I can think of very few countries that inspire as passionately varied reactions from travelers as Vietnam does. Its fans wax poetic about the breathtaking landscape, the intriguing culture and the resilient population. Its detractors spew bitterly about the traffic, the crime, and most of all: the unfriendly people.

I’m fascinated by this. What is it about Vietnam that sparks these reactions? It’s not just anecdotal, either. Take a look at these statistics on numbers on international tourists (Source: Each country’s tourism board. All figures are from 2009 unless noted, the most recent year statistics are available for most countries).

Malaysia: 22 million (skewed somewhat by Singaporean residents)
Thailand: 14 million (up to 19 million in 2011)
Indonesia 6.9
Vietnam: 3.7 million (up to 6 million in 2011)
Philippines: 3 million
Cambodia: 2.1 million
Laos: 2 million

For two countries so close together and with so much coastline, there is a staggering difference between Thailand’s 14 million visitors and Vietnam’s 3.7 million. Yet, Vietnam brings in more visitor’s than neighbor Cambodia, who boasts the bucket-list destination of Angkor Wat. But here is what I find to be the most interesting statistic of all: Vietnam has a return rate of just 5% compared to Thailand’s impressive 55%. (Source: The Economist) What is keeping the vast majority of Vietnam’s visitors from returning?

Dumpster in Saigon

Since that isn’t the kind of thing that Vietnam’s tourism board is going to gather data on, I only have my own experience to report. And it isn’t all pretty.

I’ll start off  by saying I had a lot of fun times in Vietnam, and I saw some of the most beautiful vistas I have laid eyes on. I have plans to return and see the North. But if I had a gun held to my head and had to confess my least favorite country, Vietnam would have that honor. It’s hard to articulate, in the grand scheme of things, why. I made it no secret that I loathed Saigon. But a whole country? That’s a bit harder to be so adamant about. So let me share a few anecdotes.

Bus Rides From Hell

It took me a few moments to unfold myself from the six hour mini-van ride we had taken, against our will, from Dalat to Mui Ne. We didn’t bat an eye when the mini-van came to fetch us from our Dalat hotel, as it is common practice for these to deposit you at the main bus stations. And of course we had paid for and been promised a normal, human-sized bus. Despite being smacked in the face with the reality of Vietnam several times, we were still under the impression that this entitled us to a normal, human-sized bus. Ha!

We collected more and more passengers, squeezing into acrobatic shapes in order to accommodate the luggage and people teeming into the tiny vehicle. I tried to fight back claustrophobia while wondering how much further the bus station could be. Once we hit highway and I realized this would be my prison for the next 5+ hours, I nearly burst into tears. Except my face was shoved into someone’s shoulder, so that deterred me a bit.

So, we had four people to a three person seat and then the last poor suckers to embark sitting on stools in the “aisle.” The couple shoulder-to-shoulder with us had it worst of all, as the luggage was so overstuffed into the trunk that it wouldn’t allow the seat to lock into place, forcing them to sit at a 45 degree angle the entire journey. And off we went, with the van boiling from recycled air and lack of air-conditioning and bouncing around the road with absolutely no respect for the human bladder. I remember thinking: Vietnam, you got us again. You son of a bitch.

Vietnamese transportation brought me to tears on more than one occasion. And before you accuse me of being a fussy princess who can’t take a little discomfort, let me assure you my complaints have nothing to do with comfort standards. Returning from my first trip to Cambodia in 2009, I had happy memories of buses with cracked windshields, no suspension, a constantly blaring horn and equally loud Khmer pop music videos playing. I found it charming. Here’s the difference in Vietnam: It was all so mean-spirited. In addition to the scam we were subjected to above, we took three other long distance bus rides. In all three, we paid for a bus with a bathroom. In all three, the driver locked the bathroom, presumably so he wouldn’t have to clean in. In two, the driver laughed in my face when I pleaded with them to let me in so I wouldn’t have an accident. I was in physical pain bouncing around in a bus with no suspension because the bus driver was too lazy to do his own job. This made me verge on homicidal. When I return to Vietnam I will travel exclusively by train.

Transportation in Vietnam

Scams Here, Scams There, Scams Everywhere

“You pay for parking.” He held up enough fingers to indicate that we owed five thousand dong. “There is a sign literally behind you that says parking is free,” Mark said incredulously. The man shook his head and pointed to the portion of the sign that said 5 thousand dong… for car parking. We are driving a motorcycle, which remains as free as it was five minutes ago. “Sir. There is a line for line English translation of that sign. I’m starting to doubt you are even an employee here. Good day!”

Scams happen all across South East Asia. But never have I seen them executed with the same fervor that there was in Vietnam. Parking was a particular recurring issue, but really that was just the beginning. Police invented fake fines to extract bribes, admission was charged by random families with a card table set up outside waterfalls, and bait-and-switch tours and transportation were rampant. It was exhausting to have our guard up constantly. And it wasn’t just elaborate scams — simple robberies seemed to take place on an unheard of level. Almost each day brought a new tale of violent bag snatching or pickpocketing.

One scam we were victim of twice happened at spas. Both times after paying for a massage (one turned out to be in a happy-ending parlor, but that’s another icky story) the masseuse would come back into the room with a sheet of paper asking you to “evaluate” her — and pledge a tip. Tipping is not common in Asia and in the ten million massages I have had in Thailand not once has a tip been expected, let alone solicited. When I expressed discomfort with the whole thing and refused to write an amount, they claimed they weren’t paid at all and worked solely for tips. The whole thing was so stressful and uncomfortable it negated the point of getting a massage at all! I left raging mad both times.

Scams in Vietnam

Just Go Away

The Market in Dalat was like any other I had been to in Asia, swirling with colors and people. As usual I had my camera in hand, ready to shoot when the moment struck. I noticed an enormous cauldron of soup being stirred at a food stall. I saw the photo in my head. I made eye contact with the woman running the stall, and raised my eyebrows and my camera slightly while nodding towards the soup in the universal gesture for “May I take a photo?” “NO NO NO!” she spat back, so aggressively that I stumbled backwards in response.

Never have I felt quite so unwanted in a new country. I experienced something similar working in Grand Cayman, where locals were reserved and a bit uptight, but nothing on the same level as Vietnam. I feel hesitant to share these thoughts because I don’t want to generalize or say something so harsh about an entire country, but this was my experience. It’s not something I say lightly. Of course I met friendly and warm people in Vietnam. Unfortunately, for every one pleasant encounter I had, there were two negative ones to follow it. People laughed at us meanly, stared at us wearily, ignored us completely, and did little to disguise their contempt for us. I felt thousands of miles from “the land of smiles” (Thailand’s ingenious slogan).

People in Vietnam

The Guilt Factor

The worst part of all? Instead of feeling indignant about our treatment as guests in a new country, I felt guilty. My immediate reaction was: How else could I expect to be treated, considering the atrocities my own country has committed against this one? But intellectually, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. As my friend Matt put it, as a Jewish person does he have a free pass to be rude to German tourists in the US and make them uncomfortable? I don’t think so. But the government is going to have to make some changes if they want the public’s attitude to change. From the harsh and one-sided propaganda about the war that I saw being publicized in Vietnam, it’s no surprise that the Vietnamese react the way they do to Westerners.

And if Vietnam hopes to continue to derive a large part of their national income from tourism, I think they have a public relations issue to deal with right now. It is every traveler’s responsibility to be respectful and sensitive to their host country. And in exchange I believe that any country promoting international tourism should do its best to be a good host.

Feeling Lost In Vietnam

What the Future Holds

Six million people were drawn to Vietnam in 2011. Six million people came to learn, to bear witness, and to enjoy. Statistically, only 180,000 of them will enjoy themselves enough to return. People return to Thailand year after year because it’s effortless to enjoy. And I think they fall for Cambodia and Laos because despite the difficulties of travel there, they win you over with charm and heart. I think Vietnam has a long way to go if it wants to gain a reputation as a tourism superstar. First of all, it’s got to find some heart.

Have you traveled to Vietnam? What was your experience there?

  • Grace
    February 1 2012

    Hmm, interesting.

    I went to Vietnam for a month several years ago, and had a somewhat similar reaction. It’s really really beautiful, and there are so many cool things to see.

    Bad things: The constant cheating was exhausting. Fake train tickets, sending us food we hadn’t ordered, “foreigner” prices, attempted thefts…Someone even tried to steal from my backpack WITH THEIR FEET! We only got ripped off twice, but it took a massive effort to accomplish this.

    The everyday level of violence was also shocking to me (especially given other SE Asian countries). We were chased by a knife-wielding maniac, my boyfriend got punched (argument over a ticket scam), lots of hostile screaming, etc. And it wasn’t just because we were foreigners: I saw so many women routinely being kicked/hit/beaten; they often didn’t even react, because it was just another typical day.

    It was worse in the South, and in heavily touristed areas (when we went to the inland mountains, there were no other foreigners and everyone was really friendly). There seemed to be a certain necessary exposure to tourists necessary for the scams to appear. (In the little villages, it hadn’t occurred to anyone that we COULD be scammed.) It’s also cultural though: given the violence against women and their general abysmal position, I think that sets a certain tone for the whole society.

    On the other hand, if you avoided scam “triggers” and lowered expectations to what was possible, then things weren’t that bad. We had a much better time for the second half of our trip.

    • Alex
      February 1 2012

      It’s true, I probably should have mentioned that we were definitely on the “tourist trail” while we were in Vietnam. I’m sure those that visit more rural and un-touristy areas have a completely different experience. However, Thailand for example is FILLED with tourists. And yet you don’t encounter the level of scamming and crime you do in Vietnam. And take Cambodia, which has had some pretty devastating decades as well. The people there are some of the warmest and friendliest on Earth! Basically, I don’t know what it is about Vietnam. Something just doesn’t add up.

      • Johnny
        May 29 2014

        Something just doesn’t add up? Hmmm ,,, I wonder what that possibly could be, wouldn’t have anything to with a certain war? No that’s right America were the good guys in that war right? Didn’t do anything to create resentment amongst Vietnamese people. Your sense of entitlement and audacity is disturbing. How about being appreciative for a change?

        • Alex
          May 29 2014

          Hey Johnny, perhaps you’d find this post I wrote about my feelings visiting Vietnam as an American post-war interesting. I think you’re throwing around a lot of judgement pretty freely.

        • sunny
          October 26 2014

          @ Johnny

          It doesn’t matter if you’re an American, African, etc; scammers will still scam foreigners.

        • brian
          February 11 2017


          you’re a retard. The Americans did make a mistake going there, but this doesn’t give the people a free pass to be rude assholes to people who go there to spend money and support the country.

          • Alex
            February 12 2017

            Hey Brian, I really debated deleting this comment. Please don’t call people names here. Criticism is welcome, name-calling is not.

        • gus
          May 13 2024

          they treat everyone, including one another, the same way, which is to say in an incredibly crude and grotesque manner. the classic story, the tale of kieu, sums it up. as do several other old vietnamese poets who are banned or mocked out of existence. i’ve lived in vietnam ten years. not proud to admit that and hopefully on my way out. im tired of seeing mothers pimp their own daughters to foot their gambling habits and gucci bags. initially you turn a blind eye and / or make excuses such as poverty. but eventually you see the wealthy are the biggest offenders, and then it’s just nauseating.

    • Just a common person
      April 25 2013

      Hello there, Im vietnamese and I completely agree with you. That is my feeling when i travel in vietnam. Vietnamese people are like that, of course not all of them but a lot. Very annoying and i always wonder whats wrong with these people. Dont they think about long term benefit? But ithink they can not. I have know a many vietnamese people thousand, but only few of them I can trust and have a friendship. They cheat you all the time. You never know whats going on. I think as a foreign tourist you should send this article to the tourist office in vietnam. They would appreciate it if they really want to develope.

    • Johnny
      May 29 2014

      What a load of rubbish. I’ve been living and working in Vietnam for over two years and have barely seen one of the horrible things you describe, I’ve noticed a nasty cycle of people bitching and moaning about Vietnam and after a little research have found that it is actually the travellers who behave badly, not the locals, They come to the country with a despicable sense of entitlement, yet fail to realise that it is actually they who are in a negative frame of mind which is easily noticeable and very very unattractive, how would you like it if foreigners came to your country and behaved like cautious little chickens, picking around and inspecting every thing you did with distrust and suspicion?

      • Alex
        May 29 2014

        Johnny, I’m happy for you that you’ve lived in Vietnam for two years without any negative experiences. That’s lovely. As you can see from the many many comments here, others have had a different experience. I’m happy for all readers to share theirs, positive or negative, but I’d appreciate it if we didn’t get nasty about it.

        • Ed
          May 26 2015

          I’m also interested in these experiences. A lot of people have them, but as someone who’s lived in Saigon for 3.5 years, I’ve had mostly positive experiences. Might be something to do with being a white guy of unthreatening height who’s always smiling and doesn’t mind a little haggling.

          One point on the reception of Americans — I think it’s a pretty widely-experienced thing, Americans are actually super well-received in Vietnam, especially by the younger people. It’s one of the best things to me about this country, that people are so quick to forget old ways of thinking and embrace new ones (of course, it’s a double-edged sword sometimes…). After all, if they were still carrying grudges from 40 years ago, there wouldn’t be one unified country we could call Vietnam.

          • JOHNNY 2
            June 22 2019

            Come on guys, you lived there for 2 , he lived there for 3.
            Just google “Vietnam Terrible Experience” or “Vietnamese Rude”

            This stuff doesn’t come up with ANY other country.
            Just accept the fact their civil war started BEFORE the Americans showed up.

            There’s no culture in Vietnam, but you can stay in denial as much as you want.

      • mark mullally
        July 24 2014

        very interested in info you could provide, we are thinking of taking a couple of years out travelling vietnam laos and cambodia, ie rental prices 1 bed aparts, living costs, ie how much a month for a couple to live, many thanks.

  • Nadia
    February 1 2012

    I really enjoy these types of post. You do an excellent job of displaying cultural sensitivity and criticism simultaneously. Well done!

    • Alex
      February 1 2012

      Thanks Nadia! I definitely take more care with my words when I’m being critical. I try to think of the positive interaction I had with people I met in Vietnam and what they would think if they were reading it. Would they think I was being fair?

      • Tri Ly
        April 17 2012

        Hi Alex,

        I came across your site and would like to thank you for the posting. I have grown up in Vietnam and came to stay in the US for a while and see the perspective of both. I surely don’t think Vietnamese people is looking at American as they were in the war, or because of government one-sided propaganda. The sad thing is that in big cities like HCM city, there’s huge amount of migrants along with many problems that the government has not been able to address. Problems in big cities like this in Vietname is typical but not typical of the Vietnamese people and tradition, I just cannot give an definite answer.
        I hope you had more pleasant experience elsewhere in Vietnam, especially if you had a chance to visit towns in the central part. I’m from Nha Trang and I’m proud of its beautiful beach and a more quiet way of life.


        • Alex
          April 17 2012

          Hi Tri, Thanks for your comment. I visited Nha Trang during my trip to Vietnam (you can find the posts by typing “Nha Trang” into the search box). I loved it! We went diving, went to the mud baths, had a great time. It is a beautiful place.

  • Dad
    February 1 2012

    I hope someone picks this up and gives wider distribution. It is an eye-opener.

    • Alex
      February 1 2012

      Nomadic Matt (who I linked to in this post) just wrote a story for the Huffington Post about why he will never return to Vietnam. He had a pretty similar experience to us!

  • Kathryn
    February 1 2012

    Al, maybe send this to the Vietnam Minister of Tourism? They can’t change what they don’t perceive to be a problem. You are balanced enough in your evaluation that someone just might listen.

    • Alex
      February 1 2012

      I think I’m far from the first person to bring this up, internet or otherwise. I mean, The Economist is the one who found that statistic on the low return rates!

  • Jade - ourOyster.com
    February 1 2012

    I have to totally agree with you! Vietnam was my least favourite place in Asia – just knowing that everyone was out to rip me off was enough to put me off of Vietnam. I would never go back either

    • Alex
      February 2 2012

      Believe it or not, I think I will go back! I just can’t leave Asia without seeing Halong Bay! But I’m not optimistic about changing my opinions about Vietnam… I’ve heard that the North is even harsher towards westerners.

      • Hân
        August 13 2014

        Yes, sadly it’s the truth,I’m a southerner and we are the friendliest here. And the North people…well, you best not involve in any argument with them. The young one can yell at you so rhythm that even I have to bow down, and the older one can look like a tiger especially women, really, don’t do that. Even us native can be rip-off just like you.

        • Halle
          January 27 2015

          You are criticizing on your own people. There are good and bad people living in the same place, all over the world. You cannot judge everyone basing on a certain person, especially when getting that point of view from some rumors, don’t you?
          Anyway, it is a sad but true fact that we need to be united, to change, to raise people’s awareness, to work on it, not to devaluate another people from different parts of country.

      • Phong
        July 13 2016

        In my personal opinion, Sa Pa and Ninh Binh are far better places than Ha Long bay. So if you come back and got some more time I do recommend seeing those two places in the North.
        I’m a Vietnamese, I do see why you’ve had negative experiences with the people which is fine. But if you ever had a chance to live, not just to travel, the country a little longer you might find another charming side of it 🙂

        • Alex
          July 13 2016

          Hey Phon, thanks for the recommendations! I’ll definitely add them to my list for next time 🙂

  • Karla Stride
    February 2 2012

    I totally enjoy reading your posts. Very raw. Great job Alex! I will be travelling to Vietnam next week for the first time. Went to Bali a couple of years back and I had a terrible time. Coming from Philippines I thought I was well prepared. Now I am dreading going to Vietnam although I am very much excited about Mui Ne.

    I hope one day you’ll be able to visit Philippines. We are pretty much behind Vietnam in terms of tourism sadly but I’m sure you will have a great time there. Maybe I am biased but of all the places I have been to in SEA. Philippines has so much more to offer with over 7, 107 islands!

