Halong Bay Castaways Scam

We at VBH really believe that healthy competition is a good thing and it only drives us to keep making your experience with us better and better. We like to be friends with everyone, including our competitors, so it is with reluctance we are forced to give you a very specific warning against scam artists posing as a legitimate business.

They operate a Halong Bay Booze Cruise. They call it any number of variations of our Castaways Island experience. IT IS NOT IN ANYWAY AFFILIATED WITH VIETNAM BACKPACKER HOSTELS. We can tolerate them stealing our name and offering a cheaper imitation of our product of the same name, as this mainly hurts us. But what really upsets us to have heard as many reports of scams, rip-offs & downright terrible experiences as we have about these guys. Backpackers are our friends, and we at VBH really don’t like it when people hurt our friends.

Please accept our sincere warning that these guys do not care about their customers. They knowingly make false representations about their tour, which they know will not be delivered. They accept your money, deliver none of their promise, and then disappear when you return to complain. We know this and the following to be true from consoling many upset guests who have been ripped of by these people. We won’t go into detail, but instead please read a complaint email from Zach, one of their victims, who we think has said it pretty well for all of those that have gone before him. Well done Zach!

From: Zach *****@gmail.com
To: [email protected]
Subject: Recent Tour


Eleven other tourists and myself were recently on your three day two night cruise through Halong Bay. Before the laundry list of illegal, immoral, and generally despicable behavior exhibited by your staff began to occur, it was obvious that my friends and I had been duped by your scheme as soon as we met our “tour guide” who was too hungover to function. It turns out (as you know) that this tour is actually a rip off of the real “castaway tour” put on by Vietnam Backpacker Hostels. I spoke with them yesterday and they are well aware of your tour and apologized on your behalf.

Two 18-year olds were extorted out of their passports for “breaking a kayak” which we know was already broken because some girls who had been on the boat the night before told us a kayak had “broken” the day before during their tour. The captain of the boat ended up forcing his way off the ship and ran the passports to a police officer who then demanded payment. Regardless of the fee needed by the fisherman who helped dig the kayak from the bottom of the bay, the kayak was already broken so it shouldn’t have been used at all. This is what we call a scam. Beyond that, girls were groped by staff members who were also pushing drugs and paying pretty much no attention to what was going on (or were unable to because they were so drunk).

The biggest problem we all had with the tour was the difference between what was promised and what was delivered. No bungalows were stayed in other than those that were purchased individually by certain tour goers. Free beer was supplied, but it was undoubtedly skunked so people had to buy beer. No “open bar all weekend” happened. No private rooms. No unlimited jungle juice. No rock climbing. No private island. No snorkeling. No kayaks outside beach huts because we didn’t have beach huts. These are all things promised on your website. If one or two things hadn’t gone as planned we wouldn’t be complaining; that happens all the time. But the egregious negligence and general crappiness of our tour (led by a guide who was repeatedly calling his “boss” who he said was encouraging all the horrible behaviour) was unlike much we had ever experienced. This email isn’t coming for a lack of comfort or bad food or anything like that. It’s coming from disappointment resulting from your deceit and the danger posed by the lacklustre staff you employ.

It was truly hard for us to believe that someone would make their living from scamming cash-strapped backpackers, but after looking online and speaking to the owners of the tour which yours is copying, we were sad to learn that it was true. Adam, the one question I kept asking myself the whole weekend was whether your character is as horrible as our experience would indicate, or if you are just unaware of what goes on on your boat (not that the latter is much better). I hope it is the second one, but after reading things online and speaking to other people it seems like the first is the truth.

If you think that this email is all that has been done in response to what went on over the weekend, you might want to think again. Good luck with all your future endeavors.


This is Charlie – he operates this scam! Alongside him are currently or have been, guys named Adam, Ken, Simon, Ruben.


He uses the following websites which contain video and photos from our experience:

His agencies are at:

11A Ly Quoc Su Street

Charlie 11A Ly Quoc Su

27 Ma May Street

Charlie 27 Ma May

43 Luong Ngoc Quyen

Charlie 43 Luong Ngoc Quyen

We regret to have to post this warning. We are protective of the reputation of Halong Bay tourism because it’s such an incredible place, and we don’t want to sound high & mighty, but enough is enough. These guys have been ripping people off for too long. The best thing to do is share this post, vote with your feet and stay away from them. Please research as much of the information about them as possible, and please, if we cannot offer you what you think is a valuable trip to Halong Bay, by all means come and ask us before you book something else, we’ll happily advise you on who is reputable, there are plenty.

We are sincerely a bunch of backpackers who care, and we really want you to be safe and have a great time, whether it’s with us, or someone else. We hope you accept this warning in that light.

Much love

The VBH crew

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