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Are The Vietnamese Killing Their Own Tourism?

VendorI tend to travel a lot and in doing so I meet other travelers, business travelers mostly but a few backpackers here and there and I seem to be getting the same story all the time, “Vietnam would have been great if it weren’t for the people”. That sounds harsh but I must admit I had been to Vietnam a few years back and I left with pretty much the same opinion. I started in Ho Chi Minh and followed the coast up through Quy Nhon, Hue and Vinh to Hanoi. Unfortunately what I ended up with was a bunch of stories where I was getting fleeced in one way or another.

My personal stories ranged from a small boy tagging along with me on a walk only to ask me for a dollar because he was my guide, even though I was already walking when he came up to me, to a vender telling me point blank that he was charging me more because I could afford it, I was buying a coke. Vietnam is a beautiful country but by the end of my trip the “got ripped off” stories far out weighed the “had a great time” stories.

It wasn’t with surprise that on my last trip to Bangkok virtually every person I had met that had been traveling in Vietnam had not one, but numerous “got ripped off” experiences. One French woman told me of a “hiding the tickets” scam that happened to her in Ha Long Bay. I actually didn’t get it at first, “What do you mean that they hide the tickets to the boats, why did you need a ticket if they say you don’t?” I asked. She went on to explain that the tickets had the prices on them, so what they were asking 100,000. Dong for was actually 20,000 Dong according to the ticket.

Another traveler told me a story where her group hired a van to take them to a resort. When the van Ha Longstopped on the edge of town at a taxi stand they were told to get out. The driver started to unload their bags telling them they had to take taxis the last kilometer to the resort. She said “He was trying to spread the money around even though the arrangement was to the resort, not a taxi stand”. She said after a long argument he drove them the extra 10 minutes to the resort.

Everyone I ran into seemed to have stories like those and I realize that Vietnam is actually a Democratic Republic, but are they shooting themselves in the foot as far as the tourism industry? In comparison everyone I spoke to had nothing but good things to say about Laos, which is also Democratic Republic but I guess there the tourist are not seen as walking dollar signs, well not yet anyway.

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