Taxis in Vietnam; avoid the scams

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.

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 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!