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Old Dec 7, 07, 3:51 pm   #1
 
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Vietnam Airport Bribes

So we we hoped that the requirement for bribes would have gone away with the new airport but they are still there.
At least entering the country was the easiest I have ever seen. No hassles or bribes required to get in for the first time. Back in 1999 you needed to place USD$5 in your passport (a lot of money for them back then) in order to prevent from being hassled. Now entering was like any other airport even with the amount of luggage we had.
Exiting was fine for me because I am white and given a free pass from having to bribe my way out. My partner was hassled for a long time about extra paperwork about the hotels he stayed at, special forms, etc., etc. and actually argued with them but the agent would came up with a new reason why he could not let him through. Finally, he gave in and gave the agent 50K Dong for Christmas and was let right through. Even though this is very normal practice this upsets us very much but we were warned by his mother that this bribe is still required from expats. Any idea when this practice will finally stop and if non-Asian travelers are ever required to bribe agents at the airport.
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Old Dec 7, 07, 4:23 pm   #2
 
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Last year, I was in and out of SGN without any problem with a Thai passport. I've never been harassed at any other airports in asia either (ICN, BKK, HKG, SIN, DLC, YNT, KUL).

I usually travel alone; either as college student or young professional. Sometimes, I will have a colleague (usually asian) accompanying me on business trips.

So, I am not sure why your friend get harassed. If anything, I would think I would be an easy target.

rgds,
Drew
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Old Dec 7, 07, 4:26 pm   #3
 
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I (white British) have been through countless times - first time 1993, then regularly since 1996. I have never, ever had a problem. So my contribution is anecdotal.

1) I know some "viet kieus" who routinely put cash inside their documents and swear its necessary. They do this before they are asked for anything. These are the same people who love to overtip, and will bribe anybody they can get hold of. A hotel receptionist told me how much she hates them - they'll flash $20 and expect room upgrades, girls in the room blah blah blah. A Vietnam Airlines FA friend of mine is sick of VKs trying the same game - to get upgrades, mobile phone numbers of other FAs etc. Call it a tip or bribe - I think a common thread is that the VKs concerned "love" to pass the cash and think they are getting a favour. At the same time they will claim to despise the system.

2) I also know a couple of VKs who sometimes get "trouble" at the airport and will argue endlessly before finally caving in. One friend didn't cave in and missed her flight. She ended up back in her hotel and got a lawyer involved. Paid more in legal fees than the bribe would have been - but it was the principle. She won't go back.

Hard to know the real balance. But I'm sure (1) can drive an expectation which makes it worse for people in (2).

My VN friends seem in denial about the whole thing - saying it probably never happens these days - "maybe it did in the past". I certainly don't accept this either.
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Old Dec 7, 07, 6:32 pm   #4
 
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I know many Vietnamese Americans who swear it is wise to put money in your passport. The same With Cambodians and Lao. To this day they still do it, and have advised me (white guy) to do likewise for my own good. They will roll out anecdotal stories of the perils of not doing it and what happened to one guy they know whenever I maintain it is unnecessary. I have never tipped an immigration agent in my life except one time in Indonesia and that tip actually avoided an legitimate overstay fine and associated hassle and have been overcharged a few time in Cambodia (but not without intense negotiation of the amount of the overcharge). I am quite certain it is unnecessary in Viet Nam if you are not Vietnamese and I suspect it is largely unnecessary if you are Vietnamese but cannot discount there could be a grain of truth in there somewhere.
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Old Dec 7, 07, 11:13 pm   #5
 
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I remembered getting 'harassed' trying to clear CGK departure immigration. The fella just did not want me to pass thru and clear my passport. He kept turning pages and asked me a lot of vague and unnecessary questions. In the end I slipped SGD2 into his hands and in a flash he stamped my passports and let me go.

Another documented 'immigration' story occured at the Causeway checkpoint from Johor Bahru Malaysia, this guy filled up his car with petrol at a nearby gas station. This gas station accepts payments at the gas pumps itself without any receipts. After that he drives to the nearby checkpoint to re-enter SIN, but as he stopped at a passport checkpoint, an 'official' from the gas station tapped on his car window and told him that he left the gas station without paying. The driver protested, and the official asked for a receipt. But since he did not have any, the 'official' complained to the immigration officer that the driver has committed an offence an the police needs to be called in. The driver agreed. However after awhile the immigration officer and the gas official continued to hassle the driver,threatening to jail him, impounding his vehicle and passport. Giving up the driver paid the gas official the money for the 'petrol'(RM40) and an extra 10 for inconvenience. As he drove away , he turned back and saw the gas officials shaking hands and taking a cut of the payment.

Cheers!
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Old Dec 8, 07, 2:07 am   #6
 
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Originally Posted by jimbo99 View Post
2) I also know a couple of VKs who sometimes get "trouble" at the airport and will argue endlessly before finally caving in. One friend didn't cave in and missed her flight. She ended up back in her hotel and got a lawyer involved. Paid more in legal fees than the bribe would have been - but it was the principle. She won't go back.
This is good to know when I am yelling at them for giving in. I don't want to be the cause of this and 50,000 Dong is less than $5 but it is not right. I don't think Thai people would be treated the same only expats that speak Vietnamese. Because someone "escaped" Vietnam and made good living in America they feel entitled to get the bribe. And the expats actually understand this. However, many of these immigration agents make way more than any of us on here. The families of government officials live some of the fanicest life styles in Vietnam.
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Old Dec 8, 07, 1:39 pm   #7
 
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I have been to SGN two times in the past and i am going there again in four days. The last time i went with my parents, we were hasseled until we gave them money. It was clear that most people had to give them the 5 bucks or else it would take forever before going through. Even when my family were trying to pick up our luggages, it didn't stop. There was a man, who i do not know what his reasons of being there for, kept all the carts. My mom needed a cart because we had two boxes that had no wheels to pull. He kept giving her an attitude and would not give up a damn cart so my mom had to give him 5 dollars and he happily gave it up, without providing any help.

