10 Harsh But True Things About Vietnam That You WISH You Had Known

Vietnam is a popular destination for travelers thanks to its beauty and attractiveness.

Though it’s known as a peaceful country, there are bad things about Vietnam that can interfere with your trip. Some foreigners do not want to return to Vietnam because they have had a bad experience.

The ten bad things about Vietnam that I listed below may sound cynical, but don’t let them stop you from visiting, or coming back to my country. Read this article to avoid bad situations and plan your trip to Vietnam!

Ky Co beach Quy Nhon Vietnam


1. Fraud

a) Fraud

It happens especially with tour companies or with famous restaurants and stores.

In Ha Noi, Vietnam, you can find more than 100 similar to The Sinh Tourist, but actually, only one booth is real.

Those fake tour companies try to gather as many tourists as possible, then send them on another tour to get some commission.

In these fake tours, you cannot experience the best service that the real one brings. Interestingly, those fake tours are usually cheaper than the real ones.

Tips to avoid fake travel tours in Vietnam

  • Make sure that you’re using the right tour company’s website to look for the tours. There are several fake websites that claim them real, so you need to check them carefully.
  • Visit the correct address of the tour company. In one street there can be more than ten shops with the same name, so you should make sure that you’re going to the correct one.
  • Book tours with trusted sites such as Klook 


Can Gio Vietnam Mangrove Forest boat tour Vietnam

b) Short returned of money

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

It’s a very common recently, even with locals. If the amount is too large, you should ask again if there’s a mistake.


2. Airport – stolen checked luggage

So, you just arrived in this lovely country, and you figure out that your checked baggage was opened and something was taken?

You will feel mad at that time. I know. Don’t be so surprised and shocked because it’s quite common in Vietnamese airports.

I, as a local, still suffered from this similar situation. After the trip from Japan to Vietnam, one of my bags was opened at that time. Fortunately, nothing valuable was stolen because I just put clothes and some candies in my checked luggage.

This situation was once prevalent, 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 to avoid stolen luggage in Vietnam

Having your things taken in checked baggage will ruin your trip! So, what is my advice for you?

Never, ever put any valuable things in your checked bags. You may be confident that you have a lock, but they can still 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 a meager 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 that takes time.

So, just put whatever valuables into your handbag, and you will have a great trip to Vietnam.


3. Crossing streets in Vietnam

And yes, be careful when you cross the road!

I’m sure it’s an exciting experience for a non-Vietnamese. There are not many road markers in Ho Chi Minh city, so it’s quite scary to cross the road.

China Town Saigon Vietnam
Crossing streets in Vietnam is challenging!

Tips for crossing streets in Vietnam

Don’t afraid to face lots of motorcycles, buses, cars, etc. when you cross the street.

First, you should wait a bit and continue, and wait and continue, and keep doing that while watching all the vehicles.

You need to keep your eyes on vehicles on both sides because some people violate the rules and go in a different direction.

Be confident, and you can do it!

You should buy travel insurance in advance before visiting Vietnam.


4. Traffic accidents

According to the 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 die 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 I 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 to heal. Fortunately, they were not that bad, so I can still sit here and write some advice :)

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

Hai Van Pass Vietnam travel guide

Tips to be safe on the road in Vietnam!

  • 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. The bigger the vehicle is, the more reliable it brings. Think positively, the big box protects you. So maybe accidents can happen with some motorbikes, you can be still safe.
  • Using a taxi: I also feel it’s safe when using a taxi. Now you can use a Grab car which is convenient and cheaper than the traditional one.
  • Walking: It may be dangerous. I know someone who was killed when walking on the street. However, in Vietnam, there are cases that people are killed when they are in their home, just because a truck hit and crashed into their home, so I still consider walking is a safe way :)

Buy Travel Insurance in advance when planning your trip to Vietnam!


5. Taxi scams

Almost the same with the overpayments, taxi scams are common in Vietnam, and they happen to everyone. The taxi driver will try to drive you around and around to charge more money.

Some foreigners will pay for it without knowing that they get scammed. In other cases, the taxi drivers fix their measurements, so the total cost is double or more than the real price.

Tip to avoid Taxi scams in Vietnam

  • Check Google map/ or Maps.me to calculate the distance of your final destination. Then, you can multiply the length by the money per kilometer.
  • Ask the taxi driver how much you need to pay before starting the trip.
  • Choose taxi companies that have a good reputation such as Mai Linh or Vinasun. You can also order Grab as well (Uber is unavailable in Vietnam). 


6. Robbery

Robbery happens everywhere in Vietnam, and the most common cases are robbing your phones/ bags.

Imagine that you are riding your bike/ motorcycle or walking on the street with your phone/ bag, and in 1 second, it’s gone. You only see two guys on a motorbike going fast, and you don’t see their faces.

What you can do then is to say goodbye to your things :(

I once saw a foreigner who had her phone robbed.

She cried a lot, but nothing can be done in that case. Some foreigners had their bags robbed with all the necessary documents, so they had a hard time getting all the papers again.

