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Budget Travel In Vietnam

Arienne Parzei is a travel writer, videographer, and photographer from Toronto, Canada who loves learning about different cultures first hand. In 2009, she moved to South Korea and taught English for two years and followed that up with an eight-month backpacking trip through China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. She shares her travel experiences, advice, and tips on her website, inspiring others to get out and explore our incredible planet. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter: @seeusoontravel.

Budget Travel in Vietnam

Southeast Asia is the best region in the world to travel on a budget. There’s no other place where you can sleep comfortably, eat ridiculously well, and see a variety of incredible sites without blowing the bank. Vietnam is definitely one of those countries where your money can go very far. For example, my boyfriend and I travelled through the country at the end of 2011 for 20 days and averaged about $56 USD a day…for the two of us. We used the well-connected bus system to travel down the length of the country, stayed in private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, and experienced a variety of activities and sites.



Getting around Vietnam is very easy and straightforward. There’s both a rail and bus network that links the entire country, north to south. Both options are comfortable and nonsense free.

If you’re planning to travel the length of the country and want to make a number of stops along the way, consider picking up an “Open Bus” or “Open Tour” ticket. For around $50-60 USD (note, prices vary by bus company), you can get a ticket that will allow you to stop into six of Vietnam’s main destinations, including Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Lat, and Ho Chi Minh City. You can stay in each destination as long as you want, but you must notify the bus company 24hrs in advance to reserve a seat on the next bus. For travel between Hanoi and Hue, and Hoi An and Nha Trang, opt for the overnight bus and save on a nights accommodation. Check out Sinh Café for a complete list of bus routes and ticket combinations.

Once you’re at your destination, your transportation options open up. Most of Vietnam’s cities are small enough that you can walk the majority of them or even rent a bicycle and explore them on your own. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the traffic is so dense and chaotic, you’ll want an experienced driver to get you around. Cyclos are popular for a leisurely tour in Hanoi as is flagging down a motorbike, hopping on the back, and holding on for dear life. Make sure to negotiate the rate beforehand to avoid any disagreements once you reach your destination.

Pho Soup


There’s a lot of nice accommodations to be found throughout Vietnam within the $12-$16 USD price range. For this price, you’ll get two twin beds or one double bed, an ensuite bathroom, a fan (sometimes even air conditioning), and usually breakfast and free wifi. It’s difficult to book cheap accommodation in advance as many hotels and guesthouses don’t have websites. When you get to your destination, find out where the backpacker area is and check out a few places. Always ask to see the room first and don’t be afraid to visit a few places before choosing on one. Ask about whether or not breakfast and wifi is included. It could be worth paying an extra dollar or two if both of those are included.

Activities and Attractions

There are so many things to do in Vietnam from cruising Halong Bay, to visiting the museums and palaces, to some thrill seeking activities for the adventurous traveller. Some activities are best experienced on a tour or with a guide, including Halong Bay, Sapa, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and any sporting activities in Da Lat. A number of other attractions can be done on your own and only cost a few dollars to enter, including a water puppet show, the Army and Prison Museums in Hanoi, the Citadel and Imperial Palace in Hue, and the Reunification Palace and War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.

Canyoning in Da Lat


Travelling through Vietnam on a budget doesn’t mean you’ll be sacrificing quality when it comes to your food choices. In fact, you’ll be so amazed at what you’ll be able to get for just a few dollars. How is this possible? Two words: street food.

One of the best and cheapest dishes you can get is pho. Made with either chicken or beef, this noodle soup is a street-food staple and will only set you back about $1.50 a bowl. Little sandwich carts also set up on most corners making banh mi, a sandwich made with meat and vegetables, stuffed in a large baguette, perfect for breakfast or packed for a long bus ride. For fresh fruit, make a stop into anyone of the many markets throughout the country.

For the coffee lovers out there, you’ll definitely want to try Vietnamese iced coffee. Made with crushed ice, dark roasted coffee, and a fair amount of sweetened condensed milk, this drink will have your taste buds dancing, for under $1.

