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His Take: How Much You Can Expect To Spend In Vietnam

  • DAILY AVERAGE
$34.07 per person

As mentioned in my financial wrap-up for China, we fully realize that this article is hardly entertaining, but hopefully it will provide some help to those looking to budget for their trip to Vietnam (or for a much larger trip through Southeast Asia like what Jamie and I are currently doing). So without further ado, here is how much you can expect to spend in Vietnam.

Vietnam Dong Money

Below I’ve outlined our accommodation expenses, food expenses, as well as the cost of getting from one city to the next – in case you’re planning a similar route to what we did. I’ve also laid out the costs for all of the entrance fees, tours, and activities that we did while in Vietnam. Below the costs, I’ve outlined a few notes to help add a bit of perspective to this list and a few tips to help keep your expenses down when travelling through Vietnam.

NOTE:   All costs are in Canadian Dollars, and are per person. As of Nov 25, 2013: $1 CAD = $0.95 USD

TOTAL DAYS IN VIETNAM: 23 days

Tourist Visa:

$47.37 (must pay $45 USD, in American currency)

Accommodation:

Accommodation Total = $144.88

Accommodation Average per night = $8.52

Food/Drink:

Food Total = $214.63

Food Average per meal = $3.58

Average cost of 600mL bottle of Saigon = $0.75

Average cost of Fresh Beer (home brewed beer) = $0.14

Transportation:

Airport Shuttle (Hanoi Airport to French Quarter) = $1.96

Taxi within downtown Hanoi at night (bar to hostel) = $1.23

Bus (Hanoi to Hue) = $20

Bus (Hue to Hoi An) = $6.25

Moto-Taxi (Hoi An bus station to Hoi An old town) = $1.47

Bus (Hoi An to Nha Trang) = $15

Bus (Nha Trang to Mui Ne) = $8

Bus (Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)) = $6.32

Bus (Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Phnom Penh, Cambodia) = $11

***Open Ticket Bus Pass = $45 (see details in notes below)

Tours/Attractions/Activities:

Temple of Literature Entrance (Hanoi) = $1

Turtle Temple Entrance (Hanoi) = $1

Hanoi Museum (War Museum) = $1

Halong Bay Tour = $115 for 3 days (about $38 per day, including transport, accommodation, and meals)

Hue Citadel = $5.15

Bicycle Rent (from Jade Hotel in Hue) = $1/day

Hue Pagoda Entrance = Free

DMZ (de-militarized zone) tour = $20

Bicycle Rent (from Hoa My Hotel in Hoi An) = $1/day

Blind Massage (Nha Trang) = $5

Snorkelling Tour (Nha Trang) = $15

***Kitesurfing (Mr. Lee’s kitesurfing lessons in Mui Ne) = $40 per hour (not included in daily average to avoid skewing)

Sand Dunes Tour (from Mui Ne Backpackers Hostel) and White Dunes Entrance = $7.49

***ATV Rental at White Dunes = $7/20 minutes (Jamie and I did not rent an ATV, walking sufficed)

Massage (Saigon) = $10.05

Royal Palace Entrance (Saigon) = $1.47

War Remnants Museum Entrance (Saigon) = $0.74

***Mekong Delta Tour (from Saigon) = $45-50 (Jamie and I did not book this tour, was too expensive and had heard many negative reviews about the Mekong Delta tours being tacky and too rushed)

Vietnam is possibly the cheapest country that Jamie and I have ever visited, but like all places, there are always ways to reduce your spending. Every dollar counts!

1. BARTER FOR EVERYTHING:   There is no such thing as a fixed price in Vietnam, with exception of the hostels, transportation, and tours. Food (more so at street stalls), drinks (at almost all convenience stores and from local vendors on the beach), clothing, and other menial purchases are all up for negotiation. It may seem tedious to bargain an item down from 80,000 dong to 50,000 dong (about $4 to $2.50) when the conversion tells you that you’d only be saving about $1.50, but think of it this way… if you manage to bargain something down a total of $1.50 three times per day, over the course of 30 days you’re saving about $135. When you’re on as tight of a budget as we are, that’s a hefty sum and being too lazy to bargain is the equivalent of throwing that money away.

