Hanoi Scams

You have arrived in Hanoi and it’s a whole blurr of motorbikes, noises and new features you have never seen before. The last thing on your mind with all this going on is watching out for Hanoi scams, you just aren’t ready and mistakes are made and you feel gutted after an exhausting first day!

Here I have compiled a list of the top 5 scams in Hanoi. This is not an exhaustive list, as there can be many other tricks that can be conjured up to get money out of Vietnam backpackers, so here we go, check out the Hanoi scams below!

Doughnut Ladies

First on the list of Hanoi scams are the doughnut ladies. There are a number of ladies that walk around the old quarter throughout the day, lugging around a heavy wicker basket laden with doughnuts of all different shapes and sizes. It looks like they would defeat any strongman in a World’s strongest man competition with the sheer weight of these doughnuts. But, there is a very good reason why they do this all day...they (sorry, their boss) make an absolute fortune from the unsuspecting tourist travelling to Hanoi or Vietnam for the very first time.

These ladies can charge as much as 20 – 30k VND per doughnut, which is simply insane. These doughnuts are not that nice, as you can imagine, being traipsed around in the heat and smoky streets of the Old Quarter all day.
These doughnuts are only 2k – 3k per piece and the best place to get them is at the start of Luong Ngoc Quyen, where they are freshly made, hot and tasty. You can tell this is a good spot because there is usually a line of Vietnamese queuing outside the shop holding up traffic in the narrow street which crosses at Nguyen Huu Huan, Café street!

Do yourself and your wallet or purse a favour and stay away from the doughnut ladies and head to Luong Ngoc Quyen street if you want the good stuff!

Shoe Shine Guys

These guys are the craftiest of the sellers on the streets of Hanoi. If you are not too careful & stand still for too long, window shopping for example, they will have your shoe off and be “repairing” it before you can say “what in Ho Chi Minh” is going on!

They will try to charge you anything from 50k VND to 500k VND for either a clean, a sole replacement or a stitching repair. Now, I am not against an honest day’s work and these guys often clean my shoes when I am in the Old Quarter, but I don’t need someone taking them off and ripping me off in the process.

A shoe shine should only cost you 10k VND for the pleasure, I often negotiate to 10k VND and give them 20k VND anyway. A standard repair of your shoe should not be any more than 30k – 50k depending on what’s been done. A sole replacement should be nowhere more than 60k – 70k VND.

Fruit Basket Ladies

There are many ladies that walk around the Old Quarter of Hanoi with baskets across their shoulders, heaving with fruit, vegetables, metal parts, boxes, cardboard, paper etc etc. These Vietnamese ladies are honest hard working people of Hanoi trying to earn a crust from their fresh produce, or to recycle their produce elsewhere and are to be looked up to and marveled at the sheer weight they carry all day every day.

There are however, those ladies that walk around with one or two pieces of pineapple or one bunch of bananas. They are not out to earn money honestly, but to rip off the tourist who thinks nothing of paying a few dollars for a tiny pineapple or $5 for a bunch of bananas...just because the lady says so!!
They will also try to get you to put the baskets across your own shoulders for a photo, again, a reason for this, to charge you for the privilege. Anywhere up to 500k VND can be charged for such a photo & a complete rip off and scam.

You don’t need to pay this and if you really do want a photo of you wearing the baskets, then make sure you arrange this beforehand.


I’ve seen these guys work very hard, especially when you see them punishing their scrawny legs with an oversized westerner sitting in the front fast asleep with a camera round his neck worth more than the guys house! So they do deserve their fees for this strenuous exercise. They are not usually young guys either, so hats off to them really.

But, there are situations where they will quite simply put, “rip you off”! I have witnessed a couple from Singapore having just finished a 20-minute ride and being asked for 500k VND. Or, a couple who I know who took a cyclo ride back to their hotel after a day’s walking around the City, a ride just taking 5 minutes, and charged 200k VND.

These prices are over the top and not something you want to have taint your holiday with.
A ride on a cyclo will usually cost a Vietnamese around 30k – 50k per trip. But there is no way in hell that tourists will get this. Expect to be charged around 100k VND per person for a ride lasting around 45 minutes – 1 hour.

In any situation in Hanoi though, haggle, haggle, haggle...until both of you are happy with the price.



Taxis are the same all over the world, so Hanoi is no more different to the rest. So it should not come as a surprise that this has made the top 5 scams of Hanoi, but we will mention it anyway.

Taxis in Hanoi can make a small fortune from tourists who either a) don’t understand the money or b) don’t realise the distances & prices (again, same all over the world).

But, there is something that taxis do here that I haven’t heard of anywhere else, I haven’t witnessed it myself but have heard reports from tourists, backpackers etc who have seen the meters jump, mid-way through the journey. Not the usual jump going past the next km mark of the trip, but a huge 100k VND jump.

There have been instances after a journey where customers have refused to pay and the drivers get angry, violent and even bring out weapons to threaten the customer in to paying. More often than not, the customer just pays and the taxi driver has won again.

One sure fire way of knowing you are being ripped off in Hanoi is when they refuse to drop you at your hotels front door. Obviously if the night market is on and you are staying at Oriental Suites, it is not possible after 7pm. But, if it’s not, then the reason they don’t is because the hotel staff usually come out and help the customer and when they find out where you came from and the price being charged, they get very angry and report the taxi driver.

So, after all this, my immediate suggestion would be to stay away from the taxi guys in Hanoi and use Grab instead. They are hugely popular here in Hanoi and most Vietnamese and plenty of tourists will travel around using them, they are safe, reliable and far cheaper than the usual taxis and no chance of getting ripped of either.