107. Really?
    wow some really dumb ass ignorant borderline racist garbage on this site….as an expat from Australia living in Vietnam…you couldn’t be more wrong…beautiful country with beautiful people…safe, secure, vibrant, & invigorating…not to mention great food…..never been ripped off in 5 years….and im not cautious…

  108. Vietnam has many, many problems.

    The food: I have a great job that has sent me all over the world, the food here is terrible. Normal ingredients can be found on a can of dog food. Normal ingredients are dog (It is commonly eaten everywhere). I love Asian cuisine but I could not tell you a single Vietnamese dish that is great. Also beware most food here is filled with deadly chemicals (formaldehyde pho anyone) this includes mainstream products (CClemon, Sting) which the government regularly issues health warnings to the locals about.

    Litter: Is everywhere. One of the dirtiest countries in the world.

    Violence: Not so much violence toward foreigners but so much violence toward women. Domestic violence, regularly see it and the aftermath of it. Yesterday a senior government official beat up an airline worker because he wasn’t allowed to board his flight as he was late. And I don’t even want to imagine how the compulsory ‘all girls must join the guys and drink as much as them party’ has probably ended for many of them. Mob, Hai, Rape more like it.

    Corruption. How can you all afford $300K lexus 4×4’s but can’t keep the goddamn electric on six days a week. Oh you put it all in your family members name, good to know.

    Everything here requires tea money. Vietnam is the land of 90% compliance, meaning if you don’t pay the bribe they will find something to screw you over with. BEING SCAMMED IN VIETNAM IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO FOREIGNERS.

    Prices: Wow food is cheaper than back home! (that’s because we have standards so we don’t get cancer btw). Everything else is more expensive here. Cars, houses, cost to setup a business. Vietnam is not cheap, it just has cheap options for the poorest here.

    And don’t believe the tay balo when they tell you about their well paid TEFL teaching jobs. They probably worked 200 unpaid hours this month for that $20/h.

    • You won’t hear me arguing you, although I did not mind the food there — and yes, I was actually paid $20/hr (400,000 Dong) for teaching English as a private tutor with no experience and no certification, cash after every lesson.

  109. I’m a Vietnamese and i feel very ashamed. It sounds like an excuse but there’re always people trying to rip tourists off in any society. Not only foreigners but also the Vietnamese are usually overcharged, forced to buy things. Once a vendor persuaded me to buy her foods at bus top. I said “No, i don’t want to” and then she kept begging me to buy. I said “No” again and she yelled, abused at me. I let her yell and said nothing till she got bored :)) Then, she hunted for another man. When you’re in that situation, my advice is that just ignore their presentations. You should pretend that there was a phone call and talk so long. Most of that vendors are in very poor class , uneducated. They originated from rural areas so they behave very impolite. Even we (Vietnamese people) don’t like them ( yet we also don’t discriminate them). The bad behaved people are making Hanoi uglier in foreigners’ eyes. Have you ever got offended when seeing litters’re everywhere on the streets. Or dirty, polluted, dusty air, water, food conditions make you feel uncomfortable; right? I’m extremely bothered with men who pee at public streets, sound horns too much, talk too loud… Hanoians know and hate that things, but we can do nothing. Because that is their consciousness, it can’t be changed in one day T_T in terms of our hospitality, I think that We always keep a cold face. However whenever you need assistance , we are willing to help with no reluctance. Don’t judge people by appearance. I ( a student) individually want to talk to visitors but don’t know what to start and just keep waiting for them to ask something. I’m basically shy and concerned to disturb you. On the contrary, other students are very active to talk to foreigners. Therefore, the hospitality is also based on characters! ^^

    • T煤 Linh hearing your words and knowing that they are the same as my younger friends back in Vietnam is what gives me hope for the future. And it’s okay, being shy is different then being rude. Sometimes you just need someone to approach you and say the first word 馃檪 (usually that’s me if you look like a friend person). Unfortunately while it’s not going to change today or tomorrow, as people in your generation become parents you are obviously going to pass on positive qualities to the next generation. The elder generations, your parents and their parents, they had it rough, I completely understand that, even if I cannot fully comprehend it firsthand because it was before my time. So I cannot blame them for being a little resilient or set in their ways, and apprehensive or disliking of foreigners. I get that. But it just wore me down after too long there. I witnessed all of what you mentioned, it was quite “Hannoying” as they say, and yes at times it was definitely awkward. Some people have no shame. But I also noticed it was primarily the older generation or, as you mentioned, some of the more unfortunate, uneducated ones. The youth of Vietnam are not running around causing problems. They are some of the friendliest people in the country! And that is what gives me hope 馃檪

