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Taxis in Vietnam; avoid the scams

VIETNAM | Monday, 1 June 2009 | Views [7024] | Comments [14]

Taxis

Taxis are the number one place where even the savviest travelers are taken advantage of—yes, even you!  Vietnam is no exception.  That’s why you should only take licensed taxis that have official meters.

The scamming may start as soon as you step out of the airport. It usually starts when you're approached by a "limo driver" who says he's just finished his shift and could use a little extra cash.  “Care for a lift?”  Most of the time you will eventually get to your destination, but only after the driver you takes you on a scenic, roundabout tour of the city, perhaps even stopping to pick up more passengers for the joy ride.  All the while your fare is hiking up to an undetermined amount as your “driver” judges how much he thinks he can get out of you.    

Being overcharged may be the least of your worries with an airport ‘limo service’.  A common trick in Vietnam is that the driver will set a reasonable flat fee with you before taking you to your hotel, but then hold your luggage hostage in the trunk until you pay him a hefty ransom. 

How can we beat these scammers at their own game? 

NEVER EVER accept a ride with anyone who does not have a working meter and a displayed license. 

Doing so not only puts your money in danger, but more importantly, your safety.  Being grossly overcharged by a fake taxi in Vietnam might put a damper on your vacation, but losing a little extra cash pales in comparison to the risks of kidnapping, assault or robbery. 

Scam artists have been known to pose as taxi drivers and take off with your luggage. They have also taken unsuspecting tourists to a deserted area and then robbed and/or assaulted them. 

Airport ride - Ian's story

“When I visited Ho Chi Minh I was immediately approached by taxi drivers at the airport (outside the arrival gates) who tried to take my bags and usher me into their taxis. I asked about price to my hotel in a central district and  was quoted $40 USD. I refused and was then immediately offered the same ride for $20. I made my way out to the taxi rank and negotiated a much 'fairer' fare of $8 USD, including toll fares, which is roughly what most guidebooks suggest.

When in SE Asia I try to put the price I'm paying into perspective of their local cost of living. In my experience of Vietnam taxi drivers would consistently quote about double the 'fair' price - and if you don't barter you're paying for a very expensive ride!”

Ian

Avoid Being Shortchanged

If you suspect you were scammed, try to write down specifics about the driver and/or the taxi so you can file a police report later. 

Even the licensed, metered guys try to get their fair share in the action.  “Shortchanging” is one of the most common tourist scams in Vietnam not only in taxi taxis but in gift shops as well.  It takes full advantage of two common assumptions-that the tourist does not know the language and is unfamiliar with the local currency.  It allows them to take advantage of the full spectrum of tourists-from ripping off frugal backpackers to swindling carefree wealthy travelers.

Easy fix to shortchanging—next time you travel, count your money out loud as you hand it to the taxi driver or cashier, bill by bill, and make them confirm the amount out loud to you while it’s in their hands. 

Seasoned travelers often try to avoid taxis altogether and instead opt for riding bikes, walking or public transportation when available.

Top tips for good Taxi experiences:

  • Ask your hotel or hostel where to find a legit taxi
  • Take a business card from your guest house or hotel with you - it's easy to show this to a taxi driver after a long day and few beers and be reassured that you won't have a Lost in Translation moment.
  • Familiarize yourself with a map to learn the main streets, and pay attention to where the taxi is taking you.
  • Make sure the meter is turned on and ask the driver what the rate will be to make sure you are being charged an appropriate fare.
  • Look for a car number and company marked on the outside, a registration and driver information card displayed on the dashboard, and a list of charges on display.
  • Study the rate list when you first sit down in the taxi.  Make it very blatant to the driver that you are checking out the rates—this will keep him from trying any funny business.
  • Make sure all taxis you enter are legal, fully-licensed, and in good condition (i.e. inner door handles that work and proper seatbelts).
  • Above all else, trust your inner traveler instincts.  If something seems the least bit fishy, stop the taxi, pay the driver, and hightail it out of there!

Read more stories from WorldNomads.com to help keep you travelling safely. WorldNomads.com - an essential part of every adventurous traveller's journey.

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Tags: safety, scams, taxis, travel, vietnam

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