    • Alex
      February 2 2012

      Oh no, I hope I haven’t put you off your trip! Mui Ne was by far the most hassle free place we visited. I don’t know why, maybe we were used to it by then 🙂 The Philippines is definitely on my bucket list. I hope to get there in 2012! It will be hard because I will want to see so much as the visa on arrival is only 21 days! Maybe I’ll have to get the 3 months visa.

      • Karla Stride
        February 2 2012

        Not at all. Mark & I are very much looking forward to Mui Ne!

        Yay! Glad to hear that. Will look forward to reading all about your PH experiences here. I heard that they might extend the visa on arrival to 30 days soon. Plus the Airport Fee that used to be P750 will come down to P550 from this month. Must see: Coron, Donsol, Batanes, Bohol, Cebu & Mt. Pinatubo!

  • Fidel
    February 2 2012

    Obviously, I think, every one is going to have their own unique experiences in a place. When I first went to Thailand solo (not with my Navy ship), I vowed that I wouldn’t return after the scams I had to deal with. After a few weeks, my anger subsided and I went back recently and now I am completely in love with the country, people and food.
    My first trip to Vietnam was to Da Nang and Hue (with my ship). I returned last year when I went solo to Hanoi and Halong Bay.
    There is definitely a huge difference in North and Central Vietnam. I think if you went to Hanoi, you’d experience less of the scams, more of the culture and friendliness. Central and Southern Vietnam were more scarred by the American and French wars there, then the North. Perhaps that is why things are a little different with respect to the attitude toward Westerners. I can’t be certain of my opinion though.
    Also, in the central and southern parts of the country, you will find a lot of displaced former ARVN officers who lost their citizenship and passports after the American War ended. These are a people without a country and that was passed down to their children. Thus, hustling is the only way of survival for them.
    I hope you return, at least to the North. It’s a beautiful country as you saw and the culture, food and atmosphere is amazing.

    • Alex
      February 3 2012

      I was hoping you would comment Fidel, as I know you are in the “Love It” team when it comes to Vietnam. It’s interesting that you say the North would be better for travel, as I’ve heard others say the exact opposite! But as I am definitely returning to Vietnam to explore the North someday, I hope that you are the one who is right! I really look forward to giving Vietnam a second chance and exploring Halong Bay and the rest of the treasures up North…

      • Sam
        May 10 2015

        Hi, Alex. I ran into your blog while searching for Ho Chi Minh city zoo’s objective perceptions. I’m originally from Saigon (as I prefer calling my home city that name), I was shocked and really sad after my trip to the zoo a few years back. I was closed to tears when I saw annoyed chimpanzees (there was this one that kept turning its back to the visitors and hiding its face in the loop of a rubber tyre with a sulky attitude. I noticed it, I tried walking around the cage to face it but it changed the position every time I got near, even got this tyre around its neck to keep from being seen at any angle), irritated tigers that marching around, depressed lions that slept all the time, nonchalant chained elephants, etc. I got overwhelmed and obsessed with the idea that this whole thing is totally wrong. And I wanted to see if there’s anybody feels the way I do, so your blog and posts are really helpful and relevant. All you were saying is sad but true. I appreciate your raw emotions when you talked about my country. I especially favor the word “mean spirited” that you used. It is really what it is. It’s truly stressing to deal with all these mean people in every day life that I have escaped to Finland for a change. It’s not that I don’t love my home country, but it just scarred me a great deal. However, there’s one thing I feel the need to tell you. Southerners are really nicer than people from the North. We Southerners actually don’t view Westerners as war enemy, we in fact believe Northerners invaded and stole our life and chased away our alley Americans. Life has become more miserable since they came. Scams are everywhere, not more or less in any particular place. But there’s one thing you should know, which I’m a hundred percent honest with you, (if you could speak Vietnamese and distinguish its accents, you’ll know), Saigon nowadays is the land of Northern immigrants. Most of true Saigonese had escaped on their boats to the States and other countries after the 1975 event. So basically Northern people just ruined it there in the South. They ruined everything. They keep their deceitful trait as an asset and have imported their scams to the land that’s feeding them. I don’t quite understand when some foreign visitors said the North is better. I don’t know what kind of experience they had had, but I personally think it’s probably because there’s less people there, all the cheaters have come to the South to make ends meet there.

        • Alex
          May 16 2015

          I’m sorry to hear your trip to the zoo was similarly disturbing. I hope those poor animals get a break one of these days 🙁 Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    • HQT
      June 19 2013

      I stumbled across your blog, Alex. I enjoyed reading this post and the comments and was waiting to see when the “Love it” team would start commenting…
      Well Fidel, I am sorry to say but I think you are on crack when you say “if you went to Hanoi, you’d experience less of the scams”, “Central and Southern Vietnam were more scarred by the American and French wars”. You clearly don’t know the many sides of Vietnam or its history. And your comments about children of former ARVN officers survive by hustling… well, you are seriously on crack!
      I’d be happy to address those points and more, but let’s face it, if you are in the “Love it” team, not much will change your mind, and vice versa.

      • Alex
        June 19 2013

        Hey HQT, I appreciate your kind words on this post which took a lot out of me to write. However I think it’s a bit harsh to say that Fidel is “smoking crack” and assume he doesn’t know much about history. I know Fidel is very well traveled and has a unique perspective from him time in the Navy, and I appreciate his comments here.

    • Audun
      January 13 2014

      The scams are just as frequent in the north as elsewhere in Vietnam, believe me. I spent two weeks there, traveled from Hanoi, through Hue and Hoi An, then on to Con Dao and back to Ho Chi Minh. The scams are everywhere, and I probably saw more of them in Hanoi and Ha Long than in the south. The owner of the hostel I stayed at in Saigon even stole money (2000 Thai bath) from my ex-girlfriends purse. I confronted her and she acted like a complete fool. I left shortly after. Having traveled to more than 40 countries, NEVER has a country left me with such bad feelings as Vietnam. And it’s a big shame as the country itself is truly beautiful. The same can’t be said about the average Vietnamese person.

  • Cat
    February 3 2012

    So very interesting. I’m definitely a grain of salt and open mind type person or at least try to be. But, Vietnam is one of those places I have reservations about and wonder if I’m ok with just seeing photos and reading the stories. Your experience reminded me much of Nomadic Matt’s. Also, I have a Vietnamese friend from high school that returned with her mother about a year ago to visit family and even looking and being locals in a way, they still experienced many of the same things (i.e. scams) you did which surprised me. Ditto the other commenters, I think you did a really great job of expressing your experiences respectfully(?).

    • Alex
      February 3 2012

      Thanks for that, Cat. I try! Matt and I are friends in real life and he warned me about his experience before I ever went. Like you I’m a “grain of salt” person, as you say, and so I was of course going to see for myself! And I’m very glad I did, despite the fact that we came to many of the same conclusions.

  • egwg
    February 4 2012

    I got sick of the constant overcharging in Vietnam. The bargaining at the markets are not good-natured either. When I responded with a low price for obviously counterfeit goods, I was met with curses in Vietnamese. I don’t speak Vietnamese, but it seemed equivalent to “go to hell”.

    • Alex
      February 4 2012

      It’s true! I’m very used to bargaining from the markets in Thailand and Cambodia (though I admit I’m a horrible bargainer). But in Vietnam no one would budge! I was really surprised because I thought bargaining was something ingrained in South East Asian culture.

  • Brett Johnston
    February 4 2012

    Vietnam comparative to Thailand

    Thai population 2/3 Viet.

    1.5 times more Sq area in Thai

    Mountainous regions with bitterly poor.

    Investment in Thailand – never ended.
    Sanctions on Vietnam – pretty regular.

    Total destruction of ruling party 12 times or more in Vietnam.

    Total love of the Thai King – ask a Thai!

    Attitude in Vietnam – FTW
    Attitude in Thailand – $%#% real cheap.

    Sorry if you got tour problems girl. But I got 99 problems and touring isn’t one.

    • Alex
      February 4 2012

      First of all, I wasn’t on a tour in Vietnam. I did take one day tour (the Cu Chi Tunnels) but the rest of our trip was DIY.

      If you are using “tour problems” to mean “tourism problems,” then yes, I realize that I’m talking luxury issues here. But I do think that if a country is going to actively promote itself as a tourism destination, it needs to work towards making itself a welcoming place to guests. Just as those guests need to act respectfully and be culturally aware. And that 3% return rate WILL be a problem for Vietnam if it hopes to be a major tourism destination!

      • Brett Johnston
        February 4 2012

        I thought the first rule of travel diaries was never to believe you need the place to change to suit you.

        I don’t want to get in the way of your politics.

        Why not just delete your posts about Vietnam if it was full of bad memories? Tear down all those photos of Mui Ne – not fit for tourists!

        • Alex
          February 4 2012

          Hi Brett. I can see I’ve touched a nerve here by criticizing a country that must be very special to you. However I think it is possible to have both good and bad memories from a place. And by posting both the good (my Mui Ne photos) and the bad (the experiences in this post) I am being honest to my experience. To me, that is the first rule of travel diaries.

          • Brett Johnston
            February 4 2012

            I’m just not convinced you know what you’re saying. Good luck with it!

          • HQT
            June 19 2013

            I don’t understand, Brett. What do you mean she doesn’t know what she’s talking about? She was talking about HER experience! And you know what you are talking about?! WTF!

          • gus
            May 13 2024

            after ten years in vietnam, and on my way out, alex is actually going easy on vietnam. the reality is far more disturbing.

  • paul | walkflypinoy
    February 4 2012

    i can totally relate to the sentiments here but not because of the same reasons you have. i still haven’t put my finger on it yet (i’m currently in central vietnam traveling south to north), but my experience here is still generally mixed. some parts i like, some not so much. maybe it’s that their culture is not as accessible as their neighbors here. i dunno.

    on another note, good to hear that you have my country (philippines) in your travel bucket list this 2012. try to go march to may. traveling during the monsoon season isn’t really fun.

    • Alex
      February 4 2012

      Hi Paul! I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who feels this way. It is definitely a feeling that is hard to articulate, but I like what you say about the culture being less accessible.

      So, March to May is a short window period for visiting Philippines! How long is the monsoon?

      • paul | walkflypinoy
        February 4 2012

        nah. you can still travel during the monsoon. weather can be a hit and miss though. and yeah, long monsoon, lasts june to december. now that i think about it. jan and feb would be good, too. haha. it’s just march to may is really the philippine summer. 😉

        • Alex
          February 7 2012

          I will keep that in mind! It’s so hard to travel through South East Asia sometimes trying to balance all the monsoons and wet seasons!

  • Peter
    February 6 2012


    Sorry to hear that you had a rough go in Vietnam. We found smiles were a bit more difficult to come by in Vietnam than other places. The politics aside – and to be honest, it’s very difficult to put politics aside when speaking of Vietnam – it’s just a challenging country in many ways. I enjoyed some of the history but that’s only because I find the Vietnam stroy interesting. If I were not interested in the history, it would be tough to convince me to go again.

    Laos on the other hand…

    • Alex
      February 7 2012

      Hi Peter…. I agree, I found learning about the history of Vietnam to be one of the most interesting parts. It was difficult to hear, of course, because much of the painful parts were inflicted by my home country. And of course as I’ve mentioned I don’t think the information was presented in the most productive way. But I’m still so grateful to be able to hold down a semi-intelligent conversation on a topic I previously didn’t understand a thing about! As for Laos…. I can’t wait to get there!

  • Jade
    February 6 2012

    Being Vietnamese-Canadian, and having visited the country 15 times prior, I can tell you I completely understand where you are coming from. Being born there did not prevent me from being scammed (and I speak the language!). Obviously the more tourist heavy places had more unpleasant experiences, and I’m sure if you went “off the beaten track” you would have had nicer encounters. Are the people hardened due to past atrocities? I don’t know, but I can tell you it isn’t changing anytime soon. It has gotten worse as more tourists visit (from what I’ve experienced). It is a way of thinking and being as a culture, and it doesn’t change after emigrating to other countries. Good job on your article. You walked a delicate line and managed to get across!

    • Alex
      February 7 2012

      Hi Jade, thanks for commenting! Your insight as a Vietnamese-Canadian is fascinating. I am sure that I would have had a completely different experience had we gone “off the beaten track” but with only three weeks and a mild case of travel fatigue we stayed very firmly on it. It’s interesting to hear that more tourism only makes it worse, and that even you, appearing and speaking as a local, experienced scams. I’m not sure what to make of it, but it definitely adds another element to the mystery that is Vietnamese tourism!

  • Learn
    February 9 2012

    Lol uh… it’s not a scam. Paying for motorbike parking is standard practice in Vietnam. They’re providing you a service. Without them your motorbike could be gone by the time you get back. Then you’d really have something to sulk about…

    • Alex
      February 9 2012

      Well, I’m sure you can agree that parking scams exist, and in these cases that’s what it was 🙂 In the first case, we were at an aquarium and there was a clear sign in English stating that motorcycle parking was free. The attendant tried to charge us. In the second case, we were at a cable car and the parking attendant wrote on the ticket and tried to double the stated fare. We paid the amount printed on the ticket and didn’t give in to his game. In the third case, a child tried to extort us for parking on a public street. Perhaps you say this is “standard practice.” Well, we didn’t want to give money to a child threatening to turn us into the police so we moved the bike across the street and all was fine.

      In my world, those are scams! And I’m happy to say we didn’t give into any of them.

      • Learn
        February 10 2012

        That’s great, meanwhile the locals behind you are presumably paying the price as requested. And you get away with paying nothing because the attendant doesn’t speak enough of your language to explain the situation to you. The ticket book could’ve been printed years ago, 5000 dong is the usual parking fee these days. It’s not a wealthy country, and they’re not a wasteful people. It’s just as likely they were just using the same old ticket booklet until it ran out. And perhaps that sign is only applicable to actual customers of the aquarium? Perhaps you needed to get parking validated at the ticket office? Who knows? Not you… One English sign doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s not the local language and things are frequently mistranslated. Or did you think those really were “bugers” on the backpacker menu too?

        Sometimes you gotta just accept that not everyone is out to get you, there may be perfectly legitimate explanations to cultural quirks you’re not familiar with. You’re a guest in a country that has different customs to your own, so it’s respectful tread lightly, not storm off in a huff. But I guess it’s easier for foreigners to go stomping around like they own the place and anything they don’t understand is a “scam”. Never realising it’s behaviour like that which perpetuates the environment of suspicion and mistrust greeting newly arrived tourists and makes it harder for everyone else who comes after.

        • Alex
          February 10 2012

          Can I ask you a serious question? Do you really believe scams don’t happen in Vietnam, or South East Asia as a whole? I accept that sometimes people mistakenly believe they are being scammed. Can you accept that sometimes they legitimately are scammed?

          In the first case, we were customers of the aquarium! The sign was extremely clear that there was a charge for cars, but motorcycles were free. In the second case, I made sure when we went in to buy our tickets for the cable car to ask the employee how much the parking should be. She named the price printed on the tickets, not the one penciled in by the attendant.

          I certainly don’t think I’m always right…. but in this case I am 🙂 Those were scams, plain and simple.

          • Learn
            February 10 2012

            Yes there are legitimate scams, sometimes involving tens of thousands of dollars.

            This is not one of them. If anything, it’s a guy who earns 7 bucks a day trying to scrape together a few more pennies.

            Funny how in these tales the tourist is always 100% in the clear.

            Happy stomping!

          • Alex
            February 10 2012

            The definition of a scam is a deceit designed with the scammer’s gain in mind. Ergo, these are scams, even if they are small ones. It sounds harsh, but if I were to give fifty cents to everyone in the world making less than 7 bucks a day, I’d go broke. I help when I can and when I want to. Not when someone cheats me.

            I’m sorry if what I’ve written here struck a chord. What I experienced there struck a chord with me. And if you read through the many comments here, you will see that I’m not the only one.

          • ADT
            September 20 2016

            Personally, anyone who says scam doesn’t happen in Vietnam on a regular basis is either lying, or blissfully ignorant. I’m a Vietnamese living in Hanoi. I should know a thing or two.

            Now regarding parking ticket, parking at coffee shops, restaurants and a very few other locations are free. The rest you’ll have to pay 3000 to 5000 dong. 10-20000 on holidays and special occasions.Yes, most of them are scams. But it’s not on a personal level. People bribe the local police to set up shops, parking lots, etc in public places, and you can either find an unclaimed spot and risk your bike or just pay what? less than 25 cent? And parking lot signs are more of a… lax guidelines. Some are there because people are to lazy to change them or take them down.

            It’s true though, that they might have tried to scam you for the cable ride ticket. These things happen. To everyone. It’s not so much the war or government propaganda or prejudice against foreigner. A lot of those people that you deal with on the street are poor, beaten down by the corrupt system, and ill-educated. There’s a post-war pre-1986 period where EVERYONE was on a sort of mandatory welfare (Imagine North Korea) thus leaving the older and generation with a nasty hoarder mentality: get what you can when and where ever you can.

            Locals get scammed much more often for a lot more than you guys, even more so if you’re a local tourist. People try to scam me a lot. Cutthroat pricing, counterfeit goods and everything. It’s a weird ass country.

            Not trying to defend Vietnam or discredit your point of view. I’m just offering some native insight on the matter other than ‘snob tourists’ and ‘sorry for my shit country’.

          • Alex
            September 22 2016

            Hey ADT, thanks for offering your perspective. Very insightful!

  • Andy Do
    February 15 2012

    Hi all

    I am a Vietnamese born Australian who’d spent more than 2/3 of my life growing up in Australia and only had been living and working here in Vietnam for the past 5 yrs. Being Vietnamese myself (fluent in Vietnamese/ completely understand the culture) still for the past 5 yrs since coming to Vietnam there has not been a day go by that I didn’t find something to complain about. I mean I walk and talk like the locals but that doesn’t exempt me from scams. In fact it’s even worse than one can let their imagination runs wild.

