Way Off For The Taxi Scam In Vietnam


Watch out for this Taxi scam!

I have travelled to Vietnam six times. I know my way around a little but on my last trip I almost got ripped off...by a Vinasun taxi driver.

We had been on a day trip to the Mekong that departed and returned to the Bui Vien area.

That was the first mistake: Being stuck in Bui Vien at rush hour made it close to impossible to get a Grab car.

So we went with a Vinasun taxi we saw along the street.

Second mistake: picking up a taxi from the street in a extremely tourist oriented area.

We piled into the normally trusted Vinasun cab and the driver proceeded down the street and to take a right hand turn instead of the expected left that would take us toward our destination in District 7.

Smart move one: knowing where you should be going via Google Maps or by familiarity with the city.

One thing that I noticed was that the driver was on his phone a lot. 
Red flag. 
I watched as the driver took us into an area with less populated streets where he stopped and said “wait one minute.” He got out and opened the hood and proceeded to put some water into his radiator. He got back in and kept driving. Another right turn... another right turn...yes we were going in circles. He pulled up behind a green Mai Linh taxi...another trusted brand...and told us he could not takes us to D7, but this taxi would. We started to pile out of one and into the other but the second driver said that we owed 42,000 vnd for the first taxi. I thought to myself I shouldn’t pay him a cent, but I thought, I’ll pay $1.75 just to get out of this cab. I opened my wallet to get two 20s, but only had a 50 and large bills.

Third mistake: keeping my large and small bills together and not having enough small bills for small expenditures.

Smart move two: knowing the value of each bill and knowing the difference between the yellow 10,000 dong and the also similarly colored 100,000 dong note.

At that point one of the two cabbies reached toward my wallet to “help” me get right bills. I jerked the wallet away and gave him a stern Khong! I pulled a 50,000 vnd note out gave it to him and got out of there. $2.25 for nothing.

We got into the second cab...the green Mai Linh one... and he started driving. I noticed that the meter was not working (in fact, it was completely disconnected) and I pointed it out. He said that we was sorry and dropped us off in front of a hotel where we would be able to find another cab.

What I figured is that these two guys were working together in what I call a “10 or 100” scam which is based on the fact that the 10,000 vnd and 100,000 vnd bills look alike. This scam is perpetrated by people that are trying to “help” you with the confusing Vietnamese money. The first cabbie ran around in circles until his meter was just over 40,000. He faked having over heating problems and brought us up a quiet street where his friend in the second cab just happened to be sitting. During the confusion of getting out of the cab and the first demanding his fare, they try to help you get the right bills exchanging your 100,000 notes for 10,000. The second cab had a broken meter so he would have an excuse to say sorry and drop you off nearby so he did not have to leave the area. He dropped us off and reset so they could attempt the scam again.

I know we made some mistakes. Maybe I should have never paid the first cabbie, but I made a decision that I’d rather give him $2 than to get in an argument on a back street. I trusted this cabbie based on the generally accepted trust of Vinasun and Mai Linh taxis. But what has changed is the emergence of Uber, now Grab, and other ride sharing companies that have essentially eaten the lunch of the taxis. I guess desperate times have brought about desperate measures.

What can you do to protect yourself?
1. Keep your money split up into four places: your American dollars in one place, the bulk of your large VND in another, one or two 500s in another and all the rest easily accessible to pay for things in public. 
2. Never pull out your money.
3. Never let anyone handle your money.
4. Know what the bills are and what they are worth. 
5. If you need to use a cab, try to stick with the two main companies. It is still your best bet. 
6. Know where you are going and how to get there. Google maps is your friend. 
7. Take a picture of the cabbie’s ID when you get in the cab. It puts him on notice and can also be very helpful if you leave something in the taxi. 
8. Try to avoid just flagging a taxi on the street, especially in a place full of backpackers or naive tourists. It’s better to get the restaurant or hotel to call for you or to get one from a taxi stand at a hotel or restaurant. 
9. Make sure the meter is working. 
10. Try to use ride sharing services. This is getting harder for tourists since a Grab has made it difficult to pay via credit card. And to be honest, I have had one occasion where a Grab driver was drunk. 
11. Learn a little Vietnamese. Please, thank you, no, turn right, turn left, stop here, etc. can be very helpful.

Let me say that this is not an indictment on taxi drivers or Vinasun or Mai Linh. The vast majority of cab drivers are hard working honest individuals. I think that I just came across a couple of exceptions.

My trips to Vietnam have all been fun and wonderful. I plan on returning soon. My little incident was really the only time I have had that type of thing happen in six trips. I still find HCMC and Hanoi incredibly safe and fun to visit, so don’t be afraid, be aware.

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Seo Team Uk