Travel Vietnam

The Fun and Scam of Siklo Tour in Ho Chi Minh

“Where you from?”

“Philippines,” Bing and I answered in unison.

The old skinny man suddenly pulls up a big notebook, flips through the pages, stops somewhere along the way, then shows it to us. It’s a letter written in Tagalog, which I soon realize is a review of this man’s services. The person who wrote it seemed satisfied with the tour and even praised the old man for his kindness. The book is filled with other reviews written in different languages, apparently from his former customers. Being a blogger and one who makes reviews myself, I have always given great consideration on other people’s reviews of places, products, and services. Naturally, I treated the reviews on that notebook with the same regard. I mean why would anyone waste time writing there if they don’t mean it. Bing and I agreed to get his services and I even thought I’d probably write my own letter of recommendation on that notebook. But I never did.

The day started fine. Bing and I were excited to take the siklo tour because for one, we’ve never seen anything like it. Siklo is a three-wheel vehicle or the Vietnam’s version of “pedikab,” only it looks different. It’s like a tuk-tuk in reverse, instead of the driver being in the front, it’s the passenger that is in the anterior of the vehicle. To ride it, the Siklo driver pulls the front downward, then you step in. He pulls it back up then takes the cycle on the back.

Riding a siklo is such a weird but fun experience. It could take you around the city of Ho Chi Minh and because the passenger seat is in the front, it allows you the best view for sightseeing. The name of my driver is Thu. He asked me several questions about myself, including my country, and I was happy to reply. Likewise, I also asked him about himself. He said that he has never taken a trip abroad and that he hasn’t even been to the northern part of Vietnam. He seemed to be nice, even warned me about protecting my mobile phone because the passing motorbikes could easily snatch it from me.

I watched the motorbikes sped by, the people on the side of the street who are hanging out drinking coffee, the street vendors selling food, the street vendors selling stuffed toy, the students heading their way to the school, and other things that are probably the daily routine of the people of Saigon.

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War Remnants Museum

Phil, the guy that we met during the Mekong River Cruise talked about how depressing a trip to a War Remnant Museum could be. Naturally, I wanted to see it for myself just to learn some Vietnam history. Therefore, it is the first stop of our Siklo tour. The entrance fee here is very cheap, only VND 15,000 (PHP 32 – USD 0.068). [Read: The Not so New Story of the Mekong River Cruise]

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In the backyard, you will find the military planes, tanks, boats, and other vehicles that were used during the Vietnam War. Inside the 4-story building is where you can find the other relics and photos that bore the memories of the war.

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All acts of atrocities committed against humans are explicitly depicted in the galleries. There are photos of crying women taken before they were shot to death, of corpses of young children and even babies lying on the dirt road, of men being tortured, and of American soldiers, smiling and posing for the camera with the severed heads of some Vietnamese people.

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There is a floor solely dedicated to Agent Orange. One of the atrocities the US committed during the Vietnam War is the use of chemical weapons, the most notorious of which is Agent Orange. It was meant to cause catastrophic devastation towards the natural resources in Vietnam. For 10 years, these chemicals were poured in Central and Southern part of Vietnam destroying the mountains, plains, and crops, water resource, and the ecological balance of the country.

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Not only did it destroy the natural resources, it also affected between 2.1 and 4.8 million people. It led to physical deformities, children being born with no limbs, people suffering from skin disease, and causing other forms of disabilities. I was so aghast by the pictures I found myself cursing the people who did such evil over and over in my head. This is more than inhumane, this is evil. And I felt terribly sad thinking about the many lives wasted in a war between the disputes of the few.

Loan Bao Tin Mung

There is a Catholic church in Vietnam and it’s pink. I’ve never seen a pink church before, not even in my own country where it is predominantly Catholic. I was naturally amused and started taking some photos to the horror of a few churchgoers.

