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Flying into HCMC next Friday and have a customs question


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#1 bonface

Posted 07 September 2011 - 12:31 PM

Some background on me: I'm 21, Vietnamese-Australian, heading to Vietnam to work at a design studio for a year or so.

I'll be bringing with me two Macbook Pros. One 2011 model that's my personal computer and the other is an old, faulty 2008 model I was looking to give to relatives who'd fix it and use.

Last time I brought my ip4 and a faulty 3gs, two guys at the last check-point bag scanners gave me some trouble saying I'd have to declare it on some card which was never issued blah blah (expecting bribes I think?) but I kept arguing and then they let me go.

Are there any laws in Vietnam that state one has to declare such things? Any tips on how to deal with a situation like this effectively or just pure bribes to make life easier (& how much)?  

Thanks!

#2 britmaveric

Posted 07 September 2011 - 12:55 PM

Not anything I am aware of - if its brand new and in its box I could see, but if it's treated like used then doubt they can say much.  I wouldnt worry too much... :WTF:

#3 supercub

Posted 07 September 2011 - 03:25 PM

As above, I think you will only face problems if it's brand new and boxed. VK are targeted because they are well known for bringing in iphones and the likes from the US then selling it here. But, if you are coming from Oz, the rip off capital of the world, they will probably leave you alone because nearly everything is cheaper here anyway. :WTF:

#4 mik0

Posted 07 September 2011 - 03:42 PM

Just don't go bringing in vibrators/sex toys...Not supposed to tell how I got through without paying the "fine" as part of the agreement of me being able to bring them with me.

#5 bonface

Posted 08 September 2011 - 07:57 AM

Thanks for the replies. Makes me less anxious.

So, mik0, how did you get through? :(

#6 mik0

Posted 09 September 2011 - 10:03 AM

well the first trick was to try to scare me into believing it was highly illegal, the fine can be upto $7k, It's better if I go now to the ATM and take out $200 in VND and pay the fine now.
Then I told the guy I'll just call my lawyer. You and him can deal with it. I'll get my lawyer to come here and I can leave. My lawyer will pay whatever the fine is and I'll pay my lawyer back. I pull out my phone, Start skimming through my contacts and he tells me to wait and leaves the room.
A lady now enters. Starts talking to me about how its illegal to bring this and DVD's into VN.
I tell her I didn't know. Where is it written that you can't bring these items into the country. She tells me that its best I pay the fine and then I can go. I ask her if she accepts VISA. I tell her I'll call my lawyer and you can talk with him.
She starts telling me theres no need to call my lawyer. We can sort this out. I tell her I'm not paying any fine as this is rubbish. she says I can leave but have to give up my gifts. She tells me I can go and buy these locally.

I now question her about the law. Is it illegal to bring these into VN? Yes she replies.
I ask her then how can shops sell these? Can you show me these shops? Will you accompany me to the shops to replace these items? She looks around and seems a little uncomfortable.

I pull out my VSP (Viet Soviet Petrolium) card and my Truong Song card. Both are photo ID type cards. She has a look at these and asks me about these. I tell her I have contacts who I can call. However if I call them up for this they will be very angry with you. If you push for me to pay a fine then I will call them.
She leaves the room now.
I'm wandering around the room looking at the posters and photo's on the wall. Theres a few pictures of guns, explosives, bear paws etc. She returns after a few minutes with the first guy. He looks suprised to see me wandering around the room. I ask them if the guns (AR15, M16) are real or fake. He tells me they are real.  He asked me about the VSP and TS cards. I tell him I do some work for them. I also have contacts who help me out. I can call them and they will help me. He tells me there is no need. Smiles and quickly leaves the room.

The lady is now left with me. She looks uncomfortable. I tell her its best I take my gifts and leave. She seem's relieved that I don't want to call anyone.
I tell her have a nice day and I will see you again when i come back through the airport in a couple months.

