This is a summary of all our travel expenses for the 26 nights / 27 days we spent in Vietnam during April / May 2013. We flew into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the South of Vietnam, where we had purchased a 125cc Suzuki GN motorbike named “Jerry”. We travelled the length of Vietnam two up on our little bike all the way up to Hanoi, where we sold our faithful “Jerry” to the next couple of travellers making their way south! We stayed in the north for a few days to explore Halong Bay and then flew back to Ho Chi Minh City for our return flight back home.
Riding the length of Vietnam independently was a fantastic experience and although one does end up paying a premium for doing so, we feel that it was every cent worthwhile. Vietnam’s weather varies greatly across the country and although we generally had fairly good weather, we also experienced everything from rainy downpours, to unbearable heat and even some coolness in the higher inland regions of Dalat.
Vietnam is definitely a great budget destination, with even the touristy areas still being very affordable. If you venture away from the easier to reach touristy spots, things get even cheaper. If you travel by means of public transport, you should be able to reduce your travel expenses but this would be an entirely different experience. That being said, you will be able to cover distance quicker as travelling by motorbike (especially two up) is very slow going!
Accommodation in Vietnam is really affordable and in the more popular areas you will find everything from backpackers hostels to fancy hotels. In the smaller towns, you will have less choice, but we never had a problem finding a place to stay in the last minute. Food in Vietnam is very cheap and mostly very tasty and enjoyable. It was only in the smaller towns with the language barrier that we sometimes struggled to find something to eat. We were wonderfully surprised with the delicious coffee and beer culture in Vietnam and will happily return just for this!
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(Note that the following spending does not include flights to and from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.)
We found that the best site to use when searching for and booking accommodation in Vietnam was Agoda. Although we also always check on Booking.com and did use this for a few of our bookings. We did not book any of our accommodation beforehand (as we simply did not know where we would be more than a day in advance) and simply booked online either the night before, or sometimes only once we arrived at the destination (we found it was often cheaper for us to book online while using the free wifi in the lobby of some accommodations than at their front desk)! There is plenty of accommodation available and even in high season, you will almost be sure to find something suitable last minute. In the smaller towns that do not have online accommodation options, we just looked for accommodation by riding up and down the streets.
We stayed in most places for only one or two nights before moving on as this was really a road trip holiday and we were only able to cover short distances in a day. We found the accommodation in Vietnam to be excellent value for money and although we opted for fairly budget style accommodation, if you are prepared to spend just a little more, you can find really nice accommodation options. We ended up paying directly for only 20 night’s accommodation out of the total 26 nights, as 2 nights were spent in air transit on the way there and back, 1 night was an overnight train, 2 nights were included in the boat cruise we did in Halong Bay and 1 night we spent with a friend in Ho Chi Minh City. The average cost per night reflected above is thus calculated based on the actual 20 night’s accommodation paid for to reflect a true representative average. These were some of our preferred stays:
Ho Chi Minh City (2)
Phan Tiet (1)
Mui Ne (1)
Da Lat (1)
Nha Trang (2)
Hoi An (2)
Son Trach (1)
Huong Khe (1)
Ha Long Bay (1)
Cat Ba (1)
Ho Chi Minh City (3)
We generally try to eat like and with the locals. In Vietnam, this was fairly easy, except for in some of the smaller towns where the language was a barrier. In general, the food was very good, with some really delicious dishes (such as Bún thịt nướng and the Vietnamese fresh rolls) and also very affordable. We did not have western food and mostly ate local food from small restaurants and street-side vendors. Our food expenses included plenty of local coffee (cà phê sữa đá) and home-brewed street beer (Bia Hoi)!
Eating western food and having other drinks such as cocktails in the more touristy areas can quickly add up to increasing your overall spending.
We also bought bottled water throughout the trip, so if you can make use of a water filter this would help to reduce your overall spending. We now make use of the Survivor Pro Water Filter which is very compact, easy to use and which we are very happy with and can highly recommend.
Our transportation costs are primarily made up of the cost difference of buying the motorbike and selling it again, together with fuel costs for the duration of our trip, an overnight train from Nha Trang to Hoi An for us and the motorbike (we needed to make up some time and distance) and our internal flight from Hanoi back to Ho Chi Minh City.
We also made use of a few local taxis here and there in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Local taxis are easy enough to hail down and use, just bear in mind that the language barrier can be a challenge!
When renting or buying a motorbike or scooter in Vietnam, make sure that you have the necessary international drivers permit and know what the restrictions and legal requirements are. You can read about our planning in our Vietnam by Bike Preparation Blog Post.
We recommend using 12Go website or BookAway to view schedules ahead of time and buy tickets. Skyscanner.com is a fantastic tool for finding great flight deals.
You can easily look up bus and train schedules and even book and pay for tickets with 12Go.Asia
CELLPHONE & DATA
We did not purchase any cell phone SIM or data while in Vietnam as our friend kindly provided us with a local SIM card. Most of our accommodations also had free wifi included.
Our "General" category includes everyday expenses like toiletries, medical, laundry & small shopping items.
We generally try to stay away from very touristy places and prefer to explore independently. Out time spent in Vietnam was mostly a road trip, but we did still end up paying for a few touristy sightseeing activities such as the following:
Da Lat Cable Car (71,000 ₫ pp)
Nha Trang Mud Baths (250,000 ₫ pp)
Hue Citadel (87,500 ₫ pp)
Quảng Trị Vinh Moc Tunnels (32,500 ₫ pp)
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Paradise Cave (122,500 ₫ pp)
3 Day 2 Night Boat Cruise of Ha Long Bay (6,300,000 ₫ for both of us)
Hanoi Water Puppets Show (100,000 ₫ pp)
Of these, the 3-day 2-night boat cruise of Ha Long Bay was a costly excursion which we decided to spoil ourselves with. It was a fantastic experience and well worth every cent! There are lots more activities which may be well worth doing when visiting Vietnam, these are just a few that we would recommend: