During our travels across the country, we faced rip off’s and annoyances in Vietnam every single day. Maybe we spent too much time here, but we are pretty positive that we are not on our own when feeling slightly bitter about Vietnam.
Of course, we appreciate all the amazing things we’ve seen and done, but there’s something about it that felt slightly disheartening from time to time. Things that made us angry, annoyed and even unwelcome.
Despite the below, we still want to encourage you to visit Vietnam. Annoyances and rip offs occur in many places, we just felt it was more so in this particular country compared to other SE Asia countries we’ve been to.
You might disagree with the following annoyances in Vietnam and it’s totally fine. Maybe a traveller should never say that, but after roaming the country for 3 months, we did a little happy dance as we booked a bus to cross into Cambodia.
1. One of the biggest annoyances in Vietnam – The traffic, the hierarchy, hot exhausts and the honking
While the organised mess on the streets, thousands and thousands of motorbikes and the constant honking adds charm to the whole experience, it stays that way only if you are here for a short space of time.
The amount of honking in Vietnam becomes a norm eventually, but it takes some time getting used to. Mostly honking is used to make the other drivers aware that you are going to overtake, but more often than not it feels like the honking is for no reason, just out of a habit or because everyone else is doing it. I don’t think we’ve heard so much honking anywhere else we’ve been.
One of the biggest annoyances in Vietnam and a shock coming from a Western country is the hierarchy on the roads. The bigger the vehicle the more rights it has. It’s not the law, but this is the rule that the locals follow.
If you are on the motorbike, sometimes you don’t stand a chance, the jeep or a minivan will drive straight into you so move along and don’t try to prove your rights on the road. While, thankfully, we haven’t had any accidents on the road while cycling or driving a motorbike, we had experience the ‘priority rule’ several times. Please be cautious on the road.
Equally, be careful when navigating in between the motorbikes and look out for exposed exhausts. You will see a lot of people here displaying a so called ‘Vietnamese tattoo’ on their lower legs, so be careful. The exhausts are extremely hot and will burn your skin, sometimes very badly.
My advice is to be careful when getting off the motorbike and keep your right leg as far from the exhaust as possible. My burn took over a month to heal and it was pretty bloody painful.
2. Same-Same Vietnam – one of the funniest annoyances in Vietnam
It’s a shame that the Vietnamese feel the need to rip the tourists off and sometimes so openly and evidently. In most places, unless you are in the supermarket, there aren’t any prices so you never know what the locals are paying.
How do you know when you are being ripped off? Some of the common Vietnamese strategies are asking the colleague how much they should charge us. If the person selling goods turns to another person for confirmation, it’s most likely they will overcharge you. Also, if they think before telling you how much one or another thing costs, you are most likely being ripped off.
There are ladies selling doughnut type sweets on the streets of Hanoi. They have tactics to ignore the ‘how much’ question and try to trick you into buying a full bag of goodies for an extortionate price. It’s kind of guilt tripping you into buying something you don’t even want. And they choose not to understand that you might just want one or two doughnuts.
Another annoying, if not the funniest thing, is the expression ‘same same Vietnam’. The locals repeat the phrase over and over again trying to convince you that the prices are all the same in the country.
One of the examples we can give is when we tried to buy a couple of towels. When we moved into our lovely apartment in Hoi An, we had everything except the bath towels. So we set off to the local market. When we approached one lady, she quoted 100,00 VND per towel which was a bit high, we thought, but she kept repeating ‘same same Vietnam’. We walked off and found another lady selling exactly the same towels for 60,000 VND.
So much for the ‘same same’. So don’t fall for it, keep searching for a better deal.
3. Food – meat smuggling
While food, no doubt, is great in Vietnam, we found it hard sometimes to order food and receive exactly what we ordered. If you are allergic to shellfish, in some places you really need to watch your plate closely.
The Vietnamese tend to mix everything into one mush. They love adding dried shrimp to many dishes and not mention it on the menu.
Vegetarian options are increasing in Vietnam and there are some great place to eat vegetarian in Hoi An. Still, even the bakeries love to smuggle meat into everything, even the sweet pastry. So beware.
Also, a lot of places will happily make you a vegetarian Cau Lao with tofu, but will likely use the chicken or beef broth.
I’m not trying to be snobbish here, but if I order a beautiful king prawn dish, I don’t usually expect to find a massive piece of pork or other meat sneakily sandwiched in between the seafood and potato base, nicely breaded and then deep fried. Unfortunately this was the case a few times.
4. Transport. Smoking and suicidal drivers
Travelling in Vietnam is very easy, there are lots of options, from touristy busses to trains, boats, bikes etc., but there is one type of transport I was always dreading to use – the sleeper bus. These are worst to travel with.
Avoid the local sleeper busses if possible, they are, in my opinion, absolutely dreadful. Not only will you lack any kind of space for your legs, but you will also have to deal with a frequently smoking driver or ticketing person.
The touristy sleeper busses are slightly better, but still, if you can, take a train or a touristy bus with reclining chairs for daytime travel.
Another means of transport we wouldn’t recommend trying is the suicidal local taxi vans. They are cheap as chips, but not worth the risk. If you fancy sharing one seat with 3 other people and have piles of boxes moving above your head, go for it.
The drivers are friendly, but they drive like there’s no tomorrow, constantly honking and overtaking at blind spots.
5. ATM restrictions
One of the major announces in Vietnam was withdrawing cash. Taking cash out in Vietnam can be pricey. Most of the ATM’s allow you to withdraw 2,000,000 VND (around $90 USD) max plus add a healthy withdrawal fee.
Before travelling, make sure you apply for a good travel credit card which gives you the best rate. Otherwise you will be loosing lots of money.
If you find yourself needing some cash, head to an MB Bank ATM which miraculously allows you to withdraw up to 5,000,000 in one go.
Have you experience any annoyances and rip off’s in Vietnam? Share your experience with us in the comments below…
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