-4- BE PREPARED TO WALK AWAY FROM ANY FINANCIAL TRANSACTION
Vietnamese love to do business and hate to see a customer walk away. Generally, they get the upper hand the second you ask “how much”. Don’t let them keep you held down. Name your price. Stick to the price you want and just politely walk away if they don’t go for it. They will call you back if it’s a fair deal, or offer you their lowest price while you’re still within earshot.
Don’t let them squeeze any higher amount out of you. The Vietnamese respect a tough customer, even if you feel you’ve wasted their time and want to ‘give in’, don’t.
-5- DON’T CONFUSE ’15’ AND ’50’
One of those “petty” things to watch out for among Vietnam travel tips. Street vendors such as coconut sellers or shoe shiners will trick you and claim that you agreed to a higher “50” thousand dong and not the “15” thousand you were 100% sure was understood. The price of a coconut or a shoe shine is around 15,000 dong, so be sure that “15” is understood before the coconut is cracked open or your shoes are shined. Don’t fall for the “50”. Once their end of the deal is met, you can’t win the argument. It’s ’50’.
What I do is try to take out 15,000 dong and show it to the seller before we commit. Or, I use my fingers to illustrate “1” and “5” so there is no confusion in the end. 35,000 dong may seem like a small amount to fuss over, but being overcharged is a tourist’s #1 reason for never returning to Vietnam.
-6- BUY YOUR TRAIN TICKETS DIRECTLY AT THE TRAIN STATION, NOT FROM YOUR HOTEL OR AN AGENT
I love the train in Vietnam. It’s a great way to see the pastoral landscape safely, peacefully and without the constant honking.
Almost indefinitely, your hotel will ask you “where are you going next?”. This is because they want to buy your train ticket, or arrange your flight or bus ticket, for a substantial “service fee” (200,000 dong / ticket, generally) that they will tell you is the actual cost of the ticket. Yes, your hotel is lying to you. Happens every day to me, too.
Take a half hour of your time, hire a xe ôm (motorbike taxi) to take you to the train station and buy your tickets directly there. Or, when you arrive by train buy your ticket out of town right away. Tickets do tend to sell out days in advance, so don’t go to the train station with no ticket expecting to hop on the next train.
-7- BREAKFAST IS OFTEN INCLUDED, AND OFTEN SUCKS
Noodles, sandwiches, spring rolls: Vietnam has amazing and cheap street food around every corner. You don’t need to force down a bland hotel breakfast to get the day going.
Hotels will try to lure you in with the “breakfast included” offer. Breakfast won’t be terrible, but it is probably not worth considering in the cost of your stay. In Vietnam, it is super easy to run out and grab an amazing bowl of soup for 20,000 dong no matter where you are. The streetside soup, and coffee (10,000 dong), will be much better than the greasy eggs and stale baguette offered by your hotel.
I’ve had some decent breakfasts in $30+ hotels in Vietnam, but at most hotels I skip breakfast and hit the streets for my first of many amazing meals throughout the day.
To be continued…