Before I talk about today’s topic, I want to share a quick thought. It is the winter time here, but there is still a vast array of color in the landscape. There are many flowering trees and bushes in bloom, and the variety of greens in the countryside seem endless. I attach a few random photo’s to this page……. Now…..
When you travel to Vietnam you will be hit with quite a bit of culture shock. One of the things that stands out the most is that it seems that everybody is out to rip you off!! It is true that they see foreigners as rich and easy to part with our money, and our reluctance to barter makes us look gullible. Are they ripping us off?, not really, but I will give you some good examples where I think we are getting ripped off.
First, Vietnamese people are generally very poor. If they can find a job for 60 dollars a month, they are doing well. Therefore, they will do almost anything, and work extremely hard to make money. In tourist areas, we are cash cows with money filled pockets and bellies swollen from rich foods. Most of the shady and aggressive people are attracted to the tourist areas to try for that mighty foreign buck. They will also ask absolutely unreasonable prices for their goods and services, they can always be negotiated down, however, there are so many foreigners that overpay, it attracts more and more people out for our buck. It can make walking in the streets very unpleasant. A holidaycan be turned into a quest for peace. In tourist areas you will be approached by book sellers, sunglass sellers, cigarette sellers, art sellers, peanut sellers, lottery sellers and many others I cannot think of now. You will also constantly be hounded by Cyclo drivers, motorbile drivers, and waved at by taxi operators. You will be offered sex, drugs, other shady deals. Sorry……… If you are in a tourist area……DEAL WITH IT!! You can just ignore them, have fun with them, or negotiate hard and be happy with your purchase. They are trying to make a living for themselves and probably are sharing their money with family. THEY are not ripping you off. They are trying to survive.
If you go to a market or store where prices are not clearly marker, the price will by much higher. Many Vietnamese will not want to shop with you because of this, however, they do want to make a sale, so negotiate hard and you will do well.
Here is a tip!! Usually around the market area you will find similar goods pre priced. Also, in Ben Thanh Saigon, and other markets, you will see some small shops where all employees are wearing blue shirts. These are government run stores, and have fixed prices. Arm yourself with the value of the goods you wish to purchase and then venture into the chaos of the markets and have fun!! Try never to get angry when dealing. They will see you as impolite. They may at times look like they are frustrated and a little tiffed, but it is all part of the game. You will be treated with big smiles and laughs when the deal is done.
Now for the rip-offs
In 1999 I spent some time here when tourism was in its infancy. There were signs posted everywhere that foreigners had to pat a separate price. Sometimes it was 500-1000 percent higher. A lot of this practice has disappeared, however, still exists in rural areas. It still does happen in the cities, but is hidden in many cases. I get outraged every time I see this. I am a local now, I understand the culture, live with the people. I should not be treated this way, and neither should you. One of the common hidden ones is in the restaurants, and just happened to me yesterday, even though I am aware of it.
Menu’s in English have different prices than in Vietnamese in many places. If you are going to an expensive local restaurant, and you are given an English menu that looks different from the menu everyone else is using, ask for both. Then try to find same dishes on each menu and compare price. Sometimes you can use the beer prices as a comparison. If they differ, point out the difference and have them charge the lower price unless they can explain the difference. ( there may be the odd instance where portion size may differ)
Another RIP OFF!!
Massage parlors in high tourist areas!! They all offer extra services that are way overpriced than other areas. Also, they run a scam to get at you wallet. I will speak more on this in the future.
If you want to rid yourself of the scams, hassles,and aggressive people trying to get your money, move outside the tourist area and soak in the real Vietnam. Many of the transactions will be easier and closer to the correct prices you should pay. There are some very good shops in the tourist areas that are there specifically to cater to foreigners needs, usually run by foreigners. They may sometimes seem a bit more expensive, but the quality is usually much higher to satisfy our standards.
As stated before, I will talk more specificly and in more detail at a later time.