Feb 9, 2012

Vietnam - Foreign tourists robbed everywhere

Tuoi Tre has followed groups of foreign tourists on their trips to tourism hotspots in the central provinces of Vietnam, only to see them being repeatedly disturbed and ripped off by hotels, and street vendors.

Even in the old town of Hoi An in Quang Nam Province, which has reportedly curbed the street vendors’ tendency to overcharge foreign holidaymakers in comparison to other cities, the latter still face a high risk of being “robbed” by local vendors.

One of the latest cases is that of Jimmy, a British man who was on his first ever trip to Hoi An. Jimmy told Tuoi Tre that on Tuesday he went for a haircut at a barber’s on Tran Phu Street, and was charged VND200,000 (US$9.6), while the actual price a Vietnamese customer has to pay is only VND30,000 ($1.4).

“I have no idea why the price difference was that huge,” the English tourist said.

Meanwhile, a Dutch couple avoided being overcharged by a souvenir vendor on Tran Phu Street, who tried to insist on selling them a wooden box for $8, since this is the second time they have been to Vietnam.

The couple only paid $6 for the box and left, while 10 minutes earlier, an female Australian tourist was not so lucky and paid $8.

For its part, the service that takes tourists around Hoi An on cyclos also charges local and foreign customers differently. Foreign backpackers have to pay VND150,000 for a 1-hour trip, while the rate for local residents is only VND100,000.

Similarly, in some photo shops, a souvenir photo is sold to foreign tourists for $5, double the price at which it is sold to someone Vietnamese.

Photo sellers said they have to hike prices “a little” due to low sales and the troubling economy.

Backpackers surrounded by disturbing vendors on Hai Van hill

On the morning of February 8, as Tuoi Tre observed, no sooner did a 52-seat bus arrive at the top of the hill than a crowd of male vendors approached the bus windows, noisily inviting the tourists to come to their cafés.

At one of the cafés, two male backpackers were enjoying their drinks when four street vendors surrounded them, asking them to buy some stone-carved jewelry and cell-phone bags.

One of the two tourists reluctantly drew out a VND20,000 (roughly $1) bank note and pointed at a cell-phone bag, only to hear the vendor charging $2 for the product!

Similarly, a handful of French tourists riding bicycles to the hill were also surrounded by vendors, who repeatedly asked them to buy beverages and souvenirs. The vendors only left the tourists alone when they appeared to become annoyed.

Nha Trang hotels, restaurants rip off tourists to feed brokers

At the beach city of Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa Province, hotels, restaurants and souvenir shop owners have colluded with hundreds of brokers to “pickpocket” foreign travelers.

On February 8, two Tuoi Tre correspondents disguised as employees of a travel agency came to Thanh Thuy hotel in Alley 64, Tran Phu Street to book rooms for a group of eight tourists. The hotel receptionists said there were only single rooms left.

Though the listed price for a single room, as shown at the reception table, is only VND150,000 a night, a receptionist said the real charge is VND200,000.

“How can we earn a profit from the listed price?” she said. “Moreover, part of the overcharged amount will go to your pocket [for brokering].”

A hotel broker in Nha Trang “advised” that your correspondents should negotiate with the hotel owners for a higher accommodation costs than what they report to the tourists, in order to pocket the difference.

Similarly, the Hon Do seafood restaurant on Pham Van Dong Street also asked your correspondents to collude with them in ripping off the tourists, after being informed that a group of 12 tourists would come to the restaurant.

The manager said the restaurant would pay your correspondents 10 percent of the total value of the bill if the tourists ordered expensive seafood that is not listed on the menu, such as lobster, crab, and shellfish.

“If you do not want to get the 10-percent commission, we have another way to pay you,” she said.

“If a lobster weighs only 1 kilogram, I will inform the customers that it weighs 1.1-1.2 kilograms, and the difference will come to you.”

“None of the restaurants here will pay you higher than that.”

Scam money exchangers in Hue

Meanwhile in Hue, a group of a dozen women frequent the bus station in front of the Emperor Palace everyday to hunt for European tourists. As the tourists get off their buses, the women approach them, saying they have some small change in Euros and want to exchange it for notes with face values of EUR10-20.

Upon receiving the notes from the tourists, the women quickly put some Euro coins into their hands, and flee. The tourists later learn that the coins have lower values than the banknotes they have exchanged with the women. Some of the coins even turn out to be Thai baht, whose design is similar to that of the Euro, but of a much lower value.

The women also prey for victims in restaurants on Pham Ngu Lao, Vo Thi Sau, Chu Van An, and Nguyen Cong Tru streets.


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