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Saigon Square

Bing was adamant that we go to Saigon Square as it was recommended to her by a friend. Apparently, that’s where the class A knock-offs of branded items can be found. It looks kinda like the shopping malls in Greenhills, it is air-conditioned, and the items are expensive. We later found out that there is another Saigon Square and that this one is not the SS that her friend was referring.

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There are several Jollibee branches in Ho Chi Minh and Thu seemed to enjoy letting me know where they are, pointing at them, whenever we happened to pass by one on the street. I wanted to go to try Jollibee there, just to see if they have sort of “Vietnamized” their offering, but I never got a chance to do just that because I lost a lot of money.

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Because yes, despite my best efforts, I got scammed again. [Read: Braving the Streets of Ho Chi Minh]

So this is what happened. Bing and I met Thu and the other siklo driver the day before. They told us that we only needed to pay VND250,000 for the tour and the rate is for the two of us. I remember this deal clearly because Bing and I even repeated the information to him for confirmation. This morning as we were traveling, a terrible thought occurred in my head.

“What if Thu asks us to pay VND 250,000 each?”

Immediately, I dismissed the thought even when I couldn’t shake the feeling that something unpleasant would happen after the tour. This was one of the cases when I didn’t want to be right but unfortunately, I was.

Come pay time, Thu was asking us VND 250,000 each, not as we originally agreed. We insisted to him that that’s not what agreed on. The 250,000 rate is also a per hour and we were touring the city for already 2 hours. So that’s VND 500,000 each, that’s over PHP 1,000 or USD 22. Imagine, it is as expensive as the Cu Chi Tunnel tour! [Read: A Crawl Inside the Cu Chi Tunnel]

Thu was demanding that we pay them immediately; gone was the nice old man that I was with just a few hours ago. I was predictably devastated; I didn’t have enough money, and to make it worse, the two of them dropped us somewhere far from the hotel. They didn’t even take us back to where they picked us.

Bing was handling it a lot better than me, but I literally had no more money to give, that I almost broke down and cry. We were standing outside a Jollibee store and the guard was already looking at us to see what was going on. I’m not sure if the guard was the reason but suddenly, Thu and his companion would take whatever amount we could give them.

Because of this, I lost VND 300,000 (PHP 600 -USD 13), only because I no longer had any more money to give.

Let this be a reminder to you to take extra precaution when booking a tour with the siklo drivers in Ho Chi Minh. If you have to take a picture or record a video or audio of the transaction, do it, just so you have some proof about the deal that you are making prior to the tour. Do not sign up for anything until you are completely sure — and again backed by some proof — that the rate they are giving would stand to the end of the tour.

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To be fair, the siklo tour is quite enjoyable and would allow you to really observe and appreciate the city of Ho Chi Minh. Would I recommend that you go try it? Honestly, no. Unless you can find a way to do it without getting scammed, I would advise against it. If you wanna do it, proceed with caution.



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Comments (33)

  1. eve

    Hi. Maraming beses ko binasa itong blog post mo bago ako nagpunta ng Ho Chi Minh City. Hoping na sana makaiwas sa scammers. Pero na-scam pa din ako,

    Before ako sumakay, kinonfirm ko muna if 100k VND lang talaga. Sabi ng driver na matanda na around 60’s, yes 100k only.

    Pinakita ko sa kanya yung 100k bill. Sabi nya “Yes. I know! I know. Don’t worry.”

    Tapos binaba ako sa lugar na hindi ko alam. Highway sya.

    Tapos sinisingil nya ako ng 1 million dong.

    Galit na galit sya at sinisigawan ako.

    500k lang dala ko, Kinuha nya pati yung $50 USD.

    Di ko na nagawa yung ibang tour kasi wala na budget.

    trauma talaga.

    anyway, salamat sa blog mo. at least may masheshare-an.

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Eve,

      I am so sorry that you experienced this. That’s why I made an article to warn everyone. Until now I tell all my friends and other people who say that they want to go there to never take the siklo. Sadyang scam siya.

