Thursday, 6 September 2018

With a population of around 90 million people, Vietnam welcomes tourists from all over the world to its major cities, beach towns, picturesque lakes and hillside communities.

In 2015 alone, more than 7 million people visited the country, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

I first went to Vietnam in 2008 and loved it from the moment I stepped off the plane. Beyond the warm hospitality and breathtaking scenery was the affordability of the destination. I didn't spend more than $30 per day during my two-week stay.

Are you interested in visiting Vietnam but want to stick to a strict budget? Here are a few pointers to get you started.

Accommodations in Vietnam

The competition for tourist stays is fierce in Vietnam, especially now with reviews on places like TripAdvisor. For this reason, accommodation options are quite nice regardless of where you go. If you really don't want to spend money, opt for a dorm room in a hostel (search for accredited properties through Hostelling International) for around $6 per night and carry your valuables with you during the day.

Hotels and guesthouses are also plentiful all over the country. (Note: Many hotels in Vietnam offer free breakfast as part of the overnight fee). Expect to pay anywhere between $10 — $30 for a decent hotel.

Transportation in Vietnam

As long as you can get to Vietnam (flights from the U.S. can run around $700-$1,000 round trip), traveling from one place to another on the ground is really cheap. This is especially true if you stay out of airports and travel only by train or bus.

Adventurous souls are smart to buy a three-month pass for around $32 — this pass will take you to the major tourist hubs all over the country. Keep in mind this isn't the most glamorous way to travel, as buses can be dirty, loud, and cramped.

Want more room? Consider traveling with Vietnam Railways, the national train system. Trains are efficient and, if you want room to yourself, sleepers are available. The highest end carriages will cost you around $75 per trip, but you can get a less cushy sleeper cabin for around $40. 

I recommend going straight to the source—the bus stop, bus website, train station, train website—before purchasing from a third-party vendor.

Baolau.vm is another good place to research how to get around (ferry and airfares are found there, in addition to bus and train tickets).

Money in Vietnam

U.S. Dollars are accepted nearly everywhere in Vietnam, but it is also important to carry some Vietnamese Dong (VND—the national currency ) and to know the current conversion rate. As of this post, $1 was equivalent to a little more than 23,000 VND. Know that there are ATMs in major cities (and some small ones), so you don't need to carry all of your money with you.

Food in Vietnam

It is easy to eat on $5 or less per day in Vietnam, especially if you stick to street food. Pho is a broth soup popular on the streets and very tasty to most people. Western restaurants that cater to tourists notoriously inflate their prices, and you are likely to find even better food on the street. Be adventurous and try the local cuisine.

Cities to visit in Vietnam

It is a good idea to budget at least two weeks when visiting Vietnam. I started in Hanoi, which is a northern city; then went to Sapa and Ha Long Bay, two picturesque areas outside the city.

From there, I ventured down the skinny country to Hoi An and then to Ho Chi Minh City. Do your research before you go and pin point the places that interest you most. There is a ton of history in Vietnam (check out the Cu Chi Tunnels in the south, for example), so give yourself time to explore.

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