Vietnam transport ministry moves to protect taxi passengers

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Inspectors from the Ministry of Transport check a taxi in Hanoi

The Ministry of Transport has told authorities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to introduce measures to protect taxi passengers following recent reports of foreign tourists getting ripped off.

Besides introducing protective measures, transport departments in Vietnam's two biggest cities have also been asked to tighten oversight by checking taxi companies' operations and throwing the book at violators, news website VnExpress reported Wednesday.

They are required to report back to the ministry by May 30.

The ministry said several taxi operators in the two cities have recently been found flouting regulations and overcharging passengers.

With many foreigners too falling victim, Vietnam's tourism image has taken a beating, it said.

Following the ministry's instructions, an official from the Hanoi Department of Transport's inspectorate, who wished to be unnamed, told VnExpress that his agency is inspecting the operations of 20 taxi companies.

He said companies that were reported to have cheated passengers recently would be inspected first.

Violators would be "severely" punished, he said, adding that the inspection is expected to take a month.

In another effort to protect tourists, the capital city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism plans to set up two hotlines and an office to receive and deal with complaints about tourists being cheated, VnExpress reported.

Mai Tien Dung, deputy director of the department, was quoted as saying that the department's inspectors would be in charge of the office.

The hotlines would function 24/7, he said. 

In his report to the Hanoi People's Committee, Dung said despite authorities' efforts, harassment of tourists by street vendors and beggars and rip-offs occur every day.

In fact, in the past month Hanoi has seen several cases of foreign tourists being cheated, mostly by taxi drivers.

On April 23 Ilona Schultz, an Australian woman traveling with her two children, was forced to pay VND1.3 million, more than 10 times the normal price and almost double the agreed price, for a five-kilometer cyclo ride.

The cyclo driver was later fined by police.

The next day Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, visited Schultz to apologize and return the VND1.3 million.

Five days later an Australian couple was charged VND980,000 (US$46.36) for a seven-kilometer taxi ride though it was 10 times the fare displayed in the meter.

The driver, belonging to Trung Viet Taxi Company, was sacked and fined VND20 million ($946.14).

Anh Huy and Thanh Nga taxi companies were also reported to have recently ripped off foreign tourists.

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