  110. I’ve been in Ho Chi Minh for the last five months, and I am amazed at how the people here have basically no self awareness or control. I personally don’t find most rude during interactions, but they are oblivious to how annoying they can be.

    Their insanely loud sneezing
    The godawful driving and honking (it’s so bad that even the Chinese and Pilipino people I’ve spoken to complain about it
    The noisy talking in public and their screaming kids
    The chewing
    The banging
    You go into a store or the mall and someone will be standing beside you and start yelling a conversation with their friend across the store.

    But again, they don’t seem like bad people. Just oblivious to manners and noise.

    And everything is backwards here. Trying to get banking, paper work or any type of basic shopping is always more difficult here. Most of these people do not know how to do business, because this wasn’t a meritocracy for the longest time. The Thai’s and Malays are so far beyond the Vietnamese in understanding how to do simple business transactions and to keep customers. Who knows. The people are warm and the West is by no means perfect. But this country has a LONG way to go if it ever wants to be a player in the world economy and tourism sector.

    I’m an investor, and I have to say I’m looking around the region to do business in another country. My patience is gone. Maybe in ten years, this will be a place to do business and live. But I personally don’t want to wait this long for the people to “catch up.”

    • Ahhhhhhh brings back memories. Thanks.

      Before writing this article I really thought it was just me. Glad to know that it isn’t. There’s travel industry chatter as well, as Vietnam is trying to increase their western tourism but its not going so hot. Sure they’ll come around eventually. However like you I don’t have the patience.

  111. As an American who has happily visited Vietnam seven times, I recognize your positive and negative experiences as valid, and applaud your reporting as a cautionary public service for future visitors. The best way to explore this country is with friends or family who are native Vietnamese. They can block most–not all–of the rip-off scams. (For example, and this is no joke: We gave our clothes to a Hanoi cleaners, who charged us ridiculous, near-U.S. prices and returned all of our items smelling like they’d been soaked overnight in urine.) But native Vietnamese travel companions can help build relationships with some of the nicest, most generous people on the planet. Looking forward to your future columns.

    • Yes Scott, you are very right. I came to Vietnam at the invite of a Vietnamese girl I knew growing up and for the first month we were inseparable. I had the joy of spending Tet with her family and they welcomed me in as if they had known me their entire life. It was an amazing experience. But eventually she had to focus on her work there again and when we went our separate ways I began exploring the country by myself — that’s why Vietnam showed her ugly side. Considering that for the last eight years I’ve spent nearly all of it exploring by myself, it was a shock to see people treat me like that. Not saying that I want the red carpet rolled out, but I was raised to be kind and helpful to strangers. Apparently not enough people in Vietnam are teaching their kids the same common decency.

  112. Pjotr Belovski

    Vietnam is the foulest smelling country with the shittiest people鈥檚 mentality on earth. This is not a serious country. Really. Come and you will see and experience.

    They scam, spit and are impolite without end. They sway their arms for the trees. Oh yes, they think they are such an important people! False pride for lack of substance and no inventions. Their motorics are of primitive nature, to grab and to have, they look at your money in your wallet from a short distance whenever you pay for something, they are prey to an imported capitalism they do not understand and which the government presented to the people with the Doi Moi in VERY UGLY wordings.

    The rise of populism and strongmen in other countries in 2016 and now elsewhere is of course a bad spice for their minds.

    What the government has done with the people after Unification is indescribable, and NO explanation will do justice to a society like Vietnam without good functioning institutions. This country lives in anarchy. There is no rule of law. They drive through the red traffic lights. No feelings of correctness. And certainly no respect for anyone else.

