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Scams in Hanoi – Things you should know before coming to Hanoi

December 01, 2023

Scams in Hanoi

Hanoi is the charming capital of Vietnam, known for its rich history, lively culture, and mouthwatering cuisine. However, as with any major tourist destination, travelers should be aware of common scams and safety precautions to avoid being taken advantage of. In this article, we will discuss the most prevalent scams in Hanoi, how to recognize them, and tips to stay safe during your visit. Forewarned is forearmed, so read on before your trip to this fascinating city!

Is hanoi Safe? and how to avoid Scams

Hanoi is generally considered safe for tourists. However, like any other popular tourist destination, there is still a possibility of encountering scams or petty crimes. Here are some tips to avoid scams in Hanoi:

1. Research and be informed: Before visiting Hanoi, research about common scams and tricks used by scammers in the area. Understanding what to expect can help you be more prepared.

2. Use reputable transportation: Opt for reputable taxi companies, such as Vinasun or Mai Linh, or use ride-hailing apps like Grab to ensure fair pricing and safety.

3. Be cautious around street vendors: Some street vendors may try to overcharge or give incorrect change. Check prices before purchasing, and be alert when handling money.

4. Keep an eye on belongings: Be mindful of your belongings, especially in crowded areas. Use a money belt or secure bag to keep valuables safe.

5. Avoid unsolicited help: Be cautious of strangers offering unsolicited help or guidance. While there are friendly locals, scams may involve individuals pretending to assist you but ultimately tricking you into paying them.

6. Negotiate prices beforehand: When taking a taxi or using services like cyclos or street food vendors, negotiate prices in advance to avoid surprises or inflated costs.

7. Use registered tour companies: If booking tours or excursions, choose reputable and registered tour operators to ensure quality service and eliminate the chances of being scammed.

8. Be aware of “fake” attractions: Scammers may advertise fake or non-existent attractions to lure tourists. Verify information beforehand or seek recommendations from trustworthy sources.

9. Ignore unsolicited requests or distractions: Scammers may try to distract you with requests for money or assistance while an accomplice attempts to steal from you. Stay cautious and avoid engaging in such situations.

10. Trust your instincts: If a situation feels suspicious or too good to be true, trust your gut instinct and proceed with caution.

While these tips can help you avoid scams, it’s important to remember that the majority of people in Hanoi are honest and friendly. By staying alert, informed, and exercising general precaution, you can safely enjoy your time in the city.

10 Popular Hanoi Scams

Some of the common scams to be aware of include:

1. Exchange Rates

When exchanging money, be wary of people on the street who claim to offer better exchange rates than the banks or official money changers. Often their calculations are confusing, and they will shortchange you or give counterfeit bills. Only exchange money at authorized locations like banks, airport kiosks, or reputable exchange shops. Always count your money carefully before leaving.

Avoid exchanging too much money at once in case your cash is later stolen or lost. Exchange only what you need for the day. And never exchange money in dark, deserted areas where thieves may be lurking.

2. Hanoi Taxi Scams

Only take rides from official metered taxis with clear company names/logos on the sides. Beware of unmarked cabs where the drivers may charge exorbitant fares or take you to scam businesses for kickbacks. Also avoid motorcycle taxis outside the Old Quarter, as some drivers rob passengers mid-ride by driving to quiet areas.

When catching a taxi at the airport or tourist sites, never go with a driver who approaches you inside claiming your pre-booked ride is unavailable. This is a common scam. Go to the official taxi stands outside.

Before getting in a taxi, always agree upon the fare. Have the driver reset the meter, and make sure it is on kilometers (km), not miles. Pay the exact metered fare, as some cabbies try to round up. Get a receipt, and have small bills ready to avoid change scams.

3. Pickpockets & Bag Snatchers

Pickpocketing and bag snatching are rampant in crowded Hanoi areas, especially around tourist attractions. Carry valuables in front pockets, wear bags across your chest, and be alert in busy environments. Bag snatchers on motorbikes often grab shoulder bags and purses then speed away. Walking on inner sidewalks can make you a harder target. Leave non-essentials locked in your hotel safe.

4. Fake Tours & Tour Agencies

Only book tours through reputable agencies, checking recent reviews and getting recommendations first. Avoid agents outside that lure you with cheap deals. The tours may never happen, or you could get stuck with extra fees, subpar guides, and shoddy transportation. Ensure any adventure tours have proper safety protocols.

When booking Halong Bay cruises, choose quality boats as cheaper ones can be dirty, overcrowded, unsafe or in poor condition. Cost is usually indicative of the experience you’ll get. Read the fine print carefully.

5. Hotels Scams – What to avoid in Hanoi

Beware booking homestays or mini hotels online that seem suspiciously cheap. You may arrive to find poor conditions, extra fees tacked on, staff demanding more money, or the place overbooked. Only book trusted hotels.

Also avoid airport touts offering free rides to hotels, as they often take you to places that pay them commissions. Take an official taxi instead. When checking in, inspect rooms thoroughly for issues you can document, as some hotels try charging damages falsely attributed to guests later. Pay with a credit card if possible for transaction security.

6. Be careful with the Free Donuts

Street sellers offering free food samples may shortchange you if you later decide to buy. The “free donuts” scam goes like this: A seller lets you try a donut, then charges you for an entire box when you want to buy some. They distract you with rapid Vietnamese, confuse the amount owed, and overcharge you. Politely decline free samples unless you definitely plan to buy.

7. The scam of Free Photos Opportunity

Around scenic spots, swindlers with professional cameras approach pretending to be photography students looking for subjects. If you agree to free photos, they later insist on payment for prints. Legit students will identify themselves with university IDs. Simply decline the unsolicited offers to avoid the hassle.

8 Over-charging

Always verify published prices for attractions, as ticket sellers sometimes spot tourists and charge them more. Overcharging also happens frequently in taxis, cafes, bars and shops. Have small bills handy, watch the change carefully, and don’t pay for anything overpriced. Be especially vigilant when shopping at markets or street stalls.

9 Restaurants that Do Not Display Prices

Avoid restaurants with no prices listed, as the bill is sure to be inflated. Menus without rates, vague menu terms like “seasonal price”, and having dishes weighed after ordering (common at street food stalls) are red flags. Request prices upfront, so there are no “surprises” when the check comes.

10 Motorbike Rental Scams

Renting a motorbike can be convenient for exploring greater Hanoi. But only use reputable rental companies, otherwise you risk mechanical breakdowns, bad accidents due to poor bike maintenance, or even theft. Examine bikes beforehand for pre-existing damage. Otherwise, you may be falsely accused of causing it and forced to pay expensive repair fees. Insist on a helmet rental too.


Hanoi is an amazing city full of wondrous sights, sounds, and food. But travelers should be aware of the common scams targeting tourists in order to avoid losing money or having their trip ruined. By learning popular grifts like money exchange tricks, taxi meter scams, bogus tours, and fake free gifts, visitors can steer clear of thieves and unscrupulous operators. Remaining vigilant, using only reputable companies, securing valuables properly, and following other safety tips will allow people to fully immerse themselves in Hanoi’s splendor without worry. Forearmed against these scams, travelers will make priceless memories exploring this captivating Vietnamese capital.