Traveller letters: $300 on arrival? The great Vietnamese visa scam fooling Australian passport holders

VIETNAM UNEASE

Having just returned from a visit to Vietnam, I'd like to highlight the confusion regarding visa applications. Two in our group sent their passports to the Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra. One of us used the Australian government's Smartraveller website and the link "Vietnamese National Web Portal of Immigration", while I searched for the Vietnam Embassy website within Australia.

After paying registered post both ways, the passports mailed to the embassy were returned within a week at a cost of $A99 per visa. The Australian online application (www.vietnamembassy.org.au) also cost $A99 and a printed visa was mailed to me in three days.

However, the site linked from Smartraveller.gov.au is the official website within Vietnam where a visa costs $US25. After processing her application and concerned at the price difference, my companion called the Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra and was advised that she would be required to pay the visa cost difference, of between $A100-$A300 upon arrival. Worried about additional unknown charges, she chose to reapply using the Australian online portal and paid $A99.

Visa scams abound, therefore one would (naively) assume the Smartraveller website would be current, directing applicants to the most efficient and cost-effective portal for visa applications.

Kay Douglas, Hawthorn, VIC

See also: The most expensive tourists visas for Australians

LETTER OF THE WEEK

IT'S JUST NOT FARE

Not once in a wonderful three-week holiday in Sri Lanka were we taken advantage of by tuk-tuk drivers, hotels or anyone. The rip-off came when we arrived home in Sydney.

On arrival at the international airport taxi rank at 6.30am our allocated cab was covered in bird poop. Then off we went completely in the wrong direction. I asked the driver where on earth we were going and his explanation was that "it's only one more kilometre this way and the traffic is lighter". Rubbish.

Worse was to come when we entered the Cross City Tunnel and took the city exit which meant we had to travel through the city centre and add about an extra $10 to the fare.

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We arrived at our home after 40 minutes, which should have taken 20-25 at most. The traffic was negligible and way too early for peak hour. I told the driver I was going to report him and he said "OK, I'll knock $20 off the metered fare."

I travel to and from the airport at least once a month and had never seen a fare as expensive, even travelling in peak hour. It was clearly a rip-off for travellers who don't know where they need to go or the approximate fare to be paid.

I rang the taxi company and they said that I could lodge a complaint and they would come back to me in two weeks with their findings. Surprise – today is day 14 – no word from the taxi company.

I find it amazing that the taxi industry is continually complaining about the Uber effect but when a real complaint is lodged they might take two weeks to reply and in my case didn't reply at all.

Lance Robey, Hunters Hill, NSW

NASTY BUSINESS

On March 21 this year I flew Qantas QF73 from Sydney to San Francisco. I am 74 years old, have a back problem and severe arthritis in both knees and purchased a business class ticket to be comfortable and fully recline during the 14-hour non-stop flight. Upon boarding, I discovered that my seat was broken. In-flight crew attempted to fix the seat and were unable to do so – the flight was full and I couldn't be moved to another seat. I was doomed to sit up for the entire journey.

I would have been as miserable in an economy class at a fraction of the cost. It took two days for me to recover from this flight before I was able to continue with my itinerary.

I've written seven emails to Qantas Customer Service asking for a refund of this segment of my flight. I also wrote to a consumer advocate and contacted the fair trading office, all to no avail. I was informed in one email that a refund will not be issued.

All return emails were a standard identical response to a complaint, and all state that Qantas understands how uncomfortable it was and as a gesture of goodwill, I was given 15,000 Qantas points. I consider this an insult and will never fly Qantas again.

Marg Haack, Koolewong, NSW

BROLLY BAD SHOW

Having visited every state capital city airport over the last six months as well as several capital city and regional international airports I wonder why the Adelaide Airport security is the only one to have you remove an umbrella from your carry-on baggage and if you don't, because you are unaware of their requirement, are treated like a child?

When I asked them the reason they said because they require it. As all the capital city airports fall under federal government control, why is Adelaide able to introduce their own regulations? Also, when you ask to see the card for the gunpowder check they advise they are not required to show it to you.

Simon Moriarty, Dee Why, NSW

IT AIN'T NOTHING

Ross Dryan (Traveller letters, May 12) suggests that in Australia "one can travel 1000 kilometres and see nothing". I could not disagree more. I've travelled fairly extensively throughout this country and I find the landscape endlessly fascinating and ever-changing. Sometimes in subtle ways, but invariably there will be so much more to be learned about the beauty of this diverse continent.

Liz Riordan, Newtown, VIC

LOST AND FOUND DEPARTMENT

After spending a perfect four days in Sydney, imagine my horror when I realised I'd left my handbag on the airport train. Gone was the handbag containing everything important to me, credit cards, driver's licence, wallet, keys and other items.

Miraculously, the bag was handed in by an honest passenger to Andrew, the wonderful station master at Kingsgrove Station who managed to find my mobile phone number amid some paper work in the bag.

He contacted me and with just one hour to spare my bag was sent back on the next train, securely boxed and taped, given to the train staff at the airport station and then handed back to me with everything intact and in time for me to make my scheduled flight to Queensland.

Dallas Rivers, Noosaville, QLD

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