How much money should you budget to travel in Vietnam?
Let's explore Vietnam with GoodmorningSaPa now, You would experience interesting things here.
Dong Xuan night market
Are you wondering how much you may need for a day in Vietnam's capital city?
Statistics show each international tourist in Hanoi spends on average $110 per day meanwhile daily travel expenses by a local tourist is estimated at $55.
The numbers are much lower than those of leading tourist cities in the region, which is probably the appeal of the Vietnamese city.
Data may vary from various sources, but according to a MasterCard survey last year, tourists to Seoul spent $258 per day, compared to $255 in Singapore and $262 in Beijing.
Meanwhile, a tourist to Bali often spends around $125 per day, according to the Indonesian central bank.
Vietnamese Dong and US Dollars – you’ll need both
The Vietnamese Dong is pegged to the US Dollar, so it stays consistently around 16,000 VND per USD. Currently, Aussie Dollars are worth just over 14,000, Euros just under 24,000, and Pounds Sterling are about 32,000 VND. These may fluctuate, however, but if you know what your currency is worth in US Dollars you can always get back to the value in dong. Check out the rates at Travelhappy’s Currency Converter for up-to-date info.
US Dollars are very popular here, and many tourist-oriented activities are quoted in dollars, not dong, so get used to switching back and forth.
So – How Much Do Things Actually Cost In Vietnam?
A lot depends on what class of accommodation you prefer, and whether you like to eat local or western food. But here are some ballpark figures. Like any good budgeter, I’ve tried to over-estimate in order to leave room for the unexpected. That way, the worst that can happen is that you’ll have money left over for a big blow-out dinner or a shopping spree before you hit the airport for home.
In a nutshell, if you’ve been to Thailand, you’ll probably spend about the same per-day here in Vietnam, with one exception: budget accommodation in Vietnam will seem a bit steep – it’s very hard to find a place to stay for under 5 USD a night, and 6 or 7 dollars is a more realistic minimum.
Street food in night market
Food In Vietnam
In Vietnam, the fee for a meal in local restaurant is very reasonable. With common Vietnamese dishes, the price is pretty low at around USD 1 – 5 per dish, and if tourists want to try special foods of some specific destinations, it is certain that they will be charged higher based on the rareness and availability of the cuisine. Generally, average expense for main meals (lunch and dinner) in Vietnam is roughly USD 8 – 15 per person, whilst the breakfast is more or less USD 3-4 per person.
Like other tourism destinations in the world, Vietnam has two main types of accommodation: budget and luxurious. Generally, the room price of the budget hotel fluctuates around USD 25- 35 per night, while the luxurious one is more various with the average price higher than USD 60 per night. Should travelers choose to stay at more modest accommodations like motels and guesthouse, the price is much cheaper, roughly USD15 – 25 per night.
Getting Around In Vietnam – Bikes, Taxis, Buses, Train and Planes
The most popular way to get around within a city is via a motorcycle taxi, called ‘xe om’–short trips cost 10,000 VND, longer trips are a bit more, and you can usually hire a guy for an entire day, with wait time at your destination, for 100 to 150,000 VND. The average car-taxi ride should only be 20 or 30,000 VND. Watch out for price-gouging, of course.
Cheap bus service is available throughout Vietnam–usually about 1 USD or less for every 50 km or one hour of travel time. These buses are often overcrowded and uncomfortable, and paying a bit more for a first-class bus or a tour bus will make life easier. A very popular option is to buy an ‘open tour’ bus ticket. One between Saigon and Hanoi costs about 32 USD, lasts for three months, and allows you to get off the bus wherever you like, and get back on whenever you please, for one flat rate. The downside is, you’re stuck with the ‘open tour’ route which only hits the tourist centres, like Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, etc. Count on some side trips if you’re spending more than a few weeks in Vietnam, and no one should miss out on the sleeper train, though you can expect to pay 30 to 50 USD between Saigon and Hanoi, and it takes a full day. Try for an overnight from, say, Hue to Hanoi for about 20 USD if you just want a taste. Sleeper buses are increasingly being introduced–not as comfortable, but you can still sleep and they are half the price of the train.
Price of Activities in Vietnam
There’s a lot you can see in Vietnam for the price of a motorbike rental (5 USD a day in tourist towns, 10 USD per day elsewhere) or by hiring a motor-taxi driver for the day (6 to 10 USD). Admission fees to museums and national parks are typically low – rarely more than a dollar or two. Of course, if you use a guide once you’re in the park, you’re looking at 5 to 10 USD per day or per excursion, and sometimes transport within a park can be pricey – it’s cheap to enter Bach Ma Mountain south of Hue, for instance, but unless you want to walk 17 km to to the top, you need to pay 400,000 VND for a car to take you up and back down, though per person it’s not too bad if you have a small group.
When it comes to booking tours, prices vary widely. You can snorkel the reefs of Cham Island for 35 USD per day, or scuba dive for 65 USD. A day-long, island-hopping tour off the coast of Nha Trang is only 6 USD. Three days, two nights touring Halong Bay goes for as little as 35 USD, but forking over a bit more will pay off in terms of comfort and service. Windsurfing in Mui Ne or Da Nang can be very pricey–40 USD per hour. Of course, you won’t be on a tour every day, and lying on the beach is free, if that’s all you want to do. If you plan on taking a lot of tours, I’d suggest coming up with a lump sum dedicated to funding tours alone–anywhere from 60 USD on up per person for each week of travel.
Shopping In Vietnam
If you’re into stuff and the folks back home are looking forward to souvenirs, you’ll find something to satisfy everyone in Vietnam. Such items are priced for tourists, of course, but even then, I’ve seen some really great objets de art for only 15 or 20 USD, and an original painting or a large photographic print can be had for 40 to 60 USD–really cheap by our standards, and there are innumerable hand-made, high-quality, and even one-of-a-kind items available for such prices.
Many tourists plan on getting a tailor-made wardrobe while they are in Hoi An, but you’ll find good tailors in every major city. Be sure to bargain and shop around, but you can get a couple of business suits and a new pair of shiny shoes for 200 to 250 USD, and about a variety of tops and bottoms, say five or six items, with shoes for about the same price. The post office in Vietnam is really quite reliable, and many purchase-points will pack things up and mail it home for a flat fee. This can get expensive, though, so you might plan to do most of your shopping at the end of your trip and cart it home yourself.
Putting It All Together
In sum, 20 USD a day for a solo, shoe-string backpacker is quite doable. A couple could get buy on 30 USD a day, since they make out well on accommodation. A family of four could squeak by on 60 USD a day, but someone had better be keeping a very close eye on the family purse. If you can add fifty percent to those figures, you can travel comfortably, albeit not lavishly. For luxury travellers – well, that’s between you and your gold card.
Vietnam, like Thailand, is slowly becoming more upmarket, but cheap food, transport, accommodation and activities are still available everywhere, if you make the effort to seek them out. And, despite the hype, price-gouging and rip-offs are not the budget traveller’s biggest worry. Bad monetary decisions are made mostly at night when you’re running out of steam, options, and patience. My best advice, if you want to save money, is to always enter a new city well-rested and with plenty of daylight on the clock. Find a place to stash your stuff before booking a room, and hit the pavement. Explore. Be prepared to walk in and out of a lot of places until you find the best deals. And remember: smile. In Vietnam, patience, a sense of humour, and a light touch will get you so much further than trying to be a hard customer. For every scammer you meet, there are five or six Vietnamese ready to take you in, feed you, load you with gifts and pledge friendship for life.