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mmpilot
mmpilot on Hanoi Transfer Service
July 23rd, 2019 at 9:38 am

Bad tour experience with an aggressive and dangerous driver

On the occasion of my 58th birthday, my wife and I planned a trip to Vietnam from 8 July 2019 to 17 July 2019, starting with two nights at the Oriental Jade Hotel in Hanoi, then a three-day cruise with Bhaya Cruises in Halong Bay and after another night in Hanoi from 13 July 2019 to 15 July 2019 a three-day tour in the mountains of North Vietnam to the Ban Gioc Waterfalls and Ba Be Lake. We requested an offer for this tour on June 23, 2019, at "Hanoi Transfer Service", the allegedly most professional tour provider in Hanoi and already one hour later we received the desired tour offer by an employee named Lily Ngoc at the price of 210 US dollars per person. Another hour later, we received another email from Lily saying, that she had mistakenly given us the wrong price. If there were 1-2 people in the group, it would be 270 US dollars per person. We agreed with the new price and Lily sent us an email with a link to a Vietnamese payment portal, where we paid the full price. A few minutes later we received confirmation from Lily that our payment had been received and that we would be picked up at 8 am on 13 July 2019 in the lobby of our hotel. Thus the booking of the tour was completed on 23 June 2019. Payment and tour details were confirmed by “Hanoi Transfer Service”. So nothing could go wrong, we thought.

But then, on 29 June 2019, we received an ominous email from Lily. She would be sorry that she could not “clarify” the tour for us. We could only participate in the tour on 23 July 2019 in a smaller group. I replied that we were only in Vietnam until the morning of 17 July 2019 and that the new date did not work for us. The tour had to take place as confirmed by her from 13 to 15 July, because we had no other time frame available for it. Then Lily wanted to move the date to July 12-14, which was not possible because of our cruise in Halong Bay, which ended on July 12 afternoon. We offered Lily to cancel the tour for a refund of our payment, as she was not able to deliver our booked tour. She replied that her manager could reimburse our payment, but that she would be punished for it. Therefore, she would now try to organize our tour as a private tour with a personal driver and tour guide, if we were willing to pay another 25 US dollars per person. We agreed, paid the additional 50 US dollars and received confirmation from Lily on June 29, 2019.

On July 12, 2019, Lily re-confirmed by email our pick-up from the hotel the next morning at 8 am. On 13 July 2019, in time at 8 a.m., we were picked up at our hotel by our tour guide and driver. The car was a dented little Toyota Vios with more than 400.000 km on the speedo and a worn-out backseat, for us no pleasant view on the upcoming 800 kilometers, but this was no reason for a complaint to us. However, already in the first kilometers, we noticed that our 29-year-old driver practiced very aggressive driving in the dense traffic of Hanoi. He put other road users under pressure, who was in his way, with horn, headlight flashes, and extremely tight drive-ups, before he passed them recklessly. This continued on the motorway but was now supplemented by constant abrupt lane changes between all three lanes. After 130 kilometers we reached the mountain area, where our journey became even more dangerous by daring overtaking maneuvers on winding and unclear roads. Several times overtaking maneuvers had to be stopped by emergency braking, because suddenly oncoming traffic appeared in front of us or it was just enough to retighten after overtaking, but only because the oncoming traffic braked to avoid an accident.

Meanwhile, we feared for our lives and asked driver and tour guide for a slower driving style as well as for omission of these dangerous overtaking maneuvers. The driver was visibly annoyed by our request and complained in Vietnamese. The tour guide said we should just relax, close our eyes and get some sleep.

Now the driver switched into a kind of inconvenience mode by reducing the speed on straight road sections to 20-30 km/h and alternating the steering wheel to the right and left, so that we were constantly thrown back and forth on the back seat. As soon as there was a curve again, he suddenly accelerated and let the car drift through the curve with screeching tires, followed by an emergency brake to tear the steering wheel again permanently on the straight track in creep speed. So it went on for three hours until we finally reached our first homestay overnight destination in a small village 50 km west of the Ban Gioc waterfalls at the end of our strength. The stay there was very nice, our hosts very friendly and caring. In the evening, in a relaxed atmosphere, we sought again the conversation with the tour guide and driver. We said that we experience the trip in constant fear, sometimes even in fear of death, and would, therefore, like to ask them to make the next day's trip safe and comfortable for us. The driver apologized for the inconvenience and promised us improvement.

Overnight it had rained heavily so that streets and villages were flooded up to 40 cm high the next morning. We drove off to the Ban Gioc Waterfalls and in fact we could enjoy for the first time a halfway safe and pleasant trip, which was probably less due to a mind change than to the flooded road conditions, because on the following trip to the Ba Be Lake with meanwhile better road conditions we had the same problem again.

At the next toilet stop, we refused to continue and said that we would not drive one meter more with this driver.

Our tour guide admitted that he understands us and that he would try to find a solution. After a phone call, he said that he couldn't do anything about it. He didn't have a driving license and therefore couldn't drive. I asked him if I would have to drive then. Yes, he said, that would be a good solution. He talked to the driver until he agreed after some nagging. The driver apologized by saying that he has his driving license already for eight years but had never driven in the mountain area before. So far, he had only driven the flat stretch of motorway from Hanoi to Halong. That was one more reason for us to refuse the driver. Fortunately, I had my national and international driving license with me. So I sat at the steering wheel, my wife beside me and on the back seat driver and tour guide, who enjoyed the remaining 150 kilometers to the Ba Be Lake visibly relaxed and sleeping most of the time. I hadn't imagined it that way, but it was better than being helpless at the mercy of this crazy dangerous driver.

Also the next and final day I took the driver seat again for the final section back to Hanoi. When we left the mountains, the driver wanted to take the wheel again. After weighing the risks of his already known highway driving style and the good persuasion of the tour guide, we finally agreed. But nothing had improved. The aggressive and dangerous way of driving culminated finally in the fact that the driver while operating his mobile phone did not recognize a traffic jam in front of us. After an outcry of my wife he noticed and after an emergency braking we came to the stop only a few centimeters behind a truck at the end of the traffic jam.

We were now completely at the end of our nerves and just wanted to arrive at the hotel. The further motorway trip was, as usual, pushing, needing, honking, abrupt lane changes. Finally, we reached the city limit of Hanoi, the last 20 kilometers to the hotel through the evening rush hour our final torture in the pouring rain.

Our tour would have been a fantastic experience in almost untouched beautiful landscapes, but this terrible driver has not only spoiled that experience for us, but he also ruined our whole holiday and the memories of it. We have done many tours in Southeast Asia with tour providers, but this tour with “Hanoi Transfer Service” was the worst and most dangerous tour we have ever experienced.