Vietnam Backpacking Budget

Vietnam backpacking budget

(Map of Vietnam from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Vietnam on a Shoestring Budget

US$20 | 450,000 Vietnamese Dong

Vietnam remains very budget friendly despite an enormous rise in visitor numbers over the past decade. Costs are pretty typical by Southeast Asian standards and you are likely to find it slightly cheaper than Thailand or Laos but a fraction pricier than Cambodia although it is likely to get more expensive over the coming years. $20 is a realistic Vietnam backpacking budget but doesn’t allow much lee-way for extra excursions and activities. If you eat in ‘local’ restaurants and street stalls all the time, you can probably get by on even less, certainly if you aren’t doing much partying.

See where Vietnam ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all Southeast Asian countries


More Comfortable Vietnam Backpacker Budget

US$25 | 560,000 Vietnamese Dong

You travel pretty comfortably on US$20 in truth and doubling that doesn’t really provide an enormous upgrade. The temptation to waste your money on partying and alcohol isn’t quite as great here as in Thailand as the backpacker scene is slightly calmer and bars and clubs are less plentiful and shut earlier. Allowing for $25-30 will allow you to fork out on the odd extra excursion/activity every now and then, such as a more extensive boat trip around Halong Bay or kite-surfing lessons at Mui Ne.


Sample Prices in Vietnam

Hue to Hanoi by Train (13-14 hours) – $25-35 (air-con berth on sleeper train)

0.5 litre domestic beer in Ho Chi Minh City bar/restaurant – $1

Meal at a cheap restaurant – $2-3

Cheap dorm bed in a big city – from $3

Budget double/twin private room – from $8

Full day kayaking trip around Halong Bay – $25-30

For money-saving tips, read How to bargain in Vietnam.


Money

Currency – Vietnamese Dong

£1 = 32,700 VND

€1 = 25,000 VND

US$1 = 22,400 VND

(Exchange rates correct as of June 2016)

US Dollars are accepted in many places and are frequently used for larger transactions such as paying for excursions or accommodation in places geared towards foreigners. Therefore it is useful to carry a stash of both currencies.


MFT Recommends

If you find yourself in the Vietnamese capital then we suggest staying at the Hanoi Traveller Hostel, in the charismatic old town, Hanoi’s backpacker hub close to Hoan Kiem Lake. Beds start at around $5/night.


street art in Vietnam

street art in Hanoi, Vietnam (via Mike HauserCC BY 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Vietnam recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016

Get our Backpackers Guide to Southeast Asia 2017-2018 for an overview of budget travel in the region.


Backpacking Route for Vietnam

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Backpacking Route for Vietnam

The Re-Unification express

This is not an official term but it is used to describe the train line which runs between the two major cities. The trip from Hanoi in North Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City in the South is 1725km long, taking roughly 30 hours and passes some breathtaking scenery along the way.

Of course few people do the trip in one journey as there is so much to see in between the two terminals. This train-line runs close to or through all the major stops on the Vietnam backpacker trail. The journey is pretty comfortable with air-con and sleeper compartments available on night trains. It is also brilliant value potentially costing as little as US$30 (latest prices and more great info on trains in Vietnam). If you take some night trains this may push the cost up to around US$40-50 depending on whether you take the slightly higher quality SE trains or not (It’s even cheaper for the locals).


TIME NEEDED – 3 WEEKS

Could be done in 2 weeks but might feel a little rushed.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £370 €425 $450

(roughly 10 million Vietnamese Dong as of January 2017. US Dollar is accepted in many places)

Read more on the cost of travel in Vietnam.

Obviously this does not include the cost of flights to/from Vietnam or any visa/vaccination/travel insurance expenses, which in total could dwarf this figure if you’re travelling from far away. You’ll get more value for money in terms of your pre-trip expenses if you combine this with one of our other itineraries in the region (see top of page).


VISA REQUIREMENTS

Visitors from other ASEAN countries and many European countries including the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Russia and Italy can now visit Vietnam visa-free for a limited amount of time (normally 15 days). However most international visitors still require a visa to enter the country. A Vietnam visa for US citizens is essential and should be arranged well in advance of your trip.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

Highly advisable in Vietnam and all Southeast Asian Countries. Read who we think offers the best travel insurance for backpackers.


GROUP BACKPACKER TOURS

Want to travel with other people? Stray Travel’s Vietnam Flexi Tours might be right for you!


