Vietnam is the perfect destination for a budget traveler in search of an exciting new adventure! Whether you’re deep water solo climbing in Halong Bay or sandboarding in Mui Ne; this beautiful country has an activity for everyone. You are sure to find friendly local hostels, delicious traditional restaurants, and memorable activities in every town along the way.
How to Get There
If you choose to fly into Vietnam; you will most likely arrive in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). You can also choose to take a bus from Cambodia or Laos. Regardless of your preferred transportation method, you will need to apply for a visa BEFORE departing for the country.
You MUST have these 3 things before departing for Vietnam:
- Approval letter: Print the complete set that is emailed to you within 2 business days of applying online. You can have this process expedited in urgent cases within 4 to 8 hours ($20 USD/applicant) or 1 day ($10 USD/applicant).
- Two passport photos (4cm x 6cm). If you happen to forget your passport photos they will take one for you at the visa application desk in Vietnam. It will cost slightly more and can significantly slow down your entry process.
- Amount of cash required to purchase your visa upon arrival in USD or VND.
Visa Options: 1 month or 3 months and single entry or multiple entries. Apply for Visa Online Here
Best Time to Travel
The best time to see the entire country is Mar-Apr or Sept-Oct. This is specifically based on visiting Northern Vietnam in the spring or fall, offering the best chances of clear skies. Keep in mind that Vietnam is over 1000 km in length and substantially varies in weather from north to south. Southern Vietnam’s weather is more consistent. With that being said; these are the high travel seasons so traveling outside of these times will be less crowded.
Anywhere between 3-6 weeks is an ideal amount of time when traveling through Vietnam. In 3 weeks you can see the main cities and attractions while traveling to some of the smaller villages. If you have 5-6 weeks you can really travel off the beaten path and do some exploring in the jungle and rice fields.
Vietnamese Dong ₫10,000 VND = $0.55 CAD, $0.44 USD, or £0.38
Fees and max limits will vary significantly from ATM to ATM. From our experience; local ATM`s will charge you the lowest fee but will also have a lower cash limit.
Average Daily Budget
Our average daily budget in Vietnam was 647,264 VND ($28 USD) per person per day. We traveled throughout the country by bus or tourist van and ate at local restaurants.
Daily Budget Breakdown:
- Transportation: 117, 000 VND ($5 USD) per person per day
- Food & Drinks: 304,000 VND ($13 USD) per person per day
- Accommodation: 187,000 VND ($8 USD) per person per day
- Tours & Activities: 234,000 VND ($10 USD) per person per day
The recommended vaccinations for traveling to Vietnam are: Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Dukoral (for travelers Diarrhea), and Japanese Encephalitis (Halong Bay is considered a JE zone). Malaria pills are only needed for certain rural areas in the country. Always double check with a local travel clinic before you leave to make sure all your shots are up to date. Passport Health is also a good resource to check out the required travel vaccinations.
Agoda is perfect for finding everything from hostels and homestays to 5 star hotels while backpacking Vietnam. You can efficiently search by map or by price and they also offer free cancellation.
Budget: 45,000- ₫227,000 VND ($2-$10 USD) per person/night for a dorm or simple room in a hostel. Generally includes a fan with no A/C or breakfast.
Mid-range: 234,000- 700,000 VND($10-$30 USD) for 2 people/night. A private room in a hostel with air conditioning and breakfast included.
Luxury: 795,000- 2,272,000+ VND ($35- $100+ USD) for 2 people/night including breakfast. Usually a private yurt with A/C or a room in a luxurious hotel.
For a cheap local meal you can expect to pay between 24,000- 117,000 VND ($1- $5 USD). A western meal in a tourist restaurant can cost double or triple that.
Some of our favorite local foods:
Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sub): Fresh baguette, lettuce, carrots, choice of meat
Fresh Fruit Smoothies: Made with fresh fruit, ice, and sometimes milk or coconut milk
Pho (Noodle Soup): Rice noodles, water, fish sauce, cilantro, bean sprouts, garlic, and thin-sliced beef or chicken
Banh Xeo (Fried Crepe): Variety of ingredients ranging from sweet desert crepes to hardy dinner crepes
Gỏi cuốn (Salad Rolls): Packed with veggies, herbs, and sometimes shrimp or pork.
Ca Phe (Egg Coffee): Vietnam has outstanding coffee, to begin with. This specialty coffee found in Hanoi is topped with sweetened condensed milk mixed up with an egg.
While traveling through Vietnam you will notice that transportation can be fairly chaotic and stressful. We found Google Maps and the app maps.me (where you can download maps to use offline) especially useful in planning out our journey beforehand.
Walk: Book a hostel that is within walking distance to the area of the city you would like to explore. Most hostels are within a 10-20 min walk of the main tourist destinations.
Bicycle: You can rent bicycles from shops in most cities for just a few dollars a day. Some hostels will also have bikes you can use for free. We recommend this for the smaller towns, it’s an especially great way to travel around Hoi An!
Scooter: Rent a scooter from your hostel for 45,000- 135,000 VND ($2-$6 USD) per day. This is a very affordable way to explore the countryside and smaller towns. Before you go; check out our tips on Driving a Motorbike in Southeast Asia!
Taxi: Taxis are a super popular way to get around; just remember to haggle with your taxi driver beforehand. You can offer about half the asking price. Taxi meters are becoming more popular in which case it is more difficult to haggle. Be cautious that they aren’t driving you in circles or the long way to up the meter.
Hire a Private Driver: Hiring a private car and driver in Vietnam will cost about 1,023,000- 1,250,000 VND ($45-$55 USD) per day. This can be convenient when you’re in a large city and there are many attractions to visit that are far apart.
Trains, Buses, or Flying: These are all relatively inexpensive ways to travel around Vietnam depending on your distance and timeline. Uber is also getting popular in larger cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. This is a great alternative to taking a taxi!
Vietnam’s weather varies dramatically from North to South so make sure to do your research before you go. In the Northern region always bring a lightweight raincoat, quick-drying pants, and a fleece. If you’re trekking or hiking then you should also add a warm hat and socks to your packing list. Southern Vietnam is more hot and humid; so you can pack your standard beach gear. For more packing tips check out our Southeast Asia Packing List.
- Take advantage of transportation included with tours to get from one destination to another.
- Use accommodation that offers free breakfast.
- Don’t be afraid of eating at local restaurants a little off the beaten path.
- Rent a motorbike for the day and go to the tourist attraction yourself instead of booking a tour.
- Haggle 50-60% on anything you buy from a shop or a booth.