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 returning 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. Several fake websites claim them real, so you need to check them carefully.
  • Visit the correct address of the tour company. There can be more than ten shops with the same name in one street, 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 return of money

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

It’s 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 found 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 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. Fortunately, nothing valuable was stolen because I just put clothes and 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 non-Vietnamese. There are not many road markers in Ho Chi Minh city, so crossing the road is quite scary.

China Town Saigon Vietnam
Crossing streets in Vietnam is challenging!

Tips for crossing streets in Vietnam

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

First, you should wait a bit, continue, 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, 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, ride 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 buses: 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 still be 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 actual 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 could 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 having 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 fantastic! 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 it is not clean and healthy most of the time. The sellers may not prepare them carefully, or the food may have some problems because of the climate.

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

Tips: Learn some basic Vietnamese before your trip.

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 biggest concerns in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese government is trying to improve it.
  • I usually go to some favorite restaurants, so I know where to avoid them 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. 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 some basic Vietnamese 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, look different, and charge 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.

I recently heard from my friend that her Japanese friends paid 200 000 VND for a Bánh xèo, a 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.

Hoi An Vietnam restaurant

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.

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  1. Zenni Nguyen says:

    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.

  2. 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.

    1. I think your assessment is pretty accurate. I was just in Vietnam and wouldn’t want to go back. i was scammed by a female that was being nice to me and wanted to give me a tour, she said 80,000 for an hour. But after being super friendly and flirty and wanting to show me all these places she charged me 200,000 per hour. I didn’t argue because it wasn’t really a lot of money, but it still wasn’t right. While in Vietnam its very important to ask prices before hand, and check bills to make sure you are billed correctly. Even at a highly rated massage and spa location i was charged for a more expensive massage than i had actually gotten. You are constantly bothered by people wanting to give you rides for money. It doesn’t give a tourist a happy experience and i wouldn’t want to go back

      1. There are many honest people there. However, if they want to cheat, they have a super skill of cheating for money from a little kid to an elderly person, no matter how careful you are you will get cheated if you stay there long enough.
        Local people cheat each other every day unless they know each other, and it is normal between them. It is part of any business from selling lollies to selling a mansion.

        It is interesting that they can be very nice to you if they like you. They offer help, meals, gifts, etc., and give you more than you expect, and you would find in other countries people rarely offer help more than they could afford. It is a absolutely crazy culture, and I do not even understand it myself. It is somehow just part of Vietnamese society.

        I have no tip on how to avoid scams or cheating because I got cheated very often even though I am a local. My advice is you just think it is 15% or 20% tips like in the U.S. or U.K. If it is over that then do not pay. They will reduce the figures. It is business to them so they have to realise you know what they are doing. You just enjoy your stay in Viet Nam when you go there rather than let those things bother you since it is getting more expensive every year thanks to the improvement of its economy.

        1. James Bedu Graham says:

          This reminds me about the negative life about Ghana my homeland.
          It seems to be the preserve of developing nations all across
          The West has more resources and the disparity can be seen in their behaviours.

  3. 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.

  4. Brandon Klein says:

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

  5. I‘m surprised that most seem to experience those things. I’m currently in da nang for 3 months. I walk and drive everywhere. Even at the night in some dark Vietnamese neighborhood I never felt insecure or experienced anything really bad. One time a taxi driver wanted to charge me around the double for a short trip, which was resolved quickly. I said there is no way I pay that and that he knows that’s wrong. He accepted my normal price immediately.

    Maybe I was just lucky so far, but I never met more friendly people than in Vietnam. I felt secure all the time. And when there was a short time of, hmm why does this guy/girl help me, it was every time just that. They all even refused to get a tip or anything for their help. I, of course also try to be very respectful, friendly and I’m super interested in their lifestyle, and that’s what I’m getting back so far. Oh man, I love Vietnam xD

  6. Greg Derg says:

    I have not been in Hanoi for long but in my experience so far Vietnamese people have been unwelcoming and even downright deceitful. Everyone is trying to rip you off, which is not unusual for Westerners in Southeast Asia but at least in Thailand they do it with a smile. Locals will quote prices higher than on their menus and others will tell you bold faced lies to try to get you to pay a higher price. I have actually been very disappointed as I have heard such good things from other travellers about how welcoming the Vietnamese people are to foreigners but that has not been my experience at all. They just see Westerners as a waking dollar sign and of all the places I’ve visited in Asia I’ve not felt more unwelcome than I have in Hanoi.

  7. Pollution in Hanoi is horrific

  8. Thank you for this article. Me and friends have a plan to go to your country. Wish us luck :D

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