Tourists going year in and year out are strong statements that Hanoi is indeed a beautiful city. Many try to plan their stay as flawless as possible with the help of a Hanoi guide. But as much as it’s exciting to visit this tropical place, it’s undeniable that it also has its share of infamous experiences.From stories of scams and rude locals, Hanoi’s spectacle is tainted with negative reviews. Here, I listed some of the most common things that you should know before visiting.
1. Motorbike accident is the leading cause of death in Vietnam
Some say that in Vietnam, traffic accidents kill more people than a pandemic. The country was tagged to have the most dangerous roads for motorcycling and according to the World Health Organization, almost 7,000 motorcycle accident casualties are reported in Vietnam yearly.
With this, renting a car might be your easy resort. But the downside is that you can be stuck in traffic for hours. And if you’re brave enough to rent a motorbike, some shops won’t even provide you a helmet. Traffic enforcement isn’t really effective in cities like Hanoi with locals driving carelessly.
When you’re riding a motorbike in Hanoi, don’t spare the horn! Honking frequently isn’t rude especially if a bigger vehicle is going close. You should also bring basic repair tools on your short trip and replacements for a spark plug and screws.
2. You should buy your train tickets at the station and not from an agent
Some hotels may offer to book you a train ticket with an additional service fee of US$8.8 each. They may tell you that it’s the original price of a ticket but once you buy it on your own, you’ll realize that they’re lying.
If you want to avoid being ripped off, you can head to the train station to buy your tickets in advance. Remember that you should always buy it ahead of your trip because it sells out right away. You shouldn’t show up at the station expecting to hop in with an on-the-spot ticket purchase.Anyway, a train ride on your Hanoi guide is the best way to see the natural landscape of Vietnam even if it can be as long as a 12-hour ride.
3. You should be picky on day tour packages
Cheap tour packages in Hanoi are a typical sight in every district. Newbie tourists took the bait once and they realized how some can be a waste of time even if it only costs about US$6. Most of the time, the local tour guides will lead you to try their friend’s restaurant or buy things from someone’s shop. And since you don’t want to be rude, you’ll end up spending more than you plan for a single tour.
One way to avoid this is to join free walking tours. There are many student-run organizations here like Free Walking Tours (FWT) and HanoiKids that gives the service for free. You can’t be ripped off and they’re more friendly than some of the paid guides.
4. Mind your valuables when you’re outside
You’ll meet almost all types of people in the streets of Hanoi. Though most of the people outside the business sphere are friendly, you shouldn’t lose your eye on your valuables. Flaunting your new iPhone here is like giving it away to a snatcher. Even laying it on the table on a street stall is dangerous; it can be taken away by that guy on your side who you think is trustworthy.
This applies on sleeper buses and trains too. Many sleepyhead tourists lost their bags, hats, and money because they became too relaxed on the environment. This isn’t a matter of stereotyping, but this happens on many tourists during their trip.
5. Count the zeros on your dong
If you’re a naïve tourist, you can easily be ripped off when you fail to count the zeros on your dong when purchasing something. Vietnam’s currency comes in large denominations that you can eat a lavish dinner for about a million’s worth of dong.
Remember, one dollar is equivalent to about 21,000 dongs. If you’ve missed a zero on the bill, you’ll be handling a merchant your day’s budget. Sadly, some won’t even return the excess to you. If that happens, arguing loudly won’t refund your money.
Another Hanoi guide: there are no coins in Vietnam’s currency so you have to deal with bills, bills, bills.
6. Hotel prices are cheaper when you book it in person
Although there are offers in Trivago or Agoda for a cheap hotel in Vietnam, prices can sometimes be cheaper when you book it in person. Due to online fees and other hidden charges, you’ll pay more than the walk-in price.Another good thing about booking personally is you get to haggle with the price. You also get to check the place before putting your money on it.
7. Hanoi doesn’t have great beaches
If you’re heading to Hanoi for a beach getaway, you might need to reassess your plans. Beaches are not the specialty of the city, though there are some sandy places that you can visit. Usually, beaches here are rocky and not Boracay-ish like in the Philippines.Still, you can take a dip in its waters but don’t expect too much from it.
8. Check what you’re eating to avoid stomach problems
Many street stores lure newbie tourists and the outcome isn’t usually pleasant. Soup that isn’t boiled well or meat ingredients that are already a couple of days old give stomach problems. Some tourists also complain about the unsanitary preparation of food on some small stalls. One even had sand on her meal.