    For example : I was eating out at a food stall on the side walk(only just a couple of months ago) ordering the same dish as the guy at the next table, when the bill came it was almost twice the price for me simply because they can work out from my accent that I am an overseas Vietnamese. I was so very annoyed but didn’t want to make such a scene. Paid the bill and sworn never to come back, mind you this happen in a very OFF THE BEATEN TRACK city. ( my freaking birthplace)

    Moved into a new place in HCM city went shopping with my Aunty (a local) just 2 wks ago, bought some laundry baskets, my Aunty managed to haggle to half the original price, I was so shock (haggling was never an issue in Australia).

    Another shocking story was when my cousin (another local) who managed negotiate to only 1/6 of the original price. I mean I am completely shocked.

    I mean it’s has gotten to a point where I would be window shopping for what I want then get my local friends or relative to buy them for me cause I really hate HAGGLING.

    Being here for 5 yrs I must admit this is only a very minor issue amongst the many thousand of issues I had to deal with on a daily basis.

    I constantly complain to my local friends and relos and was told that it has long become a culture soon after the war ended, life was too tough and people would do anything to make sure that they will make ends meet. Even if it means that they will have to rip others off. Of course I understand but My question is “ HOW MANY YRS AGO HAS THE WAR ENDED ? “

    Becoming a culture ? yes I can see that very clearly now. Since I myself had on many occasions falling victim to the so called CIRCUMSTANCES.

    For those of you who think that somebody (GOV) should do something to better lift the reputation and the image of the tourism industry in Vietnam. Rest assured that it is only a very flimsy wish.

    I mean it’s a very pretty place plagued with an amazingly unhealthy belief. I am sadden but not supprized of such low return rate cause I myself despite my connection and how proud I am being of Vietnamese origin. If I must choose then surely Vietnam will not be on my much preferred list.

    I feel really sad having came across so many blogs which has more negative things to say about Vietnam. Problem is I can’t agree with them more


    • Alex
      February 15 2012

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your interesting perspective. I have to say, living in Asia I’ve mostly gotten used to the foreigner/local pricing and the haggling. I’m not very good at bargaining and haggling though so I leave it to my boyfriend. I was quite surprised that in Vietnam our feeble attempts to bargain the way we would in other Southeast Asian countries was totally rebuffed. I assumed it was because they thought we deserved the ridiculously inflated prices they were quoting!

      • Andy Do
        February 16 2012

        Hi Alex.

        I completely understand how you feel as I myself despite being of Vietnamese origin, I constantly have to deal with such nonsense on a daily basis, ridiculously inflated prices, 1 meter of fabric turns out to be 0.95m, 1 kilo of food weights 800-900 grams and when you question, they simply shrugged and claimed that “EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT. THAT’S HOW THINGS ARE DONE HERE”. The first time I heard it I was like WHAT THE F***, I know it’s wrong to generalize and of course not everybody here in Vietnam is doing it however the majority of whom I have come across seemed to have the same trading personas.

        Don’t get me wrong, I love Vietnam as a country and what it has to offer (of course I do cause it’s where I was born), I love the culture and the people, those who practice it of course ( many don’t practice what they preach). What i find rather annoying is the lack of respect for others being locals or foreigners.

        My advice to you guys is to always half the going price when you haggle especially when you shop at the markets and sidewalk stalls, otherwise please shop at the supermakets where prices are marked and there is no need for haggling.

        Please don’t let this rapacious trading mentality spoil your trip and your potential relationship with Vietnam. Surely you will get to see the positive sides of the country


        • carolina
          December 15 2013

          hello andy, i just found this site and i wonder if you are still in vietnam, im from Nicaragua and i been in vietnam for 2 months so far, and gonna stay till end of january, but im having hard time meeting vietnamese people and its being difficult also in different aspects that alex already mentioned in the post, cuz i experienced my self all that, i would like to meet vietnamese people, the well educated one, that are open to talk and interact with a foreigner. hope to hear from you soon,

          • Andy do
            February 12 2014

            hi Carolina

            i am so sorry for my belated reply, i have been so busy with work for the past few months and had not anytime to visit this forum, just found your message today, i am so sorry too that you are having such a hard time here in Vietnam, it must have been so difficult for you i am sure, it’s a shame that i did not see your message earlier.
            anyway, you must have left the country by now and i am sure you did so without much fond memories of this lonely heartless place, yes i am still living and working here, it won’t be long now when i myself must pack up and return to Australia where ironically enough feels more like home to me than this so called ” birth place” place of mine.
            don’t think too much about it dear, one way or another we are all bound to have bad experiences at almost whatever we do.
            on behalf of a True blue Vietnamese, overseas Vietnamese that is, i wish you the best of luck, best of health and the greatest of wealth, should you ever have to return to Vietnam, please drop me a line on the email. andycm.do@gmail.com , would love to meet up over coffee or something, i hate how the locals here are treating foreigners, they give Vietnam and Vietnamese in general a really bad name.


  • Athena
    February 16 2012

    You have such a nice shot at Vietnam. Thanks for sharing your experiences there despite the feeling that you couldn’t articulate it… They are hard on a foreign like you maybe because they don’t want their country to be a tourist spot, they want they’re country to be peaceful.

    • Alex
      February 16 2012

      It’s true that perhaps some people don’t want the country to become a tourist location. Unfortunately for now, the government is still promoting it that way, leaving travellers to believe that they are more than welcome!

  • Tammy
    March 5 2012

    Very informative blog. I never realized that Vietnam was that interesting.

  • Sherry
    March 20 2012

    Beautiful country to visit but based on what you have said I do not think that I would like to go there for a vacation.

  • saigondude
    April 10 2012

    For what it is worth, I’ve used ‘The Sinh Tourist’ bus service for almost all my point-to-point travel in Vietnam and have found it professional every time. On the other hand, I once took a rand-o-bus from Saigon to Vung Tau and they made about 5 stops along the way and even crammed someone’s home furnishings in next to me. So… my advice is to try and stick to highly reputable bus companies. ‘Mai Linh’ buses (and taxis) are good too.

    Also, you’re probably not going to get a ‘good deal’ in the markets if you’re a foreigner. I recommend patronizing branded chain stores, eating at the malls, etc.

    Lastly, if your visiting Saigon and you need a break from all the city-center clamor, head south to Phu My Hung’s Crescent Mall area to get some fresh air and go for a peaceful stroll.

    • Alex
      April 12 2012

      I will definitely keep the “Sinh Tourist” bus in mind when I return to Vietnam someday to explore the north! Luckily I’m not much of a shopper so didn’t have to deal with the haggling too much but when I do shop I prefer markets and such so it’s a shame its so difficult for foreigners! As you can see from my recent posts I’m mad about the markets in Bangkok!

  • Jenny
    April 13 2012

    I like your pictures, but I was curious bout the mode of transport that you were using as you relaxed with your laptop.

    • Alex
      April 15 2012

      Hi Jenny, good question. I felt comfortable showing my laptop as I was on a relatively short bus ride (about five hours!) and knew I wouldn’t be sleeping. Also, I was traveling with my boyfriend so I wasn’t nervous someone would follow me off the bus. If I was planning on sleeping or was traveling alone I would never flash something so valuable!

  • Shannon
    April 22 2012

    All I can say is that we as Americans need to open our eyes to the beauty that we have in this country. If you take a small pole you will find that the majority of Americans do not know or have not visited many of the beautiful sites in their homeland. Its time we begin to appreciate what we have.

  • Arlene
    April 26 2012

    I love the theme of your website and the play with the Alex(Alice) in Wonderland. I am not into Vietnam even though the photos are very good.

  • Vicky
    June 11 2012

    Great post. I too have read a lot of bloggers disappointed travel account of their time in Vietnam. The statistic you got in the Economist is just crazy – a 5% return rate in Vietnam compared to a 55% return rate – just goes to show you that most people must be having experiences similar to yours. My boyfriend and I are hoping to spend a month in Vietnam and I’m really hoping for a good experience. I’ve been looking into couchsurfing there because I think that might be a great way to find some locals to show you around, and recommended places to eat/see etc. Hopefully we’ll find some couchsurfers in the various cities we’ll visit. Do you ever couchsurf?

    • Alex
      June 12 2012

      Vicky I would never tell anyone not to go to Vietnam. Beautiful country but in my experience there is some serious hard work involved. So now for the bad news: Vietnam is not the best place to Couchsurf. The country is still communist and legally locals cannot host foreigners in a private residence without permission and permits from the government. So while you might find a few rule-breakers on there who haven’t been caught yet, don’t expect much more than a few foreign english teachers in the main cities. Cambodia and Thailand are much better bets for Couchsurfing! Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Chiang Mai have particularly active communities.

      • Vicky
        June 12 2012

        Thanks for the quick reply. I didn’t realize that legally locals can’t host foreigners without permission- thanks for the info. During the course of our trip we really want to focus on couchsurfing as much as we can because we think it’s a great way to interact with locals and learn insider views into the culture/economy of a country. It;s a shame it won’t be easy to find hosts in Vietnam. I did find one guy on couchsurfing in Hanoi who is very active in the community and instead of hosting people on the site he has put his apartment up on airbnb but it seems like he dedicates a lot of time to getting to know the people who stay with him and showing them around so I’m definitely going to contact him when we are in the area.
        Glad to hear that at least couchsurfing shouldn’t be a problem in Thailand and Cambodia!

        • Alex
          June 12 2012

          It will definitely give you great insight to travel that way! Mark, my ex, was very involved in the couchsurfing community so I learned a lot about it through him. Often we traveled in large groups or to remote areas so Couchsurfing didn’t often work for us, but I definitely see what draws people to it!

  • Earthdrifter
    June 15 2012

    Those minivan rides make me claustrophobic, and you often can’t get a good view of the countryside. I try my best to avoid them. The ride you’ve described sounds horrific. Unfortunately, as travelers, these things have to happen sometimes.
    As I’ve just spend 5 months in South America, it’s so hard for me to imagine rude locals. I always get a mixed view of Vietnam. If/when I finally make it, hopefully I’ll be on guard for scams. When buying something, if they start me off at six times the original price, I’ll be too repulsed to carry on with making a potential deal. Ideally, I would hope to embrace the challenges and find good in the land. Interesting post.

    • Alex
      June 16 2012

      Vietnam is a tough place. Its basically guaranteed that people will attempt to scam you and rip you off, and if you are unlucky there’s a chance you might be robbed or seriously scammed. I think some people love it and some people hate it, and it probably has mostly to do with that person’s attitude! I will try anew to have a better one the next time around!

  • ryan
    June 22 2012

    Wow! To anyone who might’ve wanted to but hasn’t yet had the opportunity to visit Vietnam would surely run the other way after reading Grace’s story/experience:

    “The everyday level of violence was also shocking to me (especially given other SE Asian countries). We were chased by a knife-wielding maniac, my boyfriend got punched (argument over a ticket scam), lots of hostile screaming, etc. And it wasn’t just because we were foreigners: I saw so many women routinely being kicked/hit/beaten; they often didn’t even react, because it was just another typical day.”

    I’m just so glad that I did have an opportunity to visit Vietnam and let’s just say my experience there was….ummm…nothing like yours, Grace. What I would like to know is where in Vietnam did you visit to have witnessed the shocking everyday violence, the knife-wielding maniac and those women routinely being kicked, hit and beaten? Based off your description I’m picturing a war zone, the kind of things I’d see on the nightly news broadcast happening somewhere in the Middle East. Chased by a knife-wielding manic. What did you do? Seemed to have left out quite a bit of information because I highly doubt that all this happened to you and your boyfriend because you were simply foreigners.

    Potential travelers to Vietnam listen: Will you be ripped off during your visit? Count on it. Will you experience rudeness? Be stared at? Your personal space violated? Yes..yes…and yes. But please if you do decide to go there, have an open mind. Know where you’re going and know that it will be different from which you came…people, food, culture, language will be different and as it should be because that’s why you’re traveling in the first place. To anywhere. You travel to experience the different. If you’re expecting to be treated as you are back home then there’s only place you should be, home.

    • Alex
      June 23 2012

      Hi Ryan, thanks for chiming in with your experience! Vietnam brings out a lot of emotions in people. I struggled with sharing my negative experiences because I would never want to discourage anyone from checking it out for themselves. Glad you had a positive experience, I hope to have one when I return!

  • Jasmine
    August 14 2012

    Wow, I’m so sad that your experience was so negative. Mine was completely the opposite. And I found the people reserved but extremely friendly, especially outside the main tourist areas. To be fair, I might get a bit grumpy too if I constantly had foreign tourists gawking at me while I was going about my daily routine! I wrote a review on TA about Vietnam not long after I returned home in 2010. Rather than repeat it all here, I would encourage people to click through on the following link, just for another perspective. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293921-i8432-k3804659-o10-What_to_expect-Vietnam.html#27637351

    • Alex
      August 14 2012

      Hi Jasmine, thanks for sharing your perspective! You know, like I said in the title of this post… Vietnam is a place you either love or hate. From talking to hundreds of backpackers while working on Koh Tao I determined Vietnam is one of the most divisive destinations in the world!

      I’m not sure what other destinations you visited in Southeast Asia, but in comparison to places like Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam did not come off as an overall friendly place to me. Of course I had encounters with absolutely lovely people, but they were overshadowed by negative ones. And I’ve never experienced scams on the level I did there. However, I would never say that my experience was overall negative. I saw beautiful places and had wonderful adventures, and I would recommend everyone to go themselves… and I would even return myself someday. But I did have many reservations about Vietnam that I did not have about its Southeast Asian neighbors… that was my experience, and that’s all I can share here!

      • Jasmine
        August 14 2012

        I’m glad you are willing to give at another go in the future. That is the measure of a true traveller… I had a similar experience with Cambodia. There were so many things I absolutely loved about it ( and I’m with you, I adored PP ), but I was also left slightly numbed by the level of poverty and desperation in some parts. But, also like you, I would go back in a heartbeat. Thailand was by far the easiest of the three as a tourist and exceedingly beautiful and friendly. Maybe that’s what I liked about Vietnam though. It was so different from anywhere else and it was such a challenge, that it really grabbed me. Still, if we all liked the same things, what a boring lot we would be. 🙂

        • Alex
          August 15 2012

          That’s a great sentiment, and I so agree… everyone has their own experiences and reactions, their own loves and hates!

  • Pham
    August 31 2012

    Great blog Alex!

    Really enjoy it! Anyway im a Vietnamese born in the Netherlands. I’m ashamed about the scams there, but beside that its a truly wonderful country if you dont go with the flow, but go offroad!


    • Alex
      August 31 2012

      Thanks Pham! I’m glad to hear from people familiar with the country that my feelings weren’t too off-base. I hope to return again someday because you are right… its a stunning country.

  • Quang
    November 10 2012


    I am a Vietnamese-American, and I have to admit your post is very interesting and you definitely have some good points in it.
    I have been away from Vietnam for almost 20 years, and have been back only once more than 10 years ago due to many reasons, but mainly budget constraint. I still keep in touch with my friends, and keep up with how things are back there. I would have no reservation to volunteer being your witness if you have to testify your stories in court.

    However, please allow me to offer a little view from the angle of a native Vietnamese with some (limited) understanding of American culture.
    First off, I would hope to spare the disappointments on the poor people, who are just trying to make a few dollars a day to get enough food to fill their stomach, for failing the obligation to bring Vietnam’s tourism to the world standards. The war ended in 1975, then come the isolation of the country by its government itself together with the sanction by the US. Sounded like a long time since the war ended, but really, it has been only a little more than 15 years since it had the opportunity to interact with the world. Yes, there are large number of people are still dirt poor, and willing to do anything, I mean anything, just to get enough food to eat. They care about Vietnam’s tourism statistics a little less than what they will have for lunch the next few hours.

    For my next point, I want to ask if you had any Vietnamese translator with you (I mean human translator, not google translate even though i adore google translate) during those bad experiences? Did you (and do you now) really understand what was really going on? For example, with the “go away” experience, do you know that most of the sellers in Vietnam believe that if the first person they interact in the day is just trying to talk without buying anything, they would not be able to sell anything for that day? Very likely you were the first lucky person the seller interacted for that day. I’m not saying it is right, I’m just saying it is their belief, and arguing somebody’s belief is basically the same as arguing religion.

    Finally, I heard some sad stories related to some backpack tourists in slum area on Pham Ngu Lao street. Some of them are un-employed in their native countries and stay there as permanent residents with little or no money. They often demand more for less, and very aggressive if not mean. Apparently, you are not one of them, but that doesn’t stop the native from developed the classification of “tourists” versus “pack back tourists”. They tend to expect the “tourists” to spend generously as they understand you travel when you have some spared money. Again, I’m not saying it is right, it is just a common belief, even among American people.

    Lastly, thank you for visiting Vietnam, taking such great pictures and sharing with us. Regard.

    • Alex
      November 13 2012

      Hi Quang,

      Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment and your many insights. It’s good to keep in mind that there is so much about new cultures we don’t know… such as the incident with the woman in the market and the superstition you shared here. Perhaps that is why she reacted to me that way, or perhaps she was just an unfriendly person (like there are in every country in the world), but I guess the point it to keep in mind we can never fully know another persons intentions especially when there are cultural differences.

      Thank you for being so respectful and kind in your comment, even while disagreeing!