  2. Bea

    I’ll be going to HCM in January and I’ve been reading a lot of blogs. Almost all of you got scammed with the city tour. I even read one that they’re dropped in a place where there are no people at all and was told na “The would do something with them if they don’t pay.” I wanted to try pa naman yung motorcycle tour talaga for experience but I think I’ll stick with Klook.

  3. Janelle

    I just experienced the same thing! But this time, I ended up paying around 4k pesos for the tour… I was alone and dealing with it on the first day of my solo trip was too overwhelming. I ended up paying too much. It was fun, sure, but it was definitely traumatizing. ?

  4. Vyjay

    Sometimes it does happen, however careful you are somehow or the other you are caught off guard and you get scammed. But the good part is that you did enjoy the tour of the city and its various sights. Thanks for sharing your candid story, will help others to be wary when they are out there.

  5. Richel V.
    Richel V.

    Wow. So sorry you got scammed – this is why I’m still vary of backpacking in that part of Asia. I think it’ll just ruin the whole thing for me and my friends and I would probably end up arguing for hours with the scammer.

  6. michymichymoo

    I’m so sorry to read about your misadventures in Vietnam. I haven’t been there and now I’m a little scared. 🙁

    I do hope their government will do something about it. Alarming na, mas alarming pa dito sa tin. hahaha!

    I agree with one of the commenters here, hand them the money you agreed on then walk away. Usually naman wala na silang magagawa eh.

  7. Cla

    Hi omg im in HCMC with a friend right now and this happened to us today. But worse! He charged us 1,500,000 vnd for 1 hour!!! Its ridiculous cause he said “115” thats why we agreed. He also did flip the notebook and said he has a filipino friend. Omg.

    When 1 hour is over, we insisted that they said its 115. But then they showed us the brochure that says 1.5M vnd for 1 hour. They (2 guys) insisted that we pay and even said “oh you have money we saw your money”.

    Never again. We trusted them. They were really nice and all that. But nah.

    I honestly dont ever wanna go back to ho chi minh city.

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Cla, I’m so sorry you were victimized by the same men and you paid more than a million?! Tsk tsk… I think we should get the word out, let everyone know not to hire those sick siklo drivers. It’s better to tour HCM by taxi.

  8. Christa

    So sorry to hear about this! I’ve read quite a few blog posts about this happening in Southeast Asia. I’m not sure what I would do in that situation 🙁

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Christa. Just be extra vigilant and I’m going to go as far as advise that you record every transaction. It’s better to make every precaution you can take.

  9. Amanda - EatWorkTravel
    Amanda - EatWorkTravel

    Sorry to hear about your experience. It certainly is a good reminder to get the agreement in writing before starting a tour. Also, that pink church is certainly unique!

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Amanda. Yes, in this time and age where scammers are practically everywhere, it’s best to be extra careful when dealing with people. And yeah, that pink church is most certainly unique. 🙂

  10. Castaway with Crystal
    Castaway with Crystal

    Oh no, Not again! This sucks so bad. When these sorts of things happen, don’t fight them. Literally hand them the money that you agreed on first, and walk away. Job done. If they chase after you, then fight. But in my experience they will give up once they see the money in their hand.

    Crystal recently posted… How to Kill a Man with Your Bare Hands

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Ooh is that so? Thanks for the tip, I’ll do that the next time.

  11. Jessica

    I’ve never been in any part of Vietnam but I would love to. Thanks for this tip or I should say, warning. Let those scams be charged with experience. And oh, I enjoyed the Museum part. Amazing how ‘little’ money can give lots of interesting facts.

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Jessica. I’m quite surprised the museum fee is cheaper than the siklo tour actually.

  12. Alana Gidycz
    Alana Gidycz

    Ooof, getting scammed while traveling is the worst! We’re planning a trip to Vietnam later this year, so this is definitely useful information to keep in mind.

