It irks me when people let one bad experience form their opinion about a country. I find it rather puzzling when I hear people say things like, “I hate Vietnam because I had my wallet stolen there.” Although I’m sure having your wallet stolen would put a damper on your travels, I don’t think it should have any reflection on the beauty of a country and its people. Let’s face it: There are few places in the world where there isn’t someone looking to make a quick buck off a tourist.
There are many scams out there, so it often helps to be vigilant and prepared while travelling. When I was in Vietnam, the most prevalent scams were run by the taxicab drivers.
I needed to get home quickly after work one day, so I decided to take a taxi. After about half an hour had elapsed in the cab ride, and I couldn’t see any familiar landmarks. A bit of panic began to set in as I saw the meter increasing well above the expected fare, realizing that I should have been home by now. Another thirty minutes had passed and we finally pulled up to the house. Reluctantly handing the driver a wad of cash and realizing that I just got taken for a ride, I slipped out of the cab and slammed the door while muttering under my breath.
After conversing with my roommates and discovering that we had similar experiences, we brilliantly (or so we thought) devised a plan to take preventative measures for our cab rides. The next time we went out, we hailed a cab and confidently gave the driver our destination address. With a smirk on our faces, we confidently whipped out our iPhones and opened up the GPS app. As soon as the driver made one turn off the indicated route, we tapped him on the shoulder to show him the indicator moving off the map while shaking our heads. He laughed and nodded, as if to say “Okay, you caught me!” Feeling like we were in control, we sat back and enjoyed the rest of the ride.
Thinking I could beat the taxi drivers at their own game, I began to take taxis more frequently in the following days. I hopped into a cab one day, ready to go. The driver turned around and looked at me, and then turned off the meter while yelling, “You give me 500,000VND”. Knowing that the fare to my destination should be half that amount, I politely exited the cab.
Maybe I couldn’t beat them at their own game after all. Needless to say, I went back to taking the bus from that point on…but it had no bearing on my feelings about Hanoi – I still loved the city and it’s people!