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

Tips to avoid being robbed in Vietnam

  • Phone: Don’t listen to your phone when you are on the street. If you need to listen to a phone call, you should choose a corner and listen to it. Be careful when using your phone on the street as well.
  • Bag: I suggest wear your bag in front of you in crowded areas.  Be careful, and leave your necessary things in your accommodation if you don’t need to bring them outside.
  • Travel insurance: You should purchase travel insurance.


7. Pickpocket

Pickpocketing can happen anywhere, anytime. My father got pickpocketed twice when we went to a festival together. It happens a lot in crowded places.

Tips to avoid pickpocket in Vietnam

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


8. Hygiene food safety

Vietnamese food is amazing! There are so many types of food for you to choose from, but food safety is a big problem in Vietnam.

Street food is delicious, but most of the time it is not clean and healthy. The sellers may not prepare them carefully, or because of the climate, the food may have some problems.

I didn’t realize how unsafe it was until I came back to Vietnam for a vacation after living in Japan. I had a stomach ache and felt terrible after eating. How to avoid that?

Banh xeo Vietnamese street food
The quality of food is your main concern when traveling in Vietnam.

Tips to stay healthy in Vietnam

  • It’s quite hard to avoid this situation. Hygiene food safety has become one of the most concerns in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese government is trying to improve it.
  • For me, I usually go to some favorite restaurants, so I know where to avoid, and where to go. However, as a foreigner, you can also read reviews about the restaurants. You can choose to eat in a restaurant which looks clean and has many visitors. Don’t eat in one where there’s no one inside.
  • Anyway, buy some medicine in case you have diarrhea or a problem with your stomach.


9. Bad service – bad manners

Many people complain about the lousy service in Vietnamese restaurants. It’s true. I think one part of the reason is that it’s crowded, but the employees cannot use those excuses to serve badly.

Also, not many Vietnamese can speak English, so it may be challenging to communicate.

Tips to get the best service in Vietnamese restaurants

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 the right places to eat!

I suggest you try Couchsurfing, or even if you walk around, maybe some Vietnamese will want to say hello and talk to you.

Here is the list of best Vietnamese street food you should try.


10. Overpayments

This situation is quite common for travelers.

You visit a different country, you look different, and you are charged more than the locals.

I heard many cases that foreigners are overcharged, but to be honest, you’re not the only ones as Vietnamese can get the same situation.

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 an unacceptable price.

I feel sad that foreigners will have wrong opinions about Vietnam due to these overpayments.

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

Tips to avoid overpayments in Vietnam

  • If you want to be ripped off, you can enter a restaurant with no price sign. Don’t do that, especially if you are a visitor. Even some restaurants have a menu, and they may charge you to 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 another location. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from.
  1. 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 :)

    1. 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 :)

    2. I’m American and I have lived in Vietnam for more than three years. I’ve traveled extensively all over the country by car and motorbike. And yes I understand that people have accidents and many die. Maybe I’m just lucky but in all of the three years I have been here traveling extensively, I have never even seen an accident. Granted, I’ve lived mostly in the lat. There are no traffic lights or stop signs. It’s a free-for-all. I remember once in Ho Chi Minh City I was so confident I would not be hit that at a very busy street downtown, I closed my eyes and walked across the street has dozens of motorbikes came toward me. When watching the video a few seconds later I saw that the motorbikes avoided me at the last second. No problem.

      Obviously this was a stupid thing to do. And I don’t think I do it again. But it emphasizes the idea that drivers here are more civilized and patient then in the United States. If I had done something like that in the US, people would run over me just just to teach me a lesson. And maybe deservedly so.

      Maybe I’m just lucky. But I do admit when using a crosswalk I don’t assume anyone is ever going to stop. But so far I have never been hit or seen anyone be hit or even any kind of accident. And I am constantly traveling. So that’s my two cents worth. It’s probably just an anomaly but I feel confident when walking and driving in Vietnam traffic.

  2. This was really useful! I had no idea that Vietnam had a bad reputation, but it’s always good to be prepared.

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

    1. I also live in Vietnam and must say you will find bad peoples everywhere But in Vietnam it has been A wonderful experience

  4. 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.

    1. I’m glad to hear that you did not experience any bad things about Vietnam :)! And street food is totally amazing there!

  5. 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!!

    1. 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!

    1. I hope that these warnings will not stop you visit my country. Hope you will have great time there :) And safe travels!

    1. I think knowing about bad things in a country will help you prevent and prepare well for a visit! How did you like Vietnam?

  6. 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!

    1. Yay! I love that you love Vietnam and want to visit my country. It’s better to understand more about a country before you visit it :)

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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!

    1. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

    1. I’m glad that you didn’t experience any of these. I think pointing out bad things will help the visitors be aware and avoid it :)

  13. 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!

    1. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. 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.

  15. 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?

    1. 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.

  16. 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

    1. I don’t know why it’s so common in Vietnam either. Therefore, I want to give a shout to visitors so they will know what is expecting them.

  17. 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.

    1. 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.

