Featured Blogs & Columns
On the back of his bike, Nemo, Matt covers wild distances across India
Vietnam’s scams are real and serious, and definitely shouldn’t be trivialised. But while many travellers will escape the local scammer, only an exceptional traveller escapes another kind of scam — telecommunication company and bank ripoffs. And they’ll hit your wallet a lot more than most of the stuff you’ll encounter in-country.
While it’s every traveller’s goal to experience a new destination through the eyes of a local, unless you have friends or family living there, that can be a next-to-impossible task. Happily, in Ho Chi Minh City, there are a few places that aim to turn tourists into locals.
The 8th edition of the International Travel Expo was held in Ho Chi Minh City last month, bringing together more than 500 participating companies from more than 30 countries. If you weren’t able to get to the show, here’s a taste of what you missed, indicating that 2012-13 will be an exciting time to travel.
Expat tour guides are becoming more numerous here in Vietnam, and some of the locals aren’t happy about it. One Vietnamese tour operator recently said, “The government cannot know what foreign tour guides are telling international tourists about Vietnam. It is totally possible that they cause misunderstandings about Vietnam’s culture, history and customs”. Thus betraying an all-too common misunderstanding of what tourism is really about.
Because I work in the tourism industry, people often ask me if I can get them good hotel/resort deals. I usually can, but establishing whether they are the best deals available is becoming increasingly complicated given the huge number of booking channels now in existence.
Reading the Vietnam forums on popular travel review site Tripadvisor, one theme immediately becomes apparent — the ripping off of tourists by taxi drivers, shoeshine boys, street traders, unscrupulous travel agents, etc. Not a day goes by without some unfortunate visitor telling tales of US$50 airport taxi rides, US$5 bananas or ‘luxury’ Halong Bay cruises that turn out to be anything but.
Earlier this year, eyebrows were raised and funny bones tickled when it was announced that, following an official order, all tourist boats on Halong Bay were to be painted white or have their licences revoked. Just another of those crazy ideas that tourism officials occasionally come up with, no doubt to be forgotten about within days.
Vietnam recently announced that it had received its six millionth tourist visitor in 2011, conveniently just in time before the end of the year. How many of these visitors were actual tourists, and how many were business travellers, people visiting their family or expats doing visa runs will probably never be known now that the landing card has been scrapped, but if the figure is accurate, it represents a near 20 percent increase on 2010’s figures.