  • Quang
    November 14 2012

    Hi Alex,
    Thank you for taking my comment positively.
    I guess when you travel as a pack back tourist, you interact mostly with the low level labor people with very little education, just trying to get food for the family. Smile to them, and you probably will get a smile back. but raise your voice to them, you sure will get a high pitch tone back. They can be fun to be with as long as we keep an open mind and don’t expect them to be the tourism experts. Those with higher education in Vietnam may do some jobs other than guarding your motorcycle for 5000VND ($0.25).
    You’re from New York City, I guess you must be familiar with those guys standing just before the Holland tunnel spraying water into your windshield as you stop for red light, and demand $3 for their “work”. Was I upset after I paid that 3 ridiculous dollars? I certainly was, for 30 minutes. Do I declare New York the worst city in the world that the New Yorkers are robbing me in daylight for $3 and the government does not care to do anything to help the visitors, and promise to myself never again to visit New York? You’re right, I don’t 🙂
    If I may give you a little bit of advice for your next trip, try to diversify the people you’re interacting. Don’t narrow your sample set to include only the sellers on your tourist trail. We have to accept the fact that the sellers are there to get your money, nicely or not so nicely. Try to talk to some college students, or college professors. They may not be all that nice, but you sure will have a different feeling. And I think they are even more “accessible” than the students in the US. If you visit Nha Trang again, try to stop by the college of education (truong Cao Dang Su Pham, address: 1 Nguyen Chanh, Nha Trang, right next to the beach) and kindly introduce yourself, and your desire to learn about the Vietnamese culture, you will be surprised of how you are received. Students there, especially students studying English, would be more than thrilled to have the opportunity to practice English with a native English speaker.
    And more importantly, if you happen to go there again, try to leave your friend nomadic Matt’s feeling at home, and leave your favorite author whoever wrote the deeply negative book about Vietnam at home, too. It wouldn’t help to have prejudice when trying to learn a new culture, assuming you want to learn.
    You’re definitely a very talented writer. Just try to be a little open minded. The earth is not all that flat. Anyway, I like your blog very much.

  • Sarah May Morris
    June 14 2013

    Hey Alex,

    That’s so unfortunate that you were part of so many unpleasant aspects of Vietnam! I went for the first time at the start of this year for a few months, and I absolutely loved it.

    I think it depends so much on the people (locals) you meet there and the way they treat you, I was travelling alone but was fortunate enough to meet SO many people who helped me out in any way they could.

    THis includes one night I was invited on to a fishing boat where some old monks were playing The Beatles songs on their mandolin and cooking some fish they caught that day. They then showed me around Hanoi for the next few days including meals at their family homes and making sure all street vendors gave me the ‘local’ price for everything.

    I can’t wait to go back!! Maybe one day you’ll head back and be lucky to meet some lovely people, who make ALL the difference!

    I have a few photos of the boat sing-along and some of my fonder memories here – https://emeraldandmay.blogspot.com.au/

    Good luck with your travels!! Sarah : )

    • Alex
      June 14 2013

      Well, as the title of my post says — some people love it, some people hate it 🙂 I’m glad to hear you had a great experience there! I hope I have the same when I eventually make it back someday.

  • HQT
    June 19 2013

    I like how people advise the author to keep an open mind, as if she was scammed and treated rudely by people because she was narrowminded!

    Take it for what it really is. Stop being apologists adn hiding behind “the country was devastated by the war” (so are many other countries), “the American embargoes” (I am sure the Vietnamese government’s failed economic policies had more to do with the country being so poor), “they only make a few dollars a day” (again, so are many other people; that doesn’t give them the licence to cheat nor is it okay to be cheated by them) excuses.

    And yes, I am Vietnamese. (Oh, another self-hating Vietnamese, you must say…)

  • Andrew Henderson
    July 17 2013

    While I wouldn’t say Vietnam would win any award for the #1 best country, I have yet to see that many of the scams you and others talk about. Not to say you didn’t have a bad experience, but I don’t know that it’s universal.

    Personally, I figure if someone’s best scam is screwing me out of $0.10, I’m cool with it. I understand that cheating is immoral (at least in my worldview), etc., but I try to be somewhat pragmatic. I do get angry when I feel cheated, but it’s usually when my hotel in Hanoi wants to charge me $80 an hour to record an audio interview in their conference room. Not when a taxi driver goes the wrong way and costs me an extra quarter.

    I do deal with touts and have had some people come right up to me and start cleaning my shoes or whatever else, but when I hang out with locals in Vietnam, I’ve had zero issues or even anything close to one. I figure any of the potential scams are in the tourist areas, and I’ve never encountered one that was any more than medium-pressure sales tactic I couldn’t walk away from.

    Personally, I find the biggest scams in the most expensive places. Besides the rip-off rates some nice international hotels charge for stuff (sometimes as much for wifi as an entire nights stay at a local hotel), the people at the airport seemed like the highest potential for problems. I had to make sure I was getting a Mobiphone SIM card even though the sign said… Mobiphone. They also sold Vinaphone cards there which I didn’t want. But it’s not like they tricked me. I just had to ask.

    Outside of airports and rip-off westerner hotels, I’ve seen few issues. Thanks for the thorough commentary, though.

    • Alex
      July 17 2013

      Hey Andrew, thanks for sharing your positive experience! I definitely don’t think my experience was universal, as I said in the post I’ve met a (granted small) group who absolutely rave about Vietnam.

      I don’t know why, and perhaps it shows a lack of character on my part, but it actually does annoy me sometimes when someone tries to cheat me out of $0.10! Maybe I need to work on that. I’m not really annoyed as much when I’m clearly getting charged a foreigner price for a banana at a market, but I certainly am when someone tries to charge me more than the printed price on a ticket somewhere, or when someone blatantly lies in order to get me to part with my money.

      But oh. Don’t get me started on hotels charging for wifi. That’s a post of its own! 🙂

    • Kimber
      August 8 2013

      Pfew, glad you wrote this Andrew. I’m leaving for Vietnam in 3 weeks and although I think I’m well prepared this kind of shocked me. Well, hope my experiences will be simular to yours!

      • Alex
        August 9 2013

        Definitely go with an open mind Kimber, and I wish you all the best! I think sometimes being aware and prepared of the possible negatives can be good as well though in helping you avoid them 🙂

        • Kimber
          August 12 2013

          Thanks Alex! I think you have a point there. Just discovered your blog and I’m going to follow you. Keep up the good work :).

  • Nguyen Helen
    August 4 2013

    Thanks for an interesting article. In my opinion, although having some bad things, Vietnam is very alluring with natural beauties, tranquil villages, ancient pagodas and beautiful lakes which we should visit once in my life.

  • Sean
    August 11 2013

    Hey Alex,

    First off, a very informative read. I think you were fair in your comments, and truthful in your relaying of experiences.

    Having traveled throughout Vietnam earlier in March this year for 3 weeks like yourself, I have to say that I had a similar experience to you. Like you, I traveled to Vietnam with an open mind. Despite hearing form countless people that “the people weren’t friendly”, that they “would try and rip you off” etc. etc., I kept all such pre-judgements from my mind when I landed in Hanoi early one morning in late March.

    I spent the next few weeks traveling down to the south. One positive thing I loved about Vietnam was the open bus ticket concept. For $42 an open bus ticket from North to South? Great value! And the food was amazing. What I would do for a nice bowl of pho right now…

    However, unfortunately, I cannot say that I enjoyed all of my time there. The culture and the food and the history and scenery is certainly amazing. Granted. But I did not feel hardly any warmth or genuine respect from the people for the most part. Plus I had my fair share of scams.

    One that comes to mind is when my girlfriend and I did an overnight tour to Halong Bay. Not usually a fan of tours I thought what the hell this time. To cut a long story short, we were sold on a tour that would include a night on a traditional junk. When we got to Halong Bay we were told this was not possible, and we would be sleeping on the mainland.

    This was not a BIG deal for me, but it was annoying. Of course, stuff like this happens everywhere in SE Asia, but it seems as if it happens disproportionately more in Vietnam than in other countries.

    Again, this is not to say that I had no positive experiences in Vietnam. Of course I did! The country is beautiful and we definitely met some nice, warm, and genuine locals along the way.

    But one has to be fair in their appraisal of Vietnam in considering both the positive and the negative. One can still be open minded and yet cast a negative vote on their experience in a country. Having an open mind certainly does not mean that you cannot make a judgement on something. That is ridiculous!

    Whenever I would comment to other travelers in the North that the people seemed unfriendly, a frequent response was just to go down South. Apparently people were friendlier the further you traveled South. Again, unfortunately I did not find this to be the case.

    Will I go back? To be honest, I initially planned on spending 4 weeks in Vietnam. So far, Vietnam is the only country I traveled to in my whole life where I actually wanted to leave before I had to (for visa reasons). Yet, I have to say that I will still go back. Probably to the South though – and I know how some of you feel about Saigon – still I didn’t get to really sink my teeth in that one. Call me a masochist? But perhaps I will just go for a week or so, and then leave.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts after you re-visit good old Vietnam :p

    Anyway, thanks Alex for the great blog you have here – which I stumbled upon. You now have a new subscriber! Woot!


    • Alex
      August 12 2013

      Hey Sean, it sounds like many of our experiences really echoed each other. I agree with you on basically all points, including that I would return. However my experiences were exclusively in the South, so when I return it will be to see the North!

      Oh and thanks for subscribing! Looking forward to more of your insightful comments.

  • Nekoemon
    August 19 2013

    Hey Alex

    I like your post. Especially when you say “I had happy memories of buses with cracked windshields, no suspension, a constantly blaring horn and equally loud Khmer pop music videos playing. I found it charming. Here’s the difference in Vietnam: It was all so mean-spirited. ”
    You say it all here, Vietnam could be a great place even as dysfunctional as it is, if people were not that uneducated, rude, greedy and selfish.
    Ah, if you think of travelling by train in Vietnam, you’d better learn how to be patient. Veeeery paaaatient. 🙂

    All the best

    • Alex
      August 19 2013

      Thanks for the warning about the trains 🙂 I can be very patient, assuming there is access to a functioning bathroom! Thanks for reading Alex in Wanderland!

  • Andy Do
    August 19 2013

    hi all.

    just a thought for you guys, perhaps it’s a good idea to get in touch with Vietnam Expat Blog to get some tips & advises before your arrival. i am sure the expats are more than eager to help.

    have fun in Vietnam to you all keep in mind that Scams will always be around doens’t matter where we go, perhaps we will encounter a lot more so in Vietnam, but don’t let that ruin your trip. just ignore and walk if something seems too good to be true.


    • Alex
      August 21 2013

      Thanks for the words of wisdom Andy! I think it is too bad that Couchsurfing is technically banned in Vietnam because I agree that getting the perspectives of locals and expats can be invaluable.

  • becky hutner
    August 20 2013

    Uh oh. As someone who’s been dreaming of visiting Vietnam her whole life & finally has the opportunity to do so this fall, I am shocked & concerned! Esp. since I have friends so firmly in the “love” camp. Well, thanks for all the warnings Alex & co. Here’s hoping my experience is a positive one…

    • Alex
      August 21 2013

      Wishing you the best of luck with that, Becky! I hope this doesn’t make you nervous… I think knowing others have had negative experiences and being aware of them can help you be prepared. Wishing you the happiest trip!

      • becky hutner
        August 23 2013

        Thanks Alex! Just thinking a little more on this & my apologies b.c. I know this is a bit far back in your archives & the last thing you probably need is another comment BUT…it dawned on me this week that my home city of Los Angeles is itself a very polarizing destination. A “cultural wasteland,” one “giant freeway” full of “vapid people” & yet my favorite place on earth. By the same token, my two least favorite destinations — Miami & Vegas — are tourism darlings. Truly, one man’s paradise is another’s nightmare.

        I sent this post (plus nomadic matt’s) to a good friend this week & thought I’d share her response. Thanks for maintaining such a lively dialogue on your site Alex xo

        “I actually have had similar experiences as these bloggers but in Marrakech, where the majority of the Moroccans I met were absolutely hostile and took great pleasure in ripping off tourists. In Vietnam I ate at delicious local food stalls where they charged me the equivalent of 50 cents, for an amazing bowl of soup. A couple of times, I knew that the vendor was maybe charging me double the price that a local would pay but the price was still so minuscule that I really didn’t mind. We got into one gypsy cab in Hanoi that I kept telling Mark not to take because it was obviously a gypsy cab but he wouldn’t listen and we got majorly ripped off. We could have easily avoided that situation. I took a couple of bus rides that were comfortable and safe. We took pictures of people on the street and some of them would ask for money but always with a smile on their face in a half joking manner. I rarely get asked for money to take pictures because I always eat at a vendor first and then take a photo so they don’t mind. I am sure I have a different experience than these bloggers because I am Asian. Every time I go to an Asian country, they assume I am whatever race they are and don’t bother me as much. Mark gets harassed way more than I do in general but he still loved Vietnam. If you go to touristy markets, the young ladies will tug at your arm and try to get you to buy things but it’s not scary or intimidating. We hired a tour guide for a few days in Mekong Delta and she was so professional and intelligent and made our stay there wonderful. Our Ha Long Bay trip was well organized and we had our own lovely cabin and met nice people on the boat that all seemed to be having a fantastic time. We made sure we made our Ha Long and Mekong bookings through reputable companies and maybe that is where some people go wrong, trying to save some money.”

        • Alex
          August 25 2013

          Thanks for the additional info, Becky! I agree with what your girlfriend said and I agree with her comments about spending. A lot of people that I know who had a hard time were on tight budgets, whereas those who had a more pleasant experience were more mid-range travelers. Interesting perspective and again, thanks for sharing!

          • becky hutner
            December 12 2013

            Alex I’m sure you’re beyond sick of this post by now but I just wanted to report that my Vietnam experience was brilliant. I’ve spent time in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar & the Philippines & have to say that the Vietnamese I met were some of the friendliest, most genuinely sweet people in the bunch. Never felt ripped off. Didn’t find there to be more touts than in anywhere else. I would return in a heartbeat, to live even! For anyone who’s had lousy experiences there or is apprehensive about going, I’d be happy to recommend a few places that are almost guaranteed to make you smile! 🙂

          • Alex
            December 13 2013

            I’m so happy to hear that, Becky! I hope I have an equally positive experience when I inevitably return!

  • Chris
    August 29 2013

    This again illustrates the highs and the lows of travel and how much can be coloured by ones owns perspective.

    My partner and I spent a month in Vietnam in April of 2012 and I’d rank it as one of my favourite countries (my girlfriend would fall into that small % you mention who has traveled there more than once).

    It is a place so full of life, where working, eating, sleeping and much general living just happens in the streets.

    The buzz you get striding across a busy Saigon street as scooters zoom around you.

    The fact that a bowl of Pho can remain delicious, yet taste so different in the North than it does in the South.

    From the many responses I’ve read to your post, it has obviously struck a familiar note with many, but for me this country was the polar opposite.

    Sure we had a taxi driver with a ‘faulty’ meter that ticked over at a ridiculous rate, but we also caught local buses, trains and walked alot without problem.

    To me, Thailand felt more western, less authentic and far more tourist driven (Thailand was my first international destination, so i have very fond memories).

    Vietnam felt real and I loved it!

    • Alex
      September 5 2013

      Hey Chris! I’m so glad you had such a good experience, and I’m really glad you commented as well to show another side to those that might read this and be scared off of traveling to Vietnam (definitely not my intention!) I too plan to someday be in that small percentage who returns. I’m all for second chances.

  • Daren
    September 9 2013

    I love Vietnam due to exotic dishes served, beaches and the hospitality of the people there. I went there is the festive month of Jan – Feb, the culture they follow would be a new turn for a research person.

    • Alex
      September 11 2013

      I’ve heard that Tet is quite the thing to behold! I’d love to see it someday.

  • Ian
    October 14 2013

    Hmmm interesting I’ve been to Vietnam quite often over the years and yet to experience anything like you did. Viets in general are very kind, welcoming and look out for the average foreigner. Sure you will get scam artists, but this is pretty prevalent all over Southeast Asia.

    1. Coaches not a good idea in Vietnam nor thailand nor Cambodia for that matter. Fly Fly Fly!!!!! Or take a private car service – comfy, will get there safe, and no issue with loos.

    2. Massages – I am assuming you went to the salon shop with young beautiful ladies all dressed similarly? Well they basically work for just tips hence the aggressive manor. As far as tipping in Thailand they won’t ask but its expected normally 50bht hr is a good rate.

    3. Guilt for what? Why would you feel guilty for a mutual war that ended nearly 40yrs ago? You do realize the North Viets were not exactly angels themselves? Most in Vietnam have forgotten and funny enough know little about the history of said conflict nor care. All about living and trying to improve their daily lives. It’s all about CAPITALISM now!!! Even stranger there was talk of yanks setting up Naval Base/Port in Da Nang once again.(buffer against China)

    • Alex
      October 14 2013

      Hey Ian, I appreciate your insights but I have to disagree on some points. First of all, the buses in Thailand are great! I mean, the trains are better, but at least they have working bathrooms when advertised. I’ve taken them all over. In Cambodia they weren’t quite as modern but I still took them everywhere with no issue.

  • Andy Do
    November 1 2013

    Hey Alex.

    just a few tips i would like to add so you yourself and your subscribers can keep in mind when you guys travel to Vietnam next. besides getting in touch with the local Expats. please keep these in mind.

    *doesn’t matter where you are, hotels, airports…. etc….Always catch a Cab with properly displayed signage like .. MAI LINH Taxi or VINASUN taxi… do not catch anything else without signs or look suspicious. Tipping is of course expected but not compulsory.

    *for fun and experience, always ask for price when you take a motorbike ride (XE OM – you ride on the back of a motorbike) averaging 50cent per KM max.

    *don’t waste your money using WIFI internet at the hotels. almost 9 out of 10 cafes in Vietnam has got free decent Wifi and a cup of coffee will only cost you about 1-2 dollars, Wifi all day dear. better still get yourself any prepaid local sim card, register your simcard to use 3G to access the Net using your phone or laptop with only a Text message and you can roam the net for as long as your credits last (message me with the name of the Phone company and i will tell you what code to text)

    *unless in a five star hotel, don’t order any fancy alcohol drinks other than beer because all are fake (took a close Australian girlfriend to the Pub at the SHERATON. a handsomely charged MARTINI turned out to be anything else but a MARTINI.

