When we turned up in Hanoi, we had booked nothing for our 24-day trip. We didn’t really know how much it would cost to travel Vietnam, just that it would be quite cheap. We were absolutely delighted to find that backpacking in Vietnam was really affordable, as well as being really headache free.
Often when travelling on a budget you need to organise places to sleep, mark out areas you can afford to eat in, and research which activities are in your price range in advance. The cost to travel in Vietnam is so affordable, that you just don’t need to do that. In fact, it’s often better not to book in advance because you can get a better deal by negotiating in person when you arrive. Prices are not fixed in Vietnam!
How Much Does it Cost to Travel Vietnam?
Our travel budget is near to the rock bottom expenditure for a night’s accommodation, 3 meals per day, local transport, and a fair range of activities. This is probably the tightest travel budgeting we’ve ever done, to give you an idea of how hard we were trying to budget. Flights are not included in the budget.
Where We Travelled
We travelled from the north to the south of Vietnam over 24 days from November – December. We stopped off in a total of 10 places: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Hue, Hoi An, Dalat, Yok Don, Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh City. Our full Vietnam backpacking route from north to south can be found here, if you’re interested to see our exact travel route.
Transport in Vietnam
We mostly travelled by sleeper bus because it’s the cheapest option, but I have to admit that it’s definitely not something I would do again. If you’re thinking about taking a sleeper bus, How to Survive Vietnamese Sleeper Buses in Vietnam is an essential read. We travelled by train on a few occasions as well and it was much more pleasant and comfortable. The price is only very slightly higher, so it’s worth looking into.
You can also save money by booking buses and trains in advance. To make sure you keep your cost to travel Vietnam in check, avoid booking via your hotel and hostel if you can as they may add an extra mark-up to take for themselves. Instead, go straight to the bus station or train station to book your tickets.
Budget Accommodation in Vietnam
Travelling as a couple, we mostly found that a double room in a guest house was cheaper than two single beds in a dorm room. This means that travelling solo would probably mean a slightly increased cost for accommodation. However, you can still get very cheap dorm beds, and sometimes even hammocks, if you’re not fussy about your hostels.
Budget accommodation is generally of an okay standard. Sometimes we had ants in the room and sometimes just bare floorboards, but we found that the bathrooms were always fine. I should say that we’re not really fussy about our travel accommodation at all, as long as it’s basically clean. Many places also throw in breakfast of banana pancakes as well.
Where We Stayed in Vietnam
|1st Thu Giang Guesthouse||Hanoi||We checked into this place after seeing it was recommended in the Lonely Planet travel guide for Vietnam. It was a basic guesthouse which is owned by a husband and wife couple. There’s 1st Thu Giang Guesthouse which is looked after by the husband. Around the corner is the cleaner and more orderly 2nd Thu Giang Guesthouse, run by the wife. The place was cheap and we liked it. The only downside was the smell of wet dog in 1st. We paid $7.45 per night.|
|Luong Thuy Family Guesthouse||Sapa||We struggled to find anything really cheap in Sapa, but decided to head into this lovely guesthouse becaus there was a hot crackling fire and it was absolutely freezing cold outside. The place was homely but big enough that it wasn’t like staying in someone’s house. Rooms are quite large. At the very top of the hotel is a tiny, wooden breakfast room with an incredible view of the rice terraces selling hot bowls of noodle soup. We paid $16.80 per night.|
|Huang Huong Guesthouse||Hue||There’s a small alley of budget accommodation in Hue, including Huang Huong Guesthouse. When we were there, the guesthouse was run by one very little old lady. She was really welcoming and smiley, and made us banana pancakes for breakfast. The downside here is that the rooms have some damp walls. We paid $6.73 per night.
|Hop Yen||Hoi An||Hop Yen is an immaculate looking hotel downstairs but don’t be fooled by the appearance because there are much cheaper rooms the further upstairs you go. We stayed at the very top in the attic rooms which were all bare floorboards and a crappy shared shower room. The plus side was that it was our cheapest accommodation in the whole of Vietnam. We paid $6.91 per night.
|Stilt Houses||Yok Don||Accommodation options are limited in Yok Don, but you can stay in some local-style stilt houses next to where tourist information (and also the chained up elephants that are poorly treated) are located. The houses themselves are basic with just a matress on the floor, but they have a nice view of the field and it’s quite a cool experience. We paid $6.73 per night.|
|Sun Hotel||Mui Ne||Mui Ne was another expensive area for us and it took a lot of shopping around to find a budget accommodation. Eventually we managed to cut a deal with the couple running Sun Hotel and had quite a nice room for a good price. We paid $8.52 per night.|
|Ngoc Thao Guesthouse||Ho Chi Minh City||Our most expensive room of the trip was in Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s not surprising considered we booked online before arriving (because we wanted to be sure about where we were staying the night before our flight). This guesthouse was absolutely immaculate, kind of plush inside and run by a really lovely family. We paid $19.91 per night.
