Saigon City Guide

How to Avoid Scams in Sai Gon

 As a tourist in Saigon, you may encounter some of the scams that are around the city.
The most popular scam is the fake taxi scam. After being in Saigon for three months, I’ve already seen it at least a dozen times. There are a lot of cars that drive around Ben Thanh ward in District 1, and the War Remnants Museum in District 3 which is where most of the main tourist attractions are. Some of them will have the exact same logo as MaiLinh or VinaSun, but the main difference will be the phone numbers on the side. They won’t have meters in the car, and if they do they will be fake meters and they will charge you double or triple the price that you would pay in an ordinary taxi. You can see what they look like in the photos below:

Fake taxi in Saigon

Another popular scam is the Cyclo Scam. There are a lot of men driving Cyclos around Ben Thanh and Pham Ngu Lao wards that will ask tourists if they want or need a ride somewhere. In the beginning they will agree to any price that the tourist (i.e. you) suggests, but at the end they won’t take you to your final destination. Sometimes they will take you to quieter streets where there aren’t a lot of people around and demand more money. Most tourists will keep all of their money in one place, so when you pull out your wallet to pay, they will see how much money you have and will demand all or most of it. If you refuse to give them the money they will call their friends who look intimidating (and probably have been involved in the mafia at some point) to harass you until you pay them what they ask, or more. There is only one legal Cyclo tour in Saigon, which can be booked through a licensed tour company.

The best way to book a Cyclo tour is through a tour company or travel agency, instead of with the Cyclo driver directly, because their English isn’t excellent. The tour company or travel agency can provide you with an accurate price based on exactly what you want.

Another scam that is a bit more difficult to spot is the motorbike taxi scam. Hundreds of motorbike taxi drivers can speak Basic English. Some of them will offer you a full- or half-day city tour, along with a drive to your final destination. The price that they offer will be cheaper than any other tour company, and will depend on how many other tourists they have to take on their “tour” that day. You can use these tours if you don’t care about the history or the facts of the sights that you’re going to see, or learn about the country that you’re in. So because you pay cheap, you get a cheap tour, which is that you don’t gain any knowledge, only get to see the sights. The motorbike taxi “tour guides” have only learned their English from the street, so they have very broken English, and have trouble understanding anything that isn’t basic English, unlike regular tour guides, who have studied English at school and had to take a test to get a tour guide license.

But, of course for these scams you've probably already read about them somewhere. It happens quite a lot in some countries in SouthEast Asia but you may not have needed to be more aware of them. A local motorbike taxi can also be an option, but make sure that they're trustworthy. Go with your instinct with these guys. If you can see that they're honest, just set the price before accepting the ride and make sure there is no misunderstanding between you and the driver before making your final decision about using their service.

By Kiana Zemenchik