    *be very careful when you shop for Luxury goods. a very well established upmarket boutique in HCM city had recently been busted for selling imitated LOUISE VOUTON, GUCCI, VERSACI….. goods. and even if they are real, they mostly are rejects, out of season goods.

    *ain’t no matter if it’s NORTH or SOUTH, CITY or SUBURBS, they will slit your throat if given a chance.

    *always keep it real and please walk away at the very first instinct you get when things don’t feel right,

    you guys might wonder why am i saying all these.. well here is the drill.

    I am Vietnamese born, Australian raised , and had been living + working here in Vietnam for the last 8 yrs.
    despite the fact that i talk the talk, walk the walk, they still tried to take me for a ride on a daily basis, and oh i meant THEY in every sense of the word.

    why am i saying all these? well simply because i am of Vietnamese origin myself and proud of it, hate the idea of the so called modern Vietnamese who are out there ripping others off with their Rapacious skills & personas.

    in general, Vietnam is a great place to visit, to travel thru for as long as you keep your guards up guys…

    Wow suddenly, a business idea came to mind. perhaps i should get into the tourism hospitality industry after all.

    have fun in Vietnam guys.


    • Chris
      November 2 2013

      I can’t disagree with this comment more.

      I’ve felt more uncomfortable around Vietnamese-Australians than I ever have in Vietnam itself.

      Vietnam remains one of my favourite places I’ve ever travelled, and we did not do it being chaperoned by any tour group, preferring to travel independently.

      Local buses, no problem. Trains, no problem.

      Dishonest folk are in all corners of the earth, but they are by no means more prevalent here than anywhere else in the world.

      • Andy Do
        November 2 2013

        hi Chris.

        very nice of you to comment but please don’t be a racist. I don’t speak for any other Vietnamese-Australian but rather for myself and myself only so please don’t gerneralize.

        it’s great to know that you find Vietnam to be your favourite destination and trust me, i am very PROUD to know.

        please understand that i am Vietnamese myself and proud of it, the only reason why i said everything i did was simply because i felt terrible knowing that.according to you,quote “DISHONEST FOLK” in this case “dishonest Vietnamese in Vietnam” are out there ripping people off, ruining the country’s reputation and it’s people as a race.

        trust me. Ironically. i speak from personal experience, many of us overseas Vietnamese including myself who’d return to help our relatives here (financially) thinking it’s our obligations to lend a hand to families who are struggling, had been and are being taken for the biggest rides of our lives by local Vietnamese. (funny though the locals usually turn our to be more wealthier than most of us overseas Vietnamese, yet they still cry poor) many of us overseas Vietnamese found ourselves embroiled in Court battles with the very people we are trying to help. why Court battles?… here is a fine example for your perusals.

        my Vietnamese-Australian Uncle returned to Vietnam to marry his love and had a child together… thinking he should plan his child future and help his own sister at the same time he had invested all his life savings in building a business under his sister’s name.this business involves buying land and turn them into farms overseas Vietnamese are treated as foreigners according to Vietnam’s law and are not allow to hold any land title so my uncle got his sister to use her name instead. the condition was that she will get 50% share of everything and she din’t even have to spend a dime. 3 months into it, things turned super uggly, she got greedy and the very sister my uncle was trying to help turned on him. she took everything. it’s not just my overseas- Vietnamese uncle but almost every other overseas Vietnamese i know who had tried to help their families had gone thru the same thing, and when i say OVERSEAS VIETNAMESE. i don’t just mean AUSTRALIAN-VIETNAMESE. oh and you don’t really wanna get me started with my own story my friend. sadly speaking though many of us overseas Vietnamese ended up loosing the fight because we don’t have enough concrete evidence of what we had done. who would have thought you would need a lawyer when all you are trying to do was to help your family and yourself.

        yeap, it sure is a CAN OF WORM you have just opened. i am so glad that you are doing just fine with your favorite destination but really. please do your research next time before making any comments and stop being a RACIST. AUSTRALIA has nothing to do with who i am or what or how i think.

        THANK YOU.

  • Chris
    November 2 2013

    Hi Andy,

    I to appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond, and can only apologise if you’ve misinterpreted any of my comments as racist, as it was most certainly not my intent.

    I am a little confused at what statement of mine was interpreted as such, however must reiterate that it was not my intent.

    My only fear was that the negative reviews of what I perceive to be a wonderful travel destination, would discourage people from visiting and forming their own opinions.

    The situation you have detailed on your own family sounds very sad indeed, and I can not begin to imagine the pain this must have caused.

  • Andy Do
    November 2 2013

    Hi Chris,

    not to worry, we are living in a Society civilized enough for one to voice his or her own thoughts and i totally respect that. No offense taken so there is no need to apologize.

    I know you have good intention and for that i thank you

    if you read any of my earlier comments you will see that i too want to encourage people to come to visit Vietnam to explore it’s natural beauties, it’s rich culture and people. I would love to see Vietnam doing well for it is where i was born after all. However unlike others who only go around and boast about only the bests that Vietnam has to offer, being on the ground here 24/7 living & working for the last 8 yrs, i have seen & encountered just too many problems on a daily basis, mind you i speak fluent Vietnamese, understand the culture and easily blend in no sweat but even that does not spare me from falling victim to so many greedy people out there who think it’s perfectly fine to rip others off and i don’t just mean average folk on the streets but also businesses & companies.
    as for the Tourism industry, the government is trying very hard to rid these greedy people from the trade but it seems like it’s an unending war.
    therefore i feel that it’s my job to warn others (especially Tourist)of what’s beneath the carpet so they can take extra care. do travel, keep an open mind but please proceed with caution to ensure a pleasant visit.

    yes it is Sad of what’s going on in my family here in Vietnam (ironically this hasn’t been the case with my Australian-Vietnamese family), anyway i never meant all Vietnamese in Vietnam are like that, i am sure there are many great people out there.

    thank you for your kind respond.

  • Empty Rucksack
    November 4 2013

    I thought you were overreacting and I kept remembering this post through the good times I was having but things got bad and then awful in no time. I would recommend people to simply skip this country.

    • Alex
      November 4 2013

      Sorry to hear you had a bad experience in Vietnam. At least things started out well?! 🙂

  • Travel Makes Me Tick
    December 14 2013

    For someone who is on the fence about visiting Vietnam, your experiences aren’t particularly encouraging 😉 I’ll make sure to remember the train tip if I end up going, though!

    • Alex
      December 14 2013

      If you read through the comments you will see strong opinions on both side of the love/hate debate. I hope if you go you get one of the great experiences! 🙂

  • Mike
    December 16 2013

    I’ve had a few experiences like that as well. But luckily, it’s not always like that. Many of the smaller places are more welcoming but I do wish Vietnamese would change their attitude about foreigners.

    • Alex
      December 17 2013

      Thanks for chiming in, Mike. Always interesting to see the variety of opinions on this post!

  • babs
    January 2 2014

    I would go back to Thailand and Laos people are so nice there and the food is so good I love Thai food, to see I think it’s big different between Thailand and Vietnam

  • babs
    January 2 2014

    for me I will not go back to Vietnam I had same experience as Alex and more and vietnamese language sounds ugly and annoying

    • Andy
      May 29 2017

      Hi babs, well, if you think the Vietnamese language sounds ugly and annoying, I guess they can think you sound ugly and annoying too, and definitely like a snob.

  • Emily
    January 10 2014

    I visited Vietnam last year & I was deeply disappointed. I got very tired of all the attempted scams!

    • Alex
      January 11 2014

      Hey Emily, I’m so sorry to hear about your negative experience! If you want to share more about what happened I’m sure it would be helpful to other travelers. If not… I get that too 🙂 Happy travels!

  • Maddy
    June 10 2014

    This is a belated comment as I’m going back through the archives to fulfill my current wanderlust (!), but just want to say a) very interesting post, I love reading your commentary and personal experiences! but mainly, b) this sounds silly on a blog of a person I don’t know, but you handle yourself so well in these responses when interacting with comments/comment-leavers who disagree with you, and as a reader I really appreciate your honesty & maturity (for lack of a better word!)

    keep it up!

    • Alex
      June 10 2014

      Thanks Maddy! I always let negative comments through unless they are truly obscene or threatening, because I don’t like the idea of censorship. And it’s nice practice for being diplomatic to reply to them 🙂

  • David Senthavisouk
    June 15 2014

    Alex, I’m thankful for your thorough and informative blog. In Hanoi right now and was scammed 4 times yesterday upon arrival!

    1. The immigration officer gave me incorrect change for my visa payment. I didn’t touch the money and waited for other officials to see what the fuss was about. $10 almost lost here.

    2. I was approached by a taxi guy that insisted it was 500,000 VND for a ride to Hanoi DT. I knew the price wasn’t right ($17usd) based on what other blogs cite, but reluctantly agreed. As we were walking through the parking lot, he pointed one way, and then bolted running the other direction. Ends up there was a cop behind us, he was running an illegal taxi service. $8 almost lost here.

    3. After learning how idiotic I was for not seeing the legitimate taxis, I was quoted the $17 I was expecting or 340,000 dong. When I arrived, he demanded 400,000 dong, saying that because I was willing to pay an illegal taxi and that I should pay a higher price due to tolls. Lost $2.50.

    4. I had hotels.com a room for 4 nights here in hanoi. My “guaranteed booking” was a bait and switch, as I’m shacked up in a half price room at their sister hotel. So far I’ve lost $15. They want me to stay here 2 nights out of my booked 4. Lost $15, on to lose $30.

    These losses add up, and I’m already missing the three beautiful countries ( Thailand, Laos, Cambodia) I left nearby.

    Also, I really admire your maturity in response to the negative comments on here. You rock.

    -A friend in Hanoi from Austin, TX

    • Alex
      June 15 2014

      Hey David, sorry to hear about your negative experiences. It is my experience as well that you really have to be on alert to avoid minor scams in Vietnam — and even other parts of Southeast Asia that are very dear to me. I always just try to remember (hard as it can be in the moment!) to keep a positive attitude and not let those scams ruin my entire experience! Better luck moving forward 🙂

  • RJ
    July 4 2014

    I lived in Vietnam for several years. First off, scams are quite common and people will demand ridiculous amounts of money for things. Just remember this: YOU DON’T HAVE TO PAY IF YOU DON’T WANT TO!

    I really don’t know why Western tourists just say ‘Ok, I guess I’ll pay more because you want me to’ — would you do that back home? Of course not, and don’t let the fact that you’re a tourist stop you from arguing. Yell ‘No!’ and keep yelling it until they walk away.

    Why? Because that’s what locals do — yes they really do. I’ve seen more arguments in Vietnam about absolutely nothing than anywhere else I’ve been. People will yell at their neighbors, their kids, their reflection in the mirror — anything. It’s a very antagonistic society and if you just roll over you make it worse for everyone else who visits.

    For those who are reading this and thinking of going let me give some advice: WHEN IN DOUBT YELL FOR THE POLICE. Especially if you are a woman. I’ve known many Vietnamese in the tourism industry and they have told me that the police are making a big effort to protect tourists, even more so than protecting the locals.

    The last thing Vietnamese want is to lose ‘face’ by having the police show up and some foreigners are complaining, pointing fingers, etc. The Vietnamese you are having problems with will look like a fool in front of his peers and the last thing any Vietnamese wants is to look foolish, much less have to deal with the police. Just don’t back down and don’t feel guilty because there is no reason to.

    And just one last thing. America did not commit ‘atrocities’ in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong did. Most people have no clue what the NVA and VC did, instead they just wring their hands about the US. The Vietnamese communists killed THREE TIMES as many people as died during the whole Vietnam War through executions, torture, and forced starvation. They also formed and trained the Khmer Rouge and we know what a bang-up job they did in Cambodia. The Vietnamese communists are guilty for crimes against the Vietnamese, no one else.

    • Alex
      July 6 2014

      Thanks for sharing your experiences RJ. I don’t know if I agree with your final sentence — I think it’s a really complicated issue — but I do appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective!

    • Willemina van riel
      June 13 2016

      Thank you for the tip about the police.It always saddens me when I read about scammers. Sometimes it is even sadder to read about people who blatantly complain about $1.00 being overcharged….There is never an excuse for rudeness and illegal opportunistic behaviour but likewise there is no need for stinginess…You reap what you sow …in either scenario there are lessons …I have read all the comments on this post and found yours the most practical….”Tell the police” I also felt reassured to know the authorities are doing their best to curtail any wrong doing against tourists, that is encouraging.Myself I found that many of these situations are about the people that control these horrid scammers…pimps and mafioso types….I saw that many times in Turkey (now that is a spooky place for woman traveling alone)anyway I digress Really just wanted to thank you and of course Alex for whats turned into a bit of a forum.

  • CPH
    August 9 2014

    I do not believe the characterisation of overcharging tourists in Vietnam as rip-offs or scams is fair and justified. Here is why:
    Price differentiation or price discrimination is a common business practice in all countries. Price differentiation is the practice of selling the same product to different people at different prices. Many tourists complaining about the overcharging in Vietnam appears to be unaware of the existence of price differentiation in their own countries. I strongly encourage readers of this blog to go to the nearest university library, search for books with titles such as Introduction to Marketing, go to the back of such books and search through the index for price differentiation or price discrimination. Then you will see that what the Vietnamese vendors do is no different from what many Western companies do. For now, I will provide evidence for my above assertion by linking you to a few relevant articles:
    And below are the links to 2 articles to prove that it is not just Asians and Africans, but also Caucasians who engage in this practice of overcharging:
    https://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/emiratis-complain-of-chronic-overcharging-in-shops: In this article, a Mr Issa Al Sayed complained that Western expats paid only 70Dh for a particular item but he had to pay 250Dh for the same item. At the current exchange rate of 1 UAE Dirham = 0.27 USD, the 180Dh in overcharging means Mr Al Sayed had to pay nearly 49USD extra for just one item. I would like to ask all those tourists who complain about overcharging in Vietnam to ask themselves just exactly how much extra in USD or AUD did they pay for the overcharging during the 4 to 8 weeks they visited Vietnam. Compare your answer to the extra 49 USD Mr Al Sayed had to pay for just one item and gain some perspective.
    Regarding the statistics of return rates of visitors to Thailand and Vietnam, I can only suggest to Alex to look at the male Western tourists in go-go bars in Thailand and she will understand why the return rate of visitors to Thailand is much higher than that of Vietnam. As a native New Yorker, Alex should know that sex always sells.
    Before ending this comment, I wish to provide 2 examples to reassure those thinking of visiting Vietnam that for all the overcharging you may encounter in your trip to Vietnam, you will not end up homeless and destitute:
    1) A Vietnamese sandwich called Banh Mi in Vietnamese costs about 15,000 Vietnamese dong or about 75 Australian cents. If the vendor charges you double that, you will pay about 1.50 Australian dollars. In Melbourne where I live, the same sandwich would cost about 4.50 Australian dollars.
    2) A bowl of pho costs between 20,000 to 60,000 Vietnamese dong, or between 1 to 3 Australian dollars. In Melbourne, that same bowl of pho would cost 10 Australian dollars.
    Thus, even if you pay more than the locals, you would still pay a hell of a lot less than you would in your respective home country, and you get to see and experience a different culture and different sceneries. If that is not a win-win situation in your eyes, then I strongly encourage you to apply for jobs as a bankster in an investment bank. Such a bank is always on the look out for people with killer instincts.
    Here are some Youtube videos of Vietnam scenery to help you decide whether the overcharging is a deal-breaker:
    https://aliceinvietnamland.blogspot.com.au/search/label/Con%20Dao: click on the photo of the beach for better viewing. Alice said that she grew up on the Southeast coast of Florida which is world-renowned for its beaches and she found Con Dao very impressive, even more impressive than the spectacular photos she had seen of Con Dao.

    • Alex
      August 12 2014

      Hey CPH, it’s clear from the research you put into this that you feel passionately about it, and that’s great 🙂 You bring up some great points. However, one that I strongly disagree with is the insinuation that Thailand has more return visitors than Vietnam solely due to its sex industry (which Vietnam has in spades as well!) Frankly, that just rings ridiculous to me.

  • Sarah
    August 14 2014

    Thanks for this honest account Alex. I’m going to be there in a few months and I know to have my guard up and I hope that I’ll have many positive things to say about this place – that looks so beautiful!

    • Alex
      August 19 2014

      Wishing you the very best trip, Sarah! I’m planning to return as well someday to see the bits I missed and hopefully have an overall more positive experience.

  • Miguel
    August 27 2014

    Hey, I found your blog interestingly because I am planning a trip to Cambodia.

    But I was in Vietnam for 3 weeks as well, this year, in May, so it’s interesting to read this post about it.

    I agree that Vietnamese people are not as friendly as Thai people. But for me, most were friendly enough.

    Then again, before I went, I had already done research and knew how to go about things – so every time I arrived somewhere, I arranged for the hostel to send a car to come pick me up at the airport and the price was agreed beforehand; never used a random taxi because I know they would try to scam me and it would be more expensive than the amount agreed with the hostel’s driver. Also, when I couldn’t walk to places, I hired a motorbike taxi – a lady at my hostel told me how much would be the price depending on the distances and that I had to make an offer and show them the bill and say that’s all you’re getting.. lol So it always worked, I got it for a cheap price and we always agreed before I got on the bike.

    I had read terrible reviews about buses and trains – the general consensus was “it sucks, it’s not fun, so if you can afford to fly between the major cities, do it” – which I did!

    All in all, I have to say I LOVED Vietnam 🙂 It changed me as a person.
    I was in Phu Quoc to start my trip, an island in the south, 1 hour flight from Saigon. It was like paradise and still mostly untouched, beautiful tropical beaches and the locals were very quiet, shy and kind, gentle people. Then I was in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh and Hoi An. Amazingly beautiful scenery… The people were friendly enough in those places too.