If you like to drink, you’ll want to keep on eye on your alcohol spending, because at around $1 for a bottle of beer, you could blow your budget in no time.


Most guesthouses offer laundry service priced by the kilogram, with the going rate around $1USD per 1kg. I personally don’t like hand washing my clothes in a sink, so to pay $5 to have all my clothes cleaned is a bargain for me. Postal service in Vietnam is the cheapest in the region (compared to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand). We paid around $30USD for a 6.5kg box, which arrived about a couple months later. Internet is widely available throughout Vietnam and many guesthouses and hotels offer them as part of the room rate.


29 thoughts on “Budget Travel In Vietnam

  1. Great tips. The thing I’ve found with SE Asia is not just that it’s cheap, but that you can have a good lifestyle for very little money. And that’s important! It’s possible to live cheap in Europe or N America but it’s a struggle and not a lot of fun. It’s nice to be able to feel like a king with the purse of a pauper.


    1. I so agree! For what would be barely scraping by in Europe or North America, you can travel extermeley comfortably in Asia. However you can also spend a fortune in Asia as well if you don’t watch yourself! lol


  2. Vietnam is really cheap, especially the food is good and cheap. Hiring a motorbike is usually also pretty good value (although I’d only recommend that for the smaller towns and country side).

    For beer, try Bia Hoi. It’s a fresh beer in Vietnam which is very cheap. It’s a bit sweet, but it is cheap, I mean seriously cheap. A bottle of cheap Saigon will seem expensive in comparison. You can find bia hoi places everywhere, usually small chairs on the road, with plenty of locals and westerners sitting with pints instead of bottles in front of them.


  3. I’d also include VietJet on the list of transportation options – it’s extremely cheap and saves quite a bit of time. For those on a budget but limited in terms of schedule, it’s a no-brainer.

    For alcohol, Vodka Hanoi is a good option since it’s $1.50 a bottle and easy to mix with anything from smoothies to fresh coconuts to sodas. It’s also made from rice so gluten-free travelers (like me, since I’ve got celiac disease) will rejoice.

    For street eats pho is good but the country’s other soups are staggering in their glory. Don’t miss bun rieu (a crab and tomato soup), bun bo hue (spicy beef soup from the Hue region), bun mam ( amazing fermented fish and tamarind soup) in addition to the pho. All are around on the streets and signs for each of these foods abound.

    Otherwise, a great source of snacks can be found in the parks of HCMC and around the lakes of Hanoi – vendors with corn or rice paper snacks, fresh drinks or teas, you name it abound. Sitting down in the park around 5pm in HCMC to eat banh trang nuong is great for people watching and grazing – you can’t go wrong 🙂


  4. I just learned about Pho after watching “The Amazing Race” last week. I agree that travelers should negotiate and be very clear on the price and what they will get.


  5. I love how cheap Vietnam can be (though it’s pricier compared to Laos and Cambodia). My next trip will be to Nha Trang, and I can’t wait to try the overnight bus as I hear they’re actually flat bed seats!


  6. I love going to Vietnam because the place is very beautiful and the people are friendly even though they don’t speak English fluently. What I love about my visit to the country is their food. It was great.


  7. Vietnam is one of my favorite countries, and it is indeed easy to travel well on a budget. The people and the food are both wonderful!

    My one tip is for crossing streets: pick a pace and keep moving! Those thousands of motorbikes will adjust accordingly and work go around you like you were a rock in a river. If you speed up or stop you’ll upset the entire delicate ballet that is Vietnamese traffic 🙂 (Not a budgetary tip, but useful all the same)


  8. Oh Hoi An, is wonderful.
    I too remember having to re-learn how to cross the roads, but its all part of the fun (as long as you dont get run over of course!)


  9. I heard very well about the natural beauty and cultural of vietnam. One of the best thing to do in vietnam that is enjoying the delicious dishes. I really want to visit vietnam.


  10. Awesome article!! I am going on a backpacking trip thru Thailand, Cambodia and VIETNAM starting in 3 days.. I will def use some advice from this post!

    Cheers and Happy Travels 🙂



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