Taxi scams and corrupt drivers were a source of annoyance for me during my time in Vietnam, as they are for countless travellers each year.
I’ve prepared some information from my experiences and research, to hopefully aid you in safe, scam-free travel during your time in Vietnam (God damn I hate to be ripped off!).
Safe Vietnamese Taxi Brands
- UBER exists in Vietnam! Praise the Lord! My workaround for crazy London cab prices has followed me to S.E. Asia! Similar to UBER is ‘GRAB Taxi’. I recommend downloading these apps on your phone before you go. Rates are more competitive and agreed and paid before you enter the vehicle. The great thing about this is that the rate is fixed – that means there is no opportunity for your driver to try and inflict foreigner prices on you when he spots your pasty foreign face and realises you have no idea as to what the going rate is.
- Vinasun and Mai Linh are the main reputable cab brands. That said, I have still heard stories of scams from both; I had a pretty harrowing experience with a Mai Linh driver in Hoi An but I chalked it up to one rogue creeper, rather than the brand. For the most part, my experiences with these cab drivers was fine.
- “VIP” Vinasun and Mai Linh – Every now and then, you may see a “VIP” arm of these brands. These are reputable, but charge about twice the going rate! All cabs are air conditioned anyway so you’re not gaining anything here. If you see the VIP sign, wait for another cab, they’re pretty much everywhere.
Common Scams and How to Avoid Them
- Driver will assume you do not know where you are going and take a long and roundabout route to your destination, racking up a large bill – Ensure you have an idea where you are going and a street map to follow your route.
- Dodgy meters are installed within the vehicle that makes the rate progress far faster than it should – Never take an unlicensed cab, always opt for reputable brands. Check the Driver has his ID badge displayed and the meter does not appear damaged. Damaged meter or no ID badge? Don’t get in!
- Driver does not run meter and claims an outlandish fare once you arrive at your destination – Always insist the meter is used, or agree on a price before entering the vehicle.
- Driver tries to instill confusion at the point of paying the bill to trick more money from you – i.e. Your fare is 90,000 VND, you give him 100,000, he gives you 20,000 back, then asks for 10,000 (correct fare), then looks confused and tries to get you to hand back the 20,000.
- Counterfeit Taxis – Yes, really! Only in Vietnam, right? Counterfeit taxis look like reputable brands and try to incorporate their image and reputation in their scams. At first, your cab may look like your typical Vinasun cab, but looking closely you will notice differences – spelling mistakes or damaged and dirty vehicles. Be aware! A reputable cab would not operate in this condition.
Every two feet I walked in Vietnam I was met with:
“You! You! You! …. Motorbike?”
I do not recommend getting a Motorbike taxi under any circumstances. This is perhaps the most risky of cab options as people do not need a license to operate this and many are offering this service illegally. You are leaving yourself more exposed to pricing scams, not to mention danger, since they do not offer you a helmet and if you fall off the thing (they drive like cray over here!) your insurance will not cover you.
At HCM Airport
Foreigner tax and scams can begin in Vietnam the moment you step off the plane.
You may think that a cab from the airport taxi desk is going to be a good shout right? Wrong! The variance in their prices is huge.
My quotation from the airport transfer desk at SGN airport? 180,000 VND.
My quotation from a cab driver outside? 100,000 VND!
Your quote could vary depending on the whereabouts of your stay, however an 80,000 VND difference for the same destination? No Sir.
Note that the Airport is extremely close to the City – We’re talking 10 – 15 minutes ride. Your cab should cost 150,000 VND maximum. I’ve heard of people paying all sorts of crazy prices. Keep that figure in mind.
Leave the terminal, ignore the toots yelling and trying to usher you into their cabs and opt for the reputable brands… OR use UBER/Grab to call a cab – The airport has free wifi so you’re set to do so!
Avoiding Taxi Scams in Vietnam