Vietnam apologizes to Aussie ripped off by cyclo driver

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Ilona Schultz, an Australian tourist (L), talking with Nguyen Van Tuan, chief of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (talking), who visited her to return the VND1.3 million she overpaid a cyclo driver for five-kilometer ride in Hanoi on April 23.     

Vietnamese tourism authorities met with an Australian tourist last Thursday to apologize for an incident in which an unregistered cyclo driver overcharged her by more than ten times for a five-kilometer ride in Hanoi.

Nguyen Van Tuan, chief of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) apologized to Ilona Schultz and said he hoped that she will return to Vietnam in the near future, VnExpress reported Thursday.

Tourism authorities in Hanoi also apologized to her.

Police in Hang Trong Ward returned the VND1.3 million (US$62.2) she paid to cyclo driver Pham Van Chieu, 40, on April 23 on Hang Trong Street. Schultz then gave Chieu VND150,000 for the ride.

According to the news website, at around 11 a.m., Chieu had agreed to drive Schultz and her two children from the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to a puppet theater on Dinh Tien Hoang Street for VND70,000, but the driver instead took them to Hang Trong Street.

Schultz said she first handed Chieu VND200,000 note but he refused it. Chieu kept demanding more money until she had given him three more VND200,000 bills and one VND500,000 note. Schultz explained that she agreed to pay the exorbitant fare because she was with her two children and feared the driver might cause her further trouble.

 
Ilona Schultz (R) and her two kids in Vietnam

It was the first bad experience Schultz has had with cyclo drivers. She had used them on previous occasions in Hanoi, and had always encountered friendly drivers who charged reasonable fares.

Schultz said she was "honored and humbled" that the authorities "made such an effort" to come and apologize to her.

"I'm very happy. Absolutely I'll be back in Hanoi, hopefully this year again," she said.

Hoan Kiem District police confiscated Chieu's vehicle and issued him a fine for operating an unregistered cyclo, Mai Tien Dung, deputy director of the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said, without specifying the amount of the fine.

Dung also promised that his office will cooperate with other relevant agencies in Hoan Kiem District to uncover instances of overcharging and punish those involved.

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