Most Expensive Sleep: Ngoc Thao Guesthouse in Ho Chi Minh City – $19.91 per night
Least Expensive Sleep: Hop Yen in Hoi An – $6.91 per night
Eating Vietnamese Food & Street Food
Vietnam is a top travel destination for food lovers, even if you’re on a budget. If you want to eat cheap and keep the cost to travel Vietnam down, stick to local Asian eateries and street food. We had a lot of delicious and cheap vegetarian street food, even though beef noodles are the most commonly found. Noodle soups, rice and crusty bread rolls are the most common Vietnamese dishes.
Food gets expensive if you plan on trying to eat in more tourist-orientated restaurants or any Western food establishment. Avoid Western food as it is always over-priced and won’t be anything like what you’re used to at home. Plus, Vietnamese food is incredibly delicious so I’m not sure why you’d ever want to eat Western food over it anyway!
Most Expensive Eat: Tamarind Cafe in Hanoi – $16.80 for two people
Least Expensive Eat: Breakfast rice with shredded coconut from a street vendor in HCMC – 91¢ for two people
Budget Activities in Vietnam
You’ll read that there are a lot of “must-do” activities in Vietnam. At the top of that list are a Halong Bay cruise and a Sapa trek. We did both a Halong Bay cruise and a Sapa trek and although we loved them, not everyone would consider them “must-dos.” For Halong Bay trips, make sure you shop around and haggle well. There are loads of tour operators out to rip tourists off so it’s really important to compare prices. We organised our’s via our local guesthouse in Hanoi in the end as they seemed the most trustworthy and one of the better value options.
Despite not being one of the “must-do” activities in Vietnam, our favourite activity was a Vietnamese vegan cooking class in Hoi A. We learned to make a heap of different vegan versions of Vietnamese food and learned a lot about local produce. Of course, if you really want to keep the cost to travel Vietnam down super low, then there are lots of good free activities, including visiting temples and pagodas and walking around enjoying the bustle of the cities.
On a side note, unethical elephant riding is a problem in Vietnam. Many elephants are mistreated and worked too hard in poor conditions. Don’t include this in your Vietnam activities.
Most Expensive Activity: All-inclusive 2-day Halong Bay cruise – $64 per person
Least Expensive Activity: Ticket to the temple on the lake in Hanoi – 45¢ per person
What I Didn’t Include in the Vietnam Travel Budget
Things I didn’t factor into the cost to travel Vietnam are ATM withdrawal charges, gifts for our families – just in time for Christmas! – and a personal splurge on clothes which we had tailored in Hoi An. These expenses would give a skewed perspective of the cost of travelling in Vietnam because they aren’t essentials. If you want to keep the cost to travel Vietnam down, then I’d recommend avoiding buying any tailored clothing in Hoi An. However, it’s tough to avoid the lure of well-tailored, budget-friendly clothing in Hoi An. Souveniers tend to be reasonably well-priced but costs can easily stack up depending on how many people you want to buy gifts for!
Gifts for Christmas: VND 560,000 ($25.72) on 5 gifts
Tailored clothes in Hoi An: VND 2,380,126 ($110.18) on 1 pair of boots, 1 pair of jeans, 1 skirt
ATM Withdrawal Charges: £31.50 (£5 / $8 per withdrawal, maximum withdrawal of £86 / $138 per day)
Haggling in Vietnam
Don’t forget that if you do plan on buying gifts, souvenirs and tailor-made clothing in Vietnam then you must haggle. You should also haggle for accommodation. Bartering is all part of the ‘fun’ in Vietnam – it’s the way that local people do things. Always approach haggling as a friendly exchange and steer clear of being aggressive (because that’s no fun). Some Vietnamese are more harsh with their haggling with tourists than others. Remember that nearly everyone in Vietnam is selling the same goods, so if one person is too tough or unpleasant to haggle with then just move on.
When you’re haggling, you can usually aim to get the price down by about 25%-50% of the originally quoted price. Sometimes you can get this down much further on items like clothing and accommodation – it all depends on how high they start! It’s a good idea to engage in haggling for the same or similar item with a couple of different people. This will give you a better idea of whether the price they are offering you is a fair one. Bear in mind that you should be looking to pay a fair price. The Vietnamese will be much worse off than you and often appear brash because they really need the money to get by.
Budget Travel in Vietnam
The cost to travel Vietnam can be kept really low if you pay attention to your travel budget and haggle well. Vietnam is an incredible country to travel if you’re looking for a rich cultural experience but have a tight travel budget as well. This is one of the reasons that Vietnam continues to attract so many backpackers. Travelling in Vietnam is also very easy because there is a strong tourist infrastructure in place, especially when it comes to backpacking. Vietnam is one of our top budget travel destinations still today!
Read More about Vietnam
How much did it cost to travel Vietnam when you went? I’d love to hear if you managed to beat our travel budget!