    I never wanted to visit Saigon because it didn’t have much that attracted me to want to see there and the two times I was briefly there (one day arriving, one day before I left) I found the locals very abrupt and annoying lol

    Anyway, it was interesting to read your post!

    I can understand that if somebody goes to Vietnam and doesn’t do a lot of research before, it’s possible to get some unpleasant experiences, I guess. I remember, when I was in Hoi An, they alerted me in my hotel not to respond to anyone who said “Hello” to me on the streets, because there are people there who say they will show you “the most interesting shops to go” (it’s the tailoring capital of Vietnam…) and of course take you to an alley and rob you. But yeah I followed the info that I got regarding all the places I went to, and it was actually very peaceful for me, I loved being there.

    • Alex
      August 31 2014

      Glad you had such a good experience in Vietnam! Sounds like you did quite a bit of research ahead of time, which is key. I always recommend looking into the standard scams anywhere new you go — can save a lot of headache and heartache.

  • Dave
    September 13 2014

    Thanks for sharing your experience in Vietnam in a thoughtful way. I’m really looking forward to my first trip to Vietnam next month and I’m going to go with an open mind. And if I end up paying 75 cents more for a meal than the local in front of me, no sweat.

    As far the the returning visitors stats, I wonder how much of the high percentage of return visitors to Thailand is the creepy old men going for the sex trade?

    • Alex
      September 15 2014

      I don’t think that is a factor really, considering sex tourism in Vietnam is just as active and apparent. So I think Vietnam gets its fair share of creepy old men too 🙂 Hope you have a great trip!

  • Good Morning Hoi An
    November 7 2014

    I work to Hoi An and i meet people come 2 or 3 times in Vietnam but i meet too people don’t like this country. I am disapointed for that.

    • Alex
      November 7 2014

      Hopefully you help those people have something lovely to say about their trips 🙂

  • Quang Ho
    December 5 2014

    Very interesting posts, from what I am reading, I think, it is all about EXPECTATIONS, from the local people point of view, foreigners is an easy target, from the tourist’s point of view, every thing cheap and grant. If you can manage to stay away from your greedy and match up your expectations with your own budget and do not let the little things to spoil your trip, you would have a wonderful experience. It does not matter which country you travel to.

    The percentage of returning people to Vietnam, you quoted, it would not surprise me because it is an agriculture country moving into manufacturing phase. To move up to the service sector such as tourism, it requires a new generation of people with higher education and a modern infrastructure to support. I don’t think you can use the statistic as the evidence to support for the dislike or bad experience you had, because it depends on what you want. If you want unspoiled scenery, history, culture, food experience, colonial building architecture, then once is enough. Scam is human nature to get advantage of other people. Not acceptable but manageable.

    • Alex
      December 10 2014

      I’m not sure if I agree with your point about the return statistic not reflecting people’s enjoyment of their trip. Vietnam has much of the same attraction categories as its neighboring countries (unspoiled scenery, history, culture, food experience, colonial building architecture, as you mentioned), so why are people going back to them much more often?

  • trang
    December 5 2014

    Every time I came across articles that criticise my country like this, I felt really depressed, sad about our service to tourists and also felt sad toward all the unfortunate things that had happened to you during your trip. Our government does do a really horrible job at controlling bribe,scams, and more importantly, support for the citizen’s lives. We are still developing day by day and to those people you saw in the street as street vendors sellers or drivers,..etc.. they are burdened from the pressure of making enough money to support their family, so sometimes life push them to the unwanted way to make money. Im very sorry to heard your bad experiences in Vietnam. Hopefully, someday not so far, you will happened to comeback to revisit Vietnam with more friendly people are welcome you in here 🙁

    • Alex
      December 10 2014

      I had great experience in Vietnam as well, Trang! I certainly plan on returning some day with an open mind and heart.

  • Rusty
    December 7 2014

    I had a blast while I was there. We were scammed twice. Once on a bus (READ: van) that tried to charge us double because we had packs. The second time we took a cab that tried to charge us double what it cost for a ride that was twice the distance before. My yelling in English and refusal to pay, along with alerting our hotel staff seemed to fix that. Had an encounter or two with people pushing me in line that annoyed me. Overall, however, the trip was phenomenal. 5 weeks exploring, eating, and learning about the culture was incredible.
    Trip did conclude with a 2 AM visit to the hospital, which was easily the worst part. Overall, however, I loved my trip there.
    Ever visited Taiwan? My favorite place in Asia (that I have been) based simply off of how friendly the people were!

    • Alex
      December 10 2014

      I have not been to Taiwan — yet! Sounds like it’s well worth a visit. Love your attitude towards your trip to Vietnam.

  • Brian
    December 30 2014

    It’s great to see this thread run for this long. Reading Alex’s experience is disappointing and heartbreaking. As a Viet Kieu (Vietnamese living abroad or someone born in Vietnam, but raised elsewhere like Andy Do) I don’t disagree with Alex and the number of others that wouldn’t considered returning to Vietnam. I’ve been extremely fortunate to not have been ripped off or scammed considering what Andy Do had with paying for things. For the most part, when I do go out or travel, I’m with a family member or friends that take care of everything. However, my mom and a few of my family members haven’t been so lucky.
    There were 2 incidents that I will mention. The first of which was when my mom had her bags searched when going through immigration. The gal that was looking through her paperwork mention “Auntie, (customary for younger people to call older people)you haven’t been back to Vietnam for such a long time, would you happen to have any presents for me?” My mom knew immediate that she was dropping a hint at my mom. As the gal started to dig to the bottom of my mom’s bag, my mom slipped a 10 dollar bill and the search immediately stopped. My mom simply made the decision to do that as she didn’t want to wait since she was already there for an hour. The second incident was validating her visa. The entry date was correct but the expiration date was wrong with the previous year. To make a long story short, my mom basically got mean and told them to f*** off, almost making a scene, before they let her go. Other family members of mine had to pay a little extra (so called taxes) for bringing an iPad or other electronics back. Some will called this unfortunate circumstances and being unlucky. That’s a possibility!
    Given the custom and wealth disparity in Vietnam, everyone and any one will try to do anything to make ends meet. I’m not justifying, but merely explaining in hopes that people will understand why when reading this post. As a result of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon, the attitudes and persona of the people changed over night. What they had once is no longer there. In the time period from 1975 to the 2000s, Viet Kieu sending money back to Vietnam accounted for 11 to 13 percent of Vietnam’s GDP. Till this day, Viet Kieu money is still contributing to the GDP. I hope this will give you a sense of why Vietnamese are the way they are in Vietnam. As a Viet Kieu, I’ve seen my own family members complain to my parents that they do not send enough to help. From my experiences, Vietnamese people live with a notion that Westerners, particularly Americans have money and are wealthy. People in Vietnam rarely see nor understand the hard work that people do to earn that money in America.
    I very much in love Vietnam, but I struggle with the mannerism and cultural differences that I see. I have yet to give up on visiting Vietnam. To see what Alex and others wrote is heart breaking, but I cant disagree. I’ve been back twice now and plan to go for Tet 2015. I hope to continue to go back as I want to do other things besides visit family. Vietnam is growing and I believe it will be a better, warmer and inviting place for tourist to come. With given the time, I can only hope that those that had a bad experience will give it another shot. Vietnam is a resilient and beautiful place with room to grow.

    • Alex
      December 30 2014

      Hey Brian, thanks for that insight and for sharing your experiences. I am always interested to read the different input on this post. I do plan to return to Vietnam someday and wonder if my experience will be different with all this new knowledge.

      • Brian
        December 30 2014

        I hope your second try will be better Alex. Andy Do and others have made valid points about the social fabric of Vietnam. I’ve heard similar stories about Vietnam within my own family. My mom dreads going back to Vietnam, but because of family she makes the trips. You can just imagine how much of a burden it is when family is involve (not to be negative)with the custom and culture in Vietnam. Andy Do paints a clear picture with the story of his uncle. I on the other hand have a different view from my mom. Vietnam is changing fast and a majority of the population are in their 20’s to 30’s. With the age of the internet, most young people have been exposed to the world outside of Vietnam. Their perspective and interests are slowing changing. If you talk to a 20 something young adult, their views of the Vietnam War is very different from their parents. Also consider the fact that many Vietnamese are now educated over seas bringing back the cultural differences. This gives me hope that over time, we will see a better Vietnam coming of age and joining the modern world.

        If I may, I not sure how well you can speak Vietnamese, but when you make an attempt to talk in Vietnamese with the locals, they tend to be a little more open towards you. It could be they are intimated as much as you are of them. Asking a question in Vietnamese could open a whole new world.

        The two links below is an example of what I’m trying to say. The guy in the video isnt very good with his Vietnamese, but you can see that the locals are pretty patience and talk to him.


        (you can watch the first minute or two to get an idea)

        Remember, the locals are laughing with you, not at you.

        • Alex
          January 2 2015

          Yup, learning a little of the language is always a good idea. I’ll definitely make more of an effort to do so next time!

  • Jim
    March 13 2015

    If you go back to Vietnam, my suggestion would be throw away the guidebooks and travel to remote areas off tourist trail. Literally buy a decent map and go to places that are hard to get too. The very far northwest and far north, central highlands has mind blowing scenary. Some remote islands are possible as well in Vietnam again without the tourists.
    These places are not easy to get too and most people wont speak English but you will see a different country entirely. It will most likely involve lots of bumpy local bus rides and motorbikes but away from the crowds of tourists Vietnam is a very special place.

    • Alex
      March 13 2015

      I will definitely be returning to Vietnam someday, Jim! Though I admit what draws me back is probably the biggest tourist draw of them all — I simply must see Halong Bay before I die!

  • Jon
    April 20 2015

    Agree with everything written in this post. I spent a month and a half travelling the entire length of the country by train. As a foreigner I felt more alienated in Vietnam than anywhere else on my travels. Sure there were friendly people but in general I didn’t receive good vibes. And heard more stories from fellow backpackers about being assaulted or robbed than anywhere else that I can remember.
    Saying that, I still loved Vietnam, and would definitely return. So much quirkiness to it, and hopefully as tourism develops (be that a good or bad thing) hopefully local attitudes to tourists will improve.
    Love your blogs by the way!

    • Alex
      April 20 2015

      Thanks Jon! I think you have a good attitude and one similar to mine — I had a trying experience but I too would return.

  • Hannah Vo
    May 5 2015

    Dear Alex,
    I am a 100% Vietnamese girl, and so shame about what the Vietnamese did to you. I wish you could come back and give me a chance to make you enjoy, you will change your mind about our Vietnam. I make sure that you will have a absolutely different experiences. I am looking forward to hearing from you. Hope to see you in near future.
    Love your blogs 🙂

    • Alex
      May 7 2015

      Thank you Hannah! I do hope to return to Vietnam someday to visit some of the places that I missed on my first trip, such as Halong Bay. So I will certainly be giving it another shot, with open arms! Thank you for your kind words.

  • Elliott
    May 16 2015

    Vietnam is hands down, my favourite country in South East Asia. The culture, food, people, the beauty. Everything. I spent 4 days trekking and staying with local tribes in home stays in Sapa and it was the best thing I’ve done in my life.

    • Alex
      May 17 2015

      Different strokes for different folks 🙂 I’m glad you had such a positive experience there! I hope to make it to Sapa someday.

  • Khanh Ly
    May 19 2015

    Dear Alex,
    I’m Vietnamese. I’m really sorry about all bad thing you had try in Vietnam. I really happy if Alex come back to Vietnam. I will invite you have lunch with my family. I live in Ha Noi capital. I work in General Department of Taxation. If you any one intend to travel to Vietnam – Hanoi and need me to be your travel guide in Ha Noi. Please call me and send email to tkly01@gdt.gov.vn (+844 904 367781). I’m willing to help any one. You don’t have to pay money because I really want to advertise my country to you and everybody from other country. Thanks.

    • Alex
      May 19 2015

      That is very generous — thank you for your kindness 🙂 I hope to show travelers in my home country the same kindness you show!

  • Carri Tucay
    May 22 2015

    I have to say I agree with you, I went to Vietnam a year ago. Believe or not you just told my story, it’s like everyone ones to rip you off. The view was awesome though but i spent way too much and I don’t see my self going back any time soon.

    • Alex
      May 26 2015

      Sorry to hear that Carri. I understand your frustration. However, I think I will go back someday — I’m willing to give it a second chance!

  • anmax1996
    July 20 2015

    I think u should come to Ha Long Bay- Viet Nam. This is a Unesco World Heritage Site and a popular travel destination. I have been there in June,2015. I gotta say this is a very beautiful place with many national identity such as caves and wonderful island. I went on a 2 days 1 night tour with a cruise named Scorpion. Scorpion Cruise is quite a good choice with reasonable price and good service. i would recommend to anyone who wants to come to Viet Nam once, you should visit Halong Bay. and Vietnam has changed. They are kind of friendly now. Please dont have bad thought about my country. We do have bad ppl, but good ppl are still here. and we are always welcomed visistors like you

    • Alex
      July 21 2015

      You might see that I’ve gushed elsewhere in the comments about wanting to see Halong Bay… it’s definitely happening someday 🙂 I’m absolutely open to giving Vietnam a second chance.

  • Joseph
    July 24 2015

    I stumbled upon your website when searching for tommorowland. You got a chance to go that’s wicked!! Must be super expensive though, I have been to Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and that was insane! Well on to the topic, I was raised in Canada and born in Saigon. I’ve been back 3x and as a foreigner raised Vietnamese, Every time I go back they know I’m a Viet Kieu. I’m very lucky to have relatives show me around and know the prices. I hope you give Vietnam a second chance. All the best.

    • Alex
      July 26 2015

      Hey Joseph! I actually did a whole price breakdown for Tomorrowland that you can find here. I will absolutely give Vietnam a second chance someday!

  • Nhân
    July 26 2015

    Vietnam is spot for traveler who want to discover, not to travel on tour. The tourism of Vietnam just develop after the war. If come to Vietnam, you should visit the countryside in Mekong delta where don’t have any tourism activities, the people are closely and friendly, the life is peace ( not go on tour).

    • Alex
      July 27 2015

      I wasn’t on a tour while I was in Vietnam, Nhân. Traveling independently and discovering as well 🙂

  • Bingowings
    October 27 2015

    The worst thing about Vietnam is the level of violence against women. In general, behind closed doors after a couple of beers, Vietnamese men are very violent.

    I have been told this by long-suffering Vietnamese women, time and time again. Worse, some of the women actually accept it – claim it’s normal.

    • Alex
      October 27 2015

      Violence against women is heartbreaking in any culture. I’m always saddened to think what’s going on behind closed doors.

  • Kira666
    December 16 2015

    Hey Alex,I’m a local in Dalat city and eventhough I know basically every single unpleasant feeling that you had during you trip in VN,I still got pretty upset about what you’re saying about Vietnam in general and specifically Dalat in some point . But after reading it and also comments from people who care about your experience, I come to realize a lot of aspect that need to be change,within myself and other Vietnamese. Believe it or not, us, the younger generations, is changing dramatically about the way of thinking and developing our own characteristic, hoping to stand side by side with other great nation one day. So I’m writing this comment with just one wish that I can change Dalat as an individual and Vietnam as a whole someday in a more positive way. May I ask from your experiences of travel: ” Have you travel much by tour?? Did you experience anything bad when you travel by tour?? Is it more different, more negative experience when you travel by yourself than by tour??? There are so much more to ask but this is basically my “foundation questions” to begin with. Hope you can answer some for me!! Your website will be one of my favorite site yet to come!

    • Alex
      December 23 2015

      Hey Kira! To answer your questions, I’ve traveled once as part of a tour (in Greece) but the rest of my years of traveling have been independent. All my travels in Vietnam were taken on independently. I assume you mean multi-day or week package tours, by the way — I’ve taken plenty of day tours over the years but think you are referring to something else. Hope that helps!

  • Nicola
    January 2 2016

    Hi Alex,
    I really enjoyed this article, as I am going to go on a school tour through the world challenge organisation this March. It definitely have me very useful tips.
    I LOVE travelling and i am trying to travel as much as i can. I am only 16 but have big plans for after school. So as you can imagine I LOVE your blog! Just a quick question though.. After our hike and community service in Dalat we get to have relaxation and explore. Are there any really good sites to see in or near Ho Chi Mon city? We are going to the Nha Tang Beach for a day and then back to Ho Chi Mon city (on a overnight train) for the rest of the tour as its where we depart and cant afford wasting time travelling further North. I will extremely appreciate your input.
    Thank you
    Nicola (South Africa)

    • Alex
      January 4 2016

      Hey Nicola! Check my destinations page — there’s a link there to my many posts about Ho Chi Min City. Enjoy, sounds like you have a great trip ahead!

  • KP
    January 9 2016

    Hi Alex,
    Thanks for sharing your personal experiences in Vietnam. Being a Vietnamese (living abroad) myself, i find it particularly sad to learn of yours and other commentor’s negative experiences, yet i share the same sentiments.
    When it comes to Vietnam, There are deep level of complexities, that i think most foreigners who learnt of vietnam through what they read, and what they experience in their Vietnam travel, are not aware of.
    There are clear distinction that need to be made. There are Vietnamese people, then there are the Viet Cong (VC). The people you see running the country today, are the VC. The way people operate and behave, are widely driven by VC influence and corruption. The history you/people read on the net, and the history you learnt from visiting tourist sites in Vietnam are written by VC.
    Remember, the Vietnam war (not the American war!) were between the Vietcong (Communist from North Vietnam) and the Democratic Vietnamese. The Americans were the allies of the Democratic Vietnamese. Sadly we, The democratic Vietnamese lost our country to the Viet Cong, who now sadly claims the country and turn it into communism. Greater sadness is that, History are written by the winners, and the younger generations in the country have been brainwashed by the propaganda the VietCong display and the history they teach in schools.
    In summary, It was NOT a war between the Americans and the Vietnamese, it was between the VC and the Vietnamese. And the Vietnamese are thankful and appreciative of the Americans.

