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. 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

    1. Expatolife says:

      I hope you will have good time in Vietnam :)

  2. 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

    1. Hi Karen,
      I’m glad that you didn’t have any problem when traveling in Vietnam :)

  3. 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 :)

  4. I love Vietnam been 5 times never had any problems just got sick once only.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. Matthias68 says:

    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.

  8. Rex Potter says:

    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.

  9. Raymond West says:

    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

  10. 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

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