Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Scam City: Saigon, Vietnam

One thing I learned about traveling is that you can't control everything. I am going to share a story about my bad experience in Saigon. Don't get me wrong, I love Saigon, but it's just the fact that not all things you see and read on my travel blog are pleasant.

It all started with a crazy weather disturbance in Manila. My flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) from Manila was scheduled to depart at 10:30 PM (PH time). The storm had just intensified after passing the capital, forcing airlines to cancel most of their flights in the domestic sector. Luckily, our flight pushed through, albeit the five-hour delay. We finally left Manila past three in the morning and arrived in Saigon a little past five in the morning, local time. Little did we know that our ordeal has just begun.

We were tired, hungry, and stressed upon exiting Tan Son Nhat Airport's terminal. The sky was slowly turning to an indigo-blue hue as if promising us that we'll be having a great day. We were in a hurry because our bus was scheduled to leave Saigon for Mui Ne at around eight in the morning, which is another 5-hr land trip from Vietnam's capital city. The sky became brighter, and more and more passengers started to fill the once empty corridors of the terminal's arrival hall. Out of nowhere, a scrawny, middle-aged man approached us.

"Would you like to take a ride somewhere?", he asked in broken English.

"How much to Ben Tahn Market?", my companion asked.

"500,000 dongs!", said the driver.

"Okay, we'll take it!", my other companion said.

We settled for that amount because according to our research, VND 500,000 is the average taxi fare from airport to downtown Saigon.

Things got worse minutes later. I felt something's really weird and fishy, judging the driver's body language. He occasionally breaks the silence by pointing out some of Saigon's tourist attractions along the highway and attempted to make some small talks, but you know ~English~. Suddenly, he told us that the fare will be adjusted to 750,000 because we were going to pay some toll fees. Moments later, the fare price skyrocketed to 1,000,000 VND! It came to a point that we were conversing in Tagalog because we felt betrayed. The atmosphere inside the sedan reeked animosity and corruption. Upon reaching our destination, the driver was very adamant, and we got intimidated. Debating was already futile, and we had no choice but to pay him VND 1,000,000. He sped off, and we were left dumbfounded by the experience.

Scenes of everyday life: Saigon.

As the cliche goes, there is always a first time for everything. On our first day in Vietnam, we got scammed by a con artist. It did not just happen instantaneously. We were tired from our delayed flight from Manila, and we were trying to catch up on the 8 AM bus to Mui Ne. I know it was our fault, to begin with. If only we assessed the situation and researched more about the con artists in Saigon, we could have been averted this situation. But no, with an empty stomach and sleep deprivation, you can't think clearly.

Traveling is not glamorous as what you've previously thought. It entails a lot of planning, sacrifice, compromise, and research. We would always encounter roadblocks along the way, regardless of its nature. At the end of the day, traveling teaches us to become more vigilant. If you ask me, my first Indochina adventure was a blast, despite this.

Would I still go back to Vietnam? Of course, it's a beautiful country. Everything's cheap, the surrounding landscapes are stunning, and the best part of Vietnam? Their food.


  1. hahahhaha sus! pati sa Thailand ba.. pero sige lang im planning to visit vietnam jd baya thanks ani! 7

    1. Hayop kaayo ang mangingilad diri ba. Pero oh well, extra careful nalang jud ta ani sa sunod!

  2. I agree about the food! Banh Mi! :)
    I was afraid this might happen so I never took a cab. Grab-ed/Uber-ed all the way! lol

    1. Banh Mi and Bac Xio is life! Hahaha. There are only two legit taxi companies in Saigon: Vina Sun and Mai Linh. Lol

  3. Went there (HCM) last feb and everything went well naman. Especially uber ginamit namin from the airport to our hotel and vv. Best place to stay is district 1 dahil halos lahat nandun na. Ben tahm Market? Geesh! Sanay na kami sa mga sales talk ng asians lalo na cambodia (siem reap) and thailand (phuket)
    I love HCM really pero buti na lang at di nangyari sa amin yan. Thanks for the tip! Babalik kami ulit doon.

    1. Hi Don! This scam incident happened three years ago. Di pa uso ang Uber dito. Wow, never thought na may Uber na pala sa Saigon. That should be handy.

  4. A similar situation we experienced in Bangkok when my friends and I were traveling in convoy from the airport to a bus station. Our driver insisted that we do not use the meter, saying that "we just have to follow the meter reading by the taxi ahead of us as the destination is the same" (he meant the taxi that my friends were riding on). It turned out, the other taxi was having the same modus and that was to follow our driver's meter reading. In other words, both of them did not use their respective meters. We were charged 700 baht. We found out later that we would just be paying around 300 baht if only they used the meter. Yes, we were scammed by more than 100% of the supposed price. And yes, a bad experience, but then, a good lesson learned. :)

    1. Lesson learned the hardest way. That's why it pays (no pun intended lol) to research before embarking on a new adventure. Otherwise, we'd be running like a headless chicken! :)


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