In this series, Tuoi Tre investigative journalists probed both illegal and legal (licensed) taxis in Ho Chi Minh City and their scams to rip off tourists, especially foreign ones, by taking longer routes, using a secret electronic device to inflate meter rates, and other tricks.
This Australian tourist was forced to pay VND370,000 on August 12 for a 3km ride to his hotel Photo: tuoi tre
‘Ripoff taxis’ in Ho Chi Minh City include both licensed and unlicensed cabs.
Unlicensed taxis are those operated individually without registration. Their owners simply bought fake logos of famous taxi brands with which to camouflage their vehicles into efficient money-making machines. Sometime, such cabs bear no logo at all.
When the police arrive to inspect these cabs, the owners simply flee, pay a bribe, or remove the logos to turn their ‘taxi’ into a normal car again.
Ripoff licensed taxis are those with appropriate registration that pretend to be of prestigious brands. Some use dubious taximeters, have no signal light, or display a different symbol and telephone number than those registered.
Such technically legal taxis are numerous in the city and usually concentrate in areas with large numbers of foreign tourists like the Bach Dang Wharf along Ton Duc Thang Street, Ben Thanh Market, Pham Ngu Lao Street and the backpacker’s quarter (District 1), the War Remnants Museum (District 3), Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Tan Binh District), An Dong Market (District 5) and in front of big hotels, restaurants and hospitals.
Hundreds of such cabs appear on and off at each of those locations on a daily basis.
Longhauling: $18 for 3km
On August 12, two Australian tourists disembarked from a hydrofoil that had come from Vung Tau. When the hydrofoil parked at the Bach Dang Wharf in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, the pair walked out only to be approached by a taxi driver with license plate number 51A-22029.
This driver quickly ‘escorted’ the two tourists to his vehicle, which boasted two big logos: one said “M.Taxi”, and another “taxi Mai Linh”. But on its body, the ‘taxi’ displayed the telephone number of Minh Duc taxi company (08) 54.343434. This cabbie bore taxi number 4004.
The Australians wanted to go to the Ha Vy Hotel on Do Quang Dau Street, District 1, a journey of around 3km. But the driver took a detour, driving into Me Linh Square, onto Hai Ba Trung Street, and back to Le Thanh Ton Street. After passing Ben Thanh Market, the driver took another detour, driving along Pham Hong Thai and Ly Tu Trong Streets, and then passed through Le Thanh Ton Street for the second time.
After this, he headed along the September 23rd Park, and traveled back and forth over Nguyen Thi Nghia, Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham, Bui Vien (the backpacker quarter), and Nguyen Trai streets before finally stopping in front of the desired location.
The tourists gave him a VND500,000 (US$24) bill and received change of VND100,000. When the customers held up their arms in protest, the cabbie reluctantly gave them an additional three VND10,000 notes and drove away.
This means the Australians paid VND370,000 (nearly US$18) in total for a 3km ride, around 9 times more expensive than it should have been.
At 12 o’clock noon on August 14, Tuoi Tre journalists under the disguise of customers took a taxi (plate number 52X-0276, with a logo showing “M.Taxi”) from Bach Dang Wharf to Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
The driver (number 793) wore a pair of sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat and claimed to be with the famous Mai Linh Taxi Company.
The reporters pretended to be tourists visiting Ho Chi Minh City for the first time and asked him if the airport was far away. To this, he replied “very far, it’ll take probably around 40 minutes”.
The driver then drove around Me Linh Square to Hai Ba Trung Street, and continued straight to Phan Dinh Phung Street. Here, instead of turning left onto Hoang Van Thu Street and heading towards the airport, he drove to Nguyen Kiem and Nguyen Thai Son streets, before continuing on to Bach Dang and Hong Ha streets, among others.
During the ride, the reporters noticed that the taximeter worked in mysterious ways. The fee increased by different amounts each time: from VND5,000 to 7,000 per jump, and sometimes up to VND10,000. In all, they had to pay VND272,000 according to this erratic meter.
The driver also asked for VND20,000 ($1) more to cover the airport entrance fee.
When the ‘tourists’ asked him for an invoice, he told them he was out of Mai Linh taxi invoices and gave the reporters one from Vina taxi. At 1pm the same day, they took a Mai Linh taxi back to District 1 and the ride cost less than half of the earlier jounrey (VND120,000).
To be continued. In part two, Tuoi Tre tells readers how dishonest cabbies use a secret device to inflate meter rates
Source: Tuoi Tre News
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