How I got ripped off in Saigon – and how to avoid it

Saigon Taxi
A Saigon taxi enters the intersection

Saigon is a beautiful city in a gorgeous country. I recently spent 18 days there, and while I had a great time, my story is a cautionary tale for any first-timers hitting the city. I was ripped off a few times and lived to tell about it. Here are some quick tips to keep you on your guard.

Getting a Taxi at the Airport

Mistake #1 – I didn’t have an Internet connection and hadn’t prepared a quick conversion beforehandI did some quick research on the Internet prior to arrival, which revealed that two cab companies were the ones to be trusted: Mai Linh and Vinasun. When I exited customs, there was a Mai Linh travel stand inside the airport, so I contracted with them to take me to my hotel. I was quoted 300,000 VND for the trip.

Mistake #1 – I didn’t have an Internet connection and hadn’t prepared a quick conversion beforehand, so I couldn’t do the math to figure out how much I was spending.

The price seemed reasonable (at $14 USD, now that I look). However, my trip BACK to the airport from right outside of my hotel cost 120,000 VND going by the taxi’s meter. This is a big markup that an unknowing tourist like myself will end up paying.

Always use a taxi with a meter.So, the advice here is “Always use a taxi with a meter.” This keeps them honest. Right outside of the area where I contracted with this taxi company is the street where pickups occur. Taxis will be dropping people off and waiting out there, so you should be able to find a Vinasun-branded cab. Go with them, and if they don’t use the meter, get out and find one who does.

Tipping, by the way, is not really a big thing here. If you feel that you’ve gotten exemplary service, go ahead an give a small tip. However, it’s not required.

I guess I could have gone with this guy, instead
I guess I could have gone with this guy, instead

Street Vendors

Know your currency conversion.I wanted to buy one of these little pop-up card things that they sell on the street (if you come here you will know what I’m talking about) for a friend. One of the vendors told me that they were $1 USD each. “Okay,” I said. “How much in VND?” She replied “30,000.” My Spider-Sense began tingling, as I knew that this was wrong. $1 USD is actually about 21,000 VND. I knew this, as I had been in the country for two weeks at that point. I corrected her and paid only 20,000.

Being able to do that quick math in your head will help keep you within your budget and stop these subtle ripoffs from happening.The lesson here is “Know your currency conversion.” Figure out a quick baseline that you can use. For instance, I just learned the 10’s (10,000 VND = .50, 100,000 VND = $5, etc.) and worked from there. Being able to do that quick math in your head will help keep you within your budget and stop these subtle ripoffs from happening.

That’s it for now. I will continue with the Friday “free day” travel posts as long as people don’t complain!

In the meantime, if you are a location-independent entrepreneur looking for legal advice, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney for help.

Zachary Strebeck

Zachary Strebeck

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