10 Harsh but True Things about Vietnam that you WISH you had known

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Vietnam is a common destination for travelers thanks to its beauty and attractiveness. Though it’s known as a friendly country, there are bad things about Vietnam which can interfere with your trip. Some foreigners do not want to return to Vietnam because they have had a bad experience. The 10 bad things about Vietnam that I listed below may sound negative, but don’t let them stop you visiting, or coming back to my country. In order to help you still love Vietnam, and avoid bad situations, I am here to provide the best tips for you.

10 Bad things about Vietnam

1. Airport – stolen checked luggage

So… You just arrived in this lovely country, and you figure out that your checked luggage was opened and something was stolen? You will feel really 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 clearly opened at that time. Fortunately, nothing valuable was stolen because I just put clothes and some candies in my checked luggage.

airportYour luggage and bag may be opened!

This situation was once very 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 to avoid stolen luggage in Vietnam

Having your things stolen in checked luggage will definitely ruin your trip! So, what is my tip 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 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 basically 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 good trip to Vietnam.

 

2. Overpayments

The second bad things about Vietnam is the overpayments. This situation is quite common for travelers, isn’t it? 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. Even Vietnamese people are still overcharged.

Saving

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 bad opinions about Vietnam due to these overpayments.

Again, this situation is very common 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, 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 place. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from 🙂

 

3. 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 just pay for it without knowing that they are being scammed. In the other cases, the taxi drivers fix their measurement, 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 distance with the money per kilometer.
  • Ask the taxi driver how much you need to pay before starting the trip.
  • Choose taxi companies which have a good reputation such as Mai Linh or Vinasun. You can also order Grab or Uber as well. However, Grab and Uber are only available in specific cities such as Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh or Da Nang.

UberUber is my life-saver in Ho Chi Minh!

 

4. Robbery

Robbery happens everywhere in Vietnam, and the most popular 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 2 guys on a motorbike going really fast, and you don’t see their faces. What you can do then is to say goodbye to your things 🙁

BagHolding handbag like this will make you become a target!

I once saw a foreigner who had her phone robbed. She cried a lot, but nothing can be done in that case… I also read in the newspaper that some foreigners had their bags robbed with all the necessary documents, so they had a hard time getting all documents 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 to use a cross-body bag. The robbers have skills to take other bags really fast.  Be careful, and leave your necessary things in your accommodation if you don’t need to bring them outside.

 

5. 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.

Ha Noi - Tran Phu StreetPickpocket can happen everywhere, especially in crowded areas

Tips

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

 

6. 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 really 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 really realize how unsafe it is until I came back to Vietnam after staying in Japan. I had a stomach ache and felt bad after eating. How to avoid that?

street foodThe quality of food and the cleanness are your main concerns!

 

Tips

To be honest, it’s really 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 the 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, just buy some medicine in case you have diarrhea or problem with your stomach.

 

7. 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.

Traffic in VietnamTraffic accidents happen a lot 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!

 

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. It’s safer when you are in a bigger vehicle. Think positively, you are protected by a big box :D. So maybe accidents can happen with some motorbikes, you can be still safe.
  • Using taxi: I also feel it’s safe when using a taxi. However, I’m not that rich to use taxis all the time, so I use the bus instead.
  • Walking: It may be dangerous. I know someone who was killed when walking on the street :o. 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 🙂

 

8. Bad service – bad manners

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

Feedback

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

 

9. Fraud

a) Short returned money

Some people are shocked when some places in Vietnam return candies instead of money. They feel cheated and scammed. It’s very common recently, even with locals. You can still eat some candies and be happy, right? If the amount is too large, you should ask again if there’s a mistake.

It’s very common actually, even with locals. You can still eat some candies and be happy, right? If the amount is too large, you should ask again if there’s a mistake.

b) Fraud

It happens especially with tour companies and famous restaurants and stores. In Ha Noi, Vietnam, you can find more than 100 similar The Sinh Tourist, but actually, there’s only one real. Those fake tour companies just try to gather as many tourists as possible, then send them on another tour to get some commission. In those fake tours, you cannot experience the best service that the real one brings. Interestingly, those fake tours are usually cheaper than the real ones.

Fake

Tips to avoid fake travel tours in Vietnam

  • Make sure that you’re using the correct website of the company to look for tours. There are several fake websites which claim them real, so you need to check them carefully
  • Visit a correct address of the tour company. In one street there can be more than 10 shops with the same name, so you must make sure that you’re going to a correct one.

 

10. Crossing streets in Vietnam

And yes, be careful when you cross the street!

I’m sure it’s an interesting 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.

Crossing street in Vietnam

Tips for crossing streets in Vietnam

I usually go to the middle of the street, facing lots of motorcycles, buses, cars, etc. First, I 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 at both sides because some people violate the rules and go in a different direction.

Be confident and you can do it!


More articles about Vietnam

Where to go in Vietnam on Tet Holiday?

The Ultimate Guide to Ba Na Hills

Skull Island Filming location in Trang An, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Discover Hoa Trung lake – A hidden gem in Da Nang, Vietnam

Vietnamese food review: Pho around the world

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42 replies
  1. 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 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 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 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? 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. John says:

    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.

    Reply
    • Expatolife says:

      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 🙂

      Reply

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