To avoid this, eat on top selling street stores or to be safe, choose a busy restaurant. A flood of customers means that they have good food and an indirect proof of good sanitation. In any way, make sure that the soup is freshly boiled and the ingredients are processed the same day of serving.
9. Beware of nighttime crimes
I don’t intend to make you a paranoid freak, but Hanoi is also the home to smooth-talking scammers and sneaky criminals. Some pose a friendly stance and even inviting you for a karaoke or dinner. For some, it turns out that they have to pay a hefty bill.
Part of your Hanoi guide is being watchful during nighttime. Robbery and mugging had been recorded to tourists (and even locals) and more likely to those who are a bit wasted in a night’s drinking. Some were even forced to withdraw money from their ATM. To avoid being a target, don’t wear expensive-looking jewelry or accessories and don’t bring a lot of cash.
It’s better if you’ll go out with a group at night to send away pickpockets and criminals. If you’re alone, you can join a free walking tour with the locals.
10. Prices for goods will soar up when you show off a lot of money
Some locals will tend to overcharge you when they saw that you have more money. They can even double the price if they’re really hot on ripping you off. To avoid this, make sure that you have small bills everywhere in your pockets. If you show a lower amount that what you’re buying, you might increase your haggling chances.
Anyway, showing off a lot of money is disrespectful to some folks so stop counting your bills on the streets.
11. Some locals will make fun of you and rip you off
This one happens when tourists try to buy something and only to be ridiculed and ripped off. They will laugh with other locals while muttering something in Vietnamese. Since you’re not born stupid, you’ll know that it means “I’m not giving you the right serving, but I’m going to charge you more.” And for a tourist who just wants to have a good time, it’s a complete turn-off.
I can’t give any specific way to avoid this since there’s no way to know which local is honest or not. For a preventive move, just walk away politely when you sense that something’s not right. That way, they’ll know that you can’t be fooled easily.
If you’re paranoid about buying on your own, you can ask a friendly Hanoian to help you out.
12. You should be smart enough to avoid taxi scams
Sadly, taxi swindlers are roaming the streets of Hanoi, and if you plan to take one on your way to your hotel, don’t pick those that are loitering in bus stations. Some would bring you to a place with the namesake of your hotel and you’ll be obliged to pay for the fare.
Meanwhile, other taxis have high-speed meters that will end you up paying a dozen bucks for a short ride. I suggest that you follow the Hanoi guide of using Uber or Grab to get a ride.
13. Some people love to eat stinky food in public vehicles
This isn’t an exclusive scenario in Hanoi because I had seen the same in other Asian countries. They love eating boiled eggs on the bus while discarding the shells on the floor. Others love dried flavor fish and sour-smelling stuff as their travel snack. When all of this mixes up, the whole experience is a stinky ride plus the loud burping from the old folks.
Maybe you can taste those foods sometimes; it might be appealing to you too.
14. Crossing the streets here is a serious challenge
If you have itchy feet, you’ll surely despise this part. Hanoi streets are the sight of endlessly streaming vehicles that waiting for a gap to cross will take an eternity. Like what they said, Hanoi streets are not for the faint of heart. To go on the other side, you have to brave the speeding vehicles and walk straight. Remember: never stop in the middle or you’ll get hit. Drivers won’t have the time to stop their speeding motorcycles.
The best thing to do is to spot a local crossing the street and go with the flow. I’d done this many times and I really look like a pro.
15. Some hotels will try to charge you for the facility damages you didn’t even cause
A malfunctioning toilet, broken shower, or ripped curtains. Before you check-in, make sure to inspect the whole place first. Some hotels will charge you for the damages you came into and since you’re staying on it for hours, you’d no excuse.
If ever you’re already checked-in, inform the hotel staff right away about the damages. Have it fixed straight away so you won’t get ripped off. Another thing to remember is that you shouldn’t give your passport as a deposit – be it a hotel, inn, or hostel. This isn’t a normal thing and they can “hostage” your passport for your money.
Hanoi isn’t all negative. With its rich culture, beautiful destinations, and good food, the infamous things are just small hiccups on your great vacation. Using this post as your Hanoi guide can lessen the chances of such incidents occurring. Like in any other countries, there is a bunch of wrongdoers, but most of the locals are hospitable. Don’t think that Hanoians are all scammers, many are willing to help without anything in return.
Do you have any thoughts about these infamous experiences in Hanoi? Let us know in the comment section!
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