    They still have animistic reflexes, see rain come or heat come, and they go berserk in the traffic like wild. They talk about tolerance and control but their physical brutality and traffic is the real 鈥榚xpression鈥 of this people. They actually ENJOY IT. Talk primitive consciousness dressed up in nice clothes on a motorbike.

    They loathe themselves and others, Viets and foreigners, it doesn’t matter. They blame it all on the government, the alibi to be wild, they make noise to be heard for all because they have nothing to say and nothing to think. I have a relatively good command of the language after many years doing business here, well, it鈥檚 a bad sounding language, I admit, Nomadic Matt is right.

    The traffic in Saigon has become completely insane, (which is a very nice word for to describe it). One does not understand that a people can be like this. They run over with RAGE, inner rage at their own inability to somewhat be happy. They are deeply unhappy indeed.

    It will be Viets themselves only, probably from abroad but also 鈥榝rom inside鈥 who 鈥榤ight鈥 trigger changes in the psyche of this nation, some kind of revolt will be needed to change, but apparently the rot sits so deep that next generations will suffer just as must from in-education, violence and corruption, from the top to the bottom.

    Is Vietnam that bad? Yes! Along the Hoang Sa canal young gangs throw rocks and plastic bottles with urine at tourist in the gondolas!

    At fuelling stations, reporters have filmed 鈥榮hort counters鈥, meaning that customers get less in their hand than what is counted. Tricks up their coward sleeves.

    I have friends here when I鈥檓 working here, yes, and I try to speak Vietnamese with them whenever I can, but Vietnam is NOT my friend. This is the rotten apple in a basket of Asian fruit.

  113. Teaching English in Vietnam? Watch out for the Thai Binh Duong or Th谩i B矛nh D瓢啤ng language centers. They don’t honor contracts, take money from you with all sorts of made up fees and fire teachers before holiday periods using excuses to save money, offering overcharged price on accommodation etc. Be warned!

    • Oh yeah, I heard lots of sketchy stories from other teachers while I was there. Because of that I chose to do freelance private teaching instead of get involved with an official school/uni/language center.

  114. Thank for sharing your experience. I am a Vietnamese living in Canada for more than 40 years, backpacking all over the world, and I feel you! I have not been back in Nam for more than 15 years because of the same negative energy! I hope they can travel like everyone and understand what we are talking about.

    • Negative energy, yes, that is the best way to describe it. Beautiful country, delicious food, amazing history…..but just too much negativity in the air for me to stay any longer than 3 months.

  115. Great article! After reading through the comments-one was heartbreaking about the one who married a Viet woman and how he got treated. I happen to know another similar case like that. The white man left divorced, almost jobless and on the brink of insanity….with a newborn son. The woman? She moves on to bigger wallets. As an asian myself who is not from Vietnam, and been duped by a so called Viet friend; I think it’s vital for westerners, white people, future investors in general to understand the country’s history IN THE CONTEXT of other SEA countries’s history.

    Foreign tourists tend to compare Vietnam to the Thai’s, Phillipino’s, Malays, Indo’s, etc. We are not the same level. Incomparable. Like pineapples to apples to oranges. We might be in the same basket, sounds the same but in reality VERY DIFFERENT. Like someone mentioned above, we are far and beyond them. Sounds a bit too much. But it is true.

    For starters, people should know they were invaded numerous times by the Chinese; so much so they were once the slaves of the Chinese people and were a part of China; on and off for centuries. (Heck, even today, as we speak, China is still taking their lands and islands!!) None of the mentioned countries were or are in the same predicament. Infact, while they were invaded by China, other countries were already trading goods and exchanging diplomatic ties with China. Further proof? Where do you think they got their communist economy from? And why do you think still carry on their communism even in the 21st century? Other SEA nations around have eradicated communism, engages in capitalism and achievements if not 100% then, largely is merit based. Corruption is everywhere in developing countries, yes, but at least, we don’t often hear one needs to bribe big money to immigration officers in order to get a visa or one needs to be from a very rich family to get work abroad. That’s just sad. Very sad. Then look at their flags- spot the same. If they are a truly independent nation from the Chinese and highly creative, hardworking people like they strongly believe they are, surely they can come up with a different flag design, right? It would be interesting to see why not? Then look at their national dress- ao dai. Today, we see it is beautiful and sexy at the same time. Most won’t care anyway to find out the origins. But if you’d like to prod it deeper- why does it look like the Chinese’s cheogsam dress? They clearly copied the top, unfinished the bottom, left it flowing and wore it with pants. Perhaps to show a sign of rebellion and inherent disrespect (also jealousy) towards the ancient Chinese traditions; because Chinese ladies of higher class in society in those days won’t be caught dead wearing pants moreover to wear flowing unhemmed skirt edges which showed poor quality workmanship. It was only the poorest and crass who wore pants for practical reasons- farming and agriculture.