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Alana, I hope you enjoy the trip and please be careful. 🙂

  13. bluedreamer27

    wow i love the interior of that pink church.. Binondo church actually has a shade of pink but not as overwhelming as this one… Baguio has pink exterior but not pink inside ^_^
    aw sorry to hear about that incident… but thanks for giving us tips on how to prevent ourselves from being scammed

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Bluedreamer, yes, Binondo Church has a tinge of pink indeed. I hardly remember Baguio church though, not even sure if I’ve been there. Anyway, yeah, I hope my travel mishaps are able to serve as a warning to would-be travelers in HCM.

  14. Arni

    That’s awful, sorry to hear you went through this. Would love to visit Vietnam one day. Still haven’t been and we’ll keep this in mind. Speaking of scams, we got scammed in Sri Lanka by someone who claimed to be working in the hotel we were staying in. Apparently, he has been eyeing guests there. He started talking to us. He kept saying he was going towards the direction where we were going visiting temples and all, we agreed to drop him off where he was headed. Later , to our surprise, he appointed himself as tour guide and he ended up touring us around the city. Since he can’t make us buy any of the products from the shops he made us visit, he ended up extorting money at the end of our city tour and I had a feeling they’re working in a huge group since there were some guys on the verge of approaching us when we started arguing in the middle of the road. We just paid to avoid trouble. We later realized, he was working with the tuk-tuk driver. Scammers are moment spoilers indeed.

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hello Arni, thanks for sharing your story. Seems like scams exist everywhere, it tends to ruin the trip really. I’m going to keep your story in mind when I get a chance to go to Sri Lanka.

  15. Diane

    Hi Marjorie! I read your entire blog series about Vietnam. Sorry to hear your story but for some reason, even my friends who went to Vietnam on their own, had their own version of scamming incidents. Although the most prevalent and notorious is the siklo tour. Same story with you. I hope their government does something about this. If they can arrange a central complaint center for taxis, I hope they can do the same for the siko.

    As for your supposedly host in the accommodation, I have a feeling that all her anger and disgust were spill over effects of her disappointments re : change of plans. Although if I were in her shoes.. being a host.. I think she could have been nicer and hospitable.

    Despite the experience, I hope this will not stop you from exploring other countries. 🙂

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hello Diane, first, thanks so much for taking time to read my Vietnam series. It means so much to me that people like you read my stuff. With regards to the siklo tour, I think it’s time that tourists are made aware of the scam so they know what to do when dealing with those siklo drivers. Also, people should not be afraid to go to the police (admittedly, this was my mistake, I really should have gone to the police) to file a complain. This way, maybe the government can take action.

      Re my host, I agree with you, she could have been nicer, I’m not sure if it’s in their culture though so I can’t say if she just acted normally or was she just being rude.

  16. Jon

    I took a motorbike taxi in Saigon once and we agreed the price would be 30,000. Sure enough, when we arrived he claimed that the price was 300,000 and started getting angry. I refused to pay and he said jump back on the bike and we will go to see the police. I said fine but I’m not getting back on your bike, we can walk there. He then said that he’d accept 100,000 so I just tried to give him the original 30,000 but he wouldn’t take it. I eventually just threw it on the ground and left.

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Ooh, that was awful! I hate scammers! I think you did the right thing.

  17. Jerro Santos
    Jerro Santos

    I like that you still ended the post with a positive note. I hope to experience just the good stuff when I visit Vietnam, because my temper will surely do me no good in a foreign land. Haha.

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Actually, I was like a different person in Vietnam. I wasn’t the usual ill-tempered Marge hahaha… I just didn’t want to get in any trouble and be detained there for some reason.

  18. Cai Dominguez
    Cai Dominguez

    Omaygawd… Again 🙁 Im now sure That I wouldn’t fly to Ho Chi Minh. I’m highly considering Hanoi when visiting Vietnam ❤️

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      I’m willing to go back in Vietnam if it’s Hanoi. 🙂

  19. mr_jeng

    I hate it when that happens…
    hmmmm I guess it is important to always be careful and at the same time… to enjoy the atmosphere and experience too.


    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Yeah, all the shitty things teach us a thing or two.


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