I don't know if it is illegal or not to bring these items in. I just stood my ground and not get pushed around and it worked. BTW the girl was quite pretty :( Perhaps I should have asked for her number hahaha

#7 Kimloannguyenself

Posted 09 September 2011 - 07:33 PM

I did almost the trick like you miko but i did not bring anythig illegal into the country , and i did not have to go inside their office :( . It happened when we were in line waiting to go through passport control , my husband was standing in the same line as me in the line which for vietnames and mind you we did that million times before and they were all ok except this one time . There was a complete arrogant officer who was so rude , he pointed his finger at my husband and told my husband that he had to move to another line as this is for vietnamese only , so i told him that we are married and he is a PR holder therefor he shoduld let my husband staying that line . Also it wasnt because i did not want my husband to move to another line but because that officer was so rude so i refused to do as he said . I told my husband to stay in the same line as me to see what he got to do about that , so he told us that he will not let us entering the country hahahaha , he walked toward the passport control counter and told the officer at that counter not to let me and my husband go through . As our turn comes that officer took order from the other officer and pushed our passport away , i told him i do not need to come through if he doesnt want me to, i then took our passports and left the counter but i did make note of the name of that officer , i got my phone out and about to call someone then the officer who started the fight with me came and suddenly being so nice to us , he said he wanted us to move to amother line which got less people so we did not have to wait for so long :( , i told him if he was that nice to us earlier then i would have ask my husband to move to another line without making a. Big deal out of it . So he said sorry and told us that we can go to the private passport control counter and they will stamp it right away .
Anyway i hate the saigon airport officers , they are all arrogants and always think they are better than the rest of the country ..And no doubt why the number of coming back tourists in vietnam is almost down to zero because when toursist first land at the airport the officers already show them how unfriendly we are ..

#8 bonface

Posted 10 September 2011 - 05:24 AM

I guess I shall whip my phone out and "call my lawyer" too if something like this happens :(

#9 mik0

Posted 10 September 2011 - 05:49 AM

Bonface: Make sure you do infact have someone to call, 9 times out of 10 you will get away with it, but there is the odd chance that you will need to make that call.

Kim: The first time I come over to VN with my gf (now wife) she had the immigration officer give her some grief. He didn't want her to enter unless she paid him. I had already been processed and was waiting behind his channel.
I then walked up to him and asked him what is going on. Why are you taking so long to process my gf? He didn't say anything to me but kept talking to her. She told me that he wanted some money. I said ok. I pulled out my wallet, making sure everyone can see and started pulling out USD$ notes. He looked away and quickly stamped my wifes passport. I smiled and said thankyou, put my money back into my wallet and we walked through.

It seems they are cowardly bully's. If you stand up to them they will backdown.

#10 britmaveric

Posted 10 September 2011 - 01:20 PM

I think the key is to enjoy the experience and prove you can wait the arses out. Mind you most people do not have that luxury or are too scared.  I think they expect that people will roll over and do whatever. I find if you are polite and hold your ground they will soon tire of it and send you on the way - waste of time because they picked on the wrong person. :(

#11 cageface

Posted 11 September 2011 - 02:44 AM

Kim - I think you're right that the first experience tourists have at the Saigon airport doesn't leave a positive impression. If you compare it to Thailand, where they really make the process easy and do their best to make you feel welcome, it's hard not to feel that the Vietnamese don't really want you in their country.

It's a shame because once you get past the visa desk most people here are extremely friendly.

As for customs, I was talking to some people here last night that said that you won't get any trouble as long as you don't try to bring more than two of any one item in. So you can bring two laptops and two mobile phones, for example, but not more. I'm not sure if they can still be in unopened boxes though.

Edited by cageface, 11 September 2011 - 02:45 AM.


#12 heiji262

Posted 19 December 2011 - 08:35 AM

I law that any above USD 300 must be declared but IP4 and anythings such as Laptop must not declared because now anyone also have them then Custom office does not force it. You can see some information here {snip}

Edited by กำนัน, 19 December 2011 - 04:09 PM.
Removed spam.


