It is often the information which is overlooked in guide books which proves to be the most valuable when travelling. The kind of information that you can only glean from travellers who have trodden a similar path before you and shared their knowledge.
And I found this to be true on several occasions in Vietnam. Mainly in terms of hidden charges that can often be sprung on you just as you are about to pay.
On my first full day in Saigon, myself and some of my travel buddies decided to head out for a spot of lunch. We found a great spot in the centre of the city and sat down to examine the menu. I immediately spotted that sealed wet wipes had been placed at each table setting and remembered something I had read from a fellow blogger a month or so before.
Basically that in most instances, if you use a sealed wet towel in a restaurant, they will charge you for the privilege. I quickly informed my travel mates of this fact, but a couple of them were sceptical and assumed that it couldn’t possibly be true, so eagerly ripped in to clean their hands.
Sure enough, when the bill came there was a nominal charge added on for the use of the wet wipes for the whole table (which was quickly removed for those of us who hadn’t used them after a quiet word to the waiting staff). The fee was minimal (about 10 cents), but for long term travellers on a budget those kind of small costs can start to add up.
In some restaurants, even if you don’t use the wet wipes but instead ask for a paper towel, they will also charge you for this, so make sure you scrutinize the bill when it comes at the end of the meal.
This can also be said for some of the more ‘touristy’ bars in the larger cities. A group of us headed to a bar that had been recommended to us in Saigon one night and were quickly whisked to a table by the staff and informed of the wonderful drinks promotion they were running. When it came time to pay, we noticed that they had added an extra 10% service charge to the bill, apparently because we were a group. We double checked the menu and found no mention of this and quickly got it removed from the bill.
In most cases, if you suspect that an added charge is unjustified and explain this to the staff they will remove it for you. Please don’t do what I saw several travellers do and make a scene and be rude to the staff. After all, you are a visitor in their country and everyone is just out to do business.
But really, the lesson of the story is to not use the wet wipes and to drink where the locals drink. It’s much more fun (if slightly dirtier!) that way anyway.
DINING OUT IN VIETNAM
Written and contributed by Julia
Posted by: hulahulie
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