    And then the people, ‘real’ or ‘pure’ Viets are originally darker in skin colour, very short, tiny body frame. Their faces are what some westerners deem ‘ugly’- no nose bridge, flat nose, slanty lidless beady eyes, thick or coarse wavy hair, squarish prominent jawline and the skull look somewhat ‘punched in’. The ‘beautiful’ attractive ones which most men tend to fall for are the refined version of mixed Chinese ancestry which contributes to having a cute nose, fairer skin, larger eyes with eyelids and oval shaped faces. Hair is thin, fine and straight. The latter has more Chinese like features. Yet amazingly, these people, when you confront them of their apparent Chinese features, you will encounter daggerlike stare; almost deathly. They despise the Chinese so much so they disown, deny and disassociate any point of Chinese origins found in their culture and history, they rename and rewrite everything that is great is of Viet, the good is of French and anything bad is of the Americans. But they still expect refugee resettlements from you Americans. Heh. And the Chinese? Oh, God forbid. They ‘won’ every battle with the Chinese ever since the dragons were circling the famous Huang Long Bay. They surely did, didn’t they? Sure.

    The Viet language which they proudly claim is of French influence, well, how long were the French there anyway compared to the Chinese? Look, anyone who speaks mandarin or have been travelling around in SEA can tell the Viet language sounds like a intermarriage of Siamese and Chinese phonemic sounds and characters. Consisting similar Han Yu Pin Yin style of lettering and pronunciation. But….they prefer to give the credits to the French- the westernized lettering and just a couple of fancy 莽 and 膷. Yea, the glamours of French colonization.

    For the record, every other SEA was colonized too around the same except Thailand. Indonesia by the Dutch, Philippines by the Spaniards, Malaysia and Singapore by the British. Indo-china (prior to the name of Viet land) by the French. WE ALL HAVE SUFFERED, STRUGGLED AND FOUGHT FOR OUR INDEPENDENCE. Most of our grandfathers know what’s it like to eat tree barks and dirt to survive. Our parents know what it means to be living on 50 to 200 dollars a month. We know and have experienced what is cruelty and barbaric acts of war in our history books. Yet do you see us going around asking the world for sympathy, expecting refugees resettlements that we’d go to 1st world countries and act out as triads and gangsters filling up your prisons? Do you see us going around feeling so entitled for past redemption that we’d scam you off the bat for foreigners amd tourists money; right in your face?

    The Vietnam war was horrendous and inhumane, yes, but the point is they’re not the only one that suffered in the hands of colonialists. In their minds however they believed they suffered the greatest. Ok. Let’s give it to them. They are a nation which excruciatingly desires wealth and approval from outsiders especially if you are white AND rich. SOME (which is more than other countries) of them gaining their riches through deceptive, dishonest and dirty means of living. Culturally Buddhist but not devoutly religious to Buddhism. Very selfish. Very materialistic so much so they equate money and materialistic gains as love and being loved. Either extremely passive aggressive. Or covertly aggressive. The women tend to use blackmagic to lure men for love and marriage is more common than you’d like to believe. And you know what is the worst of all? They don’t care what you think of them! They can be ruthless as ruthless gets. Little to no moral inhibitions. SO BEWARE!