#13 golfreak12

Posted 20 December 2011 - 04:19 AM

Bonface, as for laptops, just speak in English 1 is for work and 1 is for leisure and you'll be OK.
As for smaller stuff, just leave them in your body and noone will say anything.
They make you scan all your baggages but not yourself.
Just last year, I brought a record 8 phones into the country.
4 IP4, 2 3GS, 1 3G, 1 HD2 and 1 Galaxy S all in various pockets so there was no problem.
THe more you speak Vietnamese, the more they will try to take advantage of you.

I also have a funny story I will share.
My 2nd time I went to VN, I brought like 7 Samsung flip phones to give to relatives.
I bought these brand new for $40 each and i unlocked them all myself.
At the the time, smartphones were still rare and these cost upward of $100++ in VN.
I knew about the $500 limit before you have to declare but like I said these phones cost me $40 each.
So I left them all in my luggage and of course they saw them through the scanner.
So they told me I have to declare these.
I said these only cost $40 each so in total it was less than $300.
But they told me that the value of them in VN was alot greater than $500.
So we went back and forth and they someone mentioned about a donation and they will forget about it.
At the time I didn't have any Vnamese money and I told them I have to go out and exchange money to give them some.
I didn't know any better at the time but they thought I was crazy so they told me to go ahead and go.
LOL, I didn't know they want some money secretly and I could blow their cover if I go out there, exchange money and bring it back to them.
Basically, I got away with it cause I was too naive to know they wanted a hand-out.

#14 Cerulean1916

Posted 21 December 2011 - 06:07 PM

You should be ok with two laptops as long as it seems that both are being used.  If they get the sense you're trying to sell these or something, they want a cut.  So two laptops, a few different types of phones, maybe some other gadgets are ok.  If there's anything that makes you stand out, or any reason why they can try and stick you with a "violation", they'll use it against you to try and get some money.  If you ARE bringing multiple devices in to sell...well, you'll need to pay some bribes, because that's the cost of doing business.

#15 TheBludger

Posted 30 December 2011 - 01:31 PM

I have entered Vietnam through Saigon airport on 2 occasions this year and exited 3 times.  No troubles. No feeling that I was a foreigner and given a hard time. No press ganging for money. Just processed quickly and politely.
While I am sure that the experiences above are factual and accurate, I think that the conclusions about the Saigon Immigration officials are probably a little exaggerated.
The Bludger

#16 golfreak12

Posted 30 December 2011 - 04:38 PM

Its not exaggerated.
You are a white male foreigner.
They usually leave you alone.
They like to take advantage of Viet Kieus.
Foreigners that can speak Vietnamese who they know have money.

#17 TheBludger

Posted 31 December 2011 - 12:27 AM

Thanks for the clarification golfreak. Seems odd that they pick on people who can actually defend themselves cos they do speak VN.
Anyway I appreciate your feedback.

The Bludger

#18 vh_bu98

Posted 02 January 2012 - 02:08 AM

So I wonder if I pretend that I can't speak or understand Vietnamese then they will leave me alone. :D

#19 golfreak12

Posted 02 January 2012 - 03:15 AM

View PostTheBludger, on 31 December 2011 - 12:27 AM, said:

Thanks for the clarification golfreak. Seems odd that they pick on people who can actually defend themselves cos they do speak VN. Anyway I appreciate your feedback. The Bludger

How are they going to try and take advantage of you when most of them aren't proficient at English ??

View Postvh_bu98, on 02 January 2012 - 02:08 AM, said:

So I wonder if I pretend that I can't speak or understand Vietnamese then they will leave me alone. :D

Probably will.
I don't have an accent so if I keep answering in English, they think I don't know Vietnamese and leave me alone.
When I'm being friendly and answer in Vietnamese, they keep asking me all kind of questions.

#20 chingy_

Posted 02 January 2012 - 04:28 AM

i usually stared at them right in the eye, no smile or anything, just stared at them, for some reason they will avoid looking at you or even ask you question.

