from developed counties find these issues very difficult.
There are no set rules, but the following information and
advice may be helpful.
The prices for goods in supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants,
hotels, official transport, basic commodity shops and so on,
are usually fixed. Those for fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers
from street sellers, motorcycle taxis (’xe
oms’), bicycle taxis (‘cyclos’),
souvenirs, clothes (especially in tourist areas), and goods
bought from peddlers are usually variable.
barter effectively, laughter and good humour are essential
prerequisites. When an initial price is quoted, throw up your
hands in exaggerated horror and offer between a third and
a half. You can then negotiate towards a fair price. Walking
away will usually determine whether the last offer really
is the last.
remember that many of the people you deal with will be poor,
so driving them down to an unreasonably low price is unfair.
On the other hand, paying an unrealistically high price will
encourage the recipient to regard foreigners as easy targets
and inflate prices even further. Postcards from postcard sellers
are almost invariably overpriced – buy yours from a shop!
fares are nearly always metered, (although the accuracy is
sometimes questionable), but it pays to negotiate a fixed
price for long journeys. For xe oms and cyclos, always agree
a price in advance. If you want one of the many young boys
who tour the streets with a box of brushes and polish to clean
your shoes, fix the price in advance, make sure that they
stay within eyesight and don't pay for any ‘repairs’ without
agreeing the cost beforehand.
may come across some remnants of an earlier dual-pricing system
that is gradually being phased out. If so, it isn't local
people trying to make a fast buck, but simply an official
recognition of the considerable income gap between you and
the average Vietnamese citizen.
Beggars are common in Vietnam, but in tourist areas, only
a minority are genuine. Grubby children with soulful eyes
are usually working for a begging syndicate, and young girls
and women carrying very young babies have often rented them
for the day from a friend. You won’t be bothered often, but
if approaches are made, ignore them, or complain to a police
officer if they annoy you. Giving money to fake beggars only
swells their ranks.
there are deserving cases. Elderly widows, invalids, amputees
and Buddhist monks usually have no other source of income.
If in doubt, see if they approach Vietnamese people, and what
the response is from them. If you do decide to give them money,
keep the amount small. Excessive generosity will attract other
less-deserving beggars immediately.