Vietnam is fast becoming one of South East Asia's most popular countries. Why? It's bursting with diversity. Visiting this remarkable country feels like you’re discovering a new country everyday.
One day you’ll be lounging on a white-sand beach, staring up at Vietnam’s famous karst limestone rock formations. And the next, you’re jumping out of the way as a train comes rushing down the streets of Hanoi.
It’s a bucket-list destination for a lot of us. The thought of eating delicious Pho everyday, and uncovering its fascinating history, is almost irresistible.
It’s not only the food, history, culture, incredible landscapes and friendly people (see the list is endless) that draws people to Vietnam, it’s the price too!
It's true that flights to Vietnam can be expensive, but the cost of travelling, or living there, is extremely low. It’s music to our ears — Vietnam is an incredibly cheap country to travel to.
Why is Vietnam so cheap?
Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in the world to travel. Even amongst the other countries in South East Asia, which are generally cheap places to travel, it’s still one of the cheapest.
There are two main reasons for Vietnam being so cheap.
The first one is currency. If you’re lucky, and from a country that uses the US Dollar, Euro, or British Pound then you’ll get more bang for your buck. These currencies have a strong purchasing power against the Vietnamese Dong.
The second reason is that labour costs are cheap in Vietnam. The labour costs that go into making your Pho for lunch are relatively low, meaning food prices remain low too.
Cost of transport in Vietnam
Vietnam has a good transport system. It’s a big country, with almost every form of transportation, so getting around is relatively easy. The most populars ways to explore Vietnam include planes, trains, buses, boats, and, of course, motorbikes.
Here’s a run-down of when you should use each form of transport and the average cost of them:
Best for: long distances. Whilst short plane journeys aren’t good for the environment, sometimes they're the only option. For example, getting from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi takes around 30 hours on a bus. If you need to get between the two cities quickly, then flying can be the best option.
Price: from $25 one-way
Best for: comfortable and long journey’s with a view. Trains are a great option in Vietnam. Most of the time, they offer comfortable journey’s, even the sleeper trains, which are a must-try experience in Vietnam. Along the way you’ll be treated to incredible views of Vietnam's countryside, and have a bit more freedom than sitting on a bus.
Price: depends on the distance. Between $15-80.
Best for: cheap travel and overnight journey’s. Similar to the trains, an overnight bus is a true Vietnam experience that every traveller should experience. Whilst you might not get the best nights sleep, they’re a lot of fun. Buses can be an easy and cheap way to get around Vietnam, but the quality can vary a lot between different companies. Make sure to do your research before hopping on a 12-hour bus that’s nearly falling apart!
Price: $0.20-$2 within cities. $5-30 between cities, depending on the distance.
Best for: adventure and convenience. The Hai Van Pass is the most famous road in Vietnam for riding a motorbike. The views are like nothing you’ve seen before, and the adrenaline that pulses through your veins is indescribable. Having your own motorbike means that you can stop when and where you want. Do be careful though!
Price: $6-10 per day. You can arrange a better price if you rent the bike for longer.
Cost of accommodation in Vietnam
The cost of accommodation in Vietnam depends entirely on what your budget is. If you’re a backpacker then you can score rooms for as cheap as $2 a night. They’re obviously not going to be the nicest place you’ve ever stayed, but they do the job.
Vietnam has an awesome hostel scene. Average hostel prices range between $5-15 in Vietnam, but even the cheapest of hostels can feel luxurious. It’s not hard to find a vibrant hostel with a pool, games area or bar.
If you’re past the days of sharing a room with 10 strangers, and would prefer a room to yourself, you can still find cheap accommodation. Private rooms in hostels, hotels or homestays start at around $12, and increase depending on the level of luxury that you’re after.
You can even stay in a five star hotel for as little as $30! That's nearly impossible in almost every other country.
How to save money on accommodation
Worldpackers connects travellers with incredible hosts all around the world. In exchange for your skills and time, you get free accommodation. This can be a shared room or, if you’re lucky, a room all to yourself.
Often you’re sharing the accommodation with other like-minded volunteers who end up becoming life-long friends by the end of your stay.
As well as the bonus of free accommodation, you also get to live alongside localsand enjoy an authentic experience.
Travelling in Vietnam works for all types of budget. If you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry as Vietnam can be super cheap. For those with a higher budget, you can enjoy the extremes of luxury, still without having to spend a lot.
Backpacker daily budget: $30 or less
Flashpacker daily budget: $30-50
Living-it-up daily budget: $50+
Tips for budget travellers in Vietnam
Vietnam is a cheap country to travel, but there are always extra ways to save money:
Act like a local
By this we mean eat and drink like a local. It’s the cheapest way to live in Vietnam. Instead of international beers, opt for local beers, like Tiger and Saigon, that will cost you around $1.
Street food is where you’ll find the cheapest price, but if you’re a bit cautious with street food, then local restaurants are a great second choice. You can find local dishes for around than $2.
Take overnight buses
Vietnam is famous for its sleeper buses — they're buses that allow you to lay flat and kind of get a good night's sleep. There are plenty of long journeys in Vietnam, so why not save on accommodation, and your time, by taking an overnight bus instead?
Travel out of season
This is a money-saving hack that’s relevant to every country. Travel outside of the peak periods and you’ll save a ton of money. Accommodation prices can double, or even triple, during peak season.
Try to travel in the shoulder months if you want to save money, and not have terrible weather. For Vietnam, this would be March, April, September and October.
When locals see a foreigner walking down the street, they sometimes see a walking dollar sign. If you’re shopping in a market, the price they give you is likely to be at least double what it’s worth.
Make sure to haggle! Start with a price that is less than 50% of what they said, and then work towards a price that you're happy paying.
Volunteering in Vietnam saves you money, but it also offers you an unforgettable, and even life-changing, experience. Exchanging your skills for free accommodation, and sometimes food, is great, but the lessons and new skills that you’ll learn are even better.
Spending a few weeks living and working alongside locals is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the lives of locals, getting a true insight into the culture.
Be sure to check the volunteer positions a few topics up in this article.
Is Vietnam worth visiting?
Without a doubt, Vietnam should be on your list of countries to visit. And before it becomes too touristy, like Thailand. Vietnam’s dynamic landscapes, rich history, and world-famous food offer a trip that you’ll never forget. And it’s cheap!
There’s nothing worse than travelling on a tight budget in an expensive country. You’re constantly worrying about how much you’re spending and having to make compromises.
That’s why travelling in a cheap country, like Vietnam, is great. You don’t have to worry about missing out on things. Everything is affordable, yet still incredible!