Keeping Your Wits About You – 3 Easily Avoidable Hanoi Scams
If you’re planning to travel in Hanoi, you’ve probably heard that it is notoriously known as scamming capital. It’s unfortunate that as a tourist we have to take this skeptical attitude in such a breathtakingly beautiful country, but if you don’t you’re bound to blow your budget.
It’s easy to take the attitude that a scam will only cost you pittance in your own country’s currency, but that’s not the point. A scam is a personal intrusion, a way for people to make you feel powerless. Anyone who has been scammed will tell you that, no it probably didn’t cost them a great deal, but it sure ruined their holiday and their opinion of the culture they’d spent so much money and effort to visit.
So before we even move on to typical scams to keep an eye open for, it’s worth touching on why scams happen to certain people as this is the key to avoidance.
Ignorance – Unfortunately ignorance s one of the main reasons people get scammed. Not knowing the price of a taxi, the route you should be taking or general day to day facts about the place you’re staying leads to people taking advantage without you even realizing. Basic research can tell you what you should be paying and what to look out for when someone approaches you.
Naivety – If something’s too good to be true, it is. If someone appears overly friendly, especially if their English is impeccable, they’re probably not what they seem. It’s sad to have to take this approach but it will save you in the long run. Trust your instincts; genuine people will understand your caution.
Lack of Attention – Attention to detail is crucial. Most scammers aren’t running a perfect operation and you can spot discrepancies in their stories. Listen carefully and question their motives. They’ll appear at certain times, in certain places with highly convenient stories; don’t get sucked in.
Being too Touristy – Whipping out a map, taking a photographs and looking lost are all part of being in an unfamiliar places, but unfortunately they’re also like a flashing light for scammers saying ‘Hello, I’m a tourist’. Having to do these things can be unavoidable, just be aware of people approaching you while you’re in the process.
Over Excited Meters
Taxi drivers in Hanoi are a whole different breed of scammers than you will have encountered in other Southeast Asian nations. Just because they’re branded with a reputable name doesn’t necessary mean they’re trustworthy. For starters, Mai Lihn taxis are generally your safest bet but still be aware.
Some taxi drivers fix their meters to increase with every honk of their horn. This may seem like an easy thing to spot but unless you’ve visited Hanoi, you’ll underestimate the amount of times horns are utilized in the city; it’s like a constant cacophony of beeps and honks! The easiest way to notice this is to be aware of the meter is rising at a ridiculous rate. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing this before you get in the taxi. If it does occur, ask the taxi to pull over, get out and walk away.
In preparation for this, don’t pick up taxis waiting outside bus or train stations, or waiting at the side of the road. Try to get in a taxi that Vietnamese person has just exited or hail one passing by.
Similarly to tuk tuks in Thailand, rickshaws are generally scamming central. If you do fancy taking this tourist route though, make sure you agree a price first but pay once you reach your destination.
A typical game rickshaw drivers will try is to take your money as you leave and then pretend to have a puncture on the way, passing you to a different rickshaw driver. How kind, right? No. That second rickshaw driver is going to slap an obscene price on you to compensate their ‘inconvenience’. If this happens, demand your money back and don’t leave the rickshaw until Mr Puncture returns a reasonable price. He’ll make a scene, but stand your ground; he’ll give in eventually. Check the money he gives you because he’ll also try to slip in lower value, similar looking notes.
Unless you’re looking for an overpriced, extremely average meal, avoid anyone who approaches you with ‘Hello, I’m a student of Vietnam.’ These people most likely aren’t students to begin with. Secondly, they’re attempting to get you into a friend’s or family member’s restaurant which will cost you well over the price it’s worth.