It's great there -- I spent a nice holiday with my boyfriend.
I absolutely loved the friendly Vietnamese people and the sights. A young Vietnamese lady invited me home to eat traditional food and meet her family. Find a motor bike taxi, pay him $15 to $20 U.S. and you are gone for a ride for the day. A cold beer is hard to find. There are lots of day (and two- and three-day) trips available for Ha Long Bay.
I went to Hanoi in mid-September this year and had a week there. There are some good, nice, and friendly people there but there are some bad, dishonest, and rude people in Hanoi. When I first arrived in Hanoi N.Bai Airport, no taxi pick-up at the airport even though I had prearranged with the hotel. After this and some other incidents, I had lost faith in this hotel and I decided to check out the next day. I learnt the rules of the game here. I went to the Old Quarter to search for a new accommodation. What I did is, I demanded to view the hotel's rooms first before I checked in. I did not want to trust the web page or statements made by the hotel's staff. Finally, I got a very good hotel. Regarding the daily tours I signed up for including Halong Bay, Perfume Pagoda, and city tour, you have to check the prices first and you may discover that in every tour agency there is variation in prices. The tourist guides I met were quite friendly and helpful except one tourist guide (Halong Bay) -- he shouted at a tourist and almost ended in a fight. How can a tourist guide lose his temper? Customers are always right but in that kind of environment, I think this principle does not work at all. The scenery was good, wonderful, and fantastic! When you want to buy things in Old Quarters, bargain first and if you pretend to walk away, they will reduce the price. Do not eat the food at the five foot way or the road side as I enquired about the price of a plate of the rice noodle, they wanted to charge me USD 2 but the same food stuff is also served at the air-conditioned restaurant at more or less the same rate. Why should you take a risk to eat at the roadside? I know scams are everywhere in Vietnam and you can't avoid them. As some traders are good in telling lies, rip you off and we must stay firm and reject these practices. If they are rude, do not buy from them and walk away -- that is it! There are some honest traders too.
This is a warning of a scam that we have just fallen victim to and i would like to bring it to the attention of future travellers.
We are in Hanoi, Vietnam and have travelled up from Ho Chi Minh on the open bus ticket with An Phu. We had no problems with this and found the experience to be pleasant and affordable. At each destination of the journey the bus dropped us at an associate hotel where we were invited to look at the room options, but there was never any pressure to stay if we did not want to. That was until we got to Hanoi.
We arrived at the Hanoi bus station at 8am after a 14 hour bus journey. We were greeted by people who said they were representatives of An Phu (the bus company) and that because the roads were in bad condition due to recent rain we were being taken by taxi to the old quarter. We were told that we had the option of looking at a hotel there. So myself, my boyfriend and 4 others got into a taxi and were taken to the jointly named and run Asia Queen Hotel/Old Darling Guesthouse of 16 Trung Yen Lane, Dinh Liet Str., Hanoi (www.hostel-in-vietnam.com).
We were shown some different room options and told that the prices ranged from $12-20 including breakfast. We were also told that the Hotel was new, and the rooms did appear to have been recently rennovated (although some did not appear to be finished!)
After some discussion with my boyfriend we decided that we wanted to look at other hotel options in the old Quarter as $10 was our budget for accommodation, and the hotel staff were not prepared to do a deal for $10 without breakfast. As we went to leave we were stopped by a different member of staff and offered a double room, without a window, for $10 per night including breakfast (a bread roll with Jam). We decided that this deal suited us and we booked in for 3 nights. The other couples left to look at other options. For the rest of the day we were bombarded by Tommy the Manager about all the tours he had on offer. We said that we were not interested in the tours as we had already been to Sapa and Halong Bay.
The following morning when we came down for breakfast we were told that we would have to pack up our belongings as they needed to do some work on our room, and we would be moved to another room. So we did as we were asked but when we got to reception we were told that we were checking out because we had only booked one night and they had a big group coming in. When i attempted to explain they started shouting, and were very rude and aggressive. Eventually we managed to determine that they had offered us the $10 room price to stop us leaving the day before, but now wanted us out so that they could rent out the room at a higher price without fulfilling our previous booking. No other room was provided and when they said they would get us a room at another hotel, they wanted us to pay them a commission!! The laundry that we had given them the day before was returned unwashed, but we were still made to pay for the room and the laundry in full ($17). Any attempts to resolve the situation were unsuccessful and we were told that we were to shut up as we were rude and that they didn't want 'the likes of us staying there' by that i'm assuming they mean people that will stand up to them! Other guests tried to help on our behalf but were told that if they continued to interfere they too would be removed.
After we left and eventually found a hotel that had an available room (as it was a Saturday), we were asked by the owner what was wrong (as by this time i had burst into tears due to the confrontation (embarassing as i am a 28!!) We were then told that apparently this is a common practice by the owners of these 2 and their other hotels around Hanoi. Apparently they invite tired travellers to look round their rooms, make them an offer to stop them leaving and going elsewhere, and then if you don't buy any tours off them they terminate your booking and demand you leave. This has even occured in the middle of the night (so i guess we were the lucky ones!)
I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone, and i'd like to warn people of this scam. Although this Hotel said it was 'new' i think maybe its just had a name change!
I have written to the bus company An Phu, just i case they were or were not aware of this practice.
Thank you for your time.
P.S: I'm just writing this as a warning, i don't need to be told that i 'overreacted' or 'its what i should expect in Asia' as prior to this we have had no such problems in the previous year nor our past 2 weeks in Vietnam!
P.P.S: To Chandler, Thanks for the tip, we have decided to fly to Laos.