    • Alex
      January 11 2016

      Hey KP, thanks for sharing your perspective. There are so many different accounts of what went on in that terrible time, and we definitely felt a huge disconnect between what we learned in school, what we read in our guidebooks and what we saw displayed at various historical sites. You are right, though — the victors tend to write the history books.

  • Daniel
    January 21 2016

    I had a bad VN experience the first time as well, hated it and left early. I didn’t come back until 20 years later in December 2015. The two-bit scams, the rude customer service, and the grimy streets are still there, but I just took it for what it is.

    It’s no Disneyland or Thailand because it challenges my wits and conventional thinking while revealing some incredible surprising hidden beauty along the way. There are no gratuitous smiles, grand temples, or world-class beaches, but the food scene is amazing and dirt cheap. I could just ignore everything else and have a bowl of noodle soup and a good cup of Vietnamese iced coffee…. maybe a cigarette and a beer while watching the crazy moped traffic in HCMC for less than few dollars plus a few more for the scams.

    Hope you make it a back there someday. Halong Bay is amazingly beautiful on a boat at dawn in good weather. The road from Hanoi to HL is one of the homeliest and most depressing ride ever, but then the bay will reward you with peace and tranquility. Spend at least a couple nights on the water to get the full tranquil experience, but then again you may want to scream when you realize you just paid twice as much as other passengers, foreign or otherwise, for the same cruise like I did. 🙂

    • Alex
      January 25 2016

      I hope I make it back someday, too. Halong Bay calls to me and I would return just to see that… and have some pho!

  • Michael
    January 22 2016

    Hi Alex, thanks for writing this piece of info. Most people will write about how beautiful vietnam is, and you have the courage to share what you experience it. I would like thank you for your honesty. Where’s good place to recommend to go around. I am going this March. Thanks a million.
    I am a food lover.

    • Alex
      January 25 2016

      Hey Michael, are you asking where is good to go in Vietnam? My highlights were Mui Ne and Nha Trang! Hope that helps.

  • Lauryn
    January 24 2016

    I am deeply in love with Vietnam. I believe in karma and from what I’ve seen, it comes back to you ever so swiftly. They don’t bend over backwards to please “pharangs” or westerns. However, show a bit of humility and they are the sweetest people ever. I’ve lived here for 3 years and many people have gone out of their way to show me the correct route (going as far as walking with me to the correct bus stand when they aren’t even going that way), passing messages on to other people in the bus to make sure this poor foreigner gets off at the right stop and/or gets the correct next bus.

    You just need to know how to connect with them and not expect things done your way or in the way you’re used to. Thailand is losing its soul – they idolize westerners and perhaps that is what you have been taking for granted all this while. Come to Vietnam and get treated just like everyone else.

    • Alex
      January 25 2016

      Hey Lauryn, glad to hear you’ve had such great experiences in Vietnam. I’ve had similar ones — with people going out of their way to help me off the train, etc — here in Thailand. How lucky we’ve been to experience such kindness!

  • Tuan
    February 22 2016

    Vietnam is a mixed bag. Some incredibly nice people while others are scammers. I would advise staying away from the backpackers area where scammers are notorious. Go off the beaten path to explore the true beauty of Vietnam. Check out @visitvietnam on Instagtam for some beautiful pictures and travel ideas.

    • Alex
      March 2 2016

      I’ll check that out next time I head to Vietnam, Tuan — I still have to check out the north, for sure!

  • cutyflop
    April 4 2016

    I agree with other posters who say you should get off the backpacker trail – see the true face of Vietnam

    Go out in the country. Meet the real locals who lie and cheat shamelessly.

    Some are even happy to steal and sell their neighbor’s dog, so it can be tortured to death then devoured by fellow psychopaths.

    • Alex
      April 6 2016

      Honestly… not sure how to even respond to this.

  • Trang
    April 8 2016

    Hi everyone, this is a comment from Vietnamese. I live in sounthern of Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh city – Saigon – Cu Chi.
    Sorry for my English is not good. Things you told are right but not for all. Those prevent Vietnam from “calling” visitors back: high prices, thieves, robber… sometimes when i go to some strange places, also treated as visitor. Its such an unpleasant (feeling?). But i was search key words:”travel in Vietnam feelings”, it brings me here.
    If you, who want to travel to Vietnam next time. Promise that i will be your tourguide without paying anything or at least will show you some tips, offer you some place.
    Anyway, anything you hate when you come here, i hate also. But not at all, some youngs in Vietnam try to make it better. P/s: i am working about HSE, not in travel field.
    If you need any help or support, let contact with me on facebook hoaitrang1012219@yahoo.com
    I willing to do.
    Thankyou. 😉 🙂 goodnight! 00:59 too late to sleep. Pp

    • Alex
      April 26 2016

      Hey Trang, it seems you are a wonderful ambassador for Vietnam. Thank you for your hospitality!

  • EndsExpect
    April 27 2016

    Hi Alex,

    It seems that a huge number of tourists have been struggling with Vietnam. The culture is very cut-throat in terms of business… but that shouldn’t impede you too much, or prevent you from enjoying the country. I’ve been there several times, and my wife is from Ho Chi Minh city. My guess is that if you get better at speaking Vietnamese or travel with someone who is fluent, some of these issues will go away. Also… Vietnamese think differently about older vacationing couples and single backpackers. They even have a word for backpack tourists that isn’t flattering. This may be a big part of your experience.

    In my several trips I have had very few problems. Maybe being a guy changes things a bit too.

    • Alex
      April 28 2016

      Perhaps I’ll wait till I’m a bit older, richer and attached to return 🙂 I do agree that being a backpacker on a budget had an impact — those we met who were having a ball and getting a warm reception had a lot more cash to splash around.

      • EndsExpect
        April 29 2016

        Tip everyone well and frequently. They will go to bat for you later!

        It’s also worth noting that even if you don’t have lots of money to go around, just being older will help out. In Vietnam young people are expected to work and help their family unless they are rich. If you seem middle class and are vacationing through Asia… they will assume you are a bum who has no respect for parents. They don’t have social security or retirement plans… Children ARE their retirement. So, a kid that doesn’t work hard and build a career is a very bad person. China has a similar culture. They are even looking to make it illegal for kids to stop visiting elderly parents. This is a very serious part of their culture.

        Anyway, Your travel blog is awesome! I wish you the best, and sincerely hope some day you get the chance to go back to Vietnam and have a very good time.

        • Alex
          April 29 2016

          Very interesting insight… much appreciated! I will be sure to keep it in mind when I do eventually return to Vietnam.

  • Buffalo Joe
    July 6 2016

    thanks, very nice article. Things have changed a lots since 2012, like roads are much better and people are much more friendlier. 🙂

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Great to hear, Joe! I’m sure I’ll be back someday!

  • Alex
    July 14 2016

    Awww, I’m so sad you disliked Vietnam so much and had so many problems there. I too, have lived there for almost 4 years and looking at some of the comments it seems that those who live here just love the place. Maybe because we get to see it a little bit more on the inside, and are able to communicate and connect with the people.

    I think a lot of it is to do with our way of thinking. We have to totally change our mind-set and how we look at things. The bus journey you mentioned, with the over-piling… yes, this happens always. And very often, we’ve had to endure people being sick in a bad RIGHT behind us for a couple of hours. But this isn’t just Vietnam, I’ve experienced this and worse in Thailand, Philippines & India. But I think it’s one of those things where you have to think… well, this is it. and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s their culture. It doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. It’s just different to what we expect… To them it’s a normal way to travel… like how they pile 5 people on one motorbike. It just is what it is and, for me, we just have to look at laugh at the situation.

    I’m sad too, about the scams you experienced. It’s true many people do try. But if you learnt the words for “no” and “too expensive”, then the people realise you have an idea what’s going on.

    Regarding the parking though, it is true that almost always you do have to pay for parking. Even if it’s not signed or something. It’s not really too much of a scam because 5000 VND is only like 25cents… the maximum they’ve ever charged us anywhere has been 10,000VND and even then, you have to think “hey, am i REALLY going to make a big deal over 50 cents, when to be honest, that’s almost a meal for them?” I know a lot of it is principle, but please realise that guy looking over your motorbikes making sure noone steals them, that’s his wage… 25-50cents. And of course it’s all run by mafia, so that guy will only get a small cut of that.

    I totally agree about the police thing though, and so you always have to call their bluff. They fine for not wearing helmets and that is a genuine law, but often they just pull people over at random to check they have the correct paperwork for their bike, and if not will fine you, and could even hold your bike… even though it’s annoying, you are still able to try to refuse to pay if you genuinely believe there is nothing wrong, or at least get them down with their price. Sadly the police are corrupt, but again – it’s just their way. As I’m sure you’ve experienced throughout most of Asia.

    One thing to note is that Vietnam – especially Hanoi (and I’m biased because Hanoi has been my other home for the last few years), it’s changing SO fast! It’s amazing! Every few months, there are new businesses, buildings, all kinds of newly improved infrastructure. Bridges being built within several months all over to ease the traffic. Wider roads. That overground system they’ve been building since I got here has really come a long way!!

    If and when you do go back, if you go back to Hanoi, don’t stay in the Old Quarter (Hoan Kiem). Stay somewhere outside. Tay Ho District is a favourite with expats so there’s a lot of nice riverside restaurants, parks, bia hois, a great arts community, beautiful places to swim, nice QUIET & PEACEFUL areas (yes!) where you can sit and watch the world go by, relax, breathe in sem-fresh air! Beautiful temples and pagodas nearby… even a theme park (which is actually less great but still it has some great parties there sometimes!)

    I hope Vietnam can win your heart over because it truly is spectacular. Just come with an open mind and open heart, no expectations, no hopes, no ideas of comfort. Just be part of it and accept it for how it is.

    Thank you for your post though! 🙂 Love your blog X

    • Alex
      July 15 2016

      Hey Alex! Thanks for your comment. It’s been years and years now since I visited Vietnam but one thing I feel the need to emphasize is I am very comfortable with discomfort — I’ve traveled and lived in Southeast Asia extensively and have long let go of any Western standards of comfort. However, being sold one thing (a full size bus with a bathroom, for someone who has a small bladder and medical issues that go along with that) and being given another thing (a mini bus with no bathroom), is not so much about comfort as it is about being lied to. That’s just not cool, no matter what the country.

      Thank you so much for the tips about Hanoi, and I’ll absolutely keep them in mind for when I do eventually return! xo

  • todd
    September 3 2016

    It breaks my heart to read all the comments about unpleasant experiences in Vietnam. We ventured to Asia for the first time this past spring with a 2 week trip to Vietnam and we loved it. We encountered a few scammers, but none that caused us any genuine problems. Our impression at the end of the trip was that the Vietnamese were the friendliest people we have encountered on any of our travels. Granted, we are not backpackers and were traveling/staying at a slightly more comfortable level, but it really was the people and the INCREDIBLE (and cheap!) food that made us fall in love with the place. I hope you give it another chance.

    • Alex
      September 3 2016

      Thanks for sharing your experience Todd! One theme I’ve noticed from the hundreds of comments on this post as well as discussions with other travelers is that backpackers have a tough time in Vietnam, while those with a larger budget fare much better. I have to say I think you’re the first person I’ve ever heard from who bestows the honor of world’s friendliest people upon Vietnam! From my travels, that award goes to The Philippines 🙂

  • Todd
    September 5 2016

    You’re welcome Alex! I’ve been thinking about this since I first read your Vietnam post & I wonder how much of the differing experiences come down to demographics. My wife and I are in our late 40s. When we travel, we try to dress neatly, but do not in any way, shape or form, appear as if we are wealthy. We tend to be quiet and do our best to be respectful whenever we are visiting a foreign country and make every effort to avoid behaviors which might be perceived as stereotypical “ugly American” behavior.

    Culturally, the Vietnamese are very respectful of their elders. Even though we are both quite fit & neither of us look old, we are not going to be mistaken for twenty-somethings (especially in Asia, where hardly anyone over 40 seems to show their age! 😉 ). I wonder if this has may have contributed to the vastly different perception of the Vietnamese we had.

    My favorite example of how we were treated (and this type of thing happened to us multiple times) was when we were in Hanoi. We stayed in the Old Quarter and were looking for a bar that was showing the Liverpool soccer match. We had been to a couple without any luck and found a sports bar right on the lake. We walked in, asked one of the bartenders if he knew if they got any channels that showed the Premier League since there was a match we wanted to watch. He and another employee and I flipped some channels, looked around and they decided that they didn’t get the game. He then proceeded to tell me about a “pub” several blocks away that was sure to have the match on. He explained to us how to get there (it was five or six blocks away) & then volunteered to take us there himself. We turned him down since we figured we could manage on our own (and we did….), but we had experiences similar to that over & over while we were there. And THAT’s why we concluded the Vietnamese were the nicest people ever….. 🙂

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      That is a very sweet story! I think you are right, respect for elders is a very important part of that culture and I’m sure it does factor in! Most people think I’m still seventeen so it doesn’t help my case 😉

    February 6 2017

    I feel Vietnam is beautiful and nice in general, especially the Northern and Central Dalat. I guess it happens to most Asia countries where they like to con foreigners as they think we are richer. I recently went to Mui Ne and had a very bad experience too. Activities are extremely overpriced, and we even encountered thieves in White Sand Dunes. You can find out more about the experience at the article below.

    But nevertheless, I still very much enjoy traveling in Vietnam. Things are cheap in general and the scenery is very beautiful. 🙂 My favorite is Dalat and Sapa. How about you?

    • Alex
      February 6 2017

      I never made it up to Sapa but would love to go someday. I actually think my favorite spots were Mui Ne and Nha Trang. Different strokes for different folks!

  • Reino
    February 21 2017

    Seem it’s not a good idea to comment a blog post which was written few years ago. But after reading this article, I think I should leave a comment. To Vietnamese readers, I think Vietnamese people should stop worrying too much about the statics or the critics. Vietnam can try to be a “friendly country” (in the foreigner’s thinking) same as Thailand, Cambodia,or any country else. And then you will be a second “Thailand”, a second destination for 2017, 2018 bla bla. It’s meaningless. A traveler, or a “true” traveler, should remember their first responsibility are trying to research and understand the local culture, the local rules, instead of forcing the locals follow their own rules.
    Scammer, I’ve met a lots. I also feel really weird when the traveler always think that those scammer only scam them. I’m Vietnamese, and I was also the victims of the scams. Ha! But there are some situations that the foreigner still think they are the victim. I met a woman on a bus. She tried to pay 5000 VND for the ticket instead of 6000 VND. She said that she paid only 5000 VND for another bus. Poor the bus driver, who can’t speak Vietnamese and explain to her that the price of the bus ticket depends on the bus company and the bus route (I thought it must be the basic rule which everyone knows).
    Another story about the bus: My friend asked me that why there are someone glared at her on the bus, in an unfriendly way. She is a foreigner, attracted everyone on the bus. Maybe it is one of the reason. But wait, What is her definition about “friendly”? In Vietnam, trying to taking a strange people is totally normal. Looking at someone, trying to say something, laughing and then you can talk about everything each other. Luckily, I met some foreigner, at least they also know to reply the others with a smiling on their face and a basic greeting “Xin chào”. I also met someone, who is not the kind of person proud of bargaining in the market, try to get the price as cheap as possible, they are the people know to open their minded with the others, to not thinking they are the king of my country.
    Thanks God! We had 11 millions visitor last year. (which I do not care too much). Just in case, someone try to give me more reasons not coming back VN again, Have they ever thought that VNese people wanna welcome you back again? (after their attitude and behavior). I hope you, Alex, will be the person who we always welcome.
    And to the people who gonna travel to VN, if you wanna take a bus, just choose the bus which the local will choose. “Tiền nào của nấy” means the quality of the service is directly proportional with the price you paid.
    P/s: I hope I know where parking motorbike is free :)) It’s so tired to pay 5,000 or 10,000 for parking motorbike. Maybe I could find some places nearby there to live and free of the monthly parking fee.

    • Alex
      February 27 2017

      Hey Reino! Thanks for reading and commenting, even many years passed. As I have said many times in the comments here, I absolutely plan to return to Vietnam someday and see the many wonders that I wasn’t able to visit the first time. I will certainly go with a new attitude and hope that my mind will be changed!

  • Alex
    April 6 2017

    Hi Alex, this is Alex 🙂 I’m sorry that you had such an experience in Vietnam. I came back to Vietnam after spending 10 years in Australia, and was surprised at how much the country had developed, so had the tourism industry. It’s so hard to pinpoint one or two factors that cause this, because everything is systematic. But if you visit big cities, especially touristic places, expect to see these kinds of things. Many people struggle and have to live by tourism. Your bus experience – such a horrible one – even as a native, I chose not to get around by these types of transportation.

    For such a chaotic country like Vietnam, it’s better to travel around if you have a friend there or know a local. They know the way around. And it’s not because Vietnamese hate Western people, some just see Westerners as wealthy people whom they can exploit.

    There’s this article that you may find helpful: https://blog.inspitrip.com/583/vietnam-travel-tips/. These are the things that travelers should know before coming to Vietnam. It also says that Vietnamese people are friendly but money-driven. Sad, but true.

    I know you have such a horrible experience here, but if you ever decide to give this country another chance, let me know. I’d love to prove you wrong 🙂

    • Alex
      April 6 2017

      Hey Alex! Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to returning to Vietnam someday with a fresh mindset to experience the country’s many wonders that I missed the first time. Thanks for adding your perspective!

  • ThuongDaLat
    April 6 2017

    thank so much.
    I really feel sorry that you do not have the best experience in Vietnam. Being a Vietnamese and traveling in Vietnam, I hope everyone will travel from the heart as you say.
    see you come back Vietnam !