    If you want to travel on this part of the world, you need to understand the history AND the various underlying deep seated sentiments amongsts the locals. Bad seeds are everywhere, some places more than the other due to wild heirloom and denied mentioned-taboo like origins. If you were not granted with patience to see deeper, well, maybe it was a HUGE blessing in disguise for you and your family afterall. =)

    P/S- Random facts. The Sriracha hot sauce is originally aThai chili sauce adapted by a Vietnamese US migrant. Sriracha is a province in Bangkok, Thailand. He made it saltier to suit to American taste and now, a multimillionaire. It is very interesting how people think hot sauce is synonymous with the Viet cuisine when it actually isn’t. Yet, the actual Sriracha never got the real credits. Just one of the many examples how the some Viets ‘survive’ and ‘live’ in this world. They make it because they owned it; by disconnection. In reality, it was never really theirs. They somehow have a knack for that. Until you learned otherwise. So……becareful!

    • I know! Some of the comments here can really make you sad. And I completely agree with your comments, you covered things quite well, don’t have anything to add. Interesting about Sriracha, didn’t know that. Thanks for the interesting tidbit. Am in Thailand now about to head over to Cambodia for the fifth time. Still have no desire to ever return to Vietnam….

  116. This is kind of irrelevant as I havent traveled there, but as a passerby of this blog and as a child of Vietnamese refugees, even my parents don’t want to go back and don’t even want me to visit there. They say the culture is extremely cut-throat and have a get rich quick kind of mentality. Even certain Vietamese people in the US still have this mentality (even my parents have a little still) and sometimes it gets them in trouble. My mother is an court interpreter for a lot of the immigrants and find that attitude still very prominent. I’ve seen Vietnamese exchange students harass each other really badly in college as well. I can’t say this is all Vietnamese, of course, and There are definitely decent Viets out there but I personally find this mentality is a less spoken of problem that stems from being in a war torn country. Lol my dad thinks the government is extremely corrupted.

  117. we’re a turkish couple in vietnam right now. and there’s an obvious reason why i’m reading this article and replies for nearly an hour now.

    yes, we’ve been tricked. but even before the vietnamese, we’ve been told lies by travel blogs, famous guide books, instagram posts… if you don’t dig deep enough, you’ll be misleaded by these publishings because they also want to sell you stuff. guide books are not for free, travel blogs have partnerships with booking sites, popular blog sites will advertise products and tours and finally instagram is simply a world of lies… it’s all in your face everywhere. and very few people – like you – will report honestly about the real deal.

    even people we met sometimes hide their feelings or maybe even lie to themselves about their experiences of which they had invested much time and money. one guy told us about a coffee plantation as a “must see!” in dalat. we rode about 2 hours in cold weather on a s**ty bike to get there just to find poor animals in horrible cages, ridiculously expensive coffee and really awful tourist merchandise for sale. i couldn’t understand how even a half-sane traveller would talk so highly about there.

    i can’t blame people for their tastes, but i can say whatever i want for those publications for not telling the flip side of the coin. to me they are at least as greedy and corrupt as the people who treated us badly here.

    • Sorry to hear that you’ve fallen victim to Vietnam as well. The government is pushing tourism hard there so there’s money out there to be made for people who don’t mind being a bit dishonest, unfortunately, which is why new people continually fall prey to the lure of Vietnam. I don’t agree with it either. That’s one reason why I wanted to share the truth behind my experiences. Shame y’all found out too late. Hopefully your next vacation will be to somewhere more enjoyable, cheers 馃檪

  118. We are Asian and we were also experienced such a ill treatment when we travelled in Ho Chi Minh City in Jan 2017. The van renting company is not honest on what they had promised. We rent a van for a day to visit Cu Ci and the nearby Cai Dai temple and end up only managed to visit Cu Ci on the weak excuses we took extra 0.5 hours in visiting Cu Ci tunnel. In another occasion we had paid the deposit to book a van for 8 person but the agency sent a van that have 7 seats for us. We are still waiting for the refund from the van renting company despite a few reminders and their empty promises. In short, Vietnamese are not serious in the tourism business and they probably think that one time business is good enough for them. We told ourselves try not to visit this country anymore.

    • Yes Chua that is definitely the problem, too much focus on one-time sales and quick profit with zero concept of repeat business or customer loyalty. Thanks to this new thing called the internet, people talk about this stuff. The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism and several DMOs are trying hard to promote the country to western travelers, but until they can run some sort of a mass public campaign at home educating everyone on common courtesy and the value of customer retention and positive word of mouth, people are going to keep having negative experiences in Vietnam. And unfortunately those tend to be the ones they talk about more than the positive ones. (Guilty.)

