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10 Harsh but true things about Vietnam that you wish you had known

Vietnam is a very common destination for travelers because of its beauty. Although being well-known as a friendly country, Vietnam still has bad things which can harm your trip. Some foreigners do not want to return to Vietnam because they had bad experience. 10 bad things about Vietnam that I listed below may sound really negative, but don’t let it stop you to visit, or come back to my country.  In order to help you still be in love with Vietnam, and avoid bad situations, I am here to provide best tips for you all.

 

1. Airport – stolen checked luggage

So… You just arrive in this lovely country, and you figure out that your checked luggage were opened and something was stolen? You will feel really mad that time. I know. Don’t be so surprised and shocked because it’s quite common in Vietnamese airport.

I, as a local, still suffered from the same situation. I was once back from Japan to Vietnam, and one of my luggage was clearly opened at that time. Fortunately, nothing was stolen. I was well-prepared, so I just put clothes and some candies in my checked luggage 😉

This situation was once too popular, and I could read about it everywhere in the newspaper. The airport officers are trying to prevent it, but still, we should take care of ourselves first, right 🙂 ?

Tips:

Having your things stolen in checked luggage will definitely ruin your trip! So what is my tip for you?

Never! Never put any valuable things in your checked bags. You may be confident that you have a locker, but they still can somehow open it (as in my case), and your things will be gone. You can complain about it with the airport service, but they will pay back very low rate per kilogram. Per kilogram? Can you imagine that? I bet that everything in your luggage is much more valuable than that, so the compensation is nothing!

You can try wrapping your luggage to protect it, but if there’s something wrong with your luggage, you will need to open it again and again, and it takes time.

So just put whatever valuable to your handbag, and you will have a good trip 😉 !

 

2. Overpayments

This situation is quite common for travelers, isn’t it? You visit a different country, you look different, and you are charged higher compared to locals. I heard many cases that foreigners are overcharged, but to be honest, you’re not the only one. Even Vietnamese people are still overcharged 😡

Recently, I heard from my friend that her Japanese friends paid 200 000 VND for a Bánh xèo, which is Vietnamese “sizzling cake”, and it’s unacceptable price. I feel sad that foreigners will have bad idea about Vietnam because of this overpayment.

One Bánh xèo for 200 000 VND ? Nah~ You shouldn’t eat there!

Again, this situation is very comment in Vietnam, and it happens to both foreigners and locals. So take some tips below to avoid this!

Tips:

If you want to get ripped off, you can enter a restaurant with no price sign! Don’t do that, especially when you are a visitor. Even some restaurants have menu, they may charge your sit… Sounds terrible, right?

You need to ask clearly about the price before you order anything. It’s the same with eating street food, remember to ask the price before buying it! If you feel that you are paying higher than locals, leave that place and go to other places. There are plenty of restaurants to choose 🙂

 

3. Taxi scams

Almost the same with overpayment, taxi scam is common in Vietnam and it happens to everyone. The taxi driver will try to drive you around and around to charge more money. As foreigners, some will just pay for it without knowing that they are scammed.

Tips:

Check Google map/ or Maps.me to calculate the distance of your final destination. Then you can multiply the distance with the money per kilometer. You should ask the taxi driver first about how much you need to pay before starting to go. Also, you should choose taxi companies which have good reputation such as Mai Linh, Vinasun.

I usually use this taxi brand

 

4. Robbery

You can get robbed everywhere in Vietnam. The most popular cases are robbing your phones/ bags.

May be you are riding your bike/ motorcycle, or walking on the street with your phone/ bag. After 1 second, it’s gone. What you can only see is 2 guys on a motorbike with really fast speed, and you could not see their faces. What you can do that time is saying goodbye to your things 🙁

I once saw a foreigner has her phone robbed. She cried a lot, but nothing can be done in that case… I also read on newspaper that some foreigners have their bags robbed with all the necessary documents, so they had hard time.

It sounds scary, but you have ways to prevent this!

Tips:

Don’t hear your phone when you are on the street. If you need to listen to your phone call, you should choose a corner and listen to it. Be careful when using your phone on the street as well.

With your bag, I suggest to use a cross-body bag. The robbers may have skills to take other bags really fast.  Be careful, and put your necessary things in the accommodation if you don’t need to bring outside.

 

5. Pick pocket

Pick pocket can happen everywhere, anytime. My father got pick pocket twice when we went to a festival together. It happens a lot in crowded places.

Tips:

Take care of your own things. I always put money on my first pocket, not in the back. Therefore, I can check it time to time to make sure it is still there.

 

6. Hygiene food safety

Vietnamese food is amazing! There are so many food for you to choose, but food safety is a big problem in Vietnam. Street food is really delicious, but lots of the time it is not clean and healthy. The sellers may not prepare them carefully, or because of the climate, food may have some problem. I didn’t really realize how unsafe it is until I came back Vietnam after staying in Japan. I had stomach ache and felt bad after eating.

How to avoid that?

