Vietnam Day one – Airport Taxi Scams
At least the view was nice
It took all of three minutes to get scammed on my first trip to Vietnam. I arrived at Ho Chi Minh airport feeling like shit after a long day of travel. I decided to save $150 and do 1 stop over instead of flying direct.
A 2 hour layover isn’t too big of a deal and certainly worth $150, but then my 2nd flight was delayed, then we sat on the plane for 30 minutes before taking off, and had to circle the city before landing for another 30. Fun times.
After going through immigration I changed $100 and was handed two 500k Vietnam dong notes, twelve 100k dong notes and a 20k and 5k. I bought a sim card for 150k and headed out to get a taxi.
I was told to go to pillar 2 to find the regular taxis. As I approach there is a long winding guard rail up that you have to walk through but no one is in line.
A taxi driver right in the area waves me over and I get lazy and don’t go through the guard rail. I was skeptical about whether he was one of the good taxis or not, and my spidey senses were totally up.
He said meter and I knew from reading monger forums that the meter shouldn’t be over 200k and told him I wouldn’t pay if it went over. He says OK and then insists I sit in front. When you are already a bit sick from travel its better to be in the front seat so I go ahead and do it.
So off we went. There are also some private taxis you can hire in arrivals for 220k without needing to queue up but I didn’t do that. Jspill did though, because the chick was cute.
A private taxi stand inside
I Said Pull Over
So as you exit the airport you have to pay some small fee of 10k. He asks me to pay and I pull out my wallet but don’t know how much it is. He has been pretty good with English but suddenly forgot the word 10.
I hand him 5k and he says no. Then he grabs my money and pulls out the 20k. This is right over my lap, I am staring right at it, and it all takes like 2 seconds.
I grab my money back and he gives me the 10k change and we are off on the streets. As I put my cash back in my wallet I notice that the last bill is a 100k bill when it should be a 500k bill.
I look through my wallet twice and realize that yup both my 500k bills are gone. I check one more time before accusing him of anything and then check all around the seats. There is nothing.
At this point I’m not really sure if he took it or not, but what other option is there. There is like a 1% chance I somehow fucked up when I bought my sim card, and a 1% chance it flew out the window. Well we were basically parked when my money was out, it didn’t fly out the window. He took it.
I start saying some of my money is gone and searching all over. He starts speaking half Vietnamese half English saying you pay you pay blah blah blah. I say please pull over and he pulls out his wallet to show me he has no 500k notes.
I search again and am getting pretty flustered. His ignoring me and jabbering nonsense pisses me off and I raise my voice to an Asian which I can’t ever really remember doing and tell him to pull over. He does.
I start looking all around my seat and under the seat and it isn’t there. I got halfway out of the car to do this and am lucky that the dude didn’t punch the gas, injure me, and drive off with all my stuff.
I sit back in and say I would like him to stand up and he starts jabbering again. Then I notice an oddly placed towel between our seats next to the gear shifter that is half folded over.
I lift up one half and hey whattya know there are my 2 500k notes and a $20 bill I had forgotten about. I put them both in my wallet and he starts asking me about what I will do in Ho Chi Minh as if nothing happened. The fare was 115k ($5), I gave him 115k and that was the end of it.
Clearly a huge noob mistake. Airports all over the world attract guys like this and it was a fully planned out thing from the beginning. Park right next to the ‘good’ taxi area, have me sit in front, have the towel in place, and be super quick about it when he grabbed my money.
I bet he pulls that same move every night. What pisses me off more is I didn’t trust my instincts. I knew something wasn’t right about it and still did it to save myself from walking an extra 50 steps.
I remember reading on SingleMansParadise right before I left where Skins said ‘pull your motorbike up inside because Vietnamese people love to steal shit.’ For me it was proven true before I even left the airport.
Later that night after pipelining girls on VietnamCupid for a bit I went for a walk and had some dude on a motorbike pull up and ask me if I was English. I was like no thanks and kept walking and he followed me for a bit before he got the hint.
There are a lot of sharks in the waters here it seems. Good thing this taxi driver wasn’t a great white or he woulda punched the gas when I got my feet out of the car to look under the seat.
This means a 39,000 VND fare
Best Strategy with Saigon Airport Taxis
So your options are a) use the taxis that you book at the desks in Saigon airport just after arrivals – these cost a fixed rate of 220,000 VND ($9) to anywhere in town. These are the least scammy ones. Peace of mind for a few extra dollars, good if you’re travelling with a girl or have a lot of valuables or something.
Or b) walk left as you come out of the airport and queue up in the metered taxi line outside in the heat, and expect to pay around 115k – 170k on the meter depending on traffic and where you’re staying. Medium scamminess.
Just don’t pick option (c) which is get in a taxi that comes up to you and is pushy about you getting in their car. Maximum scam factor. These guys are lying in wait straight ahead as you come out of arrivals.
The way it works with the meter in Vietnam taxis is you look at the big numbers at the start, and that’s the fare in thousands. Ignore the smaller numbers to the right. In the pic above the meter is currently at 39,000, because it says 39. You can go quite far before it hits 100 (under $5).
Also be careful with the currency because all the notes look similar, 10k dong is a similar color to 100k.
More info on the hot Vietnamese chicks coming soon.