  119. I am Vietnamese and I fuckin’ hate Vietnam for offering dog meat. Where are u from? Why did you even try that kind of meat. You are a bad factor contributed in the dog meat business. Get out of my country. :/

    • Don’t be afraid of what I eat, be afraid of what I *won’t* eat. If someone is cooking, I’m eating, simple as that. Call it curiosity, call it hunger, but don’t call me guilty because those particular animals were raised from birth to be food — just like pigs and cattle and chickens and everything else you find on a farm.

    • If people don’t eat, the seller cannot sell the meat then they’ll stop the business. Because there are a lot of dog meat consumers so the seller won’t stop the business.
      I hate the idea of comparing dog meat with chicken or pork. Right, they are all animals but dogs are not raised to be food. If you say that meat is all the same than go eat yourself. I feel ashamed about my country to leave this cruel business in place. If people think that they can sell dog meat to travelers, they won’t stop selling it. You’re right, you’d better not return to my country ever again.

  120. I am here in Vietshithole right now and I wish I saw this before traveling here. Everyone hates us because we are tourists and we are giving them money it makes no sense. I am from Portugal and this is not the way we treat tourists! Vietnam never again!!

    • Yeah Jose, took me many years of traveling/living in Asia to ever first set foot in Vietnam — and aside from one Vietnamese friend I had known beforehand and her family, the rest of the country did not make me feel very welcome. Seemed upset I was there despite the fact they were taking all my money. Strange situation that was… Good luck surviving the rest of your trip.

  121. I’m in da nang and first time someone gave me the right price in shop after 2 weeks travelling in Vietnam. But is not about prices always, behaviour against foreigners are the most important. I been visited almost all Asian countries but this one is exceptional. Vietnam never again! Just want to buy new ticket and leaving this place earlier. Very disappointed.

  122. I must have gone to a different Vietnam. In a month on a motorbike we got ripped off once by a coconut seller HCMC. He did it so well that I had to compliment him on his style. He took me for like a dollar…I was given cigarettes by a street vendor, had a snack bought for us by a Vietnamese couple we met in the street, went and did aikido at a dojo in hcmc and had dinner bought for me afterwards by the sensei – and always paid the local price for everything without a problem – occasionally we would get charged 10 extra on a 50 meal, but really, who gives a shit about that? All this focus on making sure you dont get ripped off makes me sick actually. You ruin your own experience and become just another angry tight ass westerner. The vendors can see that type coming and act accordingly. It really is an attitude thing imho. I never expect to be ripped off and so I hardly ever am. I found the Vietnamese to be really great, friendly, open and generous… It helped learning a few words before we went and completely avoiding the tourist shitholes (that are in every country). You should maybe go and live for a year in a village in India. It helps lots with that attitude I promise you.

    • That’s the thing, I’ve spent nearly a year in India living like a (and with) locals. Same in Indonesia. And Malaysia. And Thailand. And the Philippines. In each country I learned as much of the local language as possible (especially Indonesian, Malaysian, and Thai, of which I still speak all three on a weekly basis). Vietnam is just different. Learning numbers, directions and a few basic phrases did little if anything to help me. Lucky you for not having to constantly fight with locals but myself (and an alarming number of others, as you may have noticed) have had entirely different experiences. That’s just Vietnam. It’s a love it or hate it country, there is no middle ground.

    • I guess Pete did have some good points, as well as Derek.

      I can relate some of my experience as a Vietnamese American who had been living in the US for about 25 yrs, and about 17 yrs before that in Vietnam, and had been back a couple of times.

      First, I agree with Pete about some tourists that are too “focus on making sure you dont get ripped off”, and end up “You ruin your own experience and become just another angry tight ass westerner.” I’ve seen tourists trying to haggle 5-10k VND from a purchase of may be 100k VND , and then get in an argument with the vendor. It would be best to know the general prices, by asking a local friend, or your local tour guide. If the prices are within the known ranges, then that’s fine, do not worry about small differences. If not, and if the vendor does not budge, just be firm and walk away.