#21 TheBludger

Posted 02 January 2012 - 04:34 AM

Well that is how I looked at it also.
It is easier to confuse and scare somebody that does not know the language and is not familiar with the country and it's rules. A barrage of Vietnamese followed by a demand for a "fine", in English, is likely to intimidate a lot of travellers. Many will argue but if the fine is not excessive, and being unsure of their rights, in the interests of time and expense and avoiding hassle will pay up. Obviously you cannot do that to every person entering the country, or else there would be a huge outcry that the Govt could not ignore.
On the otherhand if you know your rights and speak Vietnamese you can argue your point and as said higher up this post indicate that you will contact your Lawyer or other Authority.
There is probably no best way it depends on who gives you a hard time.

#22 golfreak12

Posted 03 January 2012 - 07:30 AM

Its hard to explain to you since you are not Vietnamese/VietKieu.
VietKieus usually brings a gazillion stuff back to VN to give to relatives and/or to profit.
The Officers that work at the airport know this and will try to take advantage of the situation.
Vietkieus that travels back to VN usually don't know the rules and regulations.
They hear from others that "hey just stick a (insert denomination) bill in the passport and they will leave you alone".
You don't know how many people actually think this is true.
They rather pay the small fine to avoid confrontations.

Why would they try and extort from non Vietnamese(ie white) foreigners when there are thousands of Vietkieus available ??
Of course once in a while, they meet Kim who knows everything, and then they realized they messed with the wrong person.

#23 Kimloannguyenself

Posted 04 January 2012 - 04:43 AM

Haha funny that u mentioned me golf :) i am nice to viet officers as always plus i do not bring phones or anything that they can make money out of me :)

#24 britmaveric

Posted 04 January 2012 - 11:03 AM

Honestly if you bring a load of gear in to sell then I mean technically can't whinge if they stop you, however gifts to reles or mates is another entire matter.

#25 dglocke

Posted 05 January 2012 - 06:22 AM

The bottom line on everything in Vietnam is know the law and make sure you really understand it. If you are pressed for money for doing something legal make noise about it. Although it is very common for people to pay "tea money" to some officials they really don't like to publicize it. If you make a big show about taking money out and waving it around and try to push it on them they will usually let you pass without taking the money. Mainly i think because their supervisor will see it and want a percentage of it ;)

#26 golfreak12

Posted 07 January 2012 - 04:41 AM

Let me give you a perfect example.
My brother came back to VN 2 weeks after I did for my wedding and I told him to bring my extra laptop with him.
Thats 2 and they both are used(its obvious by just looking at it).
He speak English very well but with an accent so hes an obvious target.
So they stopped him and told him you can only bring 1 laptop back and he keeps telling them he brought it back for his brother(me).
They kept giving him a hard time and hinted at "coffee money".
So he gave them $20 and they let him through.

When I come back to VN, I bring 2 laptops with me everytime.
Everytime they say something to me about it, I reply in English that 1 is for work and 1 is for leisure.
If they keep saying stuff to me, I keep talking back in English.
They don't know how to argue with me in English so they let me through.

So my point is that if you are VietKieus, you are most likely to be targeted.
And most of them are likely to throw some "coffee money" their way just to avoid the hassle.
This happens all the time which is why these officials keep doing it.

#27 mik0

Posted 09 January 2012 - 11:45 AM

Its time to make a stand. Don't be scared of the officials. Just politely refuse to pay any money. If enough people said no, then the officials won't be asking.
Its hard I know as vn-ese are brought up to be fearful of people in uniforms. The moment you challenge these types of people they back down.

#28 Bluecat

Posted 09 January 2012 - 11:51 AM

I would tend to agree with this one, most of the time they will back down.
Most of the time but not all the time, so in case they don't you will need to be a bit patient.

#29 chingy_

Posted 09 January 2012 - 04:07 PM

they won't bother you, just get it over, you sound like girl, first cased scenario tell them to fvck off or else you'll report him to higher authority, or stared him down, if all fail slip the magot $20buck and move on. Enjoy your vacation/stay.

#30 vh_bu98

Posted 09 January 2012 - 05:48 PM

I went through customs last night and I was surprised how easy it was. There was no declaration paperwork or anything and they didn't ask to declare anything.


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