I know that you guys are intrepid travelers who are ready to cope with any kind of difficulties and consequences that appear along your journey. Nothing can discourage your wanderlust and nobody can daunt you on your way. BUT! There is a big 'but' here. As a wise and sane traveler, one should be able to avoid the problem right before it appears and breaks your vacation to pieces!
What could ruin your holiday?
A lot can. But here I would like to talk about scams. As I have been a victim of scams more than once in many different countries, I decided to pick this topic because it is interesting and intriguing, and somehow makes me feel like if I am a pro or travel expert.
First Scam - Coconut Man
Coconut man is not a member of the avengers, not even friend of Spiderman, Batman, Aquaman, Superman or Watchman. Coconut man is just an ordinary guy who sells coconut on the street in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. For an Asian who was born near and lived near coconut trees like me, coconut is nothing but a fruit. A fruit that contains drinkable water, and sometimes is used as one of main ingredients in lots of traditional dishes in Asia. Yet, for people who have never seen what coconut looks like and how it tastes, coconut might seem to be a precious, exclusive, and exotic thing. Taking a picture and posting it to your social media is a chance that you can’t pass it up. Unfortunately, some people irresponsibly take an advantage of this.
The coconut men will approach you, asking whether you want a drink or not, and letting you to take their pictures. And as you mention the amount of coconut you want and you are busy taking pictures, you won’t realize that, for example, the seller will not open one or two only, but ten! Then they ask you to pay, to take responsibility for what you didn’t ask for. When you try to argue, they will pretend that they can’t speak English or don’t understand what you are mumbling about.
What to do: Make sure that you watch carefully how many coconuts they open if you really need to buy some. Or just bring your mineral water in your bag. It will always come in handy anytime you're close to dying of thirst.
Second Scam - Taxis
Taxis have become the main problem in some countries. Taxis without a taxi meter will overcharge you, and unreliable and unsafe taxi drivers are on the list of 100 or more problem you might find with taxis. And Vietnam is no exception.
I was a victim of a taxi scam. The first time I came to Vietnam, I was too innocent to know that there would be a scam. I took a taxi for Ben Thanh Market, in an unmarked taxi without a taxi meter. We agreed on the price before, then as we arrived at the hotel, the driver unabashedly asked for 300,000 VND - about 15 USD - which was more than he originally had said. Instead of giving him the amount of money he asked for, I decided to leave and threatened him by saying that I would report him to the police if he still insisted and forced me to pay.
So, how should you tackle this kind of problem?
GrabCar and Uber, undoubtedly, have simplified our life. You are able to order a taxi if you have apps in CERTAIN areas in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City only). But if not, what should you do?
What to do:
You just need to find these three reliable taxis - Mai Linh, Vinasun and Futa.
The drivers are pros, and if you are still a bit paranoid about the taxi, just take a picture of the driver’s identity card, which is normally situated on the dashboard.
I know 100% that pickpocketing is not considered as a scam. Maybe because they don’t need to deceive you to get their money, but instead just take it directly?
In Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh city, you need to be really attentive to your belongings, whether you have just a backpack, handbag, camera, wallet or phone. DO NOT hold them in your hand as you walk around the city. This kind of behavior might look normal in your own country, but in Vietnam it means that you are inviting pickpockets in HCMC to rob you. They are really fast, as fast as the Flash, and they are really good at driving motorcycles, as good and as professional as Valentino Rossi. So, put your camera, wallet, and telephone inside your bag, and put your backpack on the front part of your body - on your chest.
Experience is good, but I don’t think that you want to see how it feels to be robbed and lose a credit card or phone during your journey, do you?