Editor’s note: Vietnam suffered a record fall in the number of foreign tourist visits in March, keeping its downward trend for the tenth consecutive month, according to statistics by the General Statistics Office. Tuoi Tre News has been culling feedback from our valued readers on this decline in a bid to provide tourism authorities with an opportunity to listen to their “customers” to put everything back on track again.
Comments and opinions have continued flooding our inbox as more expats, foreign tourists, and overseas Vietnamese recounted how their trips to Vietnam turned unhappy due to various reasons.
In the stories below, the authors all agree to some extent that Vietnam is a beautiful country and a good place to spend their holidays, but there are still off-putting things which they said should be rectified.
All of the following stories and comments represent the exclusive views of the authors.
* I lived in Southeast Asia for a decade beginning in the early 2000s.
When asked what I thought of Vietnam, where I spent over a month [enjoying my vacation], I said [it is a] lovely place, which seems to move in the right direction, economically.
However, there are greedy people who see foreigners as little more than cash cows and are shameless in trying to shake you down for all you are worth.
(John Gats, American)
Foreign tourists buy Vietnamese traditional hats at Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
* I love Vietnam. I’ve just come here again for my third time on holiday. By now I have met friendly Vietnamese people, and my language is improving too.
My company in China gave me one more month to spend here and I was happy about it. But [when I] went to extend my visa, [I was told] US$150 is the cheapest price for one month single entry extension, because the port of entry is in Hanoi.
How can it cost three times more than a new visa? Today I'm crossing to Lao to spend my month there.
Tourists walk past a visa checkpoint to enter Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
* I’ve recently spent a month in Nha Trang, and visited Da Lat as well. I will come back again for certain, but there are a couple of things that are off-putting.
Firstly, the pollution: crystal clear beaches ruined by floating garbage, and a walk down some streets requires you to hold your breath due to the bad smells.
The second point would be the government not providing any bins for businesses and houses. Everywhere people dump the rubbish on the footpath or gutter. Of course it gets collected eventually, but it smells and looks terrible. There needs to be better infrastructure, such as a waste management [system], and education about pollution and protection of the environment.
Another aspect that may put some people off is that almost nobody speaks English, so not many English-speaking tourists want to come back as they find it frustrating to do anything. There should be higher penalties against ripping off tourists as most tourists know they have been duped so they decide never to come back again.
Vietnam has great potential and is a beautiful country. Word of mouth is the most effective advertising, for good or for bad experiences.
Garbage bags are seen on the Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh Province, located in northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
* I have been traveling to Vietnam since 1990. I have seen great and not so great changes over the years. As a tourist what bothers me the most is trash, petty crime, and seeing roasted dogs on the side streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
I understand some people relish the taste of dogs but as a tourist it does not look good to see it out in the open. The government should crack down on the dog meat trade and have it legally farmed if they are going to continue the trade.
Seeing Vietnam [in] the news about the dog meat trade also does not look good for our culture and society. Dog theft and vigilante mob justice speaks a lot of where our society is going. The government needs to be strict with crime as well as petty crime.
A dish of dog meat is seen in an eatery in Hanoi. Photo: Tuoi Tre
[On] my most recent trip to Vietnam to see my family, I was conned [out of] a lot of money by the officials working at the airport.
I arrived at 10:30 pm and they kept me until 11:00 pm. I was too tired from a 17-hour flight that I gave them money so I [could] get to my hotel. This does not look good for tourists. I no longer want to arrive late because of that recent event. I was so angry and dared not tell my mom, who is Vietnamese, what [happened] to me.
The country I like to see Vietnam emulate is Singapore. I have lived there for two years and I always [feels] safe. The streets, beaches, parks are always so clean.
This is just my two cents. I love Vietnam and I wish the government can do more to keep the balance so more people can enjoy the beauty that Vietnam offers.
(Kim Le, overseas Vietnamese)
Tuoi Tre News greatly values and appreciates any contribution to keep this series about Vietnamese tourism going. We are still waiting for your stories.
Have you ever been disappointed by your trip to Vietnam? Do you have any bad experience with the country’s tourism, or suggestion to improve it? Do not hesitate to share your stories with us in the comment box below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.