Winning the Lottery in Vietnam

Lottery sellers are everywhere in Vietnam, wandering the streets trying to offload “lucky tickets” in exchange for a few cents of profit.

Most ticket sellers aren’t able to work for some reason, usually because of a disability or old age. There’s no unemployment benefits or aged or disability pension in Vietnam, so selling tickets is one way to earn something, albeit a pittance.

The lotteries are run by Vietnam’s 63 provincial governments, with daily prizes of up to US$70,000. Each ticket sells for VND10,000, which is about 50 US cents. The ticket seller gets to keep 10% of the ticket price, so their take on each ticket sale ends up to be 5 cents per ticket.

I don’t buy lottery tickets for two reasons. Firstly because I don’t want to perpetuate the myth that all foreigners are rich (and an easy mark) and secondly because Darling Man is such a soft touch I know he will pull out his wallet the second he sees someone who looks like they’re down on their luck.

Ticket seller

This guy, one of the regular ticket sellers on Snail Street, ran over a landmine when he was a truck driver in the South Vietnam army. As a veteran of the losing side, he doesn’t get a pension.

We usually buy some lottery tickets on our night tours, to demonstrate how the whole thing works to our customers and to support the people who have no other form of income.

My favourite ticket seller is a beautiful girl called Tam, a name that means “heart”. Cerebral palsy has trapped Tam in a body that doesn’t work properly and she is pushed up and down Snail Street by her dad, who sells the tickets. Tam has the loveliest smile on Snail Street and Darling Man always buys some tickets from Tam and her Dad. And every time I’m there I always wish I could do more for them.

All the “lucky ticket” sellers, including Tam’s dad, carry a small book containing the photocopied results of the lottery draws for the past few weeks, so it’s easy to check if you’ve won.

So a few weeks ago, when we were testing out a chè place for our new street food tour, this tiny ticket seller appeared…

Lottery ticket seller

From my phone camera. Apologies for the poor quality of the pic.

Darling Man could not resist that face and her sweet smile. He called her over to check the tickets he’d bought a few nights earlier.

Suddenly, he gasped.

“We won!” he exclaimed.

“WHAT????” I said. Because we’ve been buying tickets for more than five years and this is only the second time he’s ever gasped. And the first time was a false alarm; he was looking at the wrong set of numbers.

He showed me the evidence — the winning numbers! In this case, the last two numbers — 91 — are the winning ones for the November 10 draw of the Tien Giang provincial government’s lottery.

Vietnamese lottery ticket

Wha-hooo! You can see on the printed sheet that we just won VND100,000 (ngan means a thousand), which is about US$5. But … a win is a win!

The ticket seller asked Darling Man if he’d take his winnings in the form of more tickets. Softy that he is, he said yes.


Selecting 10 more tickets

So if you’re in Vietnam and someone thrusts a book of coloured tickets into your face, that’s what it’s all about. Don’t be too quick to say no to the sellers, they’re trying to support themselves in a country that doesn’t have a safety net.

You could even win, too, because now you know how to check your tickets. Some provincial governments even have a website with the results of the lottery. Just check the back of your ticket to see if it has a web address on it.


It goes a bit quiet on the blog when I’m not coping with things.

At the moment we’re really busy with tours and I’ve had a lot of writing work on. This pregnancy is also kicking my butt. I’m exhausted, in pain (unlike Shakira’s, my hips DO lie), my stomach is absolutely enormous, I keep catching every single bug going around and I’m being battered by the most terrible hormones in the history of the world. That means I really don’t cope with things like discovering friends have started rival street food tours without telling me. Or with having our TripAdvisor page hacked by an obscure travel agent. Or with a sudden deluge of emails from people wanting information about our tours … probably because they can’t find our website because of the aforementioned hacking. (Deep breaths, Barbara, deep breaths.)

So you can expect a lot of food posts in the next few weeks. Because in my humble opinion, reading about food is more enjoyable than reading a whiny rant from someone who knows she has an amazing life … but just can’t get her hormones under control.

Back to normal programming when I start to feel normal again.
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8 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Maria says:

    I think I’d have bought her entire stack -she just has that grandmotherly look.
    Congreats on your win.

  2. budget jan says:

    Good effort, still managing a post when life is shitty! I don’t think friends is the word to use. Friends would have shared their intentions with you! Anyway your business is booming so that is great.
    I am glad you shared how the lottery works. We never bought tickets because we had no idea how to check winnings, or even if foreigners were allowed to win. Knowing that the sellers rely on their meagre commision to live is incentive enough to buy in the future. Good Luck 🙂
    budget jan recently posted..Escape to Bamboo Island

  3. Jonny Blair says:

    Wow! Congrats Barbara. I’m not sure if you know the British Sitcom “Only Fools and Horses”? If not – there was an episode when Rodney won the Spanish Lottery and then couldn’t claim his winning because his passport showed that he was legally too young to enter! Safe travels. Jonny
    Jonny Blair recently posted..Friday’s Featured Food: Hummus lunch in Hummus Said Restaurant, Akko, Israel

  4. […] la vincita è irrisoria, come racconta Barbara sul suo blog THE DROP OUT DIARIES (poco meno di 50 US cents ) ma chi lo vende può trattenere il 10% e continuare a […]

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