Hanoi admits crackdowns against tourist-hassling street vendors ineffective

TN News

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A foreign woman signals to a street vendor to leave. Street vendors insisting on selling their wares have become a big bother for tourists all over Vietnam.

Nearly 140 street vendors have been fined this year for bothering and overcharging tourists in downtown Hanoi, but the low fines and language barrier preventing police officers from communicating with foreigners remain problems.

Nguyen Quoc Hoa, deputy head of Hoan Kiem District where Sword Lake is located, admitted at a recent meeting that crackdowns on such hawkers have been going on for several years, but the penalties are too mild to deter them.

Some vendors have been punished multiple times, Hoa was quoted as saying Wednesday by news website Dan Tri.

"We are recommending that police and legal agencies should charge habitual offenders for criminal offence.

"It evokes a very bad image of the country when street vendors keep harassing tourists and gouging them."

District authorities have personnel on every street to assist tourists, but often they do not understand what the foreign tourists say, he said. 

Hoan Kiem is among the tourism destinations that have been ordered to resolve the hawkers problem to ensure tourists are not harassed.

Others include Dong Da District with the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university.

But the problem exists nationwide, with National Assembly members calling at a meeting in May for the establishment of a national tourist police.

Ho Chi Minh City, a tourism hot spot but also a place plagued by petty street crime, established a hotline (08 3 838 7200) staffed with English speakers several years ago for foreigners to report crimes. Earlier this year the city announced further plans to protect tourists, such as increasing patrols and using traffic cameras.

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Unhappy tourists have complained about taxi scams, street vendors who do not take no for an answer and fail to return change, and beggars.

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