I have spent four weeks in Vietnam and have enjoyed it lot. I firmly believe that it's the travelers awareness and smarts that determine how often and how much he or she gets scammed. I have used public transportation as much as the tourist buses and have had basically no problems. I have spent time outside of the tourist trail and find it less scam-filled. When you are in a foreign country you have to adopt some of the local attitude. It's not like home, it's not going to be like home, and don't expect things to happen like they would at home. Be firm and don't give in to scams unless your life depends on it. If you do, you set the stage for it to happen to the next tourist. When in Vietnam, do as the Vietnamese do and take everything with a keen awareness of where you are -- country, politics, society, culture, language, religion.
We have just had a really enjoyable four weeks in Vietnam. I think you have to be careful in any country when dealing with people and money. Most Vietnamese people we met were very nice but we did have one trip that was mis-sold and a hotel who were very rude. I think you have to take a deep breath and chalk it up to experience. I think boycotting Vietnam takes it a bit far!
Learning just a little of the language goes a long way. We met awesome people that live here. As for getting ripped off, learn how to barter. They will bargain. Try it with them with them for better deals, its a tourist place and they always charge more at Disneyland -- this one's more for adults. Always remember you get what you pay for. It can be great if you have an idea of what you're doing!
Was in Hanoi for just 8 days and got ripped off almost every single day. The day tours are great but the vast difference in the prices offered and the claims made by the travel agents were so ridiculously different. We paid for a small group tour which was supposed to be no less than 13 turned out to be a bustling big group of over 30!
Got to agree with Chandler on the shames to be honest. Loved the sites and the bike tours were excellent but the locals in my opinion all seem to lie cheat or steal. Bus ride was same for us. Paid extra for "special airconditioned tourist bus" which turned out to be a local booze cruise with NO SEATS just crates, didn't even get out of the city after an hours delay when something fell of the back and we had to get off. When we decided we weren't going any further they got very physical and abusive with us aswell. Glad I met 3 other girls on the bus, managed to get a taxi and back into city. It was quiet scary though, surrounded by locals grabbing and shouting at us. Got hit a few times aswell as we wouldn't get back on bus! I think flying is the way to get out of here. Totally ruined an otherwise enjoyable 4 weeks in Vietnam.
Someone needs to update the "scams to watch out for" in the travel media. They are privy to the warning of tourists that taking a bus from Hanoi to Vientiane is highly NOT recommended and have circumvented it with their own dialogue, saying - this is a new, airconditioned bus that is the only one that takes you all the way from Hanoi to Vientiane (laos) NON-STOP. It's just like the other buses. It drops you in the middle of nowhere from 1-4 am, where you change to a second bus which takes you to a man's house that wants to charge you $20USD per person to take you to the border in his pickup. The 11 of us travellers, never having met each other, except the 3 couples, were all stuck together and said, "no, we paid to go to vientiane, take us there". After about 30 minutes of them pretending to suddenly not understand English, they took us to some remote location after the border crossing, far from our destination in some remote, dusty area, refused to go any further and after a 2 hour stand-off, we were able to hire another woman to take us (for more $$ of course - I think they all work together on this), to Vientiane. After about 1/2 the distance she demands payment (we told her we'll pay upon arrival, having already been burned). She argues with us for an hour, and we get a 4th ride finally to the city - about 30 hours of travel, including about 7 hours of waiting, arguing, being yelled at, having this woman physically grab the money from the Austrian couple and tried to tackle the Austrian man who pushed her, gently, but firmly away. This incited her husband and were it not for the fact we were 11, I honestly believe the seedy bystanders, who see this possibly everyday, would have jumped us. This typifies 1 of 6 violent interactions I experienced in vietnam in 2 weeks, not counting that every 3rd transaction I am shorted on the change and everyone seems to be shameless about screwing you. I believe the country should be boycotted so that there are consequences for their violent behavior and mistreatment of backpackers/tourists. PS, don't bother if they threaten to call the police, it's a bluff and the police won't come anyway - not even at your request... We called them once and visited 2 police stations to report one such assault and theft and they really don't care. If you MUST go to Vietnam, go over every detail of every transaction in advance... twice to be clear. And remember if it's in writing, it really doesn't matter anyway. PSS, this isn't just my experience - in addition to we 11, we met another bus load who'd arrived the day before us - another 10-12 who reflected our experience, and it's not uncommon to see the Vietnamese in Hanoi arguing with some tourist very aggressively - one such guy got a pair of shoes thrown at him in the street. I've tried to make this as factual and non-subjective/opinionated as to lend credibility... Good luck in your travels.
Absolutely loved the friendly Vietnamese people and the sights. A young Vietnamese lady invited me home to eat traditional food and meet her family. Find a motor bike taxi, pay him $15-$20 U.S. and you are gone for a ride for the day. A cold beer is hard to find. Lots of day (and 2 and 3 day) trips available.
The capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi, is a vibrant, overwhelming melting-pot of a city. Though at times it can be claustrophobic and wild, this beautiful city has pockets of calm amidst the chaos. The city is divided into several quarters, at the heart of which is Han Kiem Lake, where many hours can be spent relaxing. The roads are an ever-moving organism - thousands of motorbikes dart around one another, ignoring traffic signals, dodging pedestrians, and endlessly beeping their horns. Crossing the road takes a deep breath and a confident walk; just go for it or you'll still be waiting for a break in the traffic hours later.
Most of the hostels in Hanoi are situated in the Old Quarter, where many westerners and locals have opened independent resting places, cafes, bars, and travel agencies. It's easy to book trips to the nearby Hai Long Bay or Sa Pa from any number of these. While the city is always very busy there are many thousands of rooms so booking your Hanoi hostel in advance is not a necessity.
Hanoi is a historic city with many excellent museums, as well as the must-visit Water Puppets Theatre. You'll never be short of things to do here and may enjoy it so much that you'll find it difficult to leave.