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Avoiding Restaurant Rip-offs

By: Tim Russell Posted: June-16-2010 in
The Big Lobster - Photo Credit - Tim Russell
Tim Russell

A great and very useful feature on the excellent Travel Rants website about how to avoid being ripped off in tourist restaurants. Personally I would go even further and advise people to avoid tourist restaurants altogether, especially in Vietnam where tourist restaurant = same food you would get in a local restaurant, only with aircon, nicer chairs and and plenty of extra $$$ on the bill.

All the points the writer makes are valid in Vietnam, particularly the practice of adding hidden extras onto the bill (watch out for those peanuts!) and the fact that as tourist restaurants assume you’ll only be eating there once, they feel obliged to fleece you for every dollar you have!

Here are some other tricks to watch out for in restaurants in Vietnam…

Dual Pricing
If the restaurant is Vietnamese but the menu is only in English, alarm bells should start ringing immediately. Ask to see the Vietnamese menu - if they say no, leave. Some restaurants operate a dual pricing policy in which the English menu is priced 10-20% higher than the Vietnamese one - Quan Loan restaurant on the corner of Hai Ba Trung/Ly Tu Trong in HCMC is a good, or rather bad, example of this. The menu should either be solely in Vietnamese, or in both languages.

Seafood Sold by Weight
Unlike most other menu items, the price of larger seafood items (shrimp, crab, lobster etc) depends on the daily market price, so the price won’t generally be indicated on the menu, or even on a blackboard. So before ordering, always check the per kilo price and then order a specific weight. Many’s the foreign diner who’s just ordered “lobster” and then been served a 3kg monster costing an equally monstrous amount!big_lobster

The Customer is Always Wrong
Been brought the wrong order? Food not properly cooked? Fish tastes a bit off? Tough! In Vietnam, to admit you are wrong is to lose face, so don’t expect a fulsome apology from your waiter or a fresh replacement dish, at least not without a lengthy negotiation/argument. I was once served a piece of fish at a restaurant in Mui Ne that was so rancid it was inedible, yet the restaurant refused to admit their mistake and even chased me down the street when I left without paying for it.

Count Your Beers
The insanely cheap price of beer in many Vietnamese restaurants means an evening dinner often turns into a right old booze-up. Nothing wrong with that, but unless one of you is alert & keeping an eye on how many beers are consumed, you may end up paying for more than you ordered. Some restaurants will put a beer crate next to your table, put the empties in there & then count them up at the end of the night; others will sneak extra beers into the crate, or simply add a few extra onto your bill. OK, it may only be an extra couple of dollars but it can still leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

Anyone got any other restaurant scams?

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user avatar Anonymous

restaurants in ho chi minh city

Good article, but it concerns not only "tourist restaurant". Every vietnamese private restaurant will become for you a "tourist" immediately when they see your white skin.

This is normally for vietnamese staff to change a meal you've just ordered with something, by their understanding, "similar".
Your food will be plenty of sugar, ajinomoto and other dubious ingredients.
At all your reasanable question they will try to convince you that everything is ok, don't worry.
Any attempt to obtain a justice will meet the stupid smile at least or even a couple of rude vn words in your back
And yes, you must have a good arithmetic skills in Vietnam, not only when you drinking a bear. A couple of times the sum of whole positions in my bill was greatly different with the mentioned (Ciao Restaurant, Nguyen Hue street, HCMC).

To avoid such a troubles eat in a place tried before or some networks like pho24, Biocafe, Espressamente etc or foreign managed restaurants like Vasco, Cepage, Stella.

Nevertheless avoid a Highlands Coffee - extremely high prices and quality of food leaves much to be desired


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