After a rough time with our budget in Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam was a welcome change of pace. Per day, this was nearly our cheapest country (Malaysia won that honor by $1/day)! The savings here were due in large part to the fact that we skipped a lot of organized tours/excursions. We also spent a good deal less on transportation (one-third our daily transportation costs in Thailand). Here’s how it all breaks down:
Total Vietnam budget (for 19 days): VND22,316,000 / US$1000.97
Per day: VND1,174,000 / US$52.68
At the time of our visit, US$1=VND22,000; unless otherwise noted, all costs are for two people traveling together.
Like Thailand, street food in Vietnam is ridiculously cheap, and because there’s such a strong food culture, it’s delicious and pretty universally safe. It’s also highly regional, which means that sampling the local street food is one of the best ways to get to know each new city.
Total: VND7,526,000 / US$337.57
Per day: VND396,000 / US$17.77
Average prices: VND20-50k for coffee, VND20-60k for a street food meal, VND80-150k for an entree at a budget restaurant.
Finally, the myths of cheap booze are true! We heard all sorts of rumors about cheap alcohol throughout Southeast Asia, but it wasn’t true until we reached the sidewalk beer stalls of Vietnam. There’s also a good deal more wine available in Vietnam compared to other countries in the region, though you’ll pay about as much as you would in the U.S. (which we did a handful of times).
Total: VND1,212,000 / US$54.36
Per day: VND64,000 / US$2.86
Average prices: VND5-10k for a really cheap beer, VND150-300k for a bottle of wine (nothing fancy; just local or cheap imports).
Vietnam is a surprisingly large country, and it takes well over 36 hours to get from end to end by bus. That said, its vertical geography makes it easy to travel from South to North or vice versa, stopping along the way every 5-12 hours to spend a few days in one of the beautiful and diverse cities along the way. Of course, if you don’t have as long as we did, it’s almost necessary to fly some of the longer distances in the North (e.g. Hoi An to Hanoi). In addition to our bus tickets, we also paid for a few taxis — typically just to get to or from a bus station, or occasionally when we were in a town without public transit.
Total: VND3,812,000 / US$170.98
Per day: VND201,000 / US$9.00
Average prices: VND600-900k for a month-long open bus ticket (depending on which stops you choose), VND50-150k for a taxi ride, VND20-30k for a daily bicycle rental.
Lodging in Vietnam is very variable, depending on location. Some of the beach towns cater heavily to well-heeled tourists, and finding a cheap room is no easy feat. On the other hand, wandering into the guesthouses in towns like Dalat and Hoi An got us rooms for $9 and $12 respectively. We also spent a couple nights on overnight buses, which was a nice savings as well.
Total: VND6,210,00 / US$278.54
Per day: VND327,000 / US$14.66
Average prices: US$7-12 for a cheap guesthouse, $15-25 for a room at a 2- to 3-star hotel in a major city or resort area.
Attractions in Vietnam are remarkably reasonable, at under VND50k for some of the top museums. That said, World Heritage-listed Hue Citadel will run you VND150k per person and the sights of the Hoi An Old Town cost VND120k for a combo ticket. We also “splurged” on a day at a hot spring with mud baths for VND570k and a tour in Halong Bay (Alex has a whole post describing how we got the usual $250-plus experience for under $60 each).
Total: VND2,631,000 / US$118.01
Per day: VND138,000 / US$6.21
The batteries in our Steripen died early on in Vietnam, and it required special batteries, so we had to actually buy water for most of our time here. We also resupplied Alex’s wardrobe for $7 (much needed), and he got a haircut. The only other costs were a few souvenirs and having our laundry done.
Total: VND924,000 / US$41.45
Per day: VND49,000 / US$2.18
I never count transportation in or out of a country in the daily budget, as that can vary enormously depending on whether you’re coming overland from a nearby country or from across the globe. Here’s what we spent:
- Flight: Cambodia to Vietnam: $199
- Flight: Vietnam to Australia: $478.98
Where you can save money in your Vietnam budget
$26 per person is not too shabby at all, but if you wanted to get away for even less, here’s where you could save.
- Skip the fancy meals and wine: I don’t know that it would have been worth it for us, but if you exclusively ate the very cheapest street food and drank dirt-cheap bia hoi, you might be able to save $10-20 total. If you don’t drink coffee, your savings would be similar.
- Drop some of the attractions: Of the things we saw, the only ones I think you could skip would be the Cu Chi Tunnels (we hated it! More on that in another post…) and the day at the hot springs (worth it for us, but again, if you really wanted to save…).
- Bring spare batteries for your Steripen! Water cost us about $1 per day.
Where you could splurge in Vietnam
We struck a really nice balance in Vietnam between seeing everything we wanted and not wasting any money. If you were open to blowing some more cash, though, this is where I’d spend:
- Take a cooking class: Vietnamese food is sooooo good! Cooking classes are offered everywhere, and there are bound to be some great ones.
- Pamper yourself: We did have the one spa day, but unlike Thailand and Cambodia, I managed to hold off on the massages here. I would get one — especially if you’re traveling by overnight bus.
- Go for the full Halong Bay experience: Taking a 2- or 3-day cruise was simply way out of the budget for us, and I’m so happy with how we managed our much cheaper experience. Of course, if you wanted the full luxurious experience, I think it could be worth it.
- Travel faster: If you don’t have as much time as we did, you’ll almost definitely need to fly at least once.