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How to get Around in Vietnam

It can easily happen to the best of us. You step off a bus slightly groggy after a 13 hour ride north or south. Before you can get excited about exploring the new place you’re in, all you can think is how much you need to check in to your hotel,  drop your backpack off and shower off the sticky sweat that’s culminated after 13 hours of lying on pleather bus bed-seats.

That is exactly the state of mind many scam motorbike riders like to prey on when they immediately greet you as you step off the bus. They’ll ask you what your hotel is and as soon as you mention the name they’ll grab your things rush you to the bike and explain that they are from the hotel. Don’t buy it! This is a classic, as soon as you arrive they’ll claim you owe them an outrageous price and what’s worse you might find yourself surrounded by 5 or 6 cronies despite having been with 1 driver the entire time. It’s up to you how to handle the situation, if you call them out on their behavior they’ll act innocent and claim the price is completely fair, despite sometimes being 5X what you just paid for the bus ride. If you argue for long enough you may succeed in driving the price down to something more reasonable, after all these guys won’t want any trouble with authorities and are not eager in attracting too much attention to themselves, they probably didn’t even give you a helmet when you rode with them. However the process can be exhausting and there is always the fear of escalation.

The best way to handle this kind of situation is to never get into one in the first place. The number 1 tip on how to avoid this is to always, always ask a price before you get into any kind of service, whether its a motorbike ride, massage or a even a meal where they don’t have menus with prices.

Number 2 always keep your wits about you, even when it’s hard. No one finds it fun stepping off a bus at 7 in the morning after driving for the entire night but you have to be on the lookout. Best thing to do is have a plan beforehand on how to get to your hotel, your cheapest and safest option will usually be to take a Grab. Grab is a reputable company with a strong reputation throughout Vietnam. Grab will tell you the price of your journey before you even confirm your reservation  giving you peace of mind that you know exactly what you’re getting into. The drivers are also inclined to offer you good service as the system is reputation based. If Grab is not available see if you can find a proper taxi. Taxi’s in Vietnam are relatively cheap, not as cheap as a Grab but they should not cost you more than $2 or $3. Vinasun and Mai Linh are the two major companies and as long as the meter is running or you agree to a fair price beforehand you will be fine. Lastly, never ever get on a bike unless the driver provides you a helmet. Money comes and goes but there’s nothing more regrettable then an accident which could’ve easily been prevented or mitigated.

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