Vietnam is an incredible country with friendly locals, delicious cuisine, and wonderful sights. Here we’ve compiled tips on how you can travel Vietnam on a budget.
Costs of traveling to Vietnam
Here are the basic rates of goods and services in Vietnam. Take note that these are only approximations and it differs depending on your location.
Standard aircon room: $20
|Activities||Excursions for group tours: varies, but usually under $15|
|Transport||Local flight: $40-50|
Bicycle rental: $1 per day
Motorbike/scooter rental: $5 per day
|Food||Budget meals: $1-2|
It’s possible to enjoy Vietnam for $20 a day.
If you’re planning on visiting here, make sure to allot a few weeks to explore its cities and rural areas. Here are some great places to see during your Vietnam itinerary.
Budget travel tips
1. Create a packing list
There are things that you want to buy first before going to Vietnam. For instance, items such as sunblock, mosquito repellent, or travel adapters are often more expensive when bought in tourist spots. Others such as body or face lotion and deodorant are also best bought at home because they are usually sold in skin-whitening variants in Asia.
2. Book via low-cost airlines
Flights to and within Vietnam are cheap, and even more so with low-cost airlines. These include Pacific Airlines, AirAsia, and Jetstar Airways.
3. Pay in local currency
Some vendors and drivers accept USD, but then you’ll have to bargain for a good exchange rate. It’s best to just pay in local currency, which is Vietnam Dong (VND).
Once you arrive at the airport in Vietnam, exchange only a small amount enough for a ride to the city. It’s best to exchange your money to money changers in the city rather than at the airport for better rates.
4. Stay in budget accommodations
Like other countries in Asia, hostels are common in Vietnam. They are cheap and offer a way to mingle with other travelers. Just make sure to bring noise-cancelling earphones so you can sleep in peace.
Hotels in Vietnam are also reasonably priced — to get the best prices, look for those located just a bit outside the tourist areas.
5. Explore by a motorbike
Motorbikes are ubiquitous in Vietnam and they’re an easy, budget-friendly way to explore around. You can rent a motorbike for a day or buy off a second-hand one from other foreign backpackers who are done with their adventures in the area. These sales can easily be found online, such as in Facebook.
For long trips, the budget option is to book a sleeper bus or sleeper train.
6. Eat local food
Vietnam has a lot of delicious food you should try, and they are incredibly cheap! Some of the common ones include pho (noodle soup), banh mi sandwich, and spring rolls. For drinks, don’t forget to have a sip of Vietnamese egg coffee or beer.
Food and drinks are typically priced at $1-2 each. Not only will you enjoying the exquisite flavors of these food, you’ll also be saving money because Western food like pizza is usually more expensive in Vietnam.
Bargaining is a skill that every budget traveler should learn. Tourist markets that offer souvenirs and local arts and crafts often give a higher markup at the beginning, so you should counter-offer with at least 50% less.
Local markets where meats and vegetables are sold are different. Their prices are often non-negotiable since they cater to everyone, including locals.
8. Visit free attractions
There are interesting sights that you can visit for free. In the capital of Hanoi, you can explore Hoan Kiem Lake and its surrounding greenery, bridges, and pagoda. In Ho Chi Minh, some of the places with free entrances are Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office, Ben Thanh Market, and Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Walking Street.
9. Travel off-season
The peak season in Vietnam is during the dry months of November to March. Holidays also see an increase in international and local guests, such as Christmas and Tet (which is celebrated at the end of January or late February, depending on the lunar calendar.)
The off-peak season is from September to April. When traveling off-season, it’s important to constantly check the weather, as some areas experience rain and cold in these months.
Vietnam is a budget-friendly place to visit, and you can easily stretch your budget depending on the type of travel and comfort level you want.
Do you have other tips on how to travel Vietnam on a budget? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).