When a wonderful friend that I studied with in Greece moved to Vietnam I thought it the perfect opportunity to visit. I arrived at the airport in Ho Chi Minh confident that as a seasoned traveler, I would have no trouble in this country.
As I exited the terminal I was met with the hustle and bustle of taxi drivers trying to get my business.My friend had told me which taxi company was reputable and I found a taxi with the logo of the company and told him where I wanted to go. It all happened fast, and before I knew it, I was trying not to panic.
As we exited the airport the driver demanded money to pay the exit toll, and he ripped my wallet out of hands and took almost all of my money out if it. I started to feel uneasy and I knew that something was wrong. Only a few streets away from the airport and the taxi driver abruptly turned left into a side alley and stopped the car. He turned to me and kept saying ‘Friend, he take you to Mui Ne, you no need to take bus get out now’, or something to that nature.
I had mentioned to the driver in an attempt to make myself feel more easy about the situation that I was going to the bus station to take a bus to Mui Ne. As he grabbed me out of the taxi, he walked me to a blacked out car and tried to put me into it.
Luckily I was only traveling with hand luggage and refused to let him put my bag in the boot of the car. I stuck the strap of my bag into the door as he tried to close it on me in the back of the car so it did not lock. After the driver had walked away to chat to his friend I jumped out, threw my bag on and ran down to the main road we had come from. He and his friend ran after me yelling but I kept going and once I hit the main road they stopped, knowing that there were people everywhere.
Everyone was staring at me, I knew this was a part of town I was not meant to be in. In fact, I could still see the airport we were that close to it still. Then a taxi pulled over, this time I realized a proper one from the company my friend had said was the right one to get, and a young driver got out seeing that I was distressed.
Not speaking or knowing how to read English script he asked passerby-ers to interpret where I wanted to go and then drove me there, stopping a further few times to get more directions. He was freaked out that I was there and could tell that something had happened and was determined to deliver me safe and sound to where I needed to go.
Basically I was scammed.
I took off in the car of a man who was not a taxi driver and had a fake logo on his car and a fake taxi ID in his car. It was textbook style of scamming. I felt like such a fool. Here I was a solo female traveler who had been to 6 continents being scammed badly.
Once I arrived safely in the sleepy beach town of Mui Ne, the reality of what had happened set in. I heard more and more stories of similar things happening to solo female traveler or to young women traveling in pairs by drivers. It was scary and could have turned out a lot worse, but I am so glad that my instinct kicked in and that I was able to get out safely. I still am not sure what they were going to try to do to me but I am glad that I never stuck around to find out.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation here are some tips that might help:
-Stay calm and do not panic
-Try to get the attention of a passerby
-Your safety is the most important so instead of confronting or fighting with the person, just try to get out of there as quickly as possible
-Trust your instinct, it is there for a reason. If something feels wrong then it most probably is wrong. Find a way to get out of the situation straight away
-Keep your bags in the car next to you, or at least your bag with any valuables on you at all times so if you need to leave in a hurry you have your passport and money on you still
-Always take a reputable taxi and sometimes taking the time to line up in a taxi line for an hour is worth it
-Take down any details that the driver tries to give you such as name etc. Or better yet take a photo that you can show to police
-Remember that one bad experience is not indicative of the entire country. In fact my faith was restored immediately when the next young taxi driver was so concerned for me and did everything he could to help me
Looking back I think how I could have done things differently, but sometimes even the most experienced travelers can get complacent or do something silly.
The sad reality is that often solo female travelers can be targeted by people because we are seen as weak and an easy target.
Remind yourself that you are strong and that you have nothing to fear and keep on traveling on!