FUNKY GUIDES – BACKPACKERS GUIDE TO SOUTHEAST ASIA 2017-2018

Available on kindle or paperback from £2.99 | €3.49 | $3.79


Vietnam Backpacking Route


Hanoi

Vietnam backpacking route

Railway Street in Hanoi, CC BY 2.0

The country’s capital city, home to the Vietnamese government and resting place of the great leader, Ho Chi Minh himself. This colonial city is home to many lakes and a beautiful old quarter where most backpackers tend to congregate. It is also the closest point on the route to the amazing Ha long Bay, Vietnam’s most famous sight. Take a 2-3 hour bus to Haiphong and get a boat to the bay from there.

journey: 2 hours 20 mins

Ninh Binh

Unremarkable but ridiculously friendly town. Be prepared for lots of locals, especially children coming to say hello to you in the street. It is a short moto or cycle to the caves at Tam Coc, which are the main reason travellers come to Ninh Binh.

journey: 7 hours 40 mins, passing through Thanh Hoa and Vinh which have little going on really but may be a nice stop if you fancy seeing a completely tourist-free town.

Dong Hoi

Many travellers choose to skip Dong Hui also and do the night train from Ninh Binh to Hue but if you do stop here, you can visit the quite stunning 55km long Phong Nha Cave.

journey: 3 hours 15 mins

Hue

The city is popular with travellers who tend to hit a small section of town near the wide Perfume River. The old citadel isn’t particularly amazing but is the main site in this city which seems to get the worst of Vietnam’s wet climate. It regularly rains here for days on end but there are some excellent traditional Vietnamese restaurants and lively Western bars to stay dry in. Central Vietnam is also where a lot of the most fierce fighting in the War took place. There are plenty of sights relating to this nearby which you may find fascinating or otherwise, depending on your interest levels in the Vietnam conflict, known as the American War in these parts.

journey: 2 hours 30 mins and the most spectacular part of the entire trip

Danang (for Hoi An)

Hoi An Travel Destination

Danang is a big city but has few sights. For most travellers it simply serves as a gateway to nearby Hoi An (above), around a 20 minute taxi or moto ride from Danang Station (shouldn’t cost more than $3-4). Hoi An is the place for tailor-made clothes and boasts a beautiful riverside setting. It is also close to one of the nicest beaches in the country and makes it into our Top 10 New Backpacking Hotspots.

journey: 6 hours passing through Quang Ngai, a non-touristy town where very little English is spoken

Dieu Tri (for Qui Nhon)

Qui Nhon is more popular with local tourists than backpackers but it has a few beautiful deserted beaches just out of town. You can also visit the Cham Temples in the areas surrounding this lively port town.

journey: 3 hours 30 mins

Nha Trang

Vietnam’s biggest seaside destination. The beach here is actually quite dirty but it is long and has plenty of water sport options including kite-surfing. The nightlife is lively here with a couple of bars such as Bar Why Not? and an excellent one on the beach open until 3am. Some travellers find it a little bit seedy but there’s a beautiful temple near the train station if you want a slightly more cultural experience. You can also do the trip to the mountain town of Dalat from here although it is quite a long journey on winding roads.

journey: 5 hours

Muong Man (for Mui Ne)

Mui Ne isn’t really a town, more like a long coastal road about 20km or so long with many hostels and restaurants dotted around it. The beach is quiet and very relaxing, while the hot sand dunes are perhaps what the area is most famous for.

journey: 3 hours

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Travel itinerary for Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City Hall, CC BY 2.0

When backpacking through Vietnam, most travellers head here either first or last. It is the biggest and by a distance, most westernised city in the country. Saigon has a large backpacker scene and many interesting sights, much of which relate to the Vietnam War and the USA’s involvement. More detail here on things to do in HCMC.

The city is also the base for seeing the far south of the country which enjoys a hot climate and is a bit more chilled out than much of this fabulously crazy country.

Obviously you could also do the journey the opposite way around and journey times and prices are almost exactly the same if you start in HCMC and head North to Hanoi.



Budget Accommodation in Vietnam in General

Hostelling hasn’t really taken off as rapidly in Vietnam as it has in its neighbours but that is changing fast with the number of backpackers visiting the country ever increasing. Hostels can now be found pretty easily in most spots on this route but the cost of budget hotels is so low, there’s often no real need to be sweating it out in crowded dorms. You can sometimes get a private room in a decent hotel often with a swimming pool and good facilities for as little as $10 and in the big cities you can find dirt cheap budget rooms for half that although solo travellers may still prefer the more sociable places.


Extending Your Trip

In truth very few backpackers, head all the way to Southeast Asia and then only visit Vietnam, even though it is arguably the most interesting country to visit. Options for extending your trip are plentiful.

Parts of this route feature in our mainland Southeast Asia Route, which also takes in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Singapore. You can easily squeeze this full Vietnam route in, with taking a flight from Vientiane, Laos to Hanoi perhaps the best option and then just following the route from Ho Chi Minh City into Cambodia.

If you’re looking for something a bit different to the well-trodden backpacker trail in SE Asia, take a look at our Myanmar route or our Indonesia Route. If you need help linking them into one trip please use the comments section below and let us know any questions you may have.

Of course in Vietnam, there are cool places that are not on or near the trainline, you may wish to visit. Highlights include the mountain towns of Dalat and Sapa, which you can reach by a different train from Hanoi that heads towards China.


This page was last updated in January 2017.