Are you aware of the most common scams to avoid in Vietnam, when you first arrive in Hanoi. I doubt it! You are here in Hanoi and it’s a blurr of motorbikes, noise and a whole new environment. The last thing on your mind with all this going on are what common scams in Vietnam to watch out for. You just aren’t ready for dealing with tourist scams in Vietnam and mistakes are made and you feel gutted after an exhausting first day!

Here we start our list of the most common scams in Vietnam, starting in Hanoi. This is not an exhausted list and some could be scams to avoid in Vietnam outside Hanoi.

There are many tricks & tourist scams in Vietnam which can be conjured up. So here we go with our top 5 scams to avoid in Vietnam, well, Hanoi!

1. Doughnut Ladies

Doughnut lady in Hanoi

First on our list of scams in Hanoi is something you are more than likely to have come across if you've seen any articles about Hanoi.

You will see a number of ladies that walk around the old quarter throughout the day. Struggling to lug around a heavy wicker basket laden with doughnuts of all different shapes and sizes. It looks like they would defeat any strongman in a World’s strongest man competition with the sheer weight of these doughnuts. But, there is a very good reason why they do this all day. They can make an absolute fortune from the unsuspecting tourist visiting Hanoi for the very first time.

These ladies sometimes get away with charging as much as 20 – 30k VND per doughnut, which is simply insane. These doughnuts are not that nice, as you can imagine, being traipsed around in the heat and smoky streets of the Old Quarter all day.

These doughnuts are only 2k – 3k VND per piece, if you are good at haggling of course. but to prove the price, all you need to do is visit 1 Luong Ngoc Quyen for the freshest, hottest and tastiest doughnuts your tiny VND notes can buy.

You can tell this is the best place to buy doughnuts! A line of Vietnamese motorbikes can be seen queuing outside the shop, usually holding up traffic. If you know Nguyen Huu Huan, Café street, head to the beginning of this street and turn left in to the Old Quarter, you will more than likely smell them as you turn!

Do yourself and your wallet or purse a favour and head to Luong Ngoc Quyen street instead, if you want the good stuff!

2. Shoe Shine guys

Hanoi Shoe Shine guy

These guys can be the craftiest of the sellers on the streets of Hanoi. Be on your guard for this next tourist scam to avoid in Vietnam. If you are not too careful & stand still for too long, window shopping for example. They will have your shoe off and be “repairing” it before you can say “what in Hanoi” is going on!

They will try to charge you anything from 50k VND to 500k VND for either a clean, a sole replacement or a stitching repair. Now, I am not against an honest day’s work and these guys often clean my shoes when I am in the Old Quarter. However, I don’t need someone taking them off and ripping me off in the process.

A shoe shine should only cost you 20k - 30k VND for the pleasure, I often negotiate to 20k VND and give them 30k VND anyway. A standard repair of your shoe should not be any more than 30k – 50k depending on what’s been done.

A sole replacement should be nowhere more than 60k – 70k VND. If you start paying 500k VND for a shoe shine or repair, you might as well buy a new pair of shoes from shoe street.

3. Fruit Basket Ladies

common scams in vietnam

One tourist scam to avoid in Vietnam is one that plays on westerners friendliness and not watching whats behind the smiles. There are many ladies that walk around the Old Quarter of Hanoi with baskets across their shoulders. Anything from heaving with fruit, vegetables, metal parts, boxes, cardboard, paper etc etc. These Vietnamese ladies are honest hard working people of Hanoi trying to earn a crust. Their fresh produce, or recycling helps the city and their families. These ladies are to be looked up to and marveled at the sheer weight they carry all day every day.

There are however, some ladies that walk around with one or two pineapples or a bunch of bananas. They pray on unsuspecting tourists to play one of the most popular common scams in Vietnam. They are not out to earn money honestly, but to rip off the tourist who thinks nothing of paying a few dollars for a tiny pineapple or $5 for a bunch of bananas...just because the lady smiles, is very friendly and...quite frankly...says so!! Yet we believe them!

They will also try to get you to put the baskets across your own shoulders for a photo. Again, this is to charge you for the privilege. Anywhere up to 500k VND can be charged for such a photo & a complete rip off and scam.

You don’t need to pay this and if you really do want a photo of you wearing the baskets, then make sure you arrange this beforehand. Avoid if not sure, so you don't fall foul to one of the most common scams in Vietnam.

4. Cyclo Riders

common scams in vietnam

Fourth on the list of common scams in Vietnam are with cyclo riders. Now, I’ve seen these guys work very hard, especially when you see them punishing their scrawny legs with an oversized westerner sitting in the front. Usually fast asleep with a camera round his neck worth more than the guys house! So they do deserve their fees for this strenuous exercise. They are not usually young guys either, so hats off to them really.

But, there are situations where they will quite simply put, “rip you off”! I have witnessed a couple from Singapore having just finished a 20-minute ride and being asked for 500k VND. Or, a couple who I know who took a cyclo ride back to their hotel after a day’s walking around the City. A ride just taking 5 minutes and charged 200k VND.

Taking a ride on a cyclo will usually cost a Vietnamese around 50k per trip. But there is no way in hell that tourists will get this. Expect to be charged around 100k - 150k VND per person for a ride lasting around an hour.

I took my son in 2021 just at the beginning of Vietnam reopening and managed 150k. But you should expect to pay 250k VND for the two of you and you will be fine. Or, if you wish to have one organised for you, along with a guided Hanoi City tour, check it out.

In any situation in Hanoi though, haggle, haggle, haggle...until both of you are happy with the price.

5. Taxi Drivers

common scams in vietnam

Number 5 on our list of tourist scams in Vietnam is Taxis. Now they can be the same all over the world, so Hanoi is no more different to the rest. So it should not come as a surprise that this has made the top 5 scams of Hanoi, but we will mention it anyway.

Taxis in Hanoi can make a small fortune from unsuspecting tourists. Its usually that they don’t understand the money they are handing over.

But, there is something that taxis do here that I haven’t heard of anywhere else. I haven’t witnessed it myself but have heard reports from tourists & backpackers around Hanoi. People have seen the meters jump, mid-way through the journey. Not the usual jump going past the next km mark of the trip, but a huge 100k VND jump.

There have been instances after a journey where customers have refused to pay. The drivers have got angry, violent and even brought out weapons to threaten the customer in to paying. More often than not, the customer just pays and the taxi driver has won again.

One sure fire way of knowing you are being ripped off in a tourist scam in Hanoi is when they refuse to drop you at your hotels front door. Obviously if the night market is on and you are staying hotel on Hang Dau, it is not possible after 7pm. But, if it’s not, then the reason they don’t is because the hotel staff usually come out and help the customer disembark the taxi. When they find out where you came from and the price being charged, they get very angry and report the taxi driver.

So, after all this, be aware of some taxis in Hanoi and maybe use Grab. They are hugely popular here in Hanoi and most Vietnamese and plenty of tourists will travel around using them. They are safe, reliable and far cheaper than the usual taxis and no chance of getting ripped of either.

However, there are some good taxi companies in Hanoi and have not had any trouble with them before. G7 is one and TaxiGroup is another!


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