A good friend of mine recently took a much-needed vacation.

It was his first trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Unfortunately, his dream holiday took a rather unexpected turn when he became the target of scammers.

My friend, who requested not to be named in this article for fear of being ridiculed by his colleagues, said, “It was terrible! You should write a story warning people about the many scams out there!”

1. Taxi drivers who overcharge

“My impression of Ho Chi Minh is that it is full of tourist scams. For starters, a shady taxi driver charged me a ridiculous amount for a short trip from the airport. What was supposed to be a 50,000-dong trip (about 2.10 US dollars) became a 200,000 dong trip (about 8.60 US dollars), about four times higher than what was stated on the taxi meter,” he said.

How can you avoid this?

Be sure to decide on a price with your taxi or bike (‘Xe Om’ in Vietnames) driver. By deciding on a firm price before you ride, you can avoid the awkward encounter when it’s time to get off.

2. Money switching

(Photos: Shutterstock)

“Some taxi drivers will use sleight of hand to switch whatever money you give them for smaller denominations,” he said, adding that the most common version is switching a 500,000 dong note (about 21 US dollars) for a 20,000 dong note (83 US cents), which is easy to fall for since they’re both blue.

How can you avoid this?

Familiarise yourself with the many different currency notes of the country you are visiting. Also use small notes when paying your taxi driver, for example, use more 20,000 dong notes rather than 500,000 dong notes.

3. Expensive polishing

While at a touristy location in Vietnam, keep an eye out for shoe polishers. Tourists will be approached by shoe polishers. After negotiating a price, the shoe polisher will return asking for double the agreed amount. Most times, they will say that the agreed price was for ONE shoe. In the event that you do not fork over the money, you can be sure that the “muscles” from syndicates aren’t too far away.

How can you avoid this?

A firm but polite and friendly “No” (Khong in Vietnamese) is sufficient for most of them. If you are approached, don’t be afraid to refuse firmly before moving on. The trick is just not to give in.

4. Extra charge for your bags

A common scam that is often used by shady bus companies is to tell foreigners that they have to pay a FEE when their bags are getting loaded under the bus. Most foreigners will just pay the small fee to avoid all forms of confrontation. We would like to stress that there is NO SUCH THING as a “baggage fee” in Vietnam.

How can you avoid this?

Where possible, make all your bookings via your hotel or tour operator.

5. Disappearing act at massage parlours

This scam is normally targeted at foreign men “looking for a good time” while overseas.

In this scenario, a beautiful woman on the street will try to lure men to come inside a massage parlour. However, once they have paid, the “beautiful woman” is suddenly nowhere to be found and would be replaced with someone who looks nowhere close to what was promised.

You could be charged extra for absurd things while at the massage parlour such as a glass of water, towels and even music.  The worst case scenario is that gangster would step in if you refuse to pay.

How can you avoid this?

We highly recommend doing your own research online for reputable establishments.

Emergency numbers

Keep these numbers handy if you’re planning on visiting Vietnam – Police (113), Fire (114) or Ambulance (115).

We’d love to hear from you

Do you agree with this list? Do you know of any other travel scams that people should be wary about? Drop us a line in the comments section below or reach out to us via social media.

Have you ever been cheated out of your money by a scammer while on vacation?