Editor’s note: A recent Tuoi Tre News report on local tour guides who lack knowledge, enthusiasm, or language proficiency has drawn mixed responses from readers, who are divided into “agree” and “disagree” groups on the issue.
The stories below are told by international tourists who said they have been guided through trips across Vietnam by knowledgeable and honest guides, and who believe bad tour guides are everywhere, not just in Vietnam.
The opinions expressed here reflect the authors’ views.
* Just read your article about tour guides. I guess I was a lucky person as I have [had] positive experiences so far.
[From my experience, Vietnamese tour guides] have all showed good knowledge of the touristic sites, plus they are honest and modest people.
Their English is not excellent but good enough to make themselves understandable. One of them (in Sa Pa) was [not only] concerned about the local children, but also about their behavior toward tourists.
Actually the only thing I absolutely recognize is that they bring you to on-the-road tourist shops where you spend more than one hour and you also have to buy your lunch. Exactly as you [said], they probably get commission, or it is [just] a gesture to their friends, who own a restaurant or shop.
I think it all starts with better education and as a component of this, good English training.
Besides, I don't think the quality of tour guides is the only reason that tourists don't return.
Visa fees are extremely high. [Look at Indonesia], which have just dropped visas for foreign tourists. Taxi driver and hotel room scams are also a big reason, just as street vendors, double pricing, and the increased ticket prices.
I hope Vietnam can work on improvement. Having been there four times, I absolutely fell in love with the country.
I love to come back, but not under these circumstances.
(Francisca van Hassel, Dutch tourist)
* Tourism, like most industries in a relatively newly-emerging economy, is also an expanding business, with everyone wanting to jump on the same bandwagon.
I get tired of hearing that Vietnamese tour guides are rubbish and Western tour leaders are preferable. I have seen plenty of both at work, and believe me: both have the best and worst available.
The best guides are always working, as they are so in demand, and get the best rate of pay, and the best tour operators pay more money to get them.
On the other hand, lazy guides, who want to do as little as possible for their money, drag the reputation down for all.
I have seen Western tour operators selling exactly the same Mekong Delta tours with homestay as [their Vietnamese counterparts] do, but charging at full retail price and thus reaping much more profit.
This kind of scalping is the first justification that a lazy guide will take to decide that it is okay to skimp on his job and rip off his clients.
There are some awful guides in Vietnam, but every inbound and outbound tour operator has to pay a bond – a payment to an agency such as the Pacific Asia Travel Association or International Air Transport Association. So if any tourist is mistreated by a guide, there are channels to make a formal complaint.
The newspaper has negatively reported isolated incidents as if the phenomenon is rife. This will only be detrimental to the industry.
(Paul Stokes, tourist)
* Are Vietnamese tour guides really bad? Who has guided you on your latest Vietnam trip? Did you enjoy the journey because of the good tour guide, or endure inconveniences? Please share your stories with us via firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your words in the comment box below.