Before leaving for Vietnam in October for my Hanoi trip and in December for my Ho Chi Minh holiday, I’ve done a lot of research about avoiding being scammed by taxis in Vietnam. I sort of managed to avoid that in Hanoi but couldn’t really say the same for Ho Chi Minh.
Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh has been said to be a prime location for taxi scams. I prepared myself to the fullest (or so I thought) and followed every advice I could find on the internet and from my friends who frequent the city. After getting out of the airport, I saw a taxi queue on the left side with many taxis waiting, including what they called “the most-reliable taxi companies” Vinasun and Mai Linh. But I decided against joining the queue and follow what some people advised – walk to the Vinasun / Mai Linh counter to ask for one.
At first I came to a counter for airport shuttle, they were asking for 250,000 VND. I thanked them and walked away. Then I saw another counter across the road. I went over and asked. It was a Vinasun counter – Bingo! I said I needed a taxi to go into town then a guy told me “ok, we call a limousine for you” pointing to a 7-seater. I wasn’t sure how much that would cost so I replied that I have no need for a limousine, just a normal car ( I meant to say sedan). Somehow that statement made him become uninterested and he just turned away!
At this point, another guy who was standing around the whole time when I was having the conversation with the Vinasun guy walked to me and said he would get me a taxi, a normal car. Since he was there the whole time, I thought he belonged to either the Vinasun or Mai Linh taxi companies. Then he quoted – 300,000 VND. When I heard that, I told him no, it’s too expensive and I want a car with meter (like what everyone said on the internet). The guy replied “Madam, now is peak hour, traffic jam, you take meter, the taxi will go round and round. 200,000 VND for the taxi and 100,000 VND for the car park, ok?” I thought the “round and round” thing made some sense and tried to have a conversation with him (all the while still thinking he was a Vinasun / Mai Linh staff). However, with the limited English on his side, it proved to be difficult. And I was getting confused about the car park he was talking about.
Then all of a sudden he took my luggage and brought me to a silver cab and went on to put my luggage inside the boot before I could stop him. Then he said “300,000 VND ok, you give the driver”. It was a lady driver and for a moment I thought that’s better than a guy bringing me to god-knows-where, so I boarded. I actually got into the cab!
While in the cab, it suddenly dawned on me what had happened – I have been taxi scammed!! Even the airport shuttle was asking for only 250,000 VND! The trip to my hotel took about 20 minutes so I definitely paid more than what it was supposed to cost. To make things worse, my hotel arranged for my transport back to the airport at the end of my trip for a mere 150,000 VND, in a Toyota Fortuner no less!
The difference of 150,000 VND (about US$7) is not a big deal but I just don’t feel good about being scammed, just because I am a foreigner! I definitely used either a Vinasun or Mai Linh taxi after the experience.
Have you been taxi-scammed before? Share your experience with me!