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Hey Taxi!

Public transport in Vietnam is one of the most difficult arrangements for travelers. What is available has no specific routes within the cities.  The Xe Om (motor taxi) is convenient but is vulnerable for the passenger in the traffic in the big cities. Privately hired cars are comparatively expensive. Catching a cab is the best option all round.

There are about 14,000 taxis in Hanoi and about double that in Ho Chi Minh City.  In the last couple of years ‘taxi scams’ has been the most popular topic in Vietnamese forums as well as travel forums overseas. What I am saying below is to make some explanation from a culture angle about this issue and hope that you will have a better understanding about this particular problem and maybe other social issues in Vietnam.

Labor management is a very important part of every company culture. It makes or breaks that business. Everyone knows that. Vietnamese taxi companies also know that. They have done quite a lot to improve their service and brand name. They try hard by training a service culture into employees. They created a Taxi Association in order to make a fair competitive market. They have organized an active inspection team to clean out all ‘scam’ acts from their workers.  They even require their workers to deposit an amount of money with the company which is forfeit if they are caught treating their customers improperly.  They are doing more and more to gain customer’s satisfaction – your smiles. Do those acts work? Yes, but not fully. The problem is that the ‘working culture’ of Vietnamese is different from other countries. I’ll explain:

The personality of the majority of Vietnamese is based on and influenced by a culture that we called Tiểu Nông (Agriculture Minded – AM) (I am not too sure about my translation).   AM is a product of an agricultural society that makes people narrow-minded: short term acts, not thinking much of consequences, oriented to personal profit and thinking less about social profit in general. It has been this way in Vietnam for thousands of years so it will take time to change the culture. The attitude means an individual Vietnamese may get success, but the long term outcome can be broken relationships and businesses. Teamwork has never been the strong suit for Vietnamese. Taxi drivers in Vietnam are very much part of this AM group because most of them have had a very limited access to education. Human Resources are the most difficult part to control in Taxi enterprises. Moreover, Vietnamese in general work emotionally, and are not good at following the regulations!  It is useless to teach them only to obey regulations; they require a good understanding of the reasons FOR the regulations as well as being offered additional incentives if you expect to get good results. This explains why the ‘village culture’ is still exists and why you must follow the rules from that particular area. This is a complicated consequence of Vietnamese society.

I believe things have been changing with Vietnam’s integration into the world economy. These bad habits will not be suitable with the demands of economic expansion. Until this can be achieved travelers need to be aware and protect themselves from this possibility. I have some tips for tourists when you use a Taxi in Vietnam:

  • Always know the name and if possible the address where you want to go.
  • Take your hotel card with you for the return trip and get someone to write in Vietnamese your destination so you can show the driver.
  • Use good brand taxis with their meter on and with the meter sealed in a plastic box.
  • Never use a grubby taxi; the new and clean one seems to be more able to be trusted.
  • Negotiate the price before boarding for ‘fixed routes’ like Hotel to Airport or the reverse.
  • Ask Reception in a hotel to call the taxi for you wherever you are anywhere if possible, even you are not staying there.
  • If you feel something is wrong, stop the Taxi, pay the bill, then leave.
  • If an argument arises, get the number plate, taxi number or any recognizable identity you can see, look for locals to help, speak loudly to get attention if you can but on no account get in a fight.
  • If you have any complaints to Taxi company, make sure you have basic evidences like taxi number, timing, routes..etc, and don’t forget to rush them to follow your case. One or two phone calls only may not be effective enough, you need to ring them more frequency.

Now,  it’s your turn, do you have any personal tips or experiences about Taxi scams to share with people? Please kindly leave your comment to help the others. Cheers & Safe travel!

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