How to Travel Vietnam on a Shoestring

Vietnam has been one of my favourite countries I have visited so far. From the friendly locals to the war torn history, Vietnam has so much to offer to every type of traveller. My boyfriend and I did a month here in February 2017 and had a blast; and on very little money. I constantly see people budgeting 40 euros a day or 900 pounds for 5 weeks and then saying they couldn’t even do much with that amount. That’s crazy to me! We did a whole month here with tours, guest houses, drinks and such for only $800 USD. Thats only about $1100 NZD / 590 pounds / 665 euros…a fraction of what I see others spending. Mind you this is for 2 people as well so totally doable for even less if you’re on your own! So here’s how we travelled Vietnam for a whole month on a shoestring…

 

Take overnight buses – Starting at $34 USD each!

Beds on the top and bottom of the bus

So you’re best starting point is to figure out how you’re getting around. Sure you can fly from place to place but your best option would be to take buses! It’s so easy to cover the entire country from top to bottom or vice versa. We went from Ho Chi Minh – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Hue – Hanoi for only $34 USD each. We went with The Sinh Tourist (be careful because there are lots of fakes of this company!) and we were always dropped off at their office in the next city so we could book accomodation around that. Some buses drop you off at hostels that get commission if you decide to stay there and sometimes these are middle of nowhere so you have no other options. This is definitely the most cost effective way to get around Vietnam though.

Sinh Tourist destinations in Vietnam map

This is the map of everywhere The Sinh Tourist goes in Vietnam

Eat like a Local – $1 meals

I absolutely loved the food in Vietnam, minus coriander. Yuck. We pretty much lived off banh mi which is just their version of a sandwich (banh mi in Vietnamese literally means bread) and these were roughly $0.80 or 20,000 VND. Pick up these for bus journeys and you’re good to go! Even when we went out for nice meals (which might be some nice chicken and rice or a hot pot) these only ran us about $3 each or 70,000 VND which is practically nothing. We could have easily gone to nice cafes and western restaurants everyday. But I enjoyed my side of the road iced coffees and back alley stir-frys much more and for much cheaper!

This cook-your-own meal was fantastic and only cost $5 USD

Drink like a Local – $0.44 beers or $2 for a bottle of vodka

There are so many different types of beer in Vietnam that it’s not hard to find something you like for super cheap. We drank a lot of Saigon, 333 and Bia Ha Noi which are good local options and are only about $10,000 VND at their cheapest ($0.44). A lot of roadside stands also sold bottles of vodka for ridiculously cheap. Be careful with these though as sometimes “extra” products can be added to the vodka so don’t go too cheap. We found one called Men’ Vodka and loved taking that to the beach and making our own drinks during the day. If you go to clubs/beach bars then expect to pay a lot, sometimes 150,000 VND or about $6 USD which realistically isn’t actually a lot unless you’re on a budget!

Stay in Guesthouses

The beautiful courtyard at Oleander Garden Homestay in Hoi An

If you are travelling as a solo person than hostels will probably be your cheapest option. But as a couple, we found it cheaper to pay for our own room compared to paying for 2 hostel beds. We stayed at some beautiful home stays during our time in Vietnam. My favourite was Oleander Garden in Hoi An. We were only a 20 minute walk from the beach or 15 minute walk to the old city and really enjoyed the peace and quiet we had during our stay. We were provided a small breakfast each day in the courtyard and our room was spacious and modern and was only $15 USD a night. The best though was Halo Tourist Guesthouse in Hue. It wasn’t anything fancy but they were so accomodating when I came down with terrible food poisoning and had to spend a whole week there compared to our originally planned 3 days. Only cost us $7 USD a night as well and was less than 5 minutes walk to the Imperial City!

Don’t buy the first item/tour you see

I can’t stress this enough. Shop around! When we were in Nha Trang we rented beach chairs almost everyday. We found great ones for 30,000 VND for the day ($1.30 USD) and guess what; the ones next to it were 50,000 VND and definitely not as nice! So don’t always go with the first thing that you see. The same applies to tours, every company is going to the tunnels and to the Mekong Delta and so on therefore you don’t need to settle on the first you see. We found the best prices with the company we travelled with which was The Sinh Tourist, but you might find better depending on what you want to do!

Visiting Khe Sanh Combat Base: a US Marine Corps Base outpost near the demilitarised zone

ALWAYS double check prices

You will constantly have people approaching you saying “5 for this!” and you need to clarify if that’s 5000 or 500,000 or $5 USD because everyone means something different. We left a market in Ho Chi Minh and were offered a ride for “5” back to our hotel in little rickshaws but when we arrived we were told they mean’t 500,000 which is $22 USD each! It turned into an argument and we ended up giving them half the money. So always confirm your prices if you don’t want to blow through your money quick!

 

Ultimately if I broke things down we spent…

  • $68 – overnight buses
  • $235 – Accomodation for 27 days (some nights are spent on the bus and saves on accomodation)
  • $480 on food/coffees/sun beds ($16 a day)
  • $54 for the two tours we did of the Mekong Delta and DMZ Zone

So give or take some cheaper/more expensive days that equals to $837 which I think is pretty good for travelling Vietnam for a whole month! Plus this is for TWO people so 1 would be even cheaper. Ultimately, you can do Vietnam on a shoestring budget and still have an amazing time. If you’d like to know more specifics about where we went/stayed/ate then send me a message! Also check out what I recommend to pack for your first time to Asia here!

-Katherine

“I would rather own a little and see the world than own the world and see a little” – Alexander Sattler



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