    • Alex
      April 9 2017

      I do hope to return to Vietnam someday, thank you for your kind words! 🙂

  • Cris
    July 3 2017

    International visitors to Vietnam in June and 6 months 2017

    International arrivals to Vietnam in June 2017 were estimated at 949,362, down 2.4% compared to May 2017 and up 33.6% over the same period in 2016. Generally, the 6 months of 2017 is estimated at 6,206 336 visitors, up 30.2% over the same period in 2016. See details : https://vietnamtourism.gov.vn/index.php/items/24169

    • Alex
      July 5 2017

      Sounds like a move in a positive direction! I’ll have to make my way back soon to see for myself.

  • Teresa Blount
    October 1 2017

    I love the way you portrayed this. My husband and i spend 8 days in Chiang Mai may and then a week split between north and south Vietnam, totally different experience. We were a total spectacle in Vietnam and point of a lot a lot of talk. Ripped off and scammed I definitely would not return.

    • Alex
      October 3 2017

      Sorry to hear you had a negative experience as well, Teresa. Here’s to happy travels from here forward!

  • Lawrence Seet
    March 27 2018

    I first visited Vietnam in 2005 and have continued doing over the last 13 years. I normally visit HCM for weekend trips and sometimes travel to the surrounding regions and 1 time to Hanoi.

    Its definitely a love-it or hate-it place. I studied the language to interact with the people but realize most of the time people actually don’t appreciate my effort for speaking their language. Firstly, my pronunciation is always wrong. Secondly, it annoys those bad eggs because they feel they can’t rip you off more easily. But they will still try to rip you off anyhow.

    Every other time during my travels, there will always be 1 dishonest taxi driver who will take the longer route. One time, I was charged 20,000 vnd for some coconut water which when I tried to reason with the peddler, he took out his chopping knife and waved it at me. Another time, I was charged 20,000 vnd for banh mi oplat when it should only cost 12,000 vnd?

    I normally stay low-profile and away from the tourist hotspots. But the worst scenarios for me are always at Tan Son Nhat airport. The aviation screening guys are mean and rude and I am wondering if they profile passengers. I have been singled out several times to remove my rubber strap watch, remove my leather passport cover and also to show how much money is in my pocket. Each and every time I asked to speak to a Senior Officer to clarify the protocols, they would just ignore me.

    I am really frustrated with the airport safety checks and have written to the Authorities appealing to them to improve their protocols, but likely, things will remain as they are.

    Has anybody tried writing to the Authorities and do they ever reply? I guess not?

    I continue to travel to Vietnam because my investments and loved ones are there. Things will not change for many years to come, so just live with it.

    • Alex
      March 30 2018

      Hey Lawrence, thanks for your perspective. I will say I think it’s cool that you’ve actually tried to give feedback about your experiences at the airport — a lot of people just complain but don’t do anything to make changes. Kudos for that!

  • S. B.
    November 3 2018

    It was with high excitement that I went for three weeks to Vietnam with my partner, after going to Laos and Cambodia a few months earlier.

    I would never return to Vietnam after my trip, which was earlier this year.

    We didn’t have the usual complaints about being scammed, although someone tried to pick my partner’s pocket in a “menu scam” in Hanoi (three men tossed menus at us from different restaurants, shouting to come in, and as he was thrown off guard to try to catch them, I saw one go for his wallet and grabbed his hand and pushed him, screaming at him, and the three fled — but those things happen the world over). That wasn’t it. That kind of thing happens the world over.

    It was actually just the culture, the traffic and difficulty walking around, and also, we didn’t like the food except twice in three weeks. The people were extremely rude, which surprised me since in my area, there are a lot of lovely Vietnamese people who are friends. In Vietnam, they pinched my fat and laughed and wouldn’t stop touching me, men hit on me, unlike in any other place in SE Asia, and it was so crammed with motorcycles and cars that we found it very difficult to get around by foot, which is our usual mode of travel, and then when we did, there was little to even see.

    We were completely disgusted by the sprawling commercialism and concrete everywhere, even when we left cities, it reminded me of the urban sprawl around Los Angeles much of the time because of this. We started in HCMC, which we hated from almost the moment we arrived, as we rode a cab from the airport to D1 and realized, “This city is kind of ugly and overcrowded.” The idea of commercialization, overdevelopment, ugliness, and overcrowdedness plagued us every where in the country, from Hoi An, which was impossible to physically move around in without being grabbed by people trying to sell me things, tchotchkes, paper magnets and things, every 2-3 feet so badly that I stopped leaving my hotel after a while, as well as trying to “go local” in Hoi An and being told I was not allowed to eat at a local restaurant, no smile, nothing, flashed money, the woman yelled at me, and I got on my bicycle and went back to the Disneyfied tourist sector, which was all filled up with tourists and completely inauthentic. We fled early to Hué, which I loved, the only city we went to in three weeks that we thought was nice. DaNang was too modern and being built up everywhere. Hué had some culture with the imperial tombs and citadel, which we enjoyed. Then onwards we went to Hanoi Old Quarter for far, far too long, in a 3-star nice hotel for six nights, where we just rested, went to some local bia hois, and found it way too hard, and underwhelming to walk around. We tried taxis, but the traffic was so slow it made as much sense to walk. None of the sights were worth seeing, not Hong Kiem Lake, not The Palace of Literature, maybe the tomb of Ho Chi Minh (with its Disneyland long lines). My favorite part of Hanoi was the railway tracks to find solitude, and to sit and read in the cafés. I hated the big European stores lining the lake. I hated the French district. I hated the Old Quarter (although parts look nice in photos). Six days of desperately trying to find something nice about this place, after loving Luang Prabang, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Taipei, and Bangkok? And the people were so rude, we stopped going to the lucky bia hoi because they were insulting us for being there.

    On top of the food not being varied or to my taste or often sanitary — many of the restaurants in Hanoi served a kind of hybrid of Vietnamese and Chinese food, very poorly, and I don’t eat meat, so this made it quite difficult. I lived on cheese banh mi sandwiches, made with laughing cow cheese, and fruit shakes. I also liked canned bitter melon tea. At the markets, they tried to upcharge us like 1000%, and it was so insulting we said “Lower” but they wouldn’t flinch. The Pho was good in the South, bland in the North, and I couldn’t find vegetarian food easily, so I ate crummy hotel banquet breakfasts a lot.

    We did not meet any people in the country who were more than passably pleasant. Most were gruff or outright rude. None were nice except a few at hotels, like the hotel where we stayed in Hué, at La Perle, where the staff were truly lovely (the rooms though were quite small for two people!)

    Halong Bay was beautiful, but we paid $400 USD for one night, and the tour company still rushed us badly.

    The only time I really felt I enjoyed Vietnam was in the Mekong Delta, where I wish, in retrospect, I had stayed all three weeks. It wasn’t overcrowded or too built up, the families where we toured rice noodle factories were honestly nice, the food was delicious, the people kind. I didn’t see even a tiny instant of that in the rest of Vietnam, and it surprised me a lot. People were more rude to me, as a younger woman, than they were anywhere I’ve been in the world. And there was so little to see or do that couldn’t be found elsewhere.

    I would never return. I have heard SaPa has fallen to the same fate that Hoi An has, and Ban Gioc, while lovely, involves heavily winding roads to see anything of value.

    I wanted to love Vietnam, but it may have permanently soured me on SE Asia. My next trip is to Myanmar, and I am simply hoping it’s nothing like that because I loved Cambodia, and I adored Laos, and Bangkok is totally fun too, while Taipei is a treasure.

    • Alex
      November 6 2018

      Thank you for sharing your experience! It sounds like we had kind of similar ones. I didn’t feel very warmly welcomed in Vietnam, either. Wishing you a magical trip to Myanmar — somewhere I’ve still yet to explore!

  • Jen
    November 23 2018

    I only wish I had read your blog earlier! We’re currently 2 weeks into our Vietnam trip and have a week to go and I really wish we could just go to Thailand instead.

    Our backpack was snatched away from us and after spending 5hrs at the local police station, we were given back our house keys and itinerary in perfect condition. The whole ordeal felt extremely orchestrated and we are still awaiting a police report to provide to our insurance company. I won’t hold my breathe on that one.
    We booked an extremely expensive overnight stay on Halong Bay, only to be told after we arrived from Hanoi (2.5hr drive) that there would be no stay on the bay by the operator. No compensation provided or alternative offered.
    We have met some amazing people who were very kind, saw beautiful landscapes and ate some great food but there has been too many issues – being ripped off in the most balant manner, expensive hotels that barely have any staff speaking English to sort out any issues and sub par service (went to a fast food restaurant that was opened late as I didn’t want to risk eating from the side of the road and had to return a piece of chicken that was undercooked to only be told by the staff member, that the piece looked “alright”. Finally we had to ask for the manager to sort it out. This is typical of the frustrating experience we have had here. I have felt stressed out this entrie trip and that’s really not what a holiday is about to me. This is only my experience but personally I would not return.

    • Alex
      December 2 2018

      So sorry to hear about those experiences, Jen! That sounds super frustrating. Hoping things got a little better for ya…

  • Carter
    February 22 2019


    I am so sorry to hear you had a bad experience in Vietnam.

    I am also extremely surprised. My girlfriend and I visited Vietnam for 2 weeks during our 5 month trip in Southeast Asia. Out of the 5 countries we visited (Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore), Vietnam was our favorite country by a landslide.

    During that 2 weeks, we stayed in several family run hotels and hostels. These were THE NICEST people we have ever met! Even when we were exploring the country, we never once experienced people being unfriendly. Although we have been scammed in other SE Asian countries, Vietnam was not one of them (although 2 weeks isn’t very long).

    Anyways, I highly recommend trying out Vietnam one more time! It’s so beautiful and I really think the country has developed more respect for tourists since you visited.

    BTW – My girlfriend and I LOVE reading your blog. You have inspired us to start travel blogging! We couldn’t be more excited to get back to Southeast Asia (and Vietnam)!

    • Alex
      March 5 2019

      Aw, thank you Carter! I’m so glad you had a great experience in Vietnam and I will totally be back someday — I’m not writing it off yet!

  • Ska
    September 5 2019

    Yeah…Got scammed 5 times in four days for approximately 60-70$. They tried to scam me more than 5 times a day. I read all about Vn and loved it so much from those blogs/travels that i wanted to go and open a school to help poor children. But now…i am going back after few days. Disgusting. Shiny on the outside, rotten on the inside.

    And no, there is no excuse for scamming. I live in the country who was in two civil wars and even got attacked by US in last 30 years, and people lived for years on 10 dollar paycheck a month, and we STILL didn’t have 5% of scammers as i saw here.

    People work their ass off to get descent life, and they are doing it still. They are working for 150$ or even less. 10 years ago, i worked for 80$, and even for 45$ a month and never had a thought of scamming people and calling it “it is what it is, i need to eat”.

    I was disgusted when dude come to me with a motorcycle and asked me if i need a ride. Ok, this time i needed it, i wanted to go eat. He drove me to the restaurant, sit with me, i’ve ordered 85.000 vnd for a kalamari bbq, and mango juice.

    I got 450.000 vnd bill, after the moto dude talked to restaurant boss, and i was trying to argue that prices on the menu are not sum of what they gave me, few guys around started closing in. They all were in on scamming me.

    I understood the situation, that if i don’t pay, it can get physical and really ugly. So, i payed, and now packing bags and going home.

    I am not walking ATM for people who drive better cars and motorcycles that i can’t even afford. I lost my life savings now, and need to work for next three years to earn that money again.

    As for others saying it is normal that tourists are overpayed in other countries. That is complete bullshit. In my country , it doesn’t matter who you are, if a burger is 2$, it is 2$ for everyone, period.

    I am disgusted by people defending this kind of behaviour, and in turn, it will get worse. Some said, oh it’s just buck here and there. Now it is 10 bucks here and there, from my experience.

    It should be zero.

    For example, they don’t understand they could get more than those 15$ if they are normal, i would go back to the moto guy and use his services daily, and go to that restaurant and eat a lot more. Now for measly few bucks ( which i need to work for at least 6 hours a day ) they lost a customer for life.

    Not pretty. And there is no excuse, ever, for criminal activity. I was homeless once, and i worked hard to have at least something. I still have no home, and renting is my life. And now this, completely ruined everything, and i came with best wishes, was pleasant and smile with everyone.

    Now, i will probably never get back.

    • Alex
      September 9 2019

      Sorry to hear you had a bad experience in Vietnam. I do look forward to returning someday and trying again. Maybe you’ll feel the same after some time passes!

      • Ska
        September 9 2019

        Well, I probably will, but not to live there, as i wanted, but to be tourist.

        I understand people had awesome experiences, and that’s fine, but as i researched last few days about these things, which nobody is talking about, is that you need a local by your side until they start to know you and lower the pressure of scamming you.

        Also, people with good experience are trying to deny these things, and that doesn’t help at all. And they are lying by denying crap. I didn’t even start on things that happened, because it would be a looooong essay to write…

        They need a LOT to grow and fix. I am 1st to admit that i am so sorry i couldn’t stay there. Sincerely.

        But, negatives, in my experience, overwhelm the positives in large number.

        It’s fine, negative experience is part of life, and travel, and is still an experience.

  • Handpan les workshop
    September 19 2019

    I absolutely loved Vietnam. But indeed, the busrides can be a little….lets say interesting 😉 My worst nightmare was that I had to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t go, so I just didn’t drink untill we where at our destinations. A little harsh, but it worked! 😉

    • Alex
      October 22 2019

      Ugh, hate that that’s what you have to do — but I get it.

  • John
    January 7 2020

    Absolutely loved reading this! We have not been to Vietnam but it’s high on our list. I was happy I found your blog! So much inspiring information here!

    • Alex
      January 28 2020

      Hey John! Wishing you an amazing experience when you get there! Hope you end firmly in the “love it” category 🙂

  • Cohen
    March 4 2021

    I’ve bên living here for quite some time and have to agree with you. I don’t think there is any contempt (I can’t say anything about the Northern culture as it’s way different), but at least in the more open south there is almost an inferiority complex. I think most of the scams come from the fact that 1. Many people lack an education, and 2.people will overcharge or screw ANYONE that doesn’t speak like them. Next province over x1.5, other end of the country x 3.0 Somewhere else and can’t defend yourself linguistically? X10.

    If anyone reading this can couchsurf or has contacts amongst the younger, more educated class, you should definitely come after the pandemic. The country will be way different in 20 years. Id you’re just riding the backpacker trail, however, be warned.

    • Alex
      March 22 2021

      I know that I certainly look forward to returning to Vietnam someday and seeing if my opinion is changed!

  • Vietnamese who fed up with b
    March 4 2021

    The people are so poor that most are standing near crowded parts in the city to scam their own countrymen more frequently than they dare to foreigners… Most people live in rural areas and may not even know the difference between US and UK when really asked to even have good reason to hate any foreigners… Not because of struggling for survival most of us would have no reason to care about you people either.
    And how great it is lord god, I even see an America apologist saying we created the Khmer Rouge. This is one of the first time in my history of using the internet that I feel the strong urge to vomit myself. Well, consider myself brainwashed to read censored history if you differ I guess, I don’t have any will to argue with you people.

    • cont.
      March 4 2021

      Seriously the youths nowadays are so pro-American and anti-government that every single chance they have they pin everything wrong on the commies and it’s already tiresome to see this bs already.
      Even without communism you think people and the gov would treat you better? I don’t hate people who criticize communism/authoritarianism because I do agree with them that those systems not only flawed but also only harm people or similar lines. But it just makes me so furious that an American coming here then saying that we still have grudge with a country whose people we can’t even guess the origin just by looking at the face, and she seems to think that the people being harsh with her care more about the war rather than their own life and existence.

  • Ron Le
    October 4 2022

    I admit that there are many scams for expats in Vietnam. I also have already experienced about this on my frist month living here. But now after a little bit problem now I feel really happy here as I know how to avoid all that traps. Thank for sharing

    • Alex
      December 20 2022

      I’m sure there’s a major learning curve, as with anywhere! Thanks Ron!

  • Yulia
    May 15 2023

    I’m currently in Hanoi, confirming these scams are still happening in 2023.. such as taxi drivers to restaurants charging me extra from the agreed price. I know the scams are low-level, targeting extra 5-10 euros per scam, but I left this country feeling unfair. I had never experienced tourist scams before, even when I travelled to the poorest countries in Asia and Europe, so there’s no excuse for dishonesty, even poverty.

    As a person from ASEAN neighbouring countries with around the same GDP/per capita as Vietnamese, I cannot relate to why people around here don’t save ‘face’ — which is supposedly our culture. They scam and duplicate established stores with confusing similar names, and no one cares to enforce this to defend our customer’s rights, even the police.

    These scams are systemic.

    I feel bad for Ho Chi Minh, all the fighters and good Vietnamese people. Those scammers could have tainted the tourist’s perception towards this great nation.

    • Alex
      July 9 2023

      I’m sorry to hear you had the same experience, Yulia…

  • Jey
    December 12 2023

    Very interesting piece. I am American and live in Thailand but am in HCMC for a month. I have been to Ha Noi as well. I find many people here to be kind and helpful and a few to be remarkably hostile — this is often food sellers I am trying to buy food from. I don’t understand it. I make an effort to learn some of the language and am very respectful. I think it isn’t personal at all — the people just seem much more willing to be confrontational (as compared to Thais and Malaysians, for example). Then again, this is a big city (Ha Noi seemed a little more relaxed) and I suppose that is what all / mansy cities are like.

    I am definitely fed up with all the posters who say Vietnam is all friendly and nice. My guess is these are often people who go to high end restaurants not food stalls and markets and stay in more tourist areas. I prefer to learn the culture and the food, but sometimes it gets a little exhausting.

    I appreciate the honesty in this discussion. It is easy to flame people who are candid about their experiences if they are negative experiences. It’s harder to look at the complexities of culture and history and the baggage and attitudes we all carry with us.

Leave a Comment