Tips

To be honest, it’s really hard to avoid this situation 🙁 Hygiene food safety has become one of the most concern in Vietnam, and Vietnamese government is trying to improve it.

For me, I usually go to some favorite one, so I know where to avoid, and where to go. However, as a foreigner, you can also read the review about restaurants. You can choose to eat in a restaurant where looks clean, and has many visitors. Don’t eat in where there’s no one inside.

Anyway, just buy some medicine in case you have diarrhea or problem with your stomach!

 

7. Traffic accidents

According to Traffic police department, in 2016, there were more than 21 000 traffic accidents and almost 9000 people died. So there are around 24.5 people died per day because of traffic accidents in Vietnam. This number doesn’t include injured people. I do not want to scare you with those numbers, but must admit that traffic accidents happen regularly in Vietnam.

I also had some traffic accidents every year when I was in Vietnam, and it took me at least one week for healing. Fortunately they were not that bad, so I can still sit here and write some advice 🙂

Traffic accidents can happen with any way. You can get hit when you cross the street, or when you are riding, or in a car, even in your house. I hope some of my tips can help you have safe travels!

Tips:

  • Using public transportation such as bus: I know that public transportation in Vietnam can terrify foreigners, but I feel much safer when I’m on the bus. It’s safer when you are in a bigger vehicle. Think positively, you are protected by a big box :D. So maybe accident can happen with some motorbikes, you can be still safe.

  • Using taxi: I also feel it’s safe when using taxi. However, I’m not that rich to use taxi all the time, so I use bus instead.
  • Walking: It may be dangerous. I know one was killed when walking on the street :o. However, in Vietnam, there are cases that people are died when they are in their home, just because a truck hit and crash their home… so I still consider walking is a safe way 🙂

 

8. Bad service – bad manners

Many people complain about bad service in Vietnamese restaurants. It’s true. I think one part of the reason is because it’s really crowded. But the employees cannot use those excuse to serve badly. Also, not many Vietnamese can speak English, so it may be difficult to communicate.

Tips:

You should learn body language or learn some basic Vietnamese to use to order food or service. The best way is to have Vietnamese friends, so they can show you good places to eat! I suggest you to try Couch surfing , or even if you just walk around, maybe some Vietnamese will want to say hello and talk to you.

 

9. Short returned money

Some people are shocked when some places in Vietnam return candies instead of money. They feel cheated and scammed.

Tips:

It’s very common recently, even with locals, so please don’t hate Vietnam because of that. You can still eat some candies and be happy, right? They may return not enough money to foreigners, but you can ask again if there’s a mistake.

 

10. Crossing streets

And yes, be careful when you cross the street!

I’m sure it’s an interesting experience for non – Vietnamese! There are not many road markers in Ho Chi Minh city, so you can cross freely whenever you need! It sounds like suicide mission, but you can do that 🙂

Tips:

I just go in the middle of the street, facing lots of motorcycles, buses, cars, etc. I wait a bit and continue, and wait and continue, and keep doing that while watching all the vehicles.


If you still love Vietnam after reading this article, check this out:


Do you like this article?


You can also discuss with me in the comment 🙂

39 replies
  1. departureandarrivals
    departureandarrivals says:

    I would love to go to Vietnam but my friend is also telling me not to because she have had a bad experience. Thanks for your article. I will go and judge by my own experience but I am sure I will love it. Can’t wait to explore the beautiful nature and delicious food 🙂

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      I understand that some people have bad experience and they never want to return. I love it when you still want to visit Vietnam and judge things on your own 🙂

      Reply
  2. Divya Rai
    Divya Rai says:

    Thank you! I am planning to travel to Vietnam this year, and I have bookmarked your post for future. The post is wonderfully detailed.

    Reply
  3. Vrithi
    Vrithi says:

    We just visited Vietnam In Jan 2017. And we loved every minute! We were lucky enough to have not experienced all the above. I agree about crossing the street but we had a fabulous time there. And loved the food. We are street food for the most part.

    Reply
  4. What's Katie Doing?
    What's Katie Doing? says:

    I love Vietnam!! Yes you have to be careful, but you can get hit by traffic or pickpocketed anywhere in the world! Your tips to be safe on the street and not carry expensive things openly is very good advice!!
    I was short changed in Vietnam and also had to bribe a border guard at one point, but those were two instances out of a whole month. We also experienced the kindness of the Vietnamese people in multiple ways and ate all the tasty food!!

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      I’m glad that you had good time with friendly Vietnamese and delicious Vietnamese food. It’s true that you can get hit by traffic everywhere, but it seems things happen a lot in Vietnam, so I want to warn visitors 🙂 I hope you will visit my country one day!

      Reply
  5. Janine Good
    Janine Good says:

    Thanks for these safety tips! Although these are happening, they do happen elsewhere too and they wouldn’t keep me from visiting 🙂 I really want to get there some day!

