Budget Breakdown: $44 a Day in Vietnam
I don’t have any solid proof of this, but I’m going to boldly say that Vietnam has the cheapest beer on the planet at about 15-20 cents a glass at some of the local bia hois. Beer and Big Macs are my favorite indicators to see how expensive a country I’m planning to visit is going to be. Although I didn’t go to the country’s only McDonald’s, I can say that Vietnam is a great deal. This is one of the more developed countries in the region, with decent infrastructure, plenty of amenities and some amazing tourists sites. In just under a month, I explored caves, motorbiked some of the most scenic roads I’ve ever been on, ate incredible food and traveled almost the entire span of the country. It was all done cheaply, too.
Here are the numbers for 25 days in Vietnam.
Total Spent: $1,156
Average Daily Price: $44
- Ho Chi Minh City: 1 night
- Mui Ne: 2 nights
- Dalat: 4 nights
- Nha Trang: 2 nights
- Hoi An: 3 nights (including overnight travel)
- Hue: 2 nights
- Phong Nha National Park: 3 nights
- Hanoi: 3 nights (including overnight travel)
- Sapa: 4 nights (including overnight travel)
The buses in Vietnam are pretty decent and surprisingly inexpensive. Modern sleeper buses, which are relatively comfortable despite being designed for shorter people than I, were usually less than $10 a night. Motorbike rentals were often less than $5, which is the cheapest I’ve ever seen in Southeast Asia. The roads were in excellent condition despite some insane drivers, so getting around was a lot more comfortable than neighboring Cambodia.
Not bad for 24 nights, although I didn’t include the several overnight bus trips here. I also used $50 in reward points to save a little more money, so I’m cheating a little bit. Still, it averages out to $8 a night and I only stayed in a dorm for three of those nights. Outside of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, it was easy getting comfortable hotel rooms with air conditions, hot showers, cable TV, etc. for around $10 a night.
I ate local but it was difficult in some of the super-touristy places, like Hanoi and Sapa. I also grew a little tired of soup and it was the only thing I knew how to order. Probably the single most expensive “dish” I had was $10 for 10 grams of civet coffee made from weasel shit. It was enough to make two cups. The street food was excellent, with a dish of noodles costing just over $1. I usually had to eat two. Coffee was also inexpensive at about 60 cents in cafes.
Tours/Admission Prices: $467
Almost all of this was due to a $330 caving tour I did in Phnong Nha National Park. Read all about the experience here. I also did a fun $25 canyoning tour in the city of Dalat that I highly recommend. Admission prices for tourist sites were reasonable and there was one rate for foreigners and locals in most places. That’s something you won’t find anywhere else in Asia. The most expensive was the city of Hue, where admission to the ancient citadel and a couple of the nearby tombs of emperors was about $10 each.
Miscellaneous Costs: $93
The most notable expenses here is the visa that cost me $60 and a one-month sim card for $12.50.
In many ways, Vietnam was one of the most inexpensive countries I’ve been to. The dollar to Vietnamese dong exchange rate is extremely favorable, and since the country is a big-time manufacturer of just about everything, things can be bought locally instead of having to settle for imports. If it wasn’t for the tour, I only would have spent $807 and it would have been just $33 a day. Not bad at all.
I'm an American freelance writer who spent a couple years living in Cambodia. Now I'm on the move again and traveling all over the place. I'm willing to try any bizarre liquor that's presented to me. Any recommendations?