2. THE OPEN TICKET BUS:   For $45, you can book a bus ticket that’s good all the way from Saigon – Hanoi or vice versa, while stopping off at most cities of interest along the way. Jamie and I hadn’t heard of this before we booked our ticket from Hanoi to Hue, so unfortunately this was a deal that we weren’t able to cash in on. If you add up the transportation expenses above, you’ll notice that if we did the open ticket bus pass, we would have saved some cash. Numerous travel agencies in Vietnam advertise the open ticket bus, and you can ask around to make sure that the respective agency offers what you need.

3. SLEEPER BUSES:   When traveling long term, transportation becomes tedious. Nobody likes to sit on a bus for 6-10 hours once a month never mind every 2-3 days or so. However, the sleeper bus offers you the possibility to go to bed in point A and wake up in point B, and in the process avoiding the need to book a hostel for one night. The sleeper bus saves time and money.

4. CENTRAL BACKPACKERS HOSTEL (HANOI), HALONG BAY TOUR:   For anyone who has looked in to traveling through Vietnam can tell you, touring Halong Bay is a risk. Many people have reported being scammed, overcharged, or being forced to share their “luxury on-the-water accommodations” with rats. Your safest bet is to book your tour through the Central Backpackers Hostel in Hanoi, whether you are staying there or not. We were staying there, but many people who we met through our tour were not and had heard that it was the safest way to book a tour of Halong Bay. More or less, we had a great time. Although we could have done with a bit more time for activities on and around the island and less time on the boat, the food was decent, the accommodations were clean, and we got to see Halong Bay at a relatively affordable rate of $115 per person for 3 days. Many tours offer 3 day packages for upwards of $200 per person, and are well known to be hit and miss.

4. HAPPY HOUR:   Just about every bar has an extensive happy hour that is in actuality more of a happy evening. Prices range from $1 for 600mL of Saigon accompanied by a free rum and coke in Hoi An to half priced mixed drinks in Nha Trang. It’s always happy hour somewhere, you just need to look for it (which really is not all that difficult).

6. FRESH BEER:   The only thing better than Happy Hour in Vietnam is the freshly brewed beer. Many street stalls offer this cheap drink (though they may not advertise it), as well as numerous family run restaurants. It may be the cheapest beer in the world at about $0.14 per mug.

7. MOTO TAXI VS. TAXI:   Need to get from the bus station to your hostel? Don’t even bother looking for your standard car style taxi, as the rate will be double what a moto-taxi will charge. Don’t worry if you have an extremely large backpack (as both Jamie and I do), because the driver will place the bag between himself and the handle bars while swerving around the roads like a champ. Although the thought of driving a moped still scares the crap out of me after crashing one twice in Croatia, these guys know what they’re doing and will get you to where you need to go at the cheapest rate.

8. PHO AND BANH MI:   Pho, the vietnamese breakfast soup that’s just as good at any time of the day, and banh mi, a vietnamese baguette style sandwich available at almost every street stall, are by far the cheapest and most delicious meal options that you will be able to find in any city throughout the country. On average a bowl of pho will cost you between $1-$2 and a banh mi sandwich will cost anywhere between $0.40-$0.75

9. BEWARE OF SCAMMERS:   Anyone who asks you where you are from, who offers to take you where you need to go, or even anyone who says “hello” likely wants your money, unfortunately. At the Fairy River in Mui Ne, local teenage boys will offer to walk you to the waterfall as they say that it is very difficult to find on your own… not true, and they will demand that you pay them at the end (not that we fell for this, but we have heard stories). Also, Easy Riders is a popular service that takes tourists across the country on the back of a moto-taxi, with trained tour guides. Many people will approach you claiming to be an Easy Rider guide, but few are. Seek out the Easy Rider tour agency offices to be certain of what you are getting.

10. CROSSING THE BORDER:   When crossing the border in to Cambodia from Ho Chi Minh City (at the Bavet border crossing), it’s required that the passengers get off the bus to acquire their Cambodian visas. As you get off the bus, countless local Vietnamese will rush to you offering to exchange your Vietnamese dong for Cambodian Riel. In Cambodia, the most common currency is American Dollars. Many restaurants and hostels will not accept large quantities of Cambodian Riel for payment, although it is used as change for anything less than $1 USD. Converting your Vietnamese Dong over to Cambodian Riel (depending on how much you have) is truly a waste of money. (Again, not that we fell for this, but after arriving in Phnom Penh and seeing all prices listed in USD, we were quick to realize that our skepticism paid off).

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