    Reply
  6. eatingcoventgarden
    eatingcoventgarden says:

    I was in Vietnam last December and had a wonderful time. Found the people friendly and welcoming, the food spectacular and the general experience was a great one. I agree the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is hectic – crossing the road can be a real challenge. Although I never had any problems, I think your tips are all good solid advice wherever you are travelling. I would highly recommend Vietnam to anyone and hope to visit again one day.

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      I’m glad that you like the tips, and I’m happy that you did not have any problems there. I have to admit that crossing the street is difficult for foreigners.

      Reply
  7. pennyglobetrove
    pennyglobetrove says:

    I was in Vietnam in December and I really loved your country. I’m from India so the food hygiene, the traffic and the petty theft wasn’t as disturbing as other foreigners may find it. I did notice that we were often over charged. Not as bad as Cambodia but yes significantly enough. In order to get around this we started eating at the outskirts of the towns when we could. People are usually less likely to overcharge there.

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      I totally agree with you. As we are from Asia, it’s normal for us for the food hygiene, the traffic and the theft issues. It’s bad that many tourists have been overcharged. I love your suggestion for eating at the outskirts of the town. It’s a great idea to avoid this issue.

      Reply
  8. Jen Morrow
    Jen Morrow says:

    Unfortunately, taxi scams, robbery, pick-pockets, and over charging foreigners is pretty common in many high-tourist destinations. Great tips to better avoid these scams and protect yourself. A little common sense and vigilance can make for a much better visit.

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      I totally agree with you. Those issues are really common everywhere, especially in Vietnam. Therefore, I want to raise the awareness and help visitors avoid those issues.

      Reply
  9. Paulina
    Paulina says:

    Wow that are some super useful tips. i didnt know that it was so frequente that bags are being opened at airports. will definitely take cr of that when traveling to vietnam

    Reply
  10. Kristine
    Kristine says:

    Wow. I’ve never been to Vietnam and this is the first time I see a post highlighting the dark side of the country. Every other post I’ve seen have been the glossy, positive only kind. Obviously I still want to go, and now I’m more aware of what to do and what not to do, once I get there 🙂 thank you!

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      I also read lots of good posts about Vietnam (I have one article myself about it as well). However, it’s good for visitors to know the dark side of the country so they can avoid the problems.

      Reply
  11. Hot Foot Trini
    Hot Foot Trini says:

    Wow! I am really impressed with the honesty of this post. I think it’s because you’re a Vietnamese expat that you can be so frank about the country. These are really priceless tips that will keep future travelers there safe. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  12. Melbtravel
    Melbtravel says:

    I have been to Vietnam and it is up there still, as one of my favorite places but I was lucky, I never experience any of those bad things. It might of also helped that I knew locals and I spent a lot of time with the in the capitals exploring and enjoying the place. Thank you for pointing those things out though as I think to often to many people only right happy post.

    Reply
  13. CJ Haughey
    CJ Haughey says:

    Vietnam was one of the first countries I visited during my first backpacking adventure. I’m sad to say I experienced a few of these issues, including a taxi scam where the driver quickly switched my 100,000 dong note for 10,000 when I turned my back and tried to say I short-changed him. I fell for it…once!
    That being said, I did enjoy the country. I would like to go back now I have more experience to deal with these issues. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      Those scams are quite common in Vietnam. I’m sorry to hear that you experienced that. I’m glad that you still want to visit Vietnam again after those issues. And yes, the more experience you have, the easier to deal with these problems and enjoy the full of Vietnam.

      Reply
  14. Global Girl Travels
    Global Girl Travels says:

    I have always wanted to go to Vietnam. This is a sad reality about traveling to any place, not just in Vietnam. But your tips will be useful so I know what to look out for.

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      Yes, this is sadly happening everywhere. However, having your bags robbed on the street is not common in some countries in Europe ( just an example). Therefore, I want to help people preparing and avoiding those bad things by raising awareness.

      Reply
  15. Cat
    Cat says:

    Thanks for sharing the bad scenarios that could happen to foreigners! Those tips are really helpful and I will definitely keep in mind. I find that bad service can happen a lot in South East Asia, not just in Vietnam. Maybe it has to do with the non-tipping culture?

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      I don’t think it is related to non-tipping culture, but it’s more about the personality. Lots of shop owners are from old generation, so they did not study things such as tourism and hospitality. Therefore, they do whatever they want, and lots of time it’s just wrong. Also, Vietnamese customers are so easy with these and we just accept it as a normal thing. This action makes “bad manner” phenomenon worse.

      Reply
  16. Christie
    Christie says:

    Oh no, some of this is so horrible!! I can’t believe it’s common for things to be stolen from your checked luggage. If you think about it, though, it seems pretty easy to do and I’m almost surprised it doesn’t happen more often everywhere. Thankful it doesn’t though! Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  17. Natasha Haley
    Natasha Haley says:

    I had no idea that they would go into checked luggage. I am going to Vietnam soon so I will certainly keep that in mind when I am packing. Thanks for being so honest about Vietnam

    Reply

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