      As for Derek’s point of people try to overcharge tourists, it does exist for sure. I was, and am still, being overcharged, as well. Even my gf, who is a local, gets that occasionally, but that’s how it is with street vendors (or taxibike etc). If you want a good experience, shop at shops that have marked prices, use Uber (or Grab) , and in general, ask for the price before hand (even with posted prices).

      The people are that way not because it’s an inherent nature of the culture. It has a lot to do with the education system, and the corrupt political system. People trying to survive and getting ahead in a dishonest system, fostered by corrupt leaders, and they got accustomed to it, adapted to it, and become dishonest themselves. Even myself was shocked when I see how much difference some of my former classmates behave now, comparing to when we were in school. They told me everyone else is doing it, so they’d get left behind if they don’t, and come to see it as normal.

      Add the poverty level, and the low education level of most of the locals that budget backpackers tend to get in contact with to this mentality, and you can see why they are how they are.

      Some tourists are not also model citizens. On my trip last year, I was out with 2 young female friends, we stopped at the McDonalds in District 1 for some fries, and sat across the table of an old white dude. When I went to the restroom, the dude winked at my friends and threw his fries at them. I guess the pervert thought that would be great pick up techniques.

      I do believe, and hope, things will eventually improve, since there are still many good people around.

  123. “Rip off”
    Every t芒y ba l么 got it. Local people got it. The difference is foreigners do speak it out whilst the local dont know to complaint or not allowed to speak.
    Most of Vi峄噒 people have no faith after longterm brain washed from the gov.. They have been suffered from the hunger whilst watching the leaders of the country r extremely rich, n powerful. It turns people to the mentality of rob as much as you can before you lose the chane.
    I was born in Hanoi but haven’t seen much of the country as you do. The farest place of Vietnam I have been is Hoi an, people from the centre n the south r different, they have better faith (bhudism or catholic), I feel they r calm n kind.

    I went back to Vn last year, saw they treated foreigners better than the local. I understood the language but just spoke E, I got better respect, better deal than the local.

    • Interesting. And yes I understand what the people have been through (at least to the extent that anyone who didn’t actually live through it can) but at the same time, because that’s not how other countries treat their foreign guests, I had to at least bring it up and start a discussion. Surprising to hear that foreigners were being treated better than locals — was this in Hanoi, somewhere else, or everywhere? Surprised but not sad or happy. I’m not saying that foreigners should be treated better than locals. Just as equals, as one human to another.

  124. i just came back from a month long motorcycle riding in vn. im a viet kieu or overseas vnese. my experiences: very beautiful country, food. friendly, generous people, i received zero negativity at any level. go to vn, see it for yourself. this was my 1st trip going from South to North. ive already planned for 2nd trip, more focus because there are simply too much to see

  125. What?? I just came back from Saigon and found the locals to behave as normally as anywhere else, and I didn’t get ripped off once. And I was staying/eating in the tourist area and rocking a backpacker look with simple clothes and a backpack. From your article, you go on at length at how you got screwed… in the two biggest industries where EVERYONE gets screwed. You’re scandalised by dishonest mechanics you met in Vietnam? You think ANY mechanic in any country is honest? This is a business where they can charge anything they want because you’re in a tough situation that you want to get out of as soon as possible (and there’s conveniently no prices listed for their services).

    Every country in the world rips off tourists. London’s black cabs are probably the worst, but no one will ever complain that they are despicable scam artists, because they speak English. Stupid people have just convinced themselves that the “charm” is worth the premium charge. Taxis and the like will always rip you off, even in your home city – that’s just fact and if you don’t like it, you should strive to avoid taking one whenever possible. I took city buses while in Vietnam and had a good experience, because I did my research on the routes and the bus fare.

    Just like everywhere else, I believe it’s a “you get what you give” attitude. On my first night, I was cranky, tired and hungry, and stopped into the first convenience store I found and asked in English how much a bottle of water was. The old Vietnamese man didn’t understand me, and my frustration must’ve showed. A Vietnamese lady appeared from nowhere and shouted quite exasperatedly “10,000 don