  18. I have to say either you have not been to Vietnam or you just must be having a good day. Spent 2 months there with my wife and encountered nothing that you are speaking about in this article. I have been on the road now for 48 months and visited 64 countries, most of what you described can take place anywhere and some are a little worse with only the Taxi thing being a big problem for me in the past. Go to trip advisor and found out what the rate is and what taxi to take and it will solve that problem.

    1. Hi John, I was born and lived in Vietnam for 18 years (and I’m a Vietnamese too), so I guess I would know more about Vietnam than you do. However, I’m glad that you didn’t encounter any problem listed above. It’s different when you live in a country and when you just travel across it. It’s true that these can happen everywhere, but you can see them more in Vietnam. Safe travels, John :)

  19. 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

  20. Hi. Just returned from 2 weeks Vietnam. Ho chi Minh hoi an Hanoi he long bay. And I’m happy to say we had no problems. ? we only took a backpack and used common sense like you would at home. We found everyone friendly and always agreed on a taxi price beforehand. Would definately return x

  21. Great and really helpful tips! I will pin this and keep it in mind for my Vietnam trip in a couple weeks! Thanks for sharing :)

  22. Very helpful advice Thankyou! I am very concerned that I will have trouble crossing streets in Ho Chi Minh City – Am I able to get a taxi or Uber to get wherever I want?

  23. Do not get scared after reading this post.

    I visited Vietnam for 2 weeks, i met more of nice people than bad. Crooks are everywhere in the world , i think least of them are in Vietnam.
    My experience was Vietnamese people are pretty friendly and helpful.

    In one situation, my GF forgot her iphone that costs $1000 in a train, it was found by the train employee and was returned within hours. I was impressed by how serious they are in service.
    I also came across a food place, who gave me free dessert just because i was interested in the food that they were selling.

    I am going back, if i get a chance.

  24. I’m travelling to Vietnam since 2006. Nothing happend with me like these “facts”. Vietnam seems to me one of the safest countries in the world. It isn’t right, that you can nothing do after a robbery. The police is very effectiv I’ve heard. But I did not need them yet. Otherwise I would refuse “couchsurfing” anywhere, because nobody nows the hosts and their real intents. A lot of people here are also very friendly, because they are relatively poor and are waiting for help from foreigners.

  25. I have visited VN many times. The place is not for me. So many fake websites, (check the lock on the bar for security). Dodgy travel agents, cheating taxi drivers, landlords, restaurants, pickpockets, crazy traffic, polluted beaches, noise. Nowhere to walk safely. Motorcycles just pull right up on the sidewalk right in front of you while you are walking and hit you if you don’t move, lying and slow immigration, I could go on and on. But I think I have said enough. OH and crappy medical care.

  26. Have just come back from a sixteen day holiday in Vietnam, Dec to Jan 2020, I loved the place, the people are fantastic, the food including street food, was fantastic, I went country side on a scooter and had a great time, and I traveled solo, at 53 years of age, even stayed at a farm house when I got lost one night, the, family were fantastic, even with the language barrier, would recommend going , I will be back, ray

  27. Great article, and thank you. It sounds like Mexico without the fear of being kidnapped. :) I had the opportunity to teach English in Vietnam, but then a chance came to return home to Arizona. I’m still ‘kicking myself’ for not, but it’s fun to go to Mexico to visit friends and family living there. Next year, I hope. walk in beauty

  28. Very good and straightforward article. Every country has its good and bad things. But it’s good to look at those bad things for improvement. Thank you for sharing frankly about our country of Vietnam.

  29. We are in Vietnam at the moment and there are many good things about it such as the food, the parks, nature and some of the people. I was surprised however at the number of scams and opportunists in this country. We fell pray to a common scam – the coconut scam, which didn’t bother us, because we were aware of it and received a nice drink as a result- I had never had coconut water before. What did bother me were the bars engaging in dodgy behaviour, such as providing additional drinks that were not requested, then charging for them. It seems everyone who is nice to you has an agenda and one must always be on guard. I have found it to be a lot different from Penang where prices were always clear, people were not as friendly, but less likely to rip you off or to attempt to engage you in a scam. This may have to do with Malaysia having a stronger economy than Vietnam therefore the people are not as desperate. Many tourists can be quite irritating, when we were checking in to our hotel there were a group of older Europeans who took a long time to check in and complained about the heat in their room and were unnecessarily rude, so in some ways I can understand why locals feel the urge to rip them off, however it does tarnish the experience for those of us who just want to have a nice time. I have no desire to come back here.

  30. When I’m ready for a vacation I always end up in Saigon. For the last 20 years my wife(Vietnamese)and I visit different cities in vn. We usually travel with family but sometimes head out on our own. I think bus tours are ok for first time visitors and reasonably safe. You spend too much time on the bus and to little time at the destination. They do a good job caring for you and feeding you safe food. Hopefully you can understand the tour guide. My best two tours were Angkor Wot and Ha Long bay. Most other tours were boring. I love Nha Trang,Vung Tau, Mui ne, and a taste of the countryside Sa dec. my biggest problem is the heat!! Only one time I had someone try to snatch my wife’s purse in2000. Thinking about living here. A happy American.

  31. The returning of candy is because they may be out of 1000 or 2000vnd notes. Not a scam or cheat

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