THis time i am going with my younger sister, and my parents told us, do not, under any circumstances, give them any money. My dad also said that many people who have been back in the last yr or so did not have to give any money. I guess they stop asking for it. I feel embarassed, whenever i get off the airport, of my own country. I am only speaking english to them this time, and if they keep hasseling me, i'll stay for the next five hours if i have to, but i'm not giving nothing out. I think it is foolish to think that you have to give them money when i already paid for my $1,000+ tickets.
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Old Dec 8, 07, 3:11 pm   #8
 
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Wow. I was in SGN this past March and didn't have problems anywhere. It's a shame when people get shaken down by gov't officials...
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Old Dec 8, 07, 3:21 pm   #9
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Originally Posted by i'mlovin'it View Post
Wow. I was in SGN this past March and didn't have problems anywhere. It's a shame when people get shaken down by gov't officials...
As opposed to the whole country getting shaken down by gov't officials?.

Western world is just as corrupt... Asia just doesn't hide it.

You have a choice... next time tell them to try not paying. $5 is the correct way out of that dilema ;-)
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Old Dec 8, 07, 5:48 pm   #10
 
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This is not uncommon in certain Asian countries.

Indonesia has always been the 'classic' example. If you carry ASEAN passport or worse Taiwan passport, typical bribe in old days was $100.00.

Two stories

I entered with my Singapore GM, que for immigration and could see officer saliva in anticipation....unfortunately for him, I carried US passport (but am Asian). Next to me, my GM gave his passport, the officer, looking at ME, smiled and extended his hand to my GM for the bribe. Shameless but effective.

My Taiwan GM visits with me another trip, fails to put the normal $100 in his passport and is whisked to private room whereby he gets strip searched, cartoon of cigarettes taken AND he still has to give them the $100.

Last edited by dtsm; Dec 9, 07 at 8:36 pm.
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Old Dec 8, 07, 8:11 pm   #11
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amazing replies yet most americans harp on about how much to tip, they find it offensive to pay a get past jail free, but dont undertstand that tipping is offensive to Asians
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Old Dec 9, 07, 12:51 pm   #12
 
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My wife (Korean, with a Korean passport) and I (white American) were in and out of SGN in July 2007 without a problem.
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Old Dec 9, 07, 5:18 pm   #13
 
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Originally Posted by El Boocho View Post
My wife (Korean, with a Korean passport) and I (white American) were in and out of SGN in July 2007 without a problem.
I think we have determined that for Vietnam you must be originally from Vietnam. My partner carries a U.S. passport that says he was born in Saigon, Vietnam and speaks fluent English and Vietnamese. The perfect candidate to get bribes out of. From what I can tell simply being Asian is not enough. The first trip in 1999 when I was forced to offer the $5 in my passport by paranoid family members the agent smiled in way like it was uncommon for white people to do that. I just hope sometime this goes away. The were cracking down on this sort of thing a few years ago. I remember they were trying to show the whole world how they were cleaning up their act so the government rounded up 100 govt employees who had been collecting bribes and sentenced them to death. I guess it is not uncommon for Vietnamese officials accepting bribes to be sentenced to death.
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Old Dec 14, 07, 8:17 pm   #14
 
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Originally Posted by westcoastman View Post
However, many of these immigration agents make way more than any of us on here. The families of government officials live some of the fanicest life styles in Vietnam.
You are right about government officials, but its not necessarily the case for the people that front up the immigration. They do extract bribes, but at the same time many of them have paid a bribe just to get the job. A few years ago, I heard that this was as much as US$20,000. (I find that amount incredible.) My informer told me that most of them are wildly optimistic in what they think they can get, so end up losing out. Anyway, whatever the amount they might have paid to get the job, the official concerned then feels licensed to extract bribes in order to recover his "investment". The officials at the top have the lifestyles you describe - the bribes, as with scum, float to the top.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westcoastman View Post
I think we have determined that for Vietnam you must be originally from Vietnam. My partner carries a U.S. passport that says he was born in Saigon, Vietnam and speaks fluent English and Vietnamese. The perfect candidate to get bribes out of. From what I can tell simply being Asian is not enough.
I think your conclusion is accurate. Also it seems local Vietnamese don't get as much trouble... it is indeed ethnic Vietnamese with foreign passports that are the biggest targets.
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Old Dec 24, 07, 3:52 pm   #15
 
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Originally Posted by westcoastman View Post
I think we have determined that for Vietnam you must be originally from Vietnam.
This is true and it is true because of the pervasive custom to "bribe" to get things done. Somehow, this sort of corrupting behavior is not considered as "bad", it is viewed as a pragmatic way to get things done in Vietnam.

The custom agent has no real power on you (unless you carry something illegal) except to make you wait for a bit. If he can not detain you, he will find another victim to play his game. Your partner "gave in" and hence give the custom agent his reason to continue to do so. As much as the dispeakable agent is to blame, so partly were your partner to continue this behaviour.

I have been in and out of SGN too many times to count since 1994 and I have never slip anything in my passport. Was I given hints and delayed from the agents? Yes, but it is in how you carry yourself. If they see that you do not fear them nor fear the wait that they are trying to do to you, they have no real power over you. Alas too many of VKs kept doing so and so the behaviour continues.

Next time that you are at the custom counter, calmly look directly in the custom agent eyes and answer his questions as courtly as you can, you will see a different behaviour. I have not had a single bribe requests for the last 5 years.
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