Ok, so here I am in HCMC and I have been utterly frustrated to the point of near tears! I am not an emotional person so for me this is saying a lot. I am on my second day here alone and I feel like everyone around me thinks that I am a great big huge $$$ sign to them.... I read a lot prior to coming here and thought that I was prepared but still feel as if I have been taken by every person that I have come into contact with....
I was really looking forward to traveling from HCMC to Hanoi alone but now I am second guessing my decision on this.... I have friends that are flying in tonight and going to spend a couple days with them at Mui Ne beach, maybe I will feel better after that? Is all of Vietnam like HCMC?
This is the #1 problem for tourists in Vietnam, and it just takes time to cure. I remember being approached by a shoeshine boy in Saigon (I was eating breakfast on the terrace of my hotel at the time), and I agreed to have my shoes shined for a nominal charge of say 15000 Dong, but when he finished, he wanted that amount for each shoe! I held my anger, and told him no, and simply gave him the original quoted amount. Once your friends arrive, all will be well, and you'll laugh over petty things like a few Dong. After all, we came all the way to Vietnam for something exotic and different, didn't we? You will soon learn how to smile your "NO".
When I first arrived in Vietnam I had the same impression, but as soon as I started travelling with my friends it seemed less of an issue. Don't let your experience be spoiled by the feeling that everyone is trying to make money and doesn't seem to care about who you are.
Just like in Thailand it is common in Vietnam to haggle (at least that was my experience) and Daawgon is perfectly right with his other advise: Just smile and say, no thank you if you don't want to buy anything. Also, in the smaller cities it's definitely not as bad as in HCMC and Hanoi, and you shouldn't miss out on places like Nha trang, Hue or Hoi An.
Hope you feel better soon and next time tell us about your great time in Vietnam !
Thank you. I am feeling a little better about it today. You were right that my friends arriving did help and I shared several instances with them and we all laughed at the entire day... I am still a little concerned about learning to deal with it but knowing that it isn't personal does help. I will be with my friends for only a couple of days then off on my own again. I expect to be hassled a little more as a single woman but hopefully it will be tolerable. Oh...and I am DONE crying, damn-it!! ha ah
It takes time to adapt to. At home youre probably used to looking at price tags and either accepting or rejecting the offer. In Vietnam (and a whole bunch of other developing countries) theres often no price, and both buyer and seller come to an agreement which makes them both happy - remember the happy part, if you won't be satisfied after the purchase don't buy it. (which is easier said than done)
In reality the drive is the same as Western companies, although we have the set price, the price is altered to obtain maximum profits - just like these guys, they are after maximum profit. They just don't have much of an economic/legal framework behind it all.
Of course here you have to use your brain more - for me a lot of questions pop up ie. am i in a touristy/expensive area? is it genuine? do i come across like someone who is easily taken for a ride? whats it really worth to locals?
If you look like a tourist who has no idea about the price, then they will do their best to get the most money out of you. If you look like you have money, they will want it - being modest and not flashing out heaps of cash/food/shopping bags probably helps, but a lot is to do with the caucasion/Western appearance.
So I'd advise
- Say no, directly and firmly but with a smile
- Take a laid back approach, have a joke with some of the touts, if they ask where you're from say Japan or Antartica or something, you'll find that outside of their work they are generally nice people and will have a laugh.
- Remember, its a developing country so chances are they need the money more than Westerners do, your purchase could define the next few meals for their family, and they're willing to go to further lengths (ie haggling) to get it.
- If there's any major problems go to the tourist police (assuming Vietnam has them), they're there to help you and anyone is hassling you they should walk away very quickly.
- Even if you're interested sometimes it's good to pretend youre not, play some games, even laugh at their first offer if its exhobitant - to make them realise you won't be ripped off, but again do this with a smile. Pretend to walk away (or actually do it and come back) and they may soon drop the price substantially.
Hope that helps a bit!
Thanks for the info. I am pretty ok with the haggling it's the fact that after the sale, then they wanted more than we agreed. I feel much better now and the fact that my friends are with me has helped. I was amazed at the difference in how little I was approached being with someone else than I was while walking around on my own. I will have a short reprieve from being hassled (hopefully) then I am back off on my own with hopefully a better outlook and expectation.
Thank you for reminding how bad it was for me from Hanoi down to Saigon.
I was actually thinking about a return to Hanoi thing... I feel sorry for the nice people of Vietam. They do exist.
Its really the manner they ask for the money that annoys me. I can't explain without sounding uneducated, but your post makes me think that my perception or opinion is justified.
This is the #1 problem for tourists in Vietnam, and it just takes time to cure. I remember being approached by a shoeshine boy in Saigon (I was eating breakfast on the terrace of my hotel at the time), and I agreed to have my shoes shined for a nominal charge of say 15000 Dong, but when he finished, he wanted that amount for each shoe! I held my anger, and told him no, ".
You deserve an Oscar for holding back your anger. I just went ballistic, coz the boy in my shoe shine story won't leave my sight for what was then an eternity. I never agreed to have my SANDALS shined or fixed. But he grab the footwear off my feet and glued what needs to be glued and then he was asking for some DOLLARS. What? dollars? Its the ignorance that really annoys. I don't ever get pissed in Cambodia and Laos. But I one day, I will revisit Hanoi to see how they reinvent themselves.
I hope you do learn to say 'no!' and keep moving. I talk about some of the problems one encounters in VN in my blog. But what I want to convey is that you should start travelling with others. I am going to assume you are using the 'open tour' bus system. If you are even a bit outgoing, you should meet others on the bus or at your hotel/guesthouse to travel with. If you are on your way to HaNoi, you will see the same people all the way north. I suggest you find some other girls and see if you can buddy up with them. It is much more fun to have someone to share your experiences with.
Send me a PM if you have questions.