Average spent per day: $34.07
Total days in Vietnam: 23
Vietnam was a breath of fresh air after China. Out of all of the places I have traveled in the world, I found Vietnam the most straightforward to get around, requiring very little thought and almost zero effort on our part. Everything could be booked through the hostels we stayed at, and for buses we were picked up from wherever we were staying and driven directly to the station. This convenience was the complete opposite of our experience in China, where hostels charged an extra fee to book anything, and the staff usually couldn’t tell us anything about our next destination. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed Vietnam.
I always like to compare my first impressions of a country to my final thoughts upon leaving. In China my opinions certainly changed throughout our stay, but in Vietnam most of my initial thoughts stayed consistent. For the people, Kyle and I had our guard up since we had heard of common scams and overcharging, but we were never hoodwinked or taken advantage of. That being said, although we found the people in Vietnam nice enough, it was clear that niceness usually came with the intention of selling something to you. Now that we have been to Cambodia we see this more clearly, as the people in that country have some of the most genuinely kind souls I have ever witnessed.
Vietnam has been my favourite spot for food so far. With dishes unique to the country and coffee so filled with taste I nearly developed an addiction to it, Vietnam consistently delivered cheap, quality eats. Most meals cost between three and four dollars, and beer on average was a dollar. Definitely the cheapest we’ve had so far. To read more about my food obsession here please check out my post on the food in Vietnam.
It’s hard to describe the culture in Vietnam, partly because we felt like we didn’t experience it in the same way as China. In China culture was front and centre, whereas in Vietnam the people were a lot more reserved. One thing that is true of the Vietnamese people is they are an extremely forgiving culture. Some say that the war museums over here are one-sided, putting the Americans in a bad light. While we did see some of this (for example one photo of a base camp had the caption: “American soldiers hiding from their own shadows), for the most part everything was told in a direct manner. By direct I mean gruesome photos highlighting the horrors of war, and details as to the effects of the millions of litres of napalm the Americans sprayed over the country, which still causes devastation to this day. The most disturbing photo was of an American holding up literally half of a Vietnamese body and smiling. Despite this history, many Americans visit Vietnam today, and the people here welcome them in the same manner as if they didn’t come in and bomb the hell out of their homeland. Unfortunately I have a tough time thinking North Americans would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot.
Vietnam has been the cheapest country we’ve visited so far. On average beer is no more than a dollar, meals cost as little as $3, and the tours offered (such as the Halong Bay trip), cost us on average $38 a day (including a night on a private island). If you’re looking to have a great vacation and save some cash, this is the place to be.
This country was by far the easiest place to travel as a backpacker. Because of the geography of Vietnam, there’s really only one route to do: north to south or the opposite way depending on where you come in from. If you check out our map above you can see the main spots that pretty much all travellers go to. Some choose to do Sapa in the north above Hanoi for the rice terraces, but since we’d already done this in China we decided just to move south. All transport can be booked through the hostel, and we took sleeper buses the entire way down, which also saves you paying for accommodation on the night of travel.
The Final Verdict
For backpackers doing the Southeast Asia tour, go to Vietnam. It’s cheap, convenient and offers a range of experiences including beaches, French-influenced cities, and even